Saturday, December 13, 2008

Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders - NYTimes.com

Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders - NYTimes.com: "BAGHDAD — An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure"

The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”...

[bth: the article is worth reading in full. The official report won't officially be released until Bush leaves office. It makes me sick. What a waste. What a wanton and willful waste of men and money. That the liars in the Pentagon that fabricated the numbers as this official report states will never be held to account, that the misery they caused to this country, to our family and to the Iraqi people will never be addressed is a crime. Bad chased out good in our government.]

The Raw Story | Pentagon mixed propaganda with PR, report finds

The Raw Story | Pentagon mixed propaganda with PR, report finds: "The Pentagon may have mixed propaganda with public relations in an effort to win the 'war of ideas' as part of the Iraq war, according to a little-noticed report released Thursday."

An inspector general's report said a whopping $1 million had been used to merge propaganda and PR efforts in 2007 and 2008. The Senate recently stripped out $3 million from the Pentagon budget for a Defense Department "strategic communication" program.

"Without clearly defined strategic communications responsibilities, DoD may appear to merge inappropriately the public affairs and information operations functions," the inspector general said in a report released yesterday nestled in a Washington Post article. Such programs should be the province of the undersecretary of defense for policy, it added.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs "should only perform strategic communications responsibilities related to its public affairs mission," while calling attention to a 2005 Pentagon document, "Public Affairs," which asserted that PR and "information" ops "differ with respect to the audience, scope and intent and must remain separate."

"The inspector general also raised questions about the Office of Public Affairs' use of funds and personnel from the Armed Forces Information Service to carry out its functions without specific authority," veteran intelligence reporter Walter Pincus noted Friday. "AFIS, which was recently renamed Defense Media Activity, runs Pentagon internal communications including Stars and Stripes as well as the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. With a budget of more than $160 million and about 1,200 staff members, it nonetheless comes under the authority, direction and control of the assistant secretary for public affairs, whose authorized staff is only 89, according to the report."

Strikingly, the Washington Post is the only media outlet to have reported on the report, according to an examination of Google News Friday morning.

[bth: this fails to mention that earlier this month the general in charge of Afghanistan merged the psyops and PA's offices under a common command. This also fails to mention the Lincoln Group or the Rendon Group and the $100 million they got. And as to the fact that this report was issued on a good news friday as the headlines were dominated by the impending bankruptcy of the US auto industry, one simply steps back and asks, do American's even give a damned anymore? Are they simply willing to surrender their rights without a fight - or even a wimper?]

Russia to scrap jury trials for wide range of crimes

The Raw Story | Russia to scrap jury trials for wide range of crimes: "In Russia, democracy continues to erode.

Less than a year after then-President Vladimir Putin largely stage managed a transition from president to prime minister to get around a term limit law, and four years after the legislature gave Putin the power to appoint governors of his choosing, the Russian parliament has approved a measure that will strip a wide swath of suspects of their right to a jury trial"...

[bth: why is it that people are so willing to give up their rights for the certainty of authoritarianism? I wish it was only a Russian phenomenon. Americans who no longer fight for their freedoms - letting their neighbor's kids do it for them or by hiring mercenaries - trade freedom for the illusions of security]

Livni: National aspirations of Israel's Arabs can be met by Palestinian homeland - Haaretz - Israel News

Livni: National aspirations of Israel's Arabs can be met by Palestinian homeland - Haaretz - Israel News: "Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday that the creation of a Palestinian state would serve as a solution to national aspirations of Israel's Arab citizens."

"Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them 'you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere,'" Livni was quoted by Army Radio as saying to students at a Tel Aviv high school.

"The idea is to maintain two states for two peoples, that is my path to a democratic nation," she added. ...

Last month, Livni infuriated Israeli Arab lawmakers when she said: It must be clear to everyone that the State of Israel is a national homeland for the Jewish people."

At the time, Livni added that the national demands of Israeli Arabs should end the moment a Palestinian state is established
.

In response to Livni's comments, Culture, Sports and Science Minister Ghaleb Majadele said, "The roots of the Israeli Arab citizens of Israel were planted before the state was established. They are residents of this country with rights; their residency and citizenship are not open for negotiation."

"Anyone who raises the idea of transferring the Arab population in Israel to the territories of the state of Palestine is anti-democractic," the Israeli Arab minister added.

[bth: is this the way of things to come in Israel? The expulsion of the Israeli Arabs? I do not see how the US could support such a policy.]

Preemptive Memorial Honors Future Victims Of Imminent Dam Disaster


Preemptive Memorial Honors Future Victims Of Imminent Dam Disaster

Taliban attack two shipping terminals in Peshawar - The Long War Journal

Taliban attack two shipping terminals in Peshawar - The Long War Journal: "The Taliban destroyed 14 trucks transporting supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan in the latest in a series of attacks on the Coalition's logistical supply line through Pakistan.

The first attack took place at the Bilal Terminal on Peshawar's Ring Road last evening when a Taliban force fired rocket-propelled grenades and lobbed 'petrol bombs' at trucks in the terminal. Two US military trucks were destroyed, Dawn reported.

The second attack took place later that night at the World Logistic Terminal. Taliban forces 'rained rockets' on the terminal, according to Geo News. Twelve trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces were set ablaze during the attack. Taliban forces clashed with police after the attack, but no casualties were reported.

Last night's attacks mark the fifth time Taliban forces attacked the shipping terminals on Peshawar's Ring Road. More than 200 NATO military vehicles and supply trucks were destroyed during three attacks outside of Peshawar on Dec. 7 and 8. In one of the attacks, more than 200
Taliban fighters overwhelmed the security guards and rampaged through the Portward Logistic Terminal, destroying more than 100 NATO vehicles.

The attacks occurred despite promises from the Pakistani government that the convoys would be protected by military personnel. The senior superintendent of Peshawar police said his men are unable to provide security at the terminals because the police are too busy attempting to secure the city proper.

'It's time for the federal government and NATO forces to come forward and devise a strategy to improve security at these terminals because police are already overstretched because of the law and order situation,' police chief Kashif Alam said."....

[bth: note in all these attacks there has been no timely Paki military response and virtually no guards killed. My guess is that the Pak government or at least the military is letting these convoys be destroyed to extort financial bribes from the US to keep the supply lines open.]

Al Qaeda's Anthrax Scientist

Al Qaeda's Anthrax Scientist: "The government of Malaysia made a curious announcement this week: Yazid Sufaat, a known al Qaeda operative, and four other alleged terrorists have been released from jail. It is not clear why Malaysian authorities thought it was time to set them free. Malaysia's home minister, Syed Hamid Albar, simply declared, 'They are no longer a threat but they will be watched closely.'

We can only hope."

Sufaat's newfound freedom is troubling. According to the 9-11 Commission, four top al Qaeda operatives stayed at Sufaat's apartment in Malaysia in January of 2000. The al Qaeda terrorists were in Malaysia for an important planning meeting, during which they discussed the upcoming attack on the USS Cole and details of the 9/11 operation. Shortly after the meeting, al Qaeda terrorists Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi, both of whom stayed at Sufaat's apartment, left for California. Twenty months later, al Mihdhar and al Hazmi were part of the team responsible for hijacking American Airlines Flight 77 and crashing it into the Pentagon.

Al Mihdhar and al Hazmi were not the only 9/11 plotters to receive Sufaat's hospitality. In the fall of 2000, Sufaat played host to convicted al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui during his visit to Malaysia. Moussaoui was scheduled to take part in the September 11 attacks, or a similar follow-on plot, but was detained by the FBI in August of 2001...


[bth: this article is worth a full read. A new chapter in our ongoing program of terrorist catch and release.]

US Commander: Troops To Stay In Iraqi Cities Past Summer Deadline

US Commander: Troops To Stay In Iraqi Cities Past Summer Deadline: "BALAD, Iraq — Thousands of U.S. troops will remain in Iraqi cities at local security stations after the summer deadline to have combat troops out of the urban areas, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Saturday.
Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters that the troops would serve as training and mentoring teams, and thus would not be included in the mandate to pull combat troops from the cities. That mandate is included in the recently approved U.S.-Iraq security agreement."...

[bth: whenever I see a statement like this especially from someone as senior as Odierno I wonder why and more particularly why now? What is to be gained for him by making this statement now? Even if it were true, wouldn't it have been better if he just kept quiet? Is he trying to embarrass Obama?]

Women in Baghdad take to the road again - Middle East Times

Women in Baghdad take to the road again - Middle East Times: ..."There were no restrictions on women in the Iraqi capital driving under the secular rule of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, but that all changed in the wake of the US-led invasion of the country in March 2003.

Now with improved security in the city since the end of last year and the expulsion by police and the Iraqi army of Islamist militias that held both Sunni Islam and Shiite quarters in their violent grip, women feel more relaxed.

'It's true that today you can see women drivers again,' said Hakim, who wears a headscarf. 'Since the security situation got better I'm driving again, and I certainly feel more free.'

According to a study by the United Nations and Iraqi statistics bureau, women are the head of the family in 12 percent of Baghdad homes, and therefore need to drive."...

[bth: this is very clearly a good sign]

EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Afghanistan: Assessing the Way Forward

EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Afghanistan: Assessing the Way Forward: "Afghanistan wants the US to take a more prominent role in military operations in that country by increasing the number of American troops in the country, building up the Afghan security forces more quickly and making a stronger effort to reduce civilian casualties and friendly fire deaths of Afghan security forces, the country’s ambassador to Washington says."

"We are very grateful of the role that Canada, the UK and others are playing. But in the long run we would be better off seeing a much bolder US role," said Ambassador Said Jawad, citing excessive restrictions, or caveats, on the use of troops from other countries. "The presence of NATO countries is a very important political asset for Afghanistan. . . . But when it comes to military operations, the Afghans and the United States should do what needs to be done." Jawad spoke December 11 at an event at the Cato Institute in Washington called "Afghanistan: Seven Years Later."

The incoming US president, Barack Obama, campaigned on a pledge to devote more manpower and resources to Afghanistan, and that was appreciated by Afghans, Jawad said. "There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for Obama in Afghanistan," he said. Even before Obama has taken office the United States has vowed to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan by about 20,000. (There are now about 34,000 US troops in the country.)

That, along with an increase in Afghan forces, would be enough solve many of the problems that face Afghanistan today, Jawad said. He mentioned recent news reports that American forces killed six Afghan police officers by mistake, and said that the killings of Afghan security forces by their American and NATO allies was "not acceptable to the Afghan people, the Afghan political leadership and we have to do whatever it takes to prevent this."

Jawad said that additional troops in Afghanistan would help: "There has to be a better mechanism to prevent this. ... If, instead of high-altitude bombings, we could send in commandos to carry out surgical operations, and maybe even get some of the bad guys alive, we would be much better off." Building up the capacity of the Afghan air forces would help, as well, as even if Afghan pilots made similar mistakes it wouldn’t be as inflammatory as it is when American planes cause the deaths, he said. And Americans need to be more forthcoming in apologizing when they have made a mistake. "It’s also very important to use the power of apology, to say ’we are sorry,’" he said.

Two US analysts at the Cato event noted that there is an increasing skepticism about what can be accomplished in Afghanistan and a sense that the strategic goals are unclear....

[bth: worth reading in full. I think we need to redefine our objectives in Afghanistan as a first order of business.]

New Portable Sewing Machine Lets Sweatshop Employees Work On The Go

U.S. military considers options to deal with Somali pirates

U.S. military considers options to deal with Somali pirates - CNN.com: "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is looking at options, but there are no plans for U.S. forces to go ashore in pursuit of pirates in Somalia, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday."

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently asked the military to look at "what options and alternatives are available from a purely military perspective" to deal with piracy off the coast of Somalia, Capt. John Kirby told CNN.

Pentagon officials are shying away from a direct endorsement of a proposal the United States is circulating at the U.N. Security Council that calls for countries to "take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia, including in its airspace," to counter piracy.

However, Kirby said the Pentagon is not doing any current planning to launch attacks against pirates on land or in the air.

"We are not looking at how to implement the resolution," Kirby said...

[bth: so what is the point of having a navy? And for that matter, the odds of catching pirates at sea are low while the odds of catching pirates in port are high because we know where the ports are and can monitor their activities.]

Friday, December 12, 2008

CNN’s Prisoner of War | Men’s Journal

CNN’s Prisoner of War | Men’s Journal: "“I am not the same fucking person,” he tells me. “I am not the same person. I don’t know how to come home.”"

It’s October, six months after our first meeting, and Michael Ware, 39, is at his girlfriend’s apartment in New York, trying to tell me why after six years he absolutely must start spending less time in Iraq. He’s crying on the other end of the telephone.

“Will I get any better?” he continues. “I honestly don’t know. I can’t see the — right now, I know no other way to live.”

To begin to understand where he’s coming from, Ware wants you to see a movie. He filmed it. It’s just after midnight during the second battle of Fallujah, November 2004. The marine unit he’s hooked up with has cornered six insurgents inside a house, and with no air support available, the only way to take them out is person-to-person. Staff Sergeant David Bellavia doesn’t like the sound of that — odds are one of his men, or he, will die in the pitch-black of an unfamiliar house — but he knows he can’t just let these guys go. So he asks for volunteers to go with him: Three men raise their hands, followed by Ware, who as a reporter (then for Time, now for CNN) is the only one without a gun or night goggles, and still can’t explain why he went along. He just couldn’t not.

Ware flips on his video camera and creeps into the house six feet behind Bellavia. His device is picking up nothing but darkness and the slow, creaking sound of footsteps. Then, light, blinding light. Bullets ping around the living room, and before he knows what’s going on, two bodies drop. Bellavia has knocked off the first of them. For the next hour — until all six insurgents are carried out dead from the house — Ware captures that same pattern of blackness and near silence (in the background you can hear the insurgents chanting, “Allahu Akbar,  Allahu Akbar”) pierced by gunfire and screaming.

Ware believes he recorded the perfect war experience that night, a snapshot you can get only from terrifying proximity. He dreams of renting out a theater and subjecting an audience to it in full surround sound; that way people would know what it’s really like over there. “It’s my firm belief that we need to constantly jar the sensitivities of the people back home,” he says. “War is a jarring experience. Your kids are living it out, and you’ve inflicted it upon 20-odd million Iraqis. And when your brothers and sons and mates from the football team come home, and they ain’t quite the same, you have an obligation to sit for three and a half minutes and share something of what it’s like to be there.”

It’s an obligation now owed to Michael Ware, too....

[bth: this is an article worth reading in full. There is a Bellavia buried near our son in Arlington and the date and situation described sounds very similar to the situation involving Travis Desiato in Fallujah, killed Nov 14, 2004. I wonder, is it?]

Rumsfeld blamed in detainee abuse scandals - Los Angeles Times

Rumsfeld blamed in detainee abuse scandals - Los Angeles Times: "Reporting from Washington -- A bipartisan Senate report released Thursday concludes that decisions made by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were a 'direct cause' of widespread detainee abuses, and that other Bush administration officials were to blame for creating a legal and moral climate that contributed to inhumane treatment.

The report, endorsed by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the most forceful denunciation to date of the role that Rumsfeld and other top officials played in the prisoner abuse scandals of the last five years."

The document also challenges assertions by senior Bush administration officials that the most egregious cases of prisoner mistreatment were isolated incidents of appalling conduct by U.S. troops.

"The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own," the report says.

Instead, the document says, a series of high-level decisions in the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody."


The document aims its harshest criticism at Rumsfeld's decision in December 2002 to authorize the use of aggressive interrogation techniques at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba....


Levin said it was "both unconscionable and false" for Rumsfeld and others to blame troops and escape accountability. Even so, the report does not call for further investigation or punishment.

The findings were approved last month by the 17 committee members in attendance, indicating the report had the support of at least four of the panel's Republicans. Committee officials did not identify which senators on the 25- person panel were not present for the vote.

Among the panel's members are several GOP senators who have criticized the administration's conduct on detainee matters, including John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina....

[bth: despite the report's findings it is clear from the way it is being released that nothing further will come of the matter. Specifically the report's findings were reached after the November election. Second the findings have been held for over a month and released on a Friday afternoon the day after the senate rejected the auto bailout which will likely bankrupt two companies and dominate the media for the weekend. This is all going to be swept under the rug.]

Belgian police arrest 'al Qaeda legend' - CNN.com

Belgian police arrest 'al Qaeda legend' - CNN.com: "CNN) -- Belgian police Thursday arrested a woman they called an 'al Qaeda living legend' as part of an operation to thwart a terror attack being planned to coincide with an EU summit in Brussels, a Belgian police source told CNN."

Police seized 14 people, one of whom was planning to carry out a suicide attack in Belgium, the source said. They had contacts at the "highest levels of al Qaeda," the source said.

The police source said officers "had only 24 hours to act."

The leaders of the European Union's 27 member states are meeting in Brussels Thursday and Friday. It is not clear that the heads of state and government themselves were the target of the planned attack.

The federal prosecutor's office in Belgium identified one of the suspects as Malika El-Aroud, the widow of one of the men who assassinated a key opponent of the Taliban in Afghanistan two days before September 11, 2001.

El-Aroud's late husband was one of two men who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, a leader of the Northern Alliance, in a suicide mission ordered by Osama Bin Laden.

Belgian police aimed to prevent El-Aroud, whom the police source called an "al-Qaeda living legend," from moving to Afghanistan to play a role in the fight against the coalition forces there, the source said.

She is thought to be a recruiter for the anti-Western network, rather than a fighter, the source said...

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. Obviously a big event was planned and this story probably is being down played. The article though leaves big questions such as where are the explosively? Also it says this wife of a key assassin was prevented from leaving Belgium and going to Afghanistan which seems to mean she has been in Belgium since at least 2007 if I read the article correctly... So are the key assassins or their recruiters really just a close knit group on which this entire war on terror revolves?]

Kirkuk bombing

Informed Comment

Juan Cole notes that an arab language publication claims that Talabini was scheduled to be at the restaurant so it is likely to have been an assassination attempt. The NYT article on the attack strongly suggests that it was an attempt to ignite a civil war.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

'Al-Qaeda helps curb possible Saudi unrest'

alJazeera Magazine - 'Al-Qaeda helps curb possible Saudi unrest': "Saudi security services have formed a military militia loyal to Saudi Arabia comprised of al-Qaeda members, according to opposition sources.

Saudi security services have formed a military militia loyal to Saudi Arabia comprised of al-Qaeda members, according to opposition sources.

The militants are being used to support Saudi Arabia against domestic revolts and foreign threats, according to reports by opposition Saudi sources."...

[bth: the article seems to imply as the article goes on that it would be used to crush Shea that might support Iran in the event of a US or Israeli attack on Iran.]

Jaish-e-Mohammed leader placed under ‘house arrest’ - The Long War Journal

Jaish-e-Mohammed leader placed under ‘house arrest’ - The Long War Journal: "Pakistan has placed Masood Azhar, the founder and leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, under house arrest in the wake of mounting international pressure to act against terror groups involved with the Nov. 26 terror attacks in Mumbai, India."

Security forces have reportedly surrounded Azhar’s home in Bahawalpur and are preventing him from traveling. Azhar is one of an estimated 20 Pakistani terrorists wanted by India for their role in the Mumbai attacks.

Azhar is a long-time jihadi who trained at the same religious seminary as Afghanistan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Azhar was released from an Indian jail in exchange for hostages held in an Indian Airlines flight hijacking in December 1999. Azhar’s brother, Mohammed Ibrahim Athar Alvi, took part in the hijacking.

Azhar established Jaish-e-Mohammed the next year as an offshoot of the Harkat-u-Ansar, one of many terror groups created with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency to fight the Indians in India-occupied Kashmir.

Jaish-e-Mohammed was implicated along with the Lashkar-e-Taiba as being behind the Dec. 13, 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi. In October 2001, the US added Jaish-e-Mohammed as a foreign terrorist organization. In 2002, Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Omar, a close associate of Azhar, was behind the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Azhar has been in Pakistani detention at least two times in the past decade. He was briefly detained after the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, but was cleared of charges by a court in Lahore. Pakistani police detained Azhar after the 2003 assassination attempts against then-President Pervez Musharraf, but freed him months later....

[bth: this is going to be a sham. He has been let out twice and was traded for hostages of an Indian airliner years back. Note at the end of the article it says that the raid was conducted by the ISI.]

Military Leaders Knew Of Deadly Roadside Bomb Threat In Iraq But Did Nothing: Report

Military Leaders Knew Of Deadly Roadside Bomb Threat In Iraq But Did Nothing: Report: "WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps left troops in Iraq vulnerable to deadly roadside bombs by failing to answer an urgent request from battlefield commanders for blast-resistant vehicles, according to an internal Pentagon investigation obtained by The Associated Press. Acquisition officials shelved the February 2005 request for the 'MRAPs' (pronounced EM-raps) after Marine leaders decided armored versions of the Humvee were the best answer to the improvised explosive devices that became the signature weapon of the Iraq war. However, the beefier Humvees proved incapable of withstanding the increasingly powerful IEDs."

The AP obtained portions of the investigation by the Pentagon inspector general. It was expected to be released publicly on Tuesday.

The Marine Corps and the other military branches were aware of the threat from mines and roadside bombs and of the commercial availability of MRAPs well before U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, the report said. Yet nothing was done to acquire the vehicles.

"As a result, the department entered into operations in Iraq without having taken available steps to acquire technology to mitigate the known mine and IED risk to soldiers and Marines," the report said.

This is the report's most "damning conclusion," Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., a critic of the military's wartime procurement practices, said Monday. "It appears that some bureaucrats at the Pentagon have much to explain to the families of American troops who were killed or maimed when a lifesaving solution was within reach," Bond said in an e-mail to the AP.

The inspector general's nine-month inquiry was the result of complaints by Franz Gayl, a civilian defense official and whistle-blower who had accused the Marine Corps of "gross mismanagement" that led to a nearly two-year delay in shipping the MRAPs to Iraq.

Had the MRAPs been built and sent after commanders first asked for them in early 2005, hundreds of deaths and injuries could have been prevented, Gayl charged in a study that was first reported in February by The Associated Press.

The Pentagon IG report found no evidence of criminal negligence in the failure to provide the MRAPs when the vehicles were first requested. The portions of the report obtained by the AP do not directly link the lack of MRAPs to deaths of service members.

In a statement, the Marine Corps said it would be inappropriate to comment on the report until it is officially released. However, the Marine Corps noted that it requested the inquiry and worked closely with the investigators. It also said the service has greatly improved its system for responding to requests from troops for badly needed combat gear.

MRAPs weigh as much as 40 tons and have a V-shaped hull that deflects the blast out and away from the crew. More than 11,000 of the vehicles have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan since May 2007 after Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared MRAPs the Pentagon's No. 1 acquisition priority. The heavy trucks have been very effective at protecting American forces from IEDs.

The February 2005 urgent request for 1,169 MRAPs was signed by then-Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik. The Marines could not continue to take "serious and grave casualties" caused by IEDs when a solution was commercially available, wrote Hejlik, who was a commander in western Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005.

Yet despite the stark wording of Hejlik's plea, the request was mishandled and eventually lost in bureaucracy. The inspector general puts most of blame on officials at Marine Corps Command Development Command. Headquartered at Quantico, Va., the command decides what gear to buy.

After receiving Hejlik's request, the command didn't pursue it aggressively. A few months later, then-Marine Corps Commandant Michael Hagee decided the armored Humvee, known as the M1114, was the best and mostly quickly available solution to the IED threat. By August, the Combat Development Command had dropped Hejlik's request altogether even though the armored Humvee "did not adequately protect Marines from under-body IED attacks, which were increasing in Iraq," the inspector general said.

Hagee, however, told investigators that while he wanted the armored Humvees, he didn't intend for that to preclude the purchase of MRAPs or stop the Combat Development Command from responding to Hejlik's request.

The report also challenged Hejlik's later interpretation of what he meant by the urgent request. In July 2007, he said the Marine Corps' decision to buy armored Humvees was the right one. His intent in signing the request was for the Marines to buy the MRAPs within two years to five years, not immediately.

But the inspector general disputed that, saying Hejlik's initial request "clearly indicated that the requirement for MRAP-type vehicles was priority 1 and urgently needed."

Gayl is the science and technology adviser in the Marine Corps' plans, policies and operations department.

When Gayl's study was disclosed in February, the Marine Corps called it a personal opinion at odds with the facts. Public affairs officers stressed his January study had not been reviewed by his immediate supervisor. The work was pre-decisional and did not reflect the views of the Marine Corps, they said.

___

On the Net:

U.S. Marine Corps: http://www.marines.mil/Pages/Default.aspx

[bth: Gayl's brave move last year probably destroyed his career and saved marines. Hejlik, who could have been a hero for marines killed or wounded needlessly because the Marines failed to respond to his urgent needs request, then sold out his marines by denying what he obviously had been saying a few years before. He'll probably get promoted for protecting the incompetent bureaucrats and senior leadership that couldn't give a damn because of negligence or incompetence. Note how no one is being held to account by the IG for this egregious and deliberate delay. Keep in mind that Marine General Pace, was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs while this was going on. A decent man, he folded like a deck of cards under Rumsfeld. He didn't stand up for his men when it really counted. There are a couple of reasons MRAPS weren't fielded earlier and they had nothing to do with knowing that they worked or that they were needed. They weren't fielded because they cost a lot and it was public outrage which was reflected through the Congress that caused them to finally be produced, years late and after hundreds was killed and thousands unnecessarily wounded or endangered. One wonders if the cost of MRAPS matched the cost in deathes, wounded healthcare and the horrific long term cost to this country and its military personnel of PTSD and traumatic head injuries caused by IEDs and inadequate vehiclular armor. The other reason was that MRAPs are heavy and big; too big to fit into an Osprey which is the Corp's pet project - rather a stupid pet trick. It doesn't work well, it costs so much it isn't actually used in combat and it crashes a lot. But most of all the Osprey's limited capacity has caused the Marines to support very bad vehicles like the Growler and aviod very good vehicles like the MRAP. A true betrayal of the trust enlisted personnel should expect from their superiors. A betrayal of trust the American public should expect from its military leaders. ... Two months ago, I got a call from a soldier who was present when my son was killed in an unarmored humvee. Before the mission, my son told this specialist that he hoped they were attacked by indians because the wood panel siding they had constructed for their humvees would only be able to stop arrows.]

Second Taliban raid destroys Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan | World news | guardian.co.uk

Second Taliban raid destroys Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan | World news | guardian.co.uk: ..."It was revealed at the weekend that much of the $10bn (£6.8bn) in American military aid given to Pakistan over the past 10 years - to maximise its contribution to the so-called war on terror - had been wasted or used to boost the Pakistani armed forces in their ongoing standoff with India.

The admission comes as a series of top-level reviews of US policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan near completion. Officials say the reassessments, containing new policy options, are intended to ensure the president-elect, Barack Obama, 'hits the ground running' when he takes office next month."...

There are few other options for Nato supplies. Iran also borders Afghanistan and has ports that could service it but this would be politically unpalatable. A long, cumbersome route via Russia and the central Asian states is a possibility but Russia has shown reluctance to help.

[bth: Pakistan didn't develop counter terrorism capabilities because it didn't want to.]

Monday, December 08, 2008

Taliban destroy 50 NATO supply trucks in third attack in Peshawar - The Long War Journal

Taliban destroy 50 NATO supply trucks in third attack in Peshawar - The Long War Journal: "Taliban raiders destroyed another NATO supply column at a shipping terminal in the insurgency-wracked Northwest Frontier Province. The latest attack has caused Pakistan to shut down the NATO supply route through Peshawar.

The Taliban launched an attack on the Bilal Terminal on Peshawar's Ring Road early Monday morning Pakistan time. More than 50 vehicles laden with supplies destined for NATO were destroyed after a Taliban force stormed the compound and burned the vehicles, a senior US intelligence source told The Long War Journal. The size of the Taliban unit is unknown.
Taliban fighters also fired rocket propelled grenades at NATO convoys passing through the area, however no vehicles were reported damaged.

The attack at the Bilal Terminal is the third such strike in two days. Early Sunday, the Taliban destroyed more than 160 NATO vehicles, including an estimated 60 to 70 Humvees, in two separate attacks on the Portward Logistic Terminal and the Al Faisal Terminal in Peshawar. An estimated 200 to 300 Taliban fighters stormed the Portward terminal, while the size of the attack force at the Al Faisal Terminal is unknown."...

[bth: so if you read the article you see that the Pakistani government did not increase security after two devastating attacks which then led to a third. I suspect that the submission of Gul to the UN as a terrorist is somehow linked to the Paki government letting three huge US/NATO supply convoys get destroyed. It's their way of letting us know that for us to stay in Afghanistan, we need to play by their rules or lose Pakistan as a viable supply route- which essentially means letting islamic terrorists run free and attack India, Afghanistan and the US. Mafia thug type negotiations seem to be going on, only the thugs are the Pakistani government or its surrogates.]

Former ISI chief linked to banned al Qaeda WMD advisory group

"A former leader of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency has been implicated as serving on the board of a proscribed non-governmental organization that advised al Qaeda and the Taliban on the development of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons."

Lieutenant General (Retired) Hamid Gul served on the board of the Umma Tameer-E-Nau, an organization founded by Pakistani nuclear scientists and industrialists, according to a secret dossier that the United States has put together to present to the United Nations Security Council, The News reported. Gul has also been implicated in supporting the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and other extremist groups.

Gul served as the chief of the ISI from 1987 to 1989. Gul is known as the Godfather of the Taliban for his efforts to organize the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, and the helping to facilitate the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s. Gul supports the terrorist insurgency in India-occupied Kashmir and opposes the US-led effort to defeat Islamic extremism.

The Umma Tameer-E-Nau "was founded by Pakistani nuclear scientists with close ties to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban," the US government stated in December 2001 after blocking the group's finances under Executive Order 13224. Three of the group's directors - two Pakistani nuclear scientists and an industrialist - were also proscribed under the executive order.

The group has been directly linked to the WAFA Humanitarian Organization and Al Rashid Trust, "two other non-governmental organizations with ties to al Qaeda that were designated on September 23, 2001 as supporters of terrorism under Executive Order 13224."

WAFA, a charitable front funded by a Saudi businessman, had offices in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. The group is run by al Qaeda and used to funnel money to the terror group. Al Rashid operates 21 offices in Pakistan and openly supports the Taliban and calls for jihad against the West...

[bth: so what I don't understand is this information was available and public for some years now. So why now? What changed? Gul had been under house arrest for years. Did Gul violate a secret deal between the Paki government and the US? One wonders.]

Whistleblowers sent to mental ward, Chinese paper says - International Herald Tribune

Whistleblowers sent to mental ward, Chinese paper says - International Herald Tribune: "Local officials in Shandong Province have apparently found a cost-effective way to deal with gadflies, whistleblowers and all manner of muckraking citizens who dare to challenge the authorities: dispatch them to the local psychiatric hospital.

According to an investigative report published Monday by a state-owned newspaper, public security officials in Xintai city have been institutionalizing residents who persist in their personal campaigns to expose corruption or to protest the unfair seizure of their property. Some people said they were committed up to two years, and several of those interviewed said they had been forced to consume psychiatric medication.

The article, in The Beijing News, said most inmates had been released after they agreed to give up their causes."...

Coming soon to U.S., 1 million jobs lost every month: Report

The Raw Story | Coming soon to U.S., 1 million jobs lost every month: Report: "London-based GFC Economics is making a frightening prediction: By spring 2009, the United States could be facing more than 1 million layoffs every successive month."...

Report: Taliban now encircle Kabul

The Raw Story | Report: Taliban now encircle Kabul: "The Taliban now have a presence in nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan, and are beginning to encircle its capital, Kabul, according to a new thinktank report.

The Paris-based International Council on Security and Development, which has offices in Afghanistan, says that Taliban fighters have advanced from the south of the country and now carry out regular attacks in the west and northwest.

In many places in the south, they hold power normally associated with a government, the Council says."...

[bth: this would seem to explain why the 20,000 new troops that will be sent to Afghanistan will be stationed to protect Kabul instead of being sent south to the Pakistani border.]

Israeli "Auto Kill Zone" Towers Locked and Loaded | Danger Room from Wired.com

Israeli "Auto Kill Zone" Towers Locked and Loaded | Danger Room from Wired.com: ..."The Sentry Tech towers are basically remote weapons stations, stuck on stop of silos. 'As suspected hostile targets are detected and within range of Sentry-Tech positions, the weapons are slewing toward the designated target,' David Eshel describes over at Ares. 'As multiple stations can be operated by a single operator, one or more units can be used to engage the target, following identification and verification by the commander.'

We flagged the towers last year, as the Israeli Defense Forces were setting up the systems, designed to create 1500-meter deep 'automated kill zones' along the Gaza border."...

What Would Keynes Do? - Forbes.com

What Would Keynes Do? - Forbes.com: "Every day that goes by makes clearer the parallels between the current financial crisis and the one that led to the Great Depression. Then, as now, the core problem was one of deflation, or falling prices. But fixing it will require more than just low interest rates. This was the key insight of British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose theories finally explained how to end the Great Depression. They may be the key to solving today's crisis as well."

The Great Depression was so deep and prolonged for many reasons. Herbert Hoover stupidly signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which crippled international trade and finance, and imposed one of the largest tax increases in American history in 1932, which was exactly the wrong medicine at the wrong time. Franklin D. Roosevelt at least understood that deflation was at the root of the problem, but he thought artificially raising the price of gold and preventing businesses from cutting prices and wages by law was the solution. In fact, it prevented the economy from adjusting, which made the situation worse

What few people understood at the time was that the Federal Reserve was primarily responsible for the deflation and the only institution that could have done anything about it. As we now know, the Fed's tight monetary policy brought on a financial crisis that began with the stock market crash in 1929. Smoot-Hawley was also a factor, but it wouldn't have been capable of inducing such a crisis if Fed policy hadn't already put financial markets in a fragile condition.

In its initial stages, the Fed might have been able to prevent a full-blown depression by being a lender of last resort. It should have been aggressive about buying every financial asset it could lay its hands on and created as much money as necessary to do so. But it didn't. Instead, it was passive and, as the value of financial assets collapsed, banks closed and vast amounts of wealth simply vanished.

The money simply disappeared, because there was no federal deposit insurance in those days. According to research by economists Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz, the nation's money supply fell by one-third between 1929 and 1933, which induced a 25% fall in price levels over that period.

As prices fell, businesses were forced to sell goods for less than they cost to produce. They couldn't cut costs easily because that meant reducing wages, which workers naturally resisted. Layoffs were the only way to cut costs, but this meant workers didn't have any income with which to buy goods, since there was no unemployment compensation either. This created a downward spiral that proved very difficult to stop.

[bth: this is an absolutely superb article. Just thinking quickly, we could buy an entire fleet of green type vehicles for the US Postal Service which coincidentally has the largely landfleet in the world. We could buy an entire army worth of ground vehicles - fact is virtually the entire rolling stock of US Army vehicles is being worn out in Iraq as we speak. The average life of a humvee fell from 13 years to 2.5 years and I suspect the MRAPs will not do better as their front suspensions are vulnerable. The benefit of this approach is that it would be built by the auto industry or at least their common suppliers. This would fulfill two requirements - it would activate plants and it would build stuff we could actually use. As to the need for immediate cash, we could buy them in advance. There is nothing that prevents us from doing this that I can see other than the will to do so.]

The decline in wealth also reduced spending, and the fall in prices had the effect of magnifying debts. Debtors were forced to repay loans in dollars worth 25% more than those they borrowed in the first place. Farmers, who are perpetually in debt, were especially hard hit. In effect, if they took out loans that were worth X number of bushels of wheat and were forced to repay them with the same number bushels, they needed 25% more bushels to repay.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Americans Enjoying Thanksgiving Tradition Of Sitting Around At Airport

Taliban storm two Peshawar trucking terminals, 160 NATO vehicles torched - The Long War Journal

Taliban stoThe Taliban launched military assaults on two shipping terminals in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, destroying more than 160 NATO military vehicles and supplies destined for Afghanistan. Security in the northwestern city is deteriorating as the Taliban seeks to control the region and shut down NATO's logistical chain to Afghansitan.

The first attack took place at the Portward Logistic Terminal. An estimated 200 to 300 Taliban fighters fired rockets at the front gate, destroying the entrance and leveling the wall. The nine security guards on duty fled in the face of the massed Taliban attack.

Taliban fighters then fired rocket propelled grenades into the compound and proceeded to set fire to the NATO vehicles parked inside. "There were dozens of them. They started firing, they used rockets, causing a lot of damage," the manager of the shipping terminal told the Associated Press.

The Taliban force rampaged in the compound for more than forty minutes before Peshawar police responded. The Taliban force disengaged after clashing with the police, leaving the terminal in ruins. "They were shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Great) and Down With America," a security guard told Reuters.

The attack was devastating. One security guard was killed and at least 106 NATO vehicles, including more than 70 Humvees, were destroyed. "In this incident 96 flat trucks and six containers were destroyed, including a 40-foot container," the terminal manager said. "Also armored jeeps, trucks and fire brigade vehicles."...

A second attack took place at the Al Faisal Terminal. A large Taliban force stormed the terminal after overwhelming the security guards. Three Pakistanis, including the terminal watchman, were killed in the attack. Sixty-two Humvees and other vehicles were reported destroyed in the attack.

It is unclear if the same Taliban force conducted both attacks, or if two separate Taliban units operated simultaneously.

rm two Peshawar trucking terminals, 160 NATO vehicles torched - The Long War Journal

SNL: Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton On Secretary Of State Selection (VIDEO)

SNL: Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton On Secretary Of State Selection (VIDEO)

Sun's Magnetic Field May Impact Weather And Climate: Sun Cycle Can Predict Rainfall Fluctuations

Sun's Magnetic Field May Impact Weather And Climate: Sun Cycle Can Predict Rainfall Fluctuations: "ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2008) — The sun’s magnetic field may have a significant impact on weather and climatic parameters in Australia and other countries in the northern and southern hemispheres. According to a study in Geographical Research, the droughts are related to the solar magnetic phases and not the greenhouse effect."...

If solar cycles continue to show relational values to climate patterns, there is the potential for more accurate forecasting through to 2010 and possibly beyond.”

The SOI-solar association has been investigated recently due to increasing interest in the relationship between the sun’s cycles and the climate. The solar application offers the potential for the long-range prediction of SOI behavior and associated rainfall variations, since quasi-periodicity in solar activity results in an expected cycle of situations and phases that are not random events.

Professor Baker adds, “This discovery could substantially advance forecasting from months to decades. It should result in much better long-term management of agricultural production and water resources, in areas where rainfall is correlated to SOI and El NiƱo (ENSO) events.”

[bth: fascinating with significant implications to agriculture and the current environmental debates.]

Israeli general: Forces ready for Iran attack

The Raw Story | Israeli general: Forces ready for Iran attack: "A Saturday afternoon report said that Israeli Air Force Commanding General Ido Nehushtan has declared the country's forces 'prepared' at a moment's notice to 'halt' Iran's efforts to enrich uranium.

The claim, which was carried by Persian news network Press TV, was buried in paragraph eight. The network instead led with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's recent demand that US President-elect Barack Obama 'face up to Iran' and force the country's nuclear activities to a close.

The mention appeared to be a reference to a quote published in German newspaper Der Speigel, in which the general said, 'We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us' to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."...

[bth: this week John Bolton is quoted as saying that the world must be prepared to live with a nuclear Iran. So note Olmert's statement conveniently placed with Der Speigel to pressure Obama to 'face up to Iran' and the Israeli air force general's statements. If recent events follow a pattern we will see the UK Telegraph run a 'leaked' story from Israel which will then be picked up the NYT or WaPo. I seriously doubt that Israel will allow the US to withdraw from Iraq without first throwing a wrench into the gears. Israel's government seems intend on keeping the US engaged in the Iraq buffer state. I'd keep an eye on the canaries - Bolton, Telegraph, Der Speigel,AIPAC and Sen. Lieberman for an early warning to upcoming events.]

The Raw Story | In racially exclusive neighborhood, residents worried Bush will make it a 'target'

The Raw Story | In racially exclusive neighborhood, residents worried Bush will make it a 'target':... "But the exclusive Dallas community the Bush family will soon join has a troubled history of its own.

Until 2000, the neighborhood association's covenant said only white people were allowed to live there, though an exception was made for servants.

Enacted in 1956, part of the original document reads: 'Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.'"...

[bth: pretty much says it all]

U.S. Plans a Shift to Focus Troops on Kabul Region

U.S. Plans a Shift to Focus Troops on Kabul Region - NYTimes.com: "U.S. Plans a Shift to Focus Troops on Kabul Region"KABUL, Afghanistan — Most of the additional American troops arriving in Afghanistan early next year will be deployed near the capital, Kabul, American military commanders here say, in a measure of how precarious the war effort has become.

It will be the first time that American or coalition forces have been deployed in large numbers on the southern flank of the city, a decision that reflects the rising concerns among military officers, diplomats and government officials about the increasing vulnerability of the capital and the surrounding area....

In all, the Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to a request from Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. Those troops are expected to be sent to violent areas in the south. But they are expected to be deployed over 12 to 18 months. Nearly all would be diverted from Iraq, officials say.

The plan for the incoming brigade, then, means that for the time being fewer reinforcements — or none at all — will be immediately available for the parts of Afghanistan where the insurgency is most intense.

It also means that most of the newly arriving troops will not be deployed with the main goal of curbing the cross-border flow of insurgents from their rear bases in Pakistan, something American commanders would like and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has recommended.

....Of immediate concern, American and NATO commanders say, is the need to safeguard the capital, to hit new Taliban strongholds in Wardak and Logar, and to provide enough security in those provinces for development programs, which are essential to maintaining the support of Afghan villagers.

Unlike in previous winters, when there was a lull in fighting as many Taliban fighters returned to Pakistan, American commanders expect more Taliban fighters to remain in Afghanistan and continue the fight. If so, the change would seem to reflect an effort by the emboldened insurgency to maintain its momentum and hold newly gained territory

...The number of attacks in Wardak by the Taliban and other insurgent groups has increased about 58 percent since last year, and in Logar about 41 percent, according to statistics collated by Sami Kovanen, a security analyst in Kabul.

Insurgents now have significant influence, if not control, in much of the two provinces, said Mr. Kovanen, who draws his information from a wide range of government, nongovernment and private sources.

The American military command said it had incomplete statistics for the level of violence in those provinces. “Frankly, in Wardak and Logar, we don’t know what we don’t know,” Colonel Nielson-Green said in an e-mail message. “There are few of our forces present in those areas, hence the reason for the incoming brigade there.”

...The Afghan government has already begun to work with local and provincial elected officials to extend the influence of the central government in the region, improve public services and gain the support of residents. But the government’s efforts have been continually hampered by criminal gangs and insurgent groups.

Sediqa Mubariz, a member of Parliament from Wardak, said in an interview that she would welcome any additional American troops in her province.

Ms. Mubariz said security had been so poor that since last year she had not been able to travel from Kabul to her home district in Wardak, only 50 miles away.

[bth: so basically the troop increase in Afghanistan is to keep the capital and adjacent areas from falling. There will be no increase in pressure against the Pakistan border or the insurgents in that area because there will be no additional troops sent there. Also as you can see from the article also posted to day 90 something trucks were destroyed in Pakistan trying to supply our existing forces.]

Pakistani militants torch Humvees for western forces

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Hordes of Pakistani militants set on fire 96 trucks carrying Humvees and military vehicles for Western forces in Afghanistan in a raid in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Sunday, police said.

Security guards said they were overpowered by more than 200 militants who attacked two terminals on Peshawar's ring road, where trucks carrying Humvees and other military vehicles were parked.

"It happened at around 2.30 a.m.. They fired rockets, hurled hand grenades and then set ablaze 96 trucks," senior police officer, Azeem Khan, told Reuters.

Most supplies, including fuel, for U.S. and NATO forces in landlocked Afghanistan are trucked through Pakistan, much of it the fabled Khyber Pass that runs through the mountains between Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province and the border town of Torkham.

Khan said one private security guard was killed in an exchange of fire between police and militants.

"They were shouting Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) and Down With America. They broke into the terminals after snatching guns from us," said Mohammad Rafiullah, security guard of a terminal.

Last month, the government closed the main supply route to Western forces in Afghanistan for a week after militants hijacked more than a dozen trucks on the road through Khyber Pass.

There have been worrying signs this year that Islamist militancy has spread to the area from more distant tribal regions where the Taliban and al Qaeda have taken root.

Peshawar city police chief, Safwat Ghayyur, said the government planned to launch an operation against "miscreants" in near future.

"Certainly, a plan of operation is in place as we have crafted a strategy in which we will have to go after them," he said.

The other main land route to Afghanistan runs from the southwestern city of Quetta through the border town of Chaman to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

[bth: the southern supply route being effectively cut off will essentially choke off a major build up of conventional forces in Afghanistan]