Saturday, January 17, 2009

Indians flee Dubai as dreams crash

D A I J I W O R L D: "Local police have found at least 3,000 automobiles -- sedans, SUVs, regulars -- abandoned outside Dubai International Airport in the last four months. Police say most of the vehicles had keys in the ignition, a clear sign they were left behind by owners in a hurry to take flight.

The global economic crisis has brought Dubai's economic progress, mirrored by its soaring towers and luxurious resorts, to a stuttering halt. Several people have been laid off in the past months after the realty boom started unraveling."...

Internal investigation clears Pentagon of propaganda violations

The Raw Story Internal investigation clears Pentagon of propaganda violations: ..."The report said historically it has been interpreted to mean publicity for the sake of self aggrandizement, partisanship, or covert communications, and that by those standards the evidence did not show a violation of the ban."

"Further, we found insufficient basis to conclude that (the office of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs) conceived of or undertook a disciplined effort to assemble a contingent of influential RMAs who could be depended on to comment favorably on DoD (Department of Defense) programs," it said.

It said the Pentagon invited retired military analysts to 121 meetings, 16 Pentagon briefings, 105 conference calls and nine trips -- four to Iraq and five to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We determined that those activities were conducted in accordance with DoD policies and regulations," it said.

It said some 70 retired military officers were involved with the program at one time of another.

One, retired general Barry McCaffrey, was not invited back after he criticized the war effort, the report said. Another was blocked from attending, possibly because of a dispute with an unnamed senior military officer, it said.

It said it found no instances where retired officers with ties to military contractors "used information obtained as a result of the ... outreach program to achieve a competitive advantage for their company...

[bth: this is a total white wash shoved out the door before Bush leaves office. Has the inspector general been totally corrupted?]

US Airways Plane Crash Video Released By Coast Guard (VIDEO)

US Airways Plane Crash Video Released By Coast Guard (VIDEO)

Split Screen Timeline of 9-11 and Bush

Hullabaloo

U.S. strikes more precise on al Qaeda

Washington Times - U.S. strikes more precise on al Qaeda
U.S. strikes against terrorist suspects in Pakistan's tribal region have become more accurate in the past few months, leading to the confirmed deaths of eight senior al Qaeda leaders and a decrease in civilian casualties that have roiled U.S.-Pakistani relations, The Washington Times has learned.

Among those killed was the mastermind of a 2006 plot to detonate liquid explosives aboard planes flying across the Atlantic and the man thought to have planned the Sept. 20 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, that killed 53 people, including two members of the U.S. military.

"The strikes have become increasingly accurate," a senior Pakistani official told The Times on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject. The official, who has worked closely with U.S. authorities, also said fighting was escalating between the foreign militants and members of native Pakistani tribes in the area along the Afghan border. As a result, he said, Arab al Qaeda members "are increasingly isolated."

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden apparently remains at large, judging from an audio recording released Wednesday. In the message, the terrorist mastermind called for a holy war against Israel because of its Gaza offensive and questioned whether the United States could succeed in Afghanistan. It was the first such recording since May and appeared to be authentic.

Still, officials from the outgoing Bush administration said they have scored significant hits.

"Within the last year or so we've had a very significant impact on senior al Qaeda leadership," Vice President Dick Cheney told PBS' "NewsHour" on Wednesday without elaborating.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told reporters Thursday that al Qaeda is feeling a backlash from Pakistani tribes and is under strain because of the loss of senior leaders....

[bth: when you see an exclusive like this leaked to the Washington Times you can be pretty sure its an official leak from the Administration or the Pentagon - the question is always why and why now?  My guess is that its part of the Bush legacy of propaganda.  How true it is is anyone's guess.]

Death by SWAT

Death by SWAT: Collateral raid damage - Reason Magazine
....As reckless and violent as the raid was, the police did at least find a substantial supply of illegal drugs inside the house, and Anthony Terry later pleaded guilty to felony drug distribution. A subsequent investigation by the Lima News showed that despite the inherent danger and small margin for error, SWAT raids conducted by the Lima Police Department frequently turned up no drugs or weapons at all. The paper found that in one-third of the 198 raids the SWAT team conducted from 2001 to 2008, no contraband was found.

Similar reviews in other cities have produced similar results: A surprisingly high percentage of raids produce neither drugs nor weapons. And the weapons that are found tend to be small, concealable handguns, with few raids resulting in felony convictions.

A Denver Post investigation found that in 80 percent of no-knock raids conducted in Denver in 1999, police assertions that there would be weapons in the targeted home turned out to be wrong. A separate investigation by the Rocky Mountain News found that of the 146 no-knock warrants served in Denver in 1999, just 49 resulted in criminal charges, and only two resulted in prison time. Media investigations produced similar results after high-profile mistaken raids in New York City in 2003, in Atlanta in 2007, and in Orlando and Palm Beach, Florida, in 1998. When the results of the Denver investigation were revealed, former prosecutor Craig Silverman said, “When you have that violent intrusion on people’s homes with so little results, you have to ask why.”

Lima police apparently aren’t as concerned. When told of the Lima News investigation, police spokesman Kevin Martin said, “That means 68 percent of the time, we’re getting guns or drugs off the street. We’re not looking at it as a win-loss record like a football team does.”

[bth: its my impression that we need to be dialing down the paramilitary components of law enforcement - or at least using them more selectively.]

Iraqi guards said to throw party for shoe-thrower -

Iraqi guards said to throw party for shoe-thrower - Yahoo! News: ..."The journalist is currently being held alone in a comfortable room with a bed and a TV set, his brother said. 'He is being visited frequently by doctors. The food is very good,' the brother added.

Al-Zeidi stood by his attack on Bush. He stressed that he meant no offense to the Iraqi prime minister but didn't want to miss his chance to send Bush a message, the brother said.

'He said he could not wait until al-Maliki left the room to throw his shoes because then Bush would also leave and that historic opportunity would be lost,' he said.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi actually feared he would be killed by guards after throwing his shoes and read his last prayers before going to the news conference, his brother said.

'So for him it does not matter for how long he would be imprisoned,' his brother said, 'because the important thing is that he restored the honor of the Iraqi people."

[bth: Iraqi guards threw a party for him?]

Bush's Final Approval Rating: 22 Percent, CBS News/N.Y. Times Poll Finds President Will Leave Office With Lowest Final Approval Rating Ever - CBS News

Bush's Final Approval Rating: 22 Percent, CBS News/N.Y. Times Poll Finds President Will Leave Office With Lowest Final Approval Rating Ever - CBS News: ..."Mr. Bush's final approval rating is the lowest final rating for an outgoing president since Gallup began asking about presidential approval more than 70 years ago.

The rating is far below the final ratings of recent two-term presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who both ended their terms with a 68 percent approval rating, according to CBS News polling.

Recent one term presidents also had higher ratings than Mr. Bush. His father George H.W. Bush had an end-of-term rating of 54 percent, while Jimmy Carter's rating was 44 percent.

Harry Truman had previously had the lowest end-of-term approval at 32 percent, as measured by Gallup.

Views of Mr. Bush's popularity are highly partisan. Only 6 percent of Democrats approve of the job he has done as president, while 57 percent of Republicans approve. Eighteen percent of independents approve"

US condemns stoning executions in Iran

The Raw Story | US condemns stoning executions in Iran: ..."Under Iran's Islamic law, adultery is still theoretically punishable by stoning, where members of the public hurl stones at a convict buried up to his waist. A woman is buried up to her shoulders.

The convict is spared if he can free himself.

Despite a 2002 directive by judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi imposing a moratorium on such executions, five Iranians have reportedly been stoned to death in the past four years"

Top Saudi cleric: Ok for young girls to wed - CNN.com

Top Saudi cleric: Ok for young girls to wed - CNN.com: ..."'It is incorrect to say that it's not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,' Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom's grand mufti, said in remarks quoted Wednesday in the regional Al-Hayat newspaper. 'A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.'

The issue of child marriage has been a hot-button topic in the deeply conservative kingdom in recent weeks.

In December, Saudi judge Sheikh Habib Abdallah al-Habib refused to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 47-year-old man."...

[bth: the man traded his daughter for a debt. Women are treated as property as the article goes on to describe]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Arabs lost 2.5 trillion dollars from credit crunch: Kuwait

Arabs lost 2.5 trillion dollars from credit crunch: Kuwait
Arab investors have lost 2.5 trillion dollars from the credit crunch, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah, whose country hosts an Arab economic summit next week, said on Friday.

"The Arab world has lost 2.5 trillion dollars in the past four months" as a result of the global financial crisis, Sheikh Mohammad told a press conference following a joint meeting of Arab foreign and finance ministers in Kuwait.

He also said that about 60 percent of development projects "have either been postponed or cancelled" by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states because of the global meltdown....

Is the Army lying about friendly fire deaths? | Salon News

Is the Army lying about friendly fire deaths? | Salon News: "Jan. 15, 2009 | New statistics obtained by Salon depict a spectacularly low number of U.S. Army deaths from friendly fire in the current conflict in Iraq, a mere fraction of historical rates. According to data released to Salon by the Army's Combat Readiness/Safety Center, only 24 of the 3,059 U.S. Army soldiers killed in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 died by fratricide.

That is a rate of .78 percent, less than one-tenth of almost every estimate from previous conflicts stretching back to World War II, despite six years of combat in Iraq, often in confusing urban terrain, using intense U.S. firepower. Army officials gave Salon similar statistics for Afghanistan: six out of 484 dead, or a rate of 1.24 percent. By comparison, the Army's own estimates of the friendly fire rates for every war from World War II to Desert Storm are between 10 and 14 percent, except for a low of 6 percent during the invasion of Panama. During the last U.S. conflict in Iraq, 1991's Operation Desert Storm, fratricide killed 35 of 298 U.S. service members, or a rate of nearly 12 percent, according to a 1992 report by the Center for Army Lessons Learned.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said improved technology and better leadership and training contributed to the low fratricide rates in the current Iraq war. Some observers, however, called the new data fishy. "That is almost impossible," said Geoffrey Wawro, director of the University of North Texas' Military History Center, who closely followed the Army's coverup of football star Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire in April 2004. Wawro says that technology and training can help minimize the friendly fire rate, but "still, the fog of war is such that it has to be higher than .7 percent."...

The military still employs mixed units, and it cannot eliminate human error or the fog of war. The consistency of the numbers from World War II to Desert Storm 50 years later is remarkable. The Army's figures for World War II are 12 to 14 percent; for Vietnam, 10 to 14 percent; for Grenada, 13 percent; for Panama, 6 percent; and for Desert Storm, 12 percent. (Figures for Korea were not provided.)...

According to a study prepared by the Office of Technology Assessment for the House Armed Services Committee in June 1993, after the first Gulf War, a "15 to 20 percent fratricide rate may be the norm, not the exception," as "past rates of fratricide have been systematically and substantially underestimated." It notes that the "psychological effects of friendly fire are always greater than from similar, enemy fire."

A decade earlier, a 1982 report by Army Lt. Col. Charles Shrader called "Amicide: The Problem of Friendly Fire in Modern Warfare," which put the friendly fire rate far lower — perhaps as 2 percent — had reached the same conclusion about the temptation to hide friendly fire incidents. "Commanders at various levels," wrote Shrader, "may be reluctant to report instances of casualties due to friendly fire either because they are afraid of damaging unit or personal reputations, because they have a misplaced concern for the morale of surviving troops or the benefits and honors due the dead and wounded, or simply because of a desire to avoid unprofitable conflicts with the personnel of supporting or adjacent units."

The 1992 report from the Center for Army Lessons Learned, cited earlier, says that friendly fire can be "devastating and spread deeply within a unit." Friendly fire, it says, also results in "loss of confidence in the unit's leadership."

"Nobody wants to talk about this," says Wawro. "It is a disincentive to recruitment and everything. There is real incentive to cover it up."

These latest fratricide statistics from the Army already include incidents initially blamed on the enemy. There was Pat Tillman. Another example was Lt. Kenneth Ballard. The Army told his family he died in Najaf from enemy fire in May 2004. By December of that year, the family was asking for more information. The Army admitted to friendly fire as the culprit in September 2005.

On Oct. 14 of last year, Salon began a series of stories about the deaths of two infantry soldiers, Pfc. Albert Nelson and Pfc. Roger Suarez-Gonzalez on the rooftop of a building in Ramadi, Iraq on Dec. 4, 2006. Soldiers there said a nearby U.S. tank fired at the building, blowing Suarez off the roof and killing him instantly. Nelson died later that day....

[bth: I personally am aware of other cases. The families of the dead talk to each other. Mark doesn't mention in this article but the day his October 2008 piece was published, the records of that unit's killed where destroyed at Ft. Carson throughout the following night. The enlisted personnel protested and have been relocated for their own protection. The colonel that commanded the tanks in the 2006 incident where the records were destroyed was promoted to general the same week in October. ... Besides the strong feelings and demoralization that occurs not just from friendly fire but from the cover up that follows - there is the simple statement that families want to know their loved ones died for something and that something could be as simple as a lesson learned, a change in procedure, a change in technology - some lasting improvement. When its is covered up, it is the ultimate betrayal of trust between officers and their enlisted personnel. Its done because its expedient and because moral courage is a rare thing.]

Bush expected to pardon those with torture links

Bush expected to pardon those with torture links | theage.com.au
US LAWYERS battling against torture and other abuses at Guantanamo Bay are braced for George Bush issuing last-minute pardons to protect those in his Administration most closely implicated.

The lawyers' warning came after a senior member of the Bush Administration, Susan Crawford, admitted for the first time that torture had been carried out.

Such pardons could prevent US courts from prosecuting people involved in torture on the Bush Administration's watch, in much the same way that then president Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974 for crimes he may have committed during his presidency, even though no specific charge had been made against him....

[bth: if I understand correctly the administration is slowly releasing information that torture occurred so that they can then be pardoned.  What a country.]

ACLU: 'Secret courts' conceal fraud by military contractors

The Raw Story | ACLU: 'Secret courts' conceal fraud by military contractors
A law originally intended to encourage whistleblowers may have been used by the Bush Justice Department to cover up allegations of fraud by contractors such as Halliburton spin-off KBR.

In 2007, David Rose's "The People vs. the Profiteers" described a "scandal of epic proportions" involving the alleged suppression of dozens of lawsuits against KBR for alleged massive fraud in Iraq.

Those and similar charges are the basis for a complaint (pdf) filed on Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia, which alleges that secrecy provisions added to the False Claims Act (FCA) in 1986 have been used to keep complaints under seal indefinitely and gag whistleblowers who might otherwise speak out.....

[bth: the dam is about to break - corruption on a massive scale will soon become public.]

YouTube - Israeli leaders reportedly split over ceasefire - 16 Jan 09

YouTube - Israeli leaders reportedly split over ceasefire - 16 Jan 09

Activist organizations file suit against FBI over raid, seizure of computers

The Raw Story | Activist organizations file suit against FBI over raid, seizure of computers
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of California have filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI and local authorities over the seizure and search of two organizations' computers, they jointly announced Wednesday.

On August 27, 2008, the University of California Police, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department and the FBI took part in a raid of the Berkeley offices of two politically active groups, Long Haul Infoshop and East Bay Prisoner Support Group (EBPS), seizing every computer in the building, even those behind locked doors, which were opened by force. The raid was conducted despite no allegations of wrongdoing on the part of either organization or any of their members, and the complaint questions the legality of the warrant obtained by authorities.

Long Haul Infoshop, an all-volunteer collective, provides community space, a lending library and Internet-connected computers to the public. It also publishes a quarterly newspaper called Slingshot. EBPS, while sharing its building, is not affiliated with Long Haul. EBPS publishes a newsletter of writing by prisoners, also distributes literature to, and advocates for, the prison population, including LGBT and female inmates....

[bth: I don't know anything about these organizations and am suspicious of anything from Berkley.  What frightens me  is a violation of rights without outcry.]

Biden tells Obama Afghanistan will get worse - Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times

Biden tells Obama Afghanistan will get worse - Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times: "WASHINGTON — Freshly returned from a tour of war zones and global hotspots, Vice President-elect Joe Biden told President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday that “things are going to get tougher” in Afghanistan."

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, Biden’s partner in the five-day, bipartisan fact-finding mission to Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, predicted that “casualties are likely to increase” in Afghanistan as the number of U.S. troops there goes up this year.

The U.S. is rushing as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, seeking to the turn the tide in fighting that has seen al-Qaida-linked militants and the Taliban make a comeback after initial defeats in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

“It is a fair criticism to say, Mr. President, that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and we need to re-engage,” Graham, R-S.C., said. “And that re-engagement is going to come at a heavy price.”

Biden and Graham gave Obama an initial report on their trip to the four countries, all central to America’s security agenda and the broader war on terror, at Obama’s transition headquarters. They will present the president-elect later with a more detailed accounting, including recommendations for action based on what they saw and heard.

Reporters weren’t allowed into the meeting where Biden and Graham briefed Obama, but the trio talked to reporters brought in after it was over.

“The truth is that things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they’re going to get better,” Biden said.

Biden said he and Graham went to each country “to listen, not to convey policy.” But, he said, they expressed concern to some leaders, when necessary, “about some of their actions — or lack of actions.”

For instance, they both emphasized the crucial role Pakistan will play in whether the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan can be successful. Militants cross the porous, dangerous border from the lawless frontier on the Pakistani side into Afghanistan, where they attack U.S. troops....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The common element between Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq is US

World Affairs Journal - The Human Element: When Gadgetry Becomes Strategy
...Thus, one possible answer to questions that historians continue to ask about Vietnam, and now ask about Iraq: How and why did America go to war in these places, and what best explains the subsequent course of these wars? Evidence that became available to researchers in the mid-1990s, including previously unavailable documents and tapes of meetings and phone conversations, shed new light on the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration’s Vietnam War decisionmaking thirty years earlier. That body of evidence indicated that the answers to these two questions were connected; the unique way in which the United States went to war in Vietnam had a profound influence on the conduct of the war and on its outcome. In Iraq, too, the way the United States went to war influenced everything that followed. A fixation on American technological superiority and an associated neglect of the human, psychological, and political dimensions of war doomed one effort and very nearly the other.

...The way the United States went to war in Vietnam was unique in American
history. No one decision led to war. Lyndon Johnson did not want to go
to war in Vietnam, yet every decision he made seems, in retrospect, to
have led inexorably in that direction. Not that Johnson relished such
decisions: he turned to his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, to
develop a strategy for Vietnam compatible with his domestic priorities
and which would permit the president to avoid a concrete decision
between war and disengagement. 

Approved in March 1964,
“Graduated Pressure” was the result. The strategy would use
raids and “tit for tat” bombing to convince Ho Chi Minh and
the leaders of North Vietnam to desist from supporting the Vietnamese
Communist insurgency in the south. Graduated Pressure would allow the
United States to control the escalation of the military effort and
improve the situation in Vietnam cheaply, efficiently, and without
attracting undesired attention from Congress and the American
people. ...

Nineteenth-century Prussian philosopher Carl von Clausewitz argued that
“the first, the supreme, the most far reaching act of judgment
that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish the kind
of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor
trying to turn it into something that is alien to its nature. This is
the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.”
The problem in South Vietnam was fundamentally political, but the
strategy of Graduated Pressure did not address the fundamental causes
of violence. Planned military actions were based on readily available
weapon systems and other capabilities, rather than on the objectives
that the application of military force was meant to accomplish.
Ambiguous policy and flawed strategic thinking generated a tendency to
equate any military activity with progress. Because the president and
his advisors considered only the next step up the “ladder”
of Graduated Pressure, the strategy hindered long-range thinking about
purposes and policies and barely acknowledged their interaction with
the enemy
.  

To the extent that criticism of strategic
thinking did enter into the discussion, it hardly slowed the momentum
behind Graduated Pressure. In a November 1964 planning memo, a senior
civilian Pentagon planner defined the primary objective in Vietnam as
the preservation of American credibility and concluded that it was
unnecessary to win the war to achieve that objective. America simply
had to “get bloodied” and appear to the world to have been
a “good doctor” who did all he could for a terminally ill
patient
. This approach ignored the uncertainty of war and the
unpredictable results of an activity that involves killing and
destroying. To the North Vietnamese, attacks on their population and
the bombing of their countryside were not simply means of communication
or a game of chess. The results of the bombing campaign, as with any
act of war, defied quantification and created problems—and
emotions—to which coldly rational calculations provided no
adequate response....

Along with an assumption that the enemy would respond to American
military action in a fairly predictable and reasonable manner, the
proponents of concepts such as “Shock and Awe” and
“Rapid Decisive Operations” believed, like the whiz kids
before them, that technological prowess would free them from the
enduring logic of warfare. In the years immediately prior to the
attacks of September 11, 2001, enthusiasm about a “defense
transformation” epitomized American military thought. Advocates
of this transformation believed that information, communications,
surveillance, and precision strike capabilities had generated a
revolution in military affairs that would deliver quick, cheap,
efficient, and decisive victories in future wars. The language of
defense transformation was hubristic—U.S. forces would enjoy
“full spectrum dominance” over potential adversaries so
long as they maintained a technological advantage. Once more, faith in
American technological superiority had elevated a military capability
to the level of strategy, and once more, the human element got lost in
the enthusiasm
for what seemed to present an easy and relatively
painless solution to a complex, difficult problem. 

The
conviction that technology offered a panacea not only impeded U.S.
efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq to begin with, but also slowed the
ability to adapt once the true nature of those wars became apparent
. In
late September 2004, as the insurgency in Iraq was coalescing and U.S.
forces were preparing for the Battle of Fallujah, the secretary of
defense continued to make the case that “speed and precision and
agility can substitute for mass,” reiterating that the war plan
was designed “to take advantage of the speed, precision, and
agility that we have.” Such views go a long way toward explaining
the mismatch between ends and means in Afghanistan and Iraq, where for
years the U.S. chased ambitious aims with inadequate resources
(especially numbers of soldiers and units committed)......

The key is to not be so far off the mark that it becomes impossible to adjust once that character is revealed. ...

[bth: this article is worth reading in full and with studied attention]

Bin Laden urges jihad against Israel

Bin Laden urges jihad against Israel: ...."Pointing to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, bin Laden said al-Qaida was prepared to fight 'for seven more years, and seven more after that, then seven more.'

'We are on the way to opening new fronts,' he said, urging Muslims to 'join hands with the mujahedeen to continue the jihad against the enemy, to continue bleeding them on these two fronts and on the others that are open to you.'

'The question is, can America continue the war against us for several more decades? The reports and signs show us otherwise,' he said. He said Bush had left his successor 'with a heavy inheritance,' forcing Obama to choose between withdrawing from the wars or continuing.

'If he withdraws from the war, it is a military defeat. If he continues, he drowns in economic crisis,' bin Laden said.

It was the first time bin Laden have spoken of Obama, though he did not mention him by name. Bin Laden's top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri has previously spoken against Obama, warning Muslims he will not bring major change in U.S. policies."

Ex-Military Prosecutor Alleges Disarray in Handling Evidence Against Terrorism Detainees - washingtonpost.com

Ex-Military Prosecutor Alleges Disarray in Handling Evidence Against Terrorism Detainees - washingtonpost.com: "A former military prosecutor said in a declaration filed in federal court yesterday that the system of handling evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay is so chaotic that it is impossible to prepare a fair and successful prosecution."

Darrel Vandeveld, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, filed the declaration in support of a petition seeking the release of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who has been held at the military prison in Cuba for six years. Jawad was a juvenile when he was detained in Kabul in 2002 after a grenade attack that severely wounded two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their interpreter.

Vandeveld, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the lead prosecutor against Jawad until he asked to be relieved of his duties last year, citing a crisis of conscience. He said the case has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.

Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the "complete lack of organization" has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, "it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name."

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Vandeveld was assigned to the military prosecutor's office at Guantanamo Bay in May 2007, shortly before Jawad was charged. Vandeveld, who as a civilian serves as a senior deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania, said he was shocked by the "state of disarray" as he began to gather material for Jawad's case file.

He said the evidence was scattered throughout databases, in desk drawers, in vaguely labeled containers or "simply piled on the tops of desks" of departed prosecutors.

"I further discovered that most physical evidence that had been collected had either disappeared" or had been stored in unknown locations, he said.

Military officials rejected the accusations.

"I am happy to respond under oath to any of the allegations," Col. Lawrence Morris, chief military prosecutor, said in an e-mailed statement. Vandeveld, he said, "was disappointed when I did not choose him to become a team leader, and he asked to resign shortly thereafter, never having raised an ethical concern during the 9 months I supervised him. I relied on his representations to me about Jawad and other cases I entrusted to him (which included his advocacy of a 40-year sentence for Mr. Jawad the week before he departed)."

"My response is I wouldn't believe a word he says," Vandeveld said last night.

Military defense lawyers also said yesterday that the Office of Military Commissions may have accidentally withdrawn the charges against all defendants at Guantanamo Bay facing trial, including Jawad and even Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Defense lawyers said the Office of Military Commissions, while creating new jury panels, took the additional step of re-referring all charges, which, they said, would return all cases to square one and require new arraignments....

[bth: WTF? How can the Army prosecution be this screwed up?]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama attends conservative dinner party

Obama attends conservative dinner party - Yahoo! News: "This could ruin their reputation: President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday evening attending a dinner party at the home of conservative columnist George Will, attended by fellow conservatives William Kristol and David Brooks."....

[bth: a bad move.]

Financier Stays Free on Bail, Must Give Inventory of Valuables - WSJ.com

Financier Stays Free on Bail, Must Give Inventory of Valuables - WSJ.com: "A federal judge on Monday denied prosecutors' request to jail money manager Bernard Madoff for allegedly violating a court order by mailing more than $1 million worth of valuables to friends and family."...

[bth: doesn't this judge realize the corrosive impact this flaunting behavior has on the perception of justice from the vantage of ordinary Americans?]

Pakistan: Troops repulse Afghan Taliban attack, 46 killed

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Troops repulse Afghan Taliban attack, 46 killed
PESHAWAR: At least 40 Taliban were killed and scores of others wounded in Mohmand Agency on Sunday as paramilitary troops repulsed a pre-dawn attack by about 600 fighters coming from the Afghan border, a spokesman said.

The attackers – mostly foreigners, and supported by local Taliban – attacked FC positions in Mamad Gatt at about 2am.

“Frontier Corps troops repulsed a massive attack by militants on one of its locations in the area,” the military said in a statement, adding that “severe fighting continued through the night”.

Six soldiers were also killed and seven wounded in the fighting....
The attackers were eventually driven off, but scattered skirmishes continued, he said.

Mohmand
Agency lies along the volatile Afghan border and the military official
said the bulk of the Taliban crossed over from Afghanistan and later
joined with Pakistani allies....

Also on Sunday, tribesmen blocked the southwestern supply route for
NATO forces in Afghanistan at Chaman with burning tires and felled
trees. They were protesting the killing of one of their members in a
raid by the Anti-Narcotics Force....

[bth: 600 fighters. Also note the flow of forces was from Afghanistan to Pakistan and that the closure of the convoy route was in retaliation for killing a Taliban leader involved in narcotics.]

Taliban: The confidence and strength of Taliban grows in Afghanistan - Los Angeles Times

Taliban: The confidence and strength of Taliban grows in Afghanistan - Los Angeles Times: "Reporting from Ghazni, Afghanistan -- The main highway is 'enemy territory' for the Taliban, a busy two-lane road where U.S. troops race down the middle, trying to steer clear of suicide bombers. The guerrillas drive it like they own it.

Grinning with contempt at a convoy of Polish troops trying to plow its way through traffic the other day, three Taliban fighters with guns and long knives concealed under their heavy woolen cloaks calmly eased into the other lane and beat the jam."...

When they reached the edge of this provincial capital just an hour and a half south of Kabul, the driver pulled onto a dirt track into the desert, coaxing the creaking old van over a speed bump and past a nervous-looking Afghan army sentry. The fighters flashed him a dirty look.

Just 30 yards from the American-built highway, we were entering Taliban country...

In Ghazni province, at least, the Taliban militants are not frightened fighters skulking in caves, sneaking out to ambush and then scurrying off to another mountain hide-out. They live comfortably in the farming villages where many of them were born, holding territory, recruiting and training new troops, reveling in what they see as God's gift of inevitable victory against heathen foreign occupiers.

"In the early days, there were many spies, so we had to move around in small groups," Ahmadi said. "But now we are in groups of 300 or 400. We have no problems."

During their downtime, they watch satellite TV and stay current with each day's news. Lately, they've seen a lot of bombing and corpses on Al Jazeera television coverage of the Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Ghazni guerrillas said the images made them more determined than ever to fight, and if necessary die, to expel U.S. troops and their allies, whom they consider Crusaders bent on destroying Islam.

"We are ready to give our blood for the freedom of our homeland, and also to end the oppression by the Americans," said Ahmadi, who masked his face with a black-and-white kaffiyeh, more commonly worn by Palestinian Arabs than his fellow Afghans.

"The Americans support Israel, and when they come all the way here, we must at least be ready to defend our land. Death in youth would be a matter of pride for us."

Satellite TV has also kept the Talibs up to date on preparations for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, whom one dismissed as "just another infidel," and the impending U.S. troop buildup.

The Talibs say any increase would only give them more opportunities to kill non-Muslims in jihad, or holy war, just as U.S.-backed mujahedin did in almost a decade of war to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1980s....

Some accuse the Taliban of press-ganging villagers into the fight. But the Ghazni Talibs claim that eager volunteers swell their ranks by 10% a month, and insist that they turn many away.

"There is no need for all of them," Ahmadi said, and the second Talib added with a confident smile: "There isn't so much logistic support available either."

Despite efforts by the U.S.-led military coalition to disrupt Taliban commanders' ability to direct military operations from a distance, the guerrillas appeared to be in regular contact with their leaders, and acted on their orders.....

Our driver paused a minute to let a convoy of Polish troops pass in Humvees.

Soldiers swiveling in turrets scanned us through their gun sights, but the troops kept moving slowly northeast to the relative safety of the city. We headed in the opposite direction, toward Qarabagh district, notorious for kidnappers.

Militants often ignore the steady traffic of military helicopters clattering overhead, or patrolling ground troops, and brazenly set up daytime checkpoints to search for foreigners, aid workers and government employees...

he Talibs' van carried a selection of music cassettes for their tape deck. When the Taliban ran most of the country, cassettes were seized at checkpoints, and countless strands of shiny brown tape were strung up on poles to blow in the wind like raffia dolls.

Taliban enforcers used to grab men's beards, and anything less than a fistful of facial hair warranted a severe beating on the spot. But several men walking the roads in Taliban territory were cleanshaven. Even one who attended the meeting was without a whisker. The others called the bashful, baby-faced Talib "The Doctor."

The Talibs admitted burning government schools, but argued that doesn't mean they are against education, as long as it conforms to their idea of proper Islamic schooling.

"Now the government is doing voter registration in schools, and we are against elections as long as foreigners are in the country," said the second Talib. "They are using schools as trenches against us. So when schools get burned, it is their fault."

The Taliban's courts mete out justice under Islamic Sharia law. It is harsh, yet popular with many Afghans tired of seeing justice go to the highest bidder in government courtrooms, and angry that Western donors have pressured President Hamid Karzai to stay the executions of most convicted criminals on death row.

Some of the Ghazni Talibs said they had participated in the early effort to support the elected government of Karzai, a fellow Pashtun, only to become disillusioned and take up arms against it...

[bth: essentially they travel in plain sight. They control the countryside. They have no recruitment problems, have foreign support yet logistical weaknesses and limitations. They feel the government is corrupt and does not help them. They want the western forces to leave. They will fight us as long as we are there and one day longer.... I have doubts about more regular U.S. combat forces. I'd think we'd benefit more from civil works, special forces, and improved Afghan police forces. I think we need to reassess our purpose in Afghanistan.]

Israel Bans Arab Parties From Coming Election

Israel Bans Arab Parties From Coming Election: "JERUSALEM — Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month's parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country's Supreme Court."...

[bth: very bad idea]

America needs to be on the side of good governance

Wealthy Afghan elite sows bitterness - Washington Post- msnbc.com
.....Karzai has publicly acknowledged that corruption plagues all levels of his government, yet critics say he is either unable or unwilling to stop it. The new Afghan constitution has numerous provisions requiring officials to disclose their assets and perform their duties with financial transparency and accountability, but they are rarely heeded, according to a recent study by the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan.

The public mood of frustration, desperation and disgust has played into the hands of Taliban insurgents, who present themselves as an alternative source of justice and carry out swift physical punishments of thieves or other miscreants in rural areas under their control. It was a similar appeal to law and order in the mid-1990s, when Afghanistan was in the throes of civil war, that allowed the Taliban militia to quickly achieve power with little bloodshed.

Most Afghans do not favor a return of the Taliban, especially in cities where their extreme version of Islam clashed with the lifestyles of the country's educated classes. But more and more, people recall the five years of Taliban rule as a time of brutal but honest government, when officials lived modestly and citizens were safe from criminals.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

"Nobody loved the Taliban, but what we see now is outrageous. The leaders are not rebuilding Afghanistan, they are only lining their pockets," said Abdul Nabi, 40, a high school teacher. "I haven't been paid in three months. The other day, a colleague came to me weeping and asked to borrow money to buy bread. Who can we blame for this?" he demanded. "Where can we turn to change things?"

In the tent colony next to the Evening in Paris, Zakia, a mother of seven, recounted how her family had been forced to leave its refugee camp in Pakistan and return to Kabul last year. They had expected to obtain land and jobs but found neither, she said. Last week, a young woman in one tent died while giving birth. "If we had known what we would face here, we would never have come back," she said.

Across the street, sitting in his ornate office, the owner of the French-themed wedding hall expressed surprisingly similar sentiments. He complained that the government had done nothing to encourage private development, that he had to buy water and power privately and that the unpaved street outside his elegant premises was a sea of mud.

"Do I regret making this investment? I regret it 100 percent," said the owner, who gave his name as Hajji Obaidullah. "When I built this hall five years ago, there was a lot of hope and excitement, but now it has all turned to disappointment. We have no electricity, no drinking water, no security. If the government doesn't want to help people like me, how is the man with the little shop or the donkey cart going to survive?"

[bth: this article is worth reading in full.  One important conclusion I've come to after many years is that the U.S. needs to consistently stand for and support honest government at home and abroad.  Whenever we choose another path, usually for some near term expediency, we regret it.  Look at how we lost Iran.  Look at how we lost Vietnam.  Look at Mexico and Central America.  When we get on the wrong side of good government, we separate our interests from the self interest of the local population.  Rather than vastly increasing our expenditure of military weapons and manpower in Afghanistan, what if we put several billion a year into  hiring locals to built power plants and their own infrastructure - electricity, water, government buildings, hospitals, clinics, schools.  What if we established adult literacy programs?  Well placed funds even in small local increments go a long way toward improving lives when heads of families are desparate to find jobs and the self respect that comes from them.  These are lasting gifts America can give to the Afghans.]

What is Olmert trying to say here - that he can shame a US Sec of State?

Rice shame-faced by Bush over UN Gaza vote: Olmert - Yahoo! News
ERUSALEM (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left shame-faced after President George W. Bush ordered her to abstain in a key UN vote on the Gaza war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday.

"She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour," Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution last Thursday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the three-week-old conflict in the Gaza Strip and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza where hundreds have been killed.

Fourteen of the council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, which was later rejected by both Israel and Hamas.

The United States, Israel's main ally, had initially been expected to voted in line with the other 14 but Rice later became the sole abstention.

"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour," Olmert said.

"I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

"I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour
."

Bush has consistently placed the blame for the conflict on Hamas, telling reporters on Monday that while he wanted to see a "sustainable ceasefire" in Gaza, it was up to Hamas to choose to end its rocket fire on Israel.

But a US State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied Olmert's claim.

"Mr. Olmert is wrong," the official said.

Even if everything had gone according to plan, "she would have abstained. That was the plan," said the official. "The government of Israel does not make US policy."

[bth: so what is Olmert trying to say?  Is it that he has the US President on a leash?   Is it that he can and did 'shame' the US Sec. of State?  What is constructive about this kind of talk even if true?  Is it that he feels he can 'shame' the out going US leaders in order to help his own re-election chances in February?]

Tina Fey's Golden Globes Speech To Critics: Suck It! (VIDEO)

Tina Fey's Golden Globes Speech To Critics: Suck It! (VIDEO)

Obama preparing order to close Gitmo

The Raw Story | Obama preparing order to close Gitmo
President-elect Barack Obama will order the closing of the Guantanamo Bay US military prison, his advisers say, according to Lara Jakes of The Associated Press:

That executive order is expected during Obama's first week on the job — and possibly on his first day, according to two transition team advisers. Both spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Obama's order will direct his administration to figure out what to do with the estimated 250 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects and potential witnesses who are being held at Guantanamo.

It's still unlikely the prison would be closed any time soon. Obama last weekend said it would be "a challenge" to close it even within the first 100 days of his administration.

Revealed: US spends more than $52 billion a year on nukes

The Raw Story | Revealed: US spends more than $52 billion a year on nukes
The United States spends more than $52 billion a year maintaining,
upgrading and operating its nuclear weapons arsenal each year, a
little-heralded study revealed Monday.



Outside of the hefty price tag, equally significant is the way the money is spent. The US devoted just 1.3 percent -- or $700 million -- to preparing for the consequences of a nuclear attack.

The amount of money spent on America's nuclear programs dwarfs the amount spent on diplomacy and foreign assistance (combined), effectively leaving US diplomatic efforts abroad in the long shadow of America's ballistic missiles.

"Nuclear security consumes $13 billion more than international diplomacy and foreign assistance; nearly double what the United States allots for general science, space, and technology; and 14 times what the Department of Energy (DOE) budgets for all energy-related research and development," the Carnegie Institute for Peace noted in a study posted to the Federation for American Scientists' Secrecy News blog Monday.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The new face of government propaganda and information campaigns

Israel uses YouTube, Twitter to share its point of view - CNN.com
...An initial message by the Israel Defense Forces posted on the channel, youtube.com/user/idfnadesk, said Israel wanted to use YouTube to "help us bring our message to the world" with "exclusive footage showing the IDF's operation success" in Gaza.

An IDF spokesman said YouTube was a way to get that message "to as many as we can," though he declined to comment further.

The YouTube channel is just one multimedia platform Israel is using to spread its message on the recent campaign in Gaza, which began Saturday.

The Israeli Consulate in New York also launched a Twitter feed Monday, which it has used to solicit questions from users for a virtual press conference.

The YouTube posts started Monday, with black-and-white aerial military video of Israeli aircraft striking "rockets in transit" and "terrorist smuggling tunnels." Another video in color showed what are identified as Israeli trucks transporting aid into Gaza.

The statement, still posted as of Tuesday night, said YouTube had taken down some of the IDF videos but, "due to blogger and viewer support, YouTube has returned some of the footage they removed."
Don't Miss

* Olmert: No peace in Gaza till Hamas rockets stop
* YouTube: Israel Defense Forces
* Twitter: Israel Consulate in New York

The statement was removed sometime Wednesday, replaced with one that reads in part, "We thank you for visiting us and will continue to update this site with documentation of the IDF's humane action and operational success in operation 'Cast Lead.' "

By Wednesday afternoon, the channel had 5,600 subscribers and 16 videos posted. The most popular was a video titled "Israeli Air Force Strikes Hamas Government Complex," which shows a large compound with three structures methodically leveled in an air assault Tuesday. Another video shows a building identified as the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in crosshairs before disappearing in a dark cloud of smoke.

According to its Web site, YouTube has a policy that prohibits "inappropriate content," including violent images. While YouTube wouldn't specifically address the IDF statement, a company official said the site relies on its subscribers to flag videos considered inappropriate.

"We review all flagged content quickly, and if we find that a video does violate the guidelines, we remove it, on average in under an hour," said Victoria Grand, YouTube's policy chief. "Occasionally, a video flagged by users is mistakenly taken down. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, which may include restoring videos that had been removed."

The New York Israeli Consulate's Twitter feed has picked up more than 2,600 followers since it launched Monday to share its point of view with a younger demographic, said David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs.

"We saw that there is a big debate, a very vivid debate about the situation in Gaza, and we wanted to bring our point of view, we wanted to share it with people on Twitter," Saranga said.

Using the abbreviated language of 140 characters, the feed takes in comments from users and answers their questions on a variety of issues, from the possibility of negotiations with Hamas -- "we R pro nego...we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live" -- to how many rockets have hit Israel in the past six month -- "ovr 500," according to Saranga, who handles nearly all of the questions....

[bth: if this were done by the Pentagon, it would hire Boeing to re-create You-Tube from scratch, then try to post content.  Instead Israel uses low cost and available commercial means to get its message out.  I have no problem getting a message out, even a propaganda as long as people see it for what it is.  Interesting how the world had changed even within the last five years.]

SECDEF Gates Meets with COCOMs, USMC Makes Case... (SWJ Blog)

SECDEF Gates Meets with COCOMs, USMC Makes Case... (SWJ Blog): ..."Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway has called for Marines to return to their expeditionary roots, which means shipborne operations in close-to-shore areas around the globe. The briefs, presented by Col. Steven Zotti and his team, outline how the Marines see the future and their role in protecting U.S. national security interests abroad in the decades to come."...

U.S. Marines find Iraq tactics don't work in Afghanistan

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/11/2009 | U.S. Marines find Iraq tactics don't work in Afghanistan:... "At times, Afghanistan can feel deceptively like Iraq, they say. During a patrol that found the Marines surrounded by poppy fields, they spotted two men on a motorcycle trailing them. It was the only other vehicle on an otherwise unused paved road."

"You see that. They're watching us," Gilreath radioed to his fellow Marines.

In Iraq, such trailing often meant an attack was imminent. But not here. Marines said it could be months before the Taliban turns that information into an attack.

"The lack of attacks has me asking: Are we doing something right or wrong?" asked company commander Capt. Sven Gosnell, 36, of Torrance, Calif., an Iraqi veteran.

When the Taliban does take on the Marines, it's a different kind of fight, Marines said. For one, the Taliban'll wait until they're ready, not just when an opportunity appears. They'll clear the area of women and children, not use them as shields. And when the attack comes, it's often a full-scale attack, with flanks, trenches and a plan, said one Marine captain and Iraq veteran who asked not to be identified because he wasn't sure he was allowed to discuss tactics.

Afghans "are willing to fight to the death. They recover their wounded, just like we do," said the captain. "When I am fighting here, I am fighting a professional army. If direct fighting does not work, they will go to an IED. They plan their ammunition around poppy season. To fight them, you are pulling every play out of the playbook."

U.S. troops also are frustrated by the different rules of engagement they must operate under in Afghanistan. Until Jan. 1, U.S. forces in Iraq operated under their own rules of engagement. If they saw something suspicious, they could kick down a door, search a home or detain a suspicious person.

But in Afghanistan, they operate under the rules of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, of which U.S. troops are part. Under those regulations, only Afghans can search buildings and detain people.

Gilreath felt that frustration shortly after he spotted the trailing motorcycle. Radio chatter mentioned a local bomb-making factory, though it didn't say where. Gilreath decided to investigate two nearby homes. Trailing behind was one Afghan police truck, the only one available that day.

The Marines secured the perimeter and the handful of Afghan police officers searched one clay structure, then the other. But they moved slowly. Some Marines started peeking the windows, doing their best to honor ISAF rules and still satisfy their urge to search.

As the burka-clad women huddled with their children outside, and the men tried to assure the Marines they were law abiding, a single Afghan man began walking off through a nearby field. There weren't enough Afghan police to both search the homes and stop the man.

"We just need more everything," Gilreath said afterward.

[bth: so 3000 troops covering a hostile area the size of Vermont. Does this make sense? Gen. Conway says the marines should go back on the boats - that's the marine missions. But do we have enemies on the seas besides a few pirates and do we need to invade islands like Iwo Jima this year? Conway is afraid marines are becoming an extension of the Army, but unless marines are to become as irrelevant as the US Air Force and Navy to the current enemies we face, it has to fight inland in Afghanistan and do it effectively. We have to adapt our tactics, our weapons, our strategy to the realities of Afghanistan. This isn't our war of choice, but it is the one we've got.]


Joe the Plumber in Israel: "I think media should be abolished form reporting on war"

Think Progress » Joe the Plumber: ‘I think media should be abolished’ from reporting on war.
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber,” is currently in Israel covering the war for the conservative site PJTV.com. When asked what he has learned from his new experiences as a journalist, Wurzelbacher said that he believes the media shouldn’t be allowed to do “reporting” on wars:

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it....

[bth: there is a video attached to the original post but Joe the Dumber is just too painful to watch.]
Informed Comment

Fierce focus on tunnels, a lifeline for Gazans

Fierce focus on tunnels, a lifeline for Gazans - International Herald Tribune
....unnels like those are now a principal focus of Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, with bombing raids clearly audible on the other side of the eight-mile border with Egypt.

The 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza regard the tunnels as a vital lifeline to the outside world, from which they are otherwise almost completely shut off by the Israeli military's control of land, sea and air access to the north, east and west of Gaza. To the south, Gaza has been sealed off by Egypt.

In addition to the smuggling of everyday goods, tunnels like this, and others much larger and more sophisticated, are being used by Hamas to smuggle rockets and other weapons into Gaza from the Egyptian Sinai, and to move fighters in and out, Israel says.

Abu Qusay, the almost certainly false name of the tunneler who
granted access to one of his routes, said that the tunnels took three
to six months to dig by hand and machine, and could stretch for half
a mile.


He said that the profits were divided among 10
partners — tunnel owners, builders, gatekeepers and smugglers
— and that charges were high because the hole might operate for a
year, or only a day, depending on when it collapsed or when the
Israelis found it.


He said that before Israel left Gaza
in 2005, about 95 percent of what the tunnelers brought in was weapons
and ammunition. The most profitable items used to be bullets, for which
smugglers charged around $5 each, and Kalashnikov machine guns, he
said, adding, "We made a lot of profit from whoever paid."


That
pattern changed after Hamas forced its main rivals, Fatah, out of Gaza
in 2007, Abu Qusay said, because so many weapons were coming in through
the holes run by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups that prices
dropped, slashing profits. Since then, most of the ordinary tunnelers'
business, he said, was in everyday goods like electronics, cigarettes,
cheese and infant formula.


"The factions have their own
tunnels, so they bring in all their money, banned personnel and
whatever weapons they can," he said. "I don't know anything about them.
There is cooperation from Hamas, they give the tunnelers total freedom
if we don't bring in weapons or drugs."


From the very
outset of the Israeli military operation on Dec. 27, Israel identified
the Rafah arms-smuggling tunnels as among the principal targets for
airstrikes. The tunnels have also been shelled by Israeli gunboats,
stationed miles away off Gaza's coast to enforce a blockade.


An
Israeli military spokesman in Tel Aviv said Friday that "dozens of
tunnels" had been attacked and destroyed by the bombing raids. But he
said Israeli forces were also facing an extensive tunnel network in
Gaza City and elsewhere across the Gaza Strip, built to help fighters
ambush Israeli troops.


The tunnels played a major role
in the last round of heavy fighting, in summer 2006. Hamas burrowed a
tunnel underneath Israel's border fence to mount a surprise raid. The
group's fighters captured an Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, who
remains a prisoner.


Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser,
a former director of intelligence analysis for the Israeli military,
said that since the Israeli pullout from Gaza in 2005, the number and
size of the tunnels had grown immensely. That has allowed Hamas to
smuggle in more and bigger weapons, including long-range rockets.


"We
cannot afford to let the tunnels continue," he said in a telephone
interview. "We want to create a different security situation around the
Gaza Strip. In order to do that we need to make sure that we can fully
put an end to the entrance of weapons."

[bth: if I read this correctly though, its the Hamas tunnels that bring in weapons.  Its the other tunnels that bring in ordinary supplies to support a population walled off and cut off from the world by Israel.  Were it not for those other prolific tunnels, Gaza's public would starve.  The easiest way to reduce the tunnels to just the Hamas weapons tunnels would be to open a legitimate border crossing and keep it open. Also at 50 feet those tunnels are going to be very difficult to detect from the surface.]


Israel calls in reserves as troops enter Gaza City

Israel calls in reserves as troops enter Gaza City - International Herald Tribune
...The Israeli cabinet secretary, Oved Yehezkel, told reporters that in the cabinet meeting the heads of army intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, and of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, said, "It is the inclination within Hamas to agree to a cease-fire, given the harsh blow it received and given the absence of accomplishment on the ground."

The Israelis said this view inside Gaza was a contrast to the "unyielding stands" of the exiled Hamas leadership in Damascus, Syria, in particular Khaled Meshal, the political director. But Hamas "is not expected to wave a white flag" and is reserving rockets and weaponry to fire at the end of the conflict, the intelligence chiefs said.

Another senior Israeli security official said that Israeli soldiers had "confirmed through their sights" the killing of 300 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters on the ground in Gaza, and that Hamas units were making mistakes and fighting without clear direction.

"I can say with a high level of confidence that for two days, what we have been hearing repeatedly is that Hamas inside Gaza is eager — eager — to achieve a cease-fire," said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's delicate nature. "This is as opposed to the leadership in Damascus that is willing to fight to the last Palestinian."

The Israelis were clearly all pushing a concerted message, but no official provided details on how Israel supported its assertion. It was impossible to get a response from Hamas leaders in Gaza, because they were in hiding from Israeli military strikes.

On Saturday, the Hamas political director in exile, Meshal, said in Damascus that Hamas would not consider a cease-fire until Israel ended the assault and opened all crossings into Gaza. He said that the ferocity of the Israeli campaign had crossed the line and called it a "holocaust," adding, "You have destroyed the last chance for negotiations."

Israel and the United States are trying to secure agreement on a deal brokered by Egypt that would mean a Hamas commitment to stop all rocket firing into Israel and an Egyptian commitment to block smuggling tunnels into Gaza, to stop the resupplying of Hamas with weaponry and cash. In return, Israel would agree to a cease-fire and the opening of its crossings into Gaza for goods and fuel and the opening of the Rafah crossing into Egypt, with European Union supervision....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday Night Live: Rachel Maddow Interviews Burris And Blagojevich (VIDEO)

Saturday Night Live: Rachel Maddow Interviews Burris And Blagojevich (VIDEO)

Spark Of Humanity Fades From Mark Teixeira's Eyes After Signing With Yankees

TAfghanistan 2008: Seven Years After the Taliban

The War Comes Home, A Project of KPFA Radio

China’s Sea Lanes | USNI Blog

China’s Sea Lanes | USNI Blog: ..."You can find the referenced, unclassified, Joint Forces Command document, Joint Operating Environment 2008 (JOE2008) here. The analysis of China strategic intentions is well worth reading:"

Yet, one of the fascinating aspects of China’s emergence over the past three decades has been its efforts to learn from the external world. This has not represented a blatant aping nor an effort to cherry pick ideas from history or Western theoretical writings on strategy and war, but rather a contentious, open debate to examine and draw lessons from West’s experience. Two historical case studies have resonated with the Chinese: the Soviet Union’s collapse and the rise of Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These case studies, written in a series of books, were also made into documentary films and form one of the most popular shows on Chinese television.

In the case of the Soviets, the Chinese have drawn the lesson that they must not pursue military development at the expense of economic development – no traditional arms race. That is the path Deng laid out in the late 1970s and one which they have assiduously followed. Indeed, if one examines their emerging military capabilities in intelligence, submarines, cyber, and space, one sees an asymmetrical operational approach that is different from Western approaches, one consistent with the classical Chinese strategic thinkers.
***
In regard to a potential military competition with the United States, what is apparent in Chinese discussions is a deep respect for U.S. military power. There is a sense that in certain areas, such as submarines, space, and cyber warfare, China can compete on a near equal footing with America. One does not devote the significant national treasure required to build nuclear submarines for coastal defense. The emphasis on nuclear submarines and an increasingly global Navy in particular, underlines worries that the U.S. Navy possesses the ability to shut down China’s energy imports of oil – 80% of which go through the straits of Malacca. As one Chinese naval strategist expressed it: “the straits of Malacca are akin to breathing itself — to life itself.”...

YouTube - Idfnadesk Doesn't Want You to See

YouTube - Idfnadesk Doesn't Want You to See

War and Piece: Anthony Cordesman on Gaza

War and Piece:: ..."Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel's actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any
hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?

To blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government's management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent.

As we have seen all too clearly from US mistakes, any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends. If there is more, it is time to make such goals public and demonstrate how they can be achieved. The question is not whether the IDF learned the tactical lessons of the fighting in 2006. It is whether Israel's top political leadership has even minimal competence to lead them.

[bth: one has to consider whether this entire undertaking is not about Hamas or Israel's security, but about February elections in Israel itself. I do not see how this will end well. I do not see how 15 dead from rockets in 8 years justifies this level of punishment. Punishment without purpose is not a strategy.]

War Is Boring: Apaches forever

War Is Boring: ..."This week the Army announced plans for an improved version of its Block III AH-64D. The new model, which enters testing in November, will have an upgraded cockpit allowing the Apache crew to control aerial drones such as the Army’s Warrior, and view their video live in the cockpit. So-called “manned-unmanned” teaming promises to revolutionize helicopter tactics. A drone can spot targets for the Apache — or even attack them using small missiles. The area that a chopper can search and “hold at risk” expands exponentially under this method.

U.S. Apaches are also getting new rotors and engine controls to make them faster and easier to fix. Speed is vital in the face of small arms, rockets and heat-seeking missiles. U.S. Army pilots now train for “swooping” attacks that minimize the time an Apache is within range of enemy fire. Israeli Apaches fighting over Gaza use similar tactics, orbiting high over the battlefield until they spot a target — or have a target spotted for them by ground forces — then diving down to attack.

The new Apache cockpit with the drone controls has such promise that Boeing is using it for their new AH-6S scout chopper, being proposed for the Army’s reboot of its Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program, which aims to buy around 500 scouts to replace the ancient OH-58D."

[bth: oddly I got an email this week from a Pakistani fighter pilot advocating linking helicopters with UAVs as an economical measure and the reduce casualties - but namely his argument was one of economics and practicality. More and more, I'm seeing comments from developing countries on the integration of UAVs with manned nonstealth aircraft. I think it would be worthwhile for the US to step back and take a fresh look at integration of unmanned platforms with manned systems for economics. The US defense department is not immune to economics despite recent excesses. .... as to this article, I certainly respect the reporting coming from David Axe.]

A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery - NYTimes.com

A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery - NYTimes.com: ..."Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say."

Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.

In one apartment building in Zeitoun, in northern Gaza, Hamas set an inventive, deadly trap. According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the building’s main entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.

In an interview, the reporter, Ron Ben-Yishai, a senior military correspondent for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said soldiers also found a pile of weapons with a grenade launcher on top. When they moved the launcher, “they saw a detonator light up, but somehow it didn’t go off.”

The Israeli Army has also come prepared for a battle both sides knew was inevitable. Every soldier, Israeli officials say, is outfitted with a ceramic vest and a helmet. Every unit has dogs trained to sniff out explosives and people hidden in tunnels, as well as combat engineers trained to defuse hidden bombs.

To avoid booby traps, the Israelis say, they enter buildings by breaking through side walls, rather than going in the front. Once inside, they move from room to room, battering holes in interior walls to avoid exposure to snipers and suicide bombers dressed as civilians, with explosive belts hidden beneath winter coats.

The Israelis say they are also using new weapons, like a small-diameter smart bomb, the GBU-39, which Israel bought last fall from Washington. The bomb, which is very accurate, has a small explosive, as little as 60 to 80 pounds, to minimize collateral damage in an urban area. But it can also penetrate the earth to hit bunkers or tunnels.

And the Israelis, too, are resorting to tricks.

Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans, Gazans say and Israel has confirmed. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood.

Karim Abu Shaban, 21, of Gaza City said he and his neighbors all had gotten such calls. His first caller had an Egyptian accent. “Oh, God help you, God be with you,” the caller began.

“It started very supportive,” Mr. Shaban said, then the questions started. The next call came in five minutes later. That caller had an Algerian accent and asked if he had reached Gaza. Mr. Shaban said he answered, “No, Tel Aviv,” and hung up.

Interviews last week with senior Israeli intelligence and military officers, both active and retired, as well as with military experts and residents of Gaza itself, made it clear that the battle, waged among civilians and between enemies who had long prepared for this fight, is now a slow, nasty business of asymmetrical urban warfare. Gaza’s civilians, who cannot flee because the borders are closed, are “the meat in the sandwich,” as one United Nations worker said, requesting anonymity.

It is also clear that both sides are evolving tactics to the new battlefield, then adjusting them quickly.

To that end, Israeli intelligence is detaining large numbers of young Gazan men to interrogate them for local knowledge and Hamas tactics. Last week, Israel captured a hand-drawn Hamas map in a house in Al Atatra, near Beit Lahiya, which showed planned defensive positions for the neighborhood, mine and booby trap placements, including a rigged gasoline station, and directions for snipers to shoot next to a mosque. Numerous tunnels were marked.

A new Israeli weapon, meanwhile, is tailored to the Hamas tactic of asking civilians to stand on the roofs of buildings so Israeli pilots will not bomb. The Israelis are countering with a missile designed, paradoxically, not to explode. They aim the missiles at empty areas of the roofs to frighten residents into leaving the buildings, a tactic called “a knock on the roof.”

But the most important strategic decision the Israelis have made so far, according to senior military officers and analysts, is to approach their incursion as a war, not a police operation.

Civilians are warned by leaflets, loudspeakers and telephone calls to evacuate battle areas. But troops are instructed to protect themselves first and civilians second.

Officers say that means Israeli infantry units are going in “heavy.” If they draw fire, they return it with heavy firepower. If they are told to reach an objective, they first call in artillery or airpower and use tank fire. Then they move, but only behind tanks and armored bulldozers, riding in armored personnel carriers, spending as little time in the open as possible.

...As the commander of the army’s elite combat engineering unit, Yahalom, told the Israeli press on Wednesday: “We are very violent. We do not balk at any means to protect the lives of our soldiers.” His name cannot be published under censorship rules.

... “Hamas has a doctrine; this is not a gang of Rambos,” he said. “The Israeli military has to find the stitches to unpick, how to counterbalance and surprise.”

Israeli troops are moving slowly and, they hope, unpredictably, trying not to stay in one place for long to entice Hamas fighters “to come out and confront them,” Mr. Fighel said.

Today, he said, “the mind-set from top to bottom is fight and fight cruel; this is a war, not another pinpoint operation.”

Israeli officials say that they are obeying the rules of war and trying hard not to hurt noncombatants but that Hamas is using civilians as human shields in the expectation that Israel will try to avoid killing them.

Israeli press officers call the tactics of Hamas cynical, illegal and inhumane; even Israel’s critics agree that Hamas’s regular use of rockets to fire at civilians in Israel, and its use of civilians as shields in Gaza, are also violations of the rules of war. Israeli military men and analysts say that its urban guerrilla tactics, including the widespread use of civilian structures and tunnels, are deliberate and come from the Iranian Army’s tactical training and the lessons of the 2006 war between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hamas rocket and weapons caches, including rocket launchers, have been discovered in and under mosques, schools and civilian homes, the army says. The Israeli intelligence chief, Yuval Diskin, in a report to the Israeli cabinet, said that the Gaza-based leadership of Hamas was in underground housing beneath the No. 2 building of Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza. That allegation cannot be confirmed.

While The New York Times and some other news organizations have local or Gaza-based Palestinian correspondents, any Israeli citizen or Israeli with dual citizenship has been banned for more than two years from entering Gaza, and any foreign correspondent who did not enter the territory before a six-month cease-fire with Hamas ended last month has not been allowed in.

Israel has also managed to block cellphone bandwidth, so very few amateur cellphone photographs are getting out of Gaza.

But Israeli tactics have caused civilian casualties that have created an international uproar, both in the Arab world and the West. In one widely reported episode, 43 people died when the Israelis shelled a street next to a United Nations school in northern Jabaliya where refugees were taking shelter. The United Nations says no militants were in the school.

The Israelis said they returned fire in response to mortar shells fired at Israeli troops. Such an action is legal, but there are questions about whether the force used was proportional under the laws of war, given the danger to noncombatants.

The backlash from the school attack is another potent example of the risks in an urban-war strategy: Israel may in fact be able to dismantle Hamas’s military structure even while losing the battle for world opinion and leaving Hamas politically still in charge of Gaza.

[bth: what is the end game besides February elections in Israel? It is reported in other articles that international police are going to be requested by Israel to take over Gaza. In this situation is there anyone willing to take on that responsibility? I doubt it.]

David Letterman Show: George Bush Top 10 Moments

YouTube - OFFICIAL song of Lost! - Coldplay - Viva la Vida

YouTube - OFFICIAL song of Lost! - Coldplay - Viva la Vida

I refuse to believe I am part of a lost generation

Crooks and Liars