Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Raw Story » Blackwater’s last day in Iraq

Gates Says Taliban 'Overreached' in Pakistan Offensive

Digital Video & Imagery Distribution System: "WASHINGTON - The Taliban 'overreached' in their offensive in Pakistan's Buner district, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today in Kabul.

The secretary met with leaders and troops in Afghanistan, and then held a news conference.

'We are entering a critical period with the deployment of significantly more American forces, as well as the upcoming Afghan presidential election,' Gates said. Afghan reporters asked Gates what the Taliban actions in neighboring Pakistan portended for Afghanistan.

'I think that the Taliban in Pakistan overreached with their offensive in Buner district, coming within dozens of kilometers of Islamabad,' Gates said. 'It served as an alarm for the Pakistani government that these violent extremists in the western part of Pakistan are a significant danger to the government of Pakistan.'

Gates said Pakistan has taken significant military action against the Taliban in Buner over the past week, as the Pakistani government and people realize an agreement between the government and the Taliban in the Swat Valley has failed, Gates said....

[bth: staged theater. The crisis will soon abate - just as soon as we pay off the proper authorities.]

Associated Press Of Pakistan ( Pakistan's Premier NEWS Agency ) - Pakistan to soon get $ 400 million US emergency aid 

Associated Press Of Pakistan ( Pakistan's Premier NEWS Agency ) - Pakistan to soon get $ 400 million US emergency aid : "WASHINGTON, May 7 (APP): The United States will soon provide $400 million in emergency economic assistance to Pakistan, President Barack Obama said as he vowed to support the democratic government as quickly as possible towards overcoming militant insurgency. “We are helping Pakistan combat the insurgency within its borders—including $400 million in immediate assistance that we are seeking from Congress, which will help the government as it steps up its efforts against the extremists,” Obama said, emerging from trilateral talks he hosted with President Asif Ali Zardari and his Afghan counterpart.

According to sources the immediate assistance will help meet some of the immediate priorities for socio‑economic development of the people. The assistance will help the country deal with the humanitarian needs arising from the fight against insurgents.

The White House is urging Congress to move quickly on economic assistance initiatives designed to help the government deliver services for the Pakistani people."...

[bth: last time there was a big aid package to the Paki military the officers skimmed off almost all the helicopter maintenance money. Watch for a large military equipment purchase with US aid dollars to show up in a few weeks.]

Pakistani government signals fighting limited to Swat region - The Long War Journal

Pakistani government signals fighting limited to Swat region - The Long War Journal: "The Pakistani military continues to rely on helicopter gunships, attack aircraft, and artillery against dug in Taliban forces in the Swat valley as heavy fighting has been reported over the past 24 hours. The military claimed 143 Taliban fighters were killed in Swat and another 15 were killed in Dir, but the casualties could not be confirmed.

“So far, 143 militants have been killed in last twenty four hours while security forces have suffered seven shaheed (killed or martyred) and twelve injured,” Major General Athar Abbas, the senior military spokesman said at a press conference at military headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Fighting was reported in the Kabal, Kanju, Khawazakhela Chamtalai, and Mingora regions in Swat. The military claimed a Taliban commander named Akbar Ali was killed during strikes in Kanju.

The Taliban are reportedly holding more than 100 security personnel in Mingora. Abbas said regular Army soldiers and paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in the fighting."...

[bth: if this is indeed, "staged theater", to get the US off the Pakistani government's back and to get US dollars, one wonders if the 100 security personnel are going to soon be swapped for Taliban prisoners in about a month? ...We will see.]

Missile Defense Secrets Sold on eBay

Missile Defense Secrets Sold on eBay: "Details of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system used to shoot down ballistic missiles using a hit-to-kill approach are found on a computer sold through eBay.

Another day, another cyber-security concern. In today's episode, a used computer bought on eBay contained highly sensitive details of a key U.S. missile system designed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Among the data found on the legally purchased computer were details of test launch procedures, blueprints of facilities and sensitive personal data on Lockheed Martin employees.

The discarded data is for a system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a U.S. Army project to shoot down ballistic missiles using a hit-to-kill approach. The project began under former president Ronald Reagan's 'Star Wars' Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s. The computer has been turned over to the FBI.

According to the Guardian, the computer was purchased as part of a joint research project by three universities to document the risks of carelessly discarded computer equipment. The schools involved in the research include Longwood University in the United States, Glamorgan University in the United Kingdom and Edith Cowan University in Australia."

General Sees a Longer Stay in Iraq Cities for U.S. Troops -

General Sees a Longer Stay in Iraq Cities for U.S. Troops - "WASHINGTON — The top American general in Iraq said Friday that one-fifth of American combat troops would stay behind in Iraqi cities even after the June 30 deadline that the United States and Iraq had set for the departure."...

[bth: I wonder if the Iraqi government has a say in this?]

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Kiracofe on AFPAK

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Kiracofe on AFPAK: ..."The Taliban school of thought simply cannot win support in Punjab. I rest my opinion on three fundamentals because of which the Taliban cannot win in Punjab.

'First, the Taliban philosophy is based on the strict Deobandi school of Islam, which has no room for saints and shrines. The majority of Punjabi Muslims are followers of the Barelvi school; which revolves around the saint and his shrine. Punjabi Muslims have always been emotionality attached with shrines and sufis. When the Taliban locked the mausoleum of Pir Baba in Buner, Punjabi Muslims felt offended, despite the fact that Pir Baba is not a well-known saintly figure in Punjab."

"No one can dare think of closing down the shrines of Data Ganj Bakhsh, Hazrat Mian Mir or Bahauddin Zakaria. Almost every village in Punjab has a shrine, and for Barelvis, shrines are nearly as sacred as mosques. This is not in conformity with the orthodox Ahle Hadith or Deobandi traditions, which do not recognise the shrine or mazar as a religious symbol. In fact, they consider reverence of shrines as apostasy (shirk).

"Second, there is no doubt that Punjabi rural society is caste-based and people care for castes in inter se relationships. However, by no means does this make it a tribal society. The customs even in remote Punjabi villages are far more liberal than tribal customs. The position of women in this society is more elevated than in tribal society; they enjoy more liberties, and in many cases are the sole decision makers.

"In an agricultural economy like Punjab, women are as important as men. In rural Punjab, women working in the fields is a common sight; subjecting them to strict veil and domestic confinement as is the case in the tribal areas of Afghanistan is unimaginable in Punjab.

"In urban centres like Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad, women are enjoying an even higher status than in the rural areas. Therefore, it will not be possible for anyone to subject women in Punjab to the kind of restrictions that the Taliban have imposed in the areas under their control. The same applies for harsh punishments: the death penalty was abolished in the area between Delhi and Lahore much before its abolition in the United Kingdom. The reaction to public hanging during the Zia era was so severe that the government was forced to review its policy after only one execution.

"The third reason is the strong emphasis in the Punjabi lower and middle class on education. Even families with income levels as low as Rs 4000 to Rs 6000 per month take pains to send their children, including females, to school. Hence, this very strong societal force will deeply resist any ideology that restricts people from educating their children. Further, proliferation of the free media and a strong cultural base are two other factors that will make it extremely difficult for the Taliban to establish themselves in Punjab."...

[bth: fascinating analysis. So is it, as a commentator on the original post suggest -" staged theater" - the military attacks in Pakistan, the Taliban advancement? Is it feeding/funding time for corrupt military officers and Pakistani politicians from the US government?]

G.I.’s Kill 2, Including a 12-Year-Old, After a Threat to a Patrol in Iraq -

G.I.’s Kill 2, Including a 12-Year-Old, After a Threat to a Patrol in Iraq - "BAGHDAD — American soldiers shot and killed two people in the northern city of Mosul, one of them a 12-year-old boy the military said had thrown a hand grenade at a passing patrol, according to a United States military statement on Friday.

A United States military spokesman said that the confrontation might reflect a new insurgent tactic of paying children to commit violent acts against American and Iraqi troops.

“We have legitimate concerns that insurgent forces are paying children to conduct these attacks and placing them in harm’s way,” Maj. Derrick Cheng, a United States military spokesman, said in a statement on Friday."....

Raw Story » CIA can’t vouch for claims in torture briefing document, agency director says

Raw Story » CIA can’t vouch for claims in torture briefing document, agency director says: "The CIA cannot vouch for the complete accuracy of details in a memo outlining who was briefed on the CIA’s “harsh interrogation” program, a letter obtained today reveals.

In a letter from CIA chief Leon Panetta to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes and ranking House Intelligence Republican Pete Hoekstra, Panetta says the information about the briefings is taken from the “best recollections” of those who were there.

But he says, “In the end, you and the [House Intelligence] Committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened.

“That would appear to be a concession that the CIA isn’t willing to vouch for the accuracy of the info about the briefings in the docs, and that only further inquiry will produce a reliable recounting of what happened,” The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent wrote, who noticed the quote in the letter accompanying the CIA’s report.

“To be clear, it’s perfectly possible that the info about what Dems were told is right,” he added. “But not even the CIA is willing to promise this right now. So it’s unclear how much stock to place in the document...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Afghanistan war costs to top Iraq by 2010

Raw Story » Afghanistan war costs to top Iraq by 2010: "The cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan will overtake that of the Iraq conflict for the first time in 2010, Pentagon budget documents showed Thursday. On top of the basic defense budget of 533.7 billion dollars, the White House is requesting a further 130 billion dollars for overseas missions, including 65 billion for Afghanistan and 61 billion for Iraq. “This request is where you’re going to first see the swing of not only dollars or resources, but combat capability, from the Iraqi theater into the Afghan theater,”"...

[bth: it costs twice as much to support a soldier in Afghanistan as Iraq]

Ex US-soldier found guilty of rape, murder

The Raw Story | Ex US-soldier found guilty of rape, murder: "A US federal jury will determine whether former soldier Steven Dale Green should be executed for raping an Iraqi teenager and executing the girl and her family, court officials said.

It took the jurors less than two days of deliberations to find Green guilty on all 17 criminal counts, which included rape, premeditated murder and obstruction of justice.

Three other soldiers were given life sentences in the March 2006 atrocity that was devised over whiskey and a game of cards at a traffic check point in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad."...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pentagon to Add 20,000 Jobs to Revamp Contracting - Presidential Politics | Political News -

Pentagon to Add 20,000 Jobs to Revamp Contracting - Presidential Politics | Political News - "WASHINGTON -- Under pressure to overhaul its troubled weapons-buying process, the U.S. Defense Department is planning to add 20,000 new federal jobs over five years to reinforce its ability to handle contracts, cost estimates and oversight, the deputy defense secretary said Wednesday.

William Lynn told the Senate Armed Services Committee that as the department increases personnel, it also will move toward more fixed-price contracts, scrutinize programs more closely and link incentive payments to contractors' performance.

The changes are part of a broad effort to bring under control an acquisition process that has been plagued with huge cost overruns, lengthy delays and a sharp decline in competition among a shrinking number of contractors.

At the heart of the problem, Lynn said, is a military looking for the latest high-tech aircraft and weapons systems."...

A Cheney Cover-Up? | Mother Jones

A Cheney Cover-Up? | Mother Jones: "Who in the George W. Bush White House tried to shred a memo challenging the use of torture?

On April 21, Philip Zelikow, who was counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Bush administration, revealed on Foreign Policy's 'Shadow Government' blog that he wrote a memo in 2005 disputing the conclusions of Bush Justice Department lawyers that torture was legal. The existence of such a memo was a surprise. But Zelikow also disclosed that the 'White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo.'"...

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | ‘2,000 people being used by Taliban as human shields’

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | ‘2,000 people being used by Taliban as human shields’: "ISLAMABAD: Militants beheaded two soldiers they had earlier captured in Khawazkhela area of Swat ‘against all norms of religious teachings and human ethics’.

According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations on Monday, security forces were still exercising restraint because of the peace agreement but militants’ high-handedness was continuing.

It said that the militants, in gross violation of the peace accord, were marching on the roads of Mingora city and in other areas, threatening innocent people and the civil administration.

The ISPR said that in Buner militants were using 2,000 innocent people as human shields in view of the imminent cleansing of Pir Baba by security forces."...

DAWN.COM | Provinces | More than 40,000 flee violence in Swat

DAWN.COM | Provinces | More than 40,000 flee violence in Swat: ..."The provincial government said it was scrambling to shelter up to 500,000 people they expect to flee Swat and local officials confirmed Wednesday that tens of thousands had streamed out of the district in less than 24 hours.

‘More than 40,000 have migrated from Mingora since Tuesday afternoon,’ said Khushhal Khan, the chief administration officer in Swat.

‘An exodus of more than 40,000 people is the minimum number — it should actually be more than 50,000,’ said an intelligence official.

Khan said a camp had been set up for the displaced in the nearby town of Dargai.

He said security forces could soon attack the militants and urged people to get out of harm’s way. But he later said the fear of fighting had passed and people could stay home, while the army said it was in control of the town."....

[bth: looks to me like things are getting serious in Swat. It is interesting that the world has shrunk to a point where we in the US can read local papers in Pakistan in real time. I may not understand everything I'm reading but at least it isn't being censored for me by the US MSM.]

Inspector Says Report on Pentagon Publicity Program Was Flawed -

Inspector Says Report on Pentagon Publicity Program Was Flawed - "In a highly unusual reversal, the Defense Department’s inspector general’s office has withdrawn a report it issued in January exonerating a Pentagon public relations program that made extensive use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks."

Donald M. Horstman, the Pentagon’s deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, said in a memorandum released on Tuesday that the report was so riddled with flaws and inaccuracies that none of its conclusions could be relied upon. In addition to repudiating its own report, the inspector general’s office took the additional step of removing the report from its Web site.

The inspector general’s office began investigating the public relations program last year, in response to articles in The New York Times that exposed an extensive and largely hidden Pentagon campaign to transform network military analysts into “surrogates” and “message force multipliers” for the Bush administration. The articles also showed how military analysts with ties to defense contractors sometimes used their special access to seek advantage in the competition for contracts related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report released in January took issue with the articles. It said investigators could not find any instance where an analyst used special access “to achieve a competitive advantage for their company.” It also said there was “insufficient basis” to conclude that the program violated laws prohibiting propaganda.

The report has been the subject of controversy, with some members of Congress calling it a “whitewash” marred by obvious factual errors. For example, the report erroneously listed many military analysts as having no ties whatsoever to defense contractors. But several people who worked as aides to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and some military analysts have cited the inspector general’s report to criticize the articles.

According to Mr. Horstman’s memorandum, the inspector general’s office “became aware of inaccuracies” in the report shortly after it was published and soon began “an independent internal review.” The internal review concluded that the report “did not meet accepted quality standards” and “relied on a body of testimonial evidence that was insufficient or inconclusive.”

The review found that the former senior Pentagon officials who devised and managed the program refused to speak with the inspector general’s investigators. It also found that the report’s methodology was so flawed that it “would not reasonably yield evidence” to address the issue of whether analysts used their special access to gain competitive advantage.

A spokesman for the inspector general’s office refused to release the internal review on Tuesday. He also declined to say whether any officials were disciplined for the flawed report. Mr. Horstman’s memorandum said that no additional investigative work would be done to reissue the report because the public relations program has been terminated and the senior officials who oversaw it have left the Pentagon.

[bth: so the IG's report on the propaganda program was a fraud. I could have told you that in January when the bullshit IG report came out. I was put up to debating one of these clowns a few years ago on body armor. So now the IG looks bad too. Curious however that the IG isn't going to reopen or redo the report. Now congress will have to step in.]

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Former unit of Cheney’s firm makes up ‘vast majority’ of criminal audit cases in wake of Iraq war

Raw Story » Former unit of Cheney’s firm makes up ‘vast majority’ of criminal audit cases in wake of Iraq war: "In shocking testimony made by the Pentagon’s top auditor on Monday, the Defense Department revealed that a former unit of the company where Vice President Cheney was CEO is under investigation for allegedly billing for unallowable costs, accepting bribes, falsifying time cards and overbilling.

The onetime unit of Halliburton, KBR, is now an independent company. Halliburton formally broke off ties with KBR in April 2007.

April Stephenson, head of the Pentagon’s contract audit agency, said she didn’t know of any contractor probed that had ever been cited for so many abuses. Of the 32 cases under criminal investigation, KBR constituted the “vast majority.”"....

[bth: fucking criminal conspiracy]

Iraq: US Troops Must Leave Cities By July - CBS News

Iraq: US Troops Must Leave Cities By July - CBS News: "(AP) Iraq's government Monday ruled out allowing U.S. combat troops to remain in Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal, despite concern that Iraqi forces cannot cope with the security challenge following a resurgence of bombings in recent weeks."

Asking U.S. forces to stay in the cities, including volatile Mosul in the north, would be embarrassing for Iraq's prime minister, who has staked his political future on claims that the country has turned the corner in the war against Sunni and Shiite extremists.

The departure of heavily armed combat troops from bases inside the cities is important psychologically to many Iraqis, who are eager to regain control of their country after six years of war and U.S. military occupation.

U.S. officials played down the Iraqi decision, with Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman saying it's up to the Iraqi government to request an extension of the U.S. presence in the cities and "we intend to fully abide by" terms of the security agreement. ...

[bth: if Odierno can't come to grips with the agreement and the transition then he needs to be removed. Even if the hand off isn't smooth and there is no reason to think it will be, it is important to Iraq and hence to us. I think Odierno is the wrong man for the job in Iraq at this point.]

‘They kill people like us,’ says gay Iraqi - World Blog -

‘They kill people like us,’ says gay Iraqi - World Blog - "BAGHDAD – Widespread violence is down across Baghdad, but not for one minority group.

Iraq’s gay population is being targeted by militia groups in a wave of killings that has claimed the lives of up to 25 young men and boys in the past month.

'They know I am gay. I don’t know if I am going to be killed, this is up to God,' said Moyad, a 38-year-old Baghdad resident who would not give his last name out of fear for his safety.

Visibly frightened, he said that he has many friends who have been sadistically tortured, some even murdered. 'They are sticking glue up their anuses; some hospitals refuse to treat them. Is it a war waged against homosexuals?' he asked."....

US Senate takes up aid to Pakistan bill

DAWN.COM | World | US Senate takes up aid to Pakistan bill: "WASHINGTON: The US Congress made a friendly gesture to President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday, introducing a bill to triple American aid to Pakistan on the day he arrives in the US capital on a four-day visit.

Two influential senators – Democrat John Kerry and Republican Richard Lugar – introduced the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement or the PEACE Act of 2009, in the Senate on Monday afternoon after a long delay.

‘The legislation intents to help transform the relationship between the US and Pakistan from a transactional, tactically-driven set of short-term exercises in crisis-management, into a deeper, broader, long-term strategic engagement,’ said a statement issued by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The bill, first introduced in the 110th Congress, proposes to give Pakistan $7.5 billion over five years —$1.5 billion a year —and an additional $7.5 billion over the following five years"...

Pakistan and the U.S. Still at Odds over Taliban Threat - TIME

Pakistan and the U.S. Still at Odds over Taliban Threat - TIME:.... "Still, the army is reluctant to launch an all-out campaign against the militants, not least because of a widely held perception in Pakistan that the Taliban's rise is a product of America's unpopular war in Afghanistan. There's little support in the public — or within the ranks of the military — for deploying the military in a sustained civil war against the militants. Many in Pakistan were convinced that the Taliban had exceeded their bounds in Buner and Swat and needed to be pushed back — but not necessarily crushed. Whereas U.S. officials warn of the Taliban as an 'existential' threat to Pakistan, the country's own military continues to reserve that status for India, against which the vast bulk of its armed forces remain arrayed."

This week, Obama will follow a path well worn by his predecessor, seeking to convince his Pakistani counterpart to do more against the Taliban. But the smart money says that, like Musharraf before him, Zardari — and the power behind the throne, armed forces chief General Ashfaq Kiyani — will be more inclined to simply do the minimum necessary to ease U.S. pressure, believing that their domestic insurgency will peter out when the U.S. ends its campaign in Afghanistan. That may explain Zardari's hopeful statement on bin Laden's current status.

[bth: worth reading in full. could all this media hype and posturing between the Taliban and the Pakistani government be about negotiating a new aid package from the US next week? Is it still, as it always seems to be, about the money? ... If things move along as usual, we will see the Pakistani military announce the capture or death of a Taliban lieutenant of some sort or the recapture of a key town just before the meeting with Obama.]

Iraqi in Denmark recruited suicide bombers for Iraq

Iraqi in Denmark recruited suicide bombers for Iraq: "COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Danish intelligence agency PET suspects a 42-year-old Iraqi man living in Denmark of being the chief Northern European recruiter for suicide bombers for Iraq, Danish newspaper Politiken said Sunday.

PET has for more than a year tried to expel Amer Saeed from Denmark under special anti-terror legislation on the grounds that he poses a threat to the Scandinavian country's national security, Politiken said.

However, his expulsion has not been carried out on humanitarian grounds and he continues to live in Denmark."...

House Democrats seek $94.2 billion in emergency funds | Reuters

House Democrats seek $94.2 billion in emergency funds | Reuters: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will seek passage in coming weeks of $94.2 billion in emergency money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other programs, including $2 billion more to prepare for an influenza pandemic."...

[bth: Obama asked for $84, plus $2 for the flu. So how do we get to $94? Where is the other $8 billion coming from and how is it getting into the emergency approp?]

Murtha's Nephew Got Millions in Gov't Contracts - Presidential Politics | Political News -

Murtha's Nephew Got Millions in Gov't Contracts - Presidential Politics | Political News - "WASHINGTON -- A company owned by a nephew of Rep. John Murtha received $4 million from the Defense Department last year for engineering and warehouse services, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Murtha, D-Pa., is chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Murtech Inc., based on Glen Burnie, Md., is owned by the congressman's nephew Robert C. Murtha Jr., who told the Post the company provides 'necessary logistical support' to Pentagon testing programs, 'and that's about as far as I feel comfortable going.'

The Post reported that the Pentagon rewarded contracts to Murtech without competition."...

[bth: "Murtech" is hardly hiding the Murtha connection. The insinuation from Fox News is something is afoul but that may not be the case at all. The article presents no indication that this company or Murtha's nephew unfairly benefited. If this passes for investigative journalism we're in big trouble. Also keep in mind that this is right in the middle of defense budgeting time.]

Monday, May 04, 2009

This Week In Unnecessary Censorship (VIDEO)

This Week In Unnecessary Censorship (VIDEO)

Soldiers In Afghanistan Given Bibles, Told To "Hunt People For Jesus" (VIDEO)

Soldiers In Afghanistan Given Bibles, Told To "Hunt People For Jesus" (VIDEO)

Scientists trace ancestry of swine flu virus to 1998 outbreak - Kansas City Star

Scientists trace ancestry of swine flu virus to 1998 outbreak - Kansas City Star: "The new H1N1 influenza virus that continues to spread through the U.S. has ancestry in a swine flu outbreak that first struck a North Carolina hog farm more than 10 years ago, according to scientists studying the strain's genetic makeup."...

All Campaign Ads | Support Your Vet

All Campaign Ads | Support Your Vet

Autoworkers Compete to Keep Jobs, Livelihoods on New Reality Show | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Autoworkers Compete to Keep Jobs, Livelihoods on New Reality Show | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Autoworkers Compete to Keep Jobs, Livelihoods on New Reality Show

Senators Accuse Pentagon of Delay in Recovering Millions -

Senators Accuse Pentagon of Delay in Recovering Millions - "The Pentagon has done little to collect at least $100 million in overcharges paid in deals arranged by corrupt former officials of Kellogg Brown & Root, the defense contractor, even though the officials admitted much of the wrongdoing years ago, two senators have complained in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The letter also said that the Army had almost completely failed to move away from the monopolistic nature of the logistics contract that has paid the contractor, now called KBR, $31.3 billion for logistics operations in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan."...

[bth: what a surprise]

U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan 'backfiring,' Congress told - Los Angeles Times

U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan 'backfiring,' Congress told - Los Angeles Times: ..."'I realize that they do damage to the Al Qaeda leadership,' he told the House Armed Services Committee. But that, he said, was not enough to justify the program. 'Since 2006, we've killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we've killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. The drone strikes are highly unpopular. They are deeply aggravating to the population. And they've given rise to a feeling of anger that coalesces the population around the extremists and leads to spikes of extremism. ... The current path that we are on is leading us to loss of Pakistani government control over its own population.'"...

Poll: Most Israelis would support Iran strike | Israel | Jerusalem Post

Poll: Most Israelis would support Iran strike | Israel | Jerusalem Post: "A vast majority (66%) of Israelis said they would support military action if diplomatic and economic efforts failed to get Iran to stop uranium enrichment, and of that number, 75% would support this action even if the Obama administration were opposed, according to a survey jointly commissioned by Bar-Ilan University's BESA center and the ADL, published on Sunday."... Captured Afghanistan outpost torn down Captured Afghanistan outpost torn down: "KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — A remote outpost on the edge of Taliban country that troops have fought for years to secure has been deliberately torn down.

Canadian and Afghan troops struggled for more than two years to gain control of a swatch of land called Mushan, near a cluster of villages about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City. During that time, dozens of Afghan troops who were charged with guarding the post died, either by Taliban fire or in convoluted battles that saw them ambushed by their own government forces.

Although the Afghans and Canadian troops ultimately won the post, the Afghan National Army made the decision to cede it in a move last week because troops stationed there were rendered ineffective"...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Haaretz: Is Netanyahu bringing Israel closer to a 'second Holocaust'?

Is Netanyahu bringing Israel closer to a 'second Holocaust'? - Haaretz - Israel News
The first test for Netanyahu's approach will come during his upcoming meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. Netanyahu sees Obama, more than anyone else in the world, as the one person who can halt Iranian armament. During their meeting in Jerusalem last July, when they were both still running for office, Netanyahu told Obama that his presidency would be judged by his handling of Iran. He expressed support for Obama's proposal for rapprochement with the Iranians, and told him that in that case, the end far outweighs the means. In Netanyahu's opinion Obama has tremendous political clout - something his predecessor George W. Bush lacked - to launch an operation against Iran. He has at his disposal all the diplomatic, economic and military capabilities of the American superpower.

Furthermore, Netanyahu apparently understands that, in return for American actions to remove the specter of the Iranian threat from the region, Israel will be required to embark on a diplomatic process with the Palestinians, and perhaps with the Syrians, too. In case he didn't understand this, during her appearance in Congress last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it her business to explain to him that the Arab countries will not stand with Israel against Iran if Israel does not advance the peace process with the Palestinians.

Since Netanyahu's return to the Prime Minister's Office, and ahead of his trip to Washington, Israel has upped its verbal tirade against Iran, and there is evidence of a media campaign with one, simple message: If the world doesn't halt Iran's nuclearization, Israel will act alone, and it is already preparing for such an eventuality.

It began with an interview Netanyahu gave to Jeffrey Goldberg, a reporter for The Atlantic, while the government was still being formed. Goldberg wrote: "The American president, he [Netanyahu] said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons - and quickly - or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran's nuclear facilities itself." The citation appeared without quotation marks, and Goldberg explained in his blog that this was his take on Netanyahu's statements rather than a direct quote. The PMO did not issue a specific denial, and the headline in The Atlantic - "Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran - Or I Will" - became the basis for a worldwide media discussion and for a debate among columnists as to whether or not Israel should attack Iran.

Netanyahu's controversial quote was only the opening act, preceding the item that appeared recently in the daily Maariv, to the effect that the prime minister is satisfied with the military preparations for attacking Iran; the report in The Times of Britain, which cited Israeli security sources on IDF plans for an operation and asserted that an upcoming Home Front exercise will be part of the preparations for a war with Iran; the Israel Air Force briefing for military correspondents, during which pilots spoke about their high motivation for an operation against Iranian nuclearization; and the interview in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth with the outgoing CEO of the Nuclear Research Institute in Dimona, Yitzhak Gurevich, who compared Ahmadinejad to Hitler and his speeches against Israel to "Mein Kampf." Gurevich, who headed the country's most sensitive facility for seven years, cannot speak to the media without first receiving the prime minister's permission.

In this week's cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated his call on Obama to determine a deadline for talks with Iran and to prepare a threatening package of sanctions in case the negotiations fail. "At the same time, we are not removing any option from the table, we recommend that others do the same, and we mean what we say," he said. A few weeks ago Barak warned that the time for dealing with Iran is running out.

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who visited the U.S. a few weeks ago, tried to illustrate to his American interlocutors the challenge Iran poses for Israel. "Let's say that the rocket fire resumes, and we have to embark on another operation in Gaza. Intelligence informs us that the Iranians have armed their nuclear bombs. What will we do then? How can we operate against Hamas?" When we say all options are on the table, explained Ashkenazi, it is my job to make sure that they will be ready.

What will a Netanyahu-led Israel do if Obama succeeds and reaches an agreement that will leave Iran with the status of a "threshold nation" - with nuclear capability, but without a bomb? And what will Israel demand in return for such an arrangement, in the form of American security guarantees in case it is violated?

Israel will find it difficult to attack Iran alone without a "green light" from America, even if it is only implied and if America ostensibly turns a blind eye. But once the moment of truth arrives, it is doubtful Obama would give the order to take down the Israeli planes heading to Iran - or for that matter to declare an end of aid to Israel or to sever relations. Obviously, the U.S. will want to remain somewhat distanced from any operation that is launched, so as not to be vulnerable to the anticipated Iranian response. But its strong commitment to Israeli security will not allow America to forcibly prevent a military operation designed to prevent a second Holocaust. That is the message Netanyahu will try to implant in the minds of the members of Congress.

As long as the diplomatic process continues, and Obama is asking Israel to hold off on any action, it is too early to declare that a war against Iran is inevitable. But Netanyahu's rise to power is clearly bringing Israel closer to such a conflagration, because of the gravity he attributes to the Iranian threat and his belief that he is tasked with saving Israel and the Jewish people from destruction. Anyone who thinks of himself in such terms and is also talking about history books will not want to be remembered as the prime minister who served when the Islamic Republic, whose leader considers Israel a "filthy germ," became a nuclear power.

[bth: I think we are seeing the first salvos of a media propaganda blitz designed to force Obama into a corner - to fight Iran.  By dropping charges last week against the AIPAC officials to which Franklin gave classified information and is now serving time in jail, one wonders what messages the US is communicating to Iran and Israel - certainly the messages are ambiguous at best.  The US cannot let its foreign policy be controlled by a foreign power - friendly or not.]

Commandant: Marines likely out of Iraq in 2010 | Stars and Stripes

Commandant: Marines likely out of Iraq in 2010 | Stars and Stripes: "ARLINGTON, Va. — All U.S. Marines will likely leave Iraq next year, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said Wednesday.

All U.S. combat troops are expected to leave Iraq in August 2010, leaving behind a smaller force to train and mentor Iraqi security forces until the end of 2011.

'Marines are not part of the long-term sustainment forces and there is a need for Marines elsewhere, so I think Marines will be phased out before 2011,' Conway said.

Neither he nor other Corps officials would say when in 2010 the Marines might leave Iraq.

As Marines draw down in Iraq, they are increasing their presence in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama is refocusing the U.S. military’s combat power."....

Ranger against war: search and avoid

RANGER AGAINST WAR: Search and Avoid
...If combating terrorism is the goal, why do we care about winning their hearts and minds? Just eliminate the threat and drive on. All lessons type articles on COIN focus on the "how" rather than the "why".

However, if the "why" is not legit, then the "why" is an academic exercise in futility.

[bth: "why" is the question.]

YouTube - Iraqi Peshmerga battles for funds from Baghdad - 02 May 09

YouTube - Iraqi Peshmerga battles for funds from Baghdad - 02 May 09

In Baghdad, dread grows with death toll

Baghdad somber after suicide attacks - Los Angeles Times
A string of devastating attacks mostly targeting Shiites has residents fearing a return to the sectarian warfare seen in 2006-07. The planned U.S. military pullback is adding to concerns....

Bomber thwarted in Iraq

Kindergartner receives dad's medal honoring fallen solider

Deseret News | Kindergartner receive

s dad's medal honoring fallen solider

WEST HAVEN — Young Jase Spargur wiped away a tear Wednesday morning when he was given the Silver Star medal earned by his father, a soldier who died in Afghanistan last year.

The months since July have been tough for the 6-year-old, who has had to grapple with the loss death brings and doesn't always understand why Dad can't come down for a few minutes to play.

"So many people hear about a death in the war, and they go on with their lives," said Jase's mother, Lindsey Spargur. "But our pain continues."...