Saturday, December 12, 2009
President Barack Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, said bin Laden, believed hiding mainly in a rugged area of western Pakistan, may be spending some time in Afghanistan, where he was based while plotting the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
But Obama's Pentagon chief, Robert Gates, said the U.S. has lacked good intelligence on bin Laden for a long time - 'I think it has been years' - and did not confirm that he'd slipped into Afghanistan."...
[bth: spinning bullshit to justify a surge in Afghanistan. If we knew he was in Afghanistan why didn't we go get him?]
[bth: a brilliant piece of analysis illustrating why we are in the fix we are in. Let's call it "Chaos" and hang it in a museum of modern art.]
Pulling the Most Weight
5 out of 5: United Kingdom, Denmark, United States, Canada
4 out of 5: Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia
3 out of 5: Norway, Spain, France
Pulling the Least Weight
5 out of 5: Slovakia, Luxembourg, Greece, Turkey
4 out of 5: Iceland, Bulgaria
3 out of 5: Portugal, Belgium, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia
[bth: a fascinating analysis well worth reading in full at the original source. It should be noted in passing that the Netherlands and Canada are pulling out of Afghanistan. Very shortly the US will stand alone again in Afghanistan like it did in Iraq.]
The disclosure that a retired senior army officer allegedly played a key role in the Mumbai attacks, in which 166 were killed, highlights the close links said to exist between elements in Pakistan's military and militant commanders. Retired officers have also been blamed for planning recent suicide bomb attacks on India's embassy in Kabul."
According to an FBI charge sheet, Major Hashim co-ordinated the activities of David Headley, a Pakistan-born American national, as he prepared to attack a Danish newspaper which outraged Muslims by publishing a cartoon image of the Prophet Mohammed. It also claimed Major Hashim had told Mr Headley to switch his attention to targets in India.
It claims he was in contact with Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior al-Qaeda commander who is believed to be in charge of its "military operations".
Major Hashim was arrested in Pakistan in September but is since believed to have been released.
David Headley, who was born Dawood Gilani in Pakistan, is alleged to have befriended a number of Bollywood stars as cover for filming video footage of the Mumbai's Taj Mahal Hotel and the Café Leopold bar where Lashkar-e-Taiba commandos began their machine gun and grenade attack on India's film and financial capital.
Mr Headley pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday during his first court appearance in Chicago since his arrest in October.
[bth: piecing the information together from various sources it looks like Headley was a DEA mole from the late 1990s handed over to the CIA that then went rogue.]
It was shortly before the Mumbai attacks that the FBI evidently first put Headley under its surveillance, leading to his arrest this past October. The FBI has rejected the requests of Indian investigators to talk to Headley or his co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a 48-year-old Pakistani native with Canadian citizenship. U.S. officials blamed “bureaucratic” and “procedural” hurdles for denying Indian investigators access to Headley. But keeping Headley locked up and away from other investigators isn’t stopping the questions posed by some foreign governments about whether an American informant turned on his handlers and might have helped pull off India’s 9/11."
[bth: an article well worth reading in full]
They’re in line along the back fence, these young men of the Classes of 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, and on and on and on. They were lieutenants and captains and even a few majors. They did their duty. They followed the orders of Kennedy or Johnson or Nixon or even Gerald Ford."
They fought and died for duty, honor, and country, as have so many others of the long gray line who rest here or in Arlington or in other national cemeteries across this land.
The sheer numbers of their marble markers along that back fence, the length of that line to be trooped and reviewed, never fails to bring me to tears — hot, bitter tears at the sacrifice they made so willingly for a war so wrong, so futile.
Last week a new president, No. 44, came to West Point and with the 4,000 cadets of this institution as his backdrop announced he was escalating the war in Afghanistan, adding an additional 30,000 American troops to the nearly 70,000 already there.
Then he jetted off to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. Lord help us. I would blush for him and for us, if it weren’t for the precedent. A Peace Prize for a leader who escalated a war? Ah well, remember? They gave the same prize to Henry Kissinger, so peaceful a leader that he bears responsibility for the butchering of 2 or 3 or maybe 4 million human beings in Cambodia and Vietnam and Laos.
The new president promised that after 18 months we would begin withdrawing those additional troops. Maybe. Or, if you listen to the words of his civilian and military advisers, maybe not. More likely not. Meantime, the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, says his army will require our money, weapons and support until 2026 or thereabouts.
So the war that should have ended in 2003 will only grow larger, deadlier and more costly as 2010 dawns.
Once again we find ourselves wading into the quicksand of a war in the wrong place, against the wrong enemy, with the wrong locals as our putative allies, and no hope in hell of even defining what victory would be in that place, much less winning such a victory.
This is what happens when a politician sets out to reach a compromise instead of a right decision. He can chew it over for three months and listen to every possible argument pro and con, but in the end he is going to cut the baby in half and call it a compromise.
So now the eight-year war will drag on without end and the number of fresh marble markers in the West Point Cemetery will grow. We have sown the seeds of war and we will reap a harvest of tombstones and grief.
The new president was right to choose West Point as the venue for his speech. But it would have been better if he’d chosen to deliver it in the cemetery instead of Eisenhower Hall.
Just as Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to escalate and Americanize the Vietnam War blighted and ultimately destroyed his presidency, so too will Afghanistan and that other war he inherited blight the presidency of Barack Obama.
Obama arrived with so many hopes for repair and reform riding on his shoulders. But it would have required a huge dose of moral courage to deliver on those hopes and all those promises, and that one thing — moral courage — seems strangely lacking in this president.
On the way into the West Point Cemetery, on the way to the back fence, I always pass by the large ornate monument that marks the final resting place of Col. George Armstrong Custer and I stop. I render him a solemn salute from someone who also stood with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in a desperate river valley battle. Then I speak aloud to Custer, the Boy General: "Sir, you were an arrogant, ignorant idiot and you got everybody killed."
There are a few military commanders today more adept at boxing in a greenhorn president and playing politics to prolong an unwinnable war than they are at getting on with their job. They might do well to reflect on the lessons taught by Col. Custer.
(C) 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
[bth: Joseph Galloway is probably the greatest living war correspondent. I have walked along that wall in that very cemetery as it is where we buried Lt. David Bernstein in 2003. Hardly a day goes by that I do not think about that time. I wish our president, who I voted for, would show moral courage. On his watch we will have the longest war in US history.]
Swiss intermediaries have told American officials that Iranian authorities have presented a list of Iranians believed held by the U.S. when asked for the release on humanitarian grounds of three American hikers who accidentally wandered into Iran while hiking on unmarked trails in Kurdish Iraq July 31. A Tehran prosecutor said that Shane Bauer, 27, Joshua Fattal, 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, would be charged with espionage last month, but it's not clear that the charges have actually been filed."...
[bth: cold war redux?]
Friday, December 11, 2009
The men, a tight circle of friends in their late teens and 20s from the Washington suburbs, had been in contact through YouTube and an Internet chat room with a Pakistani militant with links to Al Qaeda before arriving in Pakistan on Nov. 30, said the Pakistani officials, who had firsthand knowledge of the case.
The militant told them to come to Pakistan, where he would help them get to Afghanistan to fight jihad, one Pakistani official said....
[bth: so the authorities can't decide what to charge them with.... How about treason?]
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Mr Petruzziello lost his left hand and forearm in a car accident.
‘It’s a matter of mind, of concentration,’ said the 26-year-old. ‘When you think of it as your hand and forearm, it all becomes easier.’
During the month he had the hand connected, Mr Petruzziello could feel sensations in the limb and learned to wiggle the robotic fingers independently, make a fist, grab objects and make other movements.
‘Some of the gestures cannot be disclosed because they were quite vulgar,’ joked neurologist Paolo Maria Rossini, who led the team working at the Campus Bio-Medico in Rome, central Italy.
The research will continue to discover how long, beyond a month, the electrodes can remain implanted."
Washington turns down the constructive proposal of the leadership of Mujahideen who say that the Mujahideen, as a part of their policy, will ensure that the next government of the Mujahiideen will not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries including the neighbours if the foreign troops pull out of Afghanistan. But still America and its Allies want to achieve their imperialistic goals under the pretext of fighting terrorism."...
[bth: an article and analysis worth reading in full. Is this an attempt to negotiate with the west and if so are we listening? I'd think if OBL were to suddenly die, we'd have ourselves a deal.]
'We will wait till January for our offensive since we are stronger during the snowing season,' Mehsud said.
He told CNN he remains confident despite the large-scale military operation currently targeting him and his fighters in the province of South Waziristan.
'We have conserved our energy and have not lost our morale,' he said.
The leadership of his organization is safe, he said, but he didn't say where they are taking refuge."...
[bth: what is surprising to me is how the Pakistani Taliban is telegraphing their moves. This follows similar statements made in Sept/Oct whereby they cleared the US out of a couple of provinces in Afghanistan along its Pakistan border in order to give them a place to retreat to outside the reach of the Pak army.]
Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama Nugali told Asharq Alawsat that he was 'stunned by the declarations and allegations' from Tehran, which he 'deplored.'
Nugali said that nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri's disappearance had sparked an extensive investigation by the Saudi government."...
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
"I had one faithful comrade
'Ere we heard the trumpet's call,
And we pledged our hearts forever
In battle joined together
To beat the foe or fall.
A musket shot came screaming
To seal his fate or mine
Right at my feet he stumbled,
And friendship's shrine it crumbled
Around that friend of mine.
His hand is blindly seeking
The clasp I cannot give
For duty calls me onward
Farewell my dying comrade,
Our love shall ever live."
An amicus curiae brief [PDF link] filed by the Department of Justice with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday essentially argues that because he was giving advice to the president on a national security matter, Yoo should not be held accountable for his actions as it would have a chilling effect on advice provided to future presidents.
In other words, the DoJ explained, accusations of torture in this case present 'special factors' that the court should not address 'in the absence of congressional action.".....
[bth: just fucking great. No one is accountable]
'We are not winning, which means we are losing and as we are losing, the message traffic out there to [insurgency] recruits keeps getting better and better and more keep coming.'"
Telling soldiers that he expected to be a tough fight and rising casualties in 2010, he said: "I don't want to be in any way unclear about that. This is what happened in Iraq during the surge and as tragic as it is, to turn this thing around, it will be a part of this surge, as well."
Adm Mullen said the July 2011 date to begin withdrawing US forces is not an end or withdrawal date.
"In the long run, it is not going to be about killing Taliban," he told the marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. "In the long run, it's going to be because the Afghan people want them out."
[bth: we've been an occupying army there for 8 years. It may be that the Afghan people want us out and the local recruiting ability of the Taliban has to do with our presence and desire for our departure and not a love of the Taliban. I can't imagine an army of russians or chinese staying in an area of the US like W. Virginia for 8 years without brewing open hostility even with the lightest touch. Who are we kidding? The military leadership is talking COIN but the locals in Afghanistan aren't seeing that face of things.]
The blunt message was delivered in a tense encounter in Pakistan last month, before President Obama announced his new war strategy, when Gen. James L. Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief, met with the heads of Pakistan’s military and its intelligence service.
United States officials said the message did not amount to an ultimatum, but rather it was intended to prod a reluctant Pakistani military to go after Taliban insurgents in Pakistan who are directing attacks in Afghanistan."...
[bth: stay tuned]
"From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
Monday, December 07, 2009
That could settle a long-standing argument among historians.
Five mini-subs were to participate in the strike, but four were scuttled, destroyed or run aground without being a factor in the attack. The fate of the fifth has remained a mystery. But a variety of new evidence suggests that the fifth fired its two 800-pound torpedoes, most likely at the battleships West Virginia and Oklahoma, capsizing the latter. A day later, researchers think, the mini-sub's crew scuttled it in nearby West Loch.
The loch was also the site of a 1944 disaster in which six tank landing ships preparing for the secret invasion of Saipan were destroyed in an ammunition explosion that killed 200 sailors and wounded hundreds more."...
[bth: fascinating read in full]
Sunday, December 06, 2009
The Office of Management and Budget ” has approved a nearly $60 billion increase in the Pentagon’s base budget between fiscal years 2011 and 2015,” InsideDefense.com reports.
That includes an extra $15 billion for the next fiscal year — “a 2.7 percent increase after inflation. This boost “would bring non-war related military spending in FY-11 to $556.4 billion.”
The decision isn’t final - the President hasn’t approved of it, yet. But if the extra cash is okayed, it won’t be used to pay for more tanks or fighter jets, InsideDefense.com notes. “A sizable portion of the additional funds would pay for unforeseen DOD health care bills.”
UPDATE: The Defense Department claims personnel costs will run about $136 billion. The Progressive Policy Institute’s Jim Arkedis says that’s way, way off. “The real price tag is much bigger: $301.1 billion each year, 121 percent higher than the Pentagon’s figure. In other words, if you want major savings in defense spending, cutting weapons systems and the ever-elusive ‘waste, fraud and abuse’ won’t take you far enough.”"
[bth: Wired and Vanity Fair really have been doing exceptional reporting in recent years.]
Pakistan's power struggle comes as the Obama administration is seeking to significantly remake its relationship with Islamabad, tied to the U.S. decision to send 30,000 additional troops to help rout insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.
Mr. Zardari announced last week that he was transferring formal control over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Pakistan's president is being pressured to shed additional powers -- such as the right to dismiss the parliament and make key military appointments."
U.S. officials acknowledge that significant opposition to his rule has limited Mr. Zardari's effectiveness. He also been dogged by decades-old corruption charges. A 2007 amnesty agreement on those recently expired, potentially exposing him to a challenge to his rule by Pakistan's Supreme Court....
[bth: there hasn't been a Pakistani civilian government that hasn't been overthrown by the military.]
American and Afghan troops have met little resistance since Operation Cobra's Anger was launched Friday to disrupt Taliban supply and communications lines in the strategic Now Zad Valley of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Marine officials said.
About 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops are taking part in the offensive, including hundreds of Marines dropped behind Taliban lines by helicopters and MV-22 Osprey aircraft. A second, larger Marine force pushed northward from the Marines' main base.
'We're not taking for granted the low level of contact,' Marine spokesman Maj. William Pelletier said Saturday. 'Just because it's quiet now doesn't mean it will be in 24 hours. Part of the operation is to have a disruptive effect on the Taliban resupply activities. The Marines and Afghan forces are continuing the clearing operation, continuing to move through the valley.'"...
[bth: we are essentially attacking an abandoned town loaded with IEDs. It has got to be the most telegraphed mission in modern history. Further it appears timed to coincide shortly after the President's speech so that we can show the world 'progress' just like the minute drop in the unemployment rate was choreographed to be released just a day after the President's job summer which seemed to exclude small businesses from participating even though they create most of the jobs in the US and have for several decades. We are in a period of managed news and events. Don't get sucked in. In a few weeks we'll find out that the Taliban just displaced and that the jobless rate figures will be adjusted.]
The Taliban have 'no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan,' the group said in a statement emailed to news organizations. The statement didn't specify what such a guarantee would look like. A Taliban spokesman wasn't available for comment.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said the main purpose of the war in Afghanistan is to prevent al Qaeda from reacquiring a safe haven from which it can launch attacks against the West. U.S. and Afghan officials have been looking for ways to exploit the differences between al Qaeda, a mostly Arab organization that is focused on fighting a global holy war, and the Taliban, an Afghan group that largely restricts its activities to Afghanistan though it has links to the Taliban in neighboring Pakistan.
U.S. officials are skeptical that the Taliban can be taken at their word. 'This is the same group that refused to give up [Osama] bin Laden, even though they could have saved their country from war,' said a U.S. official. 'They wouldn't break with terrorists then, so why would we take them seriously now?'"...
[bth: curious. One key step in the right direction would be someone dropping a dime on OBL]
The event Monday for federal employees is a fitting symbol of President Barack Obama's uneven record so far on the Freedom of Information Act, a big part of keeping his campaign promise to make his administration the most transparent ever. As Obama's first year in office ends, the government's actions when the public and press seek information are not yet matching up with the president's words.
'The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails,' Obama told government offices on his first full day as president. 'The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.'"....
[bth: his rhetoric doesn't match his actions]
More than half the soldiers being treated at the Selly Oak hospital ward in Birmingham either asked for the curtains to be closed or deliberately avoided the prime minister, according to several of those present.
The soldiers, who have sustained some of the worst injuries seen in Afghanistan, described his visit as “opportunistic” and a “waste of time”.
Furious about equipment shortages and poor compensation for their injuries, one soldier said: “It is almost as if we are the product of an unwanted affair ... he has done nothing for us.”"...
[bth: an article worth reading in full. It is hard to understate the contempt for Brown.]
He also couldn’t confirm reports that a detainee in Pakistan had claimed that he had information on where bin Laden was earlier this year. He made the startling admission during my interview with him for 'This Week' airing Sunday."...