Thursday, March 10, 2011

Army Recruits Prisoners to Make Body Armor

Army Recruits Prisoners to Make Body Armor | Danger Room |
Building parts for Patriot missile systems was just a warm-up, apparently, for a government-owned company that relies on federal inmates making as little as 23 cents an hour. On Wednesday, the U.S. Army announced that it handed Federal Prison Industries a no-bid, nearly $20 million contract to build body armor.

It’s the latest in a decades-long string of military deals for FPI, also known as Unicor. Over the years, the company has supplied parts for F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, the Cobra attack helicopter, and the iconic Patriot interceptor system. (More about that in a second.)

But this deal is particularly odd, because FPI’s track record with protective equipment is, to put it generously, uneven. In May of last year, the Army recalled 44,000 FPI-made protective helmets after they failed ballistic testing. FPI then promptly got out of the helmet business....

-- bth total BS to give a contract for body armor to a company that just failed making 44,000 defective helmets.

Dead soldier Liam Tasker and Army dog return home

BBC News - Dead soldier Liam Tasker and Army dog return home

L/Cpl Tasker and dog Theo

The body of a soldier who died along with his record breaking sniffer dog in Afghanistan last week has returned home to the UK.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, was shot dead while on patrol in Helmand province.

The ashes of the 26-year-old's dog Theo were flown home on the same plane.

L/Cpl Tasker, who was called a "rising star" by Army chiefs, was shot by Taliban snipers and Theo died of a seizure shortly after his master.

The soldier and his 22-month-old dog had made 14 finds in five months while on the frontline.

The pair's successes at uncovering so many explosions and weapons had resulted in their tour of Afghanistan being extended by a month.

Just three weeks ago, springer spaniel Theo was praised as a record breaking Army sniffer dog.

The body of L/Cpl Tasker and the ashes of Theo were flown to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire at lunchtime, before a cortege passed through Wootton Bassett, the Wiltshire town which has built up a tradition of welcoming back fallen heroes.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker's body was flown to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire

The constrictionon earmarks is forcing the battle into the President's DOD budget

Veteran appropriator scolds Gates, mostly approves funding shift -
House appropriators have partially approved a Pentagon request to use Humvee funding for other platforms needed in Afghanistan — but not before a senior lawmaker had sharp words for the Defense secretary.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and House Appropriations Defense subcommittee chairman Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) went toe-to-toe last week about the Pentagon’s desire to use $863 million in Humvee funds to purchase intelligence-gathering and other gear for the Afghanistan war.

Last Wednesday, Gates said the military needs no more Humvees — Young disagreed — and charged Young and the subcommittee with blocking a $1.2 billion request to protect Humvee-maker AM General.

In a letter to Gates, Young tells the Defense secretary lawmakers have cleared the Pentagon to use $613 million of the Humvee funds to buy combat equipment requested by Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan. But Young is not taking Gates’s allegations lying down.

“I find it very troubling that you would suggest that my colleagues and I on the subcommittee are doing something that would ‘put American lives at risk,'” wrote Young, quoting Gates’s comments during a March 2 hearing. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In the letter, obtained by The Hill and dated Wednesday, the top defense appropriator points out his subcommittee “provided the funding” to add additional armor to the military’s Humvee fleet and to “expedite development of the MRAP.”

Both vehicles became essential for U.S. forces during the Iraq conflict.

Young also noted House defense appropriators played a key role in funding enhanced body armor for U.S. troops.

Gates told the panel the Army has no plans to buy more of the AM General-made vehicles, primarily because they cannot be used where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are employed.

Young points to Marine Corps documents, however, stating that service remains interested in the venerable platform, adding he told Gates this during a Feb. 23 conversation. According to Young, Gates replied that he had no knowledge of such a Marine Corps requirements.

“In fact, our subcommittee’s partial denial of the reprogramming of the [Humvee] funds is out of troop safety,” states the letter. “Our goal is to retain some of these funds, funds that your department requested for [Humvee].”

The letter quotes a Marine Corps solicitation to industry released the same day as the subcommittee hearing seeking information about improving Humvee crew protection. Young called the timing "ironic."

“During the hearing, I asked for your help to work out a compromise that would retain some funding to allow for the new line of more survivable [Humvees] as requested by the Marine Corps,” Young wrote.

“Yet, you simply stated during the hearing that the department no longer needs [Humvees],” the veteran lawmaker wrote, scolding Gates.

In addition, he told Gates he cannot approve using all $863 million from the Humvee account because of “the number of times the Department of Defense starts and stops programs, often after we have sunk billions of taxpayer dollars into them with little to show for it. He then named a few: the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) and Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH); the Marine Corps-led VH-71 Presidential Helicopter, “and the list goes on.”

“This is simply no longer acceptable,” Young told the secretary, adding one last shot. “The department’s treatment of the [Humvee] program is yet another example of poor program management,” the chairman wrote.

For instance, in 2010, the panel approved the Pentagon’s requested funding for the vehicle, including “a significant increase” for new models for the National Guard.

“Subsequently, however, the department determined that there was no longer a need for these … despite known requirements,” according to the letter. “Since then, you have been unwilling to work with us to find an acceptable solution.”

Young also criticized Gates for knowing about Petraeus’s needs “more than eight months ago,” but seeking approval to shift the funds only last month.

One Pentagon analyst said Young's tone shows as defense spending declines, lawmakers will be less apt to adhere to Gates' desires.

"The lesson of this letter for Mr. Gates is that it's time to go. Members are less willing to defer to his judgment as budgets tighten and memories of Iraq fade," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. "The longer he stays, the more he will be treated like just another defense secretary."

Moving the funds from one account to another requires congressional approval. The Humvee funds in question were first allocated as part of a war-funding bill.

“The money is in a Humvee account. No one wants any more Humvees,” one defense official said last week.

The House-passed 2011 defense spending bill passed recently “doesn’t even have Humvee money in it,” the official said. “So what exactly is the problem here?”

Some defense observers have noted AM General is on of Young’s top contributors of campaign cash. The longtime lawmaker has dismissed any allegations of aiming to aid the company....

-- bth: when you see arguments like this you know that Sec. Gates' days are numbered

Public prefers cutting defense spending: Reuters/Ipsos poll - Yahoo! News

Public prefers cutting defense spending: Reuters/Ipsos poll - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from public retirement and health programs, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed.

The poll found 51 percent of Americans support reducing defense spending, and only 28 percent want to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. A mere 18 percent back cuts in the Social Security retirement program.

The Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs, known as entitlements, and defense spending together account for about two-thirds of the $3.7 trillion federal budget, but they are not a major part of the debate in Congress over spending cuts.

Lawmakers are more focused on cutting so-called discretionary spending, but some experts say Congress will eventually need to cut entitlements to make a major dent in the country's $1.6 trillion deficit and $14 trillion debt.

The poll suggests lawmakers could face political peril if they touch the popular health and retirement programs.

"People recognize that defense is a big part of the budget and they are more likely to want to cut things that don't affect them directly," said Ipsos pollster Cliff Young.

The poll also showed Americans' confidence in the way the country is going has slumped to a two-year low in the last month, and a pollster blamed soaring gas prices....

-- bth; it is hard imagine a growing economy based on personal consumption when confidence is low and gas prices are high.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

All eyes on Saudi role in resolving Davis row

All eyes on Saudi role in resolving Davis row
ISLAMABAD: Will Saudi Arabia once again come to the rescue of two of its staunchest allies, the United States and Pakistan, with a face saving formula for all parties that cannot be challenged, as it is based on Islamic injunctions? By delivering, Jeddah will be doing what it has done several times in the past - bailing the US and Pakistan out of difficult situations.

The question pertains to Raymond Davis, President Obama’s “our diplomat” the likes of which Pakistan hopes to deny ‘diplomatic passports’ in future. Taking advantage of his visit to Jeddah on March 3, the special US representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman raised the issue of Raymond Davis during his presentation at the International Contact Group (ICG) meeting, which was also attended by Minister of State Ms Hina Rabbani Khar. The meeting was essentially to focus on Afghanistan.

Later, diplomatic sources confide Grossman raised the issue of Qisas and Diyat with the Saudi authorities on the sidelines of the ICG meeting. Spokesman at the US embassy not totally denying this says, “We are working with Pakistan to find a solution and resolve this matter but I could not tell you about (Grossman-Saudi meeting on Davis) and it would be inappropriate for me to comment”. Before this, at the end of February, President Asif Ali Zardari had met with Saudi Prince Naif on the sidelines of the Kuwati celebrations and the Davis issue came up for discussion, confide diplomatic sources.

Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani has also said that the “Saudi” option remains open. Diplomatic sources from Washington told The News, “Initially Washington was in touch with the UAE authorities to prevail upon Zardari as they enjoy close relations. Apparently this did not work so the next stop was Riyadh”.

The diplomat stresses that the Saudi monarchy can prevail upon the Pakistani military, the clergy and the government and the only way out at present is the Qisas and Diyat approach. The courts would also abide by the Islamic injunctions.

“The military is miffed with the CIA for taking them for a ride but they also realise the gravity of the situation if the standoff between Islamabad and Washington continues. It is the clergy which has the street power, but once the Saudi clergy prevails upon the mullahs here, a lot of give and take can take place”, says the diplomat....

-- bth: the Saudi's seem to find a way of making themselves the ultimate source of a problem and the necessary solution.  And OBL lives on.

Soldier's murder trial may omit whistle-blower claim

Local News | Soldier's murder trial may omit whistle-blower claim | Seattle Times Newspaper
Army prosecutors want the murder trial of Spc. Adam Winfield to unfold without any mention the soldier once acted as a whistle-blower to try to expose such crimes.

"Our position is it's irrelevant," said Capt. John Riesenberg, an Army prosecutor, at a hearing Monday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Winfield is a 22-year-old soldier from Florida accused of joining with two other soldiers to kill an unarmed Afghan villager in May 2010.

It is one of three such killings prosecutors allege were carried out by members of Winfield's platoon attached to the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

In February 2010, Winfield, in an Internet chat with his father, said one innocent farmer had already been "mowed down" and more such killings were planned.

His father, Christopher Winfield, passed that information on to an Army staff sergeant at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. However, that report failed to spur any investigation of the platoon.

Defense attorneys say Winfield's actions showed he tried to withdraw from an alleged conspiracy, and they are urging a judge to admit as evidence the Internet chat and the Army's handling of Christopher Winfield's telephone call to report the information.

Also at the hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred over whether Winfield's statements about his involvement in the May killing should be admitted into evidence at the trial.

A defense attorney argued that Winfield's admission resulted from coercive questioning tactics and should be thrown out.

The legal arguments centered on what happened during a break in May 2010 questioning by Army investigators.

Special Agent Anderson Wagner put his arm around Winfield and suggested they pay a visit to Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, an alleged ringleader in the crimes who was then in custody.

Winfield rejected that suggestion and indicated Gibbs might kill him, according to Wagner, who testified Monday. A rattled Winfield then suddenly changed his story and admitted the May killing was not a legitimate battlefield death but a planned effort to attack an unarmed civilian.


Prosecutors said Wagner acted properly.

In the weeks ahead, an Army judge is expected to rule on the pretrial motions.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or

-- bth: this is a sham of justice for Spc. Winfield.  No officer would be treated this shamelessly.

AllGov - News - U.S. Pulls Back from Push for Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

AllGov - News - U.S. Pulls Back from Push for Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
Saying it’s time to be realistic about foreign policy goals, U.S. officials are downgrading the importance of achieving certain benchmarks for women’s rights in Afghanistan, as President Hamid Karzai’s government courts peace with insurgents.
J. Alexander Their, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s office in Afghanistan, told The Washington Post: “The women’s issue is one where we need hardheaded realism. There are things we can do, and do well. But if we become unrealistic and overfocused . . . we get ourselves in trouble.”
Another U.S. official was more blunt, saying: “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities.”
In an effort to compromise with conservatives, the Karzai government has drafted rules that would bar private safe houses for women fleeing abuse. Women would be forced to seek refuge in public shelters, where they would be required to take medical examinations and they could be evicted if their families demand their return. The shelters also would come under direct control of the Afghan government for the first time.
Women’s advocates worry that what progress has been made in Afghanistan will be rolled back as Karzai and Washington seek to make peace with the Taliban.

-- bth: women's rights was one of the only real reasons Americans are interested in Afghanistan. If we abandon them I'm pretty sure you can kiss US domestic support for this shitty war goodbye.

So Egyptian government was behind the church and mosque bombings in recent years.

Egyptian State Security Archives Yield Evidence of False Flag Attacks - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine
.....Documents published so far, assuming they're real (and the Obama administration seems to be acting as if they are), have unearthed everything from Skype snooping to a whole room full of compromising sex tapes. But perhaps the most incendiary files posted have been those tying the Interior Ministry to attacks supposedly perpetrated by terrorists. Disgraced former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly had already been widely suspected of being involved in the New Year's Eve Coptic church bombing, but the appearance of a file on "Mission No. 77" seems to confirm regime critics' most damning accusations. McClatchy says that the document describes how State Security used a jailed Islamist to carry out the attack (which had been attributed to al-Qaeda), and, perhaps more ominously, they claim that there are at least seven more files on church attacks among the pilfered documents.

Aside from the New Year's Eve attack, which was already under scrutiny before the storming of State Security offices, the documents also point to a similar conclusion with regards an earlier bombing in the seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. The 2005 attack, which killed 88 and was initially blamed on Bedouin terrorists, was actually a plot by el-Adly and Gamal Mubarak to get back at one of Gamal's business rivals, according to a leaked document (partial English translation here).

And beyond these two attacks documented in the leaked files, questions have been raised about the Nag Hammadi church attack in early 2010. The allegations were apparently serious enough that an Egyptian official felt the need to deny the rumors to American diplomats, while at the same time conceding that the official explanation for the attacks "doesn't seem to fit."

Up until now, claims of terrorism have been the most effective way for Arab dictators to get sympathy and support from the US. (The Yemeni regime, which is now teetering on the edge of collapse, saw its aid double after the Christmas 2009 attempted underwear bombing.) American policy in the region has been predicated on the Faustian bargain that we overlook Arab dictators' shoddy human rights record and continue to prop them up in exchange for stability and a hard line on Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian State Security archives suggest that not only were the Mubaraks not delivering an end to Islamic radicalism, but the regime itself may have been the source of much of Egypt's terrorism and sectarian strife.

WAPO: Report reveals steep increase in war amputations last fall

Report reveals steep increase in war amputations last fall
he majority of American soldiers undergoing amputation for war wounds last fall lost more than one limb, according to data presented Tuesday to the Defense Health Board, a committee of experts that advises the Defense Department on medical matters.
This Story
Chart tracking amputation numbers

--- bth: note 142/172=82% with kidney, bladder or genital damage.
Report reveals steep increase in war amputations last fall
Amputations and genital injuries increase sharply among soldiers in Afghanistan
Rise in limb loss

Military officials had previously released data showing that amputations, and especially multiple-limb losses, increased last year. The information presented to the 20-member board is the first evidence that the steepest increase occurred over the last four months of the year.

In September 2010, about two-thirds of all war-theater amputation operations involved a single limb (usually a leg) and one-third two or more limbs. The split was roughly 50-50 in October and November. In December, only one-quarter of amputation surgery involved only one limb; three-quarters involved the loss of two or more limbs.

The Marines, who make up 20 percent of the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, were especially hard hit. Of the 66 wounded severely enough to be evacuated overseas in October, one-third lost a limb.

In the first seven years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, about 6 percent of seriously wounded soldiers underwent amputation.

Wounds to the genitals and lower urinary tract - known as genitourinary injuries - accounted for 11 percent of wounds over the last seven months of 2010, up from 4 percent in the previous 17 months, according to data presented by John B. Holcomb, a trauma surgeon and retired Army colonel.

The constellation of leg-and-genital wounds are in large part the consequence of stepping on improvised explosive devices - homemade mines - and are known as "dismounted IED injuries."

The data were assembled by Holcomb and two physicians at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where all seriously injured soldiers are taken on their way back to the United States.

The steep increase in both the rate and number of amputations clearly disturbed both Holcomb and members of the board, which met at a Hilton hotel near Dulles International Airport.

Holcomb, who spent two weeks at Landstuhl in December and is a former head of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, said he had heard of "unwritten pacts among young Marines that if they get their legs and genitals blown off they won't put tourniquets on but will let each other die on the battlefield."

Richard H. Carmona, who was U.S. surgeon general from 2002 to 2006 and is now on the board, said the information was "very disturbing."

He said it has made him ask: "What is the endgame here? Is the sacrifice we are asking of our young men and women worth the potential return? I have questions about that now."

Carmona, 61, served as an Army medic in Vietnam before going to college and medical school. He has a son who is an Army sergeant and is serving in Iraq.

Jay A. Johannigman, an Air Force colonel who has served multiple deployments as a trauma surgeon, said his stint at the military hospital at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan last fall "was different" both personally and medically.

"We see the enormous price our young men and women are paying. It should not be for naught," he said. He didn't want to elaborate.

Why amputation-requiring injuries increased so much in recent months isn't entirely understood. It is partly a function of tactics that emphasize more foot patrols in rural areas. Some people have speculated the mines may be constructed specifically to cause the devastating wounds.

"Do the Marines know? Probably," said Frank Butler, a doctor and retired Navy captain who has spearheaded improvements in battlefield first aid over the last decade. "But they're not releasing a thing. And they shouldn't."

-- bth: the foot patrols are being hit with larger non metallic ANFO IEDs which are almost impossible to detect.

YouTube - Destroyed robot

YouTube - Destroyed robot: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

At least 32 killed in Faisalabad blast; Taliban claim responsibility | | DAWN.COM

At least 32 killed in Faisalabad blast; Taliban claim responsibility | | DAWN.COM

LAHORE: A massive bomb blast by militants at a gas station in Faisalabad, a city in Pakistan’s central Punjab province, Tuesday killed at least 32 people and wounded 125 others, DawnNews reported.

The explosion also damaged nearby buildings.

An office of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and a local gas station were severely damaged in the blast, AP reported. Police said the attack took place close to the office of a ”sensitive” security agency but the building was undamaged, the AP report said.

Senior government official Naseem Sadiq said explosives were planted in a vehicle parked at the gas station, which also lies near police offices as well as the PIA building.

Regional police chief Aftab Cheema confirmed the attack in Faisalabad, the country’s textile-making capital.

“It was a car bomb blast. The explosive was planted in a car. We are investigating whether a suicide bomber was involved or not,” Cheema said.

Television pictures showed the station had been reduced to a pile of bricks and gnarled metal as rescue officials worked to remove rubble from the scene to search for survivors and ambulance vehicles ferried the injured away.

City commissioner Tahir Husain told a private television channel that rescue officials were heaving bricks and metal away to save those trapped.

“There are some people trapped under the building rubble. We have deployed our cranes and machinery to rescue them very soon,” he added.

Husain told a private television channel that no suicide attacker was involved.

“It was not a suicide attack. It was a planted bomb blast. The bomb exploded near the gas cylinders that triggered a bigger blast,” he said.

Husain said that the attack could have targeted government buildings close to the gas station site, some of which he said were damaged in the blast...

-bth: what I don't understand is the willingness of the ISI, the Pak government and normal people in Pakistan to tolerate such murder and terror from the Taliban.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

French government comes under cyber attack

French government comes under cyber attack | The Raw Story
PARIS (AFP) – The French finance ministry has shut down 10,000 computers after a "spectacular" cyber attack from hackers using Internet addresses in China, officials and reports said Monday.

The hackers were hunting for documents relating to the Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing nations, which this year is led by France, said Budget Minister Francois Baron, adding that a probe was under way into the attacks.

"We have leads," Baroin told Europe 1 radio, saying that what he called a "spectacular" attack was "probably the first time" that the French government's computer system had been hit on this scale....

Al-Qaeda routing money to India via Europe: report

Al-Qaeda routing money to India via Europe: report - Hindustan Times
European countries are being used as hot destinations by terror group al-Qaeda to route money to India, according to a report by Peruvian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The report said the FIU had found at least one case of such suspicious transaction by al-Qaeda every month and shared them with
the US investigators.

"The FIU also reports tracking cases similar to that of an OFAC-designated (US Office of Foreign Assets Control) of al-Qaeda element moving money from Europe through Lima and on to India," the report leaked by Wikileaks, a non-profit media organisation dedicated to bringing important information to the public, quoting FIU head Enrique Saldivar disclosed.

"Asked if this al-Qaeda case was the first of its kind or they had seen similar cases before, Saldivar told NASOff that they see about one case a month," the cable said.

The FIU receives and analyses STRs, may request additional information relevant to cases or operations related to money laundering or terrorist financing, provides Financial Intelligence Reports (FIR) to the Public Prosecutor's Office, participates and/or requests joint investigations, and coordinates with foreign FIUs and entities.

"Of the 7,710 suspicious activity reports examined by FIU analysts in 2009, 781 resulted in financial intelligence reports sent to the Public Ministry for further processing and investigation.

"Based on these 781 intelligence reports, the FIU concludes more than 3 billion USD moved illegally through Peru's financial sector in 2009," it said.

"83 per cent of this amount, according to the FIU, is related to drug trafficking. The other 17 per cent is reportedly related to fiscal fraud, corruption and illegal gun dealing. Currently, 308 of these intelligence reports are at various stages of investigation and prosecution in the legal system – as compared to four cases in 2008," the cables read.

According to Saldivar, anti-money laundering efforts in Peru are hindered by several factors.

France Investigates Attack on Computers -

France Investigates Attack on Computers - "PARIS—The French government unveiled a probe into one of the biggest computer attacks in the nation's history, in which hackers accessed scores of classified documents detailing its international economic policy.

A spokeswoman for the French National Agency for Information Systems Security, which is leading the investigation, said that in December hackers spied on some 150 computers at the finance ministry before the meeting of the Group of 20 nations, which France led.

The agency said it had a target in the investigation, but hasn't revealed who it was...

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Lashkar plot to attack cricket stadiums unearthed

The Hindu : Front Page : Lashkar plot to attack cricket stadiums unearthed
CHENNAI: Intelligence agencies of the Union government have unearthed a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) conspiracy to attack one or more venues of the ongoing World Cup cricket matches in India. Specific inputs have been communicated to Tamil Nadu and other States, where the matches are to be played.

Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs told The Hindu on Monday that inputs received through “sensitive channels” indicated that in October 2010, the Pakistan-based LeT cadre, Zaibuddin Ansari, or his associates researched information pertaining to explosive chemical substances and the stadiums where the 2011 World Cup matches were to be played.

The suspects allegedly analysed eight cricket stadiums in India, including the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore and M.A. Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk in Chennai, the sources said.

“We have been given an alert that Ansari and his associates researched the composition for chemicals known to be used in explosives, including ammonium nitrate, ammonium nitrate fuel oil and pentaerythritol tetranirate (PETN). They seem to have showed more interest in the manufacture of lead styphnate, which is used in the manufacture of different nitro compounds in explosives,” a senior police officer said. ...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Public support for the war in Afghanistan is fading fast

Rasmussen Poll: Majority Want U.S. Troops Out Of Afghanistan Within A Year
WASHINGTON -- On the same day that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that America would continue to have a military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, a new poll finds that the majority of Americans want all U.S. troops withdrawn within one year.

The polling firm Rasmussen, whose surveys are often accused of having a decidedly conservative tilt, finds that for the first time, a majority of likely voters want the U.S. government to set a timetable to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan within one year. Within that group, 31 percent want troops to come home immediately. In September 2010, just 43 percent of likely voters wanted a one-year timeline.

This time frame is considerably more accelerated than the one set forth by President Obama. The current plan is for the U.S. military to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 and then end combat operations in 2014. But on Monday, Gates said that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agree U.S. forces should remain in Afghanistan even after that date.

"Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we're willing to do that," Gates said. "My sense is, they are interested in having us do that."

Seventy-three percent of Democrats favor a one-year timeline, compared to 37 percent of Republicans. But there has been an erosion of support in both parties, with 24 percent of Republicans six months ago favoring bringing the troops home within a year.

Rasmussen also finds in the survey, which was conducted March 4-5, that 41 percent of Americans are unsure whether the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will be judged a success. Just 27 percent are sure it will be.

A USA Today/Gallup poll from February also found that 72 percent of Americans would support Congress taking up the issue of a quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Story continues below

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in December that while she understands the public's frustration, low public opinion on the war won't change the administration's policy.

"I'm well aware of the popular concern, and I understand it," she said. "But I don't think leaders -- and certainly this president will not -- make decisions that are matters of life and death and the future security of our nation based on polling. That would not be something that you will see him, or any of us, deciding."

Private contractors at record in Afghan war: US report | The Raw Story

Private contractors at record in Afghan war: US report | The Raw Story

WASHINGTON – The number of private security personnel working for the US military in Afghanistan rose to 18,919 at the end of last year, the highest level used in any conflict by the United States, a congressional report said.

The Congressional Research Service report said that the number of private security contractor personnel in Afghanistan has more than tripled since June 2009.

The firms provide security across violence-wracked Afghanistan to groups ranging from foreign militaries and embassies to non-governmental organizations to media companies.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been seeking to disband private security contractors, charging that they loot and steal, have links to criminal groups and might even fund insurgents.

The report, dated February 21, said that the number of private contractors in Afghanistan overtook the number in Iraq in 2009.

Around 95 percent of those employed by private security firms in Afghanistan were Afghan nationals, with one percent Americans and remaining four percent from other countries, the report said.

Members of Congress are concerned about abuses by the private contractors, and the report cited fears that such incidents can undermine the US-led war effort in Afghanistan.

"From 2006 to 2009, private security contractors escorting supply convoys to coalition bases have been blamed for killing and wounding more than 30 innocent civilians in Afghanistan's Maywand district alone, leading to at least one confrontation with US forces," the report said.

"And in May 2010, US and Afghan officials reportedly stated that local Afghan security contractors protecting NATO supply convoys in Kandahar 'regularly fire wildly into villages they pass, hindering coalition efforts to build local support.'"

US government investigations have also found that US money for contracts in Afghanistan have been used to pay the Taliban in exchange for security, the report noted.

In addition to the Defense Department, other US agencies employ private security firms, including the State Department.

How America is screwing up its attempt to aid Libyan Rebels

America's secret plan to arm Libya's rebels - Middle East, World - The Independent
"Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a "day of rage" from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington's highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.

Washington's request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America's chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.

But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis."

We couldn't be asking the Saudis at a more inappropriate time. And as to weapons to Libya I'd also suggest Israel has a great deal of them.  Same with the Iraqis and the Kuwaitis.

If I'm reading this story on Drudge Report, it seems likely that any secrecy and any deniable aspects of caper by the US is thrown right out the window.

"The Saudis have been told that opponents of Gaddafi need anti-tank rockets and mortars as a first priority to hold off attacks by Gaddafi's armour, and ground-to-air missiles to shoot down his fighter-bombers.

Supplies could reach Benghazi within 48 hours but they would need to be delivered to air bases in Libya or to Benghazi airport. If the guerrillas can then go on to the offensive and assault Gaddafi's strongholds in western Libya, the political pressure on America and Nato – not least from Republican members of Congress – to establish a no-fly zone would be reduced.

US military planners have already made it clear that a zone of this kind would necessitate US air attacks on Libya's functioning, if seriously depleted, anti-aircraft missile bases, thus bringing Washington directly into the war on the side of Gaddafi's opponents.

For several days now, US Awacs surveillance aircraft have been flying around Libya, making constant contact with Malta air traffic control and requesting details of Libyan flight patterns, including journeys made in the past 48 hours by Gaddafi's private jet which flew to Jordan and back to Libya just before the weekend.

Officially, Nato will only describe the presence of American Awacs planes as part of its post-9/11 Operation Active Endeavour, which has broad reach to undertake aerial counter-terrorism measures in the Middle East region.

The data from the Awacs is streamed to all Nato countries under the mission's existing mandate. Now that Gaddafi has been reinstated as a super-terrorist in the West's lexicon, however, the Nato mission can easily be used to search for targets of opportunity in Libya if active military operations are undertaken.

Al Jazeera English television channel last night broadcast recordings made by American aircraft to Maltese air traffic control, requesting information about Libyan flights, especially that of Gaddafi's jet.....

But Saudi Arabia is already facing dangers from a co-ordinated day of protest by its own Shia Muslim citizens who, emboldened by the Shia uprising in the neighbouring island of Bahrain, have called for street protests against the ruling family of al-Saud on Friday.

After pouring troops and security police into the province of Qatif last week, the Saudis announced a nationwide ban on all public demonstrations.

Shia organisers claim that up to 20,000 protesters plan to demonstrate with women in the front rows to prevent the Saudi army from opening fire.

If the Saudi government accedes to America's request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces....

So let me get this straight, the US is trying to deny involvement but its AWACs plane's radio comms are being played by al Jazeera and if we use Saudi help we cannot criticize the Saudis for smacking down their own Shia minority.

Also Sec. Gates talks about the need to destroy Libya's anti-aircraft defenses in order to have a no fly zone, but isn't he forgetting that that is if we are going to be flying over Libya.  An alternative is to use MANPADs to shoot down Libya's remaining small air force if its is used to attack rebel forces.  Two totally different missions and requirements.

Last if we want to arm the rebels we can plenty of weapons to do this with.  We do not need the Saudis.

It makes you wonder if our government can do anything.

China Internal Security Spending Jumps Past Army Budget -

China Internal Security Spending Jumps Past Army Budget -

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's spending on police and domestic surveillance will hit new heights this year, with "public security" outlays unveiled on Saturday outstripping the defence budget for the first time as Beijing cracks down on protest calls.

China's ruling Communist Party also issued its loudest warning yet against recent Internet-spread calls for "Jasmine Revolution" protest gatherings inspired by popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.

The 13.8 percent jump in China's planned budget for police, state security, armed civil militia, courts and jails was unveiled at the start of the annual parliamentary session, and brought planned spending on law and order items to 624.4 billion yuan 58.3 billion pounds.

By contrast, China's People's Liberation Army budget is set to rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan.

"This would be the first time that the openly announced domestic security budget has surpassed military spending," said Xie Yue, a political scientist at Tongji University in Shanghai. He called the figure a gauge of China's spending on what officials call "stability protection."

"This shows the rising costs of maintaining internal control," said Xie, who studies China's domestic security policies and spending. "This system is very sensitive to any instability or contention."...

- bth: fascinating that China's communist party's main fear is from within China.

Further indication that UK has lost its critical ability to project power by air or ship

Military chiefs sign letter calling for rethink on defence - UK Politics, UK - The Independent
David Cameron is under mounting pressure to perform a U-turn amid claims his military blueprint for the future defence of Britain is flawed and costing lives on the frontline.

Dozens of Britain's most respected military leaders, politicians, academic experts and forces families groups have signed a letter in The Independent on Sunday, calling on the Prime Minister to reopen the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), barely five months after it was completed.

The move has been prompted after the wave of popular uprisings in North Africa exposed serious concerns over Britain's long-term military planning – not least the controversial decision to axe the Harrier jump jet fleet and HMS Ark Royal.

One of Britain's most respected military figures, Admiral Sir John "Sandy" Woodward, commander of Britain's taskforce during the Falklands War, condemned the disposal of Britain's Harrier jump jets. "Lives are being lost in the front line where the Harriers were maintained at 20 minutes' notice for sortie. The Tornadoes, because they are so old and decrepit, have to be given 24 hours' notice," he said.

The admiral is one of 50 people to have signed a letter in the IoS, warning how the "security landscape has radically changed" as a result of events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Other signatories include Admiral Lord West, former First Sea Lord, Major General Julian Thompson, former commander of the Royal Marines, Julie McCarthy, chief executive of the Army Families Federation and Baroness Brenda Dean, chairman of the House of Lords Defence Group.

The SDSR, published in October, failed to mention North Africa. The Government has been criticised for its slowness in evacuating Britons from Libya in particular. The main frigate eventually used to get hundreds to safety, HMS Cumberland, is one of more than 260 ships and planes to be axed under plans to downsize Britain's armed forces....

Buckles won't be honored in US Capitol -

Buckles won't be honored in US Capitol -
March 4, 2011 · It appears World War I veteran Frank Buckles will not lie in state in the US Capitol.

Buckles was 110 and the oldest living WWI veteran in the United States when he died Sunday at his Jefferson County home.

Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) claim House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is blocking legislation allowing Buckles to lie in honor in the US Capitol rotunda.

In a press release Rockefeller strongly urges Boehner to reconsider his decision.

A statement released by Boehner’s office says the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to let Buckles’ family use the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery for a memorial service. Buckles will be buried in Arlington....

- bth: a lost and unrecoverable opportunity to honor over a million WWI veterans who have passed away.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Lawyer suggests 'blood money' to free US man - Yahoo! News

Lawyer suggests 'blood money' to free US man - Yahoo! News

While the United States insists Raymond Allen Davis, the detained CIA contractor, has immunity from prosecution, his lawyer said Friday that "bloody money" was "not just a good way, but the best way" to resolve the issue. The United States has not commented on whether it intends to try that approach, either formally or as a way of cooling popular anger if Davis is freed on other grounds.

The families, meanwhile, say they want justice, not money.

Davis was driving on a busy street in this eastern city when he says two men, at least one of whom was armed, tried to rob him. He shot them dead. Minutes later, an American vehicle speeding to the scene on the wrong side of the road ran into a motorcyclist, killing him.

The United States is demanding the 36-year-old Virginia native, currently on trial for murder, be released...

bth: the irony is pretty rich that this is going to be resolved with Islamic law.

On the Egyptian Revolution

TED Recap: TED2011 Takeaways from Organ Printing to the Virtual Choir - The Daily Beast: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

bth: the psychological barrier of fear

At Christian lawmaker's funeral, Pakistan's PM mum on blasphemy law -

At Christian lawmaker's funeral, Pakistan's PM mum on blasphemy law - "About 1,000 mourners, including the top diplomats and the US ambassador, today attended a Roman Catholic funeral for Shahbaz Bhatti. The former head of the Ministry of Minorities was Pakistan’s sole Christian minister and the second Pakistani official slain in as many months for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws.

Speaking at Our Lady of Fatima Church, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said his government would do its “utmost” to catch the killers. Tellingly, however, he stopped short of mentioning – much less supporting – the cause for which Mr. Bhatti lost his life Wednesday.

Critics believe the government’s strategy of distancing itself from liberal politicians who have campaigned for amendments in the blasphemy laws, which includes the death penalty for disrespect of Islam, has emboldened militants and will allow extremists to shape the country’s future. On Thursday, Pakistan’s representative to the UN called on other countries not to link the killing with blasphemy laws....

- bth: the silence that fear brings

SAUDI ARABIA: Protests 'contradict' Islamic law and are banned, Interior ministry declares [Updated] | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times

SAUDI ARABIA: Protests 'contradict' Islamic law and are banned, Interior ministry declares [Updated] | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times: "After demonstrators staged protests demanding the release of political prisoners, and activists urged sweeping reforms in Saudi Arabia, the ultra-conservative kingdom appears to have decided to put the lid on street-based calls for change.

[Updated at 9:25 a.m.: The headline on an earlier version of this post said demonstrations by Shiites were deemed to contradict Islamic law. The interior ministry said all demonstrations, not just ones by Shiites, were contrary to Islamic law.]

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry reportedly issued a statement deeming all sorts of protests in the kingdom illegal with the explanation that demonstrations are not in line with Islamic law and values of Saudi society.

'Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins ... as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,' said a ministry statement published on the official SPA state news agency.

It added that Saudi police are 'authorized ... to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law.'...

- bth: how convenient.

Egyptians Storm State Security Building In Cairo

Egyptians Storm State Security Building In Cairo

CAIRO — Three weeks after President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, Egyptians are turning their anger toward his internal security apparatus, storming the agency's main headquarters and other offices Saturday and seizing documents to keep them from being destroyed to hide evidence of human rights abuses.

What to do with Egypt's tainted security agencies remains one of the most contentious issues facing the military rulers who took charge after Mubarak was forced to step down on Feb. 11 after an 18-day popular uprising.

The 500,000-strong internal security services are accused of some of the worst human rights abuses in the suppression of dissent against Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule. The protesters are demanding the agency be dismantled and its leaders face a reckoning.

The ruling military council's bind was evident on Friday and Saturday when thousands of protesters – including some people who said they were victims of abuse by security agents – marched on several state security buildings in Alexandria, Cairo and other cities.

Protesters stormed inside at least six of the buildings, including the agency's main headquarters in Cairo's northern Nasr City neighborhood, confronting officers face-to-face and attacking some in a surreal reversal of roles.

"We are inside, hundreds of us," Mohammed Abdel-Fattah, one of the protesters who barged into the Nasr City compound on Saturday, said in a telephone interview. "We are fetching documents and we are looking for detainees."

Cries of "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," could be heard in the background, as one of the protesters found a file with Mubarak's name on it.

Around 2,500 people swept into the compound, according to the state news agency.

Abdel-Fattah said they barged in from the back doors, and the military, which had cordoned off the building, couldn't stop them. They scoured the building for official documents, many of which were already shredded in huge piles in what they believe was an attempt to hide evidence incriminating senior officials in abuses....

bth: the ground is laid for the next major Wikileaks disclosure

The Daily Beast: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"