Friday, April 08, 2011

Edward M. Kennedy Institute Ceremony

I went to the ground breaking ceremony of the Edward M Kennedy Institute today. This quote was in brochure.

"The only way our democracy is going to work is if people take the interest and take the time to involve themselves in the political life of our country."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 2007

If my friend were in office today I wonder if he could walk across the aisle and keep our government funded?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Ex-Congressman in Libya to ‘Help’ Once Proposed Arming Gadhafi

Ex-Congressman in Libya to ‘Help’ Once Proposed Arming Gadhafi | Danger Room | Wired.com
Former Congressman Curt Weldon traveled repeatedly to Libya during the last decade, becoming so close with the Gadhafi regime that the firm Weldon worked for even floated the idea of selling arms to Tripoli.

So now that Gadhafi is under assault from NATO airstrikes and rebel ground troops, it should come as no surprise that Weldon is back in Libya, “to try to help negotiate a political settlement with Gadhafi and family,” according to CNN.

And while Weldon’s there, the controversial former vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee is looking to do a little image repolishing for himself.

It wasn’t long ago — April, 2008, to be exact — that Weldon was boasting in a report that he had become the “1st non-Libyan Board Member of the Ghadaffi Foundation.” During a trip to Tripoli the month before, the self-proclaimed “friend of Libya” carried “a personal letter from Libyan Chamber [of Commerce] President to U.S. Chamber President.” Weldon also visited with with the country’s “Nuclear Ministry Leadership and agreed to reinforce U.S. nuclear cooperation/collaboration.”

Finally, Weldon agreed “to quickly return to Libya for meetings with [Gadhafi's] son Morti regarding defense and security cooperation.”

Two weeks later, Defense Solutions — a company which, at the time, counted Weldon as a key executive and adviser — drew up a proposal to refurbish the country’s fleet of armored vehicles, including its T-72 tanks, BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles and BTR-60 armored personnel carriers....

--- bth: Weldon is a whack job and allowing him to be involved in any Libyan negotiations is a bad idea

Tribute to British Soldiers

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

132 militants killed in Kunar operations: governor

132 militants killed in Kunar operations: governor | Pajhwok Afghan News
ASADABAD (PAN): As many as 132 militants were killed in clashes with Afghan and international security forces during counter-insurgency operations in eastern Kunar province over the past eight days, the governor said on Wednesday.

The operations are still ongoing to flush out insurgents in the border region with Pakistan, Syed Fazlullah Wahidi, told Pajhwok Afghan News.

He said 132 militants have been killed, 20 others wounded and another 47 captured alive during the operations in Sarkano and Marawara districts.

The governor said they had no report about civilian casualties.

Earlier in the day, the defence ministry said dozens of militants were killed and 18 others were captured in operations in eastern provinces.

"Dozens of insurgents have been killed and 18 others arrested and 10 small and big weapon caches were also uncovered by the troops," the ministry said in a statement.

However, the statement did not reveal the exact number of casualties on militants.

Eighty militants, six foreign and two Afghan troops were killed in clashes in the eastern province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan's lawless tribal region, NATO-led ISAF said on Wednesday....

-- bth: sadly this is barely making the news. Afghanistan is becoming increasingly irrelevant to US citizens.  If only al Qaeda would get the memo.

Maid Carrying Soldier’s Pack Sparks Row

Maid Carrying Soldier’s Pack Sparks Row
March 30, 2011
Agence France-Presse

A photograph of a maid carrying a soldier's rucksack as she walked behind him has sparked outrage in Singapore and concern that recruits to its armed forces are a pampered lot.

This photo, gone viral in Singapore, allegedly shows a young soldier followed by a maid carrying his rucksack. (Facebook)


The 
picture, published in the Singaporean media and on the Internet this week, showed the male soldier in military fatigues and combat boots strolling on a footpath.

His female maid followed a step behind with the military-issued rucksack slung over her left shoulder.

Reactions to the photograph, which was first posted on Facebook, ranged from amusement to anger and claims that Singapore's current generation of soldiers were "softies".

"Behind every successful SAF [Singapore Armed Forces] soldier, there is a maid," Chinteresting wrote, tongue in cheek, on Twitter.

"SAF should find the maid fast. Enlist her to the Army, she's strong!" tweeted Rod_Man14....

Iran espionage technique used on those seeking asylum overseas

Updated: Iran engaged in espionage on Norwegian soil / News / The Foreigner — Norwegian News in English.

Mohammad Reza Heydari, Iran’s former diplomat to Norway, claims he
knows Iranian embassies around the world monitor their citizens abroad
to divide groups opposed to the Iranian government, NRK reports.

“Iran
operates via its embassies by contacting people with economic or
psychological problems because they cannot travel to Iran. Another
method it uses is to chart people and contact them using others who are
in communication with the embassy,” he said.

An anonymous
asylum seeker NRK spoke to alleges he was approached by representatives
of the Iran embassy who proposed helping him with his application in
exchange for reporting sensitive details about opposition members in
Norway.

“They offered to give me cash and pay attorney fees,
saying they could send me to another country to seek asylum there if it
was denied. In one of the meetings, they gave me equipment to make
recordings,” he said.  

The asylum applicant claims he
specifically instructed to monitor Mr Heydari, who resigned his post
last year in protest over the Iranian regime’s crackdown on
demonstrations in the country in 2009.

“I told them hidden
surveillance is spying and is illegal in Norway, asking them who would
help me should I be arrested by the police. They answered the embassy
could help assist me with that part of the job,” he said.

Espionage
by Iran conducted on foreign countries including Norway has increased
since last year’s reelection President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadi, according
to a member of the Iranian opposition group who wished to remain
anonymous.

“Iran has a policy directed against its own nationals
living in a foreign country of doing everything it can that prevents a
strong opposition to the regime being established abroad,” the
individual told NRK.

The Iranian Embassy in Oslo did not wish to comment when contacted by NRK at the time.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Der Spiegel - Report Reveals discipline breakdown in kill team brigade

'Let's Kill': Report Reveals Discipline Breakdown in Kill Team Brigade - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
...Colonial and Imperial Practices

The report documents how the clash of two military strategies created an atmosphere in which atrocities against Afghan civilians were regarded as normal, and provides evidence of a lack of control on the part of the leadership. The report details numerous examples of misconduct, such as soldiers smoking hashish in their Stryker vehicles, and relates that officers did not communicate properly with their subordinates.

The report reveals that Tunnell's approach and choice of words were incompatible with the COIN (counterinsurgency) strategy that General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan at the time, had introduced in 2007 in a bid to win over the trust of the local population.

Under COIN, the troops' primary aim became to protect the civilian population, deliver aid packages, talk with locals and live with them in the villages. The COIN approach had worked in Iraq, and the US Army hoped it could be transferred to Afghanistan.

The commander of the 5th Stryker Brigade, however, clearly regarded the COIN doctrine as ridiculous and inefficient. "US Army forces are not organized, trained or equipped to implement the doctrine and Americans are not culturally suited to accept predominantly European colonial and imperial tactical … and operational practices," Tunnell told General Twitty in a sworn statement.

'Search and Destroy'

According to a statement by one witness, Tunnell himself had spoken about "small kill teams," who were supposed to ruthlessly hunt down the Taliban. He gave speeches where he outlined his preferred "counterguerrilla" strategy, which was based on creating "targets of opportunity" and carrying out missions to "search and destroy" Taliban fighters. One soldier quoted in the report summed it up in the following way: "If I were to paraphrase the speech and my impressions about the speech in a single sentence, the phrase would be: 'Let's kill those motherfuckers.'"

According to one witness, Tunnell was pursuing his own personal crusade in Afghanistan. "He stated in his office that he was after revenge for being shot in the leg while serving in Iraq," Colonel William Clark recalled in a statement, adding that the commander kept the metal rod from his leg on his desk and would use it "as an illustration."

The report also points to a lack of discipline in the brigade and contempt for the normal Army rules. Soldiers referred to officers by their first names, were often unshaven and wore their shirt sleeves rolled up, something which is officially not allowed.

The deficits on the leadership level were not limited to Colonel Tunnell. The report also reveals that the kill team troops were not alone when they committed their first murder on Jan. 15, 2010. On that day, the soldiers killed the 15-year-old Afghani Gul Mudin, on the pretext that the boy had thrown a grenade at them.

When Captain Patrick Mitchell and Staff Sergeant Kris Sprague heard the shots, they approached the scene and saw, from a distance, the victim lying on the ground. "Make sure he is dead before you start searching him," Mitchell apparently told Sprague, while the two men were still around 50 meters (165 feet) away. According to the report, Sprague then opened fire, hitting the body several times, not knowing whether the boy might still be alive or not.

Damning Verdict

Tunnell had in the past been regarded as an intellectual who had great potential in the Army, and had even met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But the classified US Army report delivers a damning verdict on the commander's time in Afghanistan.

"Colonel Tunnell is no longer in command," Twitty writes in his conclusion. "If still in command, I would recommend that Colonel Tunnell be relieved of his responsibilities as a brigade commander."

Colonel William Clark, who served under Tunnell for three years, is similarly critical in his statement. He said he "would not work with or for him" in the future: "I view Colonel Harry Tunnell as the most difficult senior leader I have worked alongside in my 26-plus years of military service."

--- bth: the excerpts from the army report are incredibly damning. If in fact the senior officers felt so strongly about Tunnell at the time, why didn't they take action?  And where are the officers from LT to Lt. Col. that should be in the chain of command that stood between Tunnel and the sergeants that murdered?  It should also be noted that Sgt Gibbs was on Tunnells body guard staff prior to being transferred.

Probe: No ‘causal relation’ between Army commander, Afghan killings - WaPo regarding Tunnell

Army probe: No ‘causal relation’ between commander, Afghan killings - The Washington Post
n Army investigation into the brigade commander of five soldiers accused of murdering unarmed Afghan civilians last year has concluded that he should have been relieved of duty for poor performance, but pins virtually all the blame on junior officers for failing to prevent the killings.

The administrative probe into the actions of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, harshly criticizes Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV,
the brigade commander, for defying the Army’s protect-the-population
strategy in Afghanistan and instead adopting the motto “search and
destroy.”

But it stops short of holding Tunnell accountable for
the alleged murders of three Afghan men, finding no “causal relation”
between his aggressive leadership style and the killings.

The
administrative probe, led by Brig. Gen. Stephen Twitty, was conducted
separately from the Army’s criminal investigations into the killings.
Twitty’s confidential report was completed in February but has been kept
under seal by the Army while criminal cases proceed against more than a
dozen members of the unit who have been charged with wrongdoing,
including murder and drug abuse.

Details of the report were first reported Monday by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. The Washington Post also obtained a copy.

As
a result of the investigation, Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the
commander of I Corps, recommended that Tunnell receive a letter of
admonition, a mark that could hamper his career in the Army but not
necessarily end it....

-- bth: so if there was no confidence why wasn't he relieved when it mattered?



'Kill Team' Brigade commander given wrist slap - Washington Times

'Kill Team' Brigade commander given wrist slap - Washington Times


(U.S. Army photo) Col. Harry D. Tunnell

The investigation into
those responsible for the Afghanistan "kill team" tactics led to "a
letter of admonition" of Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, reports the Military Times on Tuesday. According to MT: (bolding is mine)

Was
a brigade commander an instigator or just asleep at the switch while
the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, “kill team” was
allegedly murdering civilians?

An Army investigation finds
no “causal relationship” between Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV’s aggressive
leadership and the killings, but it criticizes Tunnell for
neglectfulness that created a climate ripe for misconduct.

The
investigation, first reported by Der Spiegel on Monday, ended in a
letter of admonition for Tunnell, per I Corps Commander Lt. Gen Curtis
“Mike” Scaparotti.

Tunnell’s superiors in Afghanistan
lost confidence in him after he threw out the playbook and butted heads
with commanders, derisively rejecting capacity-building
counterinsurgency doctrine in favor of a “counter-guerilla” strategy
that concentrated in engaging and destroying the enemy.

 Der
Spiegel found statements in the Army report saying that Tunnell was out
for revenge "on a personal crusade" as a result of being shot in the
leg in Iraq. MT quotes a soldier who described Tunnell: 

"One
soldier said of a talk by Tunnell, “If I were to paraphrase the speech
and my impressions about the speech in a single sentence, the phrase
would be: ‘Let’s kill those motherfuckers.’”

The
Washington Times Water Cooler found that lawmakers on the hill claim to
either not know the story or refuse to comment on the alleged actions of
the Afghanistan "kill team." In a Washington Times
piece, Joe Curl describes the media blackout of the story entirely even
after Spc. Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty in March for his part in
murdering unarmed Afghanistan civilians.

The incident has brought
comparisons to the 11 army guards at Abu Ghraib in 2004 who were tried
and convicted on a number of counts for what was called detainee abuse
and torture. No Abu Ghraib prisoners, however, were killed, however, as a
result of the crimes. Mr. Curl writes:

The two
scandals have some similarities. At Abu Ghraib, photos of prisoner abuse
streamed out. Der Spiegel, the German magazine that broke the new story
(again, paging the New York Times), claims to have 4,000 photos and
videos of atrocities against civilians.

But the similarities end
there. The “kill team” is accused of targeting civilians — including a
15-year-old boy — and then trying to cover up the murders by making it
appear as if they were attacked. Only 19 photos have surfaced; one shows
a smiling U.S. soldier holding a dead civilian’s head up off the ground
by his hair.

Donald Rumsfeld,former Defense Secretary for President George W. Bush, told The Washington Times
last week of the Afghanistan "kill team" photos: "The situation, of
course, is much worse if someone dies, but it's a sad thing. It's
unfortunate. The overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform are
professional. They handle themselves well."

Nightwatch on Afghan Riots over Book burnings

NightWatch 20110404 - KGS
Afghanistan: Special comment: The demonstrations over the burning of the Quran in Florida have lasted for three days and resulted in tens of dead and injured in at least three major towns. Some have blamed the deaths on an American for exercising his First Amendment rights, implicitly exonerating those who actually did the killing.

A search indicates that no muslims have denounced the killings. The threat in Afghanistan is not from Quran burnings, but from people who use them or any incident to incite violence against foreigners and other Afghan muslims. The Afghan leaders know that riots in Jalalabad and Kandahar are about control of those cities, not about protesting disrespect for the Quran. The book burning always serves as a pretext for violence already planned. US statements of condemnation about the exercise of a constitutionally protected US right always aid the Taliban.

Monday, April 04, 2011

ElBaradei: We'll fight back if Israel attacks Gaza

ElBaradei: We'll fight back if Israel attacks Gaza - Israel News, Ynetnews
Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who had previously announced his intetions to run for the presidency of Egypt, said Monday that “if Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime."...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Mother to Son

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Langston Hughes

Indian warships headed to Libya

Why Are Indian Warships Heading Towards Libya? - New America Media
KOLKATA, India —Two Indian ships are steaming towards troubled waters in Libya. That sounds like a reasonable response. Thousands of Indian nationals are still trapped in Libya. Except these are no ordinary ships.

INS Jalashwa is the third largest warship of the Indian Navy. An amphibious vessel, it was the USS Trenton in an earlier avatar. The INS Mysore is a destroyer.

The response has raised some eyebrows.

There are already daily Air India evacuation flights from Libya to Mumbai and Delhi ferrying stranded Indians. India has also chartered a 600-capacity passenger ship, the Scotia Prince for its stranded nationals. The warships will not actually ferry Indians back to India, but just drop them off in Malta.

Some 18,000 Indians were trapped in Libya when the turmoil began. About 12,000 remain. That’s a big number but not that big in the scheme of things: There are 350,000 Indians in Bahrain, which has also been rocked by protests.

The INS Jalashwa was pulled out of high-profile war games and dispatched to Libya. Accompanying the ships are marine commandos.

Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma tried to dissuade the Indian media from reading too much into that. “This is now our standard routine,” Verma told media, according to The Economic Times. “Whenever we send ships in these areas, we have marine commandos on it for the protection of the ships or for the safety of the passengers.”

The Indian Navy was involved in evacuating Indians from Lebanon during the 2006 war in that country. It is also true that the INS Jalashwa is not just a warship. The Indian Express reports that it’s also a full-fledged medical ship with four operating theaters, doctors, paramedics, even a dental center.

But India’s Marine commando-enhanced “humanitarian mission” seems symbolic of its own position on Libya—sending out mixed signals as it hedges its bets. “India’s position is enigmatic,” writes political columnist Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph.

India joined the United States, after some arm-twisting, in the UN Security Council vote imposing sanctions on Qadhafi. But Datta-Ray writes that in 2007, Qadhafi was proclaiming that the sky was the limit when it came to cooperation between the two. Not to be outdone, India’s finance minister was waxing eloquent about India’s “unlimited interest” in broadening ties between the two countries....

Worldview: There's renewed talk of talks with the Taliban

Worldview: There's renewed talk of talks with the Taliban | Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/03/2011
In mid-March, when Gen. David Petraeus returned from Kabul to testify before Congress, an amazing thing happened. The media hardly paid any attention.

With revolutions popping up all over the Middle East, and the United States newly embroiled in Libya, the conflict in Afghanistan has vanished from the news pages. The Afghan war has become the forgotten war.

When reminded of it by pollsters, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the war is not worth fighting, and many of the war's onetime supporters have become doubters. Yet no one has figured out a formula to extricate most or all of the 100,000 or so U.S. troops that does not risk plunging the country back into chaos.

So it's not surprising we're hearing talk again of pursuing talks with the Taliban to achieve a political solution to the Afghan conflict. A report on how to jump-start such talks was just released by the Century Foundation, based on a nine-month study led by former U.S. diplomat extraordinaire Tom Pickering and ex-U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who helped produce and implement the Bonn peace accords at the end of the 2001 Afghan war.

Brahimi says there are prospects for peace talks that didn't exist before.

The Taliban has been under heavy pressure in southern Afghanistan because of last year's surge of U.S. troops and a campaign by U.S. Special Forces to target Taliban commanders. News reports indicate that they have also been beset by a wave of killings, arrests, and internal disputes in their haven in Pakistan....