Sep 28, 2006

Slip Slidin' Away

"Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts." -NYT

(The House passed the Congress in Dark on Terror program /anti-terror / commissions / Geneva / War-Crimes bill today by a 253-168 vote. The Democratic vote was 161-34 against. Seven Republicans (Bartlett, Gilchrest, Jones (NC), LaTourette, Leach, Moran (KS), Paul) out of 226 voted against. Senate debate and vote scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday).)
Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts. -OpEd NYT

Sep 27, 2006

I'm With Stupid Now. (Ya' Know - That Great Decider)

Switzerland, Finland and Sweden are the world’s most competitive economies according to The Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007, released by the World Economic Forum on 26 September 2006. Denmark, Singapore, the United States, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom complete the top ten list. The United States shows the most pronounced drop, falling from first to sixth.

"The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy for boosting competitiveness in an increasingly complex global economy," according to Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist and Director of Global Competitiveness Network.

Stop Tickling. Pretty, Pretty Please

A series of impassioned pleas on Capitol Hill - from the military, Catholic bishops, intelligence experts and others - not to pass a bill allowing the president the right to seize anyone in this country, detain him or her without charges indefinitely and torture them in secret.

Bandits de la Banane

It started in 2002 with a few hesitant probes that were low on intelligence, high on imagination, and short a couple of helicopters reportedly lost in the desert wastelands of northern Mali. Then, in 2003, the U.S. launch of a second front in its “war on terror” moved into top gear.

In collaboration with its regional ally Algeria, the Bush administration identified a banana-shaped swath of territory across the Sahelian regions of the southern Sahara that presumably harbored Islamic militants and bin Laden sympathizers on the run
from Afghanistan.

The U.S. spin on events was all very dramatic. And it was all largely untrue. [T]he incidents used to justify the launch of this new front in the “war on terror” were either fiction, in that they simply did not happen, or fabricated by U.S. and Algerian military intelligence services.

How and why did such a deception take place? The “how” is simple. First, the Algerian and U.S. military intelligence services channeled a stream of disinformation to an industry of terrorism “experts,” conservative ideologues, and compliant journalists who produced a barrage of articles. Second, if a story is to be fabricated, it helps if the location is far away and remote. The Sahara is the perfect place: larger than the United States and effectively closed to public access.

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence, Washington saw a Saharan Front as the linchpin for the militarization of Africa, greater access to its oil resources (Africa will supply 25% of U.S. hydrocarbons by 2015), and the sustained involvement of Europe in America's counterterrorism program. More significantly, a Saharan front reinforced the intelligence cherry-picked by top Pentagon brass to justify the invasion of Iraq by demonstrating that al-Qaida's influence had spread to North Africa.

The Bush administration fabricated an entire front in the “war on terror” for its own political purposes. Its obsession with secrecy is not for reasons of national security but to conceal falsehood. That is why the Senate Intelligence Committee is stalling its investigation of Douglas Feith and his role at the Pentagon's controversial Office of Special Plans. The investigation is likely to open “an even bigger can of worms,” as one former intelligence officer has warned.

In a terrible irony, the attempt to fight terrorists in a terrorism-free land might u
ltimately produce the very movements and activities that the U.S. government claimed it wanted to expunge in the first place.

Although the United States had vague suspicions that the Sahel region of Africa might become a possible terrorist haven following its dislodgment of the Taliban from Afghanistan, the gear change was triggered by the hostage-taking of 32 tourists in the Algerian Sahara. The United States attributed their capture in March 2003 to Algeria's Islamist “terrorist” organization, the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC). The presumed mastermind of the plot was the GSPC's second-in-command, who goes by many aliases, including El Para after his stint as a parachutist in the Algerian army.

The GSPC held the hostages in two groups approximately 300 kilometers apart in the Algerian Sahara. An Algerian army assault liberated one of the groups. The captors took the other group to northern Mali and finally released the hostages following the alleged ransom payment of five million Euros. The hostage-taking confirmed U.S. suspicions. Even before the hostages were released, the Bush administration was branding the Sahara as a terror zone and El Para as a top al-Qaida operative and “bin Laden's man in the Sahel.”

The U.S. spin on these events was all very dramatic. And it was all largely untrue.

The Pan-Sahel Initiative

In January 2004, following earlier visits from the U.S. Office of Counterterrorism to Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, Bush's Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) rolled into action with the arrival of a U.S. “anti-terror team” in Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital. U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of State Pamela Bridgewater confirmed that the team comprised 500 U.S. troops and a deployment of 400 U.S. Rangers into the Chad-Niger border region the following week. (In 2005, the PSI expanded to include Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, and Nigeria, and the organization became the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative).

By the end of January, Algerian and Malian forces, reportedly with U.S. support, were said to have driven the GSPC from northern Mali. Then, in a series of engagements, a combined military operation of Niger and Algerian forces, supported by U.S. satellite surveillance, chased El Para's men across the Tamesna, Aïr, and Tenere regions of Niger into the Tibesti Mountains of Chad. There, thanks to the support of U.S. aerial reconnaissance, Chadian forces engaged the GSPC in early March in a battle lasting three days, reportedly killing 43 GSPC. El Para managed to escape the carnage but fell into the hands of a Chadian rebel movement. This group held him hostage until October 2004 when he was returned to Algeria, allegedly with the help of Libya. In June 2005, an Algerian court convicted him in absentia of “creating an armed terrorist group and spreading terror among the population.” It sentenced El Para to life imprisonment.

Within a year, the United States and its allies had transformed the Sahara-Sahel region into a second front in the global “war on terror.” Prior to the hostage-taking in March 2003, no act of terror, in the conventional meaning of the term, had occurred in this vast region. Yet, by the following year, U.S. military commanders were describing terrorists as “swarming” across the Sahel and the region as a “Swamp of Terror.” The area was, in the words of European Command's deputy commander General Charles F. Wald, a “terrorist infestation” that “we need to drain.” Stewart M. Powell, writing in Air Force Magazine, claimed that the Sahara “is now a magnet for terrorists.” Typical of the media hype were articles in the Village Voice such as “Pursuing Terrorists in the Great Desert.”

But the incidents used to justify the launch of this new front in the “war on terror” were either fiction, in that they simply did not happen, or fabricated by U.S. and Algerian military intelligence services. El Para was not “Bin Laden's man in the Sahara,” but an agent of Algeria's counter-terrorist organization, the Direction des Renseignements et de la Sécurité. Many Algerians believe him to have been trained as a Green Beret at Fort Bragg in the 1990s. Almost every Algerian statement issued during the course of the hostage drama has now been proven to be false. No combined military force chased El Para and his men across the Sahel. El Para was not even with his men as they stumbled around the Aïr Mountains in search of a guide and having themselves photographed by tourists. As for the much-lauded battle in Chad, there is no evidence that it happened. Leaders of the Chadian rebel movement say it never occurred, while nomads, after two years of scratching around in the area, have still not found a single cartridge case or other material evidence.

How and why did such a deception take place? The “how” is simple. First, the Algerian and U.S. military intelligence services channeled a stream of disinformation to an industry of terrorism “experts,” conservative ideologues, and compliant journalists who produced a barrage of articles. Second, if a story is to be fabricated, it helps if the location is far away and remote. The Sahara is the perfect place: larger than the United States and effectively closed to public access.

The “why” has much to do with Washington's “banana theory” of terrorism, so named because of the banana-shaped route Washington believed the dislodged terrorists from Afghanistan were taking into Africa and across the Sahelian countries of Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to link up with Islamist militants in the Maghreb. Hard evidence for this theory was lacking. There was little or no Islamic extremism in the Sahel, no indigenous cases of terrorism, and no firm evidence that “terrorists” from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Middle East were taking this route.

Washington appears to have based its notion on some unpublished sources and Algerian press reports on the banditry and smuggling activities of the outlaw Mokhtar ben Mokhtar. It also misconstrued the Tablighi Jama`at movement, whose 200 or so members in Mali are nicknamed “the Pakistanis” because the sect's headquarters are in Pakistan. Finally, local government agents told U.S. officials what they wanted to hear.

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence, Washington saw a Saharan Front as the linchpin for the militarization of Africa, greater access to its oil resources (Africa will supply 25% of U.S. hydrocarbons by 2015), and the sustained involvement of Europe in America's counterterrorism program. More significantly, a Saharan front reinforced the intelligence cherry-picked by top Pentagon brass to justify the invasion of Iraq by demonstrating that al-Qaida's influence had spread to North Africa.

The Algerian Connection

Washington's interest in the Sahel and the flimsiness of its intelligence were extremely propitious for Algeria's own designs. As western countries became aware of the Algerian army's role in its “dirty war” of the 1990s against Islamic extremists, they became increasingly reluctant to sell it arms for fear of Islamist reprisals and criticism from human rights groups. As a result, Algeria's army became progressively under-equipped and increasingly preoccupied with acquiring modern, high-tech weapon systems, notably night vision devices, sophisticated radar systems, an integrated surveillance system, tactical communications equipment, and certain lethal weapon systems. Whereas the Clinton administration kept its distance, the Bush administration invited Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as one of its first guests to Washington. Bouteflika told his American counterpart that Algeria wanted specific equipment to maintain peace, security, and stability.

September 11 was a golden opportunity for both regimes, especially Algeria, which sold its “expertise” in counter-terrorism to Washington on the basis of its long “war” against Islamists through the 1990s that left 200,000 people dead. This common ground in the war against terrorism was the basis of a new U.S.-Algerian relationship. However, by late 2002, Algeria was publicly admonishing the United States for its tardiness in delivering on its promises of military equipment. Washington's caution, however, was justified by the fact that Algeria was on top of its “terrorist” problem and consequently no longer in need of such sophisticated equipment.

El Para was proof that “terrorism” was far from eradicated in Algeria and that Islamic militancy now linked the Maghreb and Sahel. His activities not only eased Washington's political reticence on military support for Algeria, but also provided the missing link in its banana theory of terrorism.

Who conned whom is perhaps immaterial, although the U.S. lack of human intelligence on the ground and its cherry-picking of unverified intelligence certainly made it unusually receptive to the wooing of Algeria's military intelligence services. The situation resembled Ahmed Chalabi's manipulation of U.S. intelligence agencies in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, while Algeria certainly duped U.S. intelligence services, the overall fabrication of the so-called Second Front involved the collusion of both parties. U.S. monitoring of the hostage situation, including the use of AWAC surveillance, speaks to Washington's willing participation.

The Front Collapses

The Second Front deception has done immense damage to the peoples and fabric of the Sahara-Sahel region. The launch of a Sahara front in the “war on terror” has created immense anger, frustration, rebellion, political instability, and insecurity across the entire region. The successful Mauritanian coup, the Tuareg revolts in Mali and Niger, the riots in southern Algeria, and the political crisis in Chad are direct outcomes of this policy. It has also destroyed the region's tourism industry and the livelihoods of families across the entire region, forcing hundreds of young men into the burgeoning smuggling and trafficking businesses for a living. In Washington, the same people who failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and al-Qaida links to Saddam Hussein are now busy classifying these innocent victims of U.S. foreign policy as putative “terrorists.”

Fortunately for the people of the region, this Second Front is collapsing. U.S. regional commanders admitted to a German journalist this last spring that their EUCOM predecessors had over-hyped the terrorist situation. In the meantime, U.S. skullduggery in the region is likely to be exposed further by President Bouteflika's recent investigation into fraud and corruption by the Halliburton subsidiary, Brown & Root Condor (BRC), set up and registered as an Algerian company by Dick Cheney in 1994.

The Bush administration fabricated an entire front in the “war on terror” for its own political purposes. Its obsession with secrecy is not for reasons of national security but to conceal falsehood. That is why the Senate Intelligence Committee is stalling its investigation of Neo-Conny Douglas Feith and his role at the Pentagon's controversial Office of Special Plans. The investigation is likely to open “an even bigger can of worms,” as one former intelligence officer has warned.

The collapse of the second front is likely to have widespread implications for America's “war on terror.” At a global level, it will reduce the credibility of the Bush administration still further, reinforcing the already widespread belief that much of what it has been saying about terrorism is simply not true. While of little consequence for those countries with which U.S. relations are already at an all-time low, the ramifications will be far more serious for countries such as those in the European Union on whom America still relies for a modicum of support.

Increasing public skepticism toward the Bush administration's claims about terrorism and disapproval of the conduct of its “war on terror” has been forcing the governments of many of these countries to reconsider the extent and nature of their support for the American enterprise. This erosion of U.S. credibility in the world will carry over to subsequent U.S. administrations, even ones that attempt to reform American foreign policy.

This North African imbroglio also holds serious implications for America's principle regional allies in the deception. In Algeria, Mali, Niger, Chad, and pre-coup Mauritania, the launch of the Saharan front went hand in hand with an increase in repressive behavior by the security establishments of these countries against their civilian populations.

Not surprisingly, the front's collapse is now leading to outbreaks of rebellious anger against these governments and a consequent increase in political instability and insecurity.

In a terrible irony, the attempt to fight terrorists in a terrorism-free land might ultimately produce the very movements and activities that the U.S. government claimed it wanted to expunge in the first place.

Sep 25, 2006

Being Modest, Being Newsweek

The United States edition of the October 2, 2006 issue of Newsweek features a rather different cover story from its International counterparts.

The cover of International editions, aimed at Europe, Asia, and Latin America, displays in large letters the title "LOSING AFGHANISTAN," along with an arresting photograph of an armed jihadi.

The cover of the United States edition, in contrast, is dedicated to celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz and is demurely captioned "My Life in Pictures."
- h/t Raw

Lugar's Loomings

Richard Lugar, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ominously characterizes Russia, Venezuela, and Iran as nasty regimes that are abusing energy supplies as leverage in foreign policy. We say ominously as petroregimes branded as unruly have a habit of being targetted for rather retrograding treatment once ample WMD pretexting has been manufactured.

The following excerpts are from Richard Lugar's keynote address at the Aug. 29 conference entitled "Summit on Energy Security" at Purdue University.
I will describe our energy dilemma as a six-pronged threat to national security.

Second, as large industrializing nations such as China and India seek new energy supplies, oil and natural gas will become more expensive. In the long run we will face the prospect that the world's supply of oil may not be abundant and accessible enough to support continued economic growth in both the industrialized West and in large rapidly growing economies. As we approach the point where the world's oil-hungry economies are competing for insufficient supplies of energy, oil will become an even stronger magnet for conflict.

Third, adversarial regimes from Venezuela, to Iran, to Russia are using energy supplies as leverage against their neighbors. We are used to thinking in terms of conventional warfare between nations, but energy is becoming a weapon of choice for those who possess it. Nations experiencing a cutoff of energy supplies, or even the threat of a cutoff, may become desperate, increasing the chances of armed conflict, terrorism, and economic collapse.

Fourth, the revenues flowing to authoritarian regimes often increase corruption in those countries and allow them to insulate themselves from international pressure and the democratic aspirations of their own peoples. We are transferring hundreds of billions of dollars each year to some of the least accountable regimes in the world. Some are using this money to invest abroad in terrorism, instability, or demagogic appeals to populism.

Each of these six threats from energy dependence is becoming more acute as time passes. Any of them could be a source of catastrophe for the United States and the world.

The vulnerability of the United States rests on some basic factors. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, our nation consumes 25 percent of its oil. World demand for oil and other forms of energy is rapidly increasing. Within 25 years, the world will need 50 percent more energy than it does now. If oil prices average $60 a barrel through 2006 — a figure that we are currently well above — we will spend about $320 billion on oil imports this year. This is roughly the same amount that the United States has spent on the war and reconstruction effort in Iraq during the first three years of conflict.

These conditions might be negotiable in the short and medium terms if oil resided with responsible, secure producers who maximize production during periods of elevated demand. But just the opposite is true. According to PFC Energy, about 79 percent of the world's oil supply is controlled by state-run oil companies. These governments profoundly affect prices through politicized investment and production decisions. The vast majority of these oil assets are afflicted by at least one of three problems: lack of investment, political manipulation, or the threat of instability and terrorism.

Our current dependence on imported oil has put the United States in a position that no great power should tolerate. Our economic health is subject to forces far beyond our control, including the decisions of hostile countries. We maintain a massive military presence overseas, partly to preserve our oil lifeline. One conservative estimate puts U.S. oil-dedicated military expenditures in the Middle East at $50 billion per year. But there is no guarantee that even our unrivaled military forces can prevent an energy disaster. We have lost leverage on the international stage and are daily exacerbating the problem by participating in an enormous wealth transfer to authoritarian nations that happen to possess the commodity that our economy can least do without.

An Expert's View on Political Islam

From Harpers:

Dr. Emile A. Nakhleh served in the CIA for 15 years and retired on June 30, 2006, as the Director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program, the intelligence community's premier group dedicated to the issue of political Islam. His research has focused on political Islam, political and educational reform, regime stability, and governance in the greater Middle East. Nakhleh was awarded several senior intelligence commendation medals, including the Director's Medal and the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. While at the CIA, Nakhleh briefed the "highest policymakers" -- he is not allowed to identify them by name -- on issues related to the war on terrorism.

What should the United States do in Iraq now?

I have come to believe that our presence is part of the problem and that we should begin to seriously devise an exit strategy. There's a civil war in Iraq and our presence is contributing to the violence. We've become a lightning rod -- we're not restricting the violence, we're contributing to it. Iraq has galvanized jihadists; our presence is what is attracting them. We need to get out of there. The idea of Iraq being a model for the region has also been tossed out the window. Now the only question is whether Iraq will become a haven for sectarianism, or follow either the Iranian model or the standard Arab authoritarian model. It's only three years old, but the once-touted model of a secular, democratic Iraq is all but forgotten. This casts a dark shadow on American efforts to spread democracy in the region.

What is the likely political fallout from the Iraqi debacle and from the failures of the "war on terrorism"?

We've lost a generation of goodwill in the Muslim world. The President's democratization and reform program for the Middle East has all but disappeared, except for official rhetoric. That was the centerpiece of the President's policies for the region, and now no one is talking about it. We have lost credibility across the Islamic world regarding "democracy" and "representative government" and "justice." We are devising new rules and regulations for holding people without charge. The FBI has been at Guantanamo for years, and no charges have been brought against anyone. The Islamic world says "you talk about human rights, but you're holding people without charging them." The Islamic world has always viewed the war on terror as a war on Islam and we have not been able to disabuse them of that notion. Because of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other abuses we have lost on the concepts of justice, fairness and the rule of law, and that's the heart of the American idea. That's very serious, and that's where I see the danger in the years ahead.

Is there an inherent threat to Western democracies from the Islamic world?

No, there's only a threat from those who use Islam for ideological reasons and who are willing to employ violence. There are 1.4 billion people in the Islamic world and only a tiny minority, maybe 2 or 3 percent, are politically active. Just like Jews and Christians, most have kids to raise and bills to pay. Most view Islam as a personal and societal force, not a political one, and only a tiny minority becomes terrorists. There are hundreds of political parties in the Muslim world, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Yemen, Pakistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Those parties and their supporters have participated in many elections, and some times they have won and some times they have lost, but they have largely recognized the results. Not all are necessarily interested in creating Sharia societies. Even Hamas highlighted its opposition to Israel and service to society, not religious issues. Political Islam is not a threat -- the threat is if people become disenchanted with the political process and democracy, and opt for violence. There is a real danger from a few terrorists and we should go after them, but the longer-term threat is that people opt out of the system. We need to not only speak out in favor of democracy and political reform, but also act on that as well.

Iran is another major conundrum for policymakers. How should the United States proceed in formulating an Iran policy?

The conflict in post-Saddam Iraq, the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war, and the Shiite empowerment and revival across the region have clearly demonstrated Iran's standing as a regional power with influence beyond its borders. Whether we like it or not, we would do well to begin to explore creative ways to engage Iran and bring Iran and Shiite politics to the forefront of our policy in the region. For decades, the US has based its policy and interests in the greater Middle region on close relations with Sunni Arab, authoritarian regimes in the name of fighting Communism during the cold war and terrorism since 9/11. We coddled many of those regimes for the sake of regional stability and catered to their "fears" about the Shiites. Iran is a large country with a vibrant civil society, rich history and culture, and well-established political traditions. I think it would be detrimental to our long-term interests to ignore the Iranian reality and let ourselves be blinded by our dislike for the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Shiite revival is evident across the region, from Azerbaijan to Pakistan. We should go beyond the Sunni concerns about the "arc of Shiite revival" and devise ways to engage Shiite political, religious, and social leaders, including state and non-state actors. The growing influence of Hezbollah, and its leader Hasan Nasrallah, across the region and within the Sunni street, and the growing regional influence and reach of Iran, are two new realities that we should recognize and engage. Iran's nuclear issue is as much a failure of the nonproliferation approach as it is one of belligerence. Here too, I think, creative policies of engagement are called for and are possible.

Star Spangled Stalinistas

You are a former cold warrior who spent your youth studying every aspect of the old Soviet Union. Even though you hated their policies publicly, you began privately, first grudgingly and then, with time, enthusiastically, to admire the way they operated.

They were so organized and adept at imposing their agenda with top –down control. They were, in words used at the time, ‘masters of deception” and pursued secretive strategies of infiltrating ideologues and mole-like operatives ---known as apparatchiks—into government agencies and military organs.

Their KGB danced circles around our CIA and when their often-innocent “suspects” were interrogated, they were tortured with no restraints. The KGB made sure of that. Now the CIA does our dirty work and the President is crusading to lift any and all restraints from their extreme electrode units.

They killed their anti-communist “enemies” outright after convicting them in kangaroo courts. We just detain ours indefinitely while demonizing them as terrorists beyond the protection of the law.

Their Party imposed “message control” and ran media with carrots and sticks. Our Republican Guard uses perception management techniques to achieve the same results.

They marveled at how controlled everything was. And so they built a machine just like the one they “hated” even as the old order of the CCCP went down the tubes of history.

They invaded Afghanistan. We invaded Afghanistan. They wiretapped. We wiretapped. They had secret police. We have secret police in the form of contractors and companies like Blackwater.

They used propaganda. We made ours better. They had a party line. We have a party line. Theirs was blatant; ours is less visible.

They were said to want to conquer the world. Now, most of the world says that about us. In the old days, today’s neo-cons denounced Communist plans for world domination. Now they have their own.

In the same way that cops often make the best criminals with many believing that those who joined the police would have just as comfortably have signed up with the mafia (and some did both) ---many of the professional anti-communists were just as authoritarian and dogmatic in their instincts.

Back, there were studies of “authoritarian personalities.” Among their alleged traits:

1. They travel in tight circles of like-minded people.

2.Their thinking is more likely based on what authorities have told them rather than on their own critical judgment, which results in their beliefs being filled with inconsistencies.

3. They harbor numerous double standards and hypocrisies.

4. They see the world as a dangerous place, with society teetering on the brink of self-destruction from evil and violence, and when their fear conflates with their self-righteousness, they appoint themselves guardians of public morality, or God's Designated Hitters.

5. They think of themselves as far more moral and upstanding than others…”

A Description of Stalinists? Perhaps. But Former Nixon lawyer John W. Dean uses these very categorizations to describe today’s “conservatives” in his book, “Conservatives Without Conscience’

Which brings us to our modern day Busheviks, today’s Bolshevik wannabes with a more sophisticated rap and deadly impact. Some are former leftists turned rightists who are now as comfortable in defending torture and abuse as the agencies they used to denounce. What went around is back again under a different name.

Just as the Neo-Nazis are back as newly elected respectable members of governments in Eastern Germany, abandoning the skinhead look for suits and ties and softer rhetoric, our Neo Cons have moved from left to hard right wrapped in burkas made of the American flag.

They have borrowed the techniques of their old enemies as Cheryl Seal wrote back in 2001:

“Joseph Stalin was successful in seizing and retaining power primarily because he was able to stack the Politburo with politicians as extreme as himself and to dictate their actions and their votes on every issue. Party dissenters were harassed mercilessly by the Politburo members who remained blindly loyal to Stalin. With a block of supporters who did not think for themselves, Stalin was able to completely reverse Russia's policy on a number of key issues, right across the board. For example, in 1936, he completely reversed the liberal communist doctrines pertaining to family, divorce, and abortion. He made divorce difficult, made abortion illegal, and stressed "family values" [do we see a 'dictator pattern' here?].

Stalin's propagandists used a three-point strategy to convince the Russian people that things in Stalin's policy that were in fact extremely bad for the country (including the systematic round up and extermination of all "enemies of the state") were in fact "good."

Point One: Create arguments that show the negative thing is actually NOT bad, but is actually good. [Present day ex: convincing people that greenhouse gases will give us lush green plants, not fry the planet].

Point Two: Show how the negative thing is actually not true. [Present-day ex: Global warming does not exist].

Point Three: Show that the negative thing is actually being caused by "enemies of the state" - most likely liberals. [Present-day example: We can't sign Kyoto because it is really a plot to ruin our economy].”

And so the parallels continue to surface –never exact but certainly suggestive--as recently as today when we learned that unelected professional “cadre” of the hard right—not merely members of the GOP-- enjoyed unique access to the White House as AP reports:

“Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed landed more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House, according to documents released Wednesday that provide the first official accounting of the access and influence the two presidential allies have enjoyed.’

Finally, ponder the words of Nikita Khrushchev who first exposed the crimes of Stalin back in l956:

"Everyone can err, but Stalin considered that he never erred, that he was always right. He never acknowledged to anyone that he made any mistake, large or small, despite the fact that he made not a few mistakes in the matter of theory and in his practical activity."
-Danny Schechter

Sep 23, 2006

Weekend Matinée - Unconstitutional

Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties, is the third in a series of Public Interest Pictures films that follows Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election and Uncovered: The War on Iraq.

This hour-long documentary from Robert Greenwald details some of the ways that the civil liberties of American citizens and immigrants alike have been infringed upon, curtailed and rolled back since 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act.

Sep 22, 2006

Sam Gardiner War Games Iran Campaign

From a war gaming scenario by Col. Sam Gardiner USAF (Ret.)(26 page pdf):

Adding to the political momentum toward war with Iran is significant pressure from the Israeli security establishment. Israel says that it has a plan for attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel recently appointed an airman to be in charge of the Iranian theater of operations. It was announced that this major general would coordinate Israeli planning for Iran. Israeli military planners have U.S. penetrating weapons and a replica of the Natanz facility. They say that the attack would resemble the kind of operation they used against Egypt in 1967. They say that the plan involves more than just air strikes from the "hammers" of the Israeli Air Force's 69 Squadron. It would include Shaldag commando teams, possibly some version of sea-launched missiles, and even explosive-carrying dogs that would penetrate the underground facilities.

Israel probably could hit most of the known nuclear targets. But such an attack would leave Iran with significant retaliatory options. That is a serious problem. U.S. forces and interests in the region would be likely targets of Iranian retaliation, so even an independent Israeli military operation would have critical consequences for the United States.

Part of the problem is that the two countries' red lines for Iran are not the same. Israel's red line is enrichment. The U.S. red line used to be the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon. But over the past six months, America's red line has drifted closer to Israel's. On March 21, the president said that the United States could not allow Iran to have the knowledge to make a weapon. He repeated the phrase in August.

By redrawing the red line in this manner, U.S. policymakers are creating pressure to go to war with Iran. In saying that Iran could not be permitted to have the knowledge to develop nuclear weapons, the president used almost the exact words the Israeli Foreign Minister had used a year earlier. More recently, a senior State Department official said that Iran was near "the point of no return" on its nuclear program. Again, this was an exact echo of the words of Israeli officials. The Israeli pressure has worked. ...

When imposing the sanctions fails to alter Tehran's position, (U.S) policymakers will revert to a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. One can imagine the words of a planner in the meeting: "If we are going to do this, let's make certain we get everything they have." I have done some rough "targeting" of nuclear facilities for which I can find satellite photos on the web. By my calculation, an attack of relatively high certainty on nuclear targets would require 400 aim points. (An aim point is the specific location where an individual weapon is directed. Most targets would have multiple aim points.) I estimate seventy-five of these aim points would require penetrating weapons.

But it is unlikely that a U.S. military planner would want to stop there. Iran probably has two chemical weapons production plants. He would want to hit those. He would want to hit Iran's medium-range ballistic missiles that have just recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen airfields with sheltered aircraft. Although the Iranian Air Force is not much of a threat, some of these airfields are less than fifteen minutes flying time from Baghdad. Military planners would want to eliminate that potential threat. The Pentagon would want to hit the assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping. That would mean targeting cruise missile sites, Iranian diesel submarines, and Iranian naval assets.

After going through the analysis, I believe that the United States can and will conduct the operation by itself. There may be low-visibility support from Israel and the U.K., and France may be consulted. But it will be an American operation.

What about casualties? Although the United States would suffer casualties in the Iranian retaliation, the honest answer to the president if he asks about losses during the strike itself is that there probably will not be any. The only aircraft penetrating deep into Iranian airspace will be the B-2s at night. B-52s will stand off, firing cruise missiles.

Col. Gardiner's 2004 war gaming of Iran was expertly critiqued here back in April. This new report proclaims that the "summer of diplomacy" has now passed, and that the real game is now on.

Sep 21, 2006

Long-Distance Love

In short, the primary fight in the Long War is the struggle for future control of the Arab heartland.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has decisively "gained access," coming ashore to stay in the way it did in Normandy in 1944. We haven't left Europe since and won't — unless defeated — leave the Middle East anytime soon.

As the wars have dragged on, the burden has been borne primarily by short-range fighter-bombers. But the 2006 QDR seems caught in a time-warp where access and distance are still the most pressing problems. The Pentagon still wishes to think of the Long War as a glorified global manhunt, a special-operations-style raid on steroids, rather than a grinding constabulary campaign of winning hearts and minds — and shooting it out with the bad guys — at intimate distances. Overlooked in the mania for long-range strikes has been the need to find the targets in the first place; you can't hit what you don't see.

If the experience of the past five years means anything, it is that the Long War for the greater Middle East is most likely to be fought at close range, whether the mission is combat, counterinsurgency, stability operations, "peacekeeping" or working to build capacity of allied forces. Why, then, are we transfixed by the capabilities for long-range strikes?

Indeed, the enthusiasm for strike warfare of ever-greater range and precision originated in the dying days of the Cold War. Theorists in the Soviet Union wrote in detail about "reconnaissance-strike complexes"; the Red Army had always regarded artillery as the "god of war." More practically, the U.S. had successes with the Multiple Launch Rocket System and the Army Tactical Missile System, linked to the Joint Surveillance and Targeting Airborne Reconnaissance System, the Joint STARS. The idea of striking the Soviet hordes at a distance, before they overwhelmed the NATO front lines, had a strong appeal.

But when the Soviet Union collapsed, the air likewise came out of the long-range-strike bubble. The Pentagon's 1990 major aircraft review, during Vice President Dick Cheney's tenure as defense secretary, cut the planned buy of 132 B-2 bombers — the plane was conceived entirely as a penetrating nuclear bomber — to 75. Two years later, President George H.W. Bush announced the termination of the program at 20 aircraft, and the Air Force disbanded Strategic Air Command. And the experience of Operation Desert Storm, in which swarms of tactical aircraft armed with precision-guided weapons were believed to be decisive, marked the nadir for long-range-strike enthusiasts.

Yet congressional and industrial concerns centered on the B-2 program; the loss of 85 percent of the planned program buy was devastating to a variety of companies and particularly to the California industry. The rear-guard action wasn't over until 1999, when the Air Force's "Bomber Road Map" acknowledged the value of long-range attack aircraft but allowed that it couldn't manage to produce a new one until 2037.

Yet the worm was already turning: At the same time as the Pentagon was producing its bomber plan, NATO was winning — albeit slowly — its "no ground force" war over Kosovo. After 78 days of airstrikes, prominently featuring a tiny B-2 and F-117 fleet that delivered the new satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), Serbian and Yugoslav forces had withdrawn from Kosovo. Even though they were flying painfully long sorties from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, the B-2s were judged, by dropping about 650 JDAMs in 45 missions, "to have damaged a higher percentage of targets than any other aircraft participating in combat operations."

Coming into office, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his lieutenants in senior Pentagon positions were already advocates for improving long-range-strike capabilities. These ideas were expressed forcefully in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), both as an opportunity and as an emerging danger. There was an opportunity, for example, to retrofit Trident ballistic-missile submarines as "arsenal ships" to provide a stealthy platform for hundreds of conventional cruise missiles capable of pinpoint strikes a thousand miles from the target. And it was an especially good thing that U.S. long-range-strike capabilities could be developed, because the review also concluded that gaining access to crucial spots in times of crisis or conflict was a growing challenge. One of the QDR's top "operational goals" for its project of force transformation was "projecting and sustaining U.S. forces in distant anti-access or area-denial environments and defeating anti-access and area-denial threats." That is, the Pentagon assumed that enemies faced with American power projection forces would strive to keep them from establishing a toehold in the theater, within range. Driven by concerns over China or a nuclear-armed Iran, the QDR continued:
"Future adversaries could have the means to render ineffective much of our current ability to project military power overseas. Saturation attacks with ballistic and cruise missiles could deny or delay U.S. military access to overseas bases, airfields and ports. Advanced air defense systems could deny access to hostile airspace to all but low-observable aircraft. ... Anti-ship cruise missiles, advanced diesel submarines and advanced mines could threaten the ability of U.S. naval and amphibious forces to operate in littoral waters. New approaches for projecting power must be developed to meet these threats.

"Adversaries will also likely seek to exploit strategic depth to their advantage. Mobile ballistic missile systems can be launched from extended range, exacerbating the anti-access and area-denial challenges. Space denial capabilities, such as ground-based lasers, can be located deep within an adversary's territory. Accordingly, a key objective of transformation is to develop the means to deny sanctuary to potential adversaries. This will likely require the development and acquisition of robust capabilities to conduct persistent surveillance, precision strike and maneuver at varying depths within denied areas."
The initial invasion of Afghanistan appeared to validate this view. In addition to B-2s, older B-52Hs and B-1Bs had been upgraded to permit them to drop JDAMs, and indeed, in the "permissive" air defense environment at high altitudes above the Afghan battlefield, these larger aircraft acted, as Barry Watts of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments put it, as "roving linebackers" providing highly accurate fire support to small units, including special operations forces working with Afghan militias. On-call American long-range strike power put heart in indigenous formations and gutted Taliban units whenever they massed to defend. By November 2001 — just two months after the Sept. 11 attacks — Pentagon acquisition chief E.C. "Pete" Aldridge told the Air Force to speed up its development of a long-range strike platform (either a manned bomber or an unmanned aerial vehicle), with a goal of establishing a formal program in the 2012 time frame, well before the date anticipated in the Bomber Road Map.

Similar tactics were applied in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although the ground invasion force was much larger and heavier than in Afghanistan, dashing to Baghdad with less than four full divisions of soldiers and Marines would not have been possible but for fire support from aircraft. Although the bulk of the strike missions involved tactical aircraft, from the beginning of the "shock and awe" campaign against Baghdad to the strikes targeted at Saddam Hussein's suspected hideouts, long-range bombers carrying a variety of JDAM payloads were often the keystones of the air campaign.

Operation Iraqi Freedom also seemed to underscore the difficulties of access, even from allies. Turkey famously denied the 4th Infantry Division the ability to open a northern front by driving through Kurdistan toward Baghdad. And Saudi Arabia denied the use of Prince Sultan Air Base for strike operations during the invasion.

Nor is there any doubt that precision air power continues to play an important role in the ongoing counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as the wars have dragged on, the burden has been borne primarily by short-range fighter-bombers. In set-piece battles such as Fallujah or even in day-to-day operations, heavy loads of weaponry aren't so desperately needed, nor, in a benign air defense environment that permits nearby tanker operations, is range or time on station so crucial.

In short, the primary fight in the Long War is the struggle for the future of the Arab heartland. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has decisively "gained access," coming ashore to stay in the way it did in Normandy in 1944. We haven't left Europe since and won't — unless defeated — leave the Middle East anytime soon.

But the 2006 QDR seems caught in a time-warp where access and distance are still the most pressing problems. To be sure, when considering military operations in the Western Pacific or inland Asia, the need for range remains constant. The Pentagon still wishes to think of the Long War as a glorified global manhunt, a special-operations-style raid on steroids, rather than a grinding constabulary campaign of winning hearts and minds — and shooting it out with the bad guys — at intimate distances. The strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a spectacular diversion from the core mission of the war.

It is still necessary to "deny sanctuary to prospective adversaries" and hold at risk" those "emergent" and "fleeting" targets" in "anti-access environments" at "great strategic depth," but it's not a sufficient way to win the Long War. And overlooked in the mania for long-range strike has been the need to find the targets in the first place; you can't hit what you don't see.

Coup Of Compassion

As per usual, the coup in Thailand is about restoring democracy. That's what the army claims at any rate: Thaksin Shinawatra is accused of making incursions into the country's democratic structures and so the army, with their long and distinguished concern for the people, have overthrown a government that won two landslide election victories, the first time in 2001 in the most open, corruption free election in Thai history.

That election was fought under the 1997 People's Constitution, the result of massive public uprisings against the provisional constitution imposed by a military coup in 1991, which urged that the Senate would be appointed by the military (the National Peace Keeping Council, they called themselves), who would in turn override the elected Congress, and that non-elected officials could be made cabinet ministers (so that an acting military leader might become Premier). That coup administration was brought down by huge revolts in 1992, and a subsequent prolonged fight between the workers and peasants, and the army and rich opened up. The 1997 constitution was a classically liberal one, with all sorts of human Trights guaranteed, proportional representation introduced, the executive branch strengthened (more in guard against the subventions of political supporters of the military than anything else), and an electoral commission established.

The government pursued a 'populist' programme of redistributing wealth to the poor by providing universal health care, debt relief for farmers, and development funds for villages. Poverty was massively reduced right across the country, and the economy recovered considerably from the 1997 crash thanks to this Keynesian demand-management.

However, let's not go nuts with admiration: it was a pragmatic concession to workers and rural poor. The government also implemented an extremely harsh drugs policy, continued to privatise the energy sector, and continued the nepotistic policies that have marked previous governments.

The repression of the insurgency in the south of Thailand by Malay Muslim groups was every bit as brutal as before, including a notorious massacre at Tai Bak where the army responded to a local protest by shooting at the crowd. However, eventually the government stopped screaming that the insurgency was all Al Qaeda's doing and actually started to try to meet some of the demands through negotiation. The National Reconciliation Commission was set up, and it recommended establishing autonomous 'Islamic' law for the region, allowing Malay-Patani to be the official language, and setting up an unarmed 'peacekeeping' force for the region. The government promised to implement these, but the King's Privy Council opposed the policies vehemently.

This coup has established a military government loyal to the King in advance of the coming elections for the House of Representatives. The 1997 constitution has been quoshed, and reforms such as healthcare, opposed by the medical elite, will likely to be overturned if they can get away with it. The Malays in the Patani province will get no autonomy, and you can look forward to more brutal repression there.

The US no longer needs Thailand as much as it did during the Cold War and was therefore unwilling to bail out the country during and after the 1997 crisis. However, they had been banking on a 'free trade' agreement with the regime, and are now hoping that when the military 'restores democracy', it can be resuscitated. The military indicates that it will return to a democracy 'loyal to the King', but the King happens to be bearer of power that has been revived, supplied and protected by the US government for fifty years. I think that 'free trade' agreement will go ahead in short order.

The big concern on the news this morning is what will happen to Thailand's tourist industry.
-An Excerpt Of A Post At Thoroughly Unsexy L

Sep 20, 2006

Dig That Thai Cuisine

Southeast Asia is the new hot vacation spot for the ball-bearing backpack crowd. [T]he war in Southern Thailand is heating up enough to deserve a column. The Southern Thailand death toll just went into four figures -- 1,037 KIA last time I checked.

UPDATE: Whoops, better make that 1,042. Just now the rebels just killed five Thai Rangers in a classic drive-by shooting at a checkpoint on the Thai-Malaysian border.

A four-figure death toll is big-time these days. It's a sad commentary on the way the world is sliding into wimpery when a puny death toll like that rates a mention.

Sixty years ago, they were killing that many men every few seconds on the Eastern Front. These days we kill the way you piss when you've got kidney stones -- a dribble, a lot of moaning and groaning, then another dribble. But hey, what can I do about it? I don't make the wars, I just try to enjoy them.

To enjoy a war like this, you have to lower your expectations. There ain't gonna be any Gettysburgs in this one, it's not about military strategy or hardware, just tribal grudges rubbing against each other like those continental plates, grinding away and flaring up into a massacre now and then.

Southern Thailand is one of those places where ethnic plates are squeezing like the San Andreas Fault. Look at Thailand on a map and you'll see it's like an apple with a worm dangling down from it. The big apple is the Thai heartland, the river valley where the ethnic Thais grow their rice. The worm dangling down from it is the Malay Peninsula. This insurgency is happening at the very bottom, at the Malay border. The insurgents are Malays, not Thais. Different culture, different religion -- Muslims, not Buddhists like the Thais.

To understand SE Asian military history, you have to understand that in this part of the world, the key is controlling the fertile river valleys. That's where you can do intensive rice planting, so you can feed more people, meaning you end up with more soldiers. The losing tribes get pushed away from the river, up into the dry hills

The longer the Thai kings were able to hold onto the river plains, the more armies they accumulated -- just like holding Australia in Risk. They had to spend some of those armies defending Thailand against their traditional enemies, the Burmese, but the rest were used to push the Thai empire outward, into the northern mountains and south down the Malay Peninsula.

Thailand has been gobbling up little bits of borderland for centuries, like the French kings did in the Middle Ages. The Thais love stories about their kings fighting on the borders against those dirty Burmese.

As they pushed their borders south, down the Malay Peninsula, the Thai kings ran up against the Muslim kingdom of Pattani, and they've been trying to hang on against local rebels ever since. That's what we're seeing now: another flare-up of a war that's been going on for centuries.

It's hard not to take sides on this one. I'm a Thai food fan, a Pad Thai hog from way back. I'll just declare my prejudices here: those Malays should take off their headscarves and try to be better Thais. It'd be a step up for them.

Of course that's not how they see it. To the Malays in Pattani, the Thais are "Buddhist Imperialists," trying to make Allah's faithful bow down to fat-man statues. (And what's wrong with that?)

These Southern Muslims were the biggest of all the Thai rebellions in the 1960s. People forget that during the Vietnam era, it seemed likely that Thailand would be one of the first dominoes to fall. If you look at a military map from that period, the only "green zones" (under government control) were the central river valley and the cities.

In Isaan, the dirt-poor northeast province, Communist cadres were working the pissed-off villagers with help from the VC, Chinese and Pathet Lao. Hill tribesmen funded by the drug barons of the Golden Triangle were sitting in ambush on every scraggy mountain in the north.

But the Muslim rebels of the far south were always the toughest, biggest and hardest to crush. By the mid-80s the Thais had killed all the other insurgencies. There were a lot of factors at work here: the Chinese feud with Vietnam left the rebels with no superpower support, the US poured at least a billion dollars into CI work, and the Thai king -- a smart guy, definitely the best king around -- pushed the military to kill the rebellions off with kindness: development projects, counter-propaganda, and a Royal amnesty for anybody who came in from the jungle.

But the biggest reason is the obvious one: money. Suddenly Thailand was the new cool destination for Northern Europeans eager to get out of Social Democratic limbo for a few weeks. Skulking in the jungle swapping malaria parasites with Pol Pot wasn't a good career choice when you could work as a diving instructor in Phuket or Pattaya and make enough to impress the girls with a motor scooter and a knockoff Rolex.

Money killed off the Commie rebels, but didn't do a thing to the Muslims. That's one of the most important lessons we have to remember: the Commies were paper tigers, a few dollars and they vanished.

But the Muslims won't be bribed. When you've got Saudi boys choosing one-way tickets to the WTC over a lifetime lying by the pool with your imported Swedish girlfriend in Riyadh, you've got a serious ideology to deal with.

The Pattani rebels have gone through the same sort of change as the Palestinians. Back in the day, the Southern Thais had a PLO-style, semi-Commie organization called PULO representing them. But as Communism burned out and Islam heated up, the torch got passed to a new generation of Jihadis.

In Palestine, the PLO lost out to Hamas. In Southern Thailand, PULO is as decrepit as the Fresno Rotary Club. The cool new clique is the Pattani Islamic Mujahedeen Movement, or GMIP.

These guys are long on theology but short on tactics. In fact, some of their operations have been just plain comic. In April 2004, Muslims from the village of Su So massed around Thai police stations in the South waving machetes and knives. The cops told them to hold that pose, got the M-16s out of the gun case, did a few stretching exercises on their trigger fingers, and blasted away. At least 100 Malays were killed. No cops were even wounded.

Getting slaughtered in a mismatch like that seems stupid to us Americans, but there's a pattern in insurgent warfare here: the first wave is suicidal, the second homicidal. There are dozens of examples, two of the most famous being the first and second Intifada in Israel.

In the first Intifada, the Pals threw rocks at Merkava tanks and got slaughtered. In the second, they went on the offensive. Same pattern in Ireland in the early 20th century: in the "Easter Rising" in 1916, a bunch of rebels in uniform occupied buildings in downtown Dublin, declared themselves a target and got blown to bits by artillery fire. In 1919, the second wave started, with ambushes and pioneering efforts in urban guerrilla warfare that succeeded in driving the Brits out of Southern Ireland, their first big defeat.

How does it work? Like all guerrilla warfare, it's about winning by losing. The first wave takes one for the team. By marching out and getting themselves killed, they get the people angry, set the pattern of thinking of the rebels as heroic martyrs, and their corpses are like fertilizer for the second wave, which consists of cooler heads, guys who are out to kill, not just die.

The grosser the mismatch, the better the propaganda. So in the first Intifada, you saw Pal kids with rocks fighting tanks. In Ireland 1916 you had rifles versus heavy artillery. That sort of things stays in people's heads for centuries, especially when the government troops' retaliation gets out of hand and wreaks havoc.

So it was actually pretty smart for the Irish rebels to occupy central Dublin, because heavy artillery isn't exactly "surgical" and ended up destroying most of the city.

So far it looks like the Thai government is doing the heavy-handed response, laying waste any Muslim village that gets uppity. A year ago, the Army jumped a crowd of Muslim demonstrators, arrested and hogtied 1,300 men and threw them into trucks like sacks of flour for the long drive to their new prison-camp home. By the time they got there, 78 men had been crushed to death.

That's not smart killing. It might be smart to kill all 1,300 -- and all their male kin, while you're at it -- but it's not smart to kill a few and make the rest into your enemies for life. The Thais are just getting frustrated, the way regular armies always do dealing with guerrillas. And from the Thai perspective, there's never been a better time to get rough with Muslims than now, while the Americans are already pissed off at the Jihadis. So they want to clean up the problem before we go soft again. And if you're a Southeast Asian American ally, you can't help fearing that the Americans will go soft again soon. We've done it before, and they're right to fear we'll do it again.

The really smart move for the Thais would be to set up a puppet Muslim autonomous regime in the South, consolidate its power, then push it into a civil war with the extremists. That's what the Israelis are doing in Gaza at the moment: leaving suddenly, creating a power vacuum in the hope that Fatah and Hamas will get too busy fighting each other to keep Intifada #2 going.

It worked for the Brits in Ireland. After losing an urban guerrilla war to the IRA in 1919-21, they signed a treaty with the moderate faction, handed over heavy weapons, and let the moderate and extremist wings duke it out until they were both exhausted. They got 50 years of quiet on the Western (Island) front out of it.

My guess is that there is no happy solution. The Muslim rebels are doing all the right things to keep the people pissed off and angry. The Thais are doing the only thing they can by killing anybody they think is in on the insurgency, because frankly, you can't kill off these Muslim rebels with kindness (and money) the way they did the other rebellions, the Commie-inspired rebellions in the North.

We're going to see a long, slow grind of the ethnic plates in Southern Thailand. Your grandkids will be reading the same headlines from there, a hundred years from now
-Excerpt From An Article By Gary War Nerd Brecher in Exile.

Heavenly Gentrification - Future Shock

[M]ilitary operations in urban settings will become more likely, including disaster relief efforts, as was experienced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Although urban terrain hinders all types of forces during conventional military operations, high-density population areas and urban canyons are commonly believed to restrict air and space power's role in the urban fight. On the contrary, air and space power's ability to see over the next hill — its inherent capability to offer unobstructed vertical access — is a critical contributor to the joint force.

The Vertical Dimension

Air Force capabilities in the urban arena mirror those in other arenas and support the joint force to accomplish tactical, operational and strategic objectives. Urban is an environment much like any other. The crucial difference in urban environments is the presence of a large number of noncombatants and their properties. Hence, force application and discrimination of targets is one of many obstacles that air and space power must contend with. But this factor is a restraint on all the joint forces.

Beyond its independent capabilities, the Air Force also supports the joint force in the urban fight by providing valuable airspace control; command and control; communications and psychological operations support; close-air support; terminal attack control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and combat search and rescue. These are familiar missions for the Air Force. The urban landscape of dense concrete jungles and large numbers of noncombatants are variables that require close attention but of themselves do not render air and space power irrelevant. In fact, the three core strategic capabilities of the Air Force — rapid strike, persistent C4ISR and global mobility — maximize the joint force's effectiveness in the urban arena. In a sense, the Air Force's urban fight is analogous to a joint force prizefighter — the Air Force is the right hook able to strike from afar while keeping the enemy at a distance, and is also the fighter's eyes, giving him the vision to deliver a precise blow at the exact time and place it's required.

"In the development of air power," Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell said, "one has to look forward and not backward to figure out what is going to happen." For urban operations, Mitchell's admonition to look forward and not backward is prescient as the history of effective air and space power in urban operations has been limited largely by the lack of knowledge and precision. From the Spanish Civil War to Operation Desert Storm, airpower has created mountains of urban rubble. However, with improvements in ISR and weapons accuracy, as well as time-sensitive targeting, air and space power have assumed greater roles in urban operations. Rebecca Grant, a contributing editor to Air Force Magazine, assessed the second battle for Fallujah, Iraq, as a "benchmark for airpower in urban joint force warfare." She noted: "Fallujah marked the unveiling of an urban-warfare model based on persistent air surveillance, precision air strikes and swift airlift support. Together, these factors took urban operations to a new and higher level."

In April 2004, coalition forces halted Fallujah ground operations after political pressure from the Iraqi governing council. Despite ceasing active operations on the ground, air and space power continued to provide persistent presence over contested urban areas. Beyond the critical ISR presence, air power assets repeatedly struck targets in Fallujah without putting ground forces at risk. In November 2004, coalition forces again sought to sweep Fallujah of its insurgent activity, and air and space power were involved in the planning from the start. This joint planning resulted in the synergistic use of coalition forces with devastating effect. Persistent ISR and the Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled precision strikes against key targets in September and October 2004.

Surgical blitzkreig

"We put a Hellfire over the wall [of the house] and under the carport with no damage to the house," an Air Force ISR tactician said. Air and space power provided 161 surveillance sorties and 379 kinetic attacks to help secure the city in eight days and continued support for the remaining mop-up operations. The joint planning effort resulted in a blitzkrieg of coordinated attacks with surgical effect. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper noted, "We had a significant number of airplanes in there, working against individual buildings. There are many accounts of our GPS-guided weapons plucking buildings out of the middle of very populated areas."

Although Fallujah showed the important joint effects that are possible with coordination, it also highlighted continuing challenges that airmen face in discriminating insurgents from the local populace and avoiding unnecessary collateral damage. Better technologies must help minimize these obstacles to make air and space power more relevant in future urban operations. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is pursuing a multitude of new technologies to improve ISR capabilities in the dense urban environment.

One promising initiative is development of the Gotcha sensor, which has the ability to provide persistent staring ISR over a large area and note changes in the environment, allowing for rapid diagnosis. Although still early in development, this capability, along with many other sensor initiatives, has the potential to be a powerful force multiplier to address the discrimination challenges we face today.

Similarly, space-based GPS location and time determination and satellite reconnaissance capabilities continue to provide a tremendous advantage to the joint force. In the future, the U.S. may deploy space-based moving target indicator radars that can detect movement, much as Joint Surveillance Attack Radar System does today, reducing the need to deploy aircraft and personnel. The Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle already helps in this way. And the Air Force continues to improve the fusion of sensors with existing intelligence to complete the battle space picture that contributes to information superiority, even within a cluttered city.

The Air Force is also pursuing new technologies to improve urban precision-strike capabilities. The 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb (GBU-39) — ready for use by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2006 — is half the size of the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), the current urban weapon of choice. The GBU-39's significant reduction in blast effect will decrease collateral damage while achieving intended effects. Another AFRL program under development is the Hardened Surface Target Ordnance Package, which offers the potential of a low collateral damage warhead for use against multistory structures with minimal explosives. Likewise, AFRL's low-collateral-damage project, perhaps ready in five years, includes a munition built with a carbon fiber composite case that concentrates lethal effects while reducing collateral damage by eliminating steel fragments. AFRL is also developing small loitering unmanned strike platforms that can detect and strike targets with significantly smaller precision munitions.

Future Air Force UAV development will include the Predator B with increased payload (3,000-pound external stores) and the capability to carry the Paveway II guided bomb, JDAM, Hellfire air-to-ground missile and Small Diameter Bomb. In addition to improved optical imaging, the Predator B's capability to laser designate from above the urban sprawl will be of great benefit.

AFRL is also making significant strides in nonlethal and directed-energy capabilities, many with urban applications that are less likely to harm noncombatants. Numerous directed-energy concepts applicable to urban operations missions are being developed by AFRL, including:

• The Active Denial System, which uses millimeter-wave electromagnetic wave energy to stop, deter and turn back an advancing adversary from greater than small-arms range. Its potential uses include crowd dispersal and protection of critical areas. It is being tested in the continental U.S., awaiting further direction from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the ground version could be ready in the near term, if funded. An airborne version could be tested in the mid-term if prioritized for development.

• The Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), which is based on a chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL) device. The ATL is scheduled to demonstrate precision strike capabilities against selected ground targets in fiscal 2007. Advanced solid-state laser and beam control technologies are being developed that, in the longer term, could address some of the limitations of the COIL device (limited magazine, logistics support requirements) and increase performance and reduce laser system size and weight in a future gunship application. These technologies, once developed, would enable an AC-130-mounted weapon that could provide a surgical-strike capability against urban targets with essentially no collateral damage.

• The Tactical Relay Mirror System (TRMS) will enable energy beams from the ATL or a ground laser source to be precisely directed onto ground targets. Because the optical telescopes in the TRMS employ both wide and narrow field-of-view optics, the TRMS will enable enhanced surveillance as well as precision strike applications — initial full-up testing in the near term.

Better technologies and processes will enable Air Force contributions to be more significant in the joint urban fight. Yet presently, the urban fight is considered principally a ground-centric problem, and air and space capabilities are too often not at the forefront of the minds of ground commanders. Joint planning and training is perhaps the antidote to this problem and would reaffirm the inherent capabilities that each service brings to this fight.

Air Warrior I, conducted at the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, Calif., trains aircrew, airborne forward air controllers (FACs), tactical air control parties (TACPs), joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) and brigade combat teams. NTC has built seven urban and cave sites with numerous connecting tunnels over the past 24 months. The Air Force has also constructed a live-fire site in the northern section of the NTC so JTACs and airborne FACs can control aircrews dropping or firing munitions in an urban setting. Annually, more than 1,100 joint Air Warrior I sorties have been flown in support of NTC rotations with more than 300 tons of live and inert munitions delivered. Yet, although the capability to practice the joint urban fight exists, not many Air Warrior I scenarios incorporate urban operations because of a lack of exercise joint fires integration and differing Army exercise priorities.

Air Warrior II at Fort Polk, La., endures similar constraints. The Army directs the scenarios and determines whether to incorporate urban training with the Air Force. Air Warrior II has generally been a fighter venue but now includes other types of aircraft. Many challenges remain to achieve comprehensive urban training, but Air Warrior I and II have at least provided venues to begin joint urban training.

Furthermore, increased emphasis on close-air support training has resulted in better joint integration of urban ops. These efforts have been spearheaded by the Air Force's 6th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. All these efforts improve Air Force precision-strike capabilities and give more options to the urban joint commander.

If improved training is the first step, improved command and control is the final step to linking the ground warriors with capabilities from above. This step is arguably the most challenging, as beyond-line-of-sight communications are extremely difficult to maintain for ground forces in urban areas. However, Air Force airborne relay capabilities were recently demonstrated during Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2006 that are worthy of further joint investigation. These UHF/VHF/cell phone communication relay capabilities could be expanded to overcome the line-of-sight issues that plague ground forces in urban canyons. Assuming the soldier better understands the Air Force capabilities available through improved planning and training, effective communication is the critical link to bring those capabilities to bear.

The increasing urbanization of the world, coupled with the use of urban areas as sanctuary by U.S. enemies, dictates that the Air Force should place more emphasis on urban operations. While urban air, space and information support is consistent with normal Air Force mission sets, joint commanders are perhaps reticent to request these effects because of fratricide and collateral damage concerns. Much of the future fight will be in urban areas, and the Air Force must get more involved so the joint force can fully exploit the vertical dimension.

Education of the joint force is the starting point for shaping and improving urban awareness, but there are also training opportunities that can and should be leveraged in the near term that can have the greatest immediate effect. These efforts, coupled with a commitment to S&T relevant to the urban fight, will help us prepare for a future of increased urban operations.

-Excerpt From An Article At AFJ By Lt. Col. Brian Newberry. Lt. Col. Brian Newberry is the chief of safety for the 62nd Airlift Wing. He most recently was chief of joint operations in the Concepts, Strategy and Wargaming Division on the Air Staff, where he helped shape the future role of the Air Force in urban operations.

Sep 19, 2006

Doкtrinsкi Draftsкi - Jacк Is Bacк

The Russian government is to consider the draft of the new military doctrine prepared by the Defense Ministry expert group. If the document is approved, Russia will be able to interfere in border conflicts, turn a blind eye on the proliferation of nuclear weapons and fight with potential enemies (the USA and NATO) and international terrorism.

Russia adopted the current military doctrine in 1993. President Putin introduced several amendments to it in April of 2000. The doctrine of 2006 has a whole new meaning. The previous doctrine was a temporal document used during the establishment of democracy in Russia. The new document will be the permanent military doctrine of a democratic state.

The document particularly entitles Russia to “defend its citizens’ rights abroad in case of danger posed to their lives.” There was no such wording in the current doctrine.

Furthermore, Russia will be able to participate in armed conflicts on its borders where “principles of international rights are violated and thus can be classified as aggression against citizens.”

The main thesis of the section titled “Defense Security Guarantee” says that Russia stands against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and its delivery means.”

As for Russia’s enemies, the authors of the new military doctrine suggest the following list: the USA, NATO and international terrorism.

“The fact that we can see NATO and the USA as Russia's potential enemies is a vestige of the Soviet military doctrine. In my opinion, this is an inadequate way of thinking. Russia definitely needs to stand against any enemy, but we also need to develop our Armed Forces in local conflicts too,” the Director of the Institute of Political Research, Sergei Markov said.

The basic threat of Russia’s national security is still connected with foreign countries’ interference into Russia’s internal affairs. This process can be conducted either directly or through certain political structures to undermine constitutional regimes in post-Soviet countries.
-Excerpt From Pravda

Sep 15, 2006

Powells Of A Feather - The Go Fetch Gene

A 2004 Federal Communications Commission study that showed locally owned television stations provide more local news than others was ordered destroyed by FCC officials, and only came to light this week when a copy was leaked to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.).

Three years ago, then-FCC chair Michael Powell [son of former Secretary of State Colin Powell] launched a proceeding on the effects of local ownership on television news as part of his drive to further deregulate media and allow for even greater consolidation. But the report commissioned under Powell turned out to undermine his argument that consolidation has no ill effects on local news, and, according to former FCC lawyer Adam Candeub, senior managers ordered "every last piece" of the study destroyed (AP, 9/14/06). On September 12, Senator Boxer, armed with the leaked report, questioned current FCC Chair Kevin Martin about it at his renomination hearing.

According to the report, locally owned stations in fact deliver nearly six minutes more of total news and almost five-and-a-half more minutes of local news in a 30-minute newscast than stations with non-local owners. This adds up to 33 more hours of local news a year--a remarkable figure, and a damning one for big media's allies in the FCC, who are required to protect the public interest and to promote localism.

As the Prometheus Radio Project noted (9/15/06):
Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell...made many high-sounding pronouncements about the need for media policy to be rooted in empirical evidence. Powell also attempted to separate out the issue of media consolidation from localism, claiming that most of the millions of comments to the Commission stemmed from a concern about local content, not a concern about concentration of ownership into fewer hands.
Martin, who succeeded Powell in 2005 as chair, voted in 2003 for ownership rules that would have dramatically raised ownership caps. The rules were sharply contested by media activists and others, and a federal appeals court struck them down in 2004. Martin told Boxer he hadn't been aware of the report and has promised to keep "an open mind" on media consolidation as the FCC embarks once again on a review of its media ownership rules (Daily Variety, 9/13/06). The FCC has since posted the full report on its website.

Powell likewise denied any knowledge of the report or responsibility for its suppression (AP, 9/15/06).
Excerpt Of An Alert At FAIR