Oct 31, 2006

U.S. Military Favoring Iraq Exit Deadline

Growing numbers of American military officers have begun to privately question a key tenet of U.S. strategy in Iraq — that setting a hard deadline for troop reductions would strengthen the insurgency and undermine efforts to create a stable state.

The Iraqi government's refusal to take certain measures to reduce sectarian tensions between Sunni Arabs and the nation's Shiite Muslim majority has led these officers to conclude that Iraqis will not make difficult decisions unless they are pushed.

Therefore, they say, the advantages of deadlines may outweigh the drawbacks.

"Deadlines could help ensure that the Iraqi leaders recognize the imperative of coming to grips with the tough decisions they've got to make for there to be progress in the political arena," said a senior Army officer who has served in Iraq. He asked that his name not be used because he did not want to publicly disagree with the stated policy of the president.

Former Pentagon official Kurt Campbell said more officers are calling for deadlines after concluding that the indefinite presence of U.S. forces enables the Shiite-run Iraqi government to avoid making compromises.

"There is a new belief that the biggest problem that we face is that our forces are the sand in the gears creating problems," said Campbell, coauthor of a book on national security policy. "We are making things worse by giving the Iraqis a false sense of security at the governing level."

Oct 30, 2006

Swedish Road Menace Caught

A Swede who delights in giving speeding enforcement cameras the finger while driving past at high velocity in a car without license plates has been caught.

The man, who has been recorded three times while giving the camera the finger at a speed high enough to qualify for automatic loss of license was taken by police on the E6 highway near Sarpsborg on Sunday night.

"Now his speeding days are over. The man is with us and awaiting questioning," Kay Wammer of the Østfold police told newspaper Sarpsborg Arbeiderblad.

The Swede has been clocked at 123, 124 and 132 kph (76, 77 and 82 mph) in the Sarpsborg area.

The lack of license plates gave the police problems tracking the driver down, but they noticed that all of the offenses on record occurred late Sunday nights, so they went looking for him then.

The man reportedly has been arrested for similar offenses in Sweden.

Oct 29, 2006

U.N. Study: Foreign Troops In Somalia Raise War Risk

Thousands of Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are in Somalia, backing opposing sides in the struggle for control of the strategic country, according to a confidential U.N. briefing paper. The involvement of the two Horn of Africa rivals could set the stage for a regional war.

Islamic radicals, said by the U.N. to be backed by Eritrea, held rallies in several Somali cities calling for a holy war on Ethiopia and the internationally backed government it supports.

The U.N. report dated Oct. 26 and obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, cites diplomatic sources in estimating that "between 6,000-8,000 Ethiopians and 2,000 fully equipped Eritrean troops are now inside Somalia supporting" the internationally recognized government and the Islamic group known as the Council of Islamic Courts, respectively.

"Both sides in the Somali conflict are reported to have major outside backers -- the government supported by Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen; the Islamic courts receiving aid from Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Gulf States," the report added.

The transitional government and the Council of Islamic Courts have been girding for battle in recent weeks. Government forces, supported by Ethiopian military advisers, have been seen digging trenches near Baidoa, the only town the U.N.-backed government controls.

The Islamic courts have deployed forces at a strategic town between Baidoa, and their headquarters in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, 150 miles to the southeast.

The military moves could be mere posturing ahead of peace talks scheduled for next week in Khartoum, Sudan, but most observers are pessimistic about the chances for an agreement and fear major fighting could follow if talks fail.

"Clearly the situation is rapidly deteriorating and an all-out war is possible," the report said.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year border war that remains unresolved. The top U.S. diplomat to Africa, Jendayi Frazer, last week accused Eritrea of using Somalia to open a second front against Ethiopia.

In Washington on Thursday, Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman, called on Ethiopia and Eritrea not to further aggravate the situation in Somalia.

"There are tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea even removing Somalia from the equation. When you add Somalia into the equation, each of Ethiopia and Eritrea's various perceived equities with the various groups in Somalia, then it becomes very complex, a complex situation," he said.

Oct 27, 2006

Nothing To See Here, Folks

In Buffalo, even the chairman of the House GOP election effort is struggling to hold on to his seat. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds is trying to overcome criticism that he did not do enough to stop inappropriate relationships between congressional pages and former representative Mark Foley (R-Fla.).

On Tuesday in Buffalo, leaders of a private club and writers at the city's newspaper got unusual visits from the third-ranking official at the CIA. The stops by Michael J. Morell, the associate deputy director of the agency, were arranged by Anthony Gioia, a longtime Bush fundraiser and a donor to Reynolds. Morell spoke about the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism. CIA officials rarely make such appearances.

Asked about the timing, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said, "Politics had no bearing whatsoever on Mr. Morell's acceptance of an invitation to give a speech in Buffalo or when to give it." He added, "No one dispatched him."

Oct 26, 2006

Sex Traffickers Target Women in War-Torn Iraq

Mariam, 16, relives the day her father in Baghdad sold her off as a domestic worker in one of the prosperous Gulf nations. Instead, she was forced into the sex trade.

"I was a virgin and didn't understand what sex was. I was told that they [the traffickers] were going to get good money for my first night with an old local man who paid for my virginity. He was aggressive and hit me all the time," Mariam, who refused to reveal her real name, told IRIN.

Thousands of Iraqi women are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous sex worker traffickers seeking to exploit young girls' desperate socio-economic situation for profit, United Nations agencies have reported.

In Mariam's case, she was taken to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and kept in a house with 20 young girls, all of them sex workers, she said.

Before she left Iraq, she and her three sisters were being cared for by her father. Their mother was killed during the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

Mariam said her father couldn't cope with looking after the children on his own and wanted her to go abroad, particularly given the increasing insecurity and daily violence in Iraq.

In November 2005, a member of a trafficking ring offered Mariam's father an advance payment of US $6,000 for her, saying she would work for a family in Dubai. He was promised that his daughter would be returned to Iraq after finishing a one-year contract.

Mariam said she faced daily threats in Dubai from the traffickers, warning her not to try to leave. However, she managed to escape and is now back in Baghdad being looked after by a local NGO, the Organisation for Women's Freedom.

The teenager's story is not uncommon. While accurate statistics are hard to come by, the Women's Freedom NGO estimates that nearly 3,500 Iraqi women have gone missing since the US-led occupation of Iraq began in 2003 and that there is a high chance many have been traded for sex work. It says 25 percent of these women have been trafficked abroad since the start of 2006, many unaware of their fate.

"People are desperate to get money to support their families ... just to have something to eat. If the government does not act on this issue, more women will be abused outside Iraq," Nuha Salim, spokeswoman for the NGO, said.

Oct 25, 2006

Enter The Retreat Phase

British ministers landing in Aden in the 1960s were told always to make a reassuring speech. In view of the Arab insurrection, they should give a ringing pledge, "Britain will never, ever leave Aden". Britain promptly left Aden, in 1967 and a year earlier than planned. The last governor walked backwards up the steps to his plane, his pistol drawn against any last-minute assassin. Locals who had trusted him and worked with the British were massacred in their hundreds by the fedayeen.

Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, was welcomed to London by the BBC on Monday with two documentaries recalling past British humiliations at the hands of Arabs, in Aden and Suez. It was not a message Salih wanted to hear. His government is retreating from its position in May, when it said that foreign forces should withdraw from 16 out of 18 provinces, including the south, by the end of this year. Tony Blair rejected this invitation to go and said he would "stay until the job is done". Salih would do well to remember what western governments do, not what they say. ...

US and UK policy in Iraq is now entering its retreat phrase. Where there is no hope of victory, the necessity for victory must be asserted ever more strongly. This was the theme of yesterday's unreal US press conference in Baghdad, identical in substance to one I attended there three years ago. There is talk of staying the course, of sticking by friends and of not cutting and running. Every day some general or diplomat hints at ultimatums, timelines and even failure - as did the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Monday. But officially denial is all. For retreat to be tolerable it must be called victory.

The US and British are covering their retreat. Operation Together Forward II has been an attempt, now failed, to pacify Baghdad during Ramadan. In Basra, Britain is pursuing Operation Sinbad to win hearts and minds that it contrives constantly to lose. This may be an advance on Kissinger's bombing of Laos to cover defeat in Vietnam and Reagan's shelling of the Shouf mountains to cover his 1984 Beirut "redeployment" (two days after he had pledged not to cut and run). But retreat is retreat, even if it is called redeployment. Every exit strategy is unhappy in its own way.

Over Iraq the spin doctors are already at work. They are telling the world that the occupation will have failed only through the ingratitude and uselessness of the Iraqis themselves. The rubbishing of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has begun in Washington, coupled with much talk of lowered ambitions and seeking out that foreign policy paradigm, "a new strongman". In May, Maliki signalled to Iraq's governors, commanders and militia leaders the need to sort out local differences and take control of their provincial destinies. This has failed. Maliki is only as strong as the militias he can control, which is precious few. He does not rule Baghdad, let alone Iraq. As for the militias, they are the natural outcome of the lawlessness caused by foreign occupation. They represent Iraqis desperately defending themselves from anarchy. It is now they who will decide Iraq's fate.

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

Oct 24, 2006

Win A Trip With Nick Kristof?

I doubt many university students will be eager to accompany Kristof on this journey.

A federal judge has ordered the New York Times Co. to disclose the confidential sources used by Nicholas D. Kristof in columns that explored whether a former Army scientist was responsible for the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks.

The ruling, made public yesterday, came in a lawsuit filed by the former scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, contending that the paper defamed him in a series of Kristof columns in 2002 that identified him as a "likely culprit." Hatfill has been identified by authorities as a "person of interest" in the anthrax-spore mailings that killed five people and sickened 17. No one has been charged in the attacks.

Hatfill's attorneys are seeking to compel Kristof to reveal his sources, arguing that questioning them is vital to their case. Kristof has refused. U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria sided with Hatfill and ordered the journalist to disclose the identity of the three sources by tomorrow. ...

The Times said yesterday that it plans to appeal, and Kristof vowed to continue protecting his sources. "We were disappointed with the decision because we believe that confidential sources are sometimes very important in covering government investigations," Kristof said in an interview. "And I'm passionate about protecting the confidentiality of my sources."

The ruling is the latest in a series of court defeats for journalists trying to shield news-gathering activities from the legal process. Judges have ordered reporters covering issues ranging from baseball's steroid scandal to the investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to disclose confidential sources. In the Plame case, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to comply. ...

In a series of columns in 2002, Kristof criticized the FBI for failing to aggressively pursue a scientist he initially called "Mr. Z." He wrote that the biodefense community had called Mr. Z a "likely culprit," partly because the scientist was familiar with anthrax.

Kristof later acknowledged that Hatfill was Mr. Z. He also wrote that Hatfill deserved the "presumption of innocence."

Oct 23, 2006

Tangram's Seven & Seven

Another data-mining effort is in the works.

The government's top intelligence agency is building a computerized system to search very large stores of information for patterns of activity that look like terrorist planning.

The system, which is run by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is in the early research phases and is being tested, in part, with government intelligence that may contain information on U.S. citizens and other people inside the country. It encompasses existing profiling and detection systems, including those that create "suspicion scores" for suspected terrorists by analyzing very large databases of government intelligence, as well as records of individuals' private communications, financial transactions, and other everyday activities.

The details of the program, called Tangram, are contained in an unclassified document that National Journal obtained from a government contracting Web site. The document, called a "proposer's information packet," is a technical description of Tangram written for potential contractors who would help design and test the system.

The document was written by officials in the research-and-development section of the national intelligence office. A tangram is an old Chinese puzzle that takes seven geometric shapes -- five triangles, a square, and a parallelogram -- and rearranges them into different pictures. ...

Intelligence and privacy experts who reviewed the document said that it reaffirms their long-held belief that many computerized terrorist-profiling methods are largely ineffective. It also raises significant privacy concerns, because to distinguish terrorists from innocent people, a system that's as broad as Tangram purports to be would require access to many databases that contain private information about Americans, the experts said, including credit card transactions, communications records, and even Internet purchases.

"There is no other way that they could do this," said David Holtzman, former chief technology officer of Network Solutions, the company that runs the Internet's domain-naming system, and author of the book Privacy Lost. "They want to investigate real-time ways of spotting patterns" that might indicate terrorist activity, he said. "Telephone calls, for instance, would be an obvious thing you'd feed into this."

The Tangram document doesn't mention privacy protections or a process for monitoring the system's use to guard against abuse. In an interview, Tim Edgar, the deputy civil-liberties protection officer for the national intelligence director, said that Tangram "is a research-and-development program. We have been assured that it's not deployed for operational use."

Asked whether the intelligence used to test Tangram contains information about U.S. persons, defined as U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens, Edgar said, "It's not being tested with any data that has unminimized information about U.S. persons in it." Minimization procedures are used by intelligence agencies to expunge people's names from official reports and replace them with an anonymous designation, such as U.S. Person No. 1.

Tangram is being tested "only with synthetic data or foreign-intelligence data already being used by analysts that meet Defense Department guidelines for handling of U.S. person information," Edgar said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence "has not funded and is not planning to fund any contracts for the Tangram program using unminimized data with U.S. persons in it," he said. ...

Last month, the government awarded three contracts for Tangram research and design totaling almost $12 million. Total funding for the program is approximately $49 million. Two of the firms receiving awards -- Booz Allen Hamilton and 21st Century Technologies -- were principal contractors on the TIA (Total Information Awareness, a controversial research program started by the Pentagon in 2002) program. The third company, SRI International, worked on one of TIA's predecessors, the Genoa program. ...

Administration officials have singled out the importance of new technologies in the war on terrorism. President Bush said that the NSA's warrantless surveillance and analysis of phone calls and e-mails protects Americans from attack. Gen. Michael Hayden, the former NSA director, said that were such a system in place before the September 11 attacks, "we would have detected some of the 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such."

But the Tangram document presents a more pessimistic assessment of the state of terrorist detection. For instance, researchers want to find ways to distinguish individuals' innocuous activity from that which might appear normal but is really indicative of terrorist plotting. However, the document states that, in large measure, terrorism researchers "cannot readily distinguish the absolute scale of normal behaviors" either for innocent people or for terrorists.

The ACLU's Sparapani called that admission "a bombshell," because the government is acknowledging that current detection systems aren't sophisticated enough to separate terrorists from everyday people. Other outside experts were troubled that such shortcomings also mean that individuals intent on doing harm could be mistaken for innocent people.

Oct 21, 2006

Old Middle-East Hand Talks Shop

Frank Anderson worked for the CIA from 1968 until 1995. According to his unclassified biography, he served three tours of duty in the Middle East as an agency station chief, headed the Afghan Task Force (1987-1989), and was chief of the Near East Division. He now runs a consulting practice that focuses on the Middle East.

What will Iraq look like five years from now?

There is no prospect under which we will depart from Iraq in better circumstances than we entered. It's probable that every month we stay there our position will be worse than it would have been if we had left the month before. The conflict that is underway in Iraq will continue until a new order is established and there's an equilibrium based on the new reality. In five years, it's not unlikely that U.S. Special Operations forces will be working with Sunnis in western Iraq against a Shiite-dominated pro-Iranian government that controls much of the country. And that's the optimistic scenario, because it assumes that we have the resources and the friends in the area to make those deals with western Iraqi tribes that find it in their interest to work with us.

What's the diplomatic fallout from Iraq and the Bush Administration's general Middle East policies?

Our enemies are comforted and our friends are looking elsewhere. The policymaking group that decided to invade Iraq regarded the strategic relationship between the United States and the Saudis as a problem, not an asset. And now the Saudis are quietly shifting their diplomacy and their economic outreach to the Far East -- China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan. Saudi Arabia is not going to become our enemy, but they are coming to believe that they can live in a world in which the United States is less relevant.

As it turns out, Iraq under Saddam Hussein did not pose any significant threat to American security. How do you evaluate the case of Iran?

Iraq was not a strategic threat -- it was in a box for eleven or twelve years. But Iran is not in a box. Iran is stronger in the region than it's been in a long time -- and that should be a concern to everyone.

So if Iran poses a real dilemma, what's the best course of action?

There was a Defense Science Board task force in 2001 that looked at homeland defense. The board proposed that we look at terrorism in the same way we look at jurisprudence -- that we examine means, motive, and opportunity. Look at Iraq. Iraq was not an enabler, nor was it a chief supporter, of terrorism. The invasion of Iraq did not attack the means of terrorism --but by invading we provided a major motive for terrorism and an enormous opportunity by putting 190,000 soldiers there as targets.

Now look at Iran. It hasn't had any fingerprints on international terrorism since the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996. Their capability of hitting us with a strategic weapon is remote. But any military attack on Iran will provide a motive for terrorism in many parts of the world, yet we'll achieve no significant reduction of means with military action. We gain very little, but there's great potential harm.

I divide the world into copers and fixers. The former say, -- There's a mess but we can cope with it. --The fixers say "let's take a risk and try to fix it." My attitude is that it's better to cope with Iran.

From Six Questions for Frank Anderson on the Middle East

Oct 20, 2006

Paperwork Missing On Iraq Propaganda Program

Maybe the Pentagon IG should ask Willem Marx for assistance with their inquiry.

A Pentagon investigation concluded this week that a multimillion-dollar U.S. military program to sway Iraqi public opinion by placing articles in Iraq's media did not violate the law, but it also found that missing documentation made oversight of parts of the program impossible.

Top U.S. commands in Iraq paid $37.3 million in three contracts to the Lincoln Group to "develop and place articles . . . to counter anti-coalition propaganda, and prevent threats to those supporting coalition efforts" from October 2004 to September 2006, according to a summary of the classified report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

The first year's $4.8 million contract did not comply with federal regulations, and inadequate documentation prevented the inspector general from determining whether it was properly awarded or executed, according to the report. The two other contracts were found to comply with the law.

"The Pentagon cannot account for millions paid to the Lincoln Group for their propaganda program and . . . basic contracting rules were not followed," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who requested the investigation last year. "Broader policy questions remain about whether the Administration's manipulation of the news in Iraq contradicts our goal of a free and independent press there."

The Lincoln Group has since won another multimillion-dollar contract to improve U.S. military public relations in Iraq.

Oct 18, 2006

Israeli Mystery Weapon Used In Gaza?

Doctors in Gaza have reported previously unseen injuries from Israeli weapons that cause severe burning and deep internal wounds often resulting in amputations or death.

The injuries were first seen in July, when the Israeli military launched a series of operations in Gaza following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.

Doctors said that, unlike traditional combat injuries from shells or bullets, there were no large shrapnel pieces found in the patients' bodies and there appeared to be a "dusting" on severely damaged internal organs.

"Bodies arrived severely fragmented, melted and disfigured," said Jumaa Saqa'a, a doctor at Shifa hospital, the main casualty hospital in Gaza City. "We found internal burning of organs, while externally there were minute pieces of shrapnel. When we opened many of the injured people we found dusting on the internal organs."

It is not clear whether the injuries come from a new weapon. The Israeli military declined to detail the weapons in its arsenal, but denied reports that the injuries came from a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (Dime), a new experimental weapon that causes a powerful blast but in a localised area. The Dime, while causing severe injuries to its target, is intended to limit what the defence industry calls "collateral damage."

In Gaza, Dr Saqa'a said the small pieces of shrapnel found in patients' bodies did not show up under x-ray. "We are used to seeing shrapnel penetrate the body making localised damage. Now we didn't see shrapnel, but we found the destruction," he said.

Most of the injuries were around the abdomen, nearly a metre up from the ground, he said. The doctors also found that an injured patient who had been stabilised after one or two days, might suddenly die. "The patient dies without any apparent scientific cause," he said. "So far we don't know why."

At the Kamal Odwan Hospital, in Beit Lahiya, deputy director Saied Jouda, said he had found similar injuries. "We don't know what it means - new weapons or something new added to a previous weapon," he said. "We had patients who died after stabilisation and that is very unusual."

He too found patients with severe internal injuries without signs of any large shrapnel pieces. Often there was severe burning. "There was burning, big raw areas of charred flesh," he said. "This must be related to the type of explosive material."

Photographs of some of the dead from Shifa hospital showed bodies that had been melted and blackened beyond recognition. Others showed internal bleeding without signs of shrapnel wounds. In several cases doctors amputated badly burnt limbs.

At least 250 Palestinians have died in Gaza since the latest military operations began and hundreds more have been injured. Neither of the doctors could give exact figures for the numbers of patients suffering the new injuries, although both said that most of those brought in during July showed signs of these injuries.

Dr Saqa'a of the Shifa hospital said the injuries occurred over a six-week period beginning in late June and running until early August, while Dr Jouda from Kamal Odwan hospital said he believed patients admitted even in recent days still showed signs of these unusual injuries.

The health ministry in Gaza has reported these injuries came from an "unprecedented type of projectile," and also noted severe burning and badly damaged internal organs, often around the abdomen. It called for an investigation into the cause of the wounds.

"You have complete burns that lead to amputation. You find shrapnel entering the body and leaving very, very small holes. We have never seen this before," said Khalid Radi, a spokesman at the health ministry.

Tissue samples from patients in Gaza were given to journalists from the Italian television channel RAI. In a documentary shown last week, the channel said the injuries appeared similar to the effects of the Dime. An Italian laboratory that analysed the samples reportedly said its results were "compatible with the hypothesis" that a Dime weapon was involved.

The weapon is new and in the US is still in the early stages of development. It has a carbon-fibre casing and contains fine tungsten particles rather than ordinary metal shrapnel. It causes a very powerful blast, but with a much more limited radius than other explosives.

Oct 15, 2006

Tibetan Pilgrims Allegedly Shot By Chinese Border Patrol

TV cameraman Sergiu Matei returned to Romania after climbing Himalaya and brought home what he claims to be exclusive footage of Chinese border soldiers shooting at Tibetan pilgrims on September 30, killing a Tibetan pilgrim whose body was abandoned in the snow.

An interview with the man who claimed to capture the Tibetan’s death on tape, cameraman Sergiu Matei.

More links here and here....and here

Oct 14, 2006

Weekend Matinée - Huffin' 'N Puffin' Pigs

Here's an animated narrative from a fabled past, a past the so-called neo con's (or the whackos, as they were endearingly referrred to by people in Bush Sr's administration and by Colin Powell) are ever so feverishly trying to hijack to pretext their special agendas and expressions of Stalinoid loyalties.

Somehow we are begged to take seriously that an advanced industrialized nation state the likes of Hitler's Third Reich, hellbent on wars of aggression that deployed all of a modern and sovereign state's plethora of resources to such invasive ends, is now to be seen as little more of a threat than a band of roving neolithic thugs and a few thousand partisans (few of whom reasonably own even one biometric passport) who seem to only fight us where we have occupied them - and at that with little more than the type of weapons that only demand the sophistication of a single illiterate to fire them.

I'm guessing though that in the long run the generalized flexibility of the now ubiquitous term “terrorist” will prove to make it infinitely more useful as a political instrument than evoking memories of a specific nation or regime, and so invests the term with a long half-life more suiting the actual deep campaigns at hand. After all, it only took us four or so years to bitch slap German into democratic and complacent place.

With semantic abracadabra, the notion (Rand Corporation terminology and insight at that) that is Al Qaeda is transformed in such a way that every Arab, every Muslim, every immigrant, every dissident, every person of color, every (choose your enemy) is a threat; and the world is divided between Us and the Dark Other with no resolution except the agonal. Here the calculated anger riled up by the Danish cartoons and the Pope's comments serve an instrumental role in achieving this connect between terrorist and people.

In a stunning bit of linguistic legerdemain, the actual mass movement of political Islam has been recoded by the neocons as Islamo-fascism, and among the crypto-libertarians of the white right, fascist is an epithet reserved now for liberals.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has twice invoked the historical analogy to appeasement—referring to the years just before World War II, culminating in the Munich conference of September 1938—to frame the globe’s current struggle with terrorism in apocalyptic terms. Vice President Dick Cheney has used the same analogy, without even gracing it with a name, to defend what he calls the “battle for the future of civilization.”

The Bushies clearly intend to evoke an atmosphere of shattering events, but their history is fractured and misleading, and their use of this analogy is a throwback to the methods that led America into Vietnam

None of their jive is true and quite frankly I'm stunned that members of the American Legion or folks out at Offut Air Force Base put up with the demeaning lies fed to them by Rumsfeld and Cheney. There was no mass political movement demanding appeasement of Germany. Rather there was a specific policy choice—made primarily by Sir Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister of the time—to mollify Hitler and gain time for rearmament.

In February 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson invoked Munich in his reasoning for responding to a terrorist incident in the Central Highlands by beginning the bombing of North Vietnam. That summer, when LBJ sent U.S. armies to fight in Vietnam, he invoked Munich again. As Johnson’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk repeatedly mentioned the dangers of appeasement. It was the effort to avoid another Munich that led to years of stark tragedy and desperate peril in Vietnam.

The correct lesson to be drawn from Munich today is that when the Bush administration raises its specter, it is a sure sign they want to pursue extravagant policies, usually of violence, based on narrow grounds with shaky public support.

It is dangerous because it claims that the only solution to any situation is to fight—Cheney’s point exactly. Having done nothing beyond silly propaganda—despite its own claims—to undermine the jihadists by eliminating the economic and political oppression that form the basis of jihadist appeal, the Bush people counsel that the fight is everything and that talking is “appeasement.”

Bush administration history is like their reality—faith-based.

The same speeches that contain the Munich claims portray the Iraqi and Afghan people as “awakening to a future of hope and freedom” (Cheney) and say the U.S. strategy in Iraq “has not changed” (Rumsfeld).

The faith is that if you repeat falsehoods enough times then you the public will believe them.

There is another historical analogy there—a real one—to Adolf Hitler’s henchman, Josef Goebbels. He called it the “Big Lie.”

Weekend Matinée - Ducktapers

Propaganda film used during WWII.

Oct 13, 2006

Clockwork Kook Roost

Writing in publications ranging from National Review Online (NRO) to the New York Times, neo-conservatives claim, contrary to the lessons drawn by "realists" and other critics of the George W Bush administration, that Monday's supposed test vindicates their long-held view that negotiations with "rogue" states such as North Korea are useless and that "regime change" - by military means, if necessary - is the only answer.

"With our intelligence on North Korea so uneven, the doctrine of preemption must return to the fore," wrote Dan Blumenthal, an Asia specialist at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) who worked for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during President Bush's first term, in the NRO on Tuesday. "Any talk of renewed six-party talks [involving China, Japan, Russia, the US and the two Koreas] must be resisted."

The North Korean test "has stripped any plausibility to arguments that engaging dictators works", according to Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist at AEI, who added that the Bush administration now faced a "watershed" in its relations with other states that have defied Washington in recent years.

"This crisis is not just about North Korea, but about Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba as well," said Rubin. "Bush now has two choices: to respond forcefully and show that defiance has consequence, or affirm that defiance pays and that international will is illusionary."
-Excerpt Of An Article By Jim Lobe, IPS

Whoops A Daisy - Goss's Gaffe

A verbal gaffe by Porter Goss led to the exposure of the CIA's post 9/11 secret rendition program, according to the British journalist who broke the story.

An unsolicited remark from Porter Goss, then chairman House Intelligence Committee, led a British journalist to unravel many of the details of the CIA's controversial "extraordinary rendition" program, according to a new book. The disclosure of this highly sensitive operation later prompted a major leak investigation that roiled the agency.

The surprising role of Goss, who later became director of the CIA, in setting London-based reporter Stephen Grey on the trail of the rendition program is revealed in "Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program," to be published this week by St. Martin's Press. ...

(I)n an ironic twist, Grey reports that his initial tip-off to what the CIA was doing came during a Dec. 14, 2001, interview he had with Florida Congressman Goss on Capitol Hill about the war on terror. At the time, Grey, a veteran reporter who wrote for The Sunday Times of London, asked the House Intelligence Committee chairman about the prospect that Osama bin Laden might be captured and turned over to the U.S. government. ...

"Well, there is a polite way to take people out of action and bring them to some type of justice," Goss then says. "It's generally referred to as a rendition." ...

Grey writes that it was this offhand comment by Goss that alerted him to the existence of the highly classified CIA program of "snatches and imprisonment that operates outside normal rules."

"It gave me the germ of the idea," Grey said in an interview. "This is where I heard about it. He set me on the trail." ...

To be sure, Goss made no explicit reference to the details of extraordinary rendition in his comments to the British journalist and even the little he did say involved talk about rendering suspects in order to "bring them to some type of justice." Still, the disclosure that Goss may have played any role at all in the disclosure of the CIA's secret programs may well be pounced on by critics, given his fierce condemnation of any leaks at all when he was CIA director.

In Senate testimony last February, before he resigned as director, Goss said leaks had caused "severe damage" to the agency's operations and called for full-fledged grand-jury investigations to find the leakers. "It is my aim, and it is my hope, that we will witness a grand-jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information. I believe the safety of this nation and the people of this country deserves nothing less." ...

As part of an internal CIA probe into leaks about the CIA's secret prison program, one senior officer, Mary O. McCarthy, was fired last April after agency officials said she acknowledged "unauthorized contacts with the media and discussion of classified information." McCarthy's lawyer, Ty Cobb, later denied she had been the source of the leak and no criminal charges have been filed against her. ...

Grey played a key role in assisting European governments and many Western journalists to discover the CIA's role in these and other renditions through his investigative efforts. What Grey did was to take scraps of information about planes linked to the disappearances of Islamic militants around the world and vigorously trace the aircrafts' origins. Local journalists in Sweden, for example, acquired the tail number of a plane believed to have been involved in the mysterious abduction of an Islamic militant in Stockholm in early December 2001. (Ironically this occurred only a few days after Grey interviewed Goss.)

Oct 11, 2006

Tinker, Tailor, Spyware, Suicider - The Catch All Trail

European journalists and investigators are tracking the mysterious deaths of two security experts -- one in Italy, the other in Greece -- who had uncovered extensive spyware in their telecommunications firms. So far, despite possible U.S. links to the extralegal, politicized spy operations, few U.S. media have picked up the trail. - Read More

For previous posts on Catch All, start here. We broke Catch All back when word began to leak on the NSA's warrantless domestic wiretapping activities.

Transgendered Blogovestite Disinfo

Both a Stalinoid and a Cartilage-cunted disinfo amateur all at once - here 'n here.

Alas, the wailing woes and worries of peri-menopausal chicken shits of fuzzy gender. Oh well, let 'em moan 'n project their self-detestations to the regular choir of scoliotic bed wetters. For these the chronically soiled and supine, reality must patiently wait - for the boogeyman is always under their bunkbed. (BTW, the stories are bogus - at least the ones with a Skankanavian angle. Hmm, imagine that)

Prod 'Em Once - Hell, Prod 'Em Again: Danes Trump Pope

Last Friday Danish state TV (DR) aired amateur video footage showing young members of the anti-immigrant Danish Peoples' Party engaged in a competition to draw humiliating cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Those Danes really know how to step up to the plate and deliver on helpfully conflagrating Info
Ops designed to further define, delineate, and demonize a useful, hell - essential, enemy with one brave attempt after another at goading it into handy and dramaturgically timely uproar.

So Thank you,
Denmark. We know such help in buttressing the war on terror's pivotal and pretexting narrative and its myth of the omnipresent antagonist entails many a sacrifice on your part. The Pope, for all his good intentions and concerted efforts, just can't hold a candle to you valium-popping and Carlsberg-swigging welfare state vikings.

The video images have surfaced little more than a year after a Danish paper published cartoons of the Prophet, including one showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban. Four months later, the images were reprinted in a range of Western media, triggering massive protests from Morocco to Indonesia. that sparked violent protests worldwide in which more than 50 people were killed in Asia, Africa and West Asia.

The video images, filmed by artist Martin Rosengaard Knudsen of the artists' group, Defending Denmark, who posed as a member of the party for several months to document attitudes among young members, show a number of young people drinking, singing and drawing cartoons ridiculing the Prophet.

"This is not an example of something that is meant to provoke. This is an example to show how things are in Danish politics," artist Martin Rosengaard Knudsen told Danish state TV - which diligently performed its duty of opportunely seizing and transforming a subsistence level artist's obscure and grainy attempt at growing his personal brand value into yet another promising international tsunami, hoped to bolster the teetering credibility of the war on muslims/terror by reminding us wavering whities (and hyper-gentrified blacks) just what short-fused and irrational reactionaries all these towelheads are - instead of just the al Qaeda thug variants of these musselmen.

Above - Still outtake from video belo
w depicting a Mohammed headed camel with Carlsberg beer bottles as humps

Below - See the video graciously aired by Danish state TV:

Muslim leaders in Denmark condemned the video, but said they would not be goaded into taking action. "Against the background of the problems earlier, we have to be careful," said Ahmed Abu-Laban, a Copenhagen imam who helped organise a trip to Egypt and Lebanon last year to rally support among Muslim leaders for protests against the cartoons.

In a move aimed at going through the motions of defusing tension, the Danish Foreign Ministry met ambassadors from Muslim countries to discuss the video Monday. It was unclear how many diplomats took part in the meeting hosted by Foreign Ministry director Ulrik Federspiel or which countries they represented.

Foreign Ministry officials explained to the ambassadors that the government had denounced the drawings and that the footage had been removed from the two Web sites that had posted it, the ministry said.

Citing critical media reports from many Muslim regions, the Foreign Ministry cautioned against travel to Gaza, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

"Against that background, we urge Danes to use caution as the matter could possibly lead to negative reactions. The atmosphere and reactions can vary dependent on time and place. Danes should be aware of the local mood," the ministry said.

The videos were pulled from Web sites Monday, as well as from the Nyhedsavisen newspaper's site, as two youths seen in the clips were reported in hiding and the Foreign Ministry warned Danes against traveling to much of the Middle East. The purpose of the original publication was "not to insult Muslims or expose any members ... to any danger," said the paper's editor, David Trads.

In Jordan on Monday, the Jordanian associations, a powerful umbrella for some 200,000 professionals including engineers, doctors and journalists, said the video "reveals hatred toward the Prophet who came to the world with a message to enlighten the people."

"We call on all Muslim states to sever relations with Denmark or any other country which harms Islam," the associations said in a statement.

They said the video revealed the "nature of the struggle between Muslims and their enemies which are led by America."

Oct 10, 2006

When, Why, Or Won't

(When is someone keen on waterboarding going to lean on Musharraf to hand over A. Q. Khan for interrogation regarding North Korea's nuclear capabilities and the location of its nuclear chop shops - or rather, why isn't someone keen on waterboarding leaning on...)

Sulphur And SAMs

If you look closely at the weapons systems Chavez has been buying with his oil profits, you'll see he didn't buy a single weapon that would actually make an impact against an American invasion. It's amazing. All that great stuff he could've bought, and he blew $3 billion without getting any of it.

Venezuela just bought $3 billion worth of arms from Russia, which is supposed to scare us. We're supposed to start worrying about a new axis of evil south of the border, a heavily-armed enchilada de evil infecting all of Latin America with anti-Americanism.

Which is a joke when you think about it, because from Tijuana on south, every Latino is born knowing two things: how to lower a Chevy and that the Gringos are always to blame. They don't need Chavez to turn them against us any more than kids in Gaza need to go to summer school for remedial courses in anti-Israelism.

But there's a more solid, technical reason not to worry about Chavez's shopping spree.

Think about what weapons you'd buy if you were a Leftist, anti-American leader with unlimited oil money to spend, like Chavez. Assume your goal is to bleed the Yankee invaders bad enough to make them think twice about invading you. Take your cue from successful local guerrilla armies like Hezbollah. And assume you're buying from the Russians.

My shopping list would start with surface-to-air missiles, especially light, shoulder-fired weapons that can be dispersed to militias, and (thanks to that good ol' Soviet engineering) even buried in the back yard for a year or two and still fire up first time.

There are some mouth-watering deals out there, and the Russians are ready to sell all of it to anybody. I'd order a few thousand SA-13 for starters. This is the "Gremlin" (NATO code name), a solid performer that replaced the SA-7 we know and love. It's got a much better target-tracking system and is way less vulnerable to EW countermeasures.

Then there's the SA-16, another shoulder-fired beauty with slightly longer range and newer tech, and the even newer SA-18, with an even longer range (8k).

And why stop there? Chavez not only has unlimited money, he's got a big sovereign state to work with, meaning he can buy the bigger, more sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons systems the Russians are peddling, like the new Pantsyr vehicles that feature both SAMs with a range of up to 20k and AA cannon that can double up as very effective urban artillery. As I've mentioned before, the Lebanese Civil War showed that in urban canyons these Russian AA rapid-fire cannon are much more effective than the slower main guns of MBTs.

Now, this is just a quick sneak preview of all the goodies you can get at bargain prices from the Russian defense industry. I don't even have time to go into the other stuff you'd want, like antitank weapons (a Russian specialty since 1941) and antitank mines, some of them undetectable by most mineclearing systems. The point is, Chavez didn't buy any of these things.

What he did buy with his $3 billion was 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighters and 53 helicopters. Against a US invasion, all that hardware would be an instant writeoff. If you want to beat the US armed forces, you don't buy fighter jets, because they'll just get shot down. More likely, the USAF will turn them into modern art inside their hangars before they even get warmed up. And those 53 choppers, if they ever get into the air, will just be dessert for any US pilots who didn't get the chance to kill your fighter planes. You know how those fighter jocks are, itching to stencil another kill on the fuselage.

You can't fight an air-to-air war with the US, period. Nobody on this planet could -- not Russia, not China (not yet, anyway), not even Britain--though the RAF would probably trade kills evenly till we overwhelmed them with sheer numbers. You can outlast the USAF, sure; you can bleed it from the ground with SAMs. But you can't get into a dogfight with our air force and expect to survive the first week. You need a lot more than fighter planes to even think about it. You need satellites, AWACS, stealth tech, industry support.

Above all, industry support. Every time we get into an air war, it's not just Armed Forces techies swarming around the fighters and sweating over the mission reports, it's hundreds of missile technicians on loan from Raytheon, radar experts from Lockheed, General Dynamics structural engineers plotting weapons loads. It's a huge, incredibly expensive world you don't hear about.

Without that giant techie hive supporting your AF, you end up like the Iranian F-14s after Khomeini took over: the most expensive and useless prestige tech since Arnold's Hummer. Fighter jets are more finicky and temperamental than racehorses. To keep one in the air you need a whole base full of tech geeks sweating 24-7. You can't buy that sort of infrastructure, it has to develop. And Venezuela ain't got it.

Besides, it's not clear at all which side the Venezuelan air force would fight on if it came to a war with the US. Nobody noticed this story, but back in August there was a weird little scandal where Venezuelan Customs caught US diplomats smuggling chicken parts and ejector seats into the country in diplomatic bags:

I have to admit, the notion of smuggling chicken parts into the land of arroz con pollo made me laugh. Talk about Pollo Loco! Maybe they wanted to start a new franchise, Pollo Rumsfeldo, a top-secret program to alter the genetic makeup of Venezuelan poultry to make them more likely to vote for free-market candidates, just in case chickens ever get the vote down there. That would be about par for our secret-agent games down there, given the disastrous coup we tried pulling off a few years ago.

Now the ejector seats, that made a little more sense, although I'd love to see the diplomatic bag the State Department hid them in. I always thought these diplomatic bags were actual bags that overpaid Yalies in the Foreign Service walked through Customs in attache cases chained to their wrists, but any Ivy League grad who could carry an ejector seat past a bunch of scowling Venezuelan cops not only has balls of steel but biceps like the Hulk. So I guess "diplomatic bag" can mean anything you can load onto a C-17.

Anyway, what those smuggled ejector seats really mean is that somebody in the US Embassy in Caracas, probably a "Defense Attache" (ie DIA or CIA agent) has some friends in the Venezuelan air force who asked him to do them a big favor. See, the Venezuelan AF may have to take orders, for the moment, from this Commie loudmouth Chavez, but that doesn't mean they like him.

For one thing, he's ex-Army, and all AF officers hate all Army officers, no matter what country you're in. Besides, AF officers tend to be much more professional and conservative than other branches. Most of the Venezuelan AF brass were trained by the USAF, keep in touch with their friends at Vandenberg. The Venezuelan AF has been flying F-16s since 1982, along with our old friend the F-5, the plane they stock at those warehouse stores with "Generic Fighter Jet" on the package, along with CI standards like the Bronco and good old American workhorses like the C-130 and militarized 707 and 737.

When your AF flies all that high-priced American hardware, defense contractors can't give you enough freebies, most of them listed in the budget as "training visits." That means Venezuela's air force officers have eaten a lot of free surf'n'turf dinners at off-base bar & grills in Florida and Texas, and washed 'em down with a lot of expensive Scotch, all on Lockheed's or Uncle Sam's tab. It means every pilot in the Venezuelan AF has been offered a free trip to Disney World so his kiddies could get their pictures taken with Miguel Mouse.

That sort of thing is how you build alliances these days. I realize it ain't the romantic side of war, it ain't John Paul Jones transferring his command to the Serapis as the Bonhomme Richard slipped beneath the waves, but it's how things are done.

And it will pay off if we ever have to slap down Chavez, because either his AF won't fight at all or it will turn on him, bomb the Presidential palace and side with the Yanquis. There's no such thing as a Leftist fighter pilot. The job just doesn't allow for it -- takes too much ego, too much confidence. To put it bluntly, you have to be a talented jerk to be a fighter jock. Just think of the guy who always played QB in neighborhood football games, the smiley asshole you hated but knew was going to win, and multiply that by, oh, a thousand. That's your average fighter pilot.

If you think those dudes are going to turn on their drinking buddies from the USAF to back up a loudmouth commie army fuck like Chavez, you're dreaming.

And that brings us to the real reason Chavez is spending all those petrodollars on useless Russian fighters: he's scared of a coup, not an invasion. So he's trying to create a new wing of the air force, trained on non-American hardware and loyal to him. It's the oldest trick in the book, creating a parallel military force to protect yourself from the established armed forces.

Trouble is, it takes a long time to create a loyal air wing -- years of bribing the pilots with those steak dinners and Disney trips. Chavez is trying to do it overnight, which is hopeless, a sign of desperation. For one thing, it takes real talent and years of training to create a fighter jock.

Chavez'd be better off putting all his loyal Communistas in charge of tank divisions, because tanks are pretty simple hardware compared to jets. You can put your nephew in charge of a tank brigade and hope he'll learn how to find the right gear to set up a perimeter around your palace when the coup starts. Try putting your drunk-but-loyal brother-in-law a in fighter cockpit and odds are you're going to be watching amateur video of his Su-30 starring in "Venezuela's Funniest Air Show Disasters," careening his fighter into a crowd and fricasseeing half your constituency.

So no matter what angle you look at it from -- purely military, political, technological -- buying fighter jets to defend your country from the US is sheer stupidity.

That's why the really scary anti-US forces don't waste their time and money on it. They know how to fight US-type forces without aircraft. Hezbollah has no air force, unless you count the low-cost RPVs they used to scout Israeli positions. Like all good guerrilla armies, they put their resources into making the sky as unsafe as possible for enemy aircraft. That means lots of SAMs, including antitank weapons that have shown well against choppers, and training your men to hit chopper tail-rotors with unguided RPGs -- one of those lessons our ex-allies in Afghanistan developed against the Russian Mi-24s and then turned on us in Somalia and Iraq.

Right now, the technology is tilting toward the defense. Every year, shoulder-fired guided missiles get better and cheaper. And every year, fighter jets get more insanely expensive. What that really means is, the line between guided missile and manned aircraft is getting blurry except in one area: cost.

To make a plane a man can fly in, you need to spend really sick amounts of money, whereas missiles that can acquire that plane as a target, follow it through chaff and EW countermeasures and kill it, are relatively cheap (and getting cheaper). In fact, the missile has to win sooner or later, because it's not limited by all the stresses that can kill a human body. The missile can pull any g's you can pack propellant for; the pilot can't. To make the cockpit a livable place you need to turn it into the world's most expensive intensive-care unit, then build the armament around that. The missile has no veins to pop, no eyes to squeeze, no lungs to burst. It's not that much more expensive than a Discman, and it can turn that magnificent fighter jet into splatter video. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

So when Chavez buys fighter jets, he's telling us as surely as if we had him on tape that he's not a serious opponent. If he was, he'd arm the way Hezbollah armed: low-cost guided missiles to send IN HUGE NUMBERS at high-value, manned targets. I'm stressing "in huge numbers" because the cost differential means the guerrilla army, assuming it's got the money, can roll the dice a hundred times and still win, because a hundred guided missiles are still way, way cheaper than a single manned target like that Israeli gunboat Hezbollah hit with an anti-ship missile, or the Merkavas they knocked out with guided and unguided RPGs.

Well, Chavez has the money, that's for sure. But he didn't buy the Russians' brilliant new antitank missile, the RPG-29, that killed a whole bunch of Israeli tanks. He didn't even buy the good ol' RPG, which can put the fear of God into chopper pilots. The only shoulder-borne weapon he bought was 100,000 AK automatic rifles. What's that tell us?

Now nobody is a bigger fan of the AK "bullet hose" than me. But you can't resist a US invasion with automatic rifles alone, or even with AKs as your primary small arm. When Hezbollah drew the IDF into kill-zones, they used the AK to protect their RPG teams, like the English used pikemen mainly to protect their archers, who were the real offensive weapon against French heavy cavalry.

So what can Chavez do with a mix of Russian fighter jets and AKs? It's pretty obvious. These are the weapons a nervous Commie needs to set up a parallel military, loyal to his regime, to discourage a coup from his own armed forces -- not to stop a US invasion.

The reason he didn't buy any of those beautiful Russian anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles is because they don't require a lot of personnel. He wants manned aircraft, fighters and choppers, because they're labor-intensive machines that create big military units, hopefully loyal ones. He wants people whose paychecks depend on him, El Commie Grande, and shoulder-fired missiles don't have political loyalties.

So it's clear what these big arms purchases mean. Chavez ain't scared of Bush. Sad truth is, nobody's scared of that jerk any more, except maybe patriotic Americans like me, because the only country Bush ever really damages is America.

So don't get distracted by all that UN yelling. Watch the hands, like boxing coaches say. And Chavez's hands are saying he's scared to death of his own military, not ours - Our friend the War Nerd

Oct 9, 2006

Mindsets: Empathy To Kill

Mastering the languages, cultural nuances, beliefs and taboos that prevail in a theater of war, area of operations or tactical environment is vital to military success. It's much easier to kill people you understand.
-Ralph Peters, This Month's Air Forces Journal

Oct 5, 2006

Operation Enduring Taliban

Post - 9/11 the United States launched a massive disinformation campaign to convince the world that:

* Pakistan had volunteered to be a willing member of the United States global war on terrorism.

* General Musharraf was a “fearless fighter” against terrorism.

Five years down the line after 9/11, General Musharraf with full control of Pakistan through the Pakistan Army has failed to deliver any of the United States end -objectives in the American war on terrorism or American national security end-objectives in Afghanistan.

Everyone who has his eyes and ears open --- President Hamid Karzai and his officials, Western and Pakistani media, non-governmental analysts----can see that the roots of the Neo Taliban are in Pakistan---in the Pashtun majority districts of Balochistan, the North-Western Frontier Province
(NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Until the roots are eliminated, the Neo Taliban cannot be defeated.

The US intelligence agencies, security forces and political leadership are aware of this. The other NATO countries are equally aware of this. Dealing with the roots means writing off Gen. Pervez Musharraf. They do not as yet have the courage to write him off. With Musharraf, things are bad. Without him, they could be worse. So they think.

After having re-established its presence, despite the repeated attacks of the NATO forces led by the UK, in the Pashtun majority areas of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan adjoining Pakistan's Pashtun majority areas, the Neo Taliban is inexorably creeping its way up northwards to Kabul. The sporadic acts of suicide terrorism in Kabul and the anti-US and anti-Hamid Karzai demonstrations witnessed earlier this year in Kabul following a traffic accident show that since the beginning of this year the internal security situation in Afghanistan except in the Tajik and Uzbeck areas has been steadily deteriorating. Neither the induction of the NATO forces nor the raising of a multi-ethnic Afghan Army nor Police has been able to stop the inexorable rise of the Neo Taliban.

The Neo Taliban is qualitatively different from the pre--October 7, 2001 Taliban. The Taliban of the past was a ragtag militia of students recruited from the Deobandi madrasas of Pakistan. It was a force with considerable religious fervour, but with very little professional fighting capability. It dispersed and vanished into the villages on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at the first sign of confrontation with the US-led forces. Even the religious fervour of its cadres was not strong enough to induce them to take to suicide terrorism.

The Neo Taliban is an increasingly professional fighting force of well-trained, well-equipped, well-motivated and well-led cadres with a capability for conventional as well as unconventional operations against the NATO forces and the Afghan Security forces. Its conventional capability, remarkably acquired over a short period of three years, is demonstrated by its knowledge of military craft and tactics and its ability to use them effectively against the NATO forces.

It is also demonstrated by its ability to operate in section, platoon and company strengths and to stand up and fight instead of vanishing at the first sign of contact with the NATO forces. Its unconventional capability is reflected in its increasing resort to acts of suicide terrorism. According to one estimate, there have been nearly 90 acts of suicide terrorism this year. There was more Arab than Pashtun involvement in suicide terrorism last year. There has been more Pashtun than Arab involvement this year.

The suicide attacks have killed more Afghans than members of the NATO forces. One would have normally thought that Afghan anger over the indiscriminate killing of the Afghans by these Neo Taliban suicide strikes would have turned public opinion against it and come in the way of its recruitment to its conventional as well as unconventional fighting units. It has not.

Whereas religious fervour was the main driving force of the Taliban, a mix of religious and nationalist fervour is the driving force of the Neo Taliban. The Neo Taliban and its cadres view their conflict with the NATO forces not only as a jihad against the infidels, the crusaders and their Afghan surrogates, but also as a war of national liberation against foreign occupiers of Muslim territory. The religious fervour fuels the acts of suicide terrorism and the nationalist fervour fuels the conventional battles. The fight is viewed as a jihad to liberate the Muslim soul as well as territory.

Urban terrorism and rural insurgency are the two faces of the Neo Taliban's tactics. The increasing resort to rural insurgency by the Neo Taliban provides an opportunity to the NATO forces to make use of air and artillery strikes to inflict hopefully debilitating casualties on it. The inability of the NATO forces to prevent civilian casualties is playing into the hands of the Neo Taliban. Civilians angered by the NATO tactics are in the forefront of the new recruits for it.

There are questions to which correct answers could be found only in the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army and in the headquarters of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). How many of the Pashtuns in the Neo Taliban are Pakistani nationals and how many are Afghans? How many of the Afghan Pashtuns have been recruited in the Afghan villages and how many in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistani territory? One knows their source of funding (the ISI and narcotics), but where from are they getting their modern arms and ammunition?

And the most important of all: where are they being trained and by whom? One can acquire unconventional suicide terrorism capabilities by watching the TV and browsing the Internet and in the training camps of Al Qaeda and its associates, but one cannot acquire conventional set-piece battle capabilities from the TV and the Internet. They could be acquired only in training camps manned by experienced conventional instructors. Neither the Al Qaeda nor the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan nor the Pakistani jihadi organisations can impart such a capability to the Neo Taliban in their training camps in the Waziristan area of Pakistan, adjoining the Afghan border.

The US' bleeding preoccupation in Iraq has made Musharraf a more confident man---just as it has made President Ahmadinejad of Iran a more confident person. Both have concluded---each independently of the other--- that Iraq has set the limits to the US power. What the US did to Saddam Hussain in 2003, it cannot do to them. Their conclusion is reflected in Ahmadinejad's increasing defiance of the US on the nuclear issue and in Musharraf's increasing insensitivity to the US concerns over his inaction against the Neo Taliban.

The US finds itself with no cards against Ahmadinejad. He is popular at home and has no enemies. It still has cards against Musharraf if it decides to act against him. Musharraf has enemies within----in the political parties, in the circle of retired military officers and in the general population. By helping them as the next year's elections in Pakistan approach, it can undermine him and pave the way for the return of the political parties opposed to him. The Government of the political parties may be less competent, but will be more sincere in its co-operation in the war against terrorism.

Of late, Musharraf has been projecting the Neo Taliban as more a resistance movement than a terrorist organisation and saying that it can be tackled only politically and not militarily. He wants the Neo Taliban to have its share of power in Kabul, if not the whole of power. His efforts to have the Taliban, in its new version, re-ensconced in power in Kabul have to be countered if one has to prevent Afghanistan from sliding back to the pre 9/11 days. That could be done only through a regime change in Islamabad---politically through the elections and not militarily.
Excerpt Of A Paper By B. Raman, Director of Institute For Topical Studies.

Oct 4, 2006

Out Of The Shadows, Into Your Meatball

The following document is a favorite of ours here at Skankanavian Meatballs Confidential. It caused quite a stir when it was discovered in 1977. Dated 4/1/67, and marked "DESTROY WHEN NO LONGER NEEDED", this document is both a testimony to how concerned the CIA was over investigations into the Kennedy assassination and it remains a potent guideline for leveraging media assets in the free press to take the edge off of pesky public perceptions and narratives that challenge official accounting of controversial events and circumstances.

CIA Document #1035-960, marked "PSYCH" for presumably Psychological Warfare Operations, in the division "CS", the Clandestine Services, sometimes known as the "dirty tricks" department.

RE: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report

1. Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy's assassination on, there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder. Although this was stemmed for a time by the Warren Commission report, (which appeared at the end of September 1964), various writers have now had time to scan the Commission's published report and documents for new pretexts for questioning, and there has been a new wave of books and articles criticizing the Commission's findings. In most cases the critics have speculated as to the existence of some kind of conspiracy, and often they have implied that the Commission itself was involved. Presumably as a result of the increasing challenge to the Warren Commission's report, a public opinion poll recently indicated that 46% of the American public did not think that Oswald acted alone, while more than half of those polled thought that the Commission had left some questions unresolved. Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse results.

2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization. The members of the Warren Commission were naturally chosen for their integrity, experience and prominence. They represented both major parties, and they and their staff were deliberately drawn from all sections of the country. Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination. Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.

3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active [business] addresses are requested:
a. To discuss the publicity problem with [?] and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out that the Warren Commission made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.

b. To employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Epstein's theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher [?] article and Spectator piece for background. (Although Mark Lane's book is much less convincing that Epstein's and comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details.)

4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:
a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider. The assassination is sometimes compared (e.g., by Joachim Joesten and Bertrand Russell) with the Dreyfus case; however, unlike that case, the attack on the Warren Commission have produced no new evidence, no new culprits have been convincingly identified, and there is no agreement among the critics. (A better parallel, though an imperfect one, might be with the Reichstag fire of 1933, which some competent historians (Fritz Tobias, AJ.P. Taylor, D.C. Watt) now believe was set by Vander Lubbe on his own initiative, without acting for either Nazis or Communists; the Nazis tried to pin the blame on the Communists, but the latter have been more successful in convincing the world that the Nazis were to blame.)

b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent--and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) and less on ballistics, autopsy, and photographic evidence. A close examination of the Commission's records will usually show that the conflicting eyewitness accounts are quoted out of context, or were discarded by the Commission for good and sufficient reason.

c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc. Note that Robert Kennedy, Attorney General at the time and John F. Kennedy's brother, would be the last man to overlook or conceal any conspiracy. And as one reviewer pointed out, Congressman Gerald R. Ford would hardly have held his tongue for the sake of the Democratic administration, and Senator Russell would have had every political interest in exposing any misdeeds on the part of Chief Justice Warren. A conspirator moreover would hardly choose a location for a shooting where so much depended on conditions beyond his control: the route, the speed of the cars, the moving target, the risk that the assassin would be discovered. A group of wealthy conspirators could have arranged much more secure conditions.

d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other. Actually, the make-up of the Commission and its staff was an excellent safeguard against over-commitment to any one theory, or against the illicit transformation of probabilities into certainties.

e. Oswald would not have been any sensible person's choice for a co-conspirator. He was a "loner," mixed up, of questionable reliability and an unknown quantity to any professional intelligence service. [Archivist's note: This claim is demonstrably untrue with the latest file releases. The CIA had an operational interest in Oswald less than a month before the assassination. Source: Oswald and the CIA, John Newman and newly released files from the National Archives.]

f. As to charges that the Commission's report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms.

g. Such vague accusations as that "more than ten people have died mysteriously" can always be explained in some natural way e.g.: the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses (the FBI interviewed far more people, conduction 25,000 interviews and re interviews), and in such a large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected. (When Penn Jones, one of the originators of the "ten mysterious deaths" line, appeared on television, it emerged that two of the deaths on his list were from heart attacks, one from cancer, one was from a head-on collision on a bridge, and one occurred when a driver drifted into a bridge abutment.)
5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission's Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics.

Oct 3, 2006

Misinformation Intern

I was soon contacted by a Lincoln Group employee named Jon, who formerly had run political campaigns in Chicago and now worked on the company's I.O., or Information Operations. Over lunch at the recently bombed and rebuilt Green Zone Cafe-an air conditioned tent with plastic chairs and a TV airing Lebanese music videos-Jon explained that he was returning home for several weeks of R & R and that Jim Sutton had chosen me to be his replacement.

Jon quickly sketched out my new I.O. responsibilities. An Army team inside the Al Faw palace, another of Saddam's former residences, would send me news articles they had cobbled together from wire stories and their own reports from the field. It was my job to select the ones that seemed most like Iraqis had written them. I was then to pass these articles along to our Iraqi employees, who would translate the pieces into Arabic and place them in local newspapers.

Jon told me that the U.S. Army could hardly carry out this work in their military uniforms, so they hired Lincoln Group, which could operate with far fewer restrictions. It was a bread-and butter contract, he said, that paid the company about $5 million annually. I asked if the newspapers knew that Lincoln Group or the U.S. military were behind these articles. They did and they didn't, Jon said. The Iraqis working for us posed as freelance journalists, but they also paid editors at the papers to publish the stories-part of the cost Lincoln Group billed back to the military. "Look," Jon assured me, "it's very straightforward. You just have to keep the military happy." ...

I began my media work on July 14, waking up early to shave in the bathroom's cracked sink and brew some coffee in the sandy kitchen. I chose a spot on the large red sofa in the villa's living room, which also doubled as its office space, and waited for an email to arrive from the military. For several hours I checked the BBC website for news on Iraq, brewed more coffee, and sent emails home, telling friends and family that I was beginning to do real work here. In the afternoon I finally received an email from a First Lieutenant Christopher Denatale that was also copied to a long list of American military personnel with @iraq. centcom.mil address suffixes. The communique was labeled "Unclassified/For Official Use Only" and stated simply, "Here are the Corps IO storyboards for 14 JUL 05."

I carefully read the five articles that were attached as PowerPoint slides. The first reported on a speech by then prime minister Ibrahim al Jaafari, in which he announced that Iraqi troops would soon be able to replace foreign forces. It was accompanied by a photo of Jaafari at a lectern and ended with this bit of uplift: "Combined with the recurring successes of the ISF, Prime Minister Jaafari's remarks inspire a greater degree of hope for the peaceful and progressive future of Iraq."In the second article, also on the progress of the Iraqi security Forces, the U.S. Army writers at the Al Faw palace put an even more positive spin on the country's prospects. "Unlike the terrorists, who offer nothing but pain and fear, the ISF bring the promise of a better Iraq. No foreign al-Qa'ida mercenary would ever consider bringing gifts to Iraqi children. The Iraqi Army, however, fights for a noble cause. . . . Together with the Iraqi people, they will bring peace and prosperity to the nation."

The remaining stories continued in this vein. The American soldier writing one of them took on the persona of an Iraqi to denounce the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, another argued that insurgents were attacking Iraqis solely to instigate a civil war, and the final one concluded with an apparent public service announcement: "Continue to report suspicious activities and make Iraq safe again." These were far from exemplars of objective journalism, but Jon had said that I should think of the storyboards not so much as news but as messages Iraqis needed to hear. I supposed they were that.

I was to publish at least five stories each week, so I now had to decide which of these, if any, made the cut. After some deliberation, I chose the piece on the insurgency inciting Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. Its rhetoric was powerful, even Ciceronian, I thought, with the grand sweep of its opening line: "Great triumphs and great tragedies can redirect the course of a people's destiny." And I agreed with its overall message that one destructive act should not beget others. I was to pass along the article to a man named Muhammad, who would see that it was translated from the English. It also fell to me to tell Muhammad where to place the translated piece. Jon had left me a spreadsheet listing Iraqi newspapers and the amounts they charged to run our stories. Yet I knew nothing at all about the media in Iraq, and certainly didn't know the difference between the newspaper Al Sabah and the similar sounding Ai Sabah Al Jadeed. Jon didn't believe this would be a problem, however, having himself started with no regional expertise, and he made it very clear that I should under no circumstances ask the military team for guidance. He warned me that the two majors in charge, Scott Rosen and John Muirhead, would hound me for information on exactly how Lincoln Group placed the stories, and that I should remain cagey about the process, allowing secrecy to swell the perceived value of the company's work. I was to send them only the results of what had been published, detailed in a spreadsheet. The military, Jon said, loves statistics.

From the dozen publications on the list, I picked out Al Mutamar, or The Congress, because it was one of the least expensive (around $50 per story) and I could see we hadn't used it in a while. (I thought it would be good to mix things up a bit.) Later that day, Steve came into the living room with a story Jon had asked him to put together. Written from the perspective of a frustrated Iraqi citizen, it condemned a recent insurgent attack that had left twenty-three children dead. Steve's information came directly from news sources on the Internet, with no actual reporting of his own, but he had authored what I considered to be a very decent opinion piece. I emailed this to Muhammad as well, asking that it be published in another of the newspapers, Al Sabah (The Morning), which I selected because it was the most expensive on the spreadsheet, charging over $1,500 to run one of our pieces. Steve's writing, I felt, deserved the best.

I received an email back from Muhammad the following day, acknowledging my instructions and including two Word files. They separately contained the two stories in English and in what I assumed were their Arabic versions, and I saved the files onto my laptop, as Jon had instructed me to do. Two days later I felt a little thrill when Muhammad sent me scanned versions of the "articles" as they appeared in the Iraqi newspapers. Despite the subject matter of Steve's piece, he and I both laughed at the thought that he was now published in a major Iraqi newspaper.

I forwarded the scanned articles to Rosen and Muirhead and received emails thanking me for my work. Then I sat back on the red sofa, proud that I had successfully completed my initial run through this process. I had even made what I believed were sound journalistic decisions.

Over the next weeks, my U.S. military liaisons at the Al Faw palace continued to send me around five storyboards each day. I soon had a better sense of how Lincoln Group was positioned between the Army team and our Iraqi staff, who were themselves the company's sole link to the local press. Lincoln Group had originally signed its media contract with the military's Public Affairs Office, which supplies "real" information to reporters wishing to know about troop casualties or reconstruction projects. But Paige Craig had later convinced the military that his company was better suited to the more covert Information Operations sphere. I was still struggling to get a grip on all this information myself but recognized that there was some power in selecting which storyboards to publish. Although not exactly intoxicating, this power was certainly more significant in the grander scheme of things than anything I had experienced at university.

I also learned that whatever power I possessed was not absolute. When senior commanders labeled storyboards a priority, this trumped my particular journalistic proclivities. One storyboard, with the alliterative headline "Badr Corps Not Baited into Fight," was given a special "emphasis" by General George Casey, the most senior U.S. officer in Iraq at the time, and as such was made a top priority by Majors Rosen and Muirhead. The story took a new tack, it seemed, praising Shiite militias for refraining from retaliatory attacks against Al Qaeda. "The restraint of the Badr Corps and their faith in all Iraqis to stand up to terrorist violence bring great credit to themselves and great honor to all of Iraq," the article opined. "History does not fondly remember murderers and destroyers. History reveres the people who stand up against pain and risk of death to say 'No' to the murderers and destroyers. This is why it is such treacherous blasphemy when the al-Qa'ida gang claims the honored title of 'martyr' for their murderers."

I had by then developed what I considered a rapport with Muhammad and his staff, who had been remarkably forgiving of my naivete. Although I had assumed that all of the newspapers on the list Jon had left me were daily publications, Muhammad told me that, in fact, many were weekly, triweekly, or just unreliably issued. When I requested that an article appear in a specific paper, he would sometimes go against my request if he knew that the paper wouldn't publish for several days, and would place it instead in a daily. As he explained to me in an email, if he didn't do this, "Some of those articles will delay in time for couple or three days, and in this case their importance will reduce and attenuate and other newspapers will deal with them before us. This is one of the most important points which leads the newspapers' editors to know about the connection of those articles with the American, because who would pay money to publish an article which got old news!!!"

I passed Muhammad the Badr Corps story, explaining that it was of the utmost importance and feeling a bit excited to be carrying out the orders of such a senior officer. Days later, however, the story still had not been published. Muhammad told me that an editor at the newspaper I had chosen, Addustour, had rung the evening before it should have run, claiming that his managers had objected to its politics. By Muhammad's account, the same editor had then relented after some discussion, agreeing to publish the piece. (I assumed this meant that Muhammad had swayed him with an offer of more Lincoln Group money.) But when the newspaper came out the following morning, there was still no "Badr Corps Not Baited into Fight." I sent an apologetic email to the two majors, explaining why such a high-priority story had not been published. I hadn't taken up this issue with the newspaper's management, I wrote, because I didn't want to sour my relationship with the paper's editors. Rosen accepted this reasoning and was even somewhat pleased by the insight he thought it provided. "It is good feedback actually that the piece rubbed up against political/philosophical boundaries," he replied. "Is this something we should use to shape future pieces for that paper, for all papers, etc.? It is good to keep us on our toes and it shows that they are not our lapdogs."

Indeed, because Rosen and his team assumed I interacted regularly with the Iraqi press, they believed I was someone to take seriously. And Rosen's encouraging words actually emboldened me to offer additional suggestions on ways to improve our "pro-democracy" pieces. I told him that an article on the military's discovery of a cache of bulletproof vests was too outdated to run in a daily newspaper and read like a catalogue of munitions, with none of the "human appeal" that grabs readers. "This is not criticism," I wrote Rosen, "merely my honest opinion as a media analyst." (Jim Sutton had bestowed this title upon me, and it was by then printed on my Lincoln Group business cards.) For other articles, I pointed out that the military had failed to properly mask its own voice and intel, such as in one piece when the Army writers directly responded to an Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claim: "It is true that during one security operation a woman was detained by Coalition Forces." I told them that their entire approach to Zarqawi was wrong, as they were giving him far too much exposure-bad press being better than none at all. Rosen thanked me for all my "efforts to steer us toward better products." Although they, too, were reconsidering how to write about Zarqawi, the team had been "given some fairly rigid guidelines from our boss." Rosen added that they also were "synchronizing messages with PSYOP and PAO," and were thus limited in what they could do.

From "Misinformation Intern" by recent Oxford grad Willem Marx. (Mirror Site)