Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2011

Syed Saleem Shahzad Is Dead

This was the last tweet of Syed Saleem Shahzad:

He is dead:

Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, worked for an Italian news agency and an online news site registered in Hong Kong. He went missing on Sunday after he left his home in the capital to take part in a television talk show, but never arrived.
...
He disappeared two days after writing an investigative report in Asia Times Online that al Qaeda carried out last week’s attack on a naval air base to avenge the arrest of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al Qaeda links.

Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Shahzad had complained about being threatened by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

The story about the 'Al-Qaeda' vs. Pakistani Navy he linked in his last tweet is here.

As he tells it, the Pakistani navy found 'Al-Qaeda' friendlies in its ranks and arrested them. The people responsible for the arrests were then threatened and it became clear that more people with inside navy knowledge about the arrests were informing 'Al-Qaeda' about the who, where and what. Naval intelligence then tried to negotiate with 'Al-Qaeda' which demanded the immediate release of the prisoners. On April 22 two navy buses in Karachi were bombed with two dead and some 50 injured. More moles where captured but the threats only increased. Then followed the big attack on the naval base in Karachi on May 22.

Syed Saleem Shahzad report is so far unconfirmed but certainly has some truth in it. That it is the reason why he was tortured and killed is plausible. But who or what part of the Pakistani military or of 'Al-Qaeda' killed him will likely never be known.

In the past I have used many of his stories in my writing here and even while he sometimes tended to dramatize, his sources on all sides of the conflict were excellent and his sometimes seemingly wild stories were often confirmed by other reporting later on.

I'll miss him and the very useful information from the ground of the conflicts in Pakistan he provided. Syed Saleem Shahzad leaves a wife and three children. Buying his just published book Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 may help them to get through the financial trouble of this loss.

Posted by b on May 31, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

May 30, 2011

New Iran Bomb Piece by Hersh at New Yorker

Request on an email-list:

Behind a pay wall. I urgently need to see.

As it was the requesting person's birthday the following response was seen:

Pay wall ... yawn ... googled "username password new yorker" ... found "username: libsurvey@fordham.edu password: library" ... hey, that works ... print article ... printer: PDF creator ... upload ... see link

Major points in the Hersh piece:

  • Iran does not have a current nuclear bomb program
  • Some U.S. intelligence folks think Iran had one until 2003 because it feared Iraq had one
  • U.S. pressure on Iran is not because of anything nuclear but "to change its political behavior"

 

Posted by b on May 30, 2011 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Real Breach Of The War Powers Act

George Will asks: Is Obama above the law?

Enacted in 1973 over President Nixon’s veto, the [War Powers Resolution] may or may not be wise. It is, however, unquestionably a law, and Barack Obama certainly is violating it. It stipulates that a president must terminate military action 60 days after initiating it (or 90, if the president “certifies” in writing an “unavoidable military necessity” respecting the safety of U.S. forces), unless Congress approves it. Congress has been supine and silent about this war, which began more than 70 days ago.

In asking this question and harrumphing about the 60 day limit Will is joining both sides of congress and the executive in their obfuscation of the real breach of law.

As any reader of the War Powers Act can clearly conclude, the attack on Libya was from the very first minute a clear breach of that law. As the War Powers Act, Title 50, Chapter 33, §1541, stipulates:

(c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation
The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

In the case of the War On Libya there was:

  • no declaration of war (which would have to come from congress)
  • no specific statutory authorization (again something congress would have to vote on)
  • no national emergency through an attack on the U.S. or its forces

There are no exceptions in the War Powers Act to the above three points. Under the War Powers Act the use of U.S. forces against Libya was thereby under U.S. domestic law illegal from the get go.

But Congress does not like to be held responsible for wars. If it would take a clear stance, for or against a war, voters might have an opinion about that and vote accordingly. It therefore, like George Will, just does some partisan bickering about the 60 day limit, which is irrelevant to the legality of the war, and blames the president about it.

If Congress would do its duty, it would have voted on the war before it started or would have held the president responsible when he launched it in clear breach of the law.

This part of the game the village crowd in DC is playing. Ignore the law, avoid any responsibility and play up a conflict where it none really exist to provide a show for the masses. George Will is like many in the commentariat just a small part of the show. Nothing anyone should take serious.

Posted by b on May 30, 2011 at 04:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

May 29, 2011

TEPCO Doesn't Get It

TEPCO, the Japanese regional power monopoly which managed to have its Daiichi nuclear plants ruined by an earthquake and tsunami, doesn't get the political and social consequences of the catastrophe. It also seems to be slow to get a grip on the technical consequences and their remediation.That might all be somewhat understandable.

But what is not understandable is that it doesn't even get its routine business.

The Daiichi plant number 5 was shut down in an normal automatic emergency "scram" when the earth quake hit. One of its emergency diesel generators survived the tsunami and cooling proceeded as planed. There was, if at all, only small damage to it.

But now we get this:

The seawater pump in the cooling system for the Fukushima power plant's No. 5 reactor broke down Saturday evening, prompting repair crews to install a backup pump 15 hours later on Sunday afternoon, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Tepco discovered the pump had stopped at 9 p.m. Saturday but didn't announce it to the public until Sunday morning.

According to this chart the number 5 core, even though it was shut down six weeks ago, still produces some two megawatt of thermal decay heat. Without cooling the water surrounding the core will inevitably boil off and the core will melt which will likely lead to release of radioactive substances into the environment. Why, six weeks after the catastrophe, isn't there a secondary cooling system for number 5?

By noon Sunday, the core had reached a temperature of 93.6 degrees

Why does it take fifteen hours to replace the seemingly only cooling pump that keeps the number 5 reactor from boiling off?

The Japanese government should immediately revoke the license for Tepco to run anything technical but a one liter tea water heater in its office. If it does not get the basics of operating an undamaged nuclear plant - safety through redundancy, defense in depth - how can it be trusted with running the emergency measures on the damaged reactors that still need to be done now?

Posted by b on May 29, 2011 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

May 28, 2011

G8 Promises Billions? No, It Demands Submission

Los Angeles Times: World leaders pledge $40 billion to bolster 'Arab Spring'
Globe & Mail: G8 pledges $20-billion for Arab Spring countries
France 24: G8 - Leaders pledge $40 billion to Arab democracies
UPI: G8 to provide $20 billion in aid

Twenty billion, forty billion - which is it?

The Guardian is even more confused. It's sub-headline says 20 billion British pounds, which would roughly be 32.5 billion U.S. dollars, while the text says 20 billion dollars.

Tunisia and Egypt promised G8 help on path to democracy
G8 leaders support Arab spring goals by pledging £20bn in loans and aid to Middle East countries

G8 leaders has promised $20bn (£12bn) of loans and aid to Tunisia and Egypt over the next two years and suggested more will be available if the countries continue on the path to democracy.

David Cameron revealed he had intervened to prevent the package from being presented as more generous than it was in reality, suggesting that some at the G8 had wanted to present it as worth as much $40bn.

Cameron preaching reality - something smells wrong here.

Reuters goes with $20 billion and explains where the differences might come from:

G8 leaders promised $20bn in aid to Tunisia and Egypt today and held out the prospect of billions more to foster the Arab Spring and the new democracies emerging from popular uprisings.
...
Most is in the form of loans rather than outright grants, to the two countries in the vanguard of protest movements which have swept the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Gulf. Egypt and Tunisia are planning to hold free elections this year. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that on top of $20bn of credits provided by the World Bank and similar regional lenders dominated by the major powers, there would be as much again from other sources - $10bn from oil-rich Gulf Arab states and $10bn from other governments.

So Sarkozy promises other peoples money. Guess how much of that will arrive ...

The piece also quotes the actual G8 statement:

Multilateral development banks "could provide over $20bn, including 3.5bn euros from the EIB, for Egypt and Tunisia for 2011-2013 in support of suitable reform efforts".

Ahhh - it could provide in support of suitable reform efforts. Suitable to whom?

The whole offer is just a carrot or bribe to get those countries to submit to the globalist agendas.

Not that such a big carrot would ever actually be delivered. As another Independent piece points out

Summit sources said that this figure included large sums already promised by the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

The only large amount of "new money" on the table was a promise of €2.5bn (£2.2bn) a year by the London-based, EU investment bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
...
Speaking after the summit, Mr Sarkozy stood by the $40bn figure. He said that pledges by other international banks and national contributions – including £110m in aid from the UK and €1bn of soft loans from France – should be added to the $20bn figure. He also threw into the pot, rather confusingly, "$10bn from the Gulf states".

Summit officials said later that there had "certainly been no firm offer from the Gulf".

So all the big contradicting headlines are just lies. The only real money on the table is €2.5 billion, 3.6 billion dollars, from the EBRD which will be a loan that will have to be paid back, with interests, and which will have some likely horribly neoliberal conditions attached. This as part of the Saudi-U.S. counterrevolution. The money will be too little to make a difference and the stings attached will attempt to destroy the new movements.

As Soumaya Ghannoushi wrote a few days ago:

Washington hopes that these rising forces can be stripped of their ideological opposition to US hegemony and turned into pragmatists, fully integrated into the existing US-led international order.
...
Containment and integration are not only political, but economic, to be pursued through free markets and trade partnerships in the name of economic reform.
...
As usual, investment and aid are conditional on adoption of the US model in the name of liberalisation and reform, and on binding the region's economies further to US and European markets under the banner of "trade integration". One wonders what would be left of the Arab revolutions in such infiltrated civil societies, domesticated political parties, and dependent economies.

Submission to the G8 conditions would kill the revolutions. The offers should therefore be rejected.

Posted by b on May 28, 2011 at 03:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

May 27, 2011

Obama: Neither "Subtle" Nor Did He "Shift"

David Sanger and Eric Schmitt hit the propaganda ball out of the park:

WASHINGTON — President Obama has subtly shifted Washington’s public explanation of its goals in Libya, declaring now that he wants to assure the Libyan people are “finally free of 40 years of tyranny” at the hands of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, after first stating he wanted to protect civilians from massacres.

What please is "subtle" with a "shift" that never happened?

Feb 28: Clinton Calls for Libyan Leader Muammar Qadhafi to 'Go'
Mar 3: Obama: Qaddafi has lost legitimacy and must leave
Mar 22: Obama insists Gaddafi 'needs to go'
Apr 7: Gaddafi has no other option but to leave, says Hillary Clinton
Apr 14:  Obama: "[I]t is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power."

Why am I still amazed about how bluntly and shameless these journalists are lying to their readers? I probably need to be more cynical.

Posted by b on May 27, 2011 at 05:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 26, 2011

Libya: A Climb-down From Hubristic War Aims

Promoting their war on Libya the three stooges boosted:

[I]t is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.

It seems that in sight of the stalemate in Libya they now have some second thoughts:

"I do think that is it going to be difficult to meet the UN mandate of security for the Libyan people as long as Gaddafi and his regime are still attacking them," [Obama] said. "And so we are strongly committed to seeing the job through, making sure that, at minimum, Gaddafi doesn't have the capacity to send in a bunch of thugs to murder innocent civilians."

The minimum Obama layed out does not include the removal of Gaddhafi. This smells of retreat.

The Independent, boosting an "exclusive" about yet another of Gaddhafi's ceasefire offer, also has some bits on this:

Behind the scenes, there are signs that Western powers may agree to a ceasefire without the precondition of Muammar Gaddafi and his immediate family going into exile.
..
Whitehall sources say there is a widespread feeling that the Cameron government "set the bar too high" in stating that the departure of the Libyan leader was a prerequisite for a deal to end the strife.

That indeed does sound like a change of purported aims of the war.

But now comes the problem:

Meanwhile the opposition's political leadership, based in Benghazi – some of them senior former regime officials – insists that no talks can be held until Colonel Gaddafi and his family go into exile.

Having rushed into the war without a strategy and any plan b, c or d, the three stooges now depend on the goodwill of the rebels they promoted. It will be very difficult to get them to agree to any scheme which keeps Gaddhafi in some position of power.

But the only alternative is a much longer and continuously escalating war to which the political constituencies of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy are unlikely to agree.

A predicament for which they only have to blame themselves.

Posted by b on May 26, 2011 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

May 25, 2011

Netanyahoo In Washington

The prime minister of a West-Asian colony of East-Europeans receives more standing ovations in Congress than the U.S. president.

Judging only from the comments on various news sites the mood expressed by Congress seems not to be widely shared by the U.S. people. Is this impression correct? How do people in the U.S. really think about this? And does their opinion matter?

Posted by b on May 25, 2011 at 03:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

NYT Again Lies About WMD Claims

A piece by David Sanger and William Broad in today's New York Times asserts that: Watchdog Finds Evidence That Iran Worked on Nuclear Triggers

The world’s global nuclear inspection agency, frustrated by Iran’s refusal to answer questions, revealed for the first time on Tuesday that it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.
...
Tuesday’s report gave new details for all seven of the categories of allegations.
...
The report said it had asked Iran about evidence of “experiments involving the explosive compression of uranium deuteride to produce a short burst of neutrons” — the speeding particles that split atoms in two in a surge of nuclear energy.

Readers here will not be astonished to learn that the cited assertions in the article are completely false.

The IAEA does not claim to have found any evidence that Iran worked on nuclear triggers. Its recent report expresses, like every of its reports did in the past years, "concern about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities". There is no claim, none at all, in the report that the IAEA "possesses evidence" related to this. Sanger and Broad are pulling that from thin air.

The alleged uranium deuteride experiments claim comes from a much discussed 2009 article in the London Times. That one was likely based on fake documents presented by the U.S. to the IAEA on the infamous Laptop Of Death.

Nothing has changed at the NYT since the false Iraq Weapon of Mass Destruction claims. Yes, David Sanger and William Broad replaced Judith Miller and Michael Gordon and Iran replaced Iraq. But the scheme of making up false claims to further a war of aggression against a country Israel perceives as enemy is just the same.

Posted by b on May 25, 2011 at 02:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

May 24, 2011

War Preliminaries In Sudan

There is a bit of a war going on around the town of Abyei in Sudan. The (U.S. engineered) partition of Sudan into North and South is somewhat agreed upon but there is no decision on who will own the town and area of Abyei and the accompanying oil fields. Forces from both sides are currently not permitted in the area.

The UN has an official role in supervising the partition and has peacekeepers on the ground. But its real role is somewhat weird. Back in March the South asked UN peacekeepers to stay away while it was killing some northern rebels and the UN did stay away:

The southern military has told the U.N. that more civilians could be put in harm's way because of the military campaign, but according to internal U.N. security reports, the U.N. mission has agreed to follow a request from the southern military to suspend operations in the contested area inside Jonglei.

The South attacked several rebel sites, killing whoever all along, while the UN forces stood down.

Then last week southern troops attacked Abyei as well as UN forces:

According to the U.N., southern troops started the clash Thursday by attacking a column of northern troops and U.N. troops peacekeepers who moving away from Abyei. The U.N. condemned the attack. A U.N. spokeswoman, Hua Jiang, said Tuesday that no U.N. troops were killed.

On Saturday some northern troops moved into Abyei and some hundred of them were killed while they chased away the southern forces. The northern troops pulled back again. Then looters took over. Yesterday the UN asked the North to come back and to stop the looting:

The U.N. mission in Sudan said gunmen were burning and looting in Abyei town on Monday and called on the Sudanese Armed Forces to intervene to "stop these criminal acts."

Then again the UNSC says those northern troops shall leave:

France, which currently holds the presidency of the UN security council, called on the northern army to withdraw immediately.

Which is it? Stop the looting or leave?

My hunch on this is that the UN feet on the ground do know that the South is the real troublemaker here, but that the "western" parts in the UN security council are trying to put the blame for the fighting on the North.

The UN Security Council is currently visiting in South Sudan and it had planned to go to Abyei on Monday. That was of course canceled.

But why did this escalation happen during the UNSC visit?

Inner City Press sees some similarities to the Georgian attack on Russian troops that led to a short war. I agree. The South seems to have provoked this spat in the hope, partly fulfilled, that the "west" would press the North for it in spite of the facts reported by the UN folks on the ground.

Anyway. All of this is just foreplay, information warfare for the real war that will soon come back to Sudan. You will remember that back in 2008 some hundred tanks and many other weapons were delivered to the South. Some of them, previously pirated, under U.S. Navy protection.

When those tanks are seen in action, the real war will have begun.

Posted by b on May 24, 2011 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Escalating The Stalemate

The nuts take another step to escalate their war on Libya:

Britain and France are to deploy attack helicopters against Libya in an attempt to break the military stalemate, particularly in the important coastal city of Misrata, security sources have told the Guardian.

Those helicopters will of course not change the stalemate. Nor will further massive bombing of Tripoli like it happened last night. But the "western" countries involved in this do not want a political solution. We can therefore expect further mission creap.

Soon the self imposed political pressure on those who committed themselves to take down Gaddahfi, and to steal the Libyan oil, will again increase and the only escalation left will be to commit real ground troops along those special forces already there.

Meanwhile the UNSC resolution for a "no-fly zone" is getting a slight reinterpretation:

[France's foreign minister] Juppé said the helicopters would not be used to deploy ground forces in Libya and that the decision to send them was fully in line with the UN security council resolution mandating attacks in Libya.

One wonders what those veto countries who did not vote for the resolution may think of this. This reinterpretation will likely make further UN resolutions in equivalent cases impossible. That, and the damage this does to NATO, may well be the only positives coming from this conflict.

Posted by b on May 24, 2011 at 04:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

May 23, 2011

The Afghan Spies Trying A Trick

Earlier today the Afghan spy-service NDS claimed that Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, was dead. The Afghan Taliban denied this.

Since then the NDS has took the story one notch back:

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been disappeared from Quetta city of Pakistan for the past three or four days,"spokesman of Afghan National Directorate for Security (NDS) or intelligence agency said Monday.

"We can confirm he (Mullah Omar) has been disappeared from his hideout in Quetta for the past three or four days,"Lutfullah Mashal told newsmen at a press conference.
...
Mashal also emphasized that Taliban senior commanders have lost contact with Mullah Omar over the past four days.

The spokesman of Afghan intelligence agency also insisted that Taliban chief Omar had used to live in Quetta city of Pakistan over the past 10 years.

The NDS wants us to believe that they actually knew where Mullah Omar was, when he, allegedly, left and when and how senior commanders communicate with him?

This is the Afghan state enemy no 1. Are we to believe the NDS really knew all along where he was and about his communication with commanders and did not go after him or them?

It seems the NDS is making up a fake story here, pushing a stick into a beehive, to see who will react to this. With all mobile phones in Afghanistan under constant automatized observation through the U.S. military and the NDS, a panic reaction by some lower Taliban making some frantic calls to Pakistan, could reveal parts of the Taliban communication network.

Nice try. But I doubt though that such tricks will work. With the U.S. special forces constantly hunting for "Taliban leaders" via mobile phone locationing the surviving ones have by now certainly learned their communication discipline.

Meanwhile the U.S. still has so little intelligence in Afghanistan that it mixes up the spied on phone numbers and kills the wrong people.

Posted by b on May 23, 2011 at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

May 22, 2011

Where b Was Wrong On Fukushima

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

Before I say what I am going to say, let me explain a little about my background. I spent a number of years as one of the head trainers in what at the time was the second largest oil refinery in the western hemisphere. In that capacity, I trained operators, and wrote training manuals of the type that b has linked too. More specifically, I oversaw the preparation of refinery-wide emergency procedures for final FEMA approval and licensing of our refinery. In that role, I interfaced with the relevant senior operators and supervisors in reviewing, and in most cases, revising or rewriting hundreds of individual unit emergency procedures. I was expected to be the one who asked the "What If? questions, and foresaw unplanned events. In this role, I was required to read the classic text on industrial accidents, "What Went Wrong," and digest the historical record on oil refinery accidents. I played a key role in dealing with accidents at our plant -- and there were many -- though obviously none even approaching this in magnitude. I held certifications on a score of different units and worked on about fifteen different types of refining units. I have and have had friends who were/are certified nuclear plant operators. Additionally, my father was a chemical engineer who worked on Oak Ridge. I grew up with the blueprints of a number of reactors covering my father's workshop walls. My uncle, also a chemical engineer, worked for Exxon, then moved to AIG where he insured large industrial plants.

I consider that I know a lot about industrial accidents from a number of different angles, and can certainly read blueprints, piping and instrumentation diagrams, etc. I know a lot about emergency procedures and how they are formulated and understand whaat really goes on during accidents. Obviously, I am not an expert on nuclear power, per say.

One thing I know for sure, all accidents are political events and financial events involving gargantuan corporations. The larger the event, the truer this is. The safety of workers and the public is subordinate to those facts. That is simply how things work on the planet at this point in time. Workers lives may be insured for $250k and it may be cheaper to "expend" a number of workers, rather then use an intermediary device. It is simple cost-benefit analysis, made simpler if the tax payers are now picking up the tab.

Lest anyone think otherwise after saying this, I am against nuclear power categorically. The fact that a "cold shutdown" requires "hot powered" circulation pumps is Orwellian. An entire oil refinery can be rapidly shut down. Everything is designed with a failsafe mode. In other words, I reject nuclear power from a design point of view even before I consider radiation contamination such as we are seeing, or the geologically long-term unsolved issues of waste storage.

Nevertheless, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the operators, maintainence crews, engineers and other employees of nuclear power plants. I believe that until you get up to the corporate management level, all employees have the safety and best interests of the public, as they see it, at heart.

With that said, this is what I have learned from this accident.

While I trust informed people to make decisions about political issues and the adoption/rejection of technologies like nuclear power, they are simply not qualified to make operational decisions. This should be obvious. Could you manage a car in an accident if you didn't know how to change gears or that there was a brake pedal?

The first place I went after the accident was to the nukeworkers forum. The operators were very optimistic after the SBO, but after the prolonged loss of cooling spirits quieted down. One point brought up there, and numerous other places, was that small incremental changes in piping line-ups existed between what, on paper, were identical units. These small changes can have large implications when it comes to emergency procedures and what is possible when you are forced to dig deep. Even identical units can behave in radically different ways for unexplained purposes. The same with a more established technology like oil refineries. Therefore, I would be loathe to give advice even on a unit I was certified on, but had never worked on, much less a technology I never worked on.

Even the most simple unit in an oil refinery takes a minimum of an entire month of full-time work and study to pass the lowest level of certification, essentially meaning you are qualified to walk around when everything is hunky-dory with a clipboard under your arm and a hardhat on your head. Nobody would dream of leaving you alone to change a lineup, or switch pumps or compressors for several months more. Since the normal state of process operations is fairly uneventful, to become an expert on a unit requires a minimum of 5-10 years of work as an outside operator, board operator and supervising operator through numerous start-ups, shutdowns, and emergencies. That's oil refineries. Nuke plants are more complex, dangerous, and so the requirements are accordingly tougher. To become a shift supervisor for a plant -- that is, the person in charge of that entire plant at that point in time, perhaps $1B or more in capital -- takes 20-30 years of experience and many skill sets. I am not lying or exagerating when I say that it is easier to become a brain surgeon.

To think that some political minister knows more about what to do in a crisis than the shift supervisor is ludicrous. It is like imagining that Bush or Obama understands more about warfare than Sun Tzu or Otto Von Bismark. That is why Japanese nuke laws empower the plant managers in the case of an accident.

Now, these experts don't just shoot from the hip. They have emergency procedures, tons of them, which they are drilled on incessantly. General emergency procedures, then if things go more wrong, there is another set of charts, and finally there is a set of charts for catastrophic events like those we have recently witnessed. That doesn't mean that some action could not be changed, but one better have a very good reason, and it would only be done in careful consultation with other senior operators and engineers.

Deep and broad knowledge, experience and emotional calmness are far more important in emergency situations than intellectual brilliance. Before I learned that lesson, I got burned a number of times. You see, I thought I was smarter than anyone else around. And while I may have been more literate than any of the 700 other operators and managers (and I emphasize the word "may"), I discovered that there were quite a few brilliant and wise minds with far more experience than I, who had far better judgement than I in crises.

This is why I learned never to say "Why don't you do this?", but rather, "I don't understand why you are not doing this?", or "Do you think that doing this would help?" Invariably, the sugestion had been considered and rejected by those who knew more.

Now, what happened at Fukushima quickly went way beyond the purview of plant operations: all actions soon required a team of operators, engineers and scientists. Scientists to calculate what exactly was happening and might happen (because we are largely in the realm of historically uncharted events on this planet), engineers to figure out how some change might be effected, and operations to rule on whether such actions were physically possible. As we have seen, in an accident of this magnitude, Safety's usual trump ruling has been entirely disposed of.

All of this is perhaps a long explanation of why I stopped posting after my second disagreement with b. Now b is obviously very bright and talented, and puts a great deal of work and research into this blog. And perhaps it is more of a language problem in how questions are phrased, as I noted with myself above. And I have no idea what b's background is. But all my life experience has taught me that when someone consistently believes they know more than the experts, to put it politely, they don't.

Our first disagreement was when I stated that the reactor had to be scrapped after the introduction of salt and b disagreed. The alloys that go into building pressure vessels are very specific technical specifications for very specific conditions. In addition to my refinery background, one of my friends teaches the course on metal alloy failure at the Coast Guard Academy in New London (think nuclear subs) -- a course I have assisted with. To keep it in lay terms, a number of internal pressure vessel parts already have long covered-up histories of embrittlement and even failure. The minute you introduce salt into the chemistry, this problem grows exponentially. Additionally, every valve, gauge and pump would have to be replaced. I could go on, but I think the point has been made.

Now let me turn to the ultimate reason why I knew that the reactors were scrap.

I'm glad that you, b, have finally had your "Road to Damascus" moment and realized that all the internal damage was done within the first 15 hours or so. I was hoping you would finally come to this conclusion, I have watched it slowly develop, and I had decided that it wasn't worth publishing on this thread until basic reality was acknowledged about the actual level of failure, before it was even a story, really.

The SBO was the first shot across the bow; but two other factors were the dispositive ones: A) Quake-based damage to the plants vessel and piping infrastructure, specifically welds, flanges, instrumentation, pipe hangers, check, block, and orbit valve integrity, etc., which even at this time might not be fully known, effecting vessel integrity and the ability to cool down the units. B) Loss of cooling.

In other words, either an SBO, as happened at Vogtle, would be hairy, or a loss of cooling. The three concurrent problems together simply overwhelmed the designed coping capacity of the system.

Reactor-based damage as I have described in the briefest way above would be beyond the ability to deal with in the necessary timeframe. Xray equipment and technicians are not on site. Just to walk through a unit with full lighting and carefully visually inspect an entire unit would take several hours minimum after this level of event. As it turned out, at least one major weld -- at a point where there is little pipe flexibility -- did fail.

Now let's examine what the implications of this awakening means in retrospect.

A. If you have finally figured this out -- when the reactors began melting, you must presume that everyone who knows anything about Nuclear Power knew this immediately. (Unless you think that you are smarter than them; see above) Therefore, they (the plant operators and the government) knew the unprecedented magnititude and danger they were facing within several hours of the earthquake. Therefore, all news, accusations, finger pointing, disclosures, intentional contradictions of story, official lies, etc. have been managed from the start as political events of the highest import by the highest levels of power. For example, say you want to evacuate people from a radius of twenty kilometers around the plant. If you said that initially, you would create general panic leading to many deaths. So you start with two k, bump it up once the core has evacuated, and then repeat as necessary. That is exactly what they did.

Repeat: All news is political. As in the Bin Laden assasination, and all disinformation campaigns, creating contradictions and ambiguities encourages people to accept the basic assumptions: In the former case, that Bin Ladin was actually alive; in the later, that events were unfolding incrementally, rather than that the entire scenario was envisaged from the start and therefore had to be managed.

B. This is what I tried to explain from the start. You can go back to the official timeline, and the Japanese legal regulations (which I did before posting my second criticism) and see that -- especially considering the magnitude of the event and the number of plants that TEPCO had concerns with -- all communications with the government were timely. The legal regulations REQUIRE the plant operator to seek permission from the government in the case of severe emergency. The granted permission has many implications, liabilty, etc., but specifically empowers the plant operators to take whatever measures are necessary. This makes sense as they are the ones who know what is happening in real-time at the site. Once granted authority, plant actions were taken in a timely manner. I don't have the government regulations in front of me to quote from (dead computer), but if someone wants me to reconstruct and quote regulations and timeline, I certainly can, I believe it was paragraph 64 or around there.

You misunderstood events, seizing upon a planted disinformation story of the government criticizing TEPCO, which as I pointed out contained no hard evidence and was a political document. Knowing, as you do now, that everyone knew an unprecedented series of meltdowns was underway and that therefore all information and ongoing narratives had to be managed, and that the government had ceded control to TEPCO, the story makes no sense, as I said. Yeah, the minister was once a big honcho at TEPCO, but that doesn't mean that he understands the intricacies of emergency procedures and vessel stress tolerances. Tom Kean, of 9-11 comission infamy, was a big honcho where I worked, but he didn't know a pump from a dump, much less metal fatigue tolerance catastrophic failure probabilities. (My boss at the oil refinery made a big name for himself in the industry by increasing throughput a mere 15% beyond design. Don't think that that small amount did not increase injuries and accidents, it did, but it still made money.)

When narratives are designed to manipulate public opinion we see:
1) Rosy scenarios: Someone here posted an industry article painting the fairytale that reactors were designed to completely safely melt down. Similar to: Iraq, Libya cakewalk. They know its not true, in fact they NEED a quagmire to permanently position troops there, but they can't say that, so the public is manipulated by rosy scenarios.

2) Blame game stories. As above, also as above on this thread. We will see more. Similar to the Bush being blamed for not knowing that there were no WMD false narrative, as oppossed to the real "US knew there were no WMD and that was why they felt safe to invade at that time" narrative. It is easier to find a fall guy then to have the public accurately assess the dangers and imperil the industry.

3) Contradictions in stories. Self - explanitory. Confuses public about details, while reinforcing general narrative.

4) Complete lies, with the truth leaking out much later after the mass of the public has moved on, and when a mass change of belief would simply be too threatening for most people.

This is why there have been so many actions that do not appear to make sense.... based upon the information they have told us. In situations like this one is better off trying to figure out what is really going on based upon what they are actually doing, rather than thinking you are smarter than them and that you know what they should be doing, an approach you take far too often. As they say in computer programming: Garbage in, garbage out. Their actions speak louder than the assumptions they feed you.

This is why so many of the things that you didn't understand why they were doing were actually easily explained. For instance, burying with concrete from above vs. groundwater contamination from below. The real problem was waiting until you were ready to make a paradigm shift in how you framed the accident.

C. You spent a lot of energy criticizing the sea water injection operations. But as you now know, by the time power was restored to cooling systems, the damage had already been done. This is proved by the fact that there is no correlation between when sea water injection (lagtime) was started and the later explosion times for the three units. The cooling would not have prevented the explosions. When you assumed they were incompetently managing for cooling, they were actually managing for vessel integrity against further explosions, knowing that there were three different meltdown scenarios underway. Again, someone even posted some pro-industry propaganda here early on which said that the reactors were designed to "safely" melt-down.

Finally, there are a minimum a 5 potentially fatal design flaws in these reactors that others who know more than me have detected, notably nitrogen blanketing systems, off gas systems, and fuel pool gate seals. But an examination of those issues is beyond the scope of this post and any free time I have available.

Posted by b on May 22, 2011 at 02:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

A Few Links And Open Thread

Patent Application: A secure 1,000 mSv/h radiation protection barrier


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Nir Rosen: Western media fraud in the Middle East
"Too many journalists report official narratives of the powerful, missing the stories of working class people"

Greg Palast: Strauss-Kahn Screws Africa

Matt Taibbi: The People vs. Goldman Sachs (<- a week old but a must read)

Corp Orwell: In its submission to the Federal Court in Oakland, California, Apple’s legal team stated that:

Apple denies that, based on their common meaning, the words ‘app store’ together denote a store for apps.

Posted by b on May 22, 2011 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

May 21, 2011

WaPo Pulls Number Of Dead From Hot Air

At least 32 killed as Syrian troops open fire headlines the Washington Post:

BEIRUT — Defying a stern warning from President Obama, Syrian forces opened fire on protesters after Friday prayers, killing at least 32 people as the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad showed no sign of easing its military crackdown.

But the piece does not explain when, where and under what circumstances those 32 have supposedly died. There is not one bit of information in the piece about this. In which cities did this happen? Who opened fire? When was this? Where is that number coming from?

In addition to the 32 deaths, about 200 people were injured by gunfire aimed at protesters, and the toll could rise, said Tarif, the human rights activist.

That would be one "Wissam Tarif of the human rights group Insan". Insan is an organization in Spain with a website that does not say much about the group. There is especially no say who is funding it. The FAQ on the side only has this:

[S]ince 2009 INSAN has re-strategized its approach, turning, instead to project partners and funding institutions for support.

No project partner or institution is listed. This organization could be a front for about anything. I have no idea why any decent journalist would trust it especially when it throws out numbers without any factual backing.

The group claims to have grown out of other organisations:

INSAN began in 2001 as an awareness and educational project in Syria under the name ‘LCCI.’

and

The lobbying and opinion-forming organization which was born from this endeavor was to be called ‘FDPOC’ (Foundation for the Defense of Prisoners of Conscience).

There is no trace on the Internets of LCCI and an FDPOC link to FDPOC.com in an Wikipedia article is dead. The current nameserver for FDPOC.com is NS1.SUSPENDED-FOR.SPAM-AND-ABUSE.COM. I find one Syria bashing piece from 2008 that mentions FDPOC and Wissam Tarif.

My hunch is that Wissan Tarif and INSAN are front for some intelligence service.

But the Post doesn't bother. Some numbers thrown around of some people killed in Syria, no matter from where, seems to be enough for a big headline and a piece which doesn't back it up.

Posted by b on May 21, 2011 at 02:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

May 20, 2011

Fukushima Update - May 20

Tepco today gave a big press conference announcing a loss of some $15 billion for this year. This does not yet include compensation for the people who were evacuated because of the Daiichi plant failures nor does it include cleanup costs.

In another announcement Tepco also said that reactor 1 to 4 will be decommissioned, which is obvious, and that the no 7 and 8 planned for that site will not be build. It did not mention no 5 and 6. Technically those could be reactivated and I believe that is Tepco's plan. But to assume that it will ever get a license to do so from the relevant local governments is crazy. It just shows how absolutely tone deaf to public opinion these big monopolists are.

As for the status of the plants the announcement include this bit which is the very first admittance of serious trouble in the no 4 spent fuel pool:

In particular, the melting of the fuel pellets inside Units 1 to 4 caused them significant damage.

The no 4 reactor was shut down and contained no fuel when the quake hit. Fuel pellet damage there then must be in the no 4 spent fuel pool.

On the status of the reactors:

No 1 is slowly cooling down. The core has left the reactor vessel and the primary containment is partly breached. It is likely that renewed self sustained fission, recriticality, occurred in no 1 probably some 12 days after the accident but has since stopped. How far the molten nuclear fuel and the molten debris from the reactor vessel it is mixed with, the Corium, has damaged the concrete floor of the containment vessel is unclear. One report I read back from 1981 assumed a melt-through of the core through seven meters of concrete within just about 12 hours. A newer simulation report says that the maximum concrete ablation would be 1.6 meters and lead to a significant cool down of the Corium. The calculations very much depend on the type of concrete used as well as the Corium configuration. The Corium and its reaction with concrete creates high amounts of explosive hydrogen. Tepco is pumping nitrogen into the no 1 primary containment to prevent a possible oxygen hydrogen explosion there.

No 2 and 3 have different emergency cooling systems than no 1 and are probably less damaged though both have experience a core meltdown and likely also a significant reactor vessel breach. Yesterday the first floor of the no 2 secondary containment was accessed for the first time. The radiation was high but survivable but the air was very humid and hot. (Why did they send in humans when robots could have done the measuring just as well?) Tepco is now trying to find a way to put nitrogen into the no 2 primary containment as there is still a chance that a hydrogen explosion could occur in its primary containment.

Since the end of April a temperature reading in no 3 was steadily increasing pointing to recriticality. Tepco then more then doubled the cooling rate in several steps and is now pumping 21 cubic meters of water per hour into the reactor vessel. It also added boron to prevent further fission. The temperature reading has now come down since to under 100 degree Celsius (this temperature reading does no say anything about the temperature of the Corium though, it is just somewhere in the upper part of the reactor vessel and the absolute value may be off.) Like no 2 no 3 is still in danger of another hydrogen explosion.

The spend fuel pools no 1 to 4 seem all to be stable for now and with declining temperatures as all get refilled with fresh water whenever needed.

The biggest current problem for Tepco is the immense amount of strongly contaminated water the cooling operations create every day. Currently about a 1,000 tons per day are added to the mess and a significant part of that may get into the ground water and the sea.

Another problem is the debris around the site. A current map shows up to 150 milliSievert activity on the surfaces of some of the debris parts there. Too high to let workers get near those.

Further general information:

For a bit of history on the nuclear industry the Adam Curtis film A Is For Atom explains how serious safety issues were known but neglected when the construction of nuclear reactors commercialized. The reason for this was and is that nuclear energy is NOT competitive with other forms of energy generation if the same level of safety is applied.

Also of interest may be this Tepco 27 minutes image film from 1985 about Daiichi which also shows the construction of the first reactor there part 1, part 2.

On en email list I am on I had a little fight with an nuclear scientist. She claimed even on May 13 that my talk of "meltdown" and containment failure was overblown. Three days later Tepco admitted the meltdown and reactor vessel failure for no 1 and said the same was likely to have happened for no 2 and 3. Hehe ... you can imagine my schadenfreude.

But I wonder how a nuclear scientist could claim no meltdown when all the research available on the issue says that a Station Black Out (SBO) event in a BWR, a total loss of electric power and cooling in a nuclear plant, is certain to lead to a core meltdown within some six hours. All three reactors in Daiichi had a core meltdown and all reactor vessels and primary containments (drywells) were breached. The only remaining question is how big the breaches are and that will only be answerable in a decade or two when those beast get taken apart. A nuclear scientist not acknowledging this lets me fear that the safety culture in that industry is bad and that we will see further accidents.

For the record I was pretty sure about my judgment because, over the last two month, I read through a bunch of papers of simulations of the accident sequences in a Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) like the ones in Daiichi. These papers were written as part of official U.S. research throughout the 1980s and, as I have found no further significant updates to them, I assume that they are still valid. In case anyone is interested in the pdfs here are the links to my sources:

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language

Posted by b on May 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

An Outright Lie Is Not Reporting

The Washington Post reports on Obama's Middle East speech:

Obama [...] called, to Israel’s consternation, for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of Israel’s 1967 borders — an unprecedented step for a U.S. president.

Wow. What an outright lie. Every president I can remember has called for a deal on the basis of the 1967 borders.

How embarrassing for the Post when one can even turn to a pro-Israel propagandist like Jeffery Goldberg to find that admitted:

I'm amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel's 1967 borders should define -- with land-swaps -- the borders of a Palestinian state. I'm feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what's the huge deal here? Is there any non-delusional Israeli who doesn't think that the 1967 border won't serve as the rough outline of the new Palestinian state?

One expects such outright lying on the neoconned op-ed pages of the Post. But to have such blatant lies produced in a page 1 report is much more serious. It makes all reporting by the Post untrustworthy.

Otherwise it was a lame speech by a lame president who anyway never does what he promises.

Posted by b on May 20, 2011 at 04:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 19, 2011

Libya Going Down

A while ago I wrote about the tribal insurrection in Libya and some readers took issue especially with this sentences:

With "western" intervention the situation on the ground would quickly deteriorate. This would cost a lot more lives than any situation in which the Libyan people fight this out by and for themselves.

The military situation is currently a stalemate and on the humanitarian side the situation is bad and getting  worse:

In launching the appeal, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Panos Moumtzis, says his main concern is for the western part of Libya where 80 percent of the population lives. “Our concern for the west is that the situation in the west due to the sanctions, with the low availability of medical supplies, of food supplies, the fuel embargo, the cash flow shortages-it is really like a time bomb ticking where the longer the crisis lasts, the more grave the humanitarian situation is,” said Moumtzis.

With the country under blockade by the "western" militaries, there are now gasoline shortages which make the supply of food, medicines and everything else difficult. 750.000 people fled the country including some 60% of the mostly foreign health staff.

Intervention by sanctions and/or by military means inevitably makes a conflict situation worse for the majority of the people on the ground. There are countless examples for this and I am not aware of even one situation where international sanctions or military intervention led to less a conflict. The outcome here was really obvious.

I do not wonder about Cameron's, Sarkozy's or Obama's motivation, that's oil and power. But why some commentators at MoA had the idea that an intervention by "western" might in Libya, be it through sanctions or no fly zones or anything else, would be somewhat "humanitarian" and called for it is something I don't get.

Posted by b on May 19, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

May 18, 2011

If It Is Good The U.S. Did It

There is a general assumption within in the Washington DC Villagers crowd, the officialdom and media, that anything good happening in the world, happens because they did something, while anything bad happening, happens because someone else did something.

The usual way to do this is to assume that correlation is a sign for causation. If A happens while B happens and the result is good then whatever the U.S. did, A or B, must be the cause of the result. If the result is bad then anything someone else, likely the villian of the year, did, A or B, must be the cause of the result.

This is how we get stories about how the Egyptian revolution happened because the U.S. gave money to train a few activists and because of U.S. social media services. Does anyone serious really believes that millions, most of whom likely have no Internet access at all, take to the streets because a few activist learned to formulate Twitter one-liners?

This general way of Villager thinking sometimes leads to rather comical reports for which we find an fine example today in a NYT piece on an arrest in Pakistan:

A Pakistani intelligence official said in Karachi Tuesday night that the operative was arrested in the Gulshen-i-Iqbal area of the city on May 4 or May 5, just two days after the American raid that killed bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad.

The army said the operative was of Yemeni descent.

“The arrest of al-Makki is a major development in unraveling the al Qaeda network in the region,” the Pakistani army said in a statement.

The arrest of the al Qaeda operative appeared to be the result of a pledge by Pakistan and the United States Senator, John Kerry, on Monday that the two sides would mount joint operations against important militants in Pakistan.

“It was also agreed that the two countries will work together in any future actions against high-value targets in Pakistan,” the statement said.

An arrest happened on May 4 or May 5. But it "appeared to be the result" of a Kerry visit on Monday, May 12?

In the Villagers world, time seems to be a two way road. The Pakistanis arrested someone which is good, so it must have been some Villager's action that caused this. A correlation must be found that can then be constructed into a causation. But as there wasn't an correlation, one has to be constructed no matter how much such construction defies any logic. Then the constructed correlation is interpreted as causation.

In general the scheme is a bit more subtle than the example above. But it holds. Self congratulation for any positive outcome, damning someone else for anything less. Spoiled children who lack consciousness of themselves and others.

Posted by b on May 18, 2011 at 03:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

May 17, 2011

The Times Must Burn Its Archive

Israel again killed peaceful unarmed protesters who wanted to commemorate the Nakba, when the Zionist terrorists chased the Palestinian people from off land the Palestinians owned. According to the Times in 2011 the Nakba only happened after Israel was established and at war with some volunteer Arab army. According to the Times in 1947, and many other sources, the Nakba happened before Israel became a state and before the war.

It is time for the Times to up its Zionist credentials and to burn its archive. It seems that keeping it and the truth alive will only help those who want to wipe Israel off the map.

</snark>

Posted by b on May 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 16, 2011

The Saudi-U.S. Special Relationship Will Not Change

When in July 2005 the Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal became ambassador in Washington, he hired a young Saudi "analyst" Nawaf Obaid as a "security consultant". Nawaf Obaid wrote policy papers for the Zionist lobbyists at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) and worked with Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is something like a Saudi neoconservative.

In late November 2006 the Washington Post published an op-ed by Obaid in which he threatened a Saudi intervention in Iraq should U.S. troops leave. (This was shortly after the Iraq Study Group urged Bush to retreat from Iraq, an initiative which Bush answered with the "surge".) The King in Riad did not like what Obaid had written and he was immediately fired. Not coincidentally a few days later Turki himself was fired by King Abdullah. Even before the op-ed affair the King had preferred to work around rather then with the hawkish Turki.

Today the Washington Post published another op-ed by Nawaf Obaid: Amid the Arab Spring, a U.S.-Saudi split. Obaid now works for the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies where the Chairman is Prince Turki.

From the op-ed:

For more than 60 years, Saudi Arabia has been bound by an unwritten bargain: oil for security. Riyadh has often protested but ultimately acquiesced to what it saw as misguided U.S. policies. But American missteps in the region since Sept. 11, an ill-conceived response to the Arab protest movements and an unconscionable refusal to hold Israel accountable for its illegal settlement building have brought this arrangement to an end. As the Saudis recalibrate the partnership, Riyadh intends to pursue a much more assertive foreign policy, at times conflicting with American interests.

The backdrop for this change are the rise of Iranian meddling in the region and the counterproductive policies that the United States has pursued here since Sept. 11. The most significant blunder may have been the invasion of Iraq, which resulted in enormous loss of life and provided Iran an opening to expand its sphere of influence.

It follows some ballyhoo of how mighty, stable and prosperous Saudi Arabia is, how treacherous Obama is and how dangerous Iran and it ends much like it started.

With Iran working tirelessly to dominate the region, the Muslim Brotherhood rising in Egypt and unrest on nearly every border, there is simply too much at stake for the kingdom to rely on a security policy written in Washington, which has backfired more often than not and spread instability. The special relationship may never be the same, but from this transformation a more stable and secure Middle East can be born.

Thoughts:

1. It is certainly a significant op-ed and it will make some waves in DC but the question is how official it is. Is Turki again out of his depth with this or was it sanctioned by the King?

2. In an interview with Der Spiegel in December 2010 Turki sounded much less hostile towards the United States: "Our ties are strong and strategic. They will continue."

3. What changed this was, I believe, the little support (from the Saudi view) Obama gave to Mubarak. They fear that in case of a threat to their regime, they would probably also get insufficient support.

4. The Saudis are certainly already in the process of changing their foreign policy. There has been recently a lot of travel by various Saudi ministers and princes to China, Malaysia and Islamabad to renew or extend their relations with those states. A new security agreement with Pakistan was said to allow the Saudis access to two Pakistani divisions if needed.

5. The Saudi led military alliance Gulf Cooperation Council just added Jordan and Morocco. It now, for the first time, includes at least some competent militaries. (They should rename the GCC it royal Sunni club of counterrevolutionaries.)

6. The op-ed is boosting about Saudi power but how much power do the Saudis really have?
-- Their military has lots of modern weapons. But the Houtis in Yemen recently kicked its ass with much less resources.
-- The Saudis have tons of money and freely spend it to buy allies. But it often comes with strings attached like the demand of acceptance of their suffocating Wahhabi ideology. That's not a global winner.
-- Their global "soft power" sympathy factor is thereby zero if not negative.

7. The Saudis see Iran as their strategic enemy, but without big external support there is little chance they could win a (sectarian) fight against it. There are more Shia around the Gulf than Sunnis and while Saudi Arabia has an oil industry and some tourism it lacks food and other capabilities. Iran has an oil industry too, but is also grows its own food and it is reasonably industrialized in all other fields. 

In total the Saudis may well move towards a bit less dependency on the United States but if they really want to push against Iran and its influence there is little chance that they could win such a competition without serious U.S. involvement on their side. In this the special relationship will not change.

Posted by b on May 16, 2011 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

May 15, 2011

Bin Laden Data Used For Blackmail

It is claimed that the raid on the Bin Laden home in Abbottabad also caught a huge amount of data from computer storage devices allegedly found there.

Because no one else has this alleged data, the administration can use it as cover to claim anything about anyone. As I half jokingly wrote:

I am told that the huge amount of data found on DVD disks and memory sticks during the alleged assassination of Osama bin Laden contains proof of a railway plot and also reveals that:
a. Iran will have nuclear weapons within three years,
b. Iran's president Ahmedinejad uses sorcery,
c. Iran's supreme leader Khamenei has a chronic flatulence problem,
d. Iran has special trucks in which Khamenei produces those deadly islamist bio-weapons which makes him the world's greatest threat.
Other great, top secret facts from the found data will be revaled by the administration whenever it will fit its agenda.

We have already seen how this alleged data is used to defame Bin Laden by claiming, without any proof, that the data contained pornography.

Now the U.S. is using the threat to find something culpable in the secret data against Pakistan. As top NYT administration stenographer David Sanger sets out in a preview of Senator Kerry's current pressure mission in Pakistan:

A senior administration official said Saturday that the United States would try to use the threat of Congressional cuts to the $3 billion in annual American aid to Pakistan as leverage. Any evidence of Pakistan’s complicity in sheltering Bin Laden — culled from the hundreds of computer flash drives and documents recovered in the raid — could also be used, the official said. So far, no such evidence has been found.
...
Mr. Kerry’s main piece of negotiating leverage is Pakistan’s uncertainty about what officials are finding in the trove of computer data — which Mr. Donilon has compared to “a small college library” — about Pakistani complicity hiding the Qaeda leader.

This is pure blackmail: "We might have some evidence against you and publish it, but if you do what we want, then we might not have any."

Having secret data from Bin Laden will allow all kinds of such threats against many nations and people. Beware of believing any of it.

Meanwhile where is Obama holding Osama's son Hamza?

Posted by b on May 15, 2011 at 05:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

The Strauss-Kahn Character Assassination

To me this seems to be related to this and smells of entrapment.

From the second link, published a week ago in the Irish Times, on the Irish gunshot "bailout" in the financial crisis:

Ireland’s Last Stand began less shambolically than you might expect. The IMF, which believes that lenders should pay for their stupidity before it has to reach into its pocket, presented the Irish with a plan to haircut €30 billion of unguaranteed bonds by two-thirds on average. [Minister for Finance] Lenihan was overjoyed, according to a source who was there, telling the IMF team: “You are Ireland’s salvation.”

The deal was torpedoed from an unexpected direction. At a conference call with the G7 finance ministers, the haircut was vetoed by US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner who, as his payment of $13 billion from government-owned AIG to Goldman Sachs showed, believes that bankers take priority over taxpayers.

Now from the first link published on the first page of today's New York Time:

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was taken off an Air France plane at Kennedy International Airport minutes before it was to take off for Paris on Saturday and arrested in connection with the sexual attack of a maid at a Midtown Manhattan hotel, the authorities said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was widely expected to become the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, was apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the first class section of the jetliner, and immediately turned over to detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, officials said.

Now it may of course well be that Mr. Strauss-Kahn didn't behave like a gentleman. But does anybody believe that some other high up, for example the CEO of Goldman Sachs, would have been shamed like this over such an issue without the usual official cover up attempt?

I don't think so. The ultimate crime Mr. Strauss-Kahn committed was to suggest to let the bankers bleed instead of small tax payers. He is lucky that his assassination by the U.S. administration is limited to his character.

Posted by b on May 15, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (134)

May 13, 2011

A Friday With A Monday Deadline

When I had this great much too big apartment some old-time MoA folks who visited me will remember my only complain was that it was on the third floor. When I looked for a new place I wanted it to live on the ground floor and with some greener environment. This picture shows one reason why.


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Today this girl came by my desk. She and her elder male collegue do that every day to ask for their regular walnut offering. I was out of walnuts but after some negotiations she settled for a quarter of an apple.

 

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The young rabbit took another quarter.


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The female magpie, who like her boyfriend loves to take a thorough bath in that white pool at least twice a day, didn't like the carrot and stick I initially offered her. Well, she isn't a donkey so she must be Iranian. But in the end she also took a quarter of that apple.


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The last quarter may well go to the hedgehog who often passes by in the evening twilight and always escapes my shoddy camera.

As you can tell from those pics I was deskbound today. There is a serious Monday deadline coming up and that's why there will be no serious post today.

If the above is boring to you this action filled link might be more to your taste: Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Dead, Vader Says. Or why not just take a Taibbi to get yourself into a really bad mood: The People vs. Goldman Sachs.

Posted by b on May 13, 2011 at 02:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

May 12, 2011

Fiddling With Sadr

The U.S. military hopes that it can stay in Iraq. It knows of course that with the Sadr movement being totally against this and prime minister al-Maliki's coalition depending on al-Sadr, the chance to reach a new stationing agreement are small and would require some serious diplomacy. But as the military's only tool is force, it is applying just that tool:

DIALA / Aswat al-Iraq: The U.S. Forces have attacked the Headquarters of the Shiite Sadrist Trend, north of Diala Province on Wednesday, the Legislature of Diala Province, Hussein Hamham said.

“The American Forces have attacked a headquarter of “Martyr Sadr” in Judeidat-al-Shatt town in Khalis township, 15 km to the north of Baaquba, harshly fiddling with its contents,” Hamham told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

This will not help. One cannot convince Sadr by force.

Prime minister al-Maliki knows that he depends on Sadr's votes to stay in office. But he also knows that the U.S. supported his biggest competitor Allawi and wanted him out. His political maneuvering here is just for show and to keep the nagging U.S. folks off his back:

Iraq’s prime minister indicated Wednesday that he might ask some U.S. troops to stay in the country beyond a year-end deadline if most of Iraq’s main political blocs support such a decision.

Nouri al-Maliki, who has been under pressure from the United States to decide within weeks on a lasting U.S. military presence, said he would call together leaders from the main blocs by the end of this month to begin hashing out a response.

Maliki's talk was so non-committing that I doubt it is as serious as the lede to that WaPo piece suggests. Indeed:

Maliki was particularly vague Wednesday about what he would consider “majority” support for keeping a U.S. troop presence, saying at one point, “When the consensus reaches 70, 80 or 90 percent, then I call this consensus.”

There will be no 90, 80 or even 70% consensus in Iraq to keep the U.S. troops in the country. To reach even a 50% majority on that would be political magic. The U.S. stop its stupid harassing or fiddling of Sadr's movement, pack up and just leave.

Posted by b on May 12, 2011 at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 11, 2011

Fukushima Update - May 11

The big mess at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues as the damaged reactors there are still releasing radioactive substances into the environment. A new leak through a cable shaft and to the cooling water intake of the no 3 reactor to the sea was found only today. UPDATE: It was briefed today (Thursday) that reactor no 1 had a full core meltdown (see below).

At the no 1 plant the reactor vessel continues to be fed with cooling water but can not be filled up above the level of the exposed nuclear fuel likely because of leaking pipe connections at a certain height. UPDATE: As was learned today (Thursday) a welded pipe failure near the bottom of reactor vessel has been leaking large amounts of water, likely since the quake/tsunami incident. This caused all the cooling water in reactor 1 to leak into the primary containment vessel. The fuel elements in the core were totally exposed with little cooling and have melted. They and the also melted structures holding them now form a Corium mass at the bottom of the reactor vessel and it seems likely that some Corium dropped further from there into the primary containment vessel. This would probably through the control rod tubes as the control rods in this particular reactor type are actuated from the below the reactor vessel. END-UPDATE

Now the primary containment vessel around the reactor vessel will get filled with water. This creates a "water sarcophagus" to cool the reactor vessel from the outside. So far over 9,900 tons of water have been pumped into it. Eventually water will be filled high enough to submerge the reactor vessel and thereby refill it through the leaking pipe connection.

Yesterday workers could access the inner no 1 reactor building for the very first time and they tried to install some new monitoring systems as the old ones are broken. Before the access door was opened and the workers could enter air was pushed through the building and through filters to reduce the radiation in the building. This was not very successful. Tepco had hoped to reduce radiation there to 1 millisievert per hour, but some areas inside the building that eventually need to be entered still have radiation levels between 600 and 700 millisieverts per hour, much higher than the maximum 250 millisievert lifetime(!) radiation limit that nuclear workers can be exposed to in emergency cases. Those areas will need to get shielded off before work around them can continue.

The spent fuel pool in no 1 continues to get refilled with water which then continues to evaporate through the severely damaged roof. Hydrazine was added to the water as corrosion inhibitor.

The number no 2 reactor vessel and primary containment are still leaking water into the basement of the machine hall of no 2 and 3 and from there through various ways into the environment. Work has started to pump the water out for decontamination and to block all ways from the basement into the environment. Eventually the leak in the containment vessel (likely at the damaged torus outside the primary containment which holds condensation water) will have to be repaired to allow for restoring a permanent cooling loop or to attempt to create a "water sarcophagus" around it. This will be very difficult to achieve as the water coming from the leak is radioactive.

The no 2 spent fuel pool seems for now to be fine as an improvised cooling loops has been established for it.

The no 3 reactor shows increasing reactor vessel temperature. Over the last 10 days the temperature temperature at the feedwater nozzle increased from below 100 degree centigrade to over 221 degrees now. As the reactor vessel and primary containment is also likely damaged this also increases evaporation and releases into the environment.

The spent fuel pool in no 3 continues to get intermittently refilled with water which then continues to evaporate through the severely damaged roof. A camera view (see May 10 entry) into the water filled pool showed only tons of heavy debris from the collapsed roof.

The heavily damaged no 4 building had no active reactor at the time of the quake but a full spent fuel pool. A few days ago a camera view (see entry at May 8) into the pool showed no visible damage to the fuel elements but some rubble on top of them. Some gas bubbles were coming up from the fuel elements which points to some damaged fuel rods and continued hydrate release.

According to this Russia News report there is some speculation (starting at 3:10) that the building of reactor no 4 began to lean to one side. NISA, the Japanese regulator had ordered Tepco to check the statics of that building some weeks ago. Maybe they had good reason to do so?

In the general surrounding of the plants rubble gets removed with remote operated machines and synthetic resin gets sprayed on all surfaces to prevent radioactive dust to come up.

Some people where allowed to visit the evacuated areas to remove stuff from their homes. The government seems to finally adopt the evacuated area to a real assessment of the radiation. It had at first created a 20 kilometers and then a 30 kilometer circular evacuation zone. But the days after the explosions at the plant the wind blew over land towards north-northwest before turning back to the sea and that area has of course now higher radiation levels even beyond the 30 kilometer zone than areas more near to but south of the reactors. (I remember seeing saw a German radiation prediction chart just a few days after the reactor explosions that showed just that. What took the Japanese government so long to come to this conclusion?) Higher levels of radiation have been found in wastewater facilities beyond the current evacuation area. This will likely be from runoff water that went into the sewage. The sludge that the wastewater facilities create is used to produce cement which will now be slightly radiated.

The prime minister of Japan has ordered another nuclear site with six reactors, Hamaoka, to shut down as it stands above a tectonic fault which is suspected to create a big quake and probably soon. This will increase the electricity deficit this summer, which will lead to blackouts and further economic damage.

Additional resources:
Update from Dr. Saji former Secretariat of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission <--- NEW!
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language

 

Posted by b on May 11, 2011 at 02:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

Legitimacy?

Is there god somewhere who anointed Obama to rule the world?

AP sources: US closer to declaring Assad's rule in Syria illegitimate

Administration officials said Tuesday that the first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule, a major policy shift that would amount to a call for regime change that has questionable support in the world community.

Who or what does the Obama administration believe has given it the legitimacy to declare the (il)legitimacy of another country's administration?

According to John Locke legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed. "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government," says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is part of the United Nations charter. There is no sign that Bashar Assad has lost the consent of the majority of the Syrian people.

Damascus, the capital, seemingly tranquil, and Aleppo, a key conservative bastion, has been relatively quiet ..

The arrogance of the Obama administration is embarrassing.

Posted by b on May 11, 2011 at 05:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

May 10, 2011

Weird Self Censorship On Mark Carlton In U.S. Media

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The public outing of the CIA station chief here threatened on Monday to deepen the rift between the United States and Pakistan, with U.S. officials saying they believed the disclosure had been made deliberately by Pakistan’s main spy agency.
...
The CIA station chief’s name was first aired by a private Pakistani television station on Friday, and a misspelled version of the name was published the next day in the Nation newspaper, which is considered close to the security establishment. The Washington Post does not typically publish the names of intelligence officers working undercover.
Pakistanis disclose name of CIA operative

Also:

On Friday, the private TV channel ARY broadcast what it said was the current station chief's name. The Nation, a right-wing newspaper, picked up the story Saturday.
...
The AP is not publishing the station chief's name because he is undercover and his identity is classified.
Pakistan Media Out Alleged Name Of CIA Station Chief

What is the purpose of this dubious self censorship in U.S. media? "We are not going to report the name but will tell you where to look it up:

ISLAMABAD: Director General ISI Ahmed Shuja Pasha held a meeting with station chief CIA Mark Carlton in Islamabad, sources said.

Also, while the Post hints that only The Nation spelled the name wrong, "a misspelled version of the name was published the next day in the Nation newspaper", ARY TV is using just the same spelling.

But again - what is the purpose of withholding the name when one reports exactly where to find it?

Posted by b on May 10, 2011 at 03:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

Which Is It?

A weakened insurgency or growing violence. Which is it?

NATO says insurgency weakened, May 9

KABUL, Afghanistan – NATO said Monday that it has significantly weakened the Taliban insurgency, capturing or killing thousands of militants in Afghanistan during the past three months.

It also said that the Taliban failed in an attempt to carry out attacks against key government buildings over the weekend in the southern city of Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban and the economic hub of southern Afghanistan.

U.S. issues warning, violence grows across Afghanistan, May 9

U.S. officials in Kabul said on Monday the movements of staff in parts of Afghanistan's volatile south were being restricted, warning of more attacks after a two-day siege came to a bloody end and insurgents killed at least 11 people in other attacks.
...
"U.S. government personnel in Marjah have been confined to their compounds due to a reported specific threat to Afghan government facilities in Marjah, Lashkar Gah and possibly Gereshk beginning today," the U.S. bulletin said.

Bonus read: Morale plunges among troops in Afghanistan, May 9

U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan are experiencing some of the greatest psychological stress and lowest morale in five years of fighting, reports a military study.

Posted by b on May 10, 2011 at 01:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 09, 2011

You realize you never actually won a war either, right?

Andrew Exum at Abu Muqawama is mocking the Pakistani Army:

I, for one, fail to see why the Pakistani military and security services continue to enjoy such a privileged position in Pakistan. Has it escaped the notice of Pakistan's 180+ million people that their proud, pampered army has never actually won a war? Or that it committed horrific war crimes in Bangladesh (en route to defeat, naturally)? Or that its support for Lashkar-e Taiba has endangered the security of every Pakistani man, woman and child by risking a massive Indian counterstrike?

Glasshouse, stone ...

What please is the last war the U.S. has won?

In World War II the U.S. beat the Japanese. While the U.S. is still bragging about victory over Germany it was actually beaten by the Soviets. Operation Overlord and the battle of Normandy was just a diversion from the much more massive Soviet Operation Bagration which broke the back of the Wehrmacht.

And after World War II I do not see any war the U.S. has really won. And no, Grenada does not count. The Korea War ended in a stalemate at the 38th parallel north, just where it had started. The Vietnam War certainly wasn't a victory. While the 1991 war against Iraq put the Kuwaiti Emir back into power, it did not beat Saddam into submission. The 2003 war against Iraq will end with a strategic loss when the U.S. is leaving at the end of this year. In Afghanistan the war will also likely end with a U.S. retreat.

A good Pakistani response to Exum's arrogance should therefore read:

I, for one, fail to see why the U.S. military and security services continue to enjoy such a privileged position in the United States. Has it escaped the notice of the U.S.'s 300+ million people that since 1945 their proud, pampered army has never actually won a war? Or that it committed horrific war crimes in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan (en route to defeat, naturally)? Or that its support for Mujaheddin against the Soviets endangered the security of every U.S. man, woman and child by risking a massive counterstrike which came on 9/11 and which cost you $3 trillion?

Posted by b on May 9, 2011 at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

May 08, 2011

Iran: No Sorcery But A Constitutional Struggle

So there is sorcery within the Iranian government of president Ahmadinejad, allies of him have been arrested for it and he will step down?

Today Yves Smith links to a Raw Story piece which is headlined Iranian president may resign after allies arrested, charged with sorcery. Raw Story has no sources for that claim but a link to a Guardian piece which claims:

Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".

The Guardian provides no source for its report but that Iranian website Ayandeh it links to.

But there is little Iranian with that website except its use of Farsi language. It has an English title "Iranian Futurist". It's full domain name is www.ayandeh.nu and it is registered via Loopia Webbhotell AB in Vasteras, Sweden. The admin email for that website is info@ayandehnegar.org and that domain is registered to one Hossein Mola with an address in Kesta, Sweden.

Hossein Mola also registered the domain vahidthinktank.com. That site only has a Farsi Donation page (google translate link) and a button "English" which brings one to a blogspot page of one Vahid V. Motlagh who claims to be a futurist and looks into "Ideas for a deeper sense of life".

But back to the Guardian's source, the futurist Iranian/Swedish/Norwegian website ayandeh.nu. I can not find (google translate link) any article that would fit this as a source for the "sorcery" and "arrests" the Guardian reports. The website is a mix of futurology including from Vahid V. Motlagh, Iranian human rights stuff and a few news items about Iran. It is neither really Iranian nor a reliable source.

The whole sorcery and arrests claims are likely nonsense invented to make a little reported constitutional crisis within Iran's ruling class look more mysterious than it is.

Now lets talk about that crisis.

While the "west" always claims that Ahmedinejad is a "hardliner" or "conservative" that claim has never been true. He is a rather progressive social democrat with a more laical and secular outlook than many of the "principalists" in the Iranian parliament and the conservative clerics. This was already obvious back in 2006 when Ahmedinejad allowed women into soccer stadiums but was overruled by conservatives and the supreme leader Khamenei.

After the 2009 elections, which he won with a comfortable 60% of the votes, an emboldened Ahmedinejad again pressed for a more laical society. His point man for this project was Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Mashaei, an engineer and politician, is a war-comrade of Ahmedinejad. His daughter is married to Ahmadenejad's son. He is know for a relative liberal view especially with regards to women rights and even on relations to people in Israel.

In July 2009 Ahmedinejad made Mashaei his first vice president. Conservatives protested and within a week the supreme leader ordered him out. Ahmedinejad showed them the finger and made Mashaei his chief of staff and gave him most of the powers he would have had as first vice president. It is rumored that he is grooming him for taking up the presidency when Ahmedinejad will end his current last term.

Recently Mashaei made several comments which set out Iranian nationalism and Shia Islam as two equal pillars of Iranian strength. For the clerics this was an unbearable attack on their position and on the prerogative of Islam and they fought him bitterly. In early April this year Ahmedinejad was pressed to let Mashaei go and to get a new chief of staff. The conservative intelligence minister Hojatoleslam Haydar Moslehi, himself a hardline cleric and the cabinet watchdog of the supreme leader, was thought to have led the campaign against Mashaei.

But then Mashaei reasonably claimed that he found his office bugged and Haydar Moslehi was fingered as being behind the plot. The president did not liked being spied on by his intelligence minister and by mid April Ahmdinejhad fired Haydar Moslehi as minister and reinstated Mashaei as chief of staff. The supreme leader Khamenei then demanded the reinstatement of his spy Moslehi.

There was a lot of back and forth on the issue, including Friday sermons from the pulpit,  but Ahmedinejad did not retreat. The Iranian constitution gives the president as the chief executive the right to seat and fire ministers. The supreme leader's constitutional position is comparable a U.S. chief justice position in the supreme court.  He is certainly not a dictator without bounds. As part of the judicature he has a (small) formal say in (vice-)presidential positions but no formal say at all in cabinet positions.

This led to a situation where Moslehi still acted as minister but was ignored by Ahmedinejad who either boycotted cabinet meetings when Moslehi was attending or ordered him out before they started. For some fourteen days the situation was hanging in balance.

Finally the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, stepped in. In the end a majority requested that Ahmedinejad follow the wishes of the supreme leader. As the parliament has the power to impeach the president Ahmedinejad had little choice but to, for now, give in.

Today Ahmedinejad attended a cabinet meeting with Moslehi present. Also present was Mashaei.

While this all may sound dramatic it was a quite normal situation in the Islamic Republic. Since its foundation power struggles between executive, legislative and judiciary branch are a regular occurrence. The conservatives and the Islamic judges, usually somewhat wrongly described as clerics, demand a higher ranking for the judiciary branch led by the supreme leader. The executive points to its democratic legitimation and sees this as an equal source of power. The legislative is usually split on the issues.

So there is nothing in this story about sorcery or arrests. There may have been rumors of such but those were likely more a part of a smear campaign against Mashaei than a real issue.

What astonished me was how little this whole issue was reported on in the "west" over the last weeks. That may well be because the "western" distorted viewpoint of Ahmedinejad as a "hardliner" who "lost the elections" and as the Iranian judiciary branch as "clerics" gives the wrong frame of reference to understand simple politics in Iran. Not understanding what was going on let reporters turn to nonsensical claims.

PS: The above overview on what happened in Iranian politics in the last month is based on many sources I read over the last month and which I currently have no time to collect and link appropriately. The best source to follow the issue was the blog of Nader Uskowi, not a fan of the Islamic Republic but knowing it reasonably well, who regularly posted on it over the last weeks. The, at times quite partisan, discussion in the Race for Iran comments also helped.

Posted by b on May 8, 2011 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

May 07, 2011

"They Should Have Known" Discrepancies

Many in the U.S. blame Pakistan for not knowing about the alleged Bin Laden safe house in Abbottabad.

No one in the U.S. blames Pakistan for not knowing about the alleged CIA safe house in Abbottabad.

Many in the U.S. blame the Pakistani soldiers working at the Pakistani Military Academy in Abbottabad for not knowing about the nearby alleged Bin Laden safe house.

No one in the U.S. blames the U.S. soldiers working at the Pakistani Military Academy in Abbottabad for not knowing about the nearby alleged Bin Laden safe house.

Posted by b on May 7, 2011 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

May 05, 2011

U.S. To Rent New Home For Terrorists

As the AP reports:

An American diplomat says the U.S. will try to broker a deal to move a threatened Iranian opposition group away from its camp near Iraq's border with Iran.

The solution would be temporary, until the 3,400 members of the People's Mujahedeen can be resettled outside Iraq.

The Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a marxist cult which the U.S. rightly considers a terrorist group, will be moved in a deal (read: the U.S. will pay!) while at the same time the State Department says this about the MEK:

Activities: Worldwide campaign against the Iranian Government stresses propaganda and occasionally uses terrorist violence. During the 1970s the MEK staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several US military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. Supported the takeover in 1979 of the US Embassy in Tehran.[...]

As the AP report acknowledges, the U.S. in this doing this in rememberance of another of its dear friends:

Saddam Hussein gave the exiles refuge at Camp Ashraf, seeing them as an ally against Iran.

Update: I am told that the huge amount of data found on DVD disks and memory sticks during the alleged assassination of Osama bin Laden contains proof of a railway plot and also reveals that:
a. Iran will have nuclear weapons within three years,
b. Iran's president Ahmedinejad uses sorcery,
c. Iran's supreme leader Khamenei has a chronic flatulence problem
, d. Iran has special trucks in which Khamenei produces those deadly islamist bio-weapons which makes him the world's greatest threat.
Other great, top secret facts from the found data will be revaled by the administration whenever it will fit its agenda.

Posted by b on May 5, 2011 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

The Maoists In India And Open Thread

Let me recommend a very well written piece in The Caravan magazine about the "Maoists" in India: The Bloody Crossroads - The tragic fate of one village and the deadly consequences of India’s faltering struggle against the Maoist insurgency.

The issue fits the global picture in a smaller, but still quite big, area. Plutocrats stealing land rich with resources and the local people, threatened with losing their livelihood, fighting against the theft. Troops were called in and wage a bloody COIN campaign against the natives which in the end seems to fail.

Use also as open thread ..

Posted by b on May 5, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

May 04, 2011

Eric Robert Bin Laden

There is a lot of criticism in the U.S. about Pakistan "not knowing" about the whereabouts of ObL and with some idiots, like Salman Rushdie, calling for declaring Pakistan a "terrorist state".

It might have been that some folks in Pakistan did know that the alleged ObL was there where he is said to have been murdered (though I am not convinced of that "fact"). But asserting that 160+ Pakistani million people are responsible for him being there is idiotic.

BTW - where were those people when an acknowledged terrorist, Eric Robert Rudolph, was hiding in the U.S.? Shielded by neighbors, friends and all kinds of admirers for more than five years. Back then, a mere six years ago, did Salman Rushdie ask for declaring the U.S. a "terrorist state"?

It is again back to the old slogan: "Do as we say, not as we do."

To me it seems that this "we took revenge by killing bin Laden" moment will unfortunately not be used to reduce the U.S. War On Abstract Nouns and to retreat from Afghanistan but instead will be used to widen the war. The War on Pakistan scenario may become real earlier, with more U.S. involvement and more intense than I anticipated.

Posted by b on May 4, 2011 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

May 03, 2011

Open Questions On The Alleged Bin Laden Kill

There are a lot of open questions about the recent U.S. operation in Pakistan.

Politico notes that the administration is already changing significant parts on the story for example about the involvement of women as "human shields" (a phrase which is usually a hint to propaganda nonsense): White House modifies Osama bin Laden account.

At least four involved helicopters starting in the official account from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to fly to Abbottabad in Pakistan with at least the two backups hovering for 40 minutes and then to fly back does not fit the fuel capacity of any known helicopters. It is more likely, as The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder claims, that those helos started the operation from Pakistani ground.

The extraordinary electricity outage in Abbottabad just during the operation also points to significant Pakistani involvement. The Pakistani government would of course like to keep any involvement secret as cooperation with the U.S. in such an operation would diminish its domestic standing.

Those pictured parts of a downed helicopter do not fit any known helicopter type. What is it? How was it downed? Some reports said "mechanical failure", others claimed "shot down". 

The administration's counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claimed that they would have captured Bin Laden alive it that would have been possible. That does not fit to what Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress just six weeks ago:

"Let's deal with reality," Holder said. Bin Laden "will never appear in an American courtroom."

Pressed further on that point, Holder said: "The possibility of catching him alive is infinitesimal. He will be killed by us or he will be killed by his own people so he can't be captured by us."

It also doesn't fit to what an anonymous U.S. national security official told Reuters:

"This was a kill operation," the official said, making clear there was no desire to try to capture bin Laden alive in Pakistan.

If this operation killed Osama Bin Laden it was an extrajudicial killing in breach of public international law.

There is also a lot of administration fed right wing chatter on how some Guantanamo torture confessions led to the necessary hints to find Bin Laden. That is likely just an attempt to justify such torture. The capture of the alleged Bali bomber Umar Patek in the same city, Abbottabad, in early April is much more likely to have given a lead to some hideout.

Then of course there is not even the slightest tiny bit of proof, not even an attempt to produce pictures, that Bin Laden was actually captured or killed in this operation, or was converted to crab food. Looking at the distances and the time needed to verify that the alleged dead person has been Bin Laden, how did the  alleged burying at sea happen so fast?

This whole operation seems to be more designed to create conspiracy theories than to reveal what really happened.

While I do not agree with Malooga's comment here, I concur that this was likely an operation to retire the "Bin Laden" marketing campaign which has helped to promote divisive U.S. war of terror policies over the last decade.

That does not mean that the "product" that encompasses those policies is now finished. Why should it be when it is still very profitable? A new theme will be found for a new campaign to promote exactly the same product and policy program.

There are more confusing holes in this story. Please document those and possible explanations in the comments.

Posted by b on May 3, 2011 at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)

May 02, 2011

Consequences: War On Pakistan

Missing in most current "western" news accounts of "Osama's is dead" is that a helicopter was shut down and crashed during the operation (or was this a diversion?) and that the place of the event is only a short walk away from the Pakistani Military Academy in Abbottabad. And what about Umar Patek, "an al-Qaida-linked Indonesian militant," who was captured in Abbottabad in late January? Also missing is analysis how this event relates to the botched attempt to assassinate Gaddafi a day earlier. Keep in mind that both operations were ordered by the same man in the White House.

One might believes that Osama Bin Laden was killed yesterday or, as I do, that he died years ago. One might believe that the U.S. killed him or the Pakistanis as Xinhua claims. The information we have is incomplete. It all does not really matter because most people on all sides will believe what the PTB and media are telling them. We need to keep that in mind if we want to understand the likely reactions to this event.

Shortly before the announcement the U.S. put its people in Afghanistan into unprecedented lock-down mode:

The ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) has taken an unusual step by issuing a warning to all internationals, alerting of coordinated “spectacular attacks”, kidnapping of internationals, suicide bombings, and all manner of general mayhem to kick off Sunday, 1 May. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time ISAF has ever distributed a written warning to internationals at large, it’s also the first time ISAF has used social media to reach out to the general public.

The UN has sent all their internationals scurrying to seek shelter in local PRT’s and declared “WHITE CITY” countrywide. This means emergency road movements only. Afghan security forces (ANSF) are out in force all over the country. Our local workers are now clearly spooked, but oddly none of them seem to know of any specific threat.

It is there that the U.S. expects an immediate response but it as several other governments also issued a general terror and travel warning.

But any immediate response is most likely to come in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban are in revenge mode:

“Now Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Asia Times Online contacts in the North Waziristan tribal area [...] all confirmed an immediate and fierce retaliation against Pakistan and the breaking up of all ceasefire agreements with the Pakistan military.

The recent events will be perceived as another loss of Pakistani sovereignty and incite more anti-American feelings there and more hate for the Pakistani government cooperation with the United States.

A significant Pakistani Taliban campaign against its government can easily bring the country to the brink and keep it there for a while until saner powers in its military manage to pull it back. Any interference from outside, especially a continuation of the drone campaign, will make the situation worse and should be avoided. Unfortunately the U.S. is unlikely to be patient and will try to do something when it perceives a destabilizing and untrustworthy Pakistan. The result may be a war on Pakistan form the inside as well as the outside.

Attacks against fuel tankers supplying U.S. forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan will again be news even when, as the last three days provide, those attacks never really stopped.

It is unlikely that there will be a significant change of the situation in Afghanistan. "Al-Qaida" hasn't played any role there for a quite long time. This summer Obama will remove a few thousand troops as planned but he will otherwise continue the campaign without much change of pace. If he would try to pull back from Afghanistan without more political cover the Republicans would immediately again call him "weak on defense issues." The Afghan Taliban will also continue their attrition campaign as planned though events in Pakistan may make the northern NATO supply lines an even more juicy strategic target.

Other countries and the "al-Qaida affiliates" there are currently absorbed with local issues. The compromise solution in Yemen with Saleh stepping down failed and makes a civil war there more likely. AQ in the Mediterranean is busy fighting against Gaddafi and the Moroccan king. As the U.S. moves out AQ in Iraq will be looking for a fresh fight with the government there and may also get busy with Syria.

The "west" is therefore unlikely to feel an immediate backlash from Osama's (perceived) death. The blow-back that will come will be indirect as the consequence of a further destabilizing Pakistan.

Posted by b on May 2, 2011 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

Obama: "Osama Is Still Dead"

Obama announced that Osama is still dead. The search for a new bogeyman continues. Carry on.

Posted by b on May 2, 2011 at 12:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (70)

May 01, 2011

Police Task: "International Terrorism"

The German Federal Minister for the Interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich, is responsible for the Federal Criminal Police Office. He today commented (in German) on a recent arrest of three stupid immmigrant "terrorists" who had some weird ideas, a bit of acetone, some fireside lighters and even bought a soldering gun. The FCPO said these folks had no current plan on how to make or where to pop a "terrorist bomb" but arrested them anyway after a lenghty and barely legal surveilance mission. Friedrich said:

"Mit den Festnahmen zeigt sich, wie sinnvoll etwa die Übertragung von Aufgaben des internationalen Terrorismus auf das Bundeskriminalamt im Jahre 2009 war."

Translation:

These arrests show how sensible it was to transfer, in 2009, the task of international terrorism to the Federal Police.

A slip of tongue? Or rather admitting the truth?

Posted by b on May 1, 2011 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

The Legal Logic Of Attacking Gaddafi

Protection of civilians

4. Authorizes Member States [...] to take all necessary measures [...] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya ...
UNSC Resolution 1973 (2011)

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Nato air strike 'kills Gaddafi's son'
An apparent attempt to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi failed late last night when the Libyan leader escaped unharmed from a reported direct hit by a Nato air strike on his youngest son's house. However, his son Saif and three of his grandchildren were killed, according to a government spokesman.
[...]
The one-story house in a Tripoli residential neighbourhood was heavily damaged. Libyan officials took journalists to the house, which had been hit by at least three missiles.
[...]
The attack was not the first on Tripoli yesterday.

Strikes in the morning damaged a building which houses the Libyan Down's Syndrome Society, and the government commission for children, according to evidence shown to journalists by officials. The force of the blast blew in windows and doors in the parent-funded school for children, and officials said it damaged an orphanage on the floor above. "I felt sad really. I kept thinking, what are we going to do with these children?" said Ismail Seddigh, who set up the school 17 years ago after his own daughter was born with Down's Syndrome.

It seems reasonable to conclude that it is necessary to fight the attacking NATO countries "to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya." Also some lawyers have obviously resolved that "all necessary measures" include the killing of the attacking leaders and their families. The UNSC has authorized all UN member states to take "all necessary measures."

I wonder if Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama have reflected about the consequences of the legal logic they are creating here. Micronesia can now legally assassinate them. If it only gets their children that's of course just collateral damage in an attempt to fulfill the UN resolution to "protect civilians."

Posted by b on May 1, 2011 at 05:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

 
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