Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 29, 2011

Open Thread - July 29

Found nothing today I'd like to write about.

What's up elsewhere?

Posted by b on July 29, 2011 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

July 28, 2011

The Dumbest Joint Chief Of Staff Ever?

Via Tom Ricks Army General Martin E. Dempsey at the Senate hearing on his appointment as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (I don't find the transcript on C-Span's site but in the Google cache):

[L]ooking back on it, at least my own personal view about Iraq in 2003 was that Iraq had a particular problem, and it was a regime that was destabilizing in the region and that we should take action, that -- it was my recommendation that we should take action to change the dynamic inside of Iraq and that the region itself would become more stable. I'm not sure it turned out that way.

OMFG - This guy's new job is to be the principal military adviser of the president on military issues.

He though it was a good idea to blow up a totally defanged and isolated regime would be good idea for STABILIZATION in the Middle East?

The guy is supposed to have a Master of Science degree in national security and strategic studies. In which dollarstore did he buy that one?

I mean, it probably -- it is, but it didn't happen exactly as we intended it, and that's because I don't think we understood -- let me put it differently. I didn't understand the dynamic inside that country, particularly with regard to the various sects of Islam that fundamentally, on occasion, compete with each other for dominance in Islam, and so -- Shia, the Shia sect of Islam, the Sunni sect of Islam -- when we took the lid off of that, I think we learned some things that -- and I'm not sure we could have learned them any other way.

Gen. Dempsey has obviously never learned to read a book. There was no other way to learn about Shia-Sunni rivalry than by blowing up Iraq? And he had never bothered to learn about Iraq's internal divides before he decided it was fine to invade?

How can such a person be judged fit to counsel the president?

When Obama asks Dempsey about invading China what will he say? "Sure, its a small country with a few strange looking people. We'll be done with it in week or so."

With such Generals it is no wonder that the U.S. is incapable of winning any of the wars it starts.

Posted by b on July 28, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

July 27, 2011

War On Libya In The Headlines

The Brits are now joining the French in suing for peace in Libya: Muammar Gaddafi could stay in Libya, William Hague concedes. This after, certainly with White House support, the U.S. Joint Chief Of Staff Mike Mullen admits stalemate could leave Gaddafi in charge.

Their puddle in Libya was pressed to agree: Rebel Chief Says Gadhafi, Family Can Stay in Libya. We can be sure his troops will disagree with that even though the Libyan rebels have conceded ground since bombing began. The puppet at The Hague hadn't yet read the memo, Gaddafi can't be left in Libya, says international criminal court, but we are sure that it will fall in line:

There were several editorials in the U.K. press today lauding and damning the Cameron government for coming to its senses. The Guardian: Libya: about turn, the Independent: Ceasefire and negotiate, the Daily Mail: Mr Cameron's sorry retreat over Gaddafi and the Telegraph's neoconned MI6 agent Con Coughlin: The Libyan campaign is running into the sand.

That was too much. So the British government today took another stupid step: Britain recognises Libyan rebels and expels Gaddafi's London embassy staff. This will make negotiations more difficult.

The "concessions" the "west" made in allowing Gaddhafi to stay in Libya does not mean this conflict is over: Bombing of Libya to continue as needed: NATO. Having no military targets left it can hit NATO has switched to destructing civilian infrastructure. The announcement in typical NATO propaganda style: Nato warns Qadhafi over use of civilian facilities. The results: Libya accuses NATO of bombing clinic, killing 7, Libya: bishop denounces NATO bombing of food store and Brega: NATO bombed "Great Man Made River"factory.

Bombs do not win wars. There will be No Negotiations Until NATO Attacks Stop, Libya PM Says.

We ain't there yet. Remember, there are five stages of grief those "western" leaders will have to go through to get to the end. After their plan for a fast Gaddhafi exit turned out be nonsense they were in Denial. Their Anger led to an intensified bombing and the sending of helicopters. Now they are Bargaining. What will follow next is Depression and only after that will there be Acceptance that they lost the war of aggression they started. Then they will create and/or use another crisis to divert from their sneaking away from the affair while showing the white feather.

Posted by b on July 27, 2011 at 02:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

July 26, 2011

Obama's Artificial Debt Crisis

Barack Obama planned all along to make Social Security and Medicare cuts. In early 2009 he had a dinner with conservative commentators. David Brooks was there and a few days later said:

[H]e's clearly demonstrated this week that he's committed to tackling the big entitlement projects - Medicare, Social Security - that are the real fiscal disaster waiting to happen. So, it's not only short-term spending, but there's long-term fiscal balance, that's very much in his mind, which was not in his mind, or at least not talked about as much, during the campaign.

To be able to make those cuts Obama needed a crisis.

The debt ceiling could have been lifted earlier when the Democrats still held the House. Or the lifting could have been attached to a must-agree-on bill like the budget. Or the debt ceiling, which is anyway superficial as congress dictates the spending and the revenues in other laws, could just be ignored. But no. A fight over the debt ceiling is the Obama planned crisis that would allow for entitlement cuts.

The expectation was that the Republican would agree to the deal Obama would offer. He gave them some 50% of their points even before starting negotiations. He added another 40% since they started. The republican leadership in the House as well as Obama thought they had a deal. Both had miscalculated.

The tea party side of the Republican caucus is bigger then Boehner and Obama had thought and it wants 150%. Only cuts but  not a penny revenue increases no matter of how much they are needed. Most Democrats are unlikely to be suicidal enough to agree to that.

While there still might be a last minute deal the small chances for a selective default, a temporary stop of interest payments, are increasing. That would trigger a downgrading of U.S. debt.

It would be very interesting to see how the financial markets would react to such an event. Many financial instruments and papers depend on the validity and the high rating of U.S. debt. If that is in doubt and things unravel I'd expect considerable chaos and some of the banksters to make huge profits from it. The White House is unlikely to be prepared for a default event. Some hectic unplanned moves from it that would likely worsen a default or downgrade situation.

Still a selective default, which in itself can and would be healed over pretty soon anyway, is not a big catastrophe. There is even a positive side to it. It would decrease the U.S. standing in the world and thereby lower its capabilities to wage more wars.

What the U.S. really needs is jobs and the programs to create them. Instead it gets austerity. Additionally it may now get a new chaotic debt crisis that would expand and extend the recession.

Whatever. The point is that there was no need, not one, to get into this situation. We all know who we have to thank for it.

Posted by b on July 26, 2011 at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

July 25, 2011

Immigration And Wages

Saturday June 11 - Day 41: [...] I prayed for the first time in a very long time today. I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail. He must ensure that I succeed with my mission and as such; contribute to inspire thousands of other revolutionary conservatives/nationalists; anti-Communists and anti-Islamists throughout the European world.
2083 - A European Declaration Of Independence (big pdf) (page 1459)

I am pretty sure God, should that concept exist, did not understand what the terrorist Breivig "explained" to the all knowing.

That's because the numbers are all wrong. Given the immigration rates, fertility rates of immigrants, their adherence to religion and the trends of those numbers there is no chance for Muslim immigrants to become more than a 6% minority in Europe within the next decades (they are now at 4% of which only 20% are observant). As other historic migrations have show it is indeed quite likely that within one or two generations the offspring of the immigrants will be indistinguishable from the general population.

But besides to explain that the numbers are wrong we should also understand why there is increasing fear of immigration in large parts of "western" populations. It has, I believe, to do with the lack of wage growth (in the U.S. declining wages) in the past decades.

There is a legitimate argument to be made against immigration. Whenever a country's economy is in a uptrend and unemployment goes down, business interests, which want to to keep wages from growing, argue for more immigration. Workers do have a legitimate interest in increasing their wages in times of economic upturns and therefore also a legitimate interest in keeping immigration down at least until long term full employment is achieved.

But hardly any political party, at least in Europe, still makes the above argument and I wonder why. Social-democrats and other parties on the left should have this issue at their core. Instead they try to catch up with the demagogues at the right which want to fight immigration because they their follower perceive it as a cultural threat or use the "muslim threat" to further Israel's interests in keeping support from Europe and the U.S.

The left should also be more careful in embracing "multiculturism". Yes I prefer to live in a multicultural neighborhood and I am all for it. But that pro-multicultural argument can also, via the business interest as explained above, be used to further immigration to suppress wages. Pro-mulitcultural should be an argument for integration, not to further immigration.

The economic argument against immigration must be put back into the discussion. It is logical, sensible and will keep the people, who I believe instinctively understand it, out of the cloud of the demagogues.

 

Posted by b on July 25, 2011 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

July 24, 2011

The Breivik Manifesto

I am skimming through the 1,518 pages of the Breivik terrorist manifesto, 2083 - A European Declaration Of Independence (long PDF). It must be a work of several years and I have no doubt that it is genuine.

There are the usual tips on how to make bombs, a diary of his describing how he prepared his deed, a biography and personal notes on friends and relatives, a political program consisting of a lot of ideological right wing chapters copied from neo-fascist bloggers in Europe, the U.S. and from likudnik zionists, his ideas and regulations for an underground knight order including what medals it will provide for what deeds, ranked lists of enemies and targets and some more detailed political ideas which may be his own.

While Breivik emphasizes on every corner that his stand is anti-nazi and not fascist such statements are then immediately followed by typical nazi and fascist ideas. 

There is emphasis of a nordic race, plans of creating a pan-nordic union, detailed "cultural conservatism" pieces (anti-abortion etc.) as the tea party and evangelicals understands it, antisemitism, support for ethnic cleansing by Israel but also elsewhere, calls for crusades to conquer several middle east countries and extreme nationalism. He is quite clear about the "necessity" to kill lots of people to achieve these goals.

It is a wide field and quite a complete agenda for a new praetorian-dictatorial system. A 50 year program to create a bunch of national-socialist states in Europe.

While the outer argument is a fight against a perceived Muslim take over of Europe, the primary targets he lists are not those Muslims but those political forces who, in his mind, allow and further this perceived takeover. His primary target is simply the political left, though he names it differently.

At one point Breivik copies from the Unabomber manifesto without naming him: The original:

20. Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. Leftists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many leftists use them not as a means to an end but because they PREFER masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a leftist trait.

Breivik's version:

Notice the masochistic tendency of cultural Marxist tactics. Cultural Marxists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many cultural Marxists use them not as a means to an end but because they PREFER masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a cultural Marxist trait.

His "cultural marxists" are the left, which to him includes all people who call for tolerant, "multicultural" societies. The target he hit, a youth camp of social-democrats, is exactly what he argues to aim for.

The rightwing blogs, forums and authors in Europe where he posted and copied from are now all busy to distance themselves from him. But there is no denying that they provided the ideas, ground and fertilizer on which Breivik grew.

The manifesto is the program and the killing of over ninety of the Norwegian Labor Youth was the program lauch and the starting point of a marketing campaign to distribute it. Surrendering to the police, staying alive to use the propaganda value of a public trial is part of that campaign. So far all that worked out as planned.

While the Breivik argument is false and neither logical nor intellectual consistent, it will find new followers. Over the next years we can expect smaller amateur copycat attacks of wannabe Breiviks. But there will also be more serious ones by those who will follow the ideological strain he laid out.

The target will be the political left.

Posted by b on July 24, 2011 at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (40)

July 23, 2011

Classification Of Terrorists

Reading through comments on various newssites about yesterday's attack in Norway the following classification system seems to be prevalent.

  • Right wing white man in local terror attack on white people => lone operator, psychic, copycat of Muslim terrorists; not really connected to any society defects or any bigger social group.
  • White man in local terror attack on non-white people => hero; a justified defense against the vast Muslim conspiracy to conquer the world.
  • Non-white man in local terror attack on white people => terrorist; part of the vast Muslim conspiracy to conquer the world.
  • Non-white man in local terror attack on non-white people => crazy dude; molded by a crazy society that is part of the vast Muslim conspiracy to conquer the world.

Posted by b on July 23, 2011 at 08:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Youthcamp Terrorist May Have Pro-Israel Motive

Norway horror: 80 die in camp shooting, 7 in blast

OSLO, Norway (AP) — A Norwegian who dressed as a police officer to gun down summer campers killed at least 80 people at an island retreat, horrified police said early Saturday.
...
The motive was unknown, but both attacks were in areas connected to the ruling Labor Party government. The youth camp, about 20 miles (35 kilometers) northwest of Oslo, is organized by the party's youth wing, and the prime minister had been scheduled to speak there Saturday.

The terrorist was a right wing Christian. Norwegian TV via automated translation:

According to TV2's sources, the arrested belong to the right-extremist groups in eastern Norway, and the man must have registered two weapons on their name - an automatic weapon and a pistol of the type of Glock. ... Breivik listed in their Facebook profile as a conservative and Christian, and he may have a connection to the extreme right environment.

The rightwing Norwegian Progress Party and its surrounding allotment of rightwing groups are historic fascistic, pro-apartheid and today very much in support of a likudnik Israel.

Via Newshoggers a report from a Norwegian TV site on the activities in the Labour Party youth camp may explain the killer's motive.

bigger

Automated translation:

bigger

Headline:

Jonas Gahr Store: - The occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now

Header:

The Foreign Minister was met with claims that Norway must recognize a Palestinian state when he visited the Labour Youth League summer camp Thursday.

Picturetext:

AUF WANT BOYCOTT: Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store was met by demands that Norway must recognize a Palestinian state when he visited the Labour Youth League summer camp at Utøya Thursday. Here the Minister ushered around in the camp of the AUF leader Eskil Pedersen. (Reuters)

Text:

During the second day of Labour Youth League summer camp at Utøya got the Labour Party's young hopefuls visit by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

Together with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Sidsel Wold and Norwegian People's Aid Kirsten Belck-Olsen, discussed the Foreign Minister of the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

As foreign minister arrived Utøya he was met with a demand from the AUF that Norway must recognize a Palestinian state.

- The Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now, said the Foreign Minister to cheers from the audience.

- Norway is prepared to recognize

Earlier this week, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Norway, the Minister said to TV 2 news channel that Norway stands ready to recognize a Palestinian state . This he repeated during the debate on Utøya.

- We are ready to recognize a Palestinian state. I await the actual resolution text Palestinians will promote the UN General Assembly in September, said the Minister.

In autumn it is expected that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will bring the matter to the UN. Where will he ask for UN membership and recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders before the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Wednesday said AUF leader Eskil Pedersen that the AUF want a unilateral economic embargo of Israel from the Norwegian side.

- Labour Youth will have a more activist Middle East policy and we have to recognize Palestine. NOK NOK's, now we have to get the peace process into a new track, said Pedersen.

The foreign minister admitted that the situation is untenable, but believes that the boycott is the wrong tool.

- Boycott will be to move from dialogue to monologue. It is difficult to open the door the day we will talk with Israel, said the Minister.

Posted by b on July 23, 2011 at 01:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

July 22, 2011

Bomb In Norway Unlikely From Gaddhafi

Libya is likely to get blamed for this bomb attack in Norway.

Huge bomb blast kills at least two in attack on government office block in Oslo

At least two people have been killed in a massive explosion in Oslo which has shattered the windows of the Norwegian Prime Minister's offices and forced the evacuation of nearby buildings.

Police in Norway say the blast - which happened just after 3.30pm today - was caused by a bomb.

The tangled wreckage of a car was seen outside one building leading to suggestions it could be have been a car bomb - although this has not been confirmed.

The Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was not in the city at the time and is unharmed, it has been reported.

Norway had send 6 of its F-16 fighter jets to take part in the war on Libya.

On July 7 Gaddhafi has "threatened" that revenge attacks may occur in Europe:

In a speech on Libyan television the Libyan leader said: "Hundreds of Libyans will martyr in Europe. I told you it is eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. But we will give them a chance to come to their senses."

The conflation of these three items will be used to blame Gaddhafi for the bomb in Oslo.

But that does not make any sense because on June 10th Norway had already announced that it will draw back its fighters:

Norway's government says it will scale down its fighter jet contribution in Libya from six to four planes and withdraw completely from the NATO-led operation by August 1.

If one believes that Gaddhafi's "threat" to Europe was real, one also has to believe the restriction he himself set is real: "... we will give them a chance to come to their senses."

Already before Gaddhafi's "threat" was issued Norway had come to its senses and had announced the soon end of its involvement with the war on Libya.

Gaddhafi isn't dumb. He would not attack a country that has done exactly what he asked for, to end the attacks on Libya.

This attack on a government building came on a public holiday. On other days the number of casualties would have likely been higher. One can follow that maximizing casualties was not the intent.

"Al Qaeda" was earlier seen as a potential suspect for an attack in Oslo.

But there may also be parties able to set off a bomb in Oslo with the intent to get Gaddhafi blamed. If only to counter the fading of enthusiasm for that war. Who do you think are likely suspects with such a motive?

Posted by b on July 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

July 21, 2011

'Bland Cheeriness' In Libya Reports

On 27 May Rommel opened his offensive in the Western Desert, but all the first reports were optimistic and we had little expectation of being involved. Intelligence reports in the Middle East always breathed the same air of bland cheeriness and patronizing appreciation of the enemy's struggles no matter how badly things were going for us. I don't know at what level commanders were told the truth; corps and divisional commanders may have seen truthful reports. At the Brigadier level they were often infuriating.
H.K. Kippenberger Infantry Brigadier Chap 8

One can only hope that the politicians involved in the assault on Libya do get truthful reports. If they depend on "bland cheeriness" of reports like in today's Wall Street Journal they are likely to make very bad decisions.

Libyan Rebels Advance on a Gadhafi Stronghold

ZINTAN, Libya—Rebel fighters have penetrated Libya's southwest desert and pulled within 80 miles of Col. Moammar Gadhafi's southern stronghold, opening a new front and suggesting the strongman's grip is slipping even in areas believed firmly in his control.

The rebels captured a small village south of Sebha on Monday. The fall of Sebha, one of Col. Gadhafi's three regional power centers, would be a huge symbolic and strategic blow.

The city of 130,000 is a logistics hub for the regime, channeling food, fuel and other war supplies northward from southern farmlands and neighboring Algeria, Chad and Niger, said rebel leaders.

With the latest offensive, rebels have now made progress on every front of the war.

The last sentence is obviously wrong. As reported yesterday the rebel assault against Brega was pushed back. The rebellious Berber in the south west dare not attacking any further and are begging for ammunition and the move out towards west from Misurata had no success either. The civil war is in a stalemate.

But let us analyze the rebel move described in the WSJ article which was written in Zintan, several hundred miles away from the city of Sebha, and is based on rebel accounts.

A resident of the southern town of Al Qatrun, which rebels took last week, estimated the force includes 60 to 65 4X4 vehicles and as many as 300 fighters.

Earlier this month, the force captured a remote desert airfield and army outpost called Al Wigh, near Libya's borders with Chad and Niger, and soon after seized the Tummu border crossing with Chad.

The force began advancing north toward Sebha, and last week, the force took the village of Qatron without a fight. On Sunday, pro-Gadhafi fighters attacked the advancing rebels, said a resident of the village and a rebel commander on the ground, Ramadan Al-Alakie.

The rebel fighters repulsed the attack and pressed their advance, both men said.

The retreating Gadhafi forces concentrated in Taraghin, the hometown of Bashir Salah, Col. Gadhafi's chief of staff, to block the rebel advance to Sebha. The rebel force simply went around the town, and on Monday took control of the tiny village of Umm Al-Aranib, they said.

Now, just 80 miles of empty desert and one tiny village stand between the rebels and Sebha.

That sounds impressive but:

  • The rebel group advancing is just some 300 untrained men strong. They come from Al Kufrah, an oasis in the south east of Libya where mostly people from the Arabized Berber tribe of the Zuwayya are living. These are not Gaddhafi's best friends.
  • The rebels are aiming for a city of 130,000 people which also includes a large military garrison and which is the traditional base of the Magariha, the tribe with the strongest and longest allegiance to Gaddafi.

Those two points alone should already make clear that any attempt of these rebels to "take" Sebha would be unlikely to further their wellbeing.

But, according to the WSJ, these rebels' already had impressive successes so lets take a look at how big those really were.

  • From their home the rebels moved westward by 4x4s through some 500 miles of empty desert. That is a two or three day drive in difficult terrain but also a rather long line for reinforcements and general logistics. What will they do when they run out of gas, ammunition or need medical help?
  • While the WSJ says they "captured a remote desert airfield and army outpost called Al Wigh" a look at satellite pictures reveals that airfield to be just a very empty strip of tarmac in the sand with no planes and no bigger building or settlement in the wider vicinity.
  • The Tummu border crossing with Chad the rebels "seized" at 22°39' 14°5' (pdf) consists of one small building.
  • The town Qatron the rebels "took" without a fight has some 25 houses amid some irrigated fields. I doubt that such a small town would even have a single policeman.
  • The rebels then claim they went from Qatron to Taraghin where Gaddhafi forces were and "went around" them to "take" Umm Al-Aranib. This claim can not be true. The road from Qatron goes first north to Umm Al-Aranib and then west to Taraghin. If the rebels went around Taraghin it must have been in a full circle. Besides that, going around a group of the enemy to attack another group of the enemy further down a road would put one into a rather uncomfortable sandwich position.

The "successes" these rebels had so far, while sounding solid to a cursory reader, are in reality nothing. They "captured" empty areas, "seized" an irrelevant checkpoint at a wide open border and "took" undefended small towns. To assume that they will be able to take on a 130,000 strong city with likely opposing inhabitants is foolish.

Let's just hope that the political deciders, who do not even have plans of how to avoid or stop a very likely tribal war and brutal retaliations in the case that the Gaddhafi regime comes down, do not take the bland cheeriness slant in the WSJ piece for real.

Posted by b on July 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 20, 2011

A False Rebel Victory In Libya

Since last Thursday and with very active support from NATO air forces the eastern rebels in Libya have tried to conquer the oil city Brega. At one point they even claimed victory and that they were in "full control" of the city. But that does not seem to have been true at all. Instead the rebels seem to be losing that fight:

Rebel forces have been pushing to seize the frontline town, which is home to an oil refinery and terminal, for nearly a week, but they say minefields planted by Gaddafi's forces have slowed the advance.

They took positions 10km east of the oil port, working to clear the mines so they can move forward.

"Maybe within three or four days we will solve this problem of mines and we will be in Brega," said rebel spokesman Ahmed Bani.

Good luck with that.

As any military knows a minefield, like any military engineering barrier, can only hold when it is monitored and defended and it seems that is exactly what Gaddhafi loyals are doing. A reporter from the LA Times who is in the area observes:

[F]ighters described a rocket barrage by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi that ripped through a rebel unit trying to advance into the city. The advance halted as rebels treated and evacuated casualties, they said.

The insurgents said government forces had flown rebel flags from some rocket launchers and vehicles as a ploy to close in on rebel units.

The rebels are trying to clear mine fileds in the open desert where the artillery of the loyals can reach them. They do not have armored vehicles to protect them against artillery and have no mechanical mine clearing equipment. The result is, very predictably, high casualties:

The latest rebel assault on Port Brega, which began Thursday, had left at least 32 antigovernment fighters dead and 291 others wounded, according to the hospital's running tally.

That is about a battalion worth of troops dead or wounded. I doubt that after these losses the rebels will continue a sustained assault.

In the west, the rebels had captured the small town of Qawalish and thoroughly looted it. As C.J Chivers reports, they also seem to have committed further war crimes and are trying to cover them up:

Last week we reported about the five dead men in the uniforms of Qaddafi soldiers found rotting in a cement basin near Qawalish. [...] Since those reports, questions surrounding what happened to these men have found traction among other news agencies, and reports from other journalists are forthcoming. And since then the site has been bulldozed.
...
Over the weekend, upon noticing as we drove past the basin that the site had been dismantled and bulldozed, we tried to stop to learn more. Our driver refused, announcing that he was under orders from the rebel military leadership not to allow us near the site.

The five dead soldiers were tortured and beheaded.

Despite some resistance from the U.S. France has repeated the offer for Gaddhafi to stay in Libya:

"One of the possibilities is that he (Gadhafi) remains in Libya," Alain Juppe told French news channel LCI. "But on the condition that he stays away from Libyan political life. This is what we are waiting for before we begin the political process for a cease-fire."

One wonders how that would work. Do the French really expect that everything would be well and fine if only Gaddhafi steps down? What about those people who actually support him? What about the disunity in the rebel ranks? What about their crimes? I have yet to see answers to those questions.

Wouldn't it be better to just declare that a mistake has been made, to simply end the war and leave the cleanup to Gaddhafi?

Posted by b on July 20, 2011 at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

July 19, 2011

WaPo Journalist Caught Stealing

Good journalists come up with their own metaphors when writing a story. Not so good ones steal them from their colleagues. Doing so in a story that is fundamentally about ethics in the media is an especially bad behavior.

Patrick Wintour, Nicholas Watt and Vikram Dodd write in The Guardian How Paul Stephenson and PM fell out over hacking scandal

Cameron may also find time to reflect that his attempt last Friday to get a grip of the situation by announcing a judicial inquiry has clearly failed. The number of dead bodies on the stage is beginning to resemble the final scene of a Shakespearian tragedy.

Anthony Faiola writes in the Washington Post Cameron cuts short Africa trip; police second-in-command resigns

Pressure on Cameron mounted as the scandal began to resemble a Shakespearean play, with its high-profile victims strewn across Britain’s public stage.

Copyright protection is argued to be based on the originality of content creation. The WaPo piece seems to lack in that regard.

(Note: According to the article history of the Guardian piece: "This article appeared on p2 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Monday 18 July 2011. It was published on guardian.co.uk at 00.46 BST on Monday 18 July 2011. It was last modified at 09.52 BST on Monday 18 July 2011." While the Washington Post piece was also published in the 18th, the first of the 480+ comments to it is "lafayette89 - Resign, Cameron, resign. - 7/18/2011 3:32:25 PM GMT+0200". It thereby seems evident that the Washington Post piece was launched some 13+ hours hours later than the Guardian piece.)

Posted by b on July 19, 2011 at 06:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

July 18, 2011

Fish!

Live fish view from the Georgia Aquarium. Sharks, mantas and lots of others. The live stream is available until August 7.

I just love underwater webcams. This one is currently running fullscreen on my secondary LCD.

When BP blew up the Macondo well last year I spent hours watching and recording some of the underwater work. Like this Color Volcano, the crab eating a dead eel and the final capping of the dead well.

Posted by b on July 18, 2011 at 07:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Hunting "High Value Targets" - Two Can Play The Game

[W]e are going after them across the spectrum. We have more of our special, special operations forces going in on the ground, and you've seen the results, you've heard some of the initial results of that with more Afghan shadow governors, the Taliban shadow governors being captured, more of the high value targets being taken down.
'Meet the Press' transcript for February 21, 2010 - David Petraeus

Indeed. Though not as Petraeus announced:

This should lead to some rethinking of Petraeus backfiring "kill the leaders" campaign. The Taliban would probably agree to a ceasefire with regards to "high value targets". Unfortunately it is unlikely that the military will give up on this.

Posted by b on July 18, 2011 at 12:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 17, 2011

Swoop On Clinton

This week's Swoop analysis includes this quite sardonic sentence:

Secretary of State Clinton is well respected, if not for her strategic vision but for her diligent commitment to her office.

Ooch. This is job reference language code which translates into "has no strategic vision" and "is a phlecmatic worker bee". But that's fitting well.

Posted by b on July 17, 2011 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Brooks Arrested - Next A Murdoch?

The Guardian reports:

The Metropolitan police said a 43-year-old woman was arrested at noon Sunday, by appointment at a London police station. Brooks, 43, resigned on Friday as News International's chief executive. She is a former News of the World editor.

Brooks is due to give evidence before MPs on the culture select committee on Tuesday. An arrest by appointment on a Sunday by police is unusual.

The police is getting nearer to the core of the criminal enterprise. It is pretty clear that other within News Corp hierarchy were aware of the illegal communication intercepts and police bribery by the Murdoch media.

So who's next? A Murdoch?

Update: More analysis from the Guardian:

The arrest of Rebekah Brooks in relation to phone hacking and corruption drags News Corporation deeper into crisis.

It must surely mean that the police investigation is edging closer to James Murdoch, who has been head of all News Corporation's businesses in Europe and Asia since 2007. He personally approved payments to civil litigants against the News of the World in settlement of their cases – deals that involved gagging clauses that appears to have prevented them discussing potential criminal activity in public.

Hmm - so James is now the target for paying hush money, not Rupert who certainly knew about that too   and who is the real ideologue behind the criminal enterprise?

For those who love "it's the Jews" conspiracy stuff an old piece from the New York Sun via Xymphora:

The pro-Israel outlook of the Wall Street Journal and many News Corp. outlets could waver if one of Rupert Murdoch's sons, James Murdoch, takes the helm of the publishing and broadcasting company, a new book suggests.

The just-published diaries of a communications director for Prime Minister Blair, Alastair Campbell, indicate that James Murdoch launched into a foul-mouthed tirade that suggested that the behavior of Palestinian Arabs was justified by their poor treatment by Israelis.
...
Advocates for Israel expressed distress yesterday at the report of James Murodch's stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Certainly, it's troubling," a spokesman for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Alexander Safian, said. "It's a little upsetting to hear that perhaps a son who might eventually have a lot of power is not favorably inclined towards Israel."

Posted by b on July 17, 2011 at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Every Soldier A "NATO Official"?


Screencap from today's Washington Post website

According to ISAF:

An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing one service member.

A service member in ISAF speech is just a normal soldier. But the Washington Post is headlining the story as "NATO official". Are we now to take all those anonymous "NATO officials" the Washington Post regularly quotes for propaganda purposes as being just this or that lowly Private First Class?

Posted by b on July 17, 2011 at 06:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 16, 2011

Al-Qaeda’s Terrorist Tool Kit Includes Training Manuals From U.S. Army

The Washington Post's Checkpoint Washington blog does another "Blame Pakistan" post:  Al-Qaeda’s terrorist tool kit now includes training manuals from Pakistani spy agency

After losing key rounds in what some al-Qaeda operatives call the “intelligence war,” the terrorist network has introduced a new online course in operational security with material from an unusual source: Pakistan’s powerful spy service.

The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has long been accused of coddling militant groups, even while helping the CIA kill or capture dozens of senior al-Qaeda operatives including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Now al-Qaeda operatives can study directly from some of the ISI’s training manuals, according to a new report by Abdul Hameed Bakier at The Jamestown Foundation.

These bad, bad Pakistani. Always blame the Pakistani ...

At the Jamestown Foundation we find:

According to its translator and editor, jihadi activist Obaida Abdullah al-Adam, the security and intelligence training material originally consisted of Urdu language documents obtained from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), known for its close ties to various jihadi movements.

So it is a translator and editor who claims that parts of his recipes are from an ISI handbook. If I claim that my pork belly recipe is also translated from an Urdu original by ISI does that make it true?

But if even that claim were true and if even ISI would be involved, unlikely in my view, the U.S. is by no means innocent with regard to putting military and intelligence manuals into the wrong hands. As C.J.Chivers reported back in 2003:

David Rohde, a New York Times correspondent, entered Kabul as the Taliban fell and found sections of the Improvised Munitions Handbook in a terrorist group's house, partially translated into Arabic script. Diagrams from its pages also appear in notebooks from camps at Al Farouk, near Kandahar, and in notebooks that I found among Namangani's papers. In another camp, I came across volume one of Al Qaeda's Encyclopedia of the Jihad. Much of it was a direct lift, diagram by diagram--car blasts, door traps, exploding books--from Field Manual 5-31, the U. S. Army's 1965 booby-trap guide.

Every IED that explodes in Afghanistan and elsewhere is likely produced following the recipes in the U.S. Technical Manual 31-210 Improvised Munitions Handbook and the Field Manual 5-31 - BoobyTraps (pdf).

Can we now accuse the authors and publishers of these manuals for working with the Taliban or for every IED that kills Afghans and other people?

Posted by b on July 16, 2011 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 15, 2011

U.S. Lunacy On Libya Continues

Besides being idiotic, this is a great advertisement for Swiss banking: US, other Western nations declare Gadhafi regime no longer legitimate

The recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government gives foes of Gadhafi a major financial and credibility boost. Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the U.S. will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gadhafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.

Anyone in power somewhere around the world is now advised to not keep any money in a U.S. based banking account. As soon as some idiots come up and proclaim a revolution, the U.S. will likely size that money and give a few crumbs of it to the revolution leader. (The rest will be taken by the usual banking crooks.)

This will be one of the many blowbacks from this lunatic attack on Libya. Others will include downed "western" passenger planes that will be hit by the Strela man portable air defense missiles the rebels took away from the Libyan military depots, a renewed recession due to high oil prices as Libyan capacity will be off the markets for years and lots of more unwanted emigrants to "western" countries.

Posted by b on July 15, 2011 at 04:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Iran Ambassador Accident in Baghdad

AP, July 11: Panetta: Iran supplying insurgents with weapons

Panetta and the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, expressed worry about increasingly deadly attacks on U.S. troops by Shiite militias using weapons that Panetta and others assert are supplied by Iran.

"We're very concerned about Iran and the weapons they're providing to extremists in Iraq," Panetta said.

"We cannot simply stand back and allow this to continue to happen" he said. "This is not something we're going to walk away from. It's something we're going to take on head-on."

Aswat al-Iraq, July 13: Iranian ambassador gravely injured in accident

The semi-official Iranian Mehr News Agency reported that the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad was gravely hit with injuries to his face and body in an accident inside the Green Zone, in the center of Baghdad.

The agency added that ambassador Hassan Dana'i Fer had an accident at the inspection point.

Mehr, July 13: Iranian envoy to Iraq injured in suspicious accident

Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danaiifar, has been superficially injured in a suspicious road accident in Iraq.

On Tuesday, the Iranian ambassador’s car smashed into obstacles placed by a number of Iraqi officers, slightly injuring Danaiifar and the people who accompanied him.

Reportedly, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maleki has ordered an investigation into the incident.

Gulfnews, July 23, 2010: Iran appoints new ambassador to Iraq

Hassan Danaifar, Iran's new ambassador to Iraq, is an important figure in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and resents the Kurdish inclination towards separatism.

Hassan Danaifar, born in Baghdad in 1962, was deported with his family by Saddam Hussain during the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88) because of his Iranian origins and initially joined the Badr militia, Kuwaiti daily Al Watan reported on Friday, quoting Iraqi media.

He has served as deputy commander of the naval forces of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

What is the relation between the first item and the others? Is there one?

Posted by b on July 15, 2011 at 03:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 13, 2011

A Few Links And Open Thread / July 13

Three pieces to read:

Obama continues secret renditions, secret prisons and torture: The CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia - Jeremy Scahill, Nation

The next is about Ahmed Wali Karzai and was written before he got killed yesterday. In all the obituaries about him it was of course mentioned that he was smuggler, warlord, land thief, tribal leader, CIA agent and whatnot. But nowhere did I see mentioned what is reported here. That Ahmed Wali Karzai was just a move away from being made the official governor of Kandahar. That may very well have been the reason why he was killed: Governor Ahmed Wali Karzai - Matthieu Aikins, Harper's

Cynical French, a naive PM, foolish MPs. This Libyan misadventure will end in tears - Max Hastings, Mirror

Please use this thread to discuss the above and as open thread.

Posted by b on July 13, 2011 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

More Pressure On Pakistan

Terror Strikes Mumbai, 3 blasts, 10 reported dead

Three explosions have taken place in Mumbai on Wednesday evening - two in South Mumbai at Opera House and in Zaveri Bazar and one at Dadar West, in central Mumbai. The Home Ministry has confirmed a terrorist attack and Mumbai is on high alert.

All blasts took place during rush hour and in crowded places.

Eyewitnesses said about 15 to 20 people have taken to hospital in Zaveri Bazar. Reports said six people had died in the Dadar blast, four in the Zaveri Bazaar blast. Government sources put the number of injured at 60.

Who was it?

It is likely that this or that Pakistani group will be blamed and with it the Pakistani government. That is about the last thing that country needs right now.

Then again - it could be a diversion from the serious pressure the Pakistani military is under. From its own people for the CIA Abootabad raid and the continuous drone war the U.S. is waging on Pakistan and from the U.S. which demands servile cooperation with its schemes.

BTW: What happened to the U.S. national Matthew Craig Barrett, the possible CIA agent who was very publicly arrested in Pakistan four weeks ago and was supposed to be deported two weeks ago. There is not one bit of news on him since his arrest.

With so much pressure on Pakistan one wonders not if, but when the political system will break and a new government or a new dictator be swept in.  Any ideas if/when/what might happen?

Posted by b on July 13, 2011 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 12, 2011

CIA Fake Vaccination Will Kill Children

The very stupid CIA operation the Guradian revealed will cost many, many lives.

CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden's family DNA

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the "project" in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents.
...

The CIA tried, unsuccessfully, to get some DNA from the children in Bin Laden's hideout to find out if he was there. The fake vaccination campaign was set up to get access to them.

But this, now public, stunt will jeopardize many legitimate vaccination drives like the ones UNICEF and the WHO are organizing in Afghanistan:

United Nations agencies and the Afghan health ministry are conducting a three-day campaign aimed at vaccinating an estimated 7.7 million children under the age of five against polio.

So far the Taliban cooperated with such vaccination campaigns. From now on they will not trust these anymore. The abuse of such medical services for spying operations will be deadly for many children.

By law U.S. agencies are not allowed to use journalist covers for spying. The same should apply for medical personal. The harm done in cases like this is much bigger than any perceived benefit.

Posted by b on July 12, 2011 at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Neocons Want Turkey To Invade Syria

As Sec State Clinton calls President Assad of Syria "not indispensable" the neocons and the Israel lobby want Turkey to invade Syria. Reuel Marc Gerecht writes in the Weekly Standard:

Ideally, we should want to see the Turks establish a buffer zone or safe haven on the Syrian side of the border (Ankara sometimes did this in Iraq to counter nefarious Kurdish activity). Such a Turkish intervention, which would likely be backed by the French, would be convulsive inside Syria and would signal to the military that Ankara had irreversibly chosen sides.

Soner Çağaptay, a resident at the an Israeli lobby think tank Washington Institute, opines in Hürriyet:

[W]hen reacting to the unrest in Syria, the instinct of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government in Ankara will be to avoid conflict and opt for a buffer zone inside Syria to manage the likely flow of refugees on Syrian territory. But if that does not work, Turkey could take matters into its own hands, sending troops into Syria. Did I just say Turkey might invade Syria? Yes. And what a can of worms such an intervention would open, humanitarian though it would be.

For those writers the aim of this plot is to move Syria away from Iran and to tie down Turkey in the "western" fold.

Turkey's foreign minister is currently in Tehran and it does not sound like he has any intention to further incite a conflict in Syria:

“Syria is a close friend of both Iran and Turkey, which has close relations with the two countries. It is important for us that there are no more civilian deaths and that the country starts work on reforms as soon as possible,” Davutoğlu said.

Davutoğlu added that Turkey has expressed its position on this to the Iranian side and listened to the Iranian side, adding that both countries agreed on the “inevitability of [the] reform process in Syria and that the process should be completed without instability.”

So it is very doubtful that Turkey will do anything with regards to Syria. But that will of course not stop the usual suspects to lobby for another war.

Posted by b on July 12, 2011 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Panetta Lies About Iraq And Iran

Rumsfeld: I have said for some time that there are al Qaeda in Iraq, and there are.
REMARKS BY DONALD H. RUMSFELD - DEFENSE SECRETARY, August 20, 2002

---

“The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked, and 3,000 not just Americans, but 3,000 human beings got killed, innocent human beings, because of Al Qaeda,” Mr. Panetta told Army troops at Camp Victory, the sprawling American military base in Baghdad.

Later, Mr. Panetta told reporters that he was not speaking of the reasons for the 2003 American-led invasion but rather was referring to events afterward.

“I wasn’t saying, you know, the invasion, or going into the issues or the justification of that,” Mr. Panetta said. “It was more the fact that we really had to deal with Al Qaeda here.”
Panetta Presses Iraq for Decision on Troops, July 11, 2011

Panetta is obviously lying, just as Rumsfeld did.

A guy who is now, 9 years later, still willing to lie to about the Iraq invasion will not be honest on anything else either. He will stick to the program whatever that may be.

Keep that in mind when Panetta says anything about Iran or Afghanistan or any other issue.

Clarifying: I would have doubted what Panetta says in any case. But he had up to now not made outlandish claims as this one. As the second Iran NIE confirmed the first one, I though Panetta, then the CIA boss, was rather on the reality based side than a hack. Now he is just that.

Posted by b on July 12, 2011 at 02:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

July 11, 2011

In Libya France Is Suing For Peace

Sarkoleon thought he could to do a quick job grabbing Libya's riches. That turned out to not be possible. War is expensive. Fighting a stalemate in the desert is neither fun nor does it make for good headlines. Time to give up:

France's defense minister said it was time for Libya's rebels to negotiate with Muammar Gaddafi's government, signaling growing impatience with progress in the conflict.
...
"We have ... asked them to speak to each other," Longuet, whose government has until now been among the most hawkish on Libya, said on French television station BFM TV.

"The position of the TNC (rebel Transitional National Council) is very far from other positions. Now, there will be a need to sit around a table," he said.

Asked if it was possible to hold talks if Gaddafi had not stepped down, Longuet said: "He will be in another room in his palace with another title."

The French plan now: Gaddhafi will stay and the rebels will be pressed into a ceasefire.

But the French made the mistake to earlier invite the U.S. in on this war. The "liberal interventionists" in Washington, who have little to lose in this game but their reputation, will want to keep the war going:

Soon after, the State Department in Washington issued a message that gave no hint of compromise.

"The Libyan people will be the ones to decide how this transition takes place, but we stand firm in our belief that Gaddafi cannot remain in power," it said in a written reply to a query.

The Libyan people will of course not be allowed to decide. The chance of them deciding that Gaddhafi should stay is too high. Washington will prevent that.

I expect the war to continue for another few month with no decisive victory for either side. Only when the British and French together withhold their troops from continuing the war will Washington agree to negotiations. Even after that it will try everything to spoil any decent compromise.

Troops on the ground? That would change the picture. But I doubt that Congress will agree to allow for such. It seems as this war, like man other before it, will end with a whimper instead of a glorious bang.

Posted by b on July 11, 2011 at 07:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

In Libya, France Is Suing For Peace

Sarkoleon thought he could to do a quick job grabbing Libya's riches. That turned out to not be possible. War is expensive. Fighting a stalemate in the desert is neither fun nor does it make for good headlines. Time to give up:

France's defense minister said it was time for Libya's rebels to negotiate with Muammar Gaddafi's government, signaling growing impatience with progress in the conflict.
...
"We have ... asked them to speak to each other," Longuet, whose government has until now been among the most hawkish on Libya, said on French television station BFM TV.

"The position of the TNC (rebel Transitional National Council) is very far from other positions. Now, there will be a need to sit around a table," he said.

Asked if it was possible to hold talks if Gaddafi had not stepped down, Longuet said: "He will be in another room in his palace with another title."

The French plan now: Gaddhafi will stay and the rebels will be pressed into a ceasefire.

But the French made the mistake to earlier invite the U.S. in on this war. The "liberal interventionists" in Washington, who have little to lose in this game but their reputation, will want to keep the war going:

Soon after, the State Department in Washington issued a message that gave no hint of compromise.

"The Libyan people will be the ones to decide how this transition takes place, but we stand firm in our belief that Gaddafi cannot remain in power," it said in a written reply to a query.

The Libyan people will of course not be allowed to decide. The chance of them deciding that Gaddhafi should stay is too high. Washington will prevent that.

I expect the war to continue for another few month with no decisive victory for either side. Only when the British and French together withhold their troops from continuing the war will Washington agree to negotiations. Even after that it will try everything to spoil any decent compromise.

Troops on the ground? That would change the picture. But I doubt that Congress will agree to allow for such. It seems as this war, like man other before it, will end with a whimper instead of a glorious bang.

Posted by b on July 11, 2011 at 07:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2011

ISAF Has Wet Dreams

Why pubertal juveniles should not write military press releases:

The International Security Assistance Force, composed of countries worldwide, was established to secure Afghanistan. June 28 marked the first day of a series of missions that enabled pilots from Australia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States to embrace the ISAF dream as they combined forces to destroy insurgent repeater towers in southern Afghanistan.

"Embrace the ISAF dream?" Seriously?

Posted by b on July 10, 2011 at 07:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 09, 2011

Murdoch Criminal Corp

Rupert Murdoch's media companies are neo-liberal ideological propaganda machines. It is no wonder that they are therefore, like News Of The World in the UK has now proved to be, also criminal enterprises.

The revelation that NOTW payed bribes to policemen, massively manipulated voice mail boxes to find other peoples private stuff it could sensationalize and that Murdochs News Corp tried to cover it all up, only confirm what many people already knew.

The British prime minister Cameron, who like his alter ego Bliar got elected with support from Murdoch's media and hired a former editor of NOTW as spokesperson, is now in a hot seat. Murdoch's plan to get a majority share in the BSkyB broadcaster, something Cameron earlier helped along, could now be in jeopardy. But Murdoch doesn't like to lose and he will certainly try, with Cameron's help, to trick his way around the legal issues. To Murdoch politicians are just his string puppets.

Back in January Adam Curtis posted RUPERT MURDOCH - A PORTRAIT OF SATAN which includes several old BBC portraits of Murdoch. The man has a legacy of lying, deceiving and breaking promises as well as working around the laws.

Murdoch should go down. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen.

Posted by b on July 9, 2011 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

July 08, 2011

German Tanks For Saudi "Peace Support Operations"

A serious scandal is brewing in Germany after the public got wind about a secret decision by the the security cabinet to sell 200 main battle tanks to Saudi Arabia.

The Merkel administration says to its own excuse that the U.S. and Israel did not protest against this sale. That only makes one wonder why they were asked. Ain't Germany sovereign?

But the question is not really about a $1+ billion tank deal with the Saudi, they do have lots of U.S. build M1A1 as well as British Challengers and could easily get more, the question is about the specific version of this first class tank the Saudis have asked for.

The Leopard II A7+ (PSO) variant was specifically developed for "Peace Support Operations". Such Orwellian termed operations, as this video of a pretty lousy military show depicts, consist of suppressing demonstrations and rebellions as well as general fighting in urban terrain.

For fighting against other tanks in the desert a Leopard II A6 version with a 55 caliber length cannon would be much preferable. The Leopard II A7+ (PSO) has a shorter, less capable 44 caliber length cannon which makes it more maneuverable in confined surroundings. It also has less battle protection on the front but instead more all around and above protection against Rocket Propelled Grenades and IEDs. The A7 also has a remote control weapon station for an additional machine gun, special cameras to survey the near surroundings of the tank, an extra communication port for voice contact with troops on foot outside of the tank, a dozer blade to remove barricades as well as several other goodies that do not make much sense in bigger battles but are useful to violently suppress protests.

According to a recent poll 94% of Germans are against weapon exports if those weapons are likely to be used against internal protests.

The Merkel administration is much in a twist over this. On one side it claims that it supports the Arab spring movement for more democracy. On the other side it sells these tanks to the Saudis who recently violently suppressed such a movement in Bahrain, who early this year fought (and badly lost) against the Houti rebels in Yemen and who are generally the most political backward and unjust regime one can think of. Even Merkel's conservative followers despise the Saudis for their support for Salafi preachers in Europe. "Ain't those the terrorists you told us to be afraid about?" they ask.

In reality Merkel is of course part of the U.S./Saudi/Israeli counter revolution alliance which wants to keep the status quo in the "moderate" Middle Eastern regimes. But that is not what she claims. The German public is not yet dumb enough to swallow such hypocrisy.

Officially the government still says nothing about the deal. It is all secret. But the horse is out of the barn now and this will be one more reason why the Merkel government will come down and fall pretty hard.

The really interesting, much asked but not yet answered, questions about this deal are:

  • Who did get the various bribes in this deal?
  • Who in the very small security cabinet, usually just 5-7 current government ministers, spilled the beans about the deal to the press?

The media summer hole, where real news is sparse, will leave much room for journalists and the public to look into these issues.

Posted by b on July 8, 2011 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Why Iran Would Reject The "Grand Bargain"

The Leverett's at their site Race For Iran have long called for a "Grand Bargain" with Iran in which the U.S. would guarantee (one wonders how believable) not to touch the Iranian form of government while Iran would give up its support for "the resistance", i.e. Hizbullah and the Palestinians.

But as the Lebanese scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb writes in a recent Conflicts Forum’s monograph, such a "Grand Bargain" may not be possible, unless the U.S. completely changes its stand in the Middle East. This because a "Grand Bargain" as envisioned now would necessitate for the Islamic Republic to give up the core values of its ideological foundation, anti-imperialism and justice, and thereby render it into an empty hull.

Via the Friday Lunch Club an excerpt from the recommendable paper An Examination of the Ideological, Political and Strategic Causes of Iran’s Commitment to the Palestinian Cause (page 13/14, footnotes omitted):

[T]he Islamic Republic would most likely reject not merely the content but the very logic underlying the Leverett’s ‘Grand Bargain’ proposal, were it ever to be officially adopted by the Obama administration. The Leveretts’ recommendation that policymakers make clear their intention to “not seek a change in the nature of the Iranian regime, but rather, changes in Iranian policies that Washington considers problematic,” is self-contradictory and reductive for it ignores the reality that the nature of the Iranian political system is not merely defined by its Shiíte Islamic theocracy and liturgy but is essentially shaped by its policies, particularly the ones deemed unsavory by the US. In fact, the very policies which Washington seeks to change comprise an essential part of Iran’s self-understanding as an Islamic state. Accordingly, the Leverett proposal misidentifies Iran’s national security policy with the physical security of the regime, or its mere survival as an institutional entity, rather than with the security of the regime’s identity, or being as a “particular kind of actor” -- its “ontological security”. Thus, when Washington demands policy changes of Iran while reassuring it that it would leave its Islamic form of government intact, in so doing, it is threatening Tehran’s ontological security as a particular kind of Islamic actor.
The Islamic Republic derives its religio-political identity from Khomeini’s interpretation of Islam which conceives of it as “the religion of militant individuals who are committed to truth and justice. It is the religion of those who desire freedom and independence. It is the school of those who struggle against imperialism.” This conception of Islam stands in sharp contradistinction to the apolitical “defective version” promulgated by “the servants of imperialism”, who strip Islam of its inherent “revolutionary” potential reducing it to a religion with “a few ethical principles” and “nothing to say about human life in general and the ordering of society,” thereby denying its adherents the pursuit of “freedom”.
Since the policy changes the US requires of Iran would necessitate that it abandon its struggle against imperialism and injustice, relinquish its independence and freedom as a state and end support for resistance movements defending the rights of the oppressed, compliance with these demands would effectively transform “the nature of the regime” from a genuinely Islamic one according to Khomeinist criteria, to a “defective” and hence unauthentic Islam. The nature of the regime and its policies are therefore synonymous rather than mutually exclusive categories; any fundamental change in Iranian foreign policy would render the political system un-Islamic. What is more, any fundamental changes in Iran’s foreign policy objectives, in the absence of a corresponding shift in US Middle East policy, would essentially mean that the Iranian state would have overturned its founding principles and undermined its identity and hence, itself. If Iran were to become one of America’s moderate allies in the region, the Islamic Revolution would be rendered meaningless and the Islamic Republic would defy its own raison d’étre in reverting to the pre-revolutionary identity ascribed to it by the Shah.

If this is a correct description, which I believe, the conflict between the U.S. and Iran will continue for the foreseeable future.

Posted by b on July 8, 2011 at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 07, 2011

The Elephant In Donkey’s Clothing

Obama disappointed on many, many issues.

He escalated the war in Afghanistan and started new ones in Somalia, Yemen and Libya. He kept Guantanamo open and found new ways to hide prisoners. He let the CIA torturers get off for free. He gave hundreds of billions to Wall Street and made no effort to clean it up. He doesn't give shit about the constitutional war powers. He is more zealous about whistle blowers than anyone before him. He is pandering to Israel and its lobby.

The people in the U.S. might have been okay with most of the above. But now, I hope, they will find him overreaching and this should be the deserved end of his presidency: In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

This used to be the holy grail for the Democrats. Selling out on Social Security and Medicare is something large majorities in the U.S. are against. Doing so would probably be the end of the party.

Will this finally result in a serious primary challenge for Obama?

Posted by b on July 7, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Rasmussen on Libya

Nato will stay out of Libya: Rasmussen, February 24
"I would like to stress that Nato has no plans to intervene and we have not received any request," Rasmussen said after talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

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NATO plans for all eventualities in Libya: Rasmussen, March 3
"I'd like to stress that NATO doesn't have any intention to intervene, but as a defense alliance and security organization, we do prudent planning for all eventualities," Rasmussen said after talks with Montenegro Prime Minister Igor Luksic.

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Nato 'is impartial' in Libya, says Rasmussen, March 28
The secretary general of Nato has insisted that it is "impartial" and coalition forces in Libya will not arm the rebels to attack Col Gaddafi.

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Rasmussen says no NATO ground troops for Libya, March 28
Rasmussen: The UN mandate does not authorise the use of forces on the ground. We are there to protect civilians against attack. We are there to implement a no-fly zone; we have no intention of putting troops on the ground.

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NATO Head Rasmussen - 'There Is No Military Solution to the Libya Conflict', April 13
Rasmussen: The honest answer is that there is no military solution to this conflict. We need a political solution, and it's up to the Libyan people to come up with one.

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Rasmussen: "NATO needs more precision strike fighters in Libya", April 15
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said here Thursday that NATO generally has sufficient military assets for the Libyan mission, but it needs more precision strike aircraft as Libyan government troops changed their tactics.

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'Game over' for Gaddafi: Nato chief, May 9
'The game is over for Gaddafi. He should realize sooner rather than later that there's not future for him or his regime,' the Nato secretary-general told CNN's State Of The Union program.

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Rasmussen: Nato in Libya 'as long as it takes', June 9
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Rasmussen said that Nato members had agreed to extend operations in Libya for another 90 days and would be there "for as long as it takes".

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Libya War: NATO to use any means – Rasmussen, June 23
“We are allowed to use any means necessary. But I do not want to talk about what we are preparing,” he said.

Rasmussen said he was not surprised by the fact that Gaddaffi still continues to resist NATO and the opposition.

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Rasmussen Rules out NATO Land Operations in Libya, July 4
"We have no intention of deploying troops on the ground (in Libya)," Rasmussen said after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

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NATO: 'Game over' for Gadhafi, July 6
"The momentum is against Gadhafi, his economic strength to sustain war is declining, his generals and ministers are deserting, the international community has turned against him," [NATO secretary-general Rasmussen] told reporters in Brussels. "For Gadhafi, the game is over."

Posted by b on July 7, 2011 at 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 06, 2011

Begging To Occupy

On a recent secret visit to Iraq President Barack Obama exchanged offerings with Iraq's Prime Minister al-Maliki. This according to knowledgeable circles.

As we are told Obama fell to his knees begging al-Maliki take up his offer to keep 10,000 U.S. occupation troops in Iraq past this year's end. Al-Maliki stayed seated but offered Obama a date.

While some Obama officials immediately explained that the date offered was the one on which al-Maliki would positively decide the question, other officials questioned that interpretation.

Posted by b on July 6, 2011 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Blame Iran By "News" Without Any Facts

On July 1 the New York Times headlined: Iraq Cracks Down on Iran-Backed Shiite Militias. Nowhere does the article under that headline provide any facts which support the claim that those militia are backed by Iran. Those militia are allegedly Shia and that is enough to call them "Iran-backed".

Today the Washington Post headlines: Weapons prove Iranian role in Iraq, U.S. says. But the article contains no, that is zero, evidence for that claim. It says that:

Jeffrey[, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq,] provided details of the forensic testing after Gen. Lloyd Austin, commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, declined to do so earlier in the day.

But the article does not say or explain what "details of the forensic testing" the ambassador provided. Instead it mentions old U.S. assertions from 2009 and from 2008 and it trots out the old false meme of "explosively formed projectile” found in Iraq as coming from Iran. It also quotes an "expert" from the Israel Lobby who, of course, blames Iran for everything between sunrise and sundown.

Both articles, while using the claim of Iranian involvement in their headlines, do not provide any news at all with regard to Iranian connections to groups in Iraq. Their sole purpose seems to reenforce the meme by repeating it over and over.

Posted by b on July 6, 2011 at 07:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 04, 2011

Open Thread - July 4

I've got nothing.

Whatever ...

Posted by b on July 4, 2011 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

July 02, 2011

So What Really Is the Operational Status of Shamsi?

There was a public exchange between U.S. and Pakistan officials over the last days with contradicting claims about the operation of and from the airbase Shamsi in Baluchistan province in south-west Pakistan. Later on, both agreed on a status picture. But is it the true one? terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Drone hangers at Shamsi - Google map

The dispute started with the Pakistani defense minister saying on Wednesday in the Financial Times that Pakistan ordered the base to be shut down and evacuated and that operations there were halted:

Pakistan is pushing the US to abandon an airbase in Balochistan that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has reportedly been using for years to undertake its drone campaign inside the country’s tribal areas, the defence minister said.

Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar’s statement confirming that the US had been told to leave the Shamsi airbase is the latest indication of the simmering tensions between the key war-on-terror allies.

Pakistani commentators lauded this step which made it difficult to change that position:

The announcement of Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmad Mukhtar that the United States has been asked to vacate the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan has widely been hailed by people of Pakistan, who consider it belated but still timely move as part of the efforts to restore national honour and dignity.
...
Shamsi had become subject of a heated national debate and disgust with people considering it as a stigma for the country and therefore, the move of the Government to get it vacated is a welcome development.

But someone in the U.S. did not like the Pakistani claim and on Thursday directly rebutted it via Reuters:

The United States is rejecting demands from Pakistani officials that American personnel abandon a military base used by the CIA to stage drone strikes against suspected militants, U.S. officials told Reuters.

U.S. personnel have not left the remote Pakistani military installation known as Shamsi Air Base and there is no plan for them to do so, said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive material.

"That base is neither vacated nor being vacated," the official said. The information was confirmed by a second U.S. official.
...
"They are vacating it," the [senior Pakistani military] official insisted. "Shamsi base was for logistic purpose. They also used it for drones for some time but no drones have been flown from there."

The official said no base in Pakistan was presently used by the Americans for drone operations. But he did not give a precise date for when drones supposedly stopped operating from Shamsi.

The U.S. officials disputed that account.

So what is it? It seems that there are at least two direct contradictions here. First the claim that the base is no longer used for drone strikes which the U.S. official refuted and second the claim that the base in being in the process of shutting down which the U.S. also disputes. Reuters didn't err here as a McClatchy piece on Thursday confirmed its take:

The same day, Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar was quoted as saying that Pakistan had ended CIA drone flights from Shamsi airfield in Baluchistan province. A senior U.S. official disputed that statement, saying, "That's news to the United States," and suggesting that Mukhtar was trying to assuage anti-American sentiment and deflect public anger over the bin Laden operation.
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If the Pakistanis order the CIA to vacate Shamsi, "it would be a significant step and the wrong signal," the senior U.S. official said.

But in a Washington Post piece on Saturday U.S. officials suddenly confirmed the Pakistani version:

The CIA three months ago suspended its long-standing use of an air base in Pakistan as a launch site for armed drones targeting members of al-Qaeda and other militant groups, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
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U.S. personnel and Predator drones remain at the facility, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, with security provided by the Pakistani military, officials from both countries said.
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U.S. and Pakistani officials said the aircraft launches were halted in April, weeks before the bin Laden raid, after a dispute over a CIA contractor who fatally shot two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in January.
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In the weeks immediately after Pakistan’s grudging release in March of the CIA contractor involved in the Lahore shooting, top Pakistani military and intelligence officials made “a formal, personal request . . . a demand . . . more than once” to their U.S. counterparts to end the flights and leave Pakistan, a senior Pakistani defense official said.

In response, the official said, “there has been some thinning out at the base, and the drone missions suspended.”

I see two possible explanations for the contradicting claims here:

A. The Pakistani account is right and the U.S. rebuttal delivered on Thursday was wrong or misinformed or an attempt to put further pressure on the Pakistani leadership. Then, after a higher decision in the U.S., it was taken back in the Saturday story.

B. The Pakistani account was wrong but after the Pakistani Defense Minister had publicly made it was too hard to walk back. Between Thursday and Friday the U.S. and Pakistan agreed to the Pakistan version as a new cover story for continued operation of and from that base.

I have no idea which explanation is the correct one. What is the real operational status of Shamsi airbase? What is your take?

Posted by b on July 2, 2011 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

July 01, 2011

The Strauss-Kahn Entrapment

When the news about "rape" allegedly committed by then IMF chief Strauss-Kahn came up I wrote that the case "smells of entrapment":

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?

It seems clear now that this case indeed stinks to high heaven:

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May, according to two well-placed law enforcement officials.
...
According to the two officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.

That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.

The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends.

In addition, one of the officials said, she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.

With a witness like that any prosecution is dead.

The case was obviously used to move Strauss Khan out as IMF chief. He had argued to forgive debt and to let the bankers bleed. Only two days ago Sarkozy's finance minister, Christine Lagarde, was installed as new neoliberal IMF chief. And today we learn that the case against Strauss-Kahn falters. I do not for a moment believe that this timing is pure coincident. The prosecutors certainly knew about the witness' unreliability for weeks. They fried Strauss-Kahn just long enough to finish the plan.

Whether it was the U.S. who did him in -Strauss-Kahn had also suggested to replace the dollar as reserve currency with IMF Special Drawing Rights-, or the Sarkozy government which wanted to eliminate a Strauss-Kahn as a Sarkozy challenger in the next presidential election in France, will only come out years from now.

What points to Sarkozy is the little publicized fact that the New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who's department leaked like a sieve all the damaging "facts" about the Strauss-Kahn case, is a friend of Sarkozy who in 2006 was awarded the France’s Legion of Honor by France’s Interior Minister, then one Nicolas Sarkozy.

Whatever it may be. This case, just like the one against Elliot Spitzer and the rape allegations against Julian Assange, will remind anyone in charge anywhere to stay with the bankers' party line. A serious ratfucking, like Strauss-Kahn experienced, will be the penalty for any deviation.

Posted by b on July 1, 2011 at 04:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

Priceless

Posted by b on July 1, 2011 at 01:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

 
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