Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 30, 2012

"Its Image And Appeal"

From the horse's mouth in a speech on drone killings titled “The Ethics and Efficacy of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy”:

More broadly, XXX’s killing of innocents—mostly Muslim men, women and children—has badly tarnished its image and appeal in the eyes of Muslims around the world.

I am always amazed how little self awareness these people have.

Posted by b on April 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

April 28, 2012

Three Issues: France, Eygpt And China

That Sarkozy scum is done. This will hopefully mark the end of the lunatic austerity diktat Merkel and Sarkosy have imposed on Europe.

Nicolas Sarkozy 'received £42 million from Muammar Gaddafi for 2007 election'

At the time Mr Sarkozy was France’s interior minister with well-documented ambitions to succeed Jacques Chirac. Political financing laws ban candidates from receiving cash payments above €7,500 (£6,300) but Mediapart claims that €50 million mentioned in the memo were laundered through bank accounts in Panama and Switzerland.

...

The Wahhabis join the Zionists: Saudi recalls ambassador, shuts embassy in Egypt

Demonstrations outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo had grown in recent days over the arrest of Ahmed El-Gezawi upon his arrival at Jeddah airport on April 17.

Saudi Arabia's official SPA news agency quoted an unidentified source as saying the protests were unjustified and that attempts had been made to storm the embassy, threatening the safety of its employees.

A few month ago: Israel evacuates ambassador to Egypt after embassy attack

The incident was the second major eruption of violence at the embassy since five Egyptian border guards were killed last month during an Israeli operation against gunmen. That incident prompted Egypt briefly to threaten to withdraw its envoy.

...

Some U.S. agency seems to have facilitated the flight of Chinese "self-taught lawyer" (an impossibility in any historic justice system) and activist to the U.S. embassy in Beijing. This a few days before Clinton and Geithner are expected to visit China. The guy has long been promoted and likely financed by the U.S. government's National Endowment of Democracy, the main organization for regime change programs.

This plot will not achieve its simple minded purpose of shaming the Chinese government. It is likely to increase Chines animosity against the U.S. hegemonic ambitions and the Chinese cooperation with Russia and other resistance forces.

The U.S. has lost the art of Grand Strategy. The Obama years will mark the end of a few years of oversized ambitions and undersized intellectual capacities of achieving them.

Posted by b on April 28, 2012 at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

April 26, 2012

Signature Strikes In Yemen Will Increase The Problem - Is This Intended?

Building on an already desastrous foreign policy towards Yemen the Obama administration has decided to make things worse by allowing "signature drone strikes" in Yemen. Anyone in Yemen that shits like a terrorist, thereby showing the same "signature behavior", is now in danger of being killed by a U.S. drone:

The policy shift, as described by senior U.S. officials, includes targeting fighters whose names aren't known but who are deemed to be high-value terrorism targets or threats to the U.S.

There once was a time that the twin towers in New York were "deemed to be high-value terrorism targets". But now it is, as the WSJ seems to acknowledge with that phrase, the U.S. doing the terrorism and the targets are those shitting Yemeni. While not knowing the names of the people, knowing that their shit stinks, or is assumed to stink, will be enough to get them - plus the usual assortment of then "collateral damage" women and children - killed.

This policy is so idiotic that the administration has to resort to Orwellian logic:

Advocates of expanding the scope of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen say the latest U.S. intelligence shows that AQAP has grown stronger since one of its prominent leaders, American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a U.S. strike in September.

So when a drone strike was followed by an increase in the number of AQAP than more drone strikes will somehow solve the problem? How?

As regional expert have pointed out, every major increase in AQAP power followed after a U.S. cruise missile or drone strike in Yemen

I would argue that US missile strike are actually one of the major - not the only, but a major - factor in AQAP's growing strength.  Both Jeremy Scahill and Michelle Shephard have documented how US bombing mistakes in Yemen have played into AQAP's hands.

In parts of south Yemen AQAP is now the only group that provides services and government to the people. Taking that away, without any replacement in sight, will create more anarchy. If one thinks that Somali pirates are a problem, does one want the people in Abyan and Shabwa to also  take up that business line?

This policy of open murder by drone strikes of people who's "signature" way of life equals that of assumed terrorists is bound to have considerable negative effects.

As these blowbacks are easy to foresee the question is again if such U.S. foreign policy is made due to shear incompetence or if the foreseeable negative consequences are the real intent of such policies.

Posted by b on April 26, 2012 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

April 24, 2012

Diplomacy And Culture Is Akin To 'Expanding Terrorism'

The United States NEVER ever tries to extend its influence through cultural exchanges and diplomacy.

Never.

Because that would be akin to 'expanding terrorism':

Tehran's efforts to expand its circle of influence in South America is tantamount to exporting state-sponsored terrorism into the region, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

"We always have a concern about in particular the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] and [their] efforts . . . to expand their influence not only throughout the Middle East but into [South America] as well," Panetta told reporters Monday.

"That, in my book, that relates to expanding terrorism. And that's one of the areas that I think all of us are concerned about," he added.
...
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has visited the region six times over the past six years.

Tehran has also expanded its network of embassies and cultural centers in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua during that time.

The gibberish of U.S. empire drones is getting crazier by the day.

Posted by b on April 24, 2012 at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

April 23, 2012

Comming Mass Atrocities Will Be In Name Of Their Prevention

Samantha Power to chair Obama's Atrocities Prevention Board

Obama will speak about genocide prevention and the U.S. efforts to make sure mass atrocities never happen again.

The Obama White House efforts to address genocide is headed by Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights.

Which country, after Libya with 50,000 killed, will be the next to be devastated by the U.S. in the new scheme of wars to "prevent mass atrocities"?

The White House Fact Sheet points to Syria and several other non-allied countries.

Neither any of the recent U.S. mass atrocities committed in Iraq and is committing in Afghanistan and elsewhere, nor any mass atrocities committed by allies, like those by Sri Lanka against the Tamil in 2009, are mentioned. For future mass atrocities by allies and the U.S., a different designation will be found. Many of them will get done to "prevent mass atrocities".

Any government that snubs its nose towards the U.S. can now be certain to get accused of such by the very next opportunity. If it itself does not commit atrocities, the new Defense Clandestine Service will certainly be able to help with that.

Posted by b on April 23, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (47)

April 22, 2012

Open Thread 2012-11

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 22, 2012 at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (188)

April 21, 2012

Insurgency Created Flames, Smoke And Mirrors In Homs

From today's NYT

Despite an ostensible cease-fire, violence flared across the country, with a roadside bomb killing 10 soldiers in the south, according to the state-run news, while YouTube videos posted from the devastated city of Homs showed flames and intense black smoke after government shelling of a downtown residential neighborhood.

There are several channels on Youtube which aggregate various videos coming out of Syria. The most complete one is SHAMSNN with over 90,000 videos. Another one is UgaritNews which has an Arabic channel with some 50,000 videos and a much smaller English channel.

As I regularly click through those channels I found that over the last days the number of videos of shelling of parts of Homs significantly decreased, the numbers of "martyr" videos showing dead young bearded men increased and the size of the various demonstrations in the videos is smaller than it has earlier been. All that points to a subsiding insurgency.

Checking through those channels I also registered a new phenomenon starting around April 11 with some videos showing intense fires on rooftops in Homs which is what the New York Times report above characterizes as "flames and intense black smoke". But the NYT's  insinuation that these fires are the result of government shelling seem wrong to me. I suspect that these "flames and intense black smoke" events are created by the insurgency in another successful attempt of media manipulation.

Typically mortars are filled with high explosives. They explode on impact with a slight flash and the visible result in a city is usually a cloud of grey dust and lots of small shrapnel impacts on the walls of buildings. Mortars create damage and kill through the pressure wave and the shrapnel. This older video seems to show several such typical mortar impacts in Homs and none of them has "flames and black smoke".

But where would "flames and intense black smoke" come from if not from mortar fire? Dark black smoke usually comes from burning hydrocarbons like tar, oil or from burning the coom in rubber tires. I am not aware of any mortar ammunition type that could cause such by itself.

But mortars can cause fire. Could the burning on the roofs be caused by mortars? Most roofs in Homs are flat and, unlike in northern Europe, those flat roofs in Syria are not covered by tar paper as the arid climate makes covering the concrete from daily rain unnecessary. From my travels in Turkey near the Syrian border I remember sitting on several such naked concrete roofs for the usual evening chat and tea.

Let's look at some of these "flames and black smoke" videos.

A fire on a roof uploaded to Youtube on April 16.

It is clearly a concrete roof. In the video can see the columns that will be used when the house owner will have enough money to put the next level on top of it. There is no reason to see why there is fire on this roof. The satellite dish on the roof seems to be undamaged from a blast like a mortar would create. The video features a voice that calls for "Mister Annan" and in the background some people are shouting and banging doors. Are they faking battle noise? Another video shows the same fire seen from the street level with the same voice speaking and cars passing by with a bit of honking.

So was this a mortar impact in a fighting zone or some old tire and gasoline used on some open roof someone had access to?

And how came that the same guy with the same voice happened to film another incident of "flames and intense black smoke" on a roof but at nighttime and five days earlier on April 11?

This is another "flames and intense black smoke" fire on a roof top with the video uploaded on April 18.

Notice how the satellite dish next to the fire seems undamaged. Has there really been a mortar blast that caused this fire? The speaker uses an agitated voice and mentions Kofi Annan. But the voices in the background at 0:30 are not agitated at all.

The same speaker with a somewhat similar text performs in this video which shows "flames and intense black smoke" on a roof filmed from the street level. It was also uploaded on the 18th.

There are "flames and intense black smoke" blast videos too. But again looking for example at this picture from this video what is it that we a really seeing? Has this been caused by a mortar or by some dynamite used on a barrel of oil?

Here is another example of such a dark smoke explosion on a rooftop.

The video was taken near dusk and uploaded yesterday. Notice how the camera seems to know where it has to look when the explosion happens and how very unsurprised the voice in the video sounds.

This is likely the same explosion from a different perspective.

The video was also taken at dusk and also uploaded yesterday. At 0:27 the camera turns to a per-prepared cardboard with some Arabic writing including yesterday's date on it. Someone knew what was coming up and prepared a date proof for the video?

Also uploaded yesterday was this guy standing on a roof next to a satellite dish and ranting about the "flames and intense black smoke" on a neighboring rooftop.

The video also seems to have been taken at dusk. There is another video taken from the same location but without that guy.

Four different recordings taken at dusk and uploaded yesterday with one conveniently catching the moment of the explosion, one with a pre-prepared date proof and one with a rant calling for Kofi Annan. Was this by chance or were there three video teams to document a prepared event of "flames and intense black smoke"?

Back in March the British TV Channel 4 documented how "video activists" in Homs used burning tires to fake a battle for one of their reports. We have documented here that one Kahled Abu Saleh in Homs has used fakery in several of his videos. He is, by the way, back in that business.

So we do know that these people in Homs fake at least some of the events their videos show. While there is no definite proof yet that the above videos are showing fires and explosions created intentional by the insurgents there is enough in and around them that lets me seriously doubt that those "flames and intense black smoke" on the roofs of Homs are the result of "government shelling".

Posted by b on April 21, 2012 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (72)

April 19, 2012

AP's Poor Reporting On Syria

Which news agency is doing the better in reporting from Syria? Which one is most near to the action? Which one has better sources? Here is an answer.

The Associated Press reports from Beirut, Lebanon: UN Monitors Flee Syrian Protest After Gunfire

Syrian security forces opened fire Wednesday on anti-regime demonstrators surrounding the cars of a U.N. team meant to monitor a shaky cease-fire, sending the observers speeding off and protesters dashing for cover, according to activists and amateur videos.

Xinhua reports from Damascus, Syria: Head of UN observers denies coming under fire in Damascus' suburb

Head of the UN advance observer team to Syria denied that his team came under fire in one of the hotspot suburbs of Syria's capital Damascus on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after finishing a tour in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, Moroccan Col. Ahmed Himmiche said that his team didn't come under fire there, ...

So while Xinhua has reporters and photographers on the ground in Syria, AP's reporter used Skype to talk to some activists allegedly in Syrian and, sitting in his Beirut office, watched some Youtube clips. Obviously the AP reporting here is inadequate and thereby unreliable. One should keep that in mind when reading other AP stories.

Posted by b on April 19, 2012 at 02:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

April 18, 2012

Ban Ki-moon's Helicopter Nonsense

Who gave Ban Ki-moon this idea?

The United Nations Security Council is expected to authorize deploying a full mission of 250 monitors to Syria after it takes up the issue Wednesday, but Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon questioned whether even that number would be sufficient.

"I think this is not enough, considering the current situation and considering the vastness of the country, and that is why we need very efficient mobility of our observer mission," he said Tuesday.

He said he had discussed with European Union leaders whether the EU could provide helicopters and airplanes for that mobility.

This can not be a request for civilian helicopters as those could be rented by the UN itself. So those helicopters Ban Ki-moon is dreaming of would be military helicopters from EU countries with military pilots and NATO standard encrypted radios. The same EU countries that have put sanctions on Syria because it cracks down on an foreign paid insurgency.

This at the same times as the U.S. has pledged "communication equipment" to the insurgents in Syria. The helicopter pilots could thereby direct the insurgents around military concentrations and roadblocks towards their targets.

The Syrian government would be crazy to agree to such a scheme of transport of UN monitors. Indeed it offered its own helicopters for the monitors to use. Ban Ki-moon certainly knew that the EU helicopter scheme would be rejected when he came out with it.

This crazy idea was only offered to let it look as if the Syrian government rejects the Annan plan and hindering the monitor deployment. But for now it seems to me that the UN is the one that holding back progress. There are still only six UN monitors on the ground where thirty were supposed to be since Monday. What is up with that Mr. Ban Ki-moon?

Posted by b on April 18, 2012 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

April 17, 2012

Real Journalism?

Real journalism? When Julian Assange interviews Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah on Russia Today?

Posted by b on April 17, 2012 at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (147)

ISAF's Lies Impede Democracy

During the recent Taliban commando attack in seven places all over Afghanistan the western military command of ISAF lauded the Afghan security forces for being able to fight off the attack. During the attack ISAF issued a press release:

Afghan National Security Forces responded to a series of attacks today in Kabul and in a few outlying provinces.
...
Afghan Crisis Response Units, along with Afghan police and army forces, deployed to repel the attacks that resulted in light casualties while killing or capturing many of the suicide attackers in a matter of hours.
...
ISAF quick reaction forces were prepared to respond if required but were not needed.

Later the ISAF commander General Allan issued a statement:

I am enormously proud of how quickly Afghan security forces responded to today's attacks in Kabul. They were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated. They integrated their efforts, helped protect their fellow citizens and largely kept the insurgents contained.

The fighting goes on this evening, and ISAF is standing by to support our Afghan partners when and if they need it. I consider it a testament to their skill and professionalism – of how far they've come – that they haven't yet asked for that support.

From those two statements one would assume that the Afghan forces were able to solve the situation on their own.

Well - ISAF obviously lied:

Western contractors heard the gun battle and saw the insurgents ascending through the brick building partially shielded by scaffolding and billowing curtains of green mesh. Some of the Westerners grabbed their weapons and started firing on the militants, according to witnesses.
...
Back in the city's diplomatic neighborhood, Norwegian special-operations forces military mentors working with another team of specially trained Afghan forces sought to bring the attack to a rapid end.
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As night fell, according to a participant in the response, a small contingent of British Special Operations Forces moved in to help.
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Around 2:30 Monday morning, a pair of UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters dipped over the Kabul mountains and zeroed in on the insurgent-held building in the diplomatic quarter, unleashing sustained machine-gun fire. For more than three hours, the Blackhawks circled back for at least six more attacks, marking the first time the U.S. military has used such firepower in Kabul since Taliban fell in 2001.

A member of the Afghan parliament from Kandahar also joined the fight (video).

We asked what ISAF was smoking when, a few days before the attack, it said that there was no sign of a Taliban spring operation.

Independent of what one might think of the whole operation in Afghanistan such stupid remarks and the constant stream of false statements from ISAF do nothing but hurt the effort it is supposed to fulfill.

ISAF's false happy talk increases distrust of all involved people towards their own government and to the U.S. as leading force in Afghanistan. It is no wonder that Australia and France, usually staunch U.S. allies, want to pull out earlier than planned.

Even more important - these constant lies are an impediment of our democracies. While we can expect that politicians misinform voters they have at least some competition that helps to uncover their lies. But when the military commanders misinforms the electorate there is no one who can easily disprove their statements. How can the sovereign, the people, freely decide about wars when its employees lie about the state of the war affairs?

One wonders if what is behind ISAF's lies is sheer incompetence or some nefarious intend.

Posted by b on April 17, 2012 at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

April 16, 2012

The Home Of "The Dark Bats Of The Night"

An NYT piece on the dubious disqualification of Egyptian presidential candidates is accompanied by a picture of one of them - Egypt’s former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in his office.

Writes the NYT:

Mr. Suleiman stands more clearly for a restoration of the old order than any other former Mubarak government official now re-entering politics. And he has deep ties to the intelligence services - his campaign manager is his former chief of staff in the spy service and has begun running the campaign from its headquarters - raising fears that its officials might revive Mubarak-era practices like bugging candidates' offices and rigging elections.

The Arabist points out that the Suleiman office is entirely black:

So Omar Suleiman paints his office walls black. What else!? And is that shiny bit behind him the hyperbaric chamber he sleeps in? And on the right side, the mini-fridge where he keeps body parts and truth serums.

Which reminds me of a Suleiman quote in a February 2011 piece in The National which I used as a headline in a piece following the Egyptian revolution attempt:

Egypt's protesters were defiant today after a warning from the country's new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, that if protesters do not enter negotiations, a "coup" could take place causing greater chaos, raising alarm of crackdown.
...
He warned of chaos if the situation continued, speaking of "the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorise the people."

Looking at Suleiman's office those dark bats of the night may well have their home at exactly that dark place.

Posted by b on April 16, 2012 at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Castrating UNCTAD And "The Stuff White People Like" List

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva is one of the few international organizations in which the third world countries play a bigger role:

Established in 1964, UNCTAD promotes the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy. UNCTAD has progressively evolved into an authoritative knowledge-based institution whose work aims to help shape current policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development.

UNCTAD led to the creation of the G77, an association of developing countries which by now has 132 member states. Within the UNCTAD conferences this group is usually pitched against the group of developed countries.

Those developed countries control most world institutions like the IMF, World Bank and WTO. Unlike those institutions UNCTAD is often promoting policies to that do not favor them. UNCTAD has its own macroeconomic research arm and does quite good analysis on finance and trade. It has foreseen crisis the other institutions completely missed in their predictions. Like the G77 is firmly pitched against globalized finance and its excesses.

Now the developed countries want to kill off the independent UNCTAD research arm as it doesn't conform with their Washington Consensus doctrines. While they are preaching competition and the market of ideas but want to suppress the competition UNCTAD's research provides to their favored institutions.

For current negotiations on the future role of UNCTAD the developed countries played the usual divide and conquer game to split up the G77. But now the G77 seems ready to fight back:

Speaking on behalf of the G77 and China, Ambassador Pisanu Chanvitan of Thailand regretted that the accommodative stance of the group had been viewed as weakness or capitulation.

“The group hoped that the global economic and financial crisis marks for once and for all the end of the bad old days, and perhaps the dawn of an international regime of global economic governance based on the highest principles and ideals of the United Nations, including sovereignty, equality, and mutual respect,” he said.

“Instead, we see behaviour that seems to indicate a desire for the dawn of a new neocolonialism. We cannot, we will not, accept this.

In this the interest of the people in the developing country are the same than the interests of the 99% in the developed countries. The people in the developed countries must be made aware of this and whatever is left of Occupy Wall Street and other such groups should help to press for the G77 position.

In the global picture the "new neocolonialism" is on the list of "stuff white people like", maybe as number 85 or so. A must-read piece at Jadaliyyah looks at another entry in that list and also refers to the 133 countries of the G77+China.

The piece is a quite hilarious lecture for non-white people on how to make friends with white people by adopting selected items on the "stuff white people like" list. To do as a non-white requires quite delicate knowledge on the white peoples' standpoint on the relevant issue on that list - in this case about 'humanitarian intervention'. The Jadaliyyah piece provides such knowledge:

Stuff White People Like n.135 - Humanitarian Intervention

With the “Arab spring” on the menu, the height of sophistication this season is to introduce the notion of ‘types of intervention’. Although it might require serious research on specialized blogs and a subscription to the Economist, explaining in great detail the type you believe most appropriate for the context under scrutiny reveals a subtle personality attuned to the minute nuances of killing non-white people abroad. Should the strikes be preemptive, or should we wait until a certain number of oppressed innocents have died before putting our foot down?

Once you’ve decided upon this matter, you must further pick between interventions that aim at drawing defensive curtains around specific zones of strategic white interest, surgical strikes that destroy the enemy fire capacity which a white government sold them the previous week, and physical military intervention which might ensure your current president won’t get another term in office. Alternatively, if you wear your heart on your sleeve, you may incense the unorthodox virtues of economic sanctions, guaranteeing local native children will starve in dignity, fully sheltered from international media attention.
...
Stuff White People Don’t Like So Much

No decent rough guide to white etiquette surrounding ‘humanitarian intervention’ would be complete without mentioning the central absolute rule whose violation would seriously jeopardize all white friendships: never ask a white friend why ‘humanitarian intervention’ is a specifically white hobby. This taboo question might lead down one or four abrupt dead-ends, namely, white privilege, white man’s burden, white supremacy, and your friend losing his white temper.

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by b on April 16, 2012 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

April 15, 2012

What Is ISAF Smoking?

Act 1: No sign of spring offensive by Taliban, NATO says

KABUL, April 10 (Reuters) - Afghan insurgents have so far shown no sign of planning a repeat of last year's spring offensive against foreign and Afghan forces, preferring isolated attacks on small units and bases, a NATO spokesman said.

With the traditional summer fighting months only weeks away, German Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said available intelligence did not point to a unified Taliban assault.
...
Jacobson said the attacks of last year - which also included the assassination of the head of the Afghan government peace council in charge of reconciliation efforts - had failed to revitalise the insurgency.
...
"We are waiting, how they are positioning themselves in their attempt to regain momentum. We are very optimistic that we will be, as last year, able to stop all the efforts that they are throwing against us," Jacobson said.

Act 2: Coordinated Attacks Rock Afghan Capital and Provinces

In a wave of attacks that rolled through the diplomatic and government centers in the Afghan capital and struck at least three eastern provinces as well, the Taliban on Sunday launched a complex assault using teams of suicide bombers and gunmen who held buildings for hours after the first explosions.

A statement by the Taliban called the attacks the start of their spring offensive, adding: “It is also a message to those foreign commanders who claim that the Taliban have lost their momentum. We have just showed that we are here and we can stage an attack whenever we want.”

Act 3: ISAF commander statement on insurgent attacks

[T]he very fact that the enemy chose these particular targets speaks volumes about where we are in this campaign and the degree to which we have advanced the very things the enemy fears the most – a sovereign Afghanistan responsive to its people and an enduring commitment by the international community.

Each attack was meant to send a message: that legitimate governance and Afghan sovereignty are in peril. The ANSF response itself is proof enough of that folly.

Nine hours on the attack in Kabul is still not over.

We know that Afghanistan agriculture provides some great mind altering products. We didn't know that the ISAF command is such an avid user of these products.

Posted by b on April 15, 2012 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

April 14, 2012

These Live Videos Of The "Shelling Of Homs" Are Staged

Three current headlines:

AFP: Syria forces shell Homs as UN votes on observers

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled the Jurat al-Shayah and Al-Qarabis districts of the city for around an hour during the morning, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving any immediate word on any casualties.

VoA: Activists Accuse Syria of Renewed Shelling

Activists are accusing Syrian government forces of shelling the central city of Homs, raising new questions about the country's already tenuous cease-fire.

Reuters: Syrian forces shell Homs on day three of truce

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled the battered city of Homs on Saturday, opposition activists said, the first bombings since a ceasefire began two days ago.

I doubt these reports.

There was a lot of twittering this morning about a live video feed from Homs showing the "shelling" taking place. The live feed was on Bambuser which allows to stream cell phone live video to the web. The feed was by the user mahmoud homs. It came in several parts with over an hour of total length. I have watched it all.

The view is mostly across a street towards a ten story high rise which seems to have never been inhabited and which has some serious shelling damage though we do not know when that occurred. There is a slightly damaged van in the street. The camera is about 20-30 meters away from the building.

Lets take this 26 minute part for further analysis.

There is sound of explosions throughout that part though it sounds rather strange.

At 0:56 there is a small explosion though the only thing we see is rather small cloud of dust and smoke. At 1:15 there is another explosion at the facade's fifth floor with a small cloud of dust and smoke which immediately gets blown away. Astonishingly the facade in that place shows no difference before and after that explosion. The following minutes include noise of explosions every few seconds but only few visible impacts at 2:47, 4:05, 4:50 and so on. All of them seem to have some thing in common.

  • there are nearly no explosion flashes and those that are visible are very small
  • the smoke and dust clouds after each hit are rather small
  • there is no discernible damage done by these explosions

One can also hear a car passing by at 5:30 using its horn. At 6:30 one can hear someone walking past. At 11:30 someone nearby the video-grapher is saying something, at 11:38 someone uses a cigarette lighter and there is more talk up to 12:30. All these sounds are quite crisp. The peoples' voices seem content, not like people under an hour long bombardment.

All the sound of the shelling is very different. It seems artificially prolonged with some echo and somewhat muffled. I have heard nothing like that in my times on army tank and artillery ranges. Real guns do make quite crisp and loud sounds.

At 13:30 the camera turns to the ground and one can see a second camera on a tripod and a laptop next to it.

Meanwhile the shelling sound continues coming every few seconds and once a while there is another small dust puff visible.

The following 5 minute and 48 minute videos are quite similar to the first one. In the last one the cameraman is also walking into the open street where all that shelling is taking place. At 20:30 someone steps into the picture into the open street with an explosion just a few meters behind him. He is ranting something and at a point holds up what seem to be the rears of used small mortar rounds. The only words I understand from what he is saying is "Kofi Annan". Then more explosions nearby and still no panic at all. At 27:30 the guy appears again and repeats his stand-up routine.

All this leaves some intriguing questions:

  • Homs is a rather large city with some 750,000 inhabitants. How did these people know where the shelling would take place so they could be there with all their equipment just in time to witness it?
  • Why would several people with cameras and laptops on the ground stay in the open street while the high rise across the street is subject to shelling with, from the sound, impacts every few seconds and visibly every few minutes?
  • Why are those people so near to the shelling so very content and not afraid at all?
  • Where is the fresh damage after all these impacts?
  • Why would the Syrian army shell an empty high rise with no discernible hostile target for over an hour wasting valuable ammunition and at a time where it is critical for the Syrian government to keep the ceasefire?

My impression is that this whole thing is a staged to impress on the people voting today at the UN Security Council.

The sound of the shelling is likely coming from a tape recorder or a laptop recording which explains the rather different and muffled complex tone in contrast to the clear nearby voices. The visible puffs are from small grenades, probably from some small hand held 40mm grenade launcher fired from nearby. They are certainly not from bigger mortars or artillery.

This foreign financed revolution in Syria has routinely used fake video and untrue accounts of events on the ground. Today's "shelling of Homs" seems to be another one of these fake stories. Unfortunately the media are, again, falling for it.

Posted by b on April 14, 2012 at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

April 13, 2012

Syria: The Illusion Of Renewed Big Protests

(Sorry for weak posting - still a bit under the weather.)

Syria saw some protests today but from the videos that were posted by "activists" none amounted to more than two to three hundred protesters. This were certainly not the big turnout the expatriate revolutionaries had called and hoped for. There were also a few clashes between the government forces and militants but I saw no report of anything serious. So far the ceasefire seems to mostly hold.

Al Akhbar had an interesting story through a diplomatic leak about the exchanges between the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and Kofi Annan. Their source gives a political interpretation of what is to follow next. According to the source the EU and the United States currently have some illusions on what the ceasefire and UN monitors will lead to:

This will allow them to witness “a Syrian revolution based on the Egyptian model, especially in the presence of UN monitors who cannot be corrupted similarly to what happened with the Arab League monitoring team headed by General Mustafa Dabi.”

“This will be accompanied by popular gatherings in public squares that could mobilize international public opinion once more after it had moved away from the popular mobilization in Syria, which turned into a civil war with reciprocal violence, instead of a peaceful popular revolution.” the revolution can again turn peaceful and that big demonstrations will reoccure.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar think differently and the Turks are somewhat in between says the source:

They do not see Annan’s mission and the implementation of the second point as a further effort to topple the Syrian regime but rather as an opportunity for the regime to calmly contain the popular protests and break its isolation on the international level.

Funny how I agree with the Saudis on this. There is no sign that Assad has lost support and most people have had enough of such a revolution. If the U.S. and EU hope for renewed big protests and a Tahrir square in Damascus they will get disappointed.

But who knows the motives of the Al Akhbar source and how much of what it says is real? But considering that it might be right what will the U.S. and EU do when they find out that their strategy failed and when will that be?

There are currently negotiations in the UN Security Council about the necessary resolution to enable UN monitors in Syria. I expect this to become another, probably prolonged, fight over the wording between Russia and China and the western regime change block which wants to blame everything on the Syrian government, leave a door open for war and have the monitors run as wild as possible. Depending on how that political fight ends the whole Annan mission may even fail soon with no monitors on the ground and a renewed phase of violence.

But whatever may come the Russians are preparing for it: Russian Warships to Patrol Syrian Coast

Russian warships will be continuously deployed for patrol duty off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean, a high-ranking source in the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday.

Posted by b on April 13, 2012 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

April 12, 2012

Diplomats And Analysts Wish For More Dead Syrians

One seldom sees blood-lust expressed so openly in a news story.

All Eyes on Russia as Syria Cease-Fire Deadline Passes

In some ways, the Annan plan needs to fail — which appears most likely — to persuade Russia and China not to wield their veto on Syria resolutions as they have twice previously, diplomats and analysts said.

Meanwhile the cease-fire seems to hold for the last a few hours though there are unconfirmed reports of a rebel attack against a military airport near Aleppo.

But with "diplomats and analysts" openly urging for a failure of the cease-fire one wonders how long it will take until it breaks down.

Posted by b on April 12, 2012 at 04:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

April 11, 2012

Erdogan Lost His Marbles

Is the Turkish premier Erdogan going insane?

Speaking to reporters travelling with him during his official visit to China, Erdoğan said Turkey may consider invoking NATO's fifth article to protect Turkish national security in the face of increasing tension along the Syrian border. His comments came after four Syrians who fled to Turkey from the violence in Syria were killed by Syrian forces targeting refugees on the Turkish side of the border on Monday.

“NATO has a responsibility to protect Turkish borders,” said Erdoğan, signaling that Turkey may officially ask NATO members to apply Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which says that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all, if the situation in Syria becomes a serious enough threat to Turkish national security.

Does he really believe NATO would sign up to article 5 action because a few shots were fired towards Turkish land after Syrian rebels, coming from Turkey, attacked Syrian government positions?

The AP reported on that shooting:

The soldiers were believed to be firing at rebels who tried to escape to the refugee camp after ambushing a Syrian military checkpoint, killing six soldiers, according to the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

That ominous Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is on the side of the rebels. So even they admit that the shooting by the Syrian soldiers was defensive and in response to an attack by the foreign paid rebels.

The local Turkish governor confirmed this:

Kilis Gov. Yusuf Odabaş said the injuries were caused by bullets from clashes on the other side of the border, which erupted when opposition groups attempted to seize control of the border crossing from regime forces. Turkish security forces in no way intervened or used arms, he said. Twenty-one Syrians wounded in the clashes managed to cross into Turkey through a mine-ridden stretch of land. Three died in hospital and another two in critical condition have been transferred to a hospital in the adjacent province of Gaziantep, Odabaş said.

Pepe Escobar points out that there is even a video that confirms that the rebels attacked from Turkey:

The voice over says, "This is the Syria-Turkey border, and this is an operation of the Free Syrian Army [FSA] ... The Gate [that would be the Syrian side of the border, housing the Gate checkpoint] is going to be seized."

If Erdogan really believes that 28 NATO countries will agree against all evidence to his version of the story and involve article 5 he has really lost his marbles.

Some in his own country seem to believe that is the case. To me Erdogan's earlier policies seemed to be more rational. Did he change his behavior after he was diagnosed with cancer?

Sightly related: These two videos seem pretty clear cut in debunking some rebel claims video 1 video 2

Posted by b on April 11, 2012 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

April 10, 2012

A Conspiracy Against The Shia Crescent?

How the Iraqi vice president travel plays into the current conspiracy that tries to destroy the Syrian state is yet unknown, but the coalition involved seems to be the same and that lets me believe that this issue is part of a larger plan against several countries in the Middle East.

The Sunni Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi's bodyguards allegedly ran death squads in Baghdad killing Shia pilgrims. An arrest warrant was put up for him but he fled to the mostly independent Kurdish north of Iraq where the Shia led government of Iraq can not assert its rule.

First he seemed to be set to stay there but a few days ago he suddenly started to travel. First on a Qatari government jet to Qatar where he met with the Qatari dictator and was interviewed on the Qatari government station Al Jazeerah. Then to Saudi Arabia where he met the foreign minister. Today he arrived in Turkey to meet the Turkish prime minister Erdogan who himself is just traveling from China to Saudi Arabia after cutting short his economically important visit to Beijing.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are obviously cooperating against the Syrian Allawit led government. (Of interest today on that issue is this Kofi Annan letter to the UNSC.) The same countries now also seem to work on a plan with al-Hashemi against the Shia led Iraqi government. At the same time fresh negotiations about Iran's civil nuclear program are coming up with conditions set by the U.S. that make these talks likely to fail.

There is for some time talk of a Shia crescent. The connection of Shia or associated beliefs rule from Iran to Iraq to Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon. We now see plots against three of these entities coming together at the same point in time. There recently also was an unconfirmed, and likely faked, sniper attack against the right wing and anti-Shia Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea which I see as an attempt to create an anti-Hizbullah crisis in Lebanon.

I do not regard these various crises coming up as a simple coincident. But I have yet to see a sensible coordinated strategy behind creating them. Is there one?

Posted by b on April 10, 2012 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

April 09, 2012

Is Turkey Implementing The Brookings Plan?

The next steps the "west" will take to destruct Syria are now visible. They seem to follow this Brookings Institute paper: Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change (pdf):

An alternative [to UN Security Council action] is for diplomatic efforts to focus first on how to end the violence and how to gain humanitarian access, as is being done under Annan’s leadership. This may lead to the creation of safe-havens and humanitarian corridors, which would have to be backed by limited military power. This would, of course, fall short of U.S. goals for Syria and could preserve Asad in power. From that starting point, however, it is possible that a broad coalition with the appropriate international mandate could add further coercive action to its efforts.

The Gülen movement financed daily Today Zaman is loyal to and sometimes a mouthpiece of Turkish prime minister Erdogan's government. It just published a piece describing the implementation of this plan. As we expected the truce is declared irrelevant even before it is supposed to happen: Turkey to tighten grip on Syria as Annan plan fails to deliver truce:

With just hours left into what seems to be already collapsed UN brokered ceasefire deadline on April 10, the last minute diplomatic rush to avert more bloodshed in a 13-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has gained momentum. Turkey is putting the squeeze on its southern neighbor with strong indications that Ankara is finalizing plans to set up a humanitarian corridor and possibly a buffer zone inside Syria in order to contain the burgeoning refugee crisis and border skirmishes.
...
A series of security agreements, including 1998 Adana Agreement, Turkey has signed with Syria over the course of the last decade give Turkey the right to intervene in Syria if the security situation in the country becomes threatening to the national security of Turkey. Turkey may even ask NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which says that an attack on any member shall be considered an attack on all.
...
Since the Assad regime allows the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates to launch attacks on Turkish soil and harbors some 1500 to 2000 hard-core PKK militants in areas close to the Turkish border, Turkey can very well utilize the NATO security provisions as a last resort.
...
In the meantime, the tension at Turkey’s border with Syria got tense after Syrian forces fired shots across the border on Monday, wounding 19 and killing two Syrian refugees according to reports from the Kilis province near the border.

The supposedly legal justification through the Adana agreement is bogus. It certainly does not allow for an invasion of Syria. Additionally NATO has never seen the Turkish fight against the Kurds as an exterior attack but rather as an internal Turkish problem.

The Zaman account of the shots fired at the border lacks a rather important detail:

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the fighting along the Turkish border began before dawn Monday when rebel fighters attacked Syrian soldiers manning a checkpoint near the Turkish border, killing six soldiers.

Turkey is openly hosting and supporting armed rebels that attack the Syrian state. If someone has justifiable reason to invade the other country it is Syria.

If the Turkish government is really implementing the Brookings plan of "safe-havens" and "humanitarian corridors" as a starting point for further coercion we can expect the start of a wider war.

Erdogan is currently on a visit to China. Let us hope that the Chinese will make clear to him that any such plan would be a serious blunder.

Posted by b on April 9, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

The Media Will Sabotage The Syrian Cease-Fire

Yusuf Kanli writes for the Turkish daily Hurriyet on the situation in Syria:

Will it be possible to achieve a cease-fire? Indications are that before Tuesday’s withdrawal of troops deadline, Damascus will undertake whatever possible to strengthen its position. The rebels, in the hope of getting foreign arms and war machinery assistance - if not direct intervention in the civil war - will most probably engage in all kinds of provocation to be able to tell the international community that the Baathist regime is cheating truce terms. Besides, the international media propaganda machine will likely work hard over the next few days to show that a truce can not be established, and even if it is established can not amount to much.
...
The international “coalition of the willing” on the other hand, has started trumpeting that the Syrian regime will cheat on the terms of the truce even if a cease-fire can be achieved. There is, of course, some degree of distrust towards the al-Assad regime because of its not-so-promising past record with regard to honoring its own words. But, there is also rampant prejudice fuelled by wild expectations of a post-Baathist Syria.

Kanli is right in his expectations that the usual "western" media will blame the Syrian government for not agreeing on its own immediate surrender in a one sided ceasefire and, as far as the ceasefire will take place, will blame the Syrian government when the rebels break it.

This is already appearing with the false claim that Syria has set "new conditions" on a ceasefire. The New York Times headlines today: Cease-Fire in Doubt as Syria Demands New Conditions:

The Syrian government put new conditions on any troop pullback on Sunday, casting new doubt on a truce that was scheduled to begin this week.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad said it now wanted “written guarantees” that rebels would stop fighting before it pulled back its troops under the cease-fire plan, which it accepted last week.

The demand for guarantees is not, as the New York Times and the Washington Post write, new. It was part of the Annan process and six-point proposal from the very beginning:

A key point of the proposal calls for Syria to "commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence by all parties.” As these actions are being taken, Annan "shall seek similar commitments from all other armed groups to cease violence under an effective United Nations supervision mechanism," it said.

In a letter to Annan, Syria said it is "keen to end violence," but insisted that armed opposition groups give up their weapons first. It also demanded that Annan halt the supply and financing of weapons to the opposition.

Syria has given a written committment to the ceasefire to Annan. The Annan proposal called for "similar commitments" from the opposition site. Syria is not demanding anything new. It simply demands that the Annan six-point plan is met by both sides. This has been expressed by Syria several times.

As the Associated Press reported on April 5:

[Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar] Ja’afari accused Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and the United States of assisting the Free Syrian Army and said his government needs “a crystal cut commitment and a guarantee by Mr. Annan himself after he consults with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the others that once the government will observe and will respect the end of violence, the other parties will do the same and not fill the vacuum.”

There will be more false claims in the "western" media about the ceasefire when its implementation will start on April 10. Any soldier or policeman that will then still provide security for the population will be called a break of the ceasefire.

But what such false claims are in the end supposed to achieve is beyond me.

Posted by b on April 9, 2012 at 06:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

April 08, 2012

The Bullies Against Grass, Iran, And Syria

Three issues we follow here seem to come nearer to each other and may eventually join into a major conflagration.

The discussion in Germany about the Grass poem is raging on and on with many journalists, politicians and public commentators showing themselves as ridiculous idiots for attacking Grass personally instead of discussing the content of his poem. The normal people in the comment threads on various news sites, except for a few Hasbara preachers, don't buy it. They seem to be widely supportive for Grass.

The Israel government is adding to the ridiculousness of the issue by declaring Günter Grass persona non grata in Israel:

"Grass' poems are an attempt to guide the fire of hate toward the State of Israel and the Israeli people, and to advance the ideas of which he was a public partner in the past, when he wore the uniform of the SS," [Interior Minister Eli ]Yishai said.

"Repent!"

Grass was seventeen when he was drafted into a Waffen SS unit a few month before the end of the war. He had no choice in what uniform to wear. This stupid step by the racist Israeli government will increase endorsement of the Grass poem and support for his position.

With regard to Iran Israel recently invented a "sphere of immunity" scheme to increase its loudmouth threat of attacking Iran. The "sphere of immunity" is allegedly reached for Iran when it puts its nuclear program out of reach of Israeli bombs. This would, according to Israel, happen when nuclear work at the Iran's fortified Fordo site would start. The idiocy of this argument was immediately obvious as nuclear work under IAEA supervision was already taking place at Fordo when Israel came up with the new "sphere of immunity" buzzword.

But as usual the U.S. government follows the orders from Tel Aviv and is now demanding that Iran stop all work at Fordo and hand over its 20% enriched Uranium:

The Obama administration and its European allies plan to open new negotiations with Iran by demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain, according to American and European diplomats.

"Disarm so we can shoot you easier!"

Setting such conditions only shows that the Obama administration is not serious about negotiating with Iran.

In Syria the Kofi Annan negotiations about a ceasefire are not in a better state. While The Syrian government has committed to start a partial withdrawal of military forces from the cities starting at April 10, the rebel site has not agreed to anything at all. It likely hopes to continue its destruction of state infrastructure and ethnic cleansing when the Syrian troops pull back. The Syrian government again demanded "written guarantees" from the rebels and the countries who support them. Despite what the media write this demand is not new at all. Such a guarantee was requested from Kofi Annan from the very beginning as for example the Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja'afari explained (0:33, again at 0:44 again at 1:00 min) in a UN press conference several days ago.

The foreign paid rebels rejected to give any such guarantees:

Col. Riad Al-Asaad said Sunday that his group does not recognize President Bashar Assad's regime and for that reason they will not give guarantees.
...
He said the government should withdraw its forces to bases and remove checkpoints from streets.

"Disarm so we can shoot you easier!"

Neither will Grass repent, nor will the governments of Syria and Iran commit suicide. The bullies will have issue more than empty threats.

Posted by b on April 8, 2012 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (73)

April 07, 2012

Open Thread 2012-10

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 7, 2012 at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

April 06, 2012

The Guardian Is Misleading With Its Translation of Grass

MoA provided a translation of Günter Grass' poem "What has to be said". The original poem was published in German by Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Part of Grass' poetry expression is through the use of line breaks and punctuation. I believe it is important to replicate them in a translation even when it may make the text at first a more awkward reading.

The Guardian has now provided a translation that not only does not stick to the punctuation, verse setting and even tenses of the original but severely distorts the central point of the poem in the fifth stanza.

Here the fifth stanza in the Guardian translation:

But now that my own country,
brought in time after time
for questioning about its own crimes,
profound and beyond compare,
is said to be the departure point,
(on what is merely business,
though easily declared an act of reparation)
for yet another submarine equipped
to transport nuclear warheads
to Israel, where not a single atom bomb
has yet been proved to exist, with fear alone
the only evidence,
I'll say what must be said.

Whereto are the nuclear warheads transported in the Guardian's version of the poem? Where, in the Guardian's translation, has "no single atom bomb yet been proven to exists"?

From reading the Guardian's translation a reader would for both questions give "Israel" as the answer. But that is totally wrong.

The same sequence from my translation:

...
another submarine to Israel
shall be delivered, whose specialty
consists of, steering all-annihilating warheads
whereto, the existence
of a single bomb is unproven,
but as a fear shall be conclusiveness,
...

The German version:

...
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
...

In my surely correct translation the submarine goes to Israel while the warheads go whereto (dorthin) "the existence of of even one bomb is unproven" which clearly implies not Israel but Iran.

I do not know if the Guardian's translation is intentional misleading. Their translator Breon Mitchel, who also translated Grass' Tin Drum, seems not to be a native German speaker and maybe just didn't get it.

Whatever the reason for that misleading translation is, it is embarrassing for Mitchel and the Guardian to provide such a lousy one.

Posted by b on April 6, 2012 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (69)

Terrorists Trained On U.S. Soil

Sy Hersh reports for The New Yorker:

It was here [in Nevada] that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K.
...
The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
...
In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program. They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.” He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”

Those MEK people trained by the U.S. are now allegedly working for the Israeli Mossad and are killing Iranian scientists. They still receive U.S. intelligence.

Most stuff in Hersh's story is well known. It was under Cheney and Rumsfeld that the MEK was trained for an attack on Iran. What is new is that the U.S. trained those people within the United States even while it officially maintained, and still does, that the MEK is a terrorist group.

That should raise some serious legal issues for those who arranged the training though it seems unlikely that an Obama administration will push for any consequences. Instead it is more likely that it uses those terrorists for its own purposes.

Posted by b on April 6, 2012 at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

April 05, 2012

The NYT - A U.S. Government Propaganda Outlet

U.S. Sees Iran in Bids to Stir Unrest in Afghanistan

... according to American officials. ... American officials have closely studied the episodes ... according to interviews with more than a dozen government officials ... One United States government official described ... American officials say ... Afghan and American officials said ... but American officials see a pattern ... American officials say ... one United States official said. Intelligence analysts emphasize ... prompted American and other intelligence agencies to renew ... American officials say ... according to American officials ... One American intelligence analyst noted ...

There is not a word in the piece on why the U.S. government may have an interest in badmouthing Iran or on how these allegations fit the facts. Obviously the piece was simply dictated by officials and written down by some lobotomized robots.

How those writers are still able to look into a mirror and to call themselves "journalists" is beyond me.

Posted by b on April 5, 2012 at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

April 04, 2012

Günter Grass - What Has To Be Said

Today the German Süddeutsche Zeitung published a poem by Günter Grass about the conflict between Israel and Iran. The usual subjects immediately condemned the writer.

The following is my unauthorized (amateur) translation of the complete poem into English. I tried to stay as near as possible to the, sometimes seemingly awkward but certainly intended, original line breaks and punctuation.

What has to be said

Why am I silent, conceal too long,
what is obvious and in war games
has been trained, at whose end we as survivors
will at the most be footnotes.

It is the alleged right of first strike,
with which the Iranian people,
subjugated by a loudmouth
and steered towards organized elation,
could be snuffed out with,
because the building of a nuclear bomb
within its fiefdom is assumed.

But why do I prohibit myself,
to name that other country,
in which for years - though kept secret -
a growing capability exists
though out of control as
not open for audit?

The general concealment of this fact,
to which my silence subjugated,
feels for me like a burdoning lie
and a coercion, which promises punishment;
the verdict "antisemitism" is commonly used.

But now, because from my country,
which for its very own crimes,
which are incomparable,
is called up again and again and taken to task,
repeatedly and businesslike, though
by slippy lips declared as reparation,
another submarine to Israel
shall be delivered, whose specialty
consists of, steering all-annihilating warheads
whereto, the existence
of a single bomb is unproven,
but as a fear shall be conclusiveness,
I say, what has to be said.

But why my silence so far?
Because I though, my origin,
which has a not redeemable taint,
prohibited me, to strain,
with this fact as spoken truth,
the country Israel, to which I am
and want to stay beholden.

Why do I speak only now,
aged and with my last ink:
The nuclear power Israel endangers
an already fragile world peace?
Because it has to be said,
what already tomorrow could be too late;
also because we - as Germans burdened enough -
could become supplier for a crime,
which is foreseeable, which is why our complicity
could not be redeemed
with the usual subterfuges.

And admittedly: I no longer remain silent,
because I am disgusted with
the hypocrisy of the west; additionally there is hope
that many may liberate themselves from their silence,
to request the originator of the discernible danger
to abstain from force
and also insist,
that unhindered and permanent control
of the Israeli capability
and the Iranian nuclear installations
through an international authority
shall be allowed by both countries governments.

Only this way can all, the Israelis and the Palestinians,
even more, all people who live in the delusion occupied region
near by near as enemies and in the end even us,
be helped.

Posted by b on April 4, 2012 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (139)

April 03, 2012

Five Out Of Nine SCOTUS Judges Can Not Read

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution


---

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.
Supreme Court Ruling Allows Strip-Searches for Any Arrest

The same judges that can not read will likely find that a government demand that the people health insure themselves will be an infringement of personal rights.

This adds another reason why I will to not again visit the States.

Posted by b on April 3, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (47)

Taliban Announce 2012 Fighting Season Schwerpunkt

Each spring the Taliban set and announce a preferred tactic and/or preferred targets for their summer fighting season. Two year ago there were more direct attacks on small western outpost and patrols. The last year was also mostly a fight against the foreign troops though seldom in direct attacks but through IEDs.  Additionally the last year saw some spectacular attacks on high profile targets in Kabul and other cities.

On Sunday Al Jazeerah published an interview in which a Taliban announced a new schwerpunkt for the coming fighting season:

Mullah Dowran, a regional Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan, has told Al Jazeera that the organisation is now targeting Afghan security forces.

"We announced we would forgive them many times. We showed them leniency many times in the fight. We tried to make American targets the priority, but the damage created by Afghan forces has become more and more every day. Now they are our priority," Dowran said.

The usual western media have yet to pick up on this change from last year even though there is already proof that this new line is followed in various parts of Afghanistan.

Helmand: Afghanistan: Militants 'kill police by poisoning food'

Militants killed four Afghan policemen and two civilians inside a police checkpoint by poisoning their yoghurt and launching an attack, officials say.

Bagakhshan: Insurgents kill 3 Afghan police, abduct 11 in attack on checkpoint in the north

Bagakhshan province spokesman Abdul Marouf Rasekh says the militants attacked the outpost Monday night in Wardoj district.

Uruzgan: At least nine Afghan police killed, infiltrator suspected

Nine Afghan police were killed in an insurgent attack that authorities said on Thursday was believed to have been facilitated by a fellow officer and suspected Taliban infiltrator.

This new line of targeting is an addition to another tactic we see in the series of "isolated incidents" (as ISAF likes to call them) in which men "in Afghan army uniform" kill their western mentors.

Combined these two variations of infiltration attacks will make the planned transfer of security tasks to Afghan forces nearly impossible. Attacked from the inside the Afghan security forces are likely to see increased desertion rates, new problems with recruiting and a general lack of moral.

As usual ISAF will be slow to react to this new problem. It is still planing for a much too centralized Afghanistan with a force that is far too large for the country and can not be sustained even when the west picks up a large part of the bill. The Taliban will always be able to wear such a force down.

A more sustainable strategy would be to decentralized the government, give more power for local leaders and to give the center in Kabul only a small force at hand that then could be used to whack this or that provincial warlord down if he would become too recalcitrant. This of course would have to be based on a political compromise with the Taliban.

It would be the way Afghanistan has been run for centuries and the way it is likely to revert to anyway.

Posted by b on April 3, 2012 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

April 02, 2012

How Does Sat Com Help To "Evade Attacks"?

One more thought on yesterday's news of material U.S. support for the mercenaries in Syria.

[Mrs. Clinton] also confirmed for the first time that the United States was providing satellite communications equipment to help those inside Syria “organize, evade attacks by the regime,” and stay in contact with the outside world. And according to the Syrian National Council, the American assistance will include night-vision goggles.

“We are discussing with our international partners how best to expand this support,” Mrs. Clinton said.

How does satellite communication equipment help to "evade attacks"? It can only do so when someone on the other end of the phone call tells that an attack is coming. How would that person on the other side know that? May that be by looking at a screen with a live picture transmitted from a drone or a satellite?

This "to evade attacks" remark is an indication that U.S. special forces will now direct the rebels. They will be able to listen to all the rebel communication, they will know where exactly those rebels are and they will be able to direct them around government roadblocks and towards their targets.

The Syrian military will probably need to ask for some additional equipment from Moscow to counter the satellite phone connections. Information from Iran on how to best counter those drones will also be welcome.

Posted by b on April 2, 2012 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

April 01, 2012

The Enemies Of Syria Double Down

With regards to the violence in Syria Kofi Annan's six-point plan, endorsed by the UN Security Council, asks Syria to:

commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country.

It then says the Syrian government should "cease troop movements" and "begin pullback of military concentrations". It adds:

Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties [...]

The Syrian government accepted the plan while the rebels and the exiles of the Syrian National Council rejected it. The Syrian government rightly sees the Annan plan as a. a commitment both sides have to make and b. not as an immediate demand to pull back all its troops.

So when the U.S. Secretary of State Clinton claims that Assad has ignored the plan she is trying to give that plan a different meaning than it has and outright lying. She also wants Kofi Annan to set out a timeline for the steps in his plan which would then of course be used to create and set ultimatums.

But no government can pull back its troops when the security situation does not allow for that. It would be irresponsible to leave the population without protection from rebels and foreign fighters which have dedicated brigades for torturing and beheading and are massively using indiscriminate IEDs. As long as the rebels are fighting and killing Syrian people the Syrian government will have to fight back.

As a not funny April joke the U.S. led "Friends of Syria" countries met today in Turkey. Despite the military defeat of the rebels and further splintering in the alleged representatives of the opposition they are doubling down towards their aim of destroying the current Syrian state. In their final statement they are creating several working groups within the exile Muslim Brotherhood controlled SNC to make plans for setting up a new one. Does anyone remember one Ahmed Chalabi who once was also engaged with such planing?

As far as we know there is no shortage of food or medicine in Syrian. But the U.S. announced that it will give more money for thus unneeded "humanitarian relief" in Syria. The Syrian SNC opposition promptly announced that it will now start to pay its rebels. That will certainly be some "humanitarian relief" for those terrorists. But was there ever a real revolution which needed to pay its revolutionaries?

The democracy hating absolute monarchies from the Gulf also announced more money to bribe soldiers and officers of the Syrian army into giving up their duty.

One delegate described the fund as a "pot of gold" to undermine Assad's army.

Additionally the U.S. said it will give the rebels military communication equipment and we can be sure that someone will take care to get them more weapons. That together will create a full fledged mercenary army paid for by foreign powers to overthrow the Syrian government.

Will that be successful? I don't think so. But it will guarantee more bad times for the Syrian people.

Posted by b on April 1, 2012 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

 
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