Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2012

Perception Management For War On Syria

Colonel Pat Lang wrote yesterday:

I am told that NATO has decided on regime change using military action if necessary. The Hula thing is the instrument of perception management that has been chosen. Look for a Chapter 7 resolution soon. pl

But as Russia and China have made clear there will be no chapter 7 resolution and without that, the new French president said, NATO will not go to war on Syria.

Russia and China have not fallen for that sentimental perception management, or lies, that the rebels and "western" media put out:

Alistair Crooke points to the real culprits:

[O]ne thing that stands out quite clearly, and which is very important, is that the methodology, this type of killing - of beheadings, of slitting of throats, slitting of throats of children, too, and of this mutilation of bodies - has been a characteristic, not of Levantine Islam, not of Syria, not of Lebanon, but really of what happened in the Anbar province of Iraq. And so it seems to point very much in the direction of groups that had been associated with the war in Iraq against the United States, who have perhaps returned to Syria, or perhaps Iraqis who have come up from Anbar to take part in it…. But this whole process of mutilation is so very much against the tradition of Levantine Islam that I think it’s very hard to see this will have come either from soldiers or even from others who might have been bent on revenge… I don’t think this speaks of soldiers going on the rampage.’

I agree.

The NATO Friends of Syria also have the quite difficult problem that they lost their puppets game with the Syrian National Council. Another meeting with them was supposed to take place in Washington this month but that did not happen because the SNC fell apart. Today it also became clear that the Free Syrian Army in Turkey has no say at all towards the fighters on the ground:

"Nobody has the right to issue press releases, take decisions, or speak about operations in the Free Syrian Army's name, except for the FSA command inside Syria," the group's spokesperson Colonel Kassem Saadeddine told AFP.

He was reacting to a statement by Turkey-based FSA chief Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad who earlier denied that armed rebels gave the Syrian regime a 12 pm Friday deadline to observe a UN-backed peace plan to end the violence.
An FSA statement issued from inside Syria earlier had given the Syrian government until noon on Friday to observe the Annan plan.

"If the Syrian regime does not meet the deadline by Friday midday, the command of the Free Syrian Army announces that it will no longer be tied by any commitment to the Annan plan ... and our duty will be ... to defend civilians," a FSA statement said.

"Defend civilians" means to kill more of them.

It is clear that the rebels have used the ceasefire to rearm and to prepared for expanded action. The FSA in Syria now threatens a new offensive starting Friday. Expect to hear tomorrow of some big suicide attacks in Syria and possibly of all out attacks on Syrian government checkpoints.

Their western overlords wanted the FSA to wait with the new offensive until the end of the Annan mission. That would have given more justification for intervention. If full FSA action restarts tomorrow it will quite difficult to blame the Syrian government for breaking the ceasefire. Even perception management can not cover up for too many lies.

Posted by b on May 31, 2012 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

May 29, 2012

Obama - Killer By Drones - Has No Principles

A long piece in the NYT covers Obama's record of killing by drones.

It is headlined Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will. But as the URL reveals the original title was the rather sycophantic "Obama's leadership in the war on Al Qaida". Despite some seriously troublesome issue reported in it the piece, as the original title, is quite sympathetic to his policies and avoids the difficult questions. And contradicting its new headline the piece shows that Obama has no principles at all but is moving those he purports to have whenever he deems that convenient. Here are some excerpts from the long piece to demonstrate that.

Obama is bending the law to fit his agenda:

When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”

While claiming to be against some Bush policies he is giving himself loopholes to continue them:

A phalanx of retired generals and admirals stood behind Mr. Obama on the second day of his presidency, providing martial cover as he signed several executive orders to make good on campaign pledges. Brutal interrogation techniques were banned, he declared. And the prison at Guantánamo Bay would be closed.

What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes.

The CIA is still in the "rendition" business of illegal detention, Guantanamo is still open and from those facts we can guess about the torture issue.

Now on to drone strikes which, according to the piece, get Obama's personal sign off. Here is how he avoids his alleged prinicple of not killing innocent people:

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths.

And who would ever care to "posthumously prove" that the "militants" killed, i.e. any military-age male, were indeed innocent? No one.

Yet that immense killing by drone campaign, in which Obama - we are to believe - makes a personal decision about most of them, is only to avoid the inconveniences of capturing people and to prove that they are guilty:

Yet the administration’s very success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo.

“Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the intelligence committee. “They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing.”

Obama does not care about "collateral damaged" corpses even when they are women and children:

[I]n August 2009, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, told Mr. Brennan that the agency had Mr. Mehsud in its sights. But taking out the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Panetta warned, did not meet Mr. Obama’s standard of “near certainty” of no innocents being killed. In fact, a strike would certainly result in such deaths: he was with his wife at his in-laws’ home.
Mr. Obama, through Mr. Brennan, told the C.I.A. to take the shot, and Mr. Mehsud was killed, along with his wife and, by some reports, other family members as well, said a senior intelligence official.

And this is what troubles me most:

Today, the Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. Officials say the criteria are tighter than those for signature strikes, requiring evidence of a threat to the United States, and they have even given them a new name — TADS, for Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes. But the details are a closely guarded secret — part of a pattern for a president who came into office promising transparency.

These "Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes" are on people who likely have neither the means nor the motive to attack the United States. While the administration has claimed that they were only some 20 or so higher ranking Al-Qaeda people in Yemen it has bombed, by jets and drones, far more often without even knowing who it bombs.

In both, Pakistan and Yemen, U.S. increased drone strikes correlate with increased interior political violence. They are obviously very destabilizing but Obama keeps enlarging their number. He is increasing the problem instead of solving it.

The most open administration ever that principled Obama promised in his campaign is, of course, no such thing:

In the wake of Mr. Awlaki’s death, some administration officials, including the attorney general, argued that the Justice Department’s legal memo should be made public. In 2009, after all, Mr. Obama had released Bush administration legal opinions on interrogation over the vociferous objections of six former C.I.A. directors.

This time, contemplating his own secrets, he chose to keep the Awlaki opinion secret.

Obamas great talk in Egypt about the U.S. friendliness to the Muslim world was also unprincipled:

His focus on strikes has made it impossible to forge, for now, the new relationship with the Muslim world that he had envisioned. Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president.

Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies.

The few critics of his policies within the administrated get shafted.

Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy there, saying “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,” a colleague said.

Two weeks ago Munter resigned as ambassador.

Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’ — reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.

Blair is right. The drone war is now a body-count war. Counting bodies deceives as those killed were likely not the real problem and killing them is not the solution.

But as Obama has not principles. He is mudeling through avoiding this or that political problem by always taking the easiest way out. Be that by bowing to Wall Street, appeasing a republican congress or killing by drones.

Here are two question the NYT piece avoids to ask. Trying to answer them shows the problem of such behavior.

  1. Why are the AQAP in Yemen and the Taliban in Pakistan growing stronger despite more and more U.S. strikes?
  2. What happens if the recent rapid increase of strikes in Pakistan and Yemen turn out to not solve the problem. What then? More strikes?

Judging from his behavior as described in the NYT piece Obama's answer to the last question is sounding principled "Yes!"

Posted by b on May 29, 2012 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

Syria: Massacre Likely By Al Qaeda

Currently every "western" country seems to be busy to expel Syrian diplomats. So far Australia, France, the U.K., Germany and Canada have done so. Others will likely follow later today.

I believe that this is happening now to catch the headlines and thereby to cover up different rather inconvenient news item that ran a few hours ago.

After the Houla massacre the UN monitors emphasized that some ammunition debris was found in the area and that this pointed to government guilt in the killing. That was also emphasized in the UN security council press statement. But earlier today the severity of these allegations were seriously degraded:

Most of the 108 people killed in Syria's Houla region on Friday were summarily executed, the UN says.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists in Geneva that initial investigations suggested that fewer than 20 of the victims in the village of Taldou, near Houla, were killed by artillery or tank fire.

"Most of the rest of the victims in Taldou," he added, "were summarily executed in two separate incidents."

Most of the people were killed by throat cutting or by direct gun/pistol fire. The killing happened in an area that is supposedly under the control of the Free Syrian Army.

How could the Syrian government be responsible for this? And why would a government with all its military might resort to such by-hand killing? How would ut supposedly benefit from this?

It is by now well known that AlQaeda like groups are active in Syria. Such are known to have created such massacres, including by beheading, in Iraq and elsewhere.

But as this becomes more clear "western" governments are busy to create some new headlines and to punish the Syrian government for something that was very likely outside of its realm of control.

Posted by b on May 29, 2012 at 08:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (151)

May 28, 2012

Reporting - The Washington Post Style

Joby Warrick reports for the Washington Post:

U.S. officials among the targets of Iran-linked assassination plots

In November, the tide of daily cable traffic to the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan brought a chilling message for Ambassador Matthew Bryza, then the top U.S. diplomat to the small Central Asian country. A plot to kill Americans had been uncovered, the message read, and embassy officials were on the target list.
The threat, many details of which were never made public, appeared to recede after Azerbaijani authorities rounded up nearly two dozen people in waves of arrests early this year. Precisely who ordered the hits, and why, was never conclusively determined. But U.S. and Middle Eastern officials now see the attempts as part of a broader campaign by Iran-linked operatives to kill foreign diplomats in at least seven countries over a span of 13 months. ... the officials say.
... according to U.S. and Middle Eastern security officials. An official report ... said two officials who have seen the six-page document.
Strikingly, the officials noted, ...

... said a Western diplomat briefed on the assassination plots ...

Many U.S. officials and Middle East experts see ...

The Obama administration has declined ... U.S. officials say ...

... said a senior U.S. official ...

... U.S. intelligence officials believe ...

... according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials familiar with the incidents ...

... while officials in Washington tried to assess the seriousness of the threats, the officials said ...

... said a former State Department official ...

... according to a Middle East investigator involved in the case ...

... officials said ...

... U.S. and Middle Eastern officials said.

... according to a brief statement issued by the Azerbaijani government ...

The Obama administration acknowledged ...

... said the former State Department official ...

... the Iranian Embassy in Baku suggested in a statement that the plot was fiction.

... Baku officials have ...

... Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Washington, said in an interview ...

U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say ... U.S. intelligence officials note.

The report presented to U.S. officials ... the reports states.

Israeli and Indian officials have described ...

... said the Western diplomat briefed on the evidence.

How does one call this style of reporting that Judith Miller Joby Warrick is attempting here? What distinguishes this writing down what lots of officials, diplomats and investigator say from pure stenography?


Posted by b on May 28, 2012 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

May 26, 2012

Syria: It Is Getting Urgent For Assad To Act

Some 90 people, 30+ of them children died yesterday night near Houla in the Homs countryside in Syria.

The rebels claim that government forces shelled the area ellegedly in revenge for the killing of some government soldiers. The Syrian government's news agency Sana claims (graphic pictures) that these were two attacks by "Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups". It also reports that 27 army and law enforcement members were buried today.

The UN monitors found debris of tank and artillery ammunition in Houla that would be consistent with the use of government weapons.

Yesterday's status report (pdf) by the Annan mission speaks of continued violence by rebel groups, government forces and by established terrorist groups. It notes attacks by opposition forces on UN monitors.

The so called Free Syrian Army announced that it would now abandon the Annan peace plan to which it had never agreed to anyway. Some of it groups immediately launched new attacks (I am not sure though that this video shows a real fight) on government forces.

What to make of this? Was this a revenge act by some Syrian army unit. Was an army unit lured into firing into civilian areas by rebel attacks? Did terrorist groups used captured ammunition as IED against these civilians in preparations of the next, certainly already planned, political moves against Syria?

We may never know the answers to these questions.

Whatever.  The armed opposition, sponsored and urged on by the "west" and the Gulf dictatorships, will now likely no longer adhere to even a minimal form of the Annan plan. Three days ago I wrote it is Time for Assad to prepare to attack. Those preparations should end soon. The right time for a full onslaught on the armed opposition may come the very next days.

Waiting too long with a decisive move will only let the problem of amred rebels fester and would, in the end, likely cost much more blood on all sides of the conflict.

Posted by b on May 26, 2012 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (137)

May 25, 2012

USIP Pakistan Report Is Flawed Orientalism

The U.S. Institute For Peace released a new report with recommendations for policies towards Pakistan: Fixing Pakistan’s Civil-Military Imbalance: A Dangerous Temptation.

The report argues that the U.S. should not fix the imbalance which favors the military, but should only selectively react harshly towards the military when it displays hostility towards the U.S. It empathizes to continue with the duality of contacts with the civil government and with the military.

The Pakistan commentator Kamran Shafi (rightly) critizes the report for furthering the (U.S. sponsored) imbalance and for not acknowledging the primacy of the civil government:

No one needs to deal ‘harshly’ with any Pakistani department of government: all the Americans have to do is to deal directly, and only, with the civilian government. That is all.

The USIP report (pdf) is indeed deeply flawed as one can, for example, tell from this orientalism gem:

For one, the majority of Pakistanis do not see a clear good versus bad division between the civilians and the military. Surprising as it may be for Western audiences, the military ranks far higher than the political elite in terms of the trust people place in them.

The USIP writers seem to have zero self awareness and from that half-blind standpoint argue that the relation to the military and the civil government in Pakistan deserves to be seen as something special even when that it is absolutely not the case.

There is no surprise at all for aware "western audiences" that trust towards the military is higher than towards the civil government. In that the Pakistanis have just the same opinion that those "western audiences" have. From a mid 2011 Gallop poll:

Americans continue to express greater confidence in the military than in 15 other national institutions, with 78% saying they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in it. In addition to the military, a majority of Americans express high esteem for small business and the police. Congress ranks last among these institutions, behind big business and health maintenance organizations.

And here from a later AP poll:

The military in particular earns the most respect of the survey, with 54 percent deeply confident in the institution.

But deep contempt for Congress and aspects of President Barack Obama's health care law remain among Americans tired of partisan standoffs over basic pocketbook issues.

As the Pakistani express about the same view as people in the U.S. do why does USIP think that this should surprise "western audiences"?

And as the USIP uses the higher trust the people have towards the military as an argument for ignoring the civil government in Pakistan and handling (and bribing) the military in Pakistan directly would it give the same recommendations to other countries for their relations with U.S. power structures?

Dear USIP, should Lavrov ignore Clinton and Obama and negotiate directly with General Dempsey? No? Then why do you recommend that for Pakistan?

Posted by b on May 25, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

May 24, 2012

Never Again?

Demonstrators attack Jewish migrants in south Berlin
Nat.Soc. MR describes Jews as cancer; government prepares for mass deportation

Some 1,000 protesters rallied in Berlin's Neukölln neighborhood on Wednesday and called for the ousting of Jewish migrants from Germany.

Demonstrators attacked Jewish passersby while others lit garbage cans on fire and smashed car windows.

Another group of demonstrators stopped a shuttle taxi and searched for Jewish migrants among the passengers, while banging on the windows.

The crowd cried "The people want the Jews deported" and "Infiltrators get out of our home."

Nationalsocialist Member of the Reichstag Hans Weigel participated in the protest and said that "the Jews were a cancer in our body."

Germans attack Jewish migrants during protest against refugees
Seventeen arrested after protesters go on 'unbridled rampage' targeting Jewish workers and looting shops serving refugees

A reporter for the German daily Tagesspiegel described it as an "unbridled rampage" and explosion of "pent-up rage".

"Suddenly one of [the protesters] noticed that in one of the cars waiting for traffic to move were two young darker-skinned men, apparently Jewish workers. For the hundreds of inflamed and enraged young people, that was all they needed. Within minutes, they dismantled – there is no other word to describe it – the car and its passengers. Some of them smashed the windows with their hands and rocks, others kicked the car, bent the plastic parts and tried to attack the people inside. 'I'm not a Jew, I'm not a Jew,' the driver tried to tell the assailants, but nobody was listening at that stage."

The protest followed a claim on Sunday by the prime minister, Bruno Neumann, that "illegal infiltrators [were] flooding the country" and threatening the security and identity of the German state. "This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity," he said.

The government is constructing a fence along the German-Polish border to deter migrants and asylum-seekers, and is building what will be the world's biggest concentration camp, capable of holding up to 11,000 people.

It is urgent time for the dismantling of that Herrenmenschen state.

Posted by b on May 24, 2012 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

U.S. Still Not Serious In Talks With Iran

Back in January Laura Rozen reported on the U.S. negotiation position towards Iran's nuclear program:

Under the proposed measure, which the U.S. has been presenting to its P5+1 partners, Iran would agree to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent, and turn over its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. In exchange, western countries would agree not to pass another UN Security Council Resolution sanctioning Iran.

I characterized that position as ludicrous. Iran would have to give up all the progress it has made while enduring sanctions for ... NOTHING. It showed that the U.S. was not interested in serious negotiations.

Four month later the U.S. is still not serious about negotiations. Current talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Baghdad again offer Iran nothing of value:

In its proposal to Iran here on Wednesday, the P5+1 offered to ease sanctions that bar the exports of U.S.-made spare aircraft parts to Iran's national carriers and aid for Iran's development of nonmilitary applications for nuclear power, people briefed on the talks said.

In return, the international bloc formally proposed to Iran that it freeze production of nuclear fuel enriched to 20% purity and ship its stockpile of the fuel to a third country, Western diplomats said. The proposal package also seeks to close an Iranian enrichment facility built inside a fortified military bunker near the holy city of Qom.

The only additional offer here are aircraft parts Iran can either make itself or buy from China and some "aid" for civil nuclear programs that Iran has proven it does not need.

For that Iran would have to give up 20% enrichment it needs for its Tehran Research reactor which nowadays is used for nuclear medicine. Iran has payed for this already by enduring the current sanctions. It will not give up on it without getting back something valuable. And why should it close the enrichment plant near Qom? That site is not, as the WSJ claims, a military installation and it is under IAEA control. Why should Iran make it easier for the U.S. and Israel to eventually bomb its civilian nuclear program?

Why would Iran, or anyone else in such a position, agree to such a lopsided offer?

Unless the unreasonable U.S. position changes today there will nothing come out of these talks but hand wringing and more bullshit about bombing Iran. You might want to fill up your gas tank before renewed warmongering sends gas prices through the roof.

Posted by b on May 24, 2012 at 04:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

May 23, 2012

Syria: Time For Assad To Prepare To Attack

Despite the deployment of UN ceasefire monitors in Syria the rebels seem to intensify their fighting by regularly attacking government checkpoints and logistics. Each day they kill some 15 to 20 government security personal and thereby undermine the Annan plan.

It is obviously that the rebels have used the ceasefire to rearm with the quite open help of the U.S, the Gulf countries and Turkey. Of special concern is the visible proliferation of anti-armor weapons. Their main logistic line of communication seems to run through Tripoli, Lebanon where the Saudi financed Hariri Salafists have their base. The rather few genuine Syrian rebels also get active help from international AlQaeda like terrorist groups. While this helps the narrative of the Syrian government it makes its physical fight more difficult.

The countries supporting the rebels obviously do not agree with the Annan peace plan and want it to fail. There is little hope in the near term that they will change their policies of regime change and state destruction by proxy force.

Since the introduction of the ceasefire and the UN monitors Syria has held back on offensive military moves. But without such moves the rebel problem will fester and they will continuously become better armed, trained and effective. As they and their backers are not sticking to the Annan plan and attack Syria should feel free to respond in kind.

As I had earlier suggested Syria seems to have given a more free reign to Kurdish rebels who dislike the Turkish government policies towards the Kurds. Turkey protesting about that is quite hypocritical as it houses the command of the Free Syrian Army and the now mostly defunct political arm of the rebels in the form of the Syrian National Council. There are also activities by forces friendly to the Syrian government to interrupt the rebels weapons pipeline from Lebanon.

But those moves raise the price for the supporters of the rebels only modestly. They will not end the problem. The government will have to become more active against the rebels on Syrian ground.

There is of course the concern that any offensive move by the government will be denounced as "breaking the ceasefire" by those that support the rebels. But there is little appetite for international military intervention with regular forces and therefore only little chance of further negative consequences.

Currently the Syrian government is fighting only in the defensive with both hands tight behind its back. It could go on the offense but then would still have to take care of not hurting the civilians the rebels are using for cover. That would be fighting with one hand tied behind its back.

To untie that second hand the Syrian government could ask the civilians from the rebel infested areas, mostly along rural parts of the Lebanese and Turkish borders, to evacuate and offer them shelter in safe and controlled areas. It could then use its full military might to attack and defeat the rebels in their current operational and retreat areas.

While that would likely still be a messy fight such an all out and carefully planned government offense is likely to shorten the overall conflict. The Syrian government should urgently prepare for it.

Posted by b on May 23, 2012 at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

May 21, 2012

Open Thread 2012-14

Whatever's on your mind ...

Posted by b on May 21, 2012 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

PEW: A Global "No" To A Pedophile Vatican

The Pew Global Attitudes Project just released an interesting new survey.

Divisions on Sanctions and Use of Force
A Global “No” To a Pedophile Vatican

A 21-nation Pew Global Attitudes survey finds widespread opposition to the Vatican's purchase of orphaned boys for sexual intercourse. And in most countries, there is majority support among opponents of a pedophile Vatican for international economic sanctions to try to stop Rome's boy buying and fucking program. The Chinese and the Russians are notable dissenters in this regard. The poll also found majorities in Western Europe and the United States disposed to taking military action to prevent a pedophile Vatican. Again, the Russians and Chinese disagreed.
Nine-in-ten people or more among the transatlantic E3+3 partners oppose the Vatican's boy buying and fucking program. But just over half (54%) of Chinese agree. There are even greater differences among the negotiating partners over economic sanctions. Among those who oppose Rome's pedophile program, about eight-in-ten Americans, Germans and British back sanctions, but only 38% of Chinese and 46% of Russians are in agreement.

The military option is even more divisive among those who are against Rome's pedophile program. A solid majority (63%) of Americans would turn to military force to prevent the Vatican from going into little boys' anuses. Roughly half of Washington’s European allies would support such a move. And there is very little Chinese or Russian support for a military strike.

A big thanks goes to PEW for doing such valuable research.

But how much sense does it really make to do global surveys on completely hypothetical questions?

Why would a survey asking about boys getting fucked in the Vatican not mention the common opinion of all sixteen U.S. and other "western" intelligence agencies that the Vatican stopped an alleged rudimentary boy buying and fucking program in 2003 and has since not revived it? Why not mentioned the pope's religious ruling against all pedophile tendencies and how it would do serious damage to his authority should the Vatican divert from it?

Anti-Vatican forces will certainly laud PEW for this valuable survey as it will help them to further propagandize for their much coveted destruction of the Vatican. They will certainly be eager to fill the PEW Centers coffers with lots of money for more of such nonsensical research.

Posted by b on May 21, 2012 at 04:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

May 20, 2012

Yemen As A Model - For What?

It is becoming clear what the U.S. plans for Syria are when Obama is citing Yemen as a "model" for what he wishes Syria to become.

President Barack Obama told G8 leaders meeting at Camp David that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave power, and pointed to Yemen as a model of how political transition could work there, the White House said on Saturday.

So Yemen is a model but for what?

For a fake election with only one person on the ballot and no way to vote against that person?

For persistent civil war with multiple parties:

On one side of Arhab’s conflict are tribesmen linked to Islah, the country’s most powerful Islamist party, and Ali Muhsin al Ahmar, a renegade general. On the other side are Republican Guard troops led by Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Saleh.
Muhsin — whose Islah party is now part of Hadi’s coalition government — and Ahmed Ali have each sent only one company of troops to the south, said a senior Yemeni official close to Hadi, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Muhsin’s troops in particular have abundant experience fighting insurrections, having fought six civil wars against Shiite Houthi rebels in the north.

“Al-Qaeda will get stronger if this situation continues in the capital,” said Sultan al-Barakani, a top ruling party official.

For seriously wounded U.S. soldiers who "helped train Yemeni coastguards"?

There are at least four parties fighting each other all over Yemen and in between the U.S. and its Forward Air Controllers are bombing these or those "signature" emitting humans. Why is that supposed to be a model for Syria?

Would the U.S. soldiers that already train to seize Syria's chemical weapons really be welcomed with sweets and flowers? Isn't there already another not-so-good model case for that?

No. I do not think that anyone sane in Syria or elsewhere would consider Yemen to be a good "model" for their country.

Only someone who wants to completely destroy the Syrian state could make that "model" case. But we already know that exactly this, like in Libya, is what the U.S. really wants.

Posted by b on May 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Amnesty International Is Cheerleading For War

So called human rights organizations are increasingly used as propaganda tools against the enemy du jour of western imperialism.

When Georgia attacked Russia peacekeepers in South-Ossetia resulting in a short and lost war Human Rights Watch misidentified cluster ammunition used during that war as Russian when it was, according to its own mine identification charts, indeed Georgian ammunition which had been purchased from Israel. Human Rights Watch continued to push the false claim even weeks after it had been proven wrong

When the French wanted to attack Libya Amnesty International's French director falsly claimed that Gaddhafi was using black mercenaries. Such claims later resulted in violent atrocities by the Libyan rebels against all black people.

Human Rights Watch lamented about Syria putting mines on its borders against weapon smuggling. It claimed that such mines are internationally banned which they are not. But it did not say a word when Israel mined its border with Syria to prevent Syrian refugees from coming in.

The partisanship of these organizations has now reached a new level with Amnesty International openly calling for NATO to prolong the war on Afghanistan.

Amnesty International Advertisement for the NATO summit in Chicago


Amnesty's new slogan: "NATO: Keep the progress going!"

What progress?

Amnesty International is cheerleading the war ostensibly for "Human Rights for Women and Girls in Afghanistan". In that it is joining Laura Bush on the neo-conned Washington Post opinion pages.

But as Sonali Kolhatkar, founder of the Afghan Women's Mission (AWM) and Mariam Rawi of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) wrote a while ago on AlterNet:

Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.

Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. The conflict outside their doorsteps endangers their lives and those of their families. It does not bring them rights in the household or in public, and it confines them even further to the prison of their own homes. Military escalation is just going to bring more tragedy to the women of Afghanistan.
Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women's rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté.

This Amnesty campaign should make clear to anyone that some prominent organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are now mostly tools of imperialism with no credibility for any real humanitarian concern. Fortunately there are still other organizations though which do real humanitarian work.

Posted by b on May 20, 2012 at 06:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

May 19, 2012

The U.S. Can Not "Grant Rights" To Iran

This administration spin piece in the New York Times on the upcoming negotiations with Iran has some revealing language:

For President Obama, the stakes are huge. A successful meeting could prolong the diplomatic dance with Tehran, delaying any possible military confrontation over the nuclear program until after the presidential election. It could also keep a lid on oil prices, which fell again this week in part because of the decrease in tensions. Lower gasoline prices would aid the economic recovery in the United States, and Mr. Obama’s electoral prospects.

Normal people would assume that successful negotiations would be those that lead to a peaceful solution of the issue. But the people talking to the NYT stenographer see success only in moving the day when the bombs start to fall. And as the oil issue lines explain the current negotiations are not at all about Iran's nuclear program but all about Obama's reelection. As soon as that is achieved new attempts for regime change in Iran, likely by force, will be back on top of the Obama agenda.

Then there is this:

Iranian officials have declared that the West has effectively endorsed Iran’s right to enrich uranium, a step they portrayed as a major strategic coup. American officials insist the United States has not done that and has been deliberately ambiguous about whether it would ever grant Iran the right to enrichment.

Which gods gave the U.S. the prerogative to "grant Iran" a right? Iran is a sovereign county. It does not need any rights "granted". As a member of the nonproliferation treaty its "inalienable right" to "to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination" have already been acknowledged by the other NPT members which includes the United States.

Megalomaniac language like this shows that absurdity has taken over U.S. foreign policy.

Posted by b on May 19, 2012 at 08:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

May 18, 2012

The Banks' Facebook Sell Is Fleecing Investors

Some investors got fleeced today by the big banks that sold them Facebook shares.

Facebook, a virtual service essentially at the end of its growth phase, was valued $106 billion in today's IPO. That is 112 times its earnings. Goggle is valued at 19 times earnings and Apple at 14 times. Both too high in my view but they both still have more chance to grow further than Facebook.

Facebook claims to have 800 million "active users". I very much doubt that number but the my definition "active user" is certainly a different one than the guys who sell the Facebook shares propagandize. But anyway - the company is now valued at some $100 billion. With 800 million users that is $116 per user. How many ads will a user have to look at to justify that value?

There is of course the possibility that Facebook may use the fresh money to buy some reasonable valued, actually productive company and eventually turn that into a steady revenue stream. But the chances for that are low. It is more likely that it will go the way of Netscape, Napster and AOL and other dot com dodos.

BTW - I have some extraordinary tulip bulbs I'd be willing to sell for the right price. Excellent and seldom colors. Anyone interested please leave me a note.

Posted by b on May 18, 2012 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

May 17, 2012

That Lost War In Afghanistan

It seems obvious now that the U.S. and its NATO appendix lost the war in Afghanistan:

Over the past two years, the farming districts of Zhari, Panjway and Maiwand northwest of Kandahar city—the cradle of the Taliban movement—were the key battlefield of the U.S.-led military campaign in southern Afghanistan. The U.S. has held up its successes in routing the Taliban there as proof that it is winning the war.

Pushed out of these rural districts by the surge, the Taliban last year concentrated on Kandahar city, ramping up their campaign of assassinating government officials. This fighting season, however, they appear to have trickled back to their old home turf.

Enemy activity in the three farming districts has risen by 31% this fighting season, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Huggins, the commander of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan. This upsurge contrasts with a sharp decline in attacks inside Kandahar city and in the neighboring southern provinces of Uruzgan and Zabul.

"The good news is we have been able to provide the major population center a tremendous amount of security. But it has pushed the insurgency into Zhari, Panjway and Maiwand," Gen. Huggins explained in an interview.

The U.S. surge troops squeezed the water filled balloon in the rural areas and the Taliban evaded the squeeze and fought in the city. Two years later the surge troops retreat from the rural area and press the balloon in the city. The Taliban flow back into the rural areas.

The U.S. military claims, of course, a double victory. First it won in the countryside and now it has won in the city. In fact nothing has changed at all. Two years on the surge had zero effect on the overall situation.

With limited resources and time the U.S. and NATO are losing the war.

Another example: This morning the ISAF Twitter account @ISAFmedia tweeted:

IJC morning op update: 10 day op in Farah province completed with multiple ins. detained and weapons confiscated.

The link goes to the usual morning update which said:

[A] combined Afghan and coalition security force detained multiple suspected insurgents during a 10-day operation that ended Sunday in Khake Safayd district, Farah province. During the operation, the combined force searched a suspicious location and detained the suspected insurgents without incident. The force also recovered 21 IEDs, four rocket-propelled grenades, one mortar, seven AK-47 rifles, one machine gun, more than 8 pounds (4 kilograms) of opium and 30 motorbikes during a subsequent search of the area. The suspected insurgents were taken in for questioning and the weapons cache was destroyed.

But just a few minutes after that hit the wires reality caught up with such success phantasies:

At least 11 people died on Thursday after Taliban insurgents attacked a provincial governor’s office, but were beaten back by security forces, Afghan officials said.

The 10 a.m. attack was apparently an attempt to assassinate the governor of western Farah Province, Mohammad Akram Khapalwak, who was in his office at the time, and the insurgents once again resorted to the ruse of disguising themselves as Afghan police officers, according to the police security chief for the province, Mohammad Ghaus Malyaar.

A ten day operation in Farah province manages to find a few guns and to steals 30 motorbikes. But at the same time the Taliban, laughing at such diversion, successfully attack the province governors office and kill nearly all his bodyguards. It is obvious that the propaganda does not match the facts on the ground.

It is no wonder the U.S. and NATO are, rather silently, Beating A Retreat.

Like in the two scenes above the marketeers of upcoming NATO summit will have difficulties to patch over the obvious rush to the exit from this lost war.

Posted by b on May 17, 2012 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

May 16, 2012

An Executive Gag Order To Silence Policy Opposition

This is a terribly excessive and overreaching executive order:

President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.
The order provides criteria to take action against people who the Treasury secretary, in consultation with the secretary of state, determines have “engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, such as acts that obstruct the implementation of the Nov. 23, 2011, agreement between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provides for a peaceful transition of power . . . or that obstruct the political process in Yemen.”

It covers those who “have materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material or technological support” for the acts described or any person whose property has already been blocked, as well as those who have acted on behalf of such people.

The administration's plan is to keep the unbearable situation in Yemen virtually unchanged. While Ali Abdullah Saleh is gone as president he also received immunity, has kept all his money and is still in the country. His relatives still hold key security positions. His successor, the former vice-president Hadi, is a mere Saleh puppet and in 2014 Saleh may again get elected.

When one opposes this plan, for example by pointing out that a vote with a ballot with only one person on it and no possibility to vote "No" is a fake election, one will now get accused of engaging in acts that obstruct the Saudi/GCC/U.S. plan for Yemen. Then ones asset can be seized by the mere whim of a bureaucrat.

When the writes negatively about the plan, its domain, which is under U.S. jurisdiction, can now be seized. It will now have to be careful with publishing opinions like these:

Why is Yemen in that situation? It is because as many people, including Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman have pointed out at the time, the Gulf Cooperation Council peace deal extracted by the wily Saleh was a monumental mistake. That mistake was supported by the US, whose singular concern was Al Qaida, and accepted by the opposition parties led by the hapless Yemeni prime minister, and by president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, none other than Saleh's silent partner for decades.

And Princeton scholar Gregory Johnsen will have to watch for his bank accounts being frozen, because he believes that the Obama policy on Yemen, supporting the GCC deal, is a "catastrophic mistake" and writes against it. 

What about his 1st Amendment rights? And how about the Yemeni's right of self determinations? Anyone opposing Hadi and Saleh will now get their credit card seized? That certainly is democracy promotion - Obama style.

Posted by b on May 16, 2012 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

May 15, 2012

A Tragic Attack On UN Observers In Syria

The video below the fold shows an attack on a car of UN observers in Syria which is seemingly wounding or killing some civilians standing in front of the car. When the observers speed away to save themselves they seem to drive over some of those wounded or dead. The incident is said to have happened in Khan Sheikhun, a town in Idlib province said to be under opposition control.

The scenes of this low quality video will be controversial. One side will claim that it shows that some seemingly anti-Syrian government forces are trying to sabotage the UN mission by attacking the observers. The other will claim that some government agent did this. But the worst issue is that it will enrage both sides against the observers for panicking and driving over the wounded.

There are four UN marked white cars in a city street with a dozen people around mostly in front of the first car holding it up. The observers are within the cars and ready to drive away. There are a lot of shoes lying in the street probably from an earlier demonstration against these observers.

Suddenly a bang and smoke is coming from the front of the first car. As the smoke retreats on can see that the cars hood is partially blown up and that some people are now lying in front of the car likely wounded or dead.

The first car tries to back up twice to turn but can not move much as the second car is immediately behind it. It then speeds forward and over the people lying on the ground. The second car follows.

The third car which was standing a few yards behind follows too but manages to drive around the corpses. The fourth car which was standing immediately behind the third is speeding to overtake the third car and, probably not seeing them, also overruns the bodies.

Reuters reports an incident in Khan Sheikhoun but it does not immediately fit with what the video shows:

Beirut - A car belonging to U.N. monitors was damaged by an explosion while they toured the central Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday but none of the monitors was hurt, a member of the observer team said.

“We went to observe and after a while shooting occurred,” he told Reuters by telephone, adding that the shooting was followed by the blast which damaged the car.

The seven-strong team had lost their vehicles and were trying to organise a safe return to their base, he said without giving details. Another monitor and a member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said they were with FSA rebels.
“We are safe with the Free Army and we are waiting for a (U.N.) group to pick us up,” the second monitor said.

How come the cars were good enough to drive away from the incident but are now all lost? There is also no shooting in the video. This then may be a different (coordinated?) attack or just the usual confusion following such events.

The video:

Another graphic video shows three wounded men in Khan Sheikhun probably related to the incident.

Posted by b on May 15, 2012 at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (195)

M.E.K. To Be Delisted From Terrorism List For Providing Terrorism

As the Iranian marxist cult M.E.K. is now, with the help of the U.S., committing terrorist attacks against civilians in Iran it will no likely be taken off the official U.S. list of groups committing terrorist attacks against civilians.

The Obama administration is not the first to show such hypocrisy.

The Bush administration first claimed that the groups presence in Iraq as proof that Saddam Hussein supported terrorist organizations:

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

Then, switching into Saddam Hussein's role, it trained and used the group for terror attacks against Iran:

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.

My assumption is that the delisting is announced now to sabotage the upcoming nuclear talks with Iran. The U.S. has no interest in solving the nuclear issue or in peace with Iran. It wants Iran under its control and that necessitates regime change.

Just like the use of Jihadists against the Libyan and Syrian government the use of the M.E.K. against Iran again proves that the war on terror the U.S. is allegedly waging is indeed a war of terror against whomever disagrees with it.

Posted by b on May 15, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

May 13, 2012

AP Presents SketchUp Of Nanodiamond Chamber As Nuclear Issue

Do you remember those rather infamous drawings of mobile bio-weapon laboratories Colin Powell presented to the United Nations Security Council as "proof" for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

The guy who drew those is back:

An image said to come from inside an Iranian military site shows an explosives containment chamber of the type needed for nuclear arms-related tests that U.N. inspectors suspect Tehran has conducted at the site. Iran denies such testing and has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a chamber.

The image was provided to The Associated Press by an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program who said the drawing proves the structure exists, despite Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge it.

The official said he could not discuss the drawing’s origins beyond that it was based on information from a person who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site, adding that going into detail would endanger the life of that informant. His country, a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is severely critical of Iran’s assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms.

A former senior IAEA official said he believes the drawing is accurate. Olli Heinonen, until last year the U.N. nuclear agency’s deputy director general in charge of the Iran file, said it was “very similar” to a photo he recently saw that he believes to be the pressure chamber the IAEA suspects is at Parchin.

Yeah! sure! But that image the AP's dubious anti-Iranian sources delivered looks like a fifteen minutes training exercise for Google SketchUp newbies and I can easly provide a better and more real one.

This is a detonation tank to create nanodiamonds, not a nuclear device.

In the late 1990s the Iranians had a contract with an Ukrainian scientist who had earlier worked at a Soviet research facility that was also involved with nuclear weapons. But that scientist, Vyacheslav Danilenko, is a lifelong expert in creating nano-diamonds by detonations in closed, bus-sized water filled explosion chambers. He is NOT a nuclear scientist.

In a recent write up on Iran's nuclear program even the prestigious CSIS analyst Anthony H. Cordesman admits that much:

The [IAEA] Agency has been able to verify through three separate routes, including the expert himself, that this person was in Iran from about 1996 to about 2002, ostensibly to assist Iran in the development of a facility and techniques for making ultra-dispersed diamonds (“UDDs” or “nanodiamonds”), where he also lectured on explosion physics and its applications.

Furthermore, the Agency has received information from two Member States that, after 2003, Iran engaged in experimental research involving a scaled down version of the hemispherical initiation system and high explosive charge referred to in paragraph 43 above, albeit in connection with non-nuclear applications. This work, together with other studies made known to the Agency in which the same initiation system is used in cylindrical geometry, could also be relevant to improving and optimizing the multipoint initiation design concept relevant to nuclear applications.

There are civilian applications for nearly all technological fields one needs to build nuclear weapons. Many things could be used in a nuclear weapons program and that includes knifes and forks. That means that any decently industrialized country is likely to have all these technologies available. It is therefore then "nuclear capable" which means that it could make nuclear weapons if it wanted to. That is the case for the Netherlands just as much as it is for Brazil and Japan and Poland and Iran and several dozen other countries.

Instead of that SketchUp exercise of some junior Israeli disinformation agent AP should just publish the picture of the detonation chamber Danilenko build for his own Ukrainian company to create nano diamonds. We are pretty sure that it is much more similar to the one in Parchim, Iran, than that rough computer graphic the AP is using here to spread disinformation onto the public.

Posted by b on May 13, 2012 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

May 12, 2012

The Prisoner Exchange Shows Who Controls The Terrorists

Frome the Globe and Mail:

Two Turkish journalists who went missing while reporting on the uprising in Syria two months ago were released on Saturday with Iran’s help, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced.

The release of the pair demonstrated Iran’s influence with its ally Syria, which lost Turkey’s friendship when it cracked down on pro-democracy protests that erupted last year. Iran and Syria, both isolated by the West, have stuck by each other.
In remarks on his Twitter account, Mr. Davutoglu said the Turkish government was sending a plane to bring them home. His Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi had told him earlier that the journalists had been freed, he added.
Hopes for their release soared after Turkish officials revealed on Thursday that Iran was acting as a go-between. It was not immediately clear who had been holding them.

Other western media carry similar stories. But I have found none yet that reports the real one.

This was a prisoner exchange and it does not "demonstrate Iran’s influence with its ally Syria" but it demonstrates Turkey's influence over its puppet Free Syrian Army.

Two Iranians abducted by an armed group fighting against the Syrian government have been released, Press TV reported.

Abdolreza Shaqaqi, the spokesman of Iran's embassy in Ankara, told Press TV's correspondent that the two men, named Shahmorad Najafi and Shahqoli Ghalavand, were handed over to Turkey's gendarmerie in the southeastern province of Hatay on Friday.

Shaqaqi stated that the Iranian Embassy is taking the necessary measures to repatriate the two Iranian nationals as soon as possible, adding that it is expected that the two men will leave Turkey for Tehran on Saturday.

The Syrian government held two purported Turkish journalists and some FSA gang held two purported Iranian pilgrims. These prisoners on either side were exchanged and Iran was not a go between but a direct party of this exchange.

But if you only read western media you would not know that. There only the Turkish prisoners count and there is no connection and influence at all of Turkey over the FSA.

In reality though the Turkish intelligence service, under the guidance of the CIA, is the heart and brain of the FSA. It can simply order them to release Iranian prisoners if it benefits its plans.

There is another intelligence service, also under the guidance of the CIA, that is the heart and brain of the terrorists that blow up suicide car bombs in Syria.

Tony Cartalucci reminds us of a 2007 Seymour Hersh report in the New Yorker on the new plans the Bush government developed in 2007:

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Hersh further reports that this project is done in cooperation with the Saudi prince Bandar who promised to activate and control Salafi terrorists to fulfill it:

Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

The Salafi suicide terrorists who are blowing up people in Syria are not just a random group of lunatics. They are controlled by Saudi Arabia and work for a bigger U.S.-Saudi project.

I strongly recommend to reread the full Hersh report about Bush's 2007 change of policy in the region towards destabilization of the "Shia Axis". It seems to still be followed as much as possible.

By now, of course, no one will be surprised that the Obama administration policies are just a continuation  of such lunatic Bush policies with the only change being a slightly modified rhetoric.

Posted by b on May 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

May 10, 2012

What Is Annan's Plan For Fighting The Jihadis?

Just yesterday the Syrian Free Army announced that it would continue its terror campaign:

Syria's rebel leader has threatened to resume attacks because President Bashar Assad's government has not honoured a ceasefire, a pan-Arab newspaper reported today.

Free Syrian Army chief Riad al-Asaad told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that "our people are demanding that we defend them".

Today two suicide bombers in two cars used 1,000 kg explosives to kill at least 55 people and to injury nearly 400 in Damascus. That target was a military intelligence center though that was only slightly damaged and most of the victims were just normal people on their way to work.

That is seemingly "defending our people" in the warped mind of that Colonel.

It is obvious that the Free Syrian Army are not people fighting for some right to protest. These are serious terrorist and if Syria does not get rid of them the problems they pose will also infect the neighboring countries foremost Lebanon and Jordan.

It is ridiculous that such slaughter and the danger of it spreading is now even used to argue for more violence and open war on Syria:

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor at Princeton, used to be the policy planning director at the State Department. She says the presence of jihadist groups in Syria shouldn't dissuade the U.S. and its allies from intervening. Rather, she says, it should wake them up to the dangers that a prolonged conflict in Syria could create.

More terrorism or war on Syrian will not be good for anyone in the Middle East. It is high time for Turkey and Lebanon to shut down those armed groups that use their territory for retreat and training and to stop the arms smuggling.

Kofi Annan is working on a plan to find a political solution for the regime and its domestic opposition. Such a solution might well be possible but it would not solve the problem of the violent extremists that are now trying to sabotage the plan and to take over the country.

There now needs to be an extended plan that will allow for and support the Syrian government and its people in their fight against the jihadis. This is in the interest of everyone except those Saudi Wahabbis who are sending and supporting these fighters.

I do expect that the Russians will forward some initiative on this. Unfortunately the U.S., with even Senator Kerry arguing for more arms for those fighters, is unlikely to be helpful in this regard. This unreasonableness will likely cost much more blood and may well, like the war on Iraq, end in a mess that everyone will later regret and lament about.

Posted by b on May 10, 2012 at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

May 09, 2012

There Is Nothing "Double" With This Agent

I am sorry for bothering the readers here with nitpicking on the media, but I really don't get this one.

CNN headlines: U.S. official upset over leak about double agent in bomb plot

The Merriam-Webster definition for: double agent - noun:

a spy pretending to serve one government while actually serving another

Why are CNN (and AP and the New York Times) presenting the Saudi spy that infiltrated AQAP as a "double agent"? According to CNN's own report:

The double agent, who volunteered as a suicide bomber for the terrorist group, was actually working as an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia, a source in the region familiar with the operation told CNN.
The agent works for Saudi intelligence, which has cooperated with the CIA for years, the source said.

"Indeed, we always were the ones managing him," the source told CNN.

If the guy in question was always managed by the Saudis and was used to infiltrate AQAP in a kind of sting operation to go after some bomb maker. Without this man this airline bomb plot would probably never have happened. The man in question was a Saudi agent - fullstop. There was obviously never anything "double" with him.

Is there any explanation then why the media are pushing this "double agent" meme? Who is telling them to do so and why?

Posted by b on May 9, 2012 at 07:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (38)

May 08, 2012

Plot Shows War On Terror Failure

The Wall Stret Journal claims the U.S. Foiled a New Jetliner Bomb Plot

The U.S. thwarted a bomb plot by al Qaeda's Yemeni branch aimed at bringing down a jetliner with a more advanced version of an underwear bomb used in a failed 2009 Christmas Day attempt, officials said Monday.

The Central Intelligence Agency, working with foreign security services, was able to seize the bomb—which they believed was intended for a U.S.-bound flight—before the would-be suicide bomber was able to move ahead with his plot, officials said.

But according to the LA Times the U.S. wasn't involved in the "foiling":

...the explosive device, which the CIA obtained from another government, demonstrates ...

According to CNN the Saudi's were the ones who actually stopped the plot:

A plot to bomb an airliner that al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen hatched was thwarted two weeks ago through a tip that Saudi intelligence officials provided, a source familiar with the operation said Tuesday.

The Saudis also provided intelligence for a 2010 plot that involving printers packed with explosive toner cartridges.

It seems that the stenographers at the Wall Street Journal just wrote down what the "officials" told them: "The CIA is GREAT!" Yes, it evidently can pick up the phone when the Saudis' ring it up.

But the real issue is more complex. It is very much in the interests of the Saudis to claim that there is great danger from Al Qaeda in Yemen. The Saudis very much want the U.S. to fight their enemies there. One needs to question how honest they are when they come up with this or that primitive bomb set and allegations that these are from Yemen and aimed against U.S. targets.

And what does this plot say about the wider "war on terror"? On 9/11 Al Qaeda was believed to have some 300 members mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula (AQAP) alone is believed to have 1,000 members. Could there be something wrong with a war which after 10 years has trippled the number of enemies?

The WSJ writers don't think so. They also writes:

The threat posed by the Yemeni branch has grown in the past six months, despite the killing of American-born AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Neglecting the fact that there has never been any proof that al-Awlaki had any operational role at all in Al-Qaeda, why would the WSJ assume that more or less random murder by drones would actually reduce the hostility against the killers? Especially when the facts say the opposite?

Posted by b on May 8, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

May 07, 2012

Open Thread 2012-13

News & views ...

Posted by b on May 7, 2012 at 02:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

May 06, 2012

Super Sunday In Europe

Today there were country wide elections in France, Greece and Serbia and local elections in Italy and Germany.

The outcome is in general a shift to the left but on a finer scale a shift to more outlying parties on the left as well as on the right.

In France Sarkozy is out. The fake socialist Hollande will be the new president of France. That lets me hope for a saner, less Napoleon like French foreign policy. Instead of a Merkozy European leadership of German chancellor Merkel and Sarkozy we are now in for a new combination of Merkel and Hollande. Merde?

The Greece the radicals are winning mostly on the left but also on the hard right, fascist side. It will be difficult to form a stable coalition. Any plausible combination I can think of will be against the austerity track ordered from Washington, Berlin and Brussels. Is it time for another one of those traditional U.S. steered military coups in Greece?

In Serbia the nationalist pro-Russian parties will gain and are likely to win over the pro-EU parties. That more pro-Russian way is in my opinion the better path for Serbia. The orthodox heritage of that country fits better with Russia than with the mostly catholic and protestant EU.

State elections in the German, traditionally conservative, northern state of Schleswig-Holstein brought a slight, though not decisive shift to the left with both major parties, Merkel's CDU and the social democrats now running head to head. Astonishingly the scandal plagued libertarian FDP, which is part of Merkel's federal coalition, lost only half of its share which is less than everybody expected. The Pirates, a new geek party formed against overbearing copyright protection, did win a healthy 8%. In general it can be counted on as a left party. That does give a decent chance for a new state government on the more left side of the spectrum with a coalition of the social-democrats, the greens and the pirates. This is relevant to federal policies as the state governments have a say in federal legislation via the Bundesrat (Senate). A switch from the current conservative government in Schleswig-Holstein towards the more leftist side would change the majority situation in the Bundesrat and impede some of Merkel's worst policies.

In Italy today's voting is for some thousand city councils and mayorships. The result may give a feeling for the general mood in the country towards the dictated austerity policies but there will likely be too much ambiguity in the overall situation to draw final conclusions from the results.

All together these elections are a slight, though not yet decisive, win against the austerity dictates which, I believe, was initiated by Washington and Wall Street in defense of the U.S. dollar.

Posted by b on May 6, 2012 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

May 05, 2012

KSM Trial - Spoiler Alert

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other '9/11 plotters' in court

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks have appeared before a US military tribunal at Guantanamo to be charged.

Spoiler alert:

They will be found guilty.

Posted by b on May 5, 2012 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

May 04, 2012

People Killed in Syria - Compare The Numbers

During the insurgency in Syria over the last thirteen month about 10,000 people were killed. Of these some 3,500 were soldiers or policemen on the government side.

Syria has some 23 million inhabitants plus about a million refugees from Iraq. The usual statistic measurement for the rate of homicides is the number killed per 100,000 persons per year. For Syria that number would then be 38 5 per 100,000 per year. Not counting the government agents the rate is some 25 per 100,000 per year.

In 2010 the rate of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter in New Orleans was 49.1 per 100,000 per year. It was 40.5 in St. Louis, 34.8 in Baltimore, 34.5 in Detroit and 23.1 in Newark.

Why isn't there any talk of no-fly zones over New Orleans, humanitarian corridors in St. Louis or military intervention in Baltimore? Couldn't we at least get some UN observers to Detroit and an Amnesty International report on Newark?

Posted by b on May 4, 2012 at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (82)

Chen Guangcheng And The Evangelical Anti-Abortion Movement

Peter Lee aka China Hand has a good piece with a lot of background on the Chen Guangcheng drama at ATOL. The local rabble rouser Chen had a good deal. He left from the U.S. embassy with a promise that he would be able to study at a place away from the local security apparatus that was bothering him and his family. He then suddenly changed his mind and asked for asylum for himself and his family in the United States.

At his blog Lee adds:

Looking at today’s shenanigans, and Chen’s metamorphosis from brave legal activist to handwringing exile in waiting, I have the distinct impression that people invested in the current freedom fighter vs. tyrant polarity prevailed on Chen to blow this deal up.

It wasn't the confused and frightened man's idea to change course. That definitely came from the outside.

The involvement and of China Aid, which is an evangelical ministry in Texas run by one Bob Fu, and the Chinese lawyer and member of the Chinese Christian Rights Defence Association Teng Biao point to the deep involvement of the right-wing evangelical anti-abortion movement in the United States. The movement has certainly no interest in calming the case down. It would rather burn Chen than miss this opportunity to hit against China as well as this administrations policies.

It was this Teng Biao who in a phone call convinced Chen Guangcheng to change his mind after he left the U.S. embassy and to then suddenly ask for asylum in the United States:

Teng Biao: Oh, it's Guangcheng! How are you? I haven't seen you in a few years now!
TB: Many netizens are out there at the hospital to meet you, but they must all have been blocked. If I were in Beijing, I'd probably be blocked from visiting you to. I'll try to find some way of meeting you. I heard you're going back to school to study, where will that be?
CGC: Yes, but I haven't decided where.
TB: Guangcheng, you absolutely must not do this. It's going to be very dangerous for you to stay on in China. Seriously.
CGC: [Silence]
TB: I heard one of the guards watching over you was detained, the one that helped you escape. Is this true?
CGC: Nobody helped me escape. I escaped by myself.
TB: I suggest you get back to the embassy ASAP.
CGC: That's not possible now.
TB: Is the embassy not allowing you back? Or is the Chinese government not allowing you back?
CGC: I...
TB: Guangcheng, even if you told the embassy you won't ever go back, there's still time for you to change your mind, and it would be totally understandable. Please reconsider this whole thing. You know -- Kegui, Chen Hua and everyone at home is in a very dangerous situation. Pearl's been taken away. Even if you're not considering this for yourself, then at least for your family and for those that tried to help you, you should try to get back to the embassy and make your way to the US. If this thing hangs in the balance, it's going to be very dangerous for everyone. We understand that you don't want to leave that you want to stay behind and try to do something. But you need to understand that if you stay behind, there'll be nothing you can do. Even if you don't work on any sensitive case, life will be bad enough if you're trying to do your own thing, you'll meet obstacles everywhere. Some of our friends have faced harrassment even trying to run their own little business. You've done way too much for human rights in CHina, you've made too many sacrifices. We don't want you to sacrifice or give more of yourself. Please reconsider.
CGC: I understand.

To me this call is a manipulation of one rather naive mind by someone who has an interest in steering up more conflict.

There was a congressional meeting yesterday which was obviously planned to push the case:

The Capitol Hill hearing was set up by a commission formed to monitor China's human rights record. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China is led by two Republicans, Christopher Smith of New Jersey and Frank Wolf of Virginia.
Also testifying was Bob Fu, a Chinese-American pastor and rights activist who was in touch with Mr. Chen during his flight last week from his home.

Does the "in touch during his flight" and Teng Boao's mentioning of a bribed guard mean that the whole "flight" was organized by China Aid?

Christopher Smith of New Jersey is a radical anti-abortion legislator as is Frank Wolf. Chen's original cause was to fight against forced abortions in China which are in some cases still used by local administrations to implement China's one-child policy. (Is ist somewhat tronically that Chen has two children?)

At the congressional hearing China Aid boss Bob Fu phoned up Chen in his Beijing hospital at some 3:00 am local Beijing time. The phone was then held to a microphone so the whole committee could hear him:

In his telephone testimony to Washington, Chen wasn’t asked his opinion of American authorities’ actions. But he did say that he’d like to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing for a previously scheduled high-level meeting on a variety of issues, and “thank her face to face.”

Apart from those evangelical folks who turned Chen's plans around to embarras the Obama administration the Chinese state will also like the current situation. To have the Obama administration under pressure during the current U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue will be helpful. China can now show a friendly public face by offering Chen to study abroad while quietly asking the Obama administration to pay a price to end the affair. "Do you really want to sell those F-16 fighters to Taiwan?"

Posted by b on May 4, 2012 at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

May 02, 2012

That Chinese "Activist" And/Or His Story Is Crazy

The story about the NED promoted blind Chinese "lawyer" Chen Guangcheng who never studied law is getting crazier by the minute.

The guy was allegedly under house arrest in some town in China and a few days ago fled with the help of some other "dissidents" (also U.S. financed?) to the U.S. embassy in Beijing. My assumption was that this was somehow arranged by some U.S. agency and the idea was probably to pressure China with this. I assumed that the Chinese were likely furious about it. Today's event challenges my assumption.

Today Clinton and Geithner arrived in Beijing for a long planned strategic and economic dialogue and the affair needed to get cleaned up as soon as possible.

After some negotiations the man decided to leave the embassy:

U.S. officials said Chen had never asked for asylum during the time he was in the embassy and emphasized that he had made the decision to leave out of a desire to be reunited with his wife and two children.

"I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng's stay and departure from the U.S. Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Beijing, where she arrived a few hours earlier for top-level U.S.-China talks.

"(Chen) has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment. Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task. The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks and years ahead."

China's Foreign Ministry said the blind Chen, who escaped the watch of the world's biggest internal security apparatus, had left the embassy of his own will. But the ministry criticized the United States' role, saying it was meddling in its domestic affairs.

Guangchen was accompanied by the U.S. ambassador to a hospital and left there. Just a few hours later AP contacted the man:

A blind activist said Wednesday that U.S. officials told him that Chinese authorities would have beaten his wife to death had he not left the American Embassy, where he sought sanctuary after fleeing persecution by local officials in his rural town.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the threat was issued but said Chen was told his family would be sent back home if he stayed in the embassy.

Speaking from the hospital room where he was taken after leaving the embassy, a shaken Chen Guangcheng said that U.S. officials told him Chinese authorities would send his family back home if he stayed inside. At one point, he said, the U.S. officials told him his wife would be beaten to death.

"They said if I don't leave they would take my children and family back to Shandong," Chen told The Associated Press. He said he heard the death threat from an American official whom he could not identify.

The man apparently also changed his mind about staying in China:

"Nobody from the (US) Embassy is here. I don't understand why. They promised to be here," he added.
Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Chen told Channel 4 News that he wanted to leave China with his family for a while, despite previous reports that suggested he wanted to stay in China. "My biggest wish is to leave the country with my family and rest for a while. I haven't had a Sunday [rest-day] in seven years," he said.

I have no idea yet what to make of this. The guy seems confused and the whole issue is probably way over his head.

Is this just some crazy guy that the U.S., at one point, decided to promote through the National Endowment for Democracy just because he was making some points about Chinese government abortions? That promotion then made it impossible to reject the guy when he knocked at the door of embassy? Now a way had to be found to clean the situation up and some pressure was applied?

Please let me know your ideas about this affair.

Posted by b on May 2, 2012 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (68)

Open Thread 2012-12

News & views ...

(and please behave)

Posted by b on May 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (90)

May 01, 2012

ISAF Misreports Losses, DoD Fudges Afghan Security Force Progress

To prevent criticism of its operation in Afghanistan the western ISAF military is eager to one side suppress negative news and on the other to put a false gloss on figures that demonstrate alleged progress. Here are examples for each category. First the minor issue.

The Associated Press just found that ISAF underreported the numbers of green on blue incidents in which members of Afghan security forces attack ISAF troops. Only those incidents in which ISAF troops died and the number of those died were reported. If additional people were wounded in such an incident those numbers were not disclosed. Incidents in which no ISAF troops died but some were only wounded or which resulted in no casualties were not reported at all:

Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed Monday in response to repeated AP requests that in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks so far this year, there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.

Graybeal also disclosed that in most of the 10 fatal attacks a number of other ISAF troops were wounded.

Thirteen attacks in four month, one in every ten days, seems remarkable to me and consistent with an opposing force strategy. But even in the quoted AP report ISAF still continues to call each attack an "isolated incident".

Now onto a more serious case. Every six month the U.S. Department of Defense has to deliver a Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan. This so called 1230 congressional demanded report gives numbers on Afghan security forces strengths and capabilities.

A while ago Dan in Kabul pointed out that there is some fudging going on with the reported capabilities of Afghan forces. In the April 2011 report (pdf) the Executive Summary said (pg 3):

By the end of the reporting period, 75 percent of ANP units in key terrain districts were rated as either “Effective with Advisors” or “Effective with Assistance,” although none were yet rated as independent.

It explained how units are rated (pg 37):

"Independent" denotes a unit that is capable of the full spectrum of its missions without assistance from Coalition Forces. “Effective with Advisors” means that the partnered coalition unit does not exceed a limited guidance role. Units that are “Effective with Assistance” are those that are capable of executing operations and providing regional security with varied partnered unit assistance. ...

In the October 2011 report (pdf) the Executive Summary notes (pg 4):

Force growth and professionalization efforts are translating into a more capable and effective ANSF. ANA effectiveness improved, as the number of units rated “Effective with Assistance” or better rose from 52 percent of units in September 2010 to 72 percent of units in September 2011.

Here the fudging is in setting the comparison date. The number of units rated “Effective with Assistance” or better in the April 2011 report was 73.7% and in the Executive Summary of that report boosted as 75%. That number decreased to 72.0 % in the October 2011 report. By comparing the September 2011 number with the September 2010 number and thereby skipping the latest report of April 2011 the October 2011 assessment showed progress where none was made.

There was also, as Dan pointed out, some fudging in that those units that were rated higher were almost all headquarter units. The number of actual fighting battalions, or kandaks, that were rated "Effective with Assistance" or better actually decreased from 116 in April 2011 to 115 in October 2011.

But not everything was bad. By October 2011 one of those kandaks had achieved the highest status of "Independent" while no unit had achieved that in April 2011. That was until one read further down (pg 42):

Prior to the spring campaign, IJC reviewed the definition of an Independent unit and concluded that the definition was too restrictive and would be difficult for any ANSF element to attain. As a result, IJC rewrote the definition of an Independent unit to reflect the reality that most ANSF force enablers will likely require long-term coalition assistance.

Fast forward to the just published April 2012 report (pdf). There the Executive Summary boosts (pg 2):

As of September 2011, no ANP unit, and only one ANA kandak had been rated as “Independent with Advisors.” As of the end of the current reporting period, 13 ANA kandaks and 39 ANP units had achieved this rating. These ratings are regularly substantiated by the field performance of the ANSF, which continues to exceed expectations.

That sounds like great sudden progress. How come?

The secret sauce for this progress can be found in a paragraph deeper into the report (pg 37):

Prior to January 31, 2012, the Validation Transition Team (VTT) was tasked by IJC with validating any unit that received a CUAT rating of “Independent with Advisors” by the Regional Commands. The IJC procedure was to not report a unit assessed by the RCs as “Independent with Advisors” until the VTT could validate the rating. Instead, units would remain rated at the “Effective with Advisors” level until the validation was complete. However, after January 31, 2012, the requirement for outside validation for newly reported “Independent with Advisors” units was eliminated, which has resulted in the recent increase in “Independent with Advisors” units. The new process places greater emphasis on the ratings from the units partnered with the ANSF, who have first-hand knowledge of the unit’s performance. In the future, there will continue to be increases in the number of independent units, although this is expected to be at a more gradual rate.

Before February 2012 the real quality of the "independent" ANA troops was evaluated by an special independent evaluation unit. Now the quality of ANA troops is evaluated by those U.S. units that directly partner with these troops.

Those units and their commanders do of course have a huge incentive to report "success" of their tour in Afghanistan. The evaluation of their unit and their commander's chance for promotion depend on it. They therefore upgrade the ANA unit they partner with no matter what it real progress is.

In April 2011 their were zero Afghan security force units capable of independent action. In April 2012 there are still zero Afghan force units capable of real independent action. But the number of units that were reported as "independent" increased from zero to one to fifty two because first the definition of "independent" was changed and then because the evaluation was turned over from an independent evaluation entity to those entities that have direct self interest in reporting such progress.

Anyone who only reads the Executive Summaries of those 1230 reports will see great progress in developing Afghan security forces while a detailed reading shows that none has been made. Likewise anyone who believes ISAF reports about the number of security incidents and the number of casualties without further questioning is in for bad surprises.

One again has to ask how can the sovereign of the countries that send troops to Afghanistan, the people of these countries, make informed decisions about the deployments there when the military commanders, without any challenge and consequences, consistently misreport and misrepresent the real situation there?

Posted by b on May 1, 2012 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)