I'm blogging at Non Sum Dignus these days.
More of the same but easier to blog at!
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It looks like we're back at Tora Bora again. You all remember Tora Bora, that's where Rummy, OBL and the suvinving Talibs get away in 2002. Rummy was so hell-bent on getting all our military equipment and personnell to the Persian Gulf that he sort of forgot about winning the war he was fighting before starting another one.
Eurasia Insight reports:
"The offensive at Tora Bora began with air strikes launched on August 14 by U.S.-led coalition aircraft. Radio Free Afghanistan’s corresponent Daud Wafa traveled to the Pacheragam district of Nangarhar Province, south of Jalalabad, to speak with some of those displaced by the fighting. A villager forced from his home in the area, Allah Dad, tells Wafa that the coalition ground and air operations have been incessant.
'Planes are flying over during the night,' Allah Dad says. 'We can see the U.S. troops coming and going during the daylight hours.'"
One wonder how the "coalition" allowed the Talibs back into their caves in TB but, there they are. This time around, though, we're not going to let them escape to Pakistan.
According to EI:
"Thousands of Pakistani troops were deployed on Pakistan’s side of the border this month to block escape routes for militants trying to flee from Afghanistan."
I'm sure that'll work out. We know how efficient the Pakistanis are when it comes to guarding their border. Naturally, the coalition is taking credit for massive Talib casualties, but there might have been a civilian or two that might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Another resident of the Pacheragam district, Mir Dad, says villagers fear attacks by Taliban as well as being mistakenly targeted by coalition air strikes. 'The operation has been going on at Tora Bora since [August 14],' Mir Dad tells Radio Free Afghanistan. 'The [foreign] troops are coming and going, and the bombing has been severe. Civilians have been killed, too. [Residents] are afraid of both the Taliban and the Americans.'"
Way to win hearts and minds!
"QUETTA, Pakistan - A Taliban once held at Guantanamo Bay who became one of Pakistan's most-wanted rebel leaders killed himself with a hand grenade yesterday after he was cornered by security forces, officials said."
It's really amazing how the Pakistanis always seem to catch one of these Talib big wigs whenever angry rumblings directed at our good friend Pervez Musharraf start emanating from the administration or Congress. Every time an American official makes a visit to Islamabad, the Pakistanis miraculously seem to find yet another al-Qaeda or Taliban #3. (How many #3's does al-Qaeda have, anyway?)
Apparently, what prompted this week's killing of Pakistan's "most-wanted" Talib, Abdullah Mehsud, was the Sunday talk shows here in America. W.'s Heimat Sicherheits chief, Francis Townsend, put out the message that "all options" were "on the table" when it came to US forces going after al-Qaeda on Pakistani soil. It appears that pesky new NIE coming out last week has caused some outrage in Congress over the fact that after many billions of dollars given to the Pakistanis to be our allies in the WOT, al-Qaeda is stronger now than it has even been. Pervez Musharraf's hands-off approach to the WOT is a growing cause of much grousing in Congress, and this time it's not just coming from the "Bomb Mecca" crowd, either.
Even some Democrats are starting to say us going into Pakistan might be a good idea! Naturally, going into Pakistan would be a monumentally bad idea. Us overtly going into Pakistan would make Iraq look like a tea party. We've already got enough problems there and in Afghanistan, we don't need to buy another disaster in Pakistan and turn 165 million more Muslims against us. Of course, that's not to say we're not already operating on Pakistani soil, we have been for years.That fact, though, must be hidden at all costs. One unfortunate Pakistani journalist who had the audacity to show proof of US involvement in the killing of Mohammed Nek was swiftly picked up by Pakistani security forces and never seen again. Let that be a lesson to anyone who dares point out that the United States military is actively operating in Pakistan.
The Times of India reported this week that the US and Pakistan made a deal.
"American air power, special forces, and intelligence operatives have begun operating inside pakistan’s [sic]western borders in their hunt for fleeing al-qaeda fighters, extending the war on terrorism . . . washington has forced the musharraf regime to open its border territory for u.s scrutiny. . . the secret deal will allow u.s. troops to hunt the fighters on the ground and fire on them from the air, but it will also be on a case-by-case basis, with the united states required to ask permission each time . . . pakistan had begun its 'cooperation' in the war on terrorism by offering intelligence and over-flight facilities to the u.s, but rejecting operations by ground forces or attacks on its territories . . . it now appears all bets are off as washington gradually expands its sphere of action into pakistani territory."
We're playing a very dangerous game in South Asia, I hope W. & Co. know what they're doing. [Ha!] If one of our special forces were to get captured on Pakistani soil or one of our planes or helicopters were shot down in, say North Waziristan, there would be hell to pay. Musharraf could pretty much give up his grand visions of winning a "free and fair" election next year, to begin with.
Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said after Musharraf's assault on the Red Mosque that this was "pretty much crossing the line and there's no going back."
We go into Pakistan in a big way we'll be crossing another one of those lines.
Boy, it has been a real bad week for our good buddy Pervez Musharraf. Last week, he finally took action against the radical "Red Mosque," from which Islamic radicals had been enforcing with impunity their own brand of Sharia law in the heart of Islamabad. Apparently, for about six months Musharraf didn't see any danger from a group of bearded whackos rampaging through the streets of the country's capitol city, busting up video stores and kidnapping people off the streets. The fact that they were acting very much like the Taliban doesn't seem to have registered with out good ally in the WOT.
When he actually got around to doing something about this embarrassment, the resulting assault on the mosque, which killed about a hundred people, including the leader of the mosque, wound up inflaming Islamic fundamentalists all over Pakistan. In past week over 150 people, civilians and soldiers have died in the backlash against the attack on the mosque. All those suicide bombers that Musharraf has been more than happy to see cross the border into Afghanistan have now returned to roost in Pakistan.
As if that weren't bad enough, a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate says al-Qaeda has found safe haven in Pakistan, thanks to his peace pact he signed with them and the Talibs back in September, which has allowed it to regroup and retool. Some people in the United States are even starting to think that Iraq may not be the main front in the WOT, after all, they think it might actually be Pakistan! Imagine that!
And if even that all weren't bad enough, today the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated Musharraf's troublesome Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry. [AP] This doesn't bode well for his plans to keep wearing his uniform while he manufactures a new term for himself as the country's president. He had planned to remove Chaudry in order to smooth his way to being elected by the current parliament, but that isn't going to fly.
Now that Chaudry is there to point out the fact that such a maneuver violates the Pakistani constitution, Musharraf is in a pickle. Meanwhile, the US government looks on with puzzling disinterest. Perhaps Dick Cheney's Rasputin, David Addington, is counseling his Dark Master that a victory for Chaudry in the case of "The Justice v. The President" might undermine his "Unitary Executive" theory? Chaudry's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, told the Pakistani Supreme Court that, "The executive cannot invest itself with undefined emergency powers." [NYT] That sound like dangerous terrorist talk to me, I don't know. . .
How else to explain why a month ago, while the Chaudry removal was roiling the Pakistani body politic, the US was going out of its way to vow its unquestioning loyalty to their bastard in Islamabad? When Deputy secretary of of State John "give me a new job" Negroponte visited Pakistan on June 16 he restated the United States' total backing for Musharraf.
The same day Sean McCormick said, "We believe that President Musharraf is an agent for positive change, not only in the region." At the same moment the British government was bestowing a Knighthood on Salmon Rushdie. This caused uproar in radical Islamic circles around the world and inspired Ijaz ul-Haq, the country's religious affairs minister, to say: "If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title." [newsvine]
The fact that a member of Musharraf's government advocated suicide bombing -- his protestations that his words were "misreported" notwithstanding -- seemingly hasn't given cause for this administration to question its support for the dictator Musharraf. [Clearly, the administration is upholding a crucial principle by backing the prerogatives of the executive.] Of course, this administration isn't exactly known for it's ability to see beyond its nose, so it's not much of a surprise that they've really painted themselves into a corner in Pakistan. T
This particular corner is unfortunately a very dangerous, nuclear tipped one. As Iftikhar Chaudry's lawyer Ahsan told the NYT back in June, "The Americans have got all their eggs in one basket and know only one phone number in Pakistan and that is now a dud number because it cannot communicate with any Pakistani citizens." [unusual court case at center of Pakistan’s political fight] It's one thing to alienate the Islamic radicals, but when you also piss off the moderate and secular majority of Pakistan, you're really screwing the pooch.
Does anyone know Benazir Bhutto's number? Or Nawaz Sharif's? If you do please give it to Condi Rice before OLB has gets his hands on the Islamic Bomb.
The NYT reported recently that speculation is rife in Pakistan that our only friend there, Pervez Musharaff, may not survive his little tussle with Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. But, Carlotta Gall writes, so far there is a "a great silence" eminating from "the one place that may count the most: the barracks and the mess halls of the armed forces, the other great part of Pakistan’s ruling equation."
What will the army do? Have they had it up to here with Pervez yet?
It is not a good sign that one military officer she spoke to said: "He either goes the mango-crate way or he goes gracefully." The Mango crate referring to the supossed special last minute delivery of a box of mangos on Mohammad Zia ul-Haq's final plane ride full of poison gas.
But, of course, this was all before the Red Mosque issue. Now I bet Musharraf wishes all he had to do was wory about that damn judge. Australian Broadcasting has just reported that, apparently the army has stormed the Mosque:
"In the latest clashes at Pakistan's beseiged Red Mosque, two heavy explosions and gunfire have rocked the compound. Television footage has shown large chunks of debris from the perimeter wall blown above the treetops. Government forces rushed in on three sides and attacked the mosque compound. On two sides the compound was attacked by armoured personnel carriers and on one side by army rangers."
This comes just after Musharaff almost got another type of mango crate, in the form of AA cannon fire.
"Gunners fired after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's plane took off from a military base on Friday in what one official described as a failed assassination attempt. Security forces quickly surrounded a house beneath the base's flight path in Rawalpindi . . . Two anti-aircraft guns and a light machine gun were found on the roof and the homeowner was taken in for questioning."
[Yes, questioning. I'm sure he will be very co-oprative.]
Now how the hell did someone get two anti-aircraft guns on a roof near an airport in Rawalpindi? No one noticed this?
I don't know, I'm thinking if there was a battery of AA on the roof of a house across from the White Hosue, someone would notice before W. went coptering off to Andrews.
Sounds like someone was either really asleep at the switch or some was just faining incompetence.
You know, it's too bad that the Bush administration doesn't have a Plan B for Pakistan, because it looks like Condi's luck is about to run out. I wonder who will inherit that brand new plutonium plant they're building at Khushab? The Talib's, perhaps? Ayman al-Zawahiri? No, he's too busy making videos . . . Maybe OBL himself?
Go North West young man!
The NYT's Gall writes:
"In the North-West Frontier Province there is growing frustration among military and intelligence officials over the rising lawlessness of Taliban militants, and the president’s apparent lack of concern and direction, senior officials say."
What they've really got to be thrilled about is the new deal Musharaff reportedly made with the US military. They too are frustrated with Pervez' lake of concern about the border.
According to Syed Saleem Shahzad in A-Times Online:
"Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases. According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be. . . Operations inside Pakistan might be carried out independently by the United States, probably with air power, by Pakistani forces acting alone or as joint offensives. In all cases, though, the US will pull the strings, for instance by providing the Pakistanis with information on targets to hit."
Operations might be carried out? I think we're way beyond that at this point, but it looks like Musharaff has thrown up his hands and has decided to turn thr problem over to us. This would seem to be a dangerous escalation by the US military, especially if things go south with Musharraf.
If the next thing we know the Special Forces are moving into Khushad, the forgotten war in Afghanistan would begin to look like the good old days. Hell, even Iraq might look better!
"Taliban fighters attack U.S. or NATO forces in populated areas, then retreat to civilian homes. Western forces respond with massive firepower or an airstrike. That increasingly common pattern of clashes has led to a climbing number of civilian deaths and rising anger among Afghan officials and citizens.
While militants killed 178 civilians this year in attacks through Saturday, Western forces killed 203, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and international officials."
And ANN reports:
"Just two days after 25 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in Gerishk district of southern Helmand province and during which 20 insurgents were also killed . . .
Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out strongly Saturday at the NATO forces over mounting civilian casualties caused in 'careless operations' by international forces in his country, saying 'Afghan lives are not cheap.'"
He went on:
"We want coordination, cooperation but unfortunately the coordination and cooperation that we wanted could not be gained and the consequence of that are civilian casualties. The civilian casualty is intolerable, it is absolutely intolerable, either this cooperation and coordination is created and applied or Afghanistan will take its decision in this regard.'"
"'Innocent people are becoming victims of reckless operations' because the troops had ignored Afghan advice for years." [BBC]
And not only is NATO killing Afghans . . . the BBC also reports:
"Rockets fired by coalition forces in Afghanistan killed at least nine Pakistani civilians, the Pakistan military said on Saturday. Coalition forces were fighting militants in Afghanistan close to the Pakistan border when a few rockets came across the frontier, hitting a house. Pakistan is demanding an explanation, a spokesman said."
Wow, that's a major screw up. Lucky for us the Pakisatnis are so worked up about Salon Rushdie. Maybe they won't notice.
NATO spokesman Major John Thomas is a busy, busy man of late:
"Major John Thomas, an International Security Assistance Force spokesman, confirmed that during the fight in Bermal district of south-eastern Afghan province Paktika 'up to 10 civilians were killed' due to artillery fire and rockets fired from helicopters inside Pakistan.
'It appears that one of our weapons hit a building which may have had a number of civilians in it and that building may have been a home or some hotel facility,' Thomas admitted.
'We regret two things: one that we mistakenly operated inside the Pakistani border, and secondly we regret the loss of civilians in our operation,' Thomas said in Kabul."
And then there is the drug problem:
Meanwhile, AFP reports: (as if this were a big surprise anyway)
"[The] UN released overnight its 2007 World Drug Report, which revealed a 49 percent leap last year in Afghanistan's production of opium, the raw ingredient of heroin. It also reiterated that the country supplied 92 percent of the world's opium."
The World Bank says:
"The opium economy is a massive source of corruption and gravely undermines the credibility of the government and its local representatives.
The opium economy is equivalent to more than one-third of Afghanistan’s licit economy. Iit is the country's largest source of export earnings, and it comprises a major source of income and employment in rural areas.
The harmful macroeconomic effects of successful measures against drugs may be somewhat limited and manageable, although monitoring is needed. The critical adverse development impact of counter-narcotics actions is on poor farmers and rural wage laborers."
So when we're not bombing them into the stone age, the lowly Afghans are being crushed between corrupt Afghan officials making bank on opium and the Taliban.
Afghan drug minister Habibullah Qaderi claims:
"As development takes place, as police reform grows (and) the judicial system improves, I can guarantee that there will be certainly in the future a reduction in the drugs problem."
At the same UN meeting on drug was US ambassador William Wood who said that "about 10 percent of the heroin in his country was from Afghanistan and if this increased, Washington would consider a more 'forceful response.'"
Whatever that means, what are going to do bomb the poppy fields? our anti-natcotics methods in South America have been such a rousing success, I say we get right to it in Afghanistan.
This item I meant to add to previous post.
"In violence yesterday, a suicide bomber driving a taxi set off his explosives near of convoy of American civilian contractors and accompanying soldiers, killing himself and four bystanders. Within hours, U.S. soldiers fired into a crowd of Afghans near the scene of the blast, accidentally killing one man and wounding another, according to U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. David A Accetta. 'It was an unfortunate incident, and we are investigating the cause of the accidental discharge of the weapon,' he said." [Inquirer]
Good old Lt. Col. David A Accetta. Is he the military spokesperson in charge of 'unfortunate incidents?' It seems that whenever there's one of these "accidents" he's always the point man.
In another possible "unfortunate incident:"
"At least 30 people were killed and many more injured when a blast occurred at a madrassa in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan near the Afghanistan border, intelligence officials said. Military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad said that casualties occurred when bombs being made by militants accidentally exploded at the place used as a training facility. The remote village was attacked with missiles and 50 students and their teachers were present in the religious school when it was hit, killing or injuring all of them, a local said."
Appearently, the standard cover story when US drones target militants on Pakistani soil is to say militants blew themselves up:
"The News quoted an intelligence official speaking on conditions of anonymity that three missiles were fired from Afghanistan, which hit the training facility and killed 17 people."
With the way things are going for our good friend Pervez these days, he doesn't need this now. Better to say they blew themselves up or the Pakistanis did it themselves.
Like when the US killed Mohammed Nek with a Hellfire missile in 2004. Or when they went after Ayman al Zawahiri but missed him but hit another religious school in October of last year. In that case, according to Pakistani intelligence sources "Between two and five senior al Qaeda militants were killed in the attack, including the mastermind of the airliners plot in the U.K." [ABC]
You can take that to the bank, because the Pakistanis never screw up. And get this:
"Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News they believe they have 'boxed' Zawahiri in a 40-square-mile area between the Khalozai Valley in Bajaur and the village of Pashat in Kunar, Afghanistan. They hope to capture or kill him in the next few months."
Well, it's almost been a year, how's that boxing business going?
Sec Def Robert Gates two weeks ago on a visit to Afghanistan said things in the forgotten war were "slowly, cautiously headed in the right direction." Now, I don't take Gates to be the self delusional type of the Rummy mold, he appears to have his feet planted firmly on the ground and to be a fairly competent civil servant of a bygone era, so I'm thinking perhaps he was slightly overcome by a certain nostalgia while in Afghanistan for the years he spent in the 80's dealing with the Mujahideen during their fight against the Soviets. (In fact, I hear he actually was reunited with a former Mujahideen leader he worked with back in the day while inspecting Afghan army recruits.)
So I guess I can forgive this rare lapse into la la land and figure that after soaking in the news from Afghanistan over the past few days he'll get back to reality; because, man, what's been going lately is pretty bleak. Just a few weeks ago Hamid Karzai once again escaped an attempt on his life, dodging Taliban rockets while addressing the security fears of residents of Andar district in Ghanzi province. Two days or so later there was the shoot out between US Special Forces and Afghan police, which left 8 of the police dead.
Apparently, the US forces didn't trust their Afghan allies enough to let them know they would be staging a raid on a suspected Talib hideout. The police saw trucks with their lights turned out approaching their check point and opened fire. The Special Forces, not knowing who they were fighting, called in helicopter gun ships and what wound up transpiring was "a tragic incident" according to president Karzai. He's presided over a lot of them lately.
The most recent events have been particularly tragic, including the worst suicide attack in Kabul probably ever, involving a bus full of police recruits that killed 35 and wounded another 30, and an air strike on a Madrassa that killed 7 young boys. That incident occurred at the same time fighting over the weekend and into this week rages between Talibs and NATO forces near the village of Chora in Uruzgan province. According to the head of the provincial council, Mullah Ahmidullah Khan, over 100 people been killed in the fighting, including 60 civilians, 70 Taliban and 16 Afghan police. [AP]
The NYT quotes Mullah Ahmidullah saying, "I have seen with my own eyes that woman and children were badly hit by bombing. The fighting is inside the villages, so that's why civilians are suffering casualties. I have met families who have lost almost everyone."
Of course, you can't really trust anyone who calls himself "Mullah" can you? A NATO spokesman, Maj. John Thomas, according to AP "Said he doubted that Afghan officials could tell the difference between militants and civilians, suggesting some of the wounded who claimed to be civilians were insurgents."
Yes, because NATO has such sparkling record when it comes to avoiding "collateral damage," right? Who would know better the difference between militants and civilians, a NATO spokesperson who's rotating in for a few months or someone who actually lives in the area? Hey, that's really the way to win hearts and minds!
In the today's NYT article on the killing of the 7 boys in the Madrassa, all between the ages of 10 and 16, Barry Bearak and Taimoor Shah report that the usual American and NATO assurances of going to "extraordinary lengths" to avoid civilian casualties aren't flying anymore. "Whatever the facts, Khalid Farouqi, a member of parliament from Patika, was angry at the coalition.' Nobody can accept the killing of women and children,' he said. 'It is not acceptable in either Islam or international law.' He added that apologies are no longer adequate."
Through the looking glass?
Obviously, the situation with collateral damage in Iraq is already way beyond apologies at this point. No one buys the "whoops we did it again" defense there any more. So this is probably why we're starting to adapt the same tactics in Iraq that have failed so spectacularly in Afghanistan. That old 'hearts and minds' chestnut is has become somewhat quaint in sovereign Iraq.
On June 6 the AP reported:
"In the first 4 1/2 months of 2007, U.S. aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 298 expended in all of 2006. At the same time, the number of civilian casualties from US air strikes appears to have risen sharply, according to Iraq Body Count." In this new big offensive launched yesterday in Diyala province,
"The military said in a statement yesterday that 'four precision-guided bombs' were dropped in support of 1,200 U.S. soldiers of the Third Infantry Division as they started moving on al-Qaeda targets."
We're back to that "precision-guided bombs" jazz again. We've seen how precise they are in Afghanistan, in largely deserted and remote areas. Clearly, dropping bombs from F-16s at high altitude into largely urban areas in Iraq is going to be much more likely to hit their intended targets.
[I wrote a while back about the ascension of Admiral Fallon as the head on CentCom being a sure sign that his expertise in commanding aircraft carriers would come in handy against Iran. Who would have thought anyone in their right mind would use the extra fire power of fixed-wing aircraft on the two carriers in the Gulf against targets in door to door urban warfare?]
It looks like there's this weird inversion going on between the tactics we use in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tactics the various insurgents and militants were fighting are employing to ever greater success in both countries. Whereas, they have transferred into Afghanistan what they've learned about the use of IEDs, suicide bombers and car bombings in Iraq, we've decided to adapt the all the mistakes we've made in Iraq and transfer it all to Afghanistan and visa versa.
A case in point is the error we keep making in Afghanistan of not getting a handle on US troops firing wildly into crowds after an IED attack. You'll recall, the incident a few months back in Jalalabad where US Marines fired indiscriminately into oncoming traffic and bystanders on the road as they sped down getting away from an IED attack on their convoy, killing 16 and wounding 30 Afghans in the process. That didn't go over too well in the area, leading to some rioting and condemnation from a weary Hamid Karzi.
That sort of thing was already a hallmark of our good friends in the Iraqi army who have for years fired into crowds of civilians when they're attacked. There's even a name for it, they call it the "death plume," or something like that.
Well, it must be a sign of the strain our soldiers are suffering after multiple tours and unrelenting violence, because now it's become a big problem for the usually much better trained and disciplined Americans in Iraq.
The LA Times reported this Monday that: "Since mid-February, Los Angles Times freelance journalists across Iraq have reported at least 18 incidents in which witnesses said troops had fired wildly or in areas crowded with civilians. The reports indicated at least 22 noncombatants died in those incidents. If antidotal evidence is an indication, such deaths often occur after troops are shaken by roadside bombs, as occurred when [a] Times employee's son was killed April 17 . . .
U.S. military officials say troops are trained to avoid civilian casualties and do not fire wildly. Iraqis, however, say the shootings happen frequently and that even if troops are firing at suspects, they often do so on streets where bystanders are likely to be hit." Of course, the worst incident so far as we know of this type of thing happening, was in Nov. of 2005 when Marines slaughtered 24 men, women and children in Haditha after one of their own was killed by an IED.
The resulting cover-up of the killings by Marine higher ups doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the pentagon's protestations that things like this don't happen. And since a recent survey of US grunts found that 40% of then wouldn't report such things, you have to figure it’s a much more common occurrence than the LA Times was able to prove.
This is not to say that such behavior isn't totally understandable. Our people over there are only human, and there's only so much a person can take. Far be it for me to sit here and try to tell anybody who is sweating their asses off over there dodging IEDs and sniper's bullets that they shouldn't be doing everything they can to get home in one piece. My beef is with the commanders over there making the crappy decisions and the brain's trust at the White House insisting that these poor bastards are going to have to keep going back to Iraq ad infinitum until their number is finally up or they die of old age.
Until our political system finally responds to the overwhelming will of the governed to get our folks the hell out of that disaster in Iraq, those who serve us all are stuck in an impossible situation. It would be nice, though, if there was some recognition by those charged with assuring all our people come back alive and whole that killing the people you're supposedly trying to liberate is counterproductive in the extreme and will lead to nothing more than more of the same.
The past few days I've wanted to yank my hair out everytime I've heard the media repeat the White House mantra that Fatah al-Islam is being supported by Syria. That assertion, though politically expedient, is absurd: Why would a secular, Alawite Baathist regime -- allied at the moment with Iran - be happy about the appearance of an ultra-violent Sunni/Takfiri militant group in Lebanon? It's total nonsense. (In fact, the supossed leader of Fatah al-Islam, Shakaer al-Absi, was until recently in Syrian custody.)
Ultimatly, the anti-Hamas policies of the US and EU directed against the Palestinian people -- for having the audacity to vote for Hamas -- is to blame for the terrible situation the Palestinian refugees in Nahr el-Bared are going through right now. These policies have been slowly strangling the PA's finances in the occupied territories, and as a result, control of the patronage Fatah once used to weild to keep the disperate Palestinian factions in line has evapporated. This has created a vacuum ultra-religious militant groups are more than happy to exploit.Sy Hersh wrote about this a few months ago in his article The Redirection. At some point, he says, after the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel, the Saudis -- with Prince Bandar (Bush) leading the charge -- decided that they weren't going to cede Lebanon to Iran and began to pump large sums of money into the Sinoria government.
Besides proping up the Sunni backed government in Beirut, Bandar and his buddies in the vice-president's office, began coming up with ingenius ways to get al-Qaeda imspired terrorist groups to re-locate to Lebanon.
"American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south."
Hersh writes that Bandar convinced Cheney & Co. that these groups, the same people we're fighting in Iraq, hate Hezbollah even more than they hate us, so they're ok. Bandar is supossed to have told Cheney that the Saudis "will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. We’ve created this movement, and we can control it." [Hersh has implied also that the US is making funds available outside the perveiw of the US Congress for this purpose. (Ever wonder where all those billions of missing Iraqi construction funds are winding up?)]
It's not just Sy Hersh saying this stuff, in case you think he's some sort of whacko. In an AP story today, Bernard Rougier, author of "Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon" says: "By changing their own identities, to one of a Sunni warrior, they . . . get money from Saudi Arabia, and other private sources."
Ali Jarbawi, a political science professer at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, says of Fatah al-Islam: "Look at this group. It is 200 people, but it can make anormous waves because it is operating in an institutional vacuum."
The problem now is that, as a New York Times reporter said this morning on the BBC Newshour, refugees being shelled by the Lebanese army are starting to feel that they're the ones being attacked. This is creating some sympathy for a bunch of bearded wierdos that just a few months ago everyone in Nahr el-Bared distrusted and feared. Firing tank rounds into a square mile area populated by 30,000 poor, disgruntled refugess is probably not the best way to to convince them that you're on their side.
And secretly funding al-Qaeda a la the Contras in Lebanon is probably not such a hot idea either.
"Lebanese troops pounded a Palestinian refugee camp with artillery and tank fire for a second day Monday, raising huge columns of smoke as they battled a militant group suspected of ties to al-Qaida in the worst violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war."
I keep hearing this business in the media that whoever these Fatah Islam buggers are, they're an al-Qaeda arm of Syria. Of course, that's absurd, that's like saying there's an al-Qaeda arm of Hezbollah.
Lebanon's police Lebanon's national police commander, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, seems to agree with me on this. He tells AP:
"Perhaps there are some deluded people among them but they are not al-Qaida. This is imitation al-Qaida, a 'Made in Syria' one."
Are we sure these guys aren't Prince Bandar's paid terrorists?