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Monday, 26 March 2007
Marines leave Afghanistan

Here is an update on the previous post about the Marines shooting wildly at Afghan civilans at the beginning of the month. As we know, the Marines were not simply shooting at anything that moved as they fled from an IED attack, they were responding to an "complex ambush" that was set up by the Talibs.

Now it turns out that the Pentagon is pulling this particular unit out of Afghanistan. The Boston Globed reported recently:

 " Marines accused of shooting and killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan are under US investigation and their entire unit has been ordered to leave the country, officials said yesterday. It is highly unusual for any combat unit, either special operations or conventional, to have its mission cut short."  

I should thing the way thingas are going these days, it would be almost unheard of. Accoding to the Globe, the unit's spokesman, Major Cliff Gilmore, says 'of the four Marine Special Operations Command companies that have been established since the command was created in February 2006, the one ordered out of Afghanistan was the first to deploy abroad. By September 2008 there are to be nine companies operating as part of two special operations battalions, he said.' 

Better go back to the black board before that happens!  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:34 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007 2:35 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 March 2007
Afghan massacre # 1000

 Things are just going from bad to even worse in Afghanistan these days. I'd say the forgotten war there is really going to give Iraq a run for its money as far as fiascos go. Two incidents within 24 hours of each other on Sunday involving apparent over-reactions by the US military to attacks by Taliban militants is antagonizing the Afghan man on the street just as the annual summer battles are heating up.  In the first instance, US Marines fired on Afghan civilians, killing 10 and wounding 25, along a six mile stretch of eastern Afghanistan's busiest highway after a suicide bomber attacked their convoy. The official US military explanation was that the Marines were caught in the cross-fire of a "complex" ambush. Witnesses on the scene, though, said there was no one firing on the Marines, they just lashed out. AP quotes one bystander, Tur Gul, saying: "They were firing everywhere. They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot." [NYT] 

The "cross-fire" theory was further undermined by the fact that soldiers destroyed video evidence of the attack. AP reports: "A freelance photographer working for the Associated Press and a cameraman working for AP Televisions News said a US soldier deleted their photos and video showing a vehicle in which three people were shot to death about 100 yards from the suicide bombing. . . A reporter from the Afghan channel Ariana Television said the soldiers also deleted his footage."     

 That sort of thing doesn't look good, particularly when you're claiming the moral high ground as coalition spokesman Lt. Col. David Acetta tried to do. "We regret the death of innocent Afghan civilians as a result of the Taliban extremists' cowardly act," Acetta said. The problem with that formulation is that nobody was killed by the bomb. All the deaths and injuries were caused by bullet wounds.  

If you're going to imply that every time the Taliban attacks we're going to react with overwhelming force no matter who's standing around, you'd better just tear up Gen. Patreaus' new counterinsurgency manual. To paraphrase Patreaus; the more force you use, the less effective it is, and for every civilian you kill ten more insurgents are born.

It might be added, too, that lying through your teeth about what happened and trying wipe out all the evidence isn't as effective as admitting mistakes were made and vowing to make sure such mistakes aren't repeated. If you won't even admit you made a mistake, the Taliban has already won. 


What's really worrying about how the Marines reacted is how much it resembles the so called "death plume" phenomenon that usually follows suicide bombings in Baghdad. In those cases it's usually undisciplined Iraqi soldiers shooting at anything that moves, which always winds up increasing the body count. One would hope our guys are better trained and more judicious with their use of deadly force, but as recruiting standards are lowered and extended tours take their toll one has to wonder if our guys over there are starting to lose it. Unfortunately, this isn't he first time US soldiers fired indiscriminately at civilians in Afghanistan. Last May after traffic accident in Kabul, US troops firing into a crowd of angry demonstrators turned into a day long riot, which almost got out of hand when police abandoned their posts.  

[It might be remembered also that on April 30, 2003, Fallujah was turned, overnight, into an insurgent hotbed after US soldiers fired into a crowd of protesters killing 13. . . and we all know how that ended up.] 

Screw up # 2: 

12 hours after the events in Jalalabad --  before you could even say 'absolutely we're winning' -- another US over-reaction occurred in Kapisa province northeast of Kabul when US fighters dropped a couple of 2-ton bombs on a house, killing nine members of one family including five women and three children. [AP   

In this case, the indefatigable Lt. Col. Acetta's said: "Coalition forces observed two men with AK-47s leaving the scene of a rocket attack and entering the compound. . . The men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces."  One presumes the coalition forces knew these areas were populated, too, which begs the question: Why did they drop two 2-ton bombs on the house? Two guys with Ak-47s are such a danger to the most advanced military the world has ever known that 2-tons of high explosives had to be dropped on them? You'll forgive me if I think this might have been a slight over-reaction to the provocation. This is just type of disorientate use of force that the Israelis have made their trade mark and we all see how effective that's been for them.   

Over a few weeks last summer they managed to level a third of Lebanon yet they still lost the war. If we're going to start taking pages from their playbook, it's going to be a long summer. If one is keeping score, by the way, it’s the Taliban 4 and the coalition 0, so far. Besides the two incidents described above, which are decidedly not our best moment, there's also the Taliban overrunning of Musa Qala in Helmand province a month ago and the purported takeover of "Nawzad district headquarters in Helmand and all srrounding villages."[Atimes Online The start of the summer offensive, the Afghan national past-time, hasn't even got going yet and we're already two towns and two black eyes down. Something tells me those poor bastards in the 10th Mountain Division who are stuck in Afghanistan for another four months shouldn't bother sending their gear back any time soon because its going to wind up coming right back. (Just like before.)   

Another drawback to these indiscriminate bombings by US forces on civilian targets -- as if we needed any more examples of why this sort of thing is counter productive -- is that our puppet president Hamid Karzai comes off looking even more impotent in the eyes of his own people than he already does. He's been decrying the coalition's use of aerial bombing on civilians targets for years but to no avail. No matter what he says, no matter how hard he tries (or cries); he just can't seem to convince NATO or US forces to stop killing women and children from 45,000 feet.  

At a time when we're trying to reestablish government control over more of the country than just Kabul, these kinds of knuckle-headed over-reactions just undermine the entire program. The Afghanis are justifiably pissed off at the warlords in parliament, who are more concerned with avoiding war crimes prosecutions than the well-being of their constituents, and the Taliban who are making their lives a living hell. It would seem to be a no-brainer that we'd have an easier time convincing them that we're the lesser of those two evils, but as long as we show such low regard for civilian casualties, in their view, we're no better.  

As Genera Patreaus says, "Lose moral legitimacy, lose the war."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:35 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007 3:01 PM EST
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Wednesday, 17 January 2007
Musharrif and al-Maliki have us by our short hairs.
Topic: War on Terror

PakTribune reports:

 "Pakistani security forces attacked and destroyed three militant camps in a dawn operation in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan killing eight militants where around 25-30 fighters were hiding, a military spokesman said here Tuesday."

Strange timing for this attack. Oddly enough, it occurred at almost the same moment new SecDef Robert Gates was making his first visit to Afghanistan. There couldn't be any connection there, could there? Nah! Pervez Musharrif would never stage an attack just to impress his American benefactors, would he?

Amazingly, Gates says "Pakistan is one of America's strongest allies in the war on terror." This despite the seperate deal Musharrif made with al-Qaeda and the Talibs last September and the 200% increase in attacks in Afghanistan this past December. AP reports that "A U.S. military intelligence officer said that since the peace deal went into effect Sept. 5 the number of attacks in the border area has grown by 300 percent." 

Don't confuse Bob Gates with the facts, though: "There is no question there has been a significant increase -- I don't know the exact amount -- but a significant increase in attacks across the border, particularly from north and south Waziristan, and it is a problem." But not enough of a problem to read the riot act to the Pakistanis.

Gates said he would be working with Musharrif "to see if there is a way to reduce the violence from that side of the border." [Ha!] Maybe the Pakistani plan to mine the border and build a fence might work? Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry, Daud Moradiyan, says: "The Pakistani authorities are trying to reduce the international community's pressure by taking such initiatives. It is only a publicity campaign rather than being a practicable plan." [Sabawoon Daily News]

Such cynicism! It's not like the Talibs can pass through Pakistani army check points with impunity, right? Like Taliban commander Moulvi Abdul Jalil who moves freely from Karachi to Afghanistan without any trouble at all, according to Atimes Online. He usually goes through the Chaman crossing where he is never bothered.

And many other less well connected militants and terrorists can cross at unoffical crossings without too much trouble, too. If there were to be mines planted on the border, though, you can be sure the ISI would provide a map for their Talib clients. 

Does anyone else wonder how on eath we got stuck relying on people like Pervez Musharrif and Nuri al-Maliki to help us out of our problems? There are about to be some 160,000 troops in Iraq and there are presently about 24,000 in Afghanistan. Gates says if the generals ask him for more troops for the much anticipated Taliban Afghan spring offensive, he'll send them. Where will he get them is the question.

Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he might have to hold an infantry battalion of the 10th Mountain Division in Afgahnistan for the rest of the year. They were scheduled to go to Iraq. But our forces aren't stretched! Far from it.

Essentially, aren't these 184,000 troops being held hostage by our good buddies Pervez and Nouri al-Maliki? Al-Maliki isn't going to go after al-Sadr and Musharrif isn't about to risk his neck trying to take on the Talibs or root OBL out of his cozy cave, probably in or near Boluchistan. (Or go after Mullah Omar in Quetta for that matter.)

We're screwed!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:51 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007 2:53 PM EST
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Friday, 12 January 2007
A New Way Forward needed in Afghanistan!
Topic: War on Terror

In his annual review of global threats, John "I want another job" Negroponte, the outgoing National Intelligence Director, told the Senate intelligence committee in written testimony that al-Qaeda is still a grave threat to the U.S. [AP] Imagine that! Five years into the Global War on Terror, al-Qaeda is going like gang busters. Negroponte says that al-Qaeda maintains the ability to act through connections that "radiate outward from their leaders' secure hideout in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and Europe."  

Pakistan, eh? Looks like we might be barking up the wrong tree by sending 21,000 more troops to Iraq. Could this "secure hideout" Pakistan is providing to al-Qaeda have anything to do with Pervez Musharrif's deal last year with the Taliban and al-Qaeda not to interfere with their affairs in the tribal areas running along the Afghan border? Shortly after entering into that infamous agreement U.S. military commanders noted a threefold increase in attacks coming from the Pakistan side of the border. [Guardian] But that was just before the winter set in, when the Afghans traditionally take a few months off to retool while the mountain passes are blocked by snow. The true effects of Musharrif's deal with the devil should become apparent this spring.     

And spring is coming soon enough. This year it might be even coming a little early. (Global warming, perhaps?) AP reports that on Wednesday Afghan and NATO forces battled Taliban insurgents for 9-hours in Patika province. According to NATO and Afghan officials, Taliban fighters in several trucks full of ammunition were tracked coming from Pakistan. When they crossed the Afghan frontier they were engaged by ground fire and air strikes. Supposedly Pakistani forces shelled Taliban forces on their side of the border while this was going on. If this is true this would be the first time they've operated in that area in months.  

Typically, the death toll in this fighting was inflated by NATO and the Afghan military. Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a U.S. military spokesman, said initially that 150 Talibs had been killed. Then later he said the real number was 130. The Afghan Defense Ministry said the number was 80. There was no explanation for the wildly different estimates. One explanation could be that it's all propaganda. Last year during fighting in Pawji province, south of Kandahar, the British claimed they had killed 500 Talibs and rid the entire area of them. A few days later, though, they were back with a suicide bombing in Kandahar. 

If you're going to make up phony body counts, at least, attempt to make them sound plausible. If there were 500 Talibs really killed in just a few days last September, you'd think there would have been some evidence of it; like mounds of bodies all over the place and mass funerals etc. But luckily for NATO, they're doing such a piss poor job of dealing with the Talibs that whole swaths of the country are too dangerous for the press to go out and confirm these outrageous claims.  

Do I doubt that Talib generals send waves of fighters to their deaths without any conscience? No. Many of these Talib commanders are psychotic murderers. But if they were suffering the kinds of loses NATO is claiming they are, they wouldn't have succeeded in taking over most of southern Afghanistan, which they clearly have. This is another little problem for W. & Co. to mull after they complete their task of mopping up Baghdad. 

Anyone who thinks we've got the luxury to waste our time and resources propping up the weak and incompetent government in Iraq is dangerously deluded. We really need to come up with a New Way Forward in Afghanistan, right now. The fighting season is almost upon us and we’re about to send what few troops we've got left into Baghdad's meat grinder. The Talibs and al-Qaeda are about to catch us with our pants down and there's nothing we're going to be able do about it. Let's hope the Brits, the Canadians and the Dutch can hack it, because we've got nothing more to send. 

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:46 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007 2:49 PM EST
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Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Now Playing: Another fine mess.

Who the hell knows what's going on in southern Somalia? I've heard reports the the U.S. attacked two towns on the tip of the country on Sunday and Monday and the BBC reported they had attacked another area today:

"An elder in Banka-Jiira, a grazing area about 40km east of Doble town, who wished to remain anonymous citing security reasons, gave an account of the raids and their aftermath to the BBC's Somali Service. 'There have been air strikes carried out by American planes in these areas since Sunday. Here in the Banka-Jiira area, which is the largest grazing area in the Juba Valley region, we have been hard hit. There have been several air strikes over nearby Booji grazing area too."

Another BBC account says that U.S. officials have denied there have been any new attacks since Monday. But. . .

"The BBC's Bashkas Jugsodaay who is between the Kenyan border and Doble town says dozens of people, mainly pastoralists, and their cattle were killed in air strikes on Tuesday evening near watering holes. Eyewitnesses in two settlements between Doble and Afmadow say the attacks lasted for between 30 to 45 minutes.

The WaPo reports today that U.S. officials aren't saying anything about anything (Not a good sign):

"In Mogadishu, the Somali capital, reports circulated that as many as 50 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the attack by a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship. U.S. officials said they are fairly certain that at least one targeted individual was hit; they said they had no information about civilian deaths in the strike along the Kenyan border."

Naturally, they know nothing about civilan casualties, but oddly they know about the possible death of the person they were going after. Hitting 50 civilans for 1 al-Qaeda suspect is a pretty good ratio, I guess. (Israel's record is usually about 10 Palestinians for 1 Israeli.)

The NYT reports that: 

"Today, Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press: 'I have received a report from the American side chronicling the targets and list of damage.' 'One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is dead,' he was quoted as saying."

The WaPo article reports also that "Word of the U.S. attack provoked rage and anti-Americanism." Imagine that! We pumped hundreds of thousdands of dollars to prop up the hated warlords, who are responsible for the past 15 years of choas, and who still couldn't manage to resisit a bunch of bearded weirdos bend on installing Sharia law on a reluctant population.

For an encore, we encouraged the hated Ethiopians to invade the country and install into power a weak alliance of former warlords and tribal scheisters who very few Somalis support.

Now all that stands in the way of more chaos and anarchy is the Ethiopian army who are suddenly taking a bloody nose, after a apparently successful blitz krieg attack on the "Islamists." (I say "Islamists" because most Somalis are Muslim. I'm not sure "Islamists" is an accurate description of who we're fighting against or whether its another one of those PR buzz words the administration likes so much.)

There has specualtion that the Ethiopians would like to get the hell out of Dodge (Mogadishu) as quickly as possible, before they get could in an Iraqi style quagmire. The NYT reports:

"There [are] reports that Ethiopian troops, who are in Somalia supporting the transitional government, were taking heavy casualties in fighting against insurgents, including an incident in central Mogadishu where an army truck was blown up by a bazooka."

Shabelle Media Network reported that Somali troops supporting the TFG were also attacked last night:

 "At least one government soldier was killed and six were wounded after gunmen ambushed government military posts at KM4 Street in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu last night. Heavily-armed militias riding in two cars known as MarkII have thrown propelled grenades at the Somali government and Ethiopian military posts at Kilometer 4 Street. The gunmen also opened automatic gunfire that lasted at least an hour.

Government and Ethiopian military barracks in the area were attacked on the second consecutive night. The government has not commented on the attacks yet. The attacks and explosions against government and Ethiopian troops in the capital have escalated as president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed has spent for the second night in the capital Mogadishu for the first time since taking office in 2004."

I'm not saying we shouldn't be goign after people who were repsonsible for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, but all I see coming down the pike is a bigger US role in Somalia. Escalation is inevitable if we keep building up forces in on the coast in the Indian Ocean.  If the Ethiopians can't hack it and the TFG forces fall apart there's only one force there able to do something. Guess which one.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:19 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007 3:08 PM EST
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Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Well, it's been a while, but I'm back. Nowadays I'm doing most of my blogging over at Non Sum Dignus. I do intend to keep blogging here as well, though. It's just a matter of having enough time in the day.

But enough of that and on to today's post!

The WaPo reports today:

 "A U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked suspected al-Qaeda members in southern Somalia on Sunday, and U.S. sources said the operation may have hit a senior terrorist figure."

Where have we heard this before? Didn't a U.S. drone go after a "senior al-Qaeda figure," last January in Pakistan? Supossedly they were going after Ayman al-Zawarhiri but they wound up missing him and killing 17 civilans, including 6 women and 6 children.

AP reports:

"The airstrike Monday evening was in the town of Afmadow, about 220 miles southwest of the capital of Mogadishu, Somali officials said. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed in the attacks, but Somali officials said there were reports that many were killed."

Yeah, I'd say you'd have to expect as much. If you're going to use a blunt intrument like an AC-130, you've got to expect a lot of "collateral damage." But the families of those killed can rest easy that the U.S. was going after some pretty bad actors.   

The BBC reports the strike was intended to get these three al-Qaeda types: 

> Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Abu Talha al-Sudani and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.

> Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, from the Comoro Islands, was indicted by a US court in New York for conspiracy to bomb the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

> Abu Talha al-Sudani, a Sudanese, was accused by the office of the US Director of National Intelligence recently of leading an al-Qaeda cell in East Africa.

[And] Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan, is on an FBI wanted poster in connection with the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel and an attempted missile attack on an Israeli airliner in Kenya in 2002.

[End of quote]

The U.S. apparently took care to cut down on the number of bystanders killed. An official quoted in the WaPo article says, "You had some figures on the move in a relatively unpopulated part of the country." Relatively unpopulated? Well hell, that's good enough for me.

The problem I can see with this whole thing, besides the casualties, is the preception a lot of folks are going to be left with. The U.S. has had a hard-on for these al-Qaeda types for a while now and without presenting any evidence they've been pushing the story-line that the Islamic Courts Union was harboring them in Mogadushu.

And, lo and behold, the Ethiopians all on their own decide they have to invade Somalia -- in a defensive operation naturally.  (Kind of like the invasion of Iraq) The U.S. naturally helps them out with intel and in about a week the ICU is routed. Now, some might come to the conclusion that the only reason the ICU was overthrown was because the U.S. wanted three al-Qaeda suspects. The Somalians got about five months of law and order after 10 years of anarachy and then -- here's comes the U.S.

The Ethiopains and the army of the "transitional government [TFG]," which has been barely able to hold on to Bidoa this whole time, is now poised to take over whole country. More than likely what will happen is that the warlords will take over again and we'll be back to square one.

The U.S. has been working on getting a peace keeping force in there, but that's not looking too hopeful. The U.S is probably hoping Ethiopians are going to hang around until the UN can work something out. I wouldn't count on it.

AP reports today:

"Gunmen attacked Ethiopian troops supporting the Somali government Sunday, witnesses said, in the second straight day of violence in a city struggling to emerge from more than a decade of chaos." 

The Ethiopians are probably not interested in getting bogged down in their own version Iraq.

Things would have been so much easier if the CIA had just gone in and yanked these guys of the street like they did to Abu Omar back in 2003

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:44 PM EST
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Friday, 10 November 2006
Bechtel leaves Iraq and Rummy's bowing out: Connection?
Topic: Iraq

Well, Rummy's not in jail yet, but getting the sack -- sorry, I mean "resiging" --  is a good start. You know, when the news came out that Bechtel was leaving Iraq, I should have known Rummy would be next in line. 

We all remember the good work Rummy did for bechtel back in 1983 going over to Iraq and meeting with Saddam and Tariq Aziz ( Where is Aziz anyway?). Rummy's job was to try and convince Saddam go along with bechtel's plan to build a pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba Jordan. According to the records, the US and Saddam's Iraq "shared many common interests" and the Reagan administration had a "willingness to do more" for Iraq in its war with Iran.  [NSA] You betcha. And apparently they were intersted in helping out Iran in their war against Iraq, but that's another story. [See Walsh Iran/Contra report on Robert Gates.]

Speaking of bechtel; they're pulling out of Iraq after three years of living off the largess of the American taxpayer. Thye went in there with one of those fuzzy non-bid contracts the Rummy/Cheney cabal were so fond of giving to their former companies. The Atimes reports that after recieving almost 2.3 billion dollars for US taxpayers to reconstruct Iraq (which we destroyed in the first place):

 "The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70% unemployment, 68% of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19% have sewage access. . . The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory illness are causing 70% of all child deaths, and that 'of the 180 health clinics the US hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed - and none opened.' . . A proposed $200 million project to build 142 primary-care centers ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance the World Health Organization described as 'shocking'. "

The same could probably said for Rummy's running of the pentagon over these past 6 years. It's pretty shocking that he didn't feel there was any probelm with all the looting that went on -- the oil ministry was secured -- after the fall of Saddam, or the decision to fire the Iraqi army, or the Abu Ghraib scandal, or the lack of body armor, which could have saved the lives of 80% of the Marines who died fighting in Anbar up until last year.

The list goes on and on, but he's did a "fantastic" job. Helluva job Rummy, now get lost!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:39 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006 1:42 PM EST
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Saturday, 21 October 2006

For anyone who missed it, I would recommend watching last week's Frontline "The Lost Year in Iraq," which recounted the colossal mistakes made initially by Rummy & Co. in the early days of the occupation. Looking back now you can see how things might have gone differently if Rummy and Cheney hadn't been so amazingly arrogant and self-assured of their own infallibility. If they hadn't ignored experts in the State Department and CIA, who had experience with these sorts of things, we might not be looking at the looming disaster we're faced with now. It is really stunning to see how they made precisely the wrong decision at every single turn. Rummy was wrong 100% of the time, from his saying that he knew exactly where the WMD were to reducing by the half the number of beds at Landstuhl just before the war started.  

Appointing Henry Kissinger's protégé to run the whole show, though, will have to go down in history as the most monumentally damaging one of the entire occupations. The litany of errors and missteps made by L. Paul Bremer highlighted in the Frontline report, from the moment he arrived in the Green Zone, is must see TV for anyone wondering how we got to where we are today. With his first two CPA special orders; firing 20,000 Iraqi government employees with Baathist connections; and then throwing 100,000 Iraqi men with weapons and no income into the streets; he in effect created the insurgency. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to overstate how incredibly incompetent Rummy has been in this entire fiasco. If there was any one person who should serve jail time for Iraq, it's Rummy. It's really all on him.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:29 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 21 October 2006 1:30 PM EDT
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Monday, 16 October 2006
Pakistan: The next nuclear crisis?
Topic: War on Terror

While the world gets its panties in a bunch about the North Korean bomb, there'a a little spot of bother in Pakistan that ought to be looked into. As we know, our good friend Pervy Musharraf is supossedly holding al-Qaeda and the Talibs at bey in W.'s "war on terror." That's good because Pakistan also has the bomb -- after developing it unbeknownst to us -- and if this so-called "Islamic Bomb" were to get into the wrong hands . . . well, lets not even think about it.

As bad as the DPRK thing is, Pakistan falling apart is a much more serious threat. The Atimes reports this week that the recent discovery of a rocket launcher in Rawalpindi, the Pakistani military head quarters town, has led to the discovery of a coup plot involving uniformed members of the Pakistani military.

"According to information obtained by Asia Times Online, the coup plot was hatched in the Waziristan tribal area headquarters of al-Qaeda. The conspiracy was uncovered after a mobile phone used to activate a rocket aimed at the president's residence was traced to an air force officer. More than 40 people, both inside and outside the military, were subsequently arrested. The most alarming issue for the Pakistani establishment was not only the involvement of air force officers, but the apparent deep penetration of al-Qaeda into highly sensitive areas." 

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao says this is all rubish: "It is totally baseless (the report), the Musharraf government is very strong and faces no threat. . . Why should there be a coup, the baseless report is someone's personal imagination. " Of course, who would want to kill Musharraf? This is just crazy talk.

Hidustan Times reports, though, that after the non-coup attempt became known, "Musharraf . . .instructed that a list be compiled of all retired officers who had been involved in any significant intelligence operations and were suspected of being sympathetic towards the Taliban."

A new Balochistan offensive?

The Atimes also reports that, "Word has filtered out that Islamabad will launch a major action in the next few days in the northwest and southwest (Balochistan). " This is an area pretty much run by the Taliban, so this offensive, if it comes, could blow the whole "truce" thing out of water. Here we apparently have evidence of another attempt by Musharraf to get the Talibs under control within his own borders after yet another coup plot. The last few times haven't been so successful, however, and as I recall he would up losing a bunch of troops and getting embarrassed in front of W..  

Then there was the March 2004 offensive against Nek Mohammed, which led to the Pakistanis getting their asses kicked, vowing not to attack again and then paying for the Talib's expenses.  

According to Musharraf in an interview for Frontline this was no humiliating defeat. Musharraf: "The agreement was that the militants either lay down arms or they are going to be shunted out of the place. And the locals are going to cooperate with the army in asking these militants to either get off Pakistan or lay down their arms."

What really happened according to Frontline was: "In April of 2004, tribesmen from across South Waziristan gathered outside the main madrassa in Shakai. Nek Mohammed agreed, according to the government, to lay down arms and register all al Qaeda militants living in South Waziristan. . . The government sent the 11th Corps commander to Shakai to bless the deal, General Safdar Hussein. . . He questioned why America had gone to war against the Taliban. . . He portrayed the Pakistani army as protecting the tribesmen from American bombs. . ."  

And then the Pakistanis paid the Talibs off. In a Frontline interview, Ismail Khan, Journalist for Dawn Newspaper,  said, "they were paid money also. This was part of the deal because some of these commanders had come up and said, 'Look, you know, we owed a lot of money to al Qaeda because we had borrowed money for logistics, for support.'"

Yes, you read it correctly,  the Pakistani government paid the Talib's so they could repay their debts to al-Qaeda.  And for all this what happened?

Frontline: 'The Shakai agreement broke down almost immediately. Nek Mohammed claimed he had never agreed to identify or hand over any al Qaeda militants. He pledged to renew his jihad against U.S. forces in Afghanistan."  

Sound at all familiar? 

Bomb shell?

Former ISI head Hamid Gul says the US had a hand in the coup that led to Musharraf coming to power. Kaumudi Online reports:

"Commenting on president Musharraf's book 'In the Line of Fire,' former ISI chief Hamid Gul said Musharraf has not stated in his memoirs that Washington was behind his military coup of October 12, 1999. 'It is absolutely true that America played a role in Gen Musharraf's take over of 1999,' Gul has been quoted as saying by Daily Times."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:24 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006 6:00 PM EDT
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Friday, 13 October 2006
The lightning round:
Topic: Iraq

 [These are some random thoughts I've been cogitating on over the past week or so, but I haven't had to chance to post them.] 

Operation 'Save Rummy's ass':  

I read in the NYT a few days ago that W.'s special Iraq commission, led by James Baker III, won't be reporting to W. or Congress on its findings until after the mid-term elections. We've only been there for three and half years, after all, we don't want to rush into anything. I'm sure the soldiers being held over, long after their tours are up; to fight the "Battle of Baghdad" will appreciate the political realities of the situation. Of course, instead of calling the present operation "Together Forward," a better name might be "Operation Save the GOP Majority." Now that's something worth dying for, eh?  

They've stood up, we're not standing down: 

Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson told reporters that over the past two years 4,000 Iraqi policemen have been killed by insurgents and 8,000 have been wounded. In 2005 alone 1,497 were killed and 3,256 were wounded. Peterson says, "They have paid a great price yet Iraqis are signing up as recruits everyday." So my question is; are they incredibly patriotic or just desperate to have any kind of job at all? Who in their right mind would want to be an Iraqi policeman? [Hear an Anne Garrels report on Iraqi policemen from ATC to find out]  

In any case, supposedly there are some 300,000 Iraqis now trained and ready to go, so why aren't we going?  John Warner, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said after a one-day visit to over there that the situation in Iraq was "drifting sideways." Warner suggests the US should consider a "change of course" in Iraq. Gosh, you think? Now the last time I checked Warner was a staunch supporter of the president and his policies in Iraq, so what's going on here? Besides Rummy, W., Cheney and Henry Kissinger, is there anyone left that thinks we should still be in Iraq?

 Getting ready to fight the last war: 

The US Army has reworked its strategy to fight the insurgency. AP reports that a new field manual to be released later this month "emphasizes the importance of nonmilitary solutions, such as promoting economic development and making sure basic services are restored to deprive insurgents of support. It also urges interaction with the Iraq people." Hey, that's great I'm happy to see after three years of screwing up royally and the deaths of 2,700 US troops we're finally getting around to developing a strategy to deal with the insurgency in Iraq. Of course, the issue now is that the biggest challenge facing us today is the fight against the various battling religious militias. Have we got a strategy for that?  

The NYT reports that there is a worry within the military establishment that all this emphasis on insurgency fighting is taking attention away from fighting regular wars. The NYT: "The Army is stretched so thin and so many units are focused on rehearsing for Iraq and Afghanistan at the training center that concerns have grown that the Army may be raising a new group of officers with little experience in high-intensity warfare against heavily equipped armies like North Korea."      Another problem with the new thinking on fighting the insurgency is that there aren't enough troops to get the job done. Gen. Jack Keane, a former acting chief of staff, told the NYT that, "the Army does not have nearly enough resources, particularly in terms of people, to meets its global responsibilities while making such a commitment to irregular warfare."  

That's alright, if anyone is worried about what might happen next in North Korea, have no fear. Speaking last year on the subject of pulling several thousand troops out of South Korea for redeployment to Iraq, W. said we have "capacity" in Northeast Asia:

"We've got good capacity in Korea. We traded troops for new equipment, as you know: we brought some troop -- our troop levels down in South Korea, but replaced those troops with more capacity."  We don't need no stinkin' heavily equipped army to fight in Korea; we've got "capacity."  I feel reassured, but W. says we're not going to attack the Hermit Kingdom anyway. Just in case, though, perhaps Japan will just go ahead and build a warhead or two, just to be on the safe side.  

[Reuters, 8/7/06: "The United States will lower troop levels in South Korea beyond a previously agreed reduction to 25,000, but the cut will not be 'substantial,' a senior defense official said on Monday. . . The official said the cut was possible due to South Korea's improved capabilities [i.e. they're better cannon fodder], and noted that judgments about the threat posed by North Korea were driving changes in the U.S.-South Korean military relationship.]

The forgotten war?  

It may be difficult to hear the explosions of a US military munition dump blowing up in Baghdad over the rumble of the North Korean nuclear test, but things are going from bad to worse in Iraq again. Not to worry, though, General George Casey, standing with Rummy at a press conference today, says progress is coexisting with chaos in Iraq. Also progressing is the number of US troop casualties. Over the past month we've suffered over 776 injured and over a hundred dead. In just the first 11days of October the number of US dead is 44. 

Of course, I guess this type of thing is to be expected when you're engaging the enemy. So says the pentagon, anyway. From where I'm sitting it looks like we're getting ourselves into a much bigger version of Fallujah.  It is pretty amazing that having taken Baghdad three years ago, having fought two Fallujahs, several Ramadis and a few Tal Afars, we're at the point where we find ourselves again re-fighting the Battle of Baghdad. General George Casey explains that Baghdad: "Is the center of gravity for the country. Everybody knows that. The bad guys know it, we know it, and the Iraqis know it. So we have to help the Iraqis secure their capital if they're going to go forward."  

My question is; which Iraqis exactly are we helping? I mean, we're going after the Sunni insurgents; we're going after al-Qaeda (remember them?); we're battling the Shiites, infiltrated into the security forces -- which we've spent the last two years arming and training -- and we're going after the Mahdi army; so who's left?  There's the Iraqi military which is apparently more or less on the government's side, but the government itself is the problem. What exactly are we spending all this blood and treasure for if the PM of the country is beholden to one of the main militia leaders? How can we be fighting the Mahdi Army at the same time we're propping up the very government the leader of that militia is a part of? 

Body count wars: 

A new Johns Hopkins University study published in the British magazine The Lancet says the number of Iraqis killed as a result of our invasion of Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands. [NYT] The exact amount isn't known for sure but it could be anywhere from 300,000 to 900,000. Naturally, W. has an answer for that: "the methodology" used in the study "is pretty well discredited." They're just "guessing" about these numbers he says. Of course, how would he know anything about the methodology used, in the first place, and who is he to talk about credibility?  All the information he gets about the war is filtered through Cheney and when he does get bad news the barer of that news is shown the door, so who am I going to believe: The guy who told us Saddam had nukes or a group of scientists who risked life and limb to go door to door in the hellhole W.'s lies created to count the dead?  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:56 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006 12:04 PM EDT
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