Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pakistan's Planned Accord With Militants Alarms U.S.

From The International Herald Tribune:

WASHINGTON: Bush administration officials are expressing increasing alarm that a deal being negotiated between the new Pakistani government and militant tribes in the country's unruly border area will lead to further unraveling of security in the region.

Cross-border attacks into Afghanistan by militants based in Pakistan doubled in March from the same period a year ago and have not diminished in April, a Western military official said, while Pakistani counterinsurgency operations in the tribal areas have dropped sharply during the talks.

Read more ....

Update: U.S.: Al Qaeda Rebuilding In Pakistan -- CBS News

My Comment: Every time Pakistan has come to some agreement with one of its frontier provinces, the violence in Afghanistan doubles. This is a clear case of cause and effect, and portends that the conflict in Afghanistan will only increase.

A Vexing Reminder Of War In Chechnya's Booming Capital

From The International Herald Tribune:

GROZNY, Russia: The surprise lay under tiles in the basement of the kindergarten on Kadyrov Street, to be found by laborers toiling in the war zone-turned-construction site of Chechnya's capital city.

The bodies were exhumed and reburied with respect, though there was no pause in the banging of hammers and plastering of walls to accommodate a forensic study of the basement. That, human rights workers say, is nothing unusual in a city more or less at peace now, but with many grim basements and much rebuilding under way.

Read more ...

My Comment: After the massacre of almost 300 school children, parents, and teachers in Beslan, the legitimacy that Chechnyan's had for independence from the international community disappeared. Unfortunately for the average citizen of Chechnya, the pain from this conflict will not be gone for the next 50 years.

Iran And The U.S. -- Heading For War?

"Hostile" Iran Sparks U.S. Attack Plan -- CBS News

Will The U.S. And Iran Go To War At Sea? -- Newsweek

CIA Director Hayden Says Iran Wants Americans in Iraq Killed -- FOX News

Western Scientists Intrigued By Photos From Iran's Nuclear Site -- International Herald Tribune

Iran: Hillary Statement Too "Provocative" -- BBC News

My Comment: Some would say that Iran and the U.S. have been at war for a very long time..... all be it at a low intensity. How hot this conflict will become is difficult to say.

CIA's Hayden: Syria Was On Verge Of Becoming Nuclear Power

From The World Tribune:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. intelligence community, in an about-face from an assessment of less than a year ago, has concluded that Syria was close to becoming a nuclear power.

"In the course of a year after they got full up they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons," CIA director Michael Hayden said.

The new assessment was that Syria was weeks away from operating a North Korean-built plutonium production plant near the Turkish border. That facility, the intelligence community assessed, could have produced up to two bombs in the first year of operation.

Read more ....

My Comment: A year ago they assessed that Syria was not interested in the development of nuclear weapons .... now we know that they were. Six months ago the CIA assessed that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons ..... should we believe them?

3,000 Troops Deployed In Mexican Drug Wars

From The Guardian:

A violent drug war in the Mexican city of Tijuana has prompted the deployment of more than 3,000 soldiers and federal police to regain control of the streets.

President Felipe Calderón stepped up the battle against the country's narcotics traffickers after 17 gunmen were killed in a street battle between cartels.

The move to bolster the region's law enforcement teams comes after several thousand troops and police already sent into the region to beef up security failed to stop the feuding.

Read more ....

My Comment: The war on our border that we never really hear about.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Higher Food Prices, Riots, Shortages - What Is Going On?

A must read piece from Fabius Maximus:

Summary: Many factors are driving up food prices, but the elephant in the room is global inflation. This explains why prices are rising throughout the entire commodity complex (energy, industrial materials, precious metals, agriculture). Plus brief discussions of biofuels, long cycles of food prices, the role of government policy, and the likelihood of resource wars.

“Global Market Brief: Food Cost Crises”, Stratfor (13 March 2008) — Opening:

Global wheat prices rose by 83 percent at the outset of 2008 compared to 2007 prices. Soybean prices hit an all-time high of $14.22 a bushel in February, while corn prices rose to a 12-year high of $5.25 a bushel. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that global grain reserves have plummeted to the lowest level since 1960. Prices likely will not fall for some time; as a matter of fact, the International Food Policy Research Institute predicts that global cereal prices will be 10 to 20 percent higher by 2015.

I agree. We part company when it comes to the causes. (Bold emphasis added)

Read more ....

Update: Now It’s the $6 Loaf of Bread -- Newsweek

My Comment: Food, like energy, have always been strongly influenced by government policies. When times get rough .... governments have always implemented policies to enhance and/or super cede their past policies. In almost all cases this has always resulted in more shortages and higher prices. Will food become more expensive ... yes. If history is any indication, as long as food policy is dictated by government fiat and regulation, the price for food will always increase.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Iraq War Updates -- April 23, 2008

Petraeus Picked To Lead Mideast Command -- Yahoo News

No. 2 US Commander Hopes al-Sadr Will Stop Attacks -- Yahoo News

Two Marines Killed In Suicide Bombing -- Washington Times

Baghdad Militia Clashes Kill 19 -- Yahoo News

Iraqi PM Wants to Secure Borders -- Time Magazine

Arab States Reluctant To Forgive Iraq Debt -- Washington Post

Iraq Continues Towards Reconciliation -- Hot Air

'Disneyland' Planned For Baghdad War Zone -- Times Online

Iraqis Turning In Mahdi Army Fighters -- Strata-Sphere

Why The Campaign Against Sadr? -- Belmont Club

Its Sucks To Be Sadr -- Strata Sphere

Rising Female Bombers in Iraq: An Alarming Trend -- Counter Terrorism Blog

Deep Background: Iraq Five Years On -- Austin Bay

The Real Surge Continues: Iraqi Army Corps Formation -- Long war Journal

Al Qaeda Decapitated in Iraq -- Strategy Page

al-Qaeda Cries For Help In Iraq -- Strata Sphere

Al-Qaeda Speaks -- Belmont Club

Afghanistan News Updates -- April 23, 2008

Suicide Bombings, Attacks In Afghanistan Kill 13, Wound 24 -- Yahoo News

Gen. Petraeus Picked To Lead Iraq And Afghan Wars -- Reuters

Television Soap Operas Banned By Afghans -- The Telegraph

In Afghanistan, Insurgents Attacking Cellphone Network -- L.A. Times

Zimbabwe News Updates -- April 23, 2008

Officials Release 1st Result In Zimbabwe Election Recount -- Yahoo News

Zimbabwe Opposition Rejects Proposal For Unity Government Headed By Mugabe -- International Herald Tribune

Mugabe Accused Of Killing To Stay In Power -- Times Online

Zimbabwe Church Leaders Warn Of Genocide -- Times Online

Zimbabwe's Church Leaders Warn The World: Intervene To Avert Genocide -- Independent

Will Neighbors Save Zimbabwe? -- Time Magazine

Brown Calls For Zimbabwe Arms Embargo -- Guardian

Mugabe Isolated In Southern Africa As Arms Ship Barred From Ports -- Voice Of America

China: Netizens Defend Zimbabwe Arms Sales -- Global Voices Online

Zimbabwe Election Recount Finds Broken Seals On Ballot Boxes -- Telegraph

Zimbabwe Recount Futile, Monitors Warn -- Guardian

Children The Latest Victims Of Robert Mugabe's Onslaught -- The Telegraph

China Urged To Halt Arms Aid -- Washington Times

China May Recall Weapons Ship -- Washington Times

Miliband Calls On African Leaders To Isolate Mugabe -- Independent

Zimbabwe: It’s Not A Recount, It’s Robbery -- Austin Bay

My Comment: One of the many shames of Africa continues.

CIA To Describe North Korea-Syria Nuclear Ties

From the L.A. Times:

WASHINGTON -- CIA officials will tell Congress on Thursday that North Korea had been helping Syria build a plutonium-based nuclear reactor, a U.S. official said, a disclosure that could touch off new resistance to the administration's plan to ease sanctions on Pyongyang.

The CIA officials will tell lawmakers that they believe the reactor would have been capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons but was destroyed before it could do so, the U.S. official said, apparently referring to a suspicious installation in Syria that was bombed last year by Israeli warplanes.

Read more ...

My Comment: So much for the State Department trying to halt North Korea's nuclear program.

90 Killed In Fierce Battle In Sri Lanka

From MSNBC News:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Tamil rebels and government troops waged a fierce battle in northern Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing 52 guerrillas and 38 soldiers in one of the deadliest clashes this year between the two sides, the military said.

The battle broke out early in the day, when rebel forces overran the front lines in the Muhamalai area of the Jaffna peninsula, north of the de facto rebel state, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.

Read more ...

Update From The BBC: 'Heavy Losses' In S Lanka Clashes

My Comment: This war has been unreported for the past few months. It appears to be heating up.

Tribal Rivalry 'Limits Al-Qa'eda Terror Plans'

From the Telegraph:

The mountainous region of Pakistan where al-Qa'eda's core leaders are believed to have regrouped is so riven by tribal conflict that it cannot be an effective base for waging global terrorism, according to a new study.

Al-Qa'eda's central figures, possibly including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his Egyptian deputy, are thought to have taken refuge in North and South Waziristan.

The tribal areas on Pakistan's north-west frontier have complete autonomy and a long history of Islamist militancy. Western governments believe they have become havens for "core al-Qa'eda", allowing them to regroup and prepare more attacks.

Read more ....

Update: A story that contradicts the Telegraph is from Newsweek: The Rise Of Jihadistan

My Comment: Hmmmm ...... if it is such a lousy place to put a base ...... why are they there?

A Different Perspective On The Present World Food Crisis

From Austin Bay:

Food riots in Cameroon, Egypt, and the Ivory Coast. Haitian anger over rice prices topples a prime minister.

This week the “food crisis” rates scare headlines — but the problem is an old one and no surprise.

For numerous reasons, but especially the wildcard of biofuels and how they affect global food prices, this subject is an excellent subject for another Consequences video.

From this week’s Creators Syndicate column (via StrategyPage):

…(corn) Prices have increased for numerous, complex and often opaquely connected reasons, but producing ethanol “biofuel” (an alleged “green” alternative to gasoline) certainly contributes to the rising demand for corn…

Read more ....

My Comment: These is more than enough land with the proper use of technology and government policies to feed the world. Hunger has almost always been a product of politics.

Update: More from Instapundit

Darfur Dead 'Could Number 300,000'

From The Guardian:

The total number of deaths in the Sudanese region of Darfur could have risen to 300,000 in the five years since violence broke out, according to new figures from a top United Nations official.

John Holmes, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, told a security council meeting yesterday that the previous number of 200,000 dead in fighting between rebel groups, some backed by the Khartoum government, was last tallied in 2006.

"That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again," Holmes said to the council. Answering questions from reporters, he later qualified the estimated number, by admitting the death toll of 300,000 "is not a very scientifically-based figure" because there have been no new mortality studies in Darfur, but "it's a reasonable extrapolation."

Read more ....

More from the Washington Times.

More From The International Herald Tribune:UN Officials Say Darfur Conflict Is Worsening

My Comment: Quibbling over numbers. After 5 years, this is what the international community is now concerned about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gates Hits Unmet War-Zone Needs

From the Washington Times:

The Pentagon for the first time admonished U.S. forces for not providing troops adequate intelligence resources to combat enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told U.S. and foreign air force student officers at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama yesterday that "it's been like pulling teeth" when dealing with military officials. He also criticized the branches for not meeting the resource needs and not utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for hunting targets and collecting information.

Read more ....

My Comment: For this to be made public, the U.S. Defense Secretary must be really peeved. U.S. forces are clearly being hurt by inadequate intelligence, I just wish some examples can be given. Where is Congress?

Monday, April 21, 2008

World Hunger And War

In the past few weeks there has been a number of articles detailing the world's present food shortage/crisis. Because hunger throughout history has been one of the main reasons for conflicts to arise, this post will examine this evolving situation in depth.

When I was in China 20 years ago .... and in China last month .... I cannot adequately explain in words how much everything has changed in what is really a short period of time. Much of the stress in the world is now coming from the demands of people in China and India for a better life. These demands have resulted in prices for commodities such as oil and minerals increasing, but what has not been analyzed are the stresses that these demands are now putting on the food supply.

Western food is very addictive. It is now also the diet of choice for the growing middle classes of China and India. Add to this demand the need to provide bio-fuels as mandated by Western governments, the spread of disease on grain stocks in Ethiopia and the wheat growing regions of Iran and Pakistan/India, drought in Australia, and the rise in prices for fertilizers and fuel .... we are now approaching a perfect storm for food stocks to become very expensive or strictly rationed.

A summation of recent articles are the following:

Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger -- New York Times

Rising Food Prices 'A Silent Tsunami' -- The Telegraph

ADB Senior Official Says Era Of Cheap Food Over -- Breitbart

Record Rice Export Slump Forecast --

A Drought In Australia, A Global Shortage Of Rice -- New York Times

Food Shortages: How Will We Feed The World? -- Telegraph

G8 Summit To Discuss Food Price Rises -- Financial Times

Markets Rain Volatility On U.S. Farmers And, Eventually, On Consumers -- International Herald Tribune

Amid U.S Farm Boom, Fears Grow Of A Collapse -- International Herald Tribune

UN Chief Warns World Must Urgently Increase Food Production -- Breitbart

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World -- New York Sun

Japan's Hunger Becomes A Dire Warning For Other Nations -- The Age

In Lean Times, Biotech Grains Are Less Taboo -- International Herald Tribune

My Comment: In the western world, food prices are hitting everyone's pocket book. In the Third World, we are now talking of starvation. Political instability and the demands among a hungry population can only produce an unhealthy brew of conflict and turmoil. While we in the West have ample supplies to feed ourselves, high prices will result in demands (i.e. price controls, limiting trade in foodstuffs, etc.) that in the medium to long term probably will make a bad situation worse.

Will hungry people cause wars ..... the answer is probably no. But hungry people can cause governments to pursue policies that in the end will result in arm conflicts.

New Pakistani Government Getting Too Cozy With Terrorists Possibly Hiding AQ

A must read piece from Strata-Sphere:

This is the year we could decimate the Islamo Fascists who have retreated from the failed efforts in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan to the one place where they can find sanctuary - the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan broken into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (where most of the terrorist activities seem to be centered) and the North West Frontier Province (where terrorists attempted to take over the Swat Valley region last year and were rebuffed by Pak forces).

Read more ....

Afghanistan War Updates -- April 21, 2008

Security And Governance Biggest Afghan Problems: Solana -- Reuters

International Doubts about the Afghanistan Campaign -- Captain's Journal

Britain's 16 Air Assault Brigade Takes Aim At Hearts And Minds But The Guns Are Muted -- Times Online

General Peter van Uhm Loses His Son In Roadside Bomb Blast -- Times Online

Dam Busters -- Newsweek

Afghan Soldiers Replace U.S. Green Berets -- MSNBC

My Comment: There is a lack of direction and patience from NATO.

Iraq War News Updates -- April 21, 2008

Iraq To Confront Militias After Sadr Threat -- Reuters

Fear In Sadr City As Cleric Threatens War -- Times Online

Sadr Threatens New Uprising; Iraqi And US Forces Press Attack -- Long War Journal

Sadr Threatens 'Open War' As Iraqi Army Attacks Base -- Independent

Sadr Balks Again - Not Sure When He Will Decide On Open War -- Strata Sphere

U.S. Risks Deepening Role In Iraqi Shi'ite Feud -- Reuters

Iraqi PM Urges Arab States To Open Embassies In Baghdad -- Yahoo News

Arab Nations Non-Committal On Iraq Debt, Embassies -- Reuters

Rice: Arab Neighbors Taking 'Step Forward' To Support Iraq -- Yahoo News

America's Allies In Iraq Under Pressure As Civil War Breaks Out Among Sunni -- The Independent

Trying to Hold Together Iraq's Army -- Time Magazine

A Gun in One Hand, A Pen in the Other -- Newsweek

12 Dead As U.S. Troops Battle Al-Sadr's Militia -- MSNBC

Under Attack, Al-Sadr Threatens To 'Declare War' -- CNN

Iraqi Forces Launch New Attacks In Basra -- LA Times

Al-Sadr Threatens Uprising in Iraq if Crackdown Continues -- FOX News

Iran Denounces Operations In Sadr City -- CBS News

Concrete Walls For Sadr City -- Captain's Journal

Iran, al Sadr, And The Endgame? -- Tigerhawk

Al-Qaeda in Iraq: Determined But Desperate -- Pajamas Media

Al-Qaeda In Iraq: Determined But Losing -- Iraq The Model

Thousands March in Brussels to Protest Attacks on Christians in Iraq -- FOX News

Commentary: Barak Obama And Iraq -- Reason Online

Commentary: The Iraqi Army Can Hold, Too -- Western Standard

My Comment: It is interesting to see the difference in reporting from the main stream media and the bloggers who are actually in Iraq.

Thousands Flee Robert Mugabe's Terror Mobs

From the Telegraph:

Mobs loyal to President Robert Mugabe have forced about 3,000 refugees to flee their homes as a national terror campaign gathers pace across Zimbabwe.

Gangs from the ruling Zanu-PF party are ranging across rural Zimbabwe, hunting down supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Their victims are fleeing into the capital, Harare, seeking safety and treatment.

Read more ...

Update: Chinese Troops Are Patrolling the Streets In Zimbabawe -- Zimbabwe

Update: Torture Camps Set Up, Says Rights Group -- The Australian

My Comment: Another massacre and refugee crisis being brewed in this sad country .... with a now strong possibility of foreign interference.

Islamist Uprising Kills 81 In Somalia

From The Telegraph:

Fresh fighting between Islamist insurgents and Somali government troops in Mogadishu has killed at least 81 people in two days, witnesses reported yesterday.

A further 119 wounded civilians and soldiers were being treated in hospital after a weekend of mortar attacks and small-arms battles.

"There was a lot of fighting we could hear on Saturday, mostly guns and grenades, then much more today," said a doctor contacted by telephone yesterday at the Save Our Souls Hospital.

Read more ....

My Comment: This war .... even though it has been going on for the past 20 years .... is only starting.

No Al Qaeda Policy: Congress Wants Answers

From ABC News:

Congress plans to press the Bush administration aggressively to justify its policy in Afghanistan following a nonpartisan report that concludes that the administration "lacks a comprehensive plan" to take on al Qaeda in its stronghold.

"I want to shine light on this," Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, told ABC News today. "I want the American people to know what is not happening, and I believe that pressure from that public scrutiny will force this administration and certainly the next administration to make a 180-degree change."

Read more ....

Update: U.S. Lacks a Comprehensive Approach to Pakistan’s FATA -- Captain's Journal

My Comment: For once the U.S. Congress is doing its job.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

IMF Head: Food Shortages Can Spark War

From CBS News:

(CBS/AP) The head of the International Monetary Fund warned Friday that soaring world food prices can have dire consequences, such as toppling governments and even triggering wars.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn told France's Europe-1 radio that the price rises that set off rioting in Haiti, Egypt and elsewhere were an "extremely serious" problem.

"The planet must tackle it," he said.

The IMF chief said the problem could also threaten democracies, even in countries where governments have done all they could to help the local population. Asked whether the crisis could lead to wars, Strauss-Kahn responded that it was possible.

Read more ...

My Comment: Hunger and conflict have always walked hand in hand.

Another Iraq In The Horn Of Africa?

From Newsweek -- Somalia: Dilemmas Of The Horn

The jihadist leads a double life. By day he's a government functionary in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Standing in the shade of a crumbling, Mussolini-era balcony, a phone headset clipped to his ear, he affects a casual, corporate air. But then he pulls his blue oxford shirt aside to reveal a fresh bullet scar. He spies on his co-workers, he admits, and feeds information about them to the Islamist rebels who are laying siege to Mogadishu. "God willing, we'll take over the country soon," he tells a NEWSWEEK reporter, one of the few Western journalists who have ventured into Somalia in months. The State Department recently added al-Shabaab (meaning "youth") to its list of terrorist organizations, making the group a target for attacks by U.S. forces operating in the Horn of Africa. The jihadist is unconcerned. "We're like a centipede," he says. "You cut off one of our legs, we just keep going."

Read more ....

Update: Dozen Killed In Fierce Fighting In Somalia -- MSNBC

Update #2: Deadly Clashes Erupt In Mogadishu -- BBC News

My Comment: Like the previous civil war in Angola, this is a conflict that is going to last for decades.

South America's Most Troubled Border

From Time Magazine:

Wisps of evaporating water rise from the dark green Amazon rainforest as an Ecuadorian military helicopter swerves along the San Miguel River. Each day, slim boats with outboard motors ferry dozens of people between the hamlets of Puerto Nuevo, Ecuador, and Teteye, Colombia, across the brown and winding border waterway. Most are doing business or visiting relatives. But this year boatmen are increasingly carrying Ecuadorian mourners to retrieve the bodies of loved ones. Most, they say, were killed by Colombian troops because they were suspected of aiding the Marxist guerrillas known as the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, or FARC. One was Antonio Jimenez, shot a month ago. Insists one Puerto Nuevo woman who knew him well, "He just went over to buy banana seedlings."

Read more ....

My Comment: Nationalism, oil and resource wealth, failing economies,cocaine and other narcotics ..... yup .... a perfect mix for conflict.

Zimbabwe's Secret Police Are Still At Work --Updates On Zimbabwe

From The Times: Eight Days Of Fear In Mugabe's Machine

He may be aged, isolated and facing economic ruin, but Robert Mugabe still clings to power thanks to a feared state security apparatus that continues to function across Zimbabwe.

As the 84-year-old leader marked nearly three decades in power yesterday with a defiant speech against Britain, the Africa correspondent of The Times recalled, just 48 hours after his release from jail, his experiences of Mr Mugabe’s ruthless regime.

Jonathan Clayton spent eight days imprisoned in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, where he was interrogated, beaten and tortured by a senior officer in the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). He was eventually released after paying a Z$20 billion fine, about £200, for misleading an immigration officer.

Read more ....

Update: Full Zimbabwe Crisis Coverage -- Times Online

Update 2: Zimbabwe Recounts Ballot In 23 Constituencies -- Times Online

Update #3: Mugabe warns 'British Thieves' To Leave His Country Alone -- The Independent

Update #4: Chinese Troops Are On The Streets Of Zimbabwean City, Witnesses Say -- The Independent

Update #5: Mugabe's Prisoner -- Newsweek

Update #6: Zimbabwe Weapons Ship Headed For Angola -- CNN

Update #7: Annan Demands Action On Zimbabwe -- BBC News

My Comment: If Mugabe was a white man, the world will be screaming for bloody murder.

Al-Qaeda Warns Of Iranian Threat

From The Times:

DUBAI Al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in an audio message to mark five years since the US-led invasion of Iraq that Washington's war had met with nothing but failure and defeat.

Read more ....

My Comment: There is not much detail in the Time's report on Zawahri's warnings, but it is clear that many in Al Qaeda are shifting their focus to Iran's growing influence in the Middle East and its intentions to be a major power in the region. In many ways Zawahri's comments are mirroring what many leaders in Arab countries are now saying about Iran.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Progress In The Tribal Regions Of Iraq

Now They Have Turned to the Tribes -- Middle East Journal

Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the Iraq’s Anbar Salvation Council before he was murdered by a car bomb in front of his house in late 2007, summed up the Anbar Awakening movement in a few concise sentences to Johns Hopkins University Professor Fouad Ajami. “Our American friends had not understood us when they came,” he said. “They were proud, stubborn people and so were we. They worked with the opportunists, now they have turned to the tribes, and this is as it should be. The tribes hate religious parties and religious fakers.” The tribal system in Anbar Province is ancient. Attempts to overthrow it are not wise. Both Americans and Al Qaeda learned that the hard way.

Marine Captain Quintin Jones, commanding officer at Outpost Delta in the city of Karmah, told me he works with tribal authorities as well as the mayor every day and can’t get much done if he doesn’t.

Read more ...

My Comment: The U.S. is not only beginning to learn all that there is to know about our enemies ..... they are also starting to learn who our friends and allies are.

Nearly 1 In 5 Troops Has Mental Problems After War Service

From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Roughly one in every five U.S. troops who have survived the bombs and other dangers of Iraq and Afghanistan now suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress, an independent study said Thursday. It estimated the toll at 300,000 or more.

As many or more report possible brain injuries from explosions or other head wounds, said the study, the first major survey from outside the government.

Only about half of those with mental health problems have sought treatment. Even fewer of those with head injuries have seen doctors.

Read more ...

My Comment: A personal story. My father served in the Russian Army during the Second World War. His tour of duty started from July 1941 to the fall of Berlin in 1945. My godfather who also served also experienced the worse that war can bring .... ending his life by committing suicide 15 years after the end of the war.

Living with family members who suffer from post-traumatic syndrome is very difficult and hard to understand (especially from a child's point of view). I learned that the best way to confront this illness is to always keep an open mind, to give the soldier the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his war experience, and to always be available to be an open ear when they start to talk about it.

War Heating Up On The Pakistan/Afghan Boder Region

From Strata-Sphere:

Something is definitely still brewing or boiling in the lawless regions of Pakistan along the Afghan border. It seems fighting has broken out in the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) between Islamo Fascist militants and local tribes along a key transportation line between Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Read more ....

As for NATO and the West, indecision and a lack of direction are still plaguing our forces and allies in Afghanistan:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - More than six years after the September 11 attacks, the United States still does not have a coherent plan to destroy a key staging area for terrorist attacks into the country, according to an independent government watchdog.

There is "no comprehensive plan" to destroy the terrorist threat and close down the safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), said the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The vast, impoverished, mountainous and unpoliced FATA belt shares a border with Afghanistan and is regarded by Washington as a key sanctuary for top terrorists who masterminded the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is where many of the leaders of Al Qaeda are probably hiding. As the war in Iraq starts to tone down, expect a shift in involvement and participation of Western governments and forces to this part of the world.

Update: “U.S. Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy Terrorist Threat and Close Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas” - New Congressional report

Update 2: GAO: Terrorists operating freely on Pakistan border -- Yahoo News

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nuclear Attack On D.C. A Hypothetical Disaster

From The Washington Times:

A nuclear device detonated near the White House would kill roughly 100,000 people and flatten downtown federal buildings, while the radioactive plume from the explosion would likely spread toward the Capitol and into Southeast D.C., contaminating thousands more.

The blast from the 10-kiloton bomb — similar to the bomb dropped over Hiroshima during World War II — would kill up to one in 10 tourists visiting the Washington Monument and send shards of glass flying the length of the National Mall, in a scenario that has become increasingly likely to occur in a major U.S. city in recent years, panel members told a Senate committee yesterday.

Read more ....

My Comment: The key word in this article is .... INEVITABLE.

Iran Says U.S. Aids Rebels At Its Borders

From the Los Angeles Times:

BAGHDAD -- A series of conflicts with insurgent groups along Iran's borders may be impelling Tehran to back its own allies in Iraq in what it regards as a proxy war with the U.S., according to security experts and officials in the U.S., Iran and Iraq.

Dozens of Iranian officials, members of the security forces and insurgents belonging to Kurdish, Arab Iranian and Baluch groups have died in the fighting in recent years. It now appears to be heating up once again after an unusually cold and snowy winter.

Read more ...

My Comment: Iran has had problems with separatist groups long before the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. As Iran continues its crackdown of different ethnic groups, and with gas and refining shortages increasing (who in his or hers right mind would want to invest in such a country), economic and political strife can only increase. Saying the U.S. wants to undermine Iran is just another excuse to crack down on its opponents.

The Cost Of War

Military Releases High Casualty Figures -- CBS News

The Department of Defense has released its latest American military casualty numbers for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the figures reveal non-fatal casualties that go well beyond the more than 4,000 U.S. troops who have died so far.

As of April 5, a total of 36,082 members of the U.S. military have been wounded in action and killed in Iraq, since the beginning of the war in March 2003, and in Afghanistan, where the war there began in October 2001. The 36,082 number breaks down to 4,492 deaths and 31,590 wounded. According to the same DoD "casualty" counts, an additional 38,631 U.S. military personnel have also been removed from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan for "non-hostile-related medical air transports."

Read more ....

My Comment: Gateway Pundit provides a perspective to these figures. My own personal take .... when the Iraq war started pundits were talking about a Stalingrad at the Gates Of Baghdad that will result in 15,000 U.S. servicemen dead and untold thousands wounded. This fortunately never happened. But a long drawn affair that will result in the drip drip of American and Iraqi casualties for the next 5, 10, or 20 years is also in no one's interest.

Unfortunately, I can easily foresee a situation evolving in Iraq that will be similar to the long drawn affair of IRA terrorism and rebellion that lasted in Ireland for decades. At its peak the IRA had almost 300 men under arms .... but these 300 men were effective in holding down a good portion of the British Army for decades.

In Iraq, it is obvious that there are more than 300 men willing to fight against the Iraqi Government and coalition forces.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

War Updates In Afghanistan -- April 16, 2008

Attacks Kill 11 Afghan Cops, 2 NATO Troops -- CBS News

Volunteer Is Oldest Serviceman To Die In Afghanistan -- Times Online

Afghan Prison Under Red Cross Scrutiny -- MSNBC

Afghan Opposition Says It's Been Talking To Taliban -- Yahoo News

Nato Making Mistake In Afghanistan, Warns Turkish Minister -- The Telegraph

My Comment: This war is going to go on for a long time.

The Crisis In Zimbabwe Continues

Victims Tell Of Torture And Murder In Robert Mugabe's 'Disloyal' Strongholds -- Times Online

Zimbabwe Doctors Say 157 Beaten In Post-Election Violence -- Yahoo News

Tsvangirai Sets Terms For Run-Off -- The Guardian

ANC Hits Out At 'Dire' Zimbabwe Situation -- The Guardian

ANC Breaks With Mbeki To Condemn 'Evident' Crisis In Zimbabwe -- The Independnet

Zimbabwe Opposition Lacks Leverage -- Time Magazine

Zimbabwe Court Rejects Petition For Vote Results -- MSNBC

Zimbabwe's Top Court Won't Release Results -- CBS News

Zimbabwe Strike Flops -- Swiss Info

Police Arrest 36 People In Troubled Zimbabwe -- ABC News

'Arrests' After Zimbabwe Strike -- BBC News

Robert Mugabe's Terror Victims Tell Of Beatings -- The Telegraph

Gordon Brown Ignores Mbeki Snub To Declare That Mugabe Has Lost Election -- Times Online

No One Thinks Mugabe Won Election, Brown Tells UN -- The Guardian

My Comment: I remember 10, 20, 25 years ago when many in the main stream media were talking about the new Africa and how leaders such as Mugabe would transform the continent into a golden age of freedom and prosperity.

I wonder where these reporters are now?

Gang Violence Threatens Fragile Peace In Kenya

A Collection Of News Stories:

Gang Terrorizes Nairobi With Threat To Kill Minibus Drivers And Commuters -- International Herald Tribune

Twelve Die In Kenya Violence After Gang Boss's Wife Is Killed -- The Independent

Can Kenyan Power-Sharing Plan Work? -- Time Magazine

My Comment: This country was once known as the most progressive state in Africa.

Iraq War News Updates -- April 15, 2008

US Troops Plan To Stay Put In Baghdad's Sadr City: General -- Yahoo News

Iraq Bombings, Clashes Kill 62 -- Yahoo News

Al-Qaida Leader In Iraq Urges Sunni Fighters Who Joined Americans To Come Back -- International Herald Tribune

Roadside Bomb Targets U.S. Convoy In Baghdad -- International Herald Tribune

Iraqi Government: "We Will Continue Until We Secure Sadr City" -- Long War Journal

Iraq Dismisses 1,300 After Basra Offensive -- New York Times

Iraq’s Moment of Truth in Baghdad and Basra -- Pajamas Media

Thoughts On The Fighting In Basra -- Captains Journal

Iraq Winning War In Mahdi Army -- Strata Sphere

Cleric Sadr Key Player In Helping Poor Iraqis: Report -- Reuters

Iraqis Aren’t Stupid — And They’re Watching Us -- Hot Air

Hope for Iraq's Meanest City -- Winds Of Change

When Sons Of Iraq Grow Up -- Long War Journal

My Comment: As the U.S. Presidential election approaches, expect more terrorism attacks against civilians and coalition forces.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lack Of Water And Food -- Two Issues That Have Sparked A Number Of Past Wars And Conflicts Are Making A Comback

From CNN -- Riots, Instability Spread As Food Prices Skyrocket

(CNN) -- Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday.

"This is the world's big story," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend," he said on CNN's "American Morning," in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. "There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States."

Read more ....

My Comment: When I was growing up I learned about mass starvation from my parents. My father grew up in the Ukraine duirng the famine of 1932-1933, and my mother experienced the Second World War in Nazi occupied Russia. Hunger and war have always walked hand in hand, with both "feeding" each other.

Our hunger for energy in the form of bio-fuels may in fact produce a disaster that we are not prepared to acknowledge.

Update: Food Costs Rising Fastest in 17 Years -- Yahoo Finance

2nd Update: Food Riots Lead to Haitian Meltdown -- Time Magazine

3rd Update: Maybe I should not be so pessimistic -- As Other Staples Soar, Potatoes Break New Ground (Reuters)

4th Update: The Real Crisis Is Global Hunger. -- The Guardian

Updates On The War In Afghanistan And Pakistan

A must read piece from Strata-Sphere:

Some interesting news on the war front in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One piece that caught my eye was an LA Times article that claims this is the year to finally get Bin Laden. It notes the drop in support for al-Qaeda and their ilk in Pakistan and Afghanistan as the key change that could expose Bin Laden:

This welcome change in probabilities has almost nothing to do with the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism strategy, which remains rudderless and starved of resources because of the war in Iraq. It is a consequence, instead, of dramatic political changes in Pakistan, where Bin Laden is believed to be hiding and where Al Qaeda’s local mistakes and the restoration of civilian democracy have combined to make him considerably less safe.

Read more ....

My Comment: For the West to succeed in this part of the world, we will require the assistance and support of our allies in the region. NATO is not capable to finish this job (Captain's Journal gives a perfect example of why). Failure of our allies will then open a Pandora's box of more involvement of NATO and U.S. forces .... a situation that all parties clearly do not want.

Having said all of this, Strata-Sphere's article does give a bit of hope that everything in this part of the world is not that bleak.

Afghans and Pakistanis "squeezing" Taliban and al Qaeda -- Yahoo News

US And Iran Holding 'Secret' Talks On Nuclear Programme

From The Independent:

Iran and the United States have been engaged in secret "back channel" discussions for the past five years on Iran's nuclear programme and the broader relationship between the two sworn enemies, The Independent can reveal.

One of the participants, former senior US diplomat Thomas Pickering, explained that a group of former American diplomats and experts had been meeting with Iranian academics and policy advisers "in a lot of different places, although not in the US or Iran".

Read more ....

My Comment: The Independent (from my point of view) does not have a good track record when it comes to Middle East issues. This article does not change my point of view. Unofficial meetings with retired diplomats talking in out of the way places .... this is not a serious discussion nor change in direction from the Iranian regime.

When I was in the Middle East last month, the overwhelming sentiment from (Arab) government officials to the man on the street was what will the mad mullahs in Tehran do next.
Their interference in Iraq, their support of Shiite terror groups, and their open hostility and contempt of the West .... this is their clear and stated policy. The mass majority of citizens in this part of the world know this .... the Independent Newspaper clearly has a different point of view.

Why is the Independent Newspaper pushing this story. I personally believe that there are two reasons why. (1) Some minor and junior people are talking to each other, but have no direct relationship or influence on the policy makers that count. (2) To give cover to former President Carter's meeting with Hamas.

In my own personal opinion, there is going to be no change in Iranian policy until after the American Presidential election. They are hoping for a Barak Obama / Democratic win, and are adopting a wait and see altitude on Obama's promise for opening talks with the Iranian regime if he is elected President.

Update: IAEA, Iran Meeting Abruptly Canceled -- Yahoo News

The Past Two Months

It is a joy to be back home. For the past two months I have had the opportunity to be overseas (Asia and the Middle East) and witness first hand the explosive growth and development that is occurring.

When I was in China 20 years ago, I saw a struggling society trying its best to escape a poverty that you can only imagine. After working very hard for much of the day, their entertainment came in the form of watching Dallas reruns on TV and enjoying walks with the family before the sun sets.

Todays China is completely different. Dallas reruns are no longer played .... Chinese equivalents are now the main course on National TV. And while the majority of the country do work 60 - 70 hour weeks, a rising middle class is now changing the political and economic dynamics.

These observations also hold for India and the Arabian Peninsula. They are now rushing to live the 21rst century experience. They have the manpower, the educational and professional back-up, and the political will to proceed.

The impact that this revolution .... (a revolution with no parallel in human history) .... will have on the many wars that are prevalent in this world is something that I am still trying to understand. In the next few weeks I will be trying my best to decipher what I was able to see and extrapolate them to our present day conflicts.

We do live in interesting times.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Will Resume Blogging Monday, April 14, 2008

I finally have returned from overseas. Taking a well deserved vacation. Will be back on April 14, 2008