Friday, October 31, 2008

What Is General Petraeus Doing?

General David Petraeus (Photo from AP/The Age)

Former US Iraq Commander Petraeus Takes
on Afghanistan -- Voice Of America

The American general widely credited with turning around the war in Iraq takes command Friday of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East and Central Asia - putting him in charge of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq and the surrounding region. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin reports on the new challenges facing David Petraeus.

It is not difficult to find praise for General David Petraeus' year-and-a-half in Iraq, during which violence dropped 80 percent and U.S. troops began to hand over responsibility to the new Iraqi forces in large parts of the country.

This is how retired General Gordon Sullivan introduced Petraeus at a conference of soldiers, veterans and their supporters in Washington earlier this month.

He said, "You have a very unique opportunity today to listen to this great soldier, scholar, commander, thinker, athlete and leader of troops, a great American and a great American soldier, General David Petraeus."

Such praise appears to slightly embarrass General Petraeus, who is always quick to say he shares any credit with U.S., coalition, and Iraqi troops.

Read more ....

My Comment: Iraq and Afghanistan are two different conflicts .... with Afghanistan being the difficult one to pacify (if possible).

Somali Peace Deal Impresses No One

Government soldiers stand inside the former Supreme Court compound in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, December 29, 2006. SHABELLE MEDIA / REUTERS (Photo taken from Time Magazine)

From War Is Boring:

“Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia on 26 October renewed a ceasefire agreement originally signed in June and agreed to form a unity government,” Jane’s reported today.

Yawn. I’m going to take a nap. Wake me up when the shooting stops and there’s REAL progress in Somalia.

Truth is, the ongoing negotiations between the TFG and the opposition are unlikely to bring any real change to the situation on the ground, at least any time soon. Reason being: the TFG is extremely weak in the place that matters most, Mogadishu.

On the side of the “good guys,” the big players in Mogadishu are the Ethiopians and the African Union, neither of which is likely to get too excited about a piece of paper with a few signatures on it. On the side of the “bad guys,” there are overlapping, and sometimes competing, groups of Islamic extremists, anti-Ethiopian nationalists and heavily armed criminals. The Alliance cannot just order all these fighters to lay down their weapons. Most of them follow their own rules.

Read more ....

My Comment: Sigh..... the War Is Boring post is right.

Defense Secretary Gates Last Major Policy Speech

Gates on Satellites From Planes, and Nuke Policy -- DoDBuzz

In what may be his last major policy speech before the next administration takes power, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a strong pitch today at a highly symbolic venue — the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace — for a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Clearly worried that nuclear deterrence has been neglected as a strategic issue, and not just as an operational one, Gates argued for a broad deterrent approach, letting enemies and potential enemies know that the US will use nuclear weapons if attacked with weapons of mass destruction. And Gates made clear that this is aimed right at states like North Korea and Iran, eager to develop their own nuclear capabilities.

“Rogue regimes that threaten their neighbors and our allies, potentially with nuclear weapons, are a problem today and will be in the future. Our goal is, in part, to reduce their ability to hold other nations hostage, and to deny them the ability to project power,” he said. This will also hold true for “terrorists and the states that sponsor or harbor them.”

He appeared to expand the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, saying that, “Today we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction – whether by facilitating, financing, or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts.”

Read more ....

My Comment: The points that Robert Gates outlines in this speech are in conflict with what the Obama campaign has been advocating .... especially when it comes to America's nuclear forces. Robert Gates will definitely not be in an Obama Administration.

Iraqi Oil Police Look To Secure Iraq’s Critical Oil Infrastructure

(File photo) (AFP: Toby Melville)

From Operation Iraqi Freedom:

Iraqi Oil Police look to secure Iraq’s critical oil infrastructure
BAGHDAD – The Commander of Iraq’s Oil Police expects to be able to protect Iraq’s oil pipeline infrastructure by 2012 if resources are available to accomplish his strategic plan. Maj. Gen. Hamid, Oil Police commander, presented the key points of his strategic plan to Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq, during an informal meeting on 27 October. Hamid outlined the short, medium and long-term goals of taking over protection of Iraq’s pipelines from Ministry of Defense infrastructure battalions by 2012. “Financial allocations are the biggest challenge for taking over for MoD assets,” said Hamid.

The Oil Police Directorate, with ten battalions, transitioned to the Ministry of Interior in early 2008. These battalions have worked together with MoD infrastructure battalions to protect over 7500km of oil pipelines throughout Iraq. These additional security forces accounted for a 90% decrease in smuggling and transgression activities along the oil pipelines since 2007. An additional seven battalions are planned to be formed in 2009, with a total of 22 battalions planned for fielding by 2012. “The Oil Police Commander and MoI recognize the importance the role Oil Police play in the protection and security of Iraq’s critical oil pipeline infrastructure,” said Helmick.

Read more ....

My Comment: The number of Iraqi forces is huge. Everyone knows where the money is .... and everyone knows that it has to be protected.

The Pentagon Budget In An Obama Administration -- A Commentary From The Wall Street Journal

Barack Obama during his visit to a US military camp in Kuwait
Photo: GETTY/AFP (taken from The Telegraph)

Will Obama Gut Defense? -- Wall Street Journal

Capitol Hill Democrats want to target the Pentagon.

Barney Frank will not soon be named secretary of defense or, insha'Allah, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. So there's really no reason to fear that his recent call to cut defense spending by 25% is a harbinger of what to expect in an Obama administration.

Then again, maybe there is.

When it comes to defense, there are two Barack Obamas in this race. There is the candidate who insists, as he did last year in an article in Foreign Affairs, that "a strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace"; pledges to increase the size of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines while providing them with "first-rate equipment, armor, incentives and training"; and seems to be as gung-ho for a surge in Afghanistan as he was opposed to the one in Iraq.

And then there is the candidate who early this year recorded an ad for Caucus for Priorities, a far-left outfit that wants to cut 15% of the Pentagon's budget in favor of "education, healthcare, job training, alternative energy development, world hunger [and] deficit reduction."

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25% Cut In U.S. Military Budget -- A Shape Of Things To Come?

Whack DoD By 25 Percent: Dem. Barney Frank -- DoD Buzz

So far most of the talk about the next Pentagon budget has been relatively optimistic and cautious. The Gates Pentagon clearly believes it must maintain spending at or above current levels to support forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and buy weapons for future conflicts.

But that view is clearly not shared by some Democrats. As a GOP email screamed this afternoon: “HOUSE DEMOCRAT CALLS FOR $150 BILLION CUT TO DEFENSE SPENDING.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told a Massachusetts newspaper yesterday that “the Pentagon has to start choosing from its many weapons programs.”

The paper quotes Frank saying that the U.S. doesn’t “need all these fancy new weapons.” And he is not alone among Democrats assuming that defense spending must drop.

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My Comment: We are at a time of war .... is this really a good time to cut spending? The Congress will then have two choices .... (1) claim defeat and withdraw ASAP .. or .. (2) sacrifice the soldiers by not giving them the equipment they need.

A Commentary On Lebanon

Image from Republica Update

Lebanon's Enemy Within -- Commentary Magazine

Israel is floating the idea of a non-aggression pact with Lebanon. It isn't at all likely to work. The odds are minuscule that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah will go along. But Lebanon will hold an election in a couple of months, and the offer of a non-aggression pact should play well with Lebanese voters who are uncomfortable with or hostile toward Hezbollah's vision of perpetual war with the “Zionist entity.”

Negotiating with implacable and inflexible enemies is foolish. No sensible person suggests that the United States negotiate with Al Qaeda, for instance. Peace talks with Damascus won't get Israelis anywhere either. Syria's tyrant Bashar Assad needs a state of cold war with Israel to justify the oppressive policies against his country's own citizens, and bad-faith negotiations yield him some measure of international legitimacy he doesn't deserve.

Hezbollah is “moderate” compared with the worst jihadist groups out there, but it simply cannot survive in its current form if it isn't engaged in at least a low level of conflict. Almost every militia in Lebanon relinquished most, if not all, of its weapons at the end of the civil war in 1990. Hezbollah's rationale for refusing is that its fighters are the only ones in the country willing and able to prevent another Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Without the perceived threat of another Israeli invasion, the justification for Hezbollah's very existence collapses.

Read more ....

Financial Crisis Claims First Arms Deals Victim

From Flight Global:

In recent weeks, Israel and Australia have reportedly talked about delaying F-35 purchases in the wake of the global financial crisis.

But it's only been talk.

Today, the financial crisis claimed its first major international arms deal when Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawin announced suspending a roughly $650 million contract for Eurocopter EC725s.

That contract had already come under sharp scrutiny. My Singapore-based colleague Siva Govindasamy reported last week that Eurocopter's competitors were furious with the deal, claiming that Malaysia's government ignored standard acquisition procedures.

The Internet Is 5,000 Days Old -- What Will The Next 5,000 Days Bring

WNU Editor: The past weekend I came across this incredible video from one of my favorite blogs (Ubiwar). It is 20 minutes long, and it is excellent video . Ubiwar's remarks are also worth noting .... and I have copied his remarks below.

Enjoy .....

Sue Thomas sent me this talk by Kevin Kelly, who probably needs little introduction to most Ubiwar readers. In this December 2007 presentation Kelly takes a look at the next 5000 days of the web (the web being approximately 5000 days old when he gave this talk).

He suggests that the web will be the global machine (”The One”) and this will entail different ways of interacting with information, and it with us. This is fascinating stuff, particularly for me, who seems to spend an awful lot of time these days considering ‘convergence’ and its effects on security and violence.

This is 20 minutes of anyone’s time well spent, and he’s a good speaker too, so it’s painless…

A First Since The Start Of The War -- No U.S. Servicemen Killed In Combat In Baghdad For October, 2008

U.S. Army Spc. Edward Brodzinski provides security while other soldiers unearth a weapons cache in the rural region of Zoba, Iraq, on Oct. 4, 2008. Brodzinski and the soldiers are assigned to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. The site is known to hold numerous hidden weapons caches. DoD photo by Spc. Daniel Herrera, U.S. Army. (Released)

U.S. Deaths In Iraq On Track For Record Low -- USA Today

AGHDAD — October could be the first month of the Iraq war when no U.S. servicemembers will have died in combat in Baghdad.

As of Thursday, the Pentagon had reported 13 U.S. troops killed in combat and non-combat incidents this month in Iraq. If the number holds, it would tie July for the lowest monthly U.S. death toll of the 5½-year-old war.

Security has improved in the Iraqi capital and elsewhere thanks to truces by sectarian militias, more effective U.S. counterinsurgency strategies, and a dramatic increase in the size and effectiveness of Iraqi forces.

Militant groups such as al-Qaeda have shifted their base to Afghanistan, where U.S. fatalities in October were higher than those in Iraq for the second consecutive month.

Read more ....

My Comment: A story that is not reported in the media at all.

Iraq War News Updates -- October 31, 2008

U.S soldiers patrol in Baquba, Diyala province some 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad late October 31, 2008. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (IRAQ)

Iraqi Forces Arrest 220 Suspects In
Al Qaeda Raid -- Yahoo News/Reuters

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi forces hunting al Qaeda members arrested 220 people in a raid in western Anbar province, a former insurgent stronghold, the province's police chief and the U.S. military said Friday.

Police backed by the Iraqi army stormed houses in the village of Owesat, in southern Anbar where they believe the Sunni Islamist insurgents were hiding, Thursday morning, Anbar police chief Major General Tareq Yusuf told Reuters.

"Those gunmen were controlling this area and they thought it would be safe for them there. We took the initiative and executed a bold raid," he said.

The area is in a zone along the Euphrates river by the border between Anbar and Babil provinces, dubbed the "triangle of death" by U.S. forces in the years after the 2003 invasion for its stubborn insurgency, although it is now quieter.

Read more ....

More News On Iraq

FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 31 -- Reuters
Petraeus Takes Responsibility for Iraq and Afghanistan at Central Command -- Voice of America
Iraqi ministry adopts political neutrality -- International Herald Tribune
U.S. takes battle against extremists to Iraq border -- Star Tribune
Iraq violence kills 317 in October -- Times Of India
Death toll down for U.S. troops, Iraqi civilians in October -- CNN

War At Sea: Piracy And The Rise Of Private Navies

WNU Editor: This post was posted a week ago .... but it is still relevant today.

From Pundita:

This story is so 21st Century in so many ways. The Somali pirates who captured the MV Faina are still in a standoff with the Russian and U.S. navies. Tomorrow it'll be a month that the pirates captured the ship -- the one with 33 battle tanks and large heavy weapons and ammunitions caches aboard.

When last I read the Russians are talking about storming the ship and the pirates are threatening to kill the crew.

Meanwhile, everyone's still trying to understand why Kenya bought those tanks from Ukraine; the gossip is that they were trans-shipping them to southern Sudan although when last I heard they're hotly denying.

I wonder what Lord Avebury and Baroness Cox are up to these days.

The question is why Ukraine's government didn't send a guard ship to accompany a ship loaded with weapons that they knew was sailing into pirate waters. The answer seems to be that they didn't want to draw international attention to the Faina's cargo.

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The USA’s 30,000 Pound Bomb

British 22,000lb. Grand Slam Bomb (Photo from Wikimedia)

MOPping Up: The USA’s 30,000 Pound Bomb
-- Defense Industry Daily

During the Second World War, attacking heavily protected targets like U-boat pens and protected “V-weapon” facilities was a key challenge. Enter a brilliant British engineer named Barnes Wallis, fresh off the dam-busting “Upkeep” bouncing bomb. His next trick was a 12,000 pound weapon called the “Tallboy,” a streamlined, spin-stabilized bomb with an estimated terminal velocity of over Mach 3.5 when dropped from 20,000 feet. That mass, at that speed, carrying 5,200 pounds of Torpex D1 explosive, made a crater 80 feet deep x 100 feet across when it hit. By 1945, Wallis’ next “Earthquake bomb” was in production – the 22,000 pound “Grand Slam.” They made short work of U-boat pens.

These bombs went out of fashion with the advent of nuclear weapons, but if you wait long enough, fashion comes around again…

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Disaster In Congo's Refugee Camps

A rebel from Laurent Nkunda's renegade movement talking to a civilian at a checkpoint near Kibumba on Friday. (Karel Prinsloo/The Associated Press)

Reports Of Evictions At Congo Camps
-- International Herald Tribune

GOMA, Congo: The unilateral truce declared by rebels who had advanced on this city in eastern Congo continued to hold Friday, and tens of thousands of displaced people took advantage of it. They left refugee camps inside Goma, filling the road out of the city in endless columns for the walk back to their homes in surrounding villages.

But while the tense truce held in the city, the United Nations said it had received "disturbing" reports that refugee camps about 50 miles north of Goma had been "forcibly emptied, looted and burned."

"We are extremely concerned about the fate of some 50,000 displaced people living in these camps," Ron Redmond, chief spokesman of the United Nations refugees agency, told journalists in Geneva, the agency said on its Web site.

Read more ....

More News On The War In The Congo

DR Congo refugee camps 'burned' -- BBC News
Refugee Camps Targeted by Rebels in Congo -- PBS Newshour
Congo Gunmen Force Civilians From Camps, UN Says -- Bloomberg
Cholera threatens Congo refugees: UNICEF -- AFP
Congo rebels open 'humanitarian corridor' -- CNN
In pictures: Congo crisis -- BBC Newscon

U.N. Forces Collapsed During The Fighting In The Congo

A UN armoured vehicle patrols the streets of Goma. Top European and US diplomats are heading to eastern Congo to try to avert a humanitarian disaster as the UN's top human rights official slammed government forces for lootings, killings and rapes.
(AFP/Walter Astrada)

Army On Congo Attack: UN Must Decide
-- Times Now

The Indian Army has reacted to the Indian soldiers being caught in the middle of the escalating conflict in war-torn Congo saying that they have intimated the United Nations mission and its upto them to take action.

Lt. Gen SPS Dhillon, Deputy COAS, said, “The attack on our soldiers in Congo has been taken note of at the highest level. We have informed the United Nations Security Council as well. We are awaiting a decision from the UN. This is their mission and we cannot influence our soldiers.”

Meanwhile, a Lt Colonel and two other personnel of Indian Army on a peace mission in Congo were injured when a contingent of UN troops came under attack in Congo. An Indian battalion deployed in UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) for peacekeeping in that nation came under attack in northern Kivu province during a battle between government and rebel forces, sources said in New Delhi.

Five rockets were fired on two armoured personnel carriers belonging to the Indian troops while they were maintaining security for civilians, resulting in injuries to a Lt Col and two other personnel, they said. In the wake of fighting between the government forces and rebels, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has issued an urgent appeal for an end to the conflict.

Read more ....

Update: As Truce Holds in Congo City, Refugees Return -- New York Times

My Comment: Key line in the above report .... "Indian troops were asked to deploy themselves from Goma to adjoining North Kivu province, after the Uruguayan battalion deployed in the region fled." ..... in other words ..... they fled

The War Crime Of Rape In Darfur

(Photo from We The Women)

Piercing The Silence -- Newsweek

Few Darfuri women are willing to talk about being raped. One survivor explains why she has gone public—and how she hopes it will help her ravaged people.

Too often, atrocities blur into abstractions. The burned-out villages; the camps for the desperate displaced; the brutalized women—for all that we've seen, read and heard about Darfur, for all the celebrities who've adopted it as their own cause célèbre, it's still hard for us to get a real sense of the hideousness that has taken place there. Halima Bashir might be the person who finally pulls us through that barrier.

Bashir was 24 when the Sudanese soldiers came for her. By then, of course, she was already sadly familiar with her country's political tensions. As a village child sent to school in the city, she had been taunted by members of Sudan's Arab elite for being African. As a medical student, her studies were repeatedly disrupted when the authorities closed down her campus and tried to force students to fight in what she called the "plastic jihad" against non-Muslim Sudanese in the south. But it was when she first saw the bleeding bodies of the 8-year-old girls from the school in the remote Darfuri village of Mazkhabad that she realized "someone had let the devil in" to her country.

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My Comment: And the Sudanese leadership wonder why there are War Crime indictments against them.

Another U.S. Strike On Al Qaeda In Pakistan

A mid-level al Qaeda leader, identified as an Iraqi, was among up to 20 people killed on Friday in a U.S. missile strike in northwest Pakistan, a Pakistani intelligence official said. The intelligence official identified the al Qaeda leader as Abu Akash and said he was believed to have been Iraqi.

Al Qaeda Militant Said Killed In U.S. Strike
In Pakistan -- Reuters

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - A mid-level al Qaeda leader, identified as an Iraqi, was among up to 20 people killed on Friday in a U.S. missile strike in northwest Pakistan, a Pakistani intelligence official said.

The intelligence official identified the al Qaeda leader as Abu Akash.

"He is a mid-level al Qaeda man who was leading a high-profile life in Mir Ali," said the official, who declined to be identified, referring to the second biggest town in the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

Two missiles were fired by a pilotless "drone" aircraft into a house in Mir Ali, a major sanctuary for foreign Islamist militants including Arabs, and Central Asians, another intelligence official said.

A witness said the house was ablaze after the strike.

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My Comment: I am not going to shed a tear ....

The Story Of A Canadian's Embrace Of Jihad

Terrorist suspect Momin Khawaja, an Ottawa computer software programmer, arrives at the Ottawa courthouse Monday May 3, 2004 under Royal Canadian Mounted Police protection. (CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)

Descent Into Jihad -- The Ottawa Citizen

Momin Khawaja remained silent throughout his 41/2-year-long case, but dozens of e-mails he wrote prior to his arrest reveal how and why this quiet Canadian, with a nice family from a nice Ottawa suburb, dedicated his life to terrorism and destroying the West. Using Mr. Khawaja's own words and expressed thoughts, national security reporter Ian MacLeod reconstructs Mr. Khawaja's ... (Descent Into Jihad)

Momin Khawaja smiles and waves to his mother, Azra, from his glass cage in courtroom No. 37. Seeing her always makes him happy. Reciting the Koran makes him happy. The destruction of the United States and what he perceives as its Israeli masters would make him very happy.

There is little else to be happy about, suspended here over a bottomless pit of prison time, the strands of his defence unravelling, his dream of joining the frontlines of jihad and his life in ruins.

He'd taken precautions when he declared holy war on the West, yet the police and security services caught him within months. Branded a terrorist, an unholy criminal, people drive by his family's Orléans home screaming obscenities.

Read more ....

My Comment: Speaking as a Canadian citizen .... this story disgusts me. Canada is probably the best country for anyone to live in. To have someone come to this country as a landed immigrant, accept becoming a citizen, getting the best that education can provide and then becoming employed at a very good job working for the federal Government while enjoying all the benefits that this country can offer .... and then plan for its destruction and mass murder .... I say to he courts show no mercy.

Medal Of Honor Frauds

(Click To Enlarge)
Medals Of Honor (Image from Wikipedia)

Investigation Reveals Hundreds Of Unsupported Claims Regarding War Medals -- Houston Chronicle

WASHINGTON — Scores of Americans, from clergymen to lawyers to CEOs, are claiming medals of valor they never earned.

A Chicago Tribune investigation has found that the fabrication of heroic war records is far more extensive than one might think.

Take the online edition of Who's Who, long the nation's premier biographical reference. Of the 333 people whose profiles state they earned one of the nation's most esteemed military medals, fully a third cannot be supported by military records.

Even in death, these stories live on. A look at 273 obituaries published in the past decade alone found that in more than four of five cases, official records didn't support decorations for bravery attributed to the deceased.

The Tribune also found bogus decorations, including at least two Medals of Honor, engraved on headstones in military cemeteries across the country.

In all, more than half the medals for bravery examined, including the exalted Medal of Honor, are unsupported by official military records obtained by the Tribune from federal archives under the Freedom of Information Act.

The men whose obituaries or profiles in Who's Who make these claims are mainly individuals of note and accomplishment: lawyers, physicians, clergymen, CEOs, business executives, company presidents, university professors, career military officers, teachers, policemen, elected officials, even a psychiatrist.

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My Comment: This is wrong on so many levels. It is amazing how powerful the ego can sometimes be.

Japanese Air Force Chief Sacked

USS Arizona Memorial
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
(Image from

Japan Air Force Chief Faces Sack -- BBC News

The head of the Japanese air force is to be sacked after saying the country was not an aggressor in World War II, Japan's defence minister said.

Yasukazu Hamada said Gen Toshio Tamogami's views, written in an essay, ran counter to the government's position on the war.

"Therefore it is inappropriate for him to remain in this position and I will swiftly dismiss him," he said.

The general's views are likely to anger many of Japan's neighbours.

China, North and South Korea and other Asian nations still have traumatic memories of Japan's aggression and colonial rule.

Japan expressed remorse for its war-time actions in 1995, and then gave another apology ten years later.

"What he said was inappropriate for an air chief of staff," Mr Hamada told a news conference.

"He should not remain in the job."

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My Comment: He who ignores the past ... is doomed to repeat it. (Santayana)

Islamists Suspected For Terrorist Attacks In Assam State Of India

An ambulance and a fire engine are set on fire by an angry crowd at a blast site in Guwahati, the main city of India's troubled northeastern Assam state, October 30, 2008.
(Utpal Baruah/Reuters)

India Suspects Islamists, Separatists In
Assam Attack -- Yahoo News/Reuters

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – Indian authorities suspect that Islamist groups in collusion with separatist militants carried out coordinated bomb blasts in the Assam state that killed 77 people and wounded more than 320.

Separatist movements have riddled India's remote northeast for decades, but the level of sophistication and precision of Thursday's bombings also echo similar blasts across India over the past year which have been blamed on Islamist groups.

Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI) is one of the main suspects in Thursday's attack. Police say the Islamist group could have sought to avenge attacks on Muslim settlers by indigenous tribes that killed at least 47 people last month.

"Our initial investigation points that these attacks were carried out by jihadi forces with the help of local militant groups," Khagen Sharma, inspector general of police in Assam and chief Assam's intelligence services, told Reuters.

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My Comment: India's security forces are probably right. Now they have to catch those who are responsible for this monstrosity.

Syrian Troops positioned On The Lebanese Border

More Syrian Troops Deploy Along Lebanese Border -- Voice Of America

Syria has reportedly deployed more troops along its border with Lebanon, allegedly to "combat smuggling." Meanwhile a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman is denying reports that Syria has withdrawn troops from its border with Iraq in retaliation for a weekend raid on a Syrian border town which Damascus blames on the United States. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

The Syrian Army has deployed more troops along Lebanon's northern border, according to Lebanese Army sources, amid claims that Damascus is redoubling efforts to "combat smuggling."

Reports that Damascus was beefing up its troop strength along the Lebanese border coincide with unconfirmed reports by the private Syrian Dunia satellite TV network that Syrian border patrol forces were being withdrawn from the notoriously porous border with Iraq. Dunia TV showed pictures of what it claimed were Syrian forces being withdrawn from the Iraqi border.

Read more ....

My Comment: Syria is a controlled state. Everything is done for a reason .... but in this case I cannot figure out what that is.

US Cleaning Up Dirty Afghan Forces

Afghan National Army soldiers stand for the audience and Afghan National Army officers attending the commemoration of the first birthday of the 205th Afghan National Army Corps at Camp Shir Zai, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2005. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Leslie Angulo

From DoD Buzz:

The U.S. military in Afghanistan is trying to root out the corruption that has plagued that country’s army and police forces, said Army Col. Bill Hix, who is tasked with Afghan Army and police development in volatile southern Afghanistan, the heart of Taliban country. Hix, speaking to reporters last week by phone from Afghanistan, said he’s seen considerable progress in both Afghan police and Army performance, with police and army units fighting side-by-side in embattled Helmand province, scene of some of the heaviest fighting in recent years.

The performance of the Afghan police has lagged, in part, because the U.S. only really began funneling resources to the police training effort beginning last summer, whereas the Afghan Army training mission has been a priority for going on five years. The lack of attention given to beefing up the Afghan police has been one of the most glaring failures of the whole enterprise in Afghanistan. A competent police force is one of the most vital components in any counterinsurgency, as they are in daily contact with the population, are an essential part of providing security in cities, villages and the countryside, and are often the most/only visible government presence.

That also means the police are a primary target of insurgent attacks. The Afghan Ministry of Interior reports that 700 policemen were killed in the first six months of 2008. Hix said the Afghan police casualties run at a rate three times that of coalition and Afghan army casualties. That high casualty rate has begun to drop, he said, with a new training program and efforts to provide them with better weaponry.

Read more ....

My Comment: Afghan Army and Afghan police casualties this year have been horrendous. There may be corruption .... but there are also many brave Afghans who are in the fight, and who are doing the supreme sacrifice.

Zumwalt-Class Destroyer Named After Medal of Honor Hero

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Federal Government
The Zumwalt class destroyer will be the most sophisticated warship in naval history.

The Navy will name a Zumwalt-class destroyer after a SEAL who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for diving on a grenade to save three buddies during a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq.

"Michael Monsoor's name will now be linked with one of our nation's most visible examples of military power — a U.S. Navy warship," Navy Secretary Donald Winter said in announcing the decision Wednesday night.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Monsoor died in 2006 while smothering an insurgent grenade that had been hurled at SEALs who were providing rooftop overwatch for Army troops. He was 25.

The destroyer bearing his name is set to be completed in 2014.

The Navy is naming a ship after another SEAL posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor: Lt. Michael P. Murphy, killed during an assault on an enemy position in Afghanistan.

(Hat Tip To Neptunus Lex)

Nuke Missile Silo Fire Undetected For Five Days

The W78 is the warhead for the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, shown here in silos undergoing maintenance checks by U.S. Air Force personnel. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Air Force.(Photo from Y-12 National Security Complex)

Air Force: Nuke Missile Silo Fire Went Undetected -- Breitbart/AP

DENVER (AP) - A fire caused $1 million worth of damage at an unmanned underground nuclear launch site last spring, but the Air Force didn't find out about it until five days later, an Air Force official said Thursday.

The May 23 fire burned itself out after an hour or two, and multiple safety systems prevented any threat of an accidental launch of the Minuteman III missile, Maj. Laurie Arellano said. She said she was not allowed to say whether the missile was armed with a nuclear warhead at the time of the fire.

Arellano said the Air Force didn't know a fire had occurred until May 28, when a repair crew went to the launch site—about 40 miles east of Cheyenne, Wyo., and 100 miles northeast of Denver—because a trouble signal indicated a wiring problem.

She said the flames never entered the launch tube where the missile stood and there was no danger of a radiation release.

The fire, blamed on a faulty battery charger, burned a box of shotgun shells, a shotgun and a shotgun case that were kept in the room, Arellano said. A shotgun is a standard security weapon at missile silos.

Read more ....

My Comment: I am sure there are numerous safeguards that would prevent a launch and/or accidental nuclear explosion. What I find disturbing about this report is that it took 5 days before anyone realized that there was a problem.

Education And Genocide -- A Commentary From The Belmont Club

Magna Cum Laundry -- Belmont Club

Undercover agent Larry Grathwohl discusses the Weather Underground’s post-revolution governing plans for the United States on a YouTube video. The video is taken from the 1982 documentary “No Place to Hide”. The Weathermen’s plans included putting parts of United States under the administration of Cuba, North Vietnam, China and Russia and re-educating the uncooperative in camps located in the Southwest. Since there would be holdouts, plans were made for liquidating the estimated 25 million unreconstructable die-hards.

The most interesting moment of the video comes when Grathwohl asks the viewer to imagine what it’s like to be in a room with 25 people, all of whom have master’s degrees or higher from elite institutions of higher learning like Columbia, listening to them discuss the logistics of killing 25 million Americans.

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My Comment: Very chilling .... because this is the mindset that introduced communism into Russia and China, resulting in tens of millions dying in the 20th century.

A New Era In U.S./ Afghan/Pakistan Cooperation

Talks: Afghan tribal leaders listen to an opening speech at a two-day jirga that ended Tuesday. The delegates agreed to seek negotiations with Taliban militants. Anjum Naveed/AP

Beneath US-Pakistani Tension, A New Cooperation -- Christian Science Monitor

Joint efforts include setting up coordination centers along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Bagram, Afghanistan - Amid stories of missile strikes and firefights between Pakistani and American forces on the Afghan border, Brig. Gen. Mark Milley has his own to tell.

Two weeks ago, insurgents in Pakistan lobbed mortars at US forces in Afghanistan. When the Americans alerted the Pakistani Army, its response was unambiguous. Not only could the US fire back, but Pakistani soldiers acted as spotters.

It is one small example of how Pakistan is starting to cooperate more with the US and Afghanistan in fighting the insurgency in its tribal areas. Attempts to find solutions jointly are being made across a wide spectrum, from the opening of border coordination centers shared by the three nations' armies to talks among tribal leaders.

The shift is born of a growing recognition in the Pakistani Army of the danger of the insurgency, as well as thawing relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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My Comment: Let's hope this trend continues.

An Extra Set Of Eyes To Observe Iran's Naval Forces

A Global Hawk maintenance team tows an unmanned Global Hawk aircraft at a theater in Southwest Asia. The aircraft has collected more than 96 percent of the target deck – nearly five thousand images of enemy locations, resources and personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Matthews)

US Navy Global Hawk May Head To Middle East -- Defense Tech

This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

The U.S. Navy is considering deploying its first Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to an air base near Iraq to experiment with its ability to conduct maritime surveillance, according to defense officials.

Navy officials declined to discuss the exact location for a deployment. "Longer-term options for the system may include additional deployment situations -- allowing the system to demonstrate its unique persistent maritime ISR capabilities in various overseas environments," says Chuck Wagner, a spokesman for Naval Air Systems Command.

According to other defense officials, the Navy Global Hawk is expected to arrive at a base in the Middle East early next year, and the aircraft will be co-located with Air Force Global Hawks already at that base. Defense officials declined to identify the base, citing security issues. But it is widely known that the Air Force's high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft supporting activities in Iraq and Afghanistan operate from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

The high-flying Global Hawk is capable of collecting intelligence from above 55,000 feet altitude for a day or more at a time. The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) vehicle, one of two Block 10 Global Hawks owned by the Navy, is carrying an integrated sensor suite. These aircraft were bought to allow the Navy to experiment with using a UAV for maritime surveillance. Using various modes -- for inverse synthetic aperture radar, maritime search and target acquisition -- this sensor can conduct surveillance of surface ships. The aircraft also carries the LR100, a basic signals intelligence collector.

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My Comment: Iran's naval commanders are not going to be amused.

Millions Of Afghans May Face Famine This Winter

(Click To Enlarge)

Call For Afghan 'Berlin Airlift' -- BBC News

The international community has been urged to stage an emergency relief operation to prevent Afghanistan falling victim to a devastating famine.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a UK military think tank, makes its warning in a briefing paper.

It says food shortages now represented a greater threat to Afghanistan than the Taliban insurgency.

It wants a similar but smaller repeat of the Berlin Airlift during the Soviet blockade of west Berlin in 1948.

The briefing paper said the Afghan population will turn increasingly to the international forces in the country for help once winter sets in.

The United Nations World Food Programme estimates the country will need 95,000 tonnes food aid by February.

The combination of light spring rains, a summer drought, poor irrigation, low crop yields and rising world food prices means there are millions of Afghans possibly facing famine.

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My Comment: I mentioned a few months ago that this was becoming a strong possibility. Taliban attacks, government corruption, the targeting of aid workers, the growing of opium instead of food crops, a drought in much of the country, roten farming techniques, the expulsion of thousands of Afghan refugees from Pakistan .... we now have a perfect storm for a famine.

Zimbabwe Is Another Failed State In Africa

The state of the hospital has become a metaphor for a country
which is slowly dying from neglect Photo: AP

Life And Death A Matter Of Cash Withdrawals In Zimbabwe's crumbling Hospitals -- The Telegraph

Bensen Mambo, a 40-year-old accountant, roamed the corridors of Harare's biggest hospital, occasionally stopping, moaning quietly, and waving his hands in the air when his dilemma became too much to bear.

His strange behaviour hardly seemed out of place in Parirenyatwa Hospital. Once it was Zimbabwe's showpiece teaching hospital with 1,000 beds - but now it is a shell of a building, filthy, crumbling, and mostly empty.

It has almost no drugs or working equipment, and the handful of doctors who have not fled abroad have pretty much given up trying to treat the trickle of patients who still come. A blood trail from an accident victim meandered from beneath a wheeled stretcher, in a ward whose plaster walls were crumbling. Patients gazed at the ceiling in a deathly silence.

Mr Mambo's wife Mary was one of them, diagnosed with a kidney ailment and in desperate need of treatment which he could easily afford.

But in the cruel and surreal world of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe the devoted husband could not withdraw his savings from the bank in time to pay doctors for the care that could have saved her life.

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My Comment: What I read from this story is the following ..... the people of Zimbabwe are now too sick (and weak from hunger) to rebel against Mugabe and his thugs.

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

(Image from Wikipedia)

From The Captain's Quarters:

Glenn Reynolds linked a report that the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are calling for refurbishment of the existing nuclear weapons in the U.S. Good find by Glenn. A brief word of explanation.

It has always been true that we can’t sit on the nuclear weapons stockpile without working to maintain the purity of the materials. Uranium and transuranics (e.g., Plutonium) do decay, albeit most isotopes with very long decay half lives (e.g., Pu-239 has a half life of 24,100 years). Decay introduces impurities into the material, and purity is a requirement for miniturization of nuclear weapons, something the Chinese have not yet learned like the U.S. (this means that weapon delivery is made easier).

But by far the larger effect of decay is tritium, which is used as material for fussion in thermonuclear weapons in conjuction with the fission to enhance their power. The half life for tritium is 12.32 years. In other words, as the stockpile sits, its effectiveness decays away. This must be considered in thinking about national security as we move forward into the twenty first century. In the ongoing work to maintain the effectiveness of the stockpile, TVA won a bid for a government program to produce Tritium (this is done by activation of Lithium) at their Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant.

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My Comment: An excellent summary by the Captain's Journal on the problem.

Piracy On The West Coast Of Africa Now

(Image from the BBC)

Cameroon Oil Vessel's Crew Seized
-- BBC

Armed pirates in speedboats have boarded an oil vessel and kidnapped 10 crew members off the West African state of Cameroon.

The vessel's owners said those taken hostage were seven French nationals, two Cameroonians and a Tunisian.

The pirates attacked the boat at an oilfield near the Cameroonian coast in the Gulf of Guinea.

There have been a number of attacks against oil installations in Gulf of Guinea states over the past year.

A diplomat in Cameroon said the raid had happened near the Bakassi Peninsula, which is on the country's border with Nigeria.

Attacks on oil installations in Nigeria's nearby Niger Delta have been especially frequent, and the diplomat told AFP news agency that the boarding of the vessel off Cameroon resembled recent raids in the Delta.

The vessel, the Bourbon Sagitta, is owned by the French maritime services company Bourbon.

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My Comment: If a firm response is not implemented against African pirates, piracy from Africa will expand exponentially. The crippling to sea traffic .... in particular oil shipments .... will be costly to everyone

A Hero That We Will Probably Never Know

Lt. Earned A Navy Cross He Can’t Wear -- Navy Times

Somewhere out in the fleet, there’s a Navy medical officer who earned the Navy Cross during vicious, hammering combat five years ago.

And he’s not authorized to wear the award — second only to the Medal of Honor.

That’s because the 2003 mission, during which the officer fought like a demon and put himself in the line of fire to save several wounded American and Afghan comrades from al-Qaida and Taliban forces, remains classified.

And so does his identity.

A spokeswoman for the Navy secretary confirmed the existence of the Navy Cross recipient after Navy Times forwarded her a copy of the officer’s citation, in which his name is redacted. So secret was the award that the Navy did not include it when queried as to the number of sailors who have earned the Navy Cross since Sept. 11, 2001. The Navy has now changed the number of recipients from six to seven, even though the seventh award was presented more than a year ago.

“The Department of the Navy has approved the awarding of seven Navy Crosses for Navy personnel,” Capt. Beci Brenton, spokeswoman for Navy Secretary Donald Winter, said Friday.

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(Hat Tip to OP-For)

My Comment: Wow .... this is the first time that I have heard anything like this.

U.S. Needs To Modernize Their Nuclear Arsenal .... NOW!

Titan II Nuclear Missile in Silo (Image from Flickr)

Gates: Fund New Nukes, Or Else -- The Danger Room

The U.S. needs new nukes. That's the message Pentagon chief Robert Gates is delivering right now, as part of a broad, spirited defense of America's nuclear arsenal.

The Congress and the Bush administration have been wrestling for years over the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead -- the next generation of nuclear weapon designs. Lawmakers have had the upper hand in the match, eliminating funding for RRW. Today, in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gates looks to scramble back on top, with a blunt warning to Capitol Hill.

"To be blunt, there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program," Gates says, according to his prepared remarks.

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My Comment: Another example of No Vision .... No Focus .... Politics Is The Priority .... No Direction .... and No Leadership. Thank you Congress. Thank you Mr. President. Thank you Joint Chiefs Of Staff. Thank you Mr./Ms. American citizen.

Establishing A New Global Strike Command For Nuclear Weapons

All nuclear-capable B-52 bombers will be moved to the new command (Photo from the BBC)

US Plans Separate Nuclear Command -- BBC News

The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to set up a new Global Strike Command for its nuclear weapons as part of a re-organisation after recent mishaps.

The move follows the discovery that six nuclear weapons were mistakenly flown across the US, and that nuclear missile fuses were sent unknowingly to Taiwan.

The blunders resulted in the sacking of two of USAF's most senior officials.

A three-star general will head the new command, part of a project aimed at shaking up USAF's nuclear mission.

"This is a critical milestone for us. It's a new starting point for reinvigoration of this enterprise," said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

"It is an extremely important mission for the United States Air Force."

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My Comment: A shakeup has been needed for a very long time. I guess this is one of the necessary steps to change the culture in the USAF.

An Arms Race Between Russia And The U.S. Is Unlikely

(Image From The BBC)

Russia Retooling For Military Modernization -- Space War

There are many examples of failure to fulfill Russia's annual state defense order: Delivery of Sukhoi Su-34 aircraft and Mil Mi-28N helicopters is well behind schedule, the missile-carrying submarine Yury Dolgoruky is certain not to be launched in 2008, and the second submarine in the series is unlikely to hit the water in 2009, as scheduled, either.

At the same time, there is some good news: The timeline for Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile deliveries to troops is being scrupulously followed, although it is not known whether it will be kept when another new missile -- the RS-24 -- starts to be mass-produced.

It is understandable that Russian Federation defense sector plants cannot solve their problems by themselves, as these have taken 20 years to pile up. A way out must be found in the near future, and must involve state support, not only in the form of financial injections and bylaws regulating profit rates.

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My Comment: Is there a chance of an arms race between Russia and the U.S.? I doubt it. For both countries it will be too much of a strain on their budgets .... and besides .... both countries have more pressing problems than each other.

CIA Shifting To Foreign Ops

Stephanie O'Sullivan, head of the CIA's Directorate for Science and Technology, says staffing has increased. (By Evan Eile, USA TODAY)

Post-9/11 CIA Has Shifted Its Emphasis For
Foreign Ops -- USA Today

LANGLEY, Va. — The CIA has more than doubled the number of science and technology officers sent overseas to support foreign spy operations since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Hundreds" of the specially trained officers have moved abroad to provide eavesdropping and communications devices, disguises and other high-tech support for field agents as the CIA has re-emphasized intelligence collection from human sources, according to agency information provided in response to a USA TODAY inquiry.

The CIA said the increase represents a 150% hike in overseas staffing for its Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T), which fills the role made famous by "Q" in James Bond films. The agency won't disclose the exact number of officers involved because its budget and staffing are classified, but the figures represent a rare public acknowledgement of the heightened pace of its foreign operations. The shift also reflects an increased emphasis on "close access" programs, in which information is collected directly from sources on the ground, as opposed to remotely via satellite or aircraft.

The intelligence community's needs for high-tech equipment have "changed fundamentally" since the start of the war on terrorism and "demand … has increased dramatically," says Stephanie O'Sullivan, the deputy CIA director who heads the Directorate of Science and Technology. For example, she adds, "there was a big explosion after 9/11 in the need for tracking and locating technology" to hunt leaders of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

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My Comment: Terrorism is a world wide phenomenon .... the CIA has no choice but to "go out there" to confront our enemies.

IAEA Wishes To Investigate Further Alleged Syria Nuke Site

(Click To Enlarge)
Satellite images of the alleged nuclear plant before and after it was bombed by Israel
(Photo from The Daily Mail)

IAEA: Samples From Alleged Syria Nuke Site Justify
Further Probe -- Haaretz

Freshly evaluated soil and air samples from a Syrian site bombed by Israel on suspicion it was a covert nuclear reactor provide enough evidence to push ahead with a United Nations probe, diplomats said Tuesday.

The findings are important after months of uncertainty about the status of the investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

Preliminary results regarding environmental samples collected from the site by an IAEA team and made public earlier this year were inconclusive and failed to yield proof of nuclear activity, adding weight to Syrian assertions that no trips beyond the initial IAEA visit in June were necessary. But the diplomats told The Associated Press that the IAEA's final evaluation, completed a few days ago, has the agency convinced it needs to press on with its investigation.

"The agency feels there is enough evidence there to warrant a follow-up" said one of the diplomats. He, and a colleague from another IAEA country demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging confidential information, which is not meant to be made public until the IAEA's meeting of its 35-nation board of governors next month.

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My Comment: The IAEA is slow .... but it is methodical until the country that they are investigating kicks them out.

The Top-Secret Warplanes Of Area 51

Satellite imagery taken on January 17, 2006, of Area 51 reveals little. Base security personnel know when satellites are passing overhead, and test aircraft remain indoors at those times. Personnel work in windowless offices and are locked inside when anything other than their own project is outdoors. DigitalGlobe


Stealth jets? Hypersonic bombers? What's really being developed at the military's most famous classified base?

On a trip to las vegas in 2004, observing from my east-facing hotel room in the pyramidal Luxor Hotel at daybreak, I watched a fleet of six unmarked 737s make commuter flights to nowhere. These aircraft depart every weekday morning from a tidy, anonymous terminal on the western side of McCarran International Airport. A long line of cars pours into a 1,600-spot parking lot as the jets pull away from the terminal, taxi to the runways, and head out into the desert sky. At the end of the day, the shuttle flights return and the lot empties. The passengers go home and tell their families nothing about what happened at work that day.

Cut to April 4 this year. San Diego is hit by a rumbling shock that isn´t an earthquake. It is ruled out by the media as a sonic boom after military operators claim it is not one of their aircraft. San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Alex Roth does some digging and comes up with six puzzlingly similar incidents around the country since 2003.

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My Comment: This article came out two years ago .... but I think it is still relevant today.

Disaster Unfolding In The Congo

A map locating the province of North Kivu. Congolese rebels said they were opening humanitarian corridors Thursday for refugees massed outside the eastern city of Goma but warned UN forces they would not halt their advance. (AFP/Graphic/Gil)

Congo 'Catastrophe' Feared As Goma Fears The Worst -- Yahoo News/AFP

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (AFP) – Congo rebels agreed Thursday to open humanitarian corridors near besieged Goma, but aid agencies warned of a "catastrophe" as terrified residents recounted tales of rape, looting and murder.

Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, whose forces are on the edge of the eastern city, vowed in a letter to the United Nations mission in Kinshasa to allow "humanitarian organisations access to those in need who are behind our lines."

Few people remained on the streets of Goma, where shops, schools and offices were closed as residents lived in fear of out-of-control remnants of the Congolese army, many of them drunk.

An AFP reporter was shown the bodies of seven civilians, including two women. All were killed overnight by Congolese soldiers on a looting binge, said landlord Jospeh Ndakola.

"Soldiers burst in here in the evening and stayed until four o'clock in the morning," he said. "They looted all my tenants' belongings, making them carry their things to their vehicles, and then they came back in to murder them."

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My Comment: Almost 1 million citizens are effected by this fighting .... this has the potential to result in the deaths of tens of thousands if aid does not find its way to the region soon.

A Commentary On Pakistan -- Our Broke And Ungrateful Ally In The War Against The Taliban And Al Qaeda

Rawalpindi, Pakistan: People queue to get free food from a restaurant
(Photo from The Guardian)

Pakistan’s Wounded Sovereignty -- The Economist

Pakistan needs outside help to pay its bills and quell an insurgency. But will it thank or resent its benefactors?

THE earthquake that struck the province of Baluchistan on October 29th, killing over 150 people, is only the latest calamity to befall Pakistan. The country's economy is threatened with bankruptcy, even as its internal security is haunted by growing militancy.

Without foreign help, Pakistan won't be able to afford its imports, repay its debts, or quell the insurgents encamped within its borders. Thanks to protracted power cuts, it cannot even keep the lights on in its towns and villages. It is not, in other words, a state in full command of itself. And yet despite these dispiriting facts, or perhaps because of them, Pakistan is acutely sensitive to any infringement of its sovereignty. Those outside powers in a position to help it, from the International Monetary Fund to the American military, are as likely to offend its pride as to earn its gratitude.

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My Comment: Pakistan has an incredibly long history with a culture that is thousands of years old. But politically it is still a child. Because of this dichotomy, their conflict with us comes from a cultural belief in their superiority but a realization that they have failed politically and economically .... and as such must now go cap in hand to the IMF in Washington. For a proud people this is humiliating.

Pakistan will go to the IMF .... and they will get their emergency funding. But this will not solve its political and economic problems. In the long run, Pakistan has all the workings of becoming a large and unsuccessful failed state.

One Of the Last Survivors

Henry Allingham is the last survivor of the RAF from the Great War, and is seen here speaking to Flt Lt Anthony 'Parky' Parkinson of 29 Squadron Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY

Survivors' Tales Of The Great War, 90 Years On
-- The Telegraph

Next month marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War, a conflict which consumed the lives of more than 20 million soldiers and civilians. Today just a handful of men who served and fought in the war survive. Sean Rayment profiles the last two British men who fought in the conflict.

Henry Allingham was desperate to do his bit when the call went up for volunteers at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914.

But his desperately-ill mother begged him to stay at home and tend to her. Had she not, Mr Allingham, like so many of his generation, may well have perished on the battlefields of northern France.

But after her death the young man, from Clapham, south London, enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as an engineer in 1915, and went onto serve in the some of the most bloody battles of the entire conflict.

Despite the odds, Mr Allingham survived and today, at 112, he is Britain's oldest living man and a living link to one of the greatest human catastrophes of the modern age.

Mr Allingham was born in 1896 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and powered flight was still more than six years away.

His hearing or eyesight might not be what it was, but according to those who care for him at the blind ex-serviceman's charity, St Dunstan's, he still enjoys a joke and his mind is as sharp as ever.

Astonishingly, Mr Allingham can still recall seeing WG Grace playing cricket in 1903. He also remembers the frightening sight of shells ricocheting across the sea during the Battle of Jutland, which was fought off the coast of Denmark in the North Sea in June 1916.

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Abu Nidal An American Agent?

Abu Nidal, Notorious Palestinian Mercenary, 'Was A US Spy' -- The Independent

Secret papers claim the feared assassin was hired to find links between Saddam and al-Qa'ida. Robert Fisk reports

Iraqi secret police believed that the notorious Palestinian assassin Abu Nidal was working for the Americans as well as Egypt and Kuwait when they interrogated him in Baghdad only months before the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Hitherto secret documents which are now in the hands of The Independent – written by Saddam Hussein's brutal security services for Saddam's eyes only – state that he had been "colluding" with the Americans and, with the help of the Egyptians and Kuwaitis, was trying to find evidence linking Saddam and al-Qa'ida.

President George Bush was to use claims of a relationship with al-Qa'ida as one of the reasons for his 2003 invasion, along with Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Western reports were to dismiss Iraq's claim that Abu Nidal committed suicide in August 2002, suggesting that Saddam's own security services murdered him when his presence became an embarrassment for them. The secret papers from Iraq suggest that he did indeed kill himself after confessing to the "treacherous crime of spying against this righteous country".

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My Comment: Robert Fisk stretches sometimes .... this is one of those times.