Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Red Cross Marks Battle Anniversary

The battle at Solferino left 40,000 men dead or dying

From BBC:

The Red Cross is marking the 150th anniversary of the battle which inspired Henri Dunant to found the world's best known humanitarian movement.

At the end of June 1859, the armies of France and Sardinia, led by Napoleon III, confronted the Austrians at Solferino in northern Italy.

Henri Dunant, a Geneva businessman, happened to be passing, and witnessed the battle.

Horrified by what he saw, he documented the slaughter in his book, A Memory of Solferino.

"Here is a hand-to-hand struggle in all its horror and frightfulness," he wrote.

Read more ....

My Comment: I never knew that the Red Cross was that old. The Wikipedia entry is a good place to get some background information, and that link is HERE.

StratCom Plows Ahead on Cyber

From DoD Buzz:

You are the commander of Strategic Command, charged with coming up with an implementation plan for the new cyber command within 60 days. But there’s going to be a new head of cyber command, a four-star just like you, and Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander has the Big Mo on his side. And Alexander is known as an almost crazily foxy guy who has rebuilt the NSA and will be largely dependent on folks from NSA for most of his capabilities. Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton is known as one of the brainiest generals around. Hmmm. Who’s going to win this bureaucratic game will be great fun to watch.

For some idea of just what may lie ahead, have a look at this April 7 speech by Chilton, which has been quoted by the two cyber warriors with whom I speak. This is not about improving the country’s IT capabilities in terms of efficiency and information sharing. This is about life and death on the battlefield.

Read more

My Comment: Call me naive .... but I always like to believe that different organizations can work together, and be happy while doing it. It seems that in this new cyber command organization, peace and quiet will be two words that will not be used to often.

US Spy In Rendition Trial: 'I Followed Orders'

From Yahoo News/AP:

ROME – A former CIA agent on trial for the alleged kidnapping of a Muslim cleric and terror suspect in Milan acknowledged in an interview published Tuesday that he had a role in the operation but insisted he was only following orders.

Italy's Il Giornale daily published a rare interview with Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA Milan station chief at the time of the 2003 disappearance of Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a street in the northern city.

"I am not guilty. I am only responsible for following an order I received from my superiors," Lady was quoted as saying by Il Giornale. "It was not a criminal act. It was a state affair."

Read more ....

My Comment: Hmmmm .... he may have followed orders .... but he still violated Italian law, and as far as the Italians are concerned you are responsible for the consequences. Sigh .... another sore point between the U.S. and Europe.

Are Sanctions Against North Korea Starting To Bite?

The Kang Nam I cargo ship docks at the port in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2007. The North Korean ship tracked by the US Navy and suspected of transporting weapons or military know-how in violation of UN sanctions has turned around, a Pentagon official said. (AFP/File/Khin Maung Win)

North Korea Suspect Ship Has Turned Around: US Official -- Yahoo News/AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A North Korean ship tracked by the US Navy and suspected of transporting weapons or military know-how in violation of UN sanctions has turned around, a Pentagon official said.

The official declined to provide details, including where the Kang Nam 1 ship -- reportedly originally bound for Myanmar -- could now be headed, but news reports out of South Korea suggested the ship may be returning home two weeks after it set sail June 17.

A diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity told the Korea Herald that the ship was "near our waters," which could suggest that sanctions were having an effect on reclusive North Korea.

Read more ....

My Comment: This story is getting stranger by the day. A North Korean ship goes out to the high seas ... carrying a cargo of who knows what .... spends two weeks on the high seas .... and is now going back to North Korea.

Does this make sense to you?

Do Poor Weapons Hinder Germany in Afghanistan?

The Bundeswehr has Apache-like combat helicopters in its arsenal, but they are currently in the hangar and will remain there for the immediate future. DPA

From Der Spiegel:

German soldiers in Afghanistan are seeing more action than ever, resulting in more deaths and injuries. The growing body count has sparked debate over soldiers' equipment and doubts as to whether the current limits on engagement are appropriate.

The soldier is afraid for his life. He can only see about 15 Taliban in front of his armored vehicle, but judging by the Kalashnikov fire and anti-tank weapons coming from all sides, there must be more. He fires back, but he has no idea whether his bullets are hitting the intended Taliban targets. His comrades in the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, have thrown in smoke grenades as an evasive tactic and they have covered the area with a thick cloud. But he knows he must be killing something.

Read more ....

My Comment: From poor equipment to a lack of direction on the rules of engagement .... this is a symbol of why Afghanistan is a mess, and why the situation is getting worse.

Syria Again Threatens War Over Golan

View from Mt. Bental towards Mount Hermon, Golan heights

From Jerusalem Post:

Syrian officials reiterated their threat to forcefully take the Golan Heights from Israel unless an agreement between the two countries is reached soon.

During a ceremony Saturday inaugurating a new communications center in Kuneitra, the Syrian town closest to the border with Israel, the Syrian Committee for the Liberation of the Golan threatened to take practical measures to return the Golan to Syrian control, adding that Israel was not showing any willingness to negotiate the return of the territory in peace talks.

Syrian President Bashar Assad was also present at the ceremony.

Read more

My Comment: Why make the threat now? What is Syria thinking? Do they see an ally in President Obama .... maybe?

George W. Bush Appointees Buck Barack Obama On Terror Policies

Photo: Jose Padilla was sentenced by Federal Judge Marcia Cooke to 17 years and four months for conspiring to support Islamic extremists around the world. (AP)

From The Politico:

President Barack Obama’s claims of broad executive authority to carry out the war on terror are drawing fire from an unexpected source: federal judges nominated by President George W. Bush, who asserted the sweeping powers in the first place.

In recent weeks, three different Bush appointees considering cases relating to war-on-terror detainees have rejected arguments from Obama’s Justice Department, which adopted virtually unchanged the positions the Bush administration had staked out.

In each case, the Bush-appointed judge said the executive branch was overstepping its authority and claiming more powers than the law allowed.

Read more ....

My Comment: When the courts do not rule in your favor .... you blame it on politics. What critics for these judges must do instead, is that they should criticize the law .... for it is the law that gives the guidelines and rules that are to be followed. And who writes the laws ..... we all know that it is Congress, and they are (of course) avoiding this issue with a ten foot pole.

With U.S. Pullout, Iraq Takes Ownership of Its War

U.S. paratroopers check their surrounding as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off behind them during Operation Winged Lion II, an Iraqi-led air assault mission in the Ma’dain region outside eastern Baghdad, Iraq, June 26, 2009. The paratroopers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s Troop K, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry. The clearance operation in the rural area was to deny enemy movement into the city and seize potential weapons caches. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea

From Time Magazine:

The decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq's cities on Tuesday was made by Iraqis, not Americans. That's why the Iraqi government is holding a massive celebration to mark the redeployment as National Sovereignty Day. At the insistence of the Iraqis, the Status of Forces Agreement concluded late last year between the Iraqi government and the Bush Administration required that U.S. troops be out of Iraq's urban areas by June 30, 2009, and withdrawn from the country altogether by the end of 2011. Now, Iraqi citizens and the American forces hovering in the Iraq's countryside are holding their breath for the first stage of testing Iraq's ability to protect itself. It didn't get off to an auspicious start with the news that four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat on the eve of the withdrawal.

Read more ....

My Comment: On this day of withdrawal and celebration, 4 US servicemen were killed in Iraq. This tells me that the fight in Iraq is far from over .... and it is definitely entering a new phase. But this is now becoming an Iraqi fight .... and while U.S. servicemen are still going to be killed in this country, most (if not all) of the casualties will now be Iraqi.

As for the future .... I personally think that Iraq will survive as an intact country, and that with time, political compromise, and with a strong and constant security presence, it will start to grow economically and politically. Even though the U.S. is now in a permanent withdrawal phase .... years from now there will still be a large and significant American presence on the ground. Because the buildup of the Iraqi Army will take years, this alone will guarantee that American trainers and support staff will probably be "in country" for the next decade or two.

Was the war worth it? When the war broke out I was skeptical of the outcome. Iraq was already a broken state, and getting involved would never have produced the results that we would have wanted. In the past two years, I have changed to supporting the war effort with the hope that we can get out quicker .... I was wrong.

We are going to be in Iraq for a long time, spending money and human lives. Because of our reliance on oil, US policy in the Middle East is not going to change .... and with Iran in turmoil, an all but guarantee that we are going to be stuck in this part of the world for the next few decades.

Opinions, Commentaries, And Editorials -- June 30, 2009

US soldiers have left Iraq's cities but are not yet giving up the three prisons where they hold more than 10,000 detainees on Iraqi soil. The guards at those detention centres will be American for at least another year, while Iraqis are trained to take up the job. AFPTV reports from Camp Cropper. (AFPTV)


The World Upside Down: Honduras -- Gustavo Coronel, Human Events

Banana Democrats -- IBD Editorial

The Winner in Honduras: Chávez -- Álvaro Vargas Llosa, New York Times

What Really Happened in Honduras? -- Glenn Garvin, Miami Herald

Democracy Derailed -- Greg Grandin, The Nation

President Obama More Than 'Concerned' -- Neal Boortz, Nealz Nuze

Any Alternatives to “Meddling” with Iran? -- Emanuele Ottolenghi, Commentary Magazine

Tehran Regime's Worst Nightmare -- Terry Glavin, National Post

In Morocco, an Alternative to Iran -- Anne Applebaum, Washington Post

Iraq Celebrates a Victory of Sorts -- Sami Moubayed, Asia Times

A Broken U.N. Promise In Congo -- Eve Ensler, Washington Post

North Korea Just Wants the 'Damn Bomb' -- Todd Crowell, RealClearWorld

Korean War II -- Gordon Chang, Wall Street Journal

Seventy-Five Years after the Night of the Long Knives -- Bruce Walker, American Thinker

World News Briefs -- June 30, 2009


Top US commander: Iran still supports Iraq attacks. Car bomb kills at least 24 people in Iraqi city.

Iraq auction terms deter oil firms.

Yemeni plane with 153 crashes off Comoros Islands.

ICRC says Palestinians trapped in Gaza face rising poverty, despair.

Israelis intercept Gaza aid ship.


Source: NKorean ship now going the other way.

US travel advice upsets Sri Lanka.

U.N. boss to push Myanmar leadership on Suu Kyi.

China postpones controversial Web filter.

Asia's police to tackle sex trade.


Militants hit oil supplies in Nigeria.

Zimbabwe secures $950 mln credit from China.

Niger opposition accuses president of coup.

New torture allegations against Kenyan security.

Corruption the 'bane' of Mozambique: African experts.


Russia begins war games near Georgia.

16 dead in train derailment in Italy.

Hungary passes 2010 tax law, key test for govt.

Flight 447 black box search continuing.


Zelaya, defying coup, plans return to Honduras. UN tells Honduras to reinstate president. Many Hondurans in the US laud president's ouster.

Canadian economy slips in April.

Kirchner resigns as party leader in Argentina. What Argentina's midterms mean for Latin America.


Cigarette smuggling finances ‘terrorist’ groups.

Qaeda warns France of revenge for burka stance.

Supreme Court refuses case by Sept. 11 victims’ families.

Detainees from over 20 nations remain at Guantanamo.


Germany's Merkel pledges tax cuts despite rising deficit.

Warning: Britain faces new recession.

London stocks rocked by GDP figures.

U.S> Home prices post 18.1 percent annual drop in April.

What Supersonic Looks Like

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft participating in Northern Edge 2009 executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while the ship is underway in the Gulf of Alaska on June 22, 2009. The visual effect is created by moisture trapped between crests in a sound wave at or near the moment a jet goes supersonic. Credit: DoD/Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett, U.S. Navy

From Live Science:

The breaking of the sound barrier is not just an audible phenomenon. As a new picture from the U.S. military shows, Mach 1 can be quite visual.

This widely circulated new photo shows a Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft participating in an exercise in the Gulf of Alaska June 22, 2009 as it executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

The visual phenomenon, which sometimes but not always accompanies the breaking of the sound barrier, has also been seen with nuclear blasts and just after space shuttles launches, too. A vapor cone was photographed as the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission rocketed skyward in 1969.

Read more ....

What Is Happening In North Korea -- News Updates And Analysis

A North Korean woman carries her belongings as she walks through rice paddies in the outskirts of Pyongyang. Wally Santana / AP

North Korea's Other Crisis: An Economy in Tatters -- Time Magazine

I had the rare opportunity in 2002 to take a road trip through North Korea. I had been invited into the country by Pyongyang along with several other foreign correspondents, and even though we rode in a modern bus, the journey itself was like going back in time. From the capital, we drove down narrow country roads for nearly six hours, through small farming hamlets of white homes in neat rows. Men in army-green clothing worked the fields by hand; there were few tractors or animals in sight. Trucks with sacks of U.S. food aid passed by.

Read more ....

More News On North Korea

U.S. Pursues Financial Leverage Over North Korea -- Wall Street Journal
Treasury cracks down on firm linked to North Korea -- Yahoo News/AP
U.S. to Freeze Assets of Firms Tied to North Korea -- Bloomberg
South Korea: North is Enriching Uranium -- Voice of America
U.S. targets North Korea missile proliferation network -- Washington Post
South Korea getting U.S. missiles to boost defences: report -- Washington Post
N.Korea accuses US, S.Korea of spy plane missions -- AFP
Two Koreas prepare for talks amid high tension -- AFP
Photo Stirs Speculation on North Korean Leader -- New York Times
FACTBOX-A look at North Korea's nuclear arms programme -- Reuters

F-22, The Gates Factor

From F-16.net:

June 28, 2009 (by Eric L. Palmer) - The debate over the F-22 has shown that some have no limit to the amount of ignorance they can acquire. Since there are a large amount of people that can’t explain why they want to cancel it or keep it going, finding true clarity is a challenge.

Many people that want to cancel the F-22 are honest in their belief. It is a cold war jet. It is wildly expensive. It is a poster child for a defense establishment that is out of control. Some of these people are even thankful that Secretary of Defense Gates is at the helm to save us from ruin. Believing this, leaves out some other key issues.

Read more ....

My Comment: I could not have said it better. A must read post for F-22 observers.

Hat Tip: ELP Defens(c)e Blog.

Pakistan Civil War News Updates -- June 30, 2009

Reaper Mq-9

U.S. Resumes Surveillance Flights Over Pakistan
-- New York Times

WASHINGTON — As Pakistan escalates military operations against a top Taliban leader, the United States has resumed secret military surveillance drone flights over the country’s tribal areas to provide Pakistani commanders with a wide array of videos and other information on militants, according to American and Pakistani officials.

The sharing of real-time video feeds, communications intercepts and other information with Pakistan’s military is considered essential in the country’s campaign to help hunt down the Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and destroy his hideouts and forces in the country’s northwest, the officials said.

Read more ....

More News On Pakistan's Civil War

Taliban Battle Stretches Pakistan's Forces -- Wall Street Journal
Deadly Ambush Could Indicate Threat to Pakistan's Army -- Washington Post
Pakistani Troops Kill 18 Terrorists in Swat Valley; 23 Captured -- Bloomberg
45 Taliban killed in airstrikes, clashes -- Daily Times
FACTBOX-Security developments in Pakistan, June 30 -- Reuters
Anti-Taliban Campaign in Pakistan's Swat Valley Enters Final Phase -- Voice of America
Taliban end North Waziristan peace agreement -- Long War Journal
Pakistan Militant Group Scraps Truce -- New York Times
Pakistan Militants Abandon Peace Pact -- Voice of America
Killed cleric's son: Some suicide attacks OK -- CNN
Policing Pakistan: The army isn't well equipped to fight the insurgency. -- Wall Street Journal opinion

The Success Of The Lioness teams In Iraq

Girls With Guns Get It -- Strategy Page

June 29, 2009: In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army and Marines found it useful to send a female soldier along on raids, as it was less disruptive to have a woman search the female civilians. There was no shortage of volunteers for this duty. The marines, as is their custom, saw more opportunities in this. Thus the marines began sending a team of women on such missions.

Now, by law, women are not allowed to participate in combat. But it's also understood that this only serves to keep women out of the combat arms (infantry, armor, artillery), but not out of combat itself. This was particularly true in Iraq, where non-combat troops were constantly attacked as they drove trucks in supply convoys. These convoys quickly acquired more weapons and combat training, and the women remained.

Read more

My Comment: I am sure that the Lionesses (what a term) are going to reconstituted in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- June 30, 2009

The body of a suicide bomber lies on the ground in Khost in May. US-led coalition airstrikes in remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan killed more than a dozen Islamist militants in bunkers overnight, the US military said Tuesday. (AFP/File/Mohammad Rasool)

Dozen Taliban Killed In Afghanistan: Military -- Yahoo News/AFP

KABUL (AFP) – US-led coalition airstrikes in remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan killed more than a dozen Islamist militants in bunkers overnight, the US military said Tuesday.

The strikes in the eastern province of Khost were called in against senior commanders of the Haqqani network, a Taliban outfit that is linked to Al-Qaeda and accused of some of the most sophisticated attacks in Afghanistan.

"Coalition forces planned and coordinated the airstrikes when intelligence sources indicated militant activity at this rugged location earlier in the day," the military said in a statement.

"Coalition force aircraft were called in and destroyed a pair of command bunkers, killing more than a dozen militants."

Read more ....

More News On The Afghan War

Coalition Air Strikes in Afghanistan Kill 12 Militants -- Voice of America
Suicide attack in Afghanistan kills two: official -- Yahoo News/AFP
Taliban killed in bunkers: US military -- Brisbane Times
FACTBOX-Security developments in Afghanistan, June 30 -- Reuters
Top US Officer Takes More Active Role on Afghanistan -- Voice of America
Afghans blame U.S.-led coalition for police chief's killing -- Yahoo News/McClatchy News
Afghan Security Guards Are Blamed in a Gun Battle That Killed a Police Chief -- New York Times
Afghan minister seeks end to private 'militias' -- Waashington Post
High-Tech Brigade Heads to Afghanistan, Loaded With Gadgets -- The Danger Room
Afghan president urges Taliban to vote in upcoming election -- China View
Rights group says voters lose trust in Afghan poll -- Reuters
Afghan Police to Grow by 10,000 for Elections -- U.S. Department of Defense
Russia, U.S. may sign Afghan military cargo deal -- Reuters
Afghan Air Corps Returns Mi-35 Helicopters to Flight -- U.S. Department of Defense
In Afghanistan, crackdown hurts Iran's once-sterling image -- McClatchy News
US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 640 -- AP

Pyongyang's True Ideology -- A Commentary

Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, 28.05.09

From The Wall Street Journal:

North Korea is no communist state.

How long will the U.S. and its allies keep misperceiving North Korea as a communist state? For decades the regime in Pyongyang has preached the racial superiority of the Korean people, and still the red label sticks. Now the country is in the throes of a massive military propaganda campaign exhorting its citizens to increase productivity not to better the people's lives, but to strengthen national defenses against the racial enemy -- "the Yankee beasts in human masks," as North Korean television news put it last week. If Washington doesn't recognize Kim Jong Il's regime for what it is -- a hardline nationalist state -- it will make dangerous policy miscalculations.

Read more ....

My Comment: Nationalism has always been a part of the Korean psyche .... and yes .... the North Koreans have been masters at manipulating this sentiment for he past 5 decades.

The Elimination Of Opposition In Iran

Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi march through Valiasr Street after he was defeated in the country's presidential election. Photograph: Olivier Laban-mattei/AFP/Getty Images

The Power of Iran's Iron Fist -- Spiegel Online

Tehran is in a state of emergency as the government continues its increasingly brutal crackdown against protesters. Hardliners and opposition politicians are searching for a compromise behind the scenes, but Iran's supreme leader is refusing to make any concessions.

The pressure must be great indeed when someone like Abbas Abdi no longer wants to talk. Whether as a revolutionary or a reformer, Abdi, 51, has never lacked courage and a willingness to take risks. During the 1979 occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran, he was one of the first to scale the embassy walls. With his calls to "fight against global arrogance," he became the most famous of the hostage-takers that held more than 50 US citizens captive for 444 days.

Read more ....

My Comment: When even long time Iranian protesters like Abbas Abdi are cowed into silence, you know that the regime is systematically eliminating their opponents through measures that someone like Saddam Hussein would nod in understanding.

Iran In Crisis -- News And Commentaries June 30, 2009

In this photo released by ISNA news agency, shows Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as talks with a man during his visit to a construction site in Tehran Monday, June 29, 2009. (AP Photo/ISNA, Amir Pourmand)

Iran Hardliner Says Election Protests Must Cease -- Yahoo News/Reuters

TEHRAN (Reuters) – A senior hardline Iranian cleric Tuesday demanded an end to protests over the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president after Iran's top legislative body slammed shut the last door for a legal challenge.

As expected, the Guardian Council Monday dismissed complaints of irregularities in the June 12 vote raised by two defeated candidates, Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi.

Read more ....

More News On Iran

Iran Council Certifies Ahmadinejad Victory -- New York Times
Iran hardliners hail confirmation of Ahmadinejad win -- Yahoo News/AFP
Iran's Guardian Council Affirms Vote Result -- Washington Post
Ahmadinejad victory confirmed in Iran -- BBC
Iran Confirms Ahmadinejad Win After Partial Vote Recount -- Voice of America
Iran Dismisses Vote-Fraud Claims -- Wall Street Journal
Iran's fading protests: The regime digs in -- The Economist
Iran's turmoil may lead it to more regional defiance -- The Daily Star
Clinton Cites 'Huge Credibility Gap' in Iran Over Election -- Voice of America
Iran election: Mir-Hossein Mousavi tells supporters to keep protesting -- The Telegraph
Q+A-What might happen next in Iran? -- Reuters
Obama's Obsolete Iran Policy -- Wall Street Journal opinion

The Unrest In Honduras -- News Updates And Commentaries June 30, 2009

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya clash with soldiers near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa on Monday. Associated Press

Honduras Battles Tide Of Support For Ousted Zelaya -- Yahoo News/Reuters

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduras' interim government battled on Tuesday against a tide of international support for ousted President Manuel Zelaya who vowed to return home after troops toppled and exiled him in a coup.

Honduras faces growing pressure to reinstate Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was forced out on Sunday and spirited away by the army to Costa Rica in the first military putsch in Central America since the Cold War.

Read more ....

More News On Honduras

Honduras coup: President Manuel Zelaya vows to return this week -- The Telegraph
Ousted Honduran leader to return -- BBC
Exiled leader Manuel Zelaya to return to Honduras -- Times Online
Honduras unrest flares as world calls for reverse of coup -- Yahoo News/AFP
Honduras isolated over coup, protests turn violent -- Yahoo News/Reuters
International support grows for ousted Honduras leader -- Miami Herald
U.S. Condemns Honduran Coup -- Washington Post
New Honduran Leadership Flouts Worldwide Censure -- Washington Post
New Honduras Government Resists International Pressure -- Voice of America
New Honduras Leader Faces Backlash From Coup -- Wall Street Journal
Honduran army stands firm as US condemns coup -- Independent
Honduras coup: leaders defy world by declaring 'nobody scares us' -- the Telegraph
Ousted president alienated many in Honduras -- AP
Interim leader says Honduras saved from Chavez -- Reuters
In pictures: Clashes in Honduras -- BBC
In a Coup in Honduras, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies -- New York Times
Defend Democracy -- Washington Post editorial
The Law Triumphs in Honduras -- Wall Street Journal editorial

Russian in Extradition Battle Says U.S. Agents Violated Law

Viktor Bout in Custody

From The New York Times:

BANGKOK — Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman suspected of arms trafficking who faces possible extradition to the United States, is pursuing what his lawyer calls a rare legal procedure that accuses American officials of overstepping their jurisdiction in a sting operation here last year.

The procedure could delay the extradition process and, if successful, result in criminal charges filed against three agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration who took part in Mr. Bout’s arrest, according to the lawyer, Chamroen Panompakakorn.

Mr. Chamroen said Monday that American agents had violated Thai law by apprehending Mr. Bout on their own before calling the Thai police to arrest him. They were also carrying firearms in violation of Thai law, he said.

Read more ....

My Comment: The stories that this guy can tell .... it should be no surprise that everyone wants him.

Iraq: A First Step To The End Of The Occupation

Iraqi police celebrated after a parade in Baquba, a day ahead of the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. forces from all of Iraqi cities. Moises Saman for The New York Times

U.S. Withdrawal From Iraqi Cities Marked by Holiday -- New York Times

BAGHDAD — Iraq declared a public holiday Tuesday to celebrate the official withdrawal of American troops from Iraqi cities and towns, emptying the streets as many people stayed home because they feared violence.

As official Iraq celebrated, the American military announced the death of four soldiers on Monday from combat operations in Baghdad, a reminder of the continuing hazards for American troops here and the vulnerability of soldiers as they wrap up operations in the field.

In the past few weeks, with the approach of the official date for withdrawal, nationalist sentiments have spread within the Iraqi government and military, with officials all but boasting publicly that Iraq is ready to handle the security situation on its own. The date of June 30 was set in an Iraqi-American security agreement that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

Read more

More News On Iraq

U.S. troops leave Iraq's cities -- Reuters
In Iraq, Jubilation as U.S. Combat Troops Withdraw From Cities -- Washington Post
Iraqi Forces Take Control in Baghdad -- Wall Street Journal
Iraq steps into precarious but sovereign unknown -- Yahoo News/AFP
Fireworks over Baghdad as Iraqis take over cities -- Yahoo News/AP
Iraqis celebrate U.S. troop pullback -- USA Today
Iraqis in festive mood on eve of U.S. troop exit -- L.A. Times
Iraq celebrates US pullout from cities -- The Telegraph
Challenges loom as Iraqis celebrate -- BBC
U.S. Troops Withdraw From Iraq's Cities -- Washington Post
US Hands Over Control of Iraqi Cities -- Voice of America
US bases close down in Iraq -- BBC
U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq cities -- Reuters]
Good signs jostle with doubts in Iraq -- L.A. Times
Iraq Begins Major Oil and Gas Auction -- New York Times
As Iraq Stabilizes, China Eyes Its Oil Fields -- New York Times
4 US soldiers killed during Iraq cities pullout -- Yahoo News/AP
U.S. Leaves Iraqi District Where Anger Lingers -- New York Times
Pullout From Iraq Cities Shifts War Burden to Intelligence Work -- Bloomberg
Violence Spikes as U.S. Troops Withdraw From Iraq's Cities -- US News And World Report
TIMELINE-Events in Iraq since U.S-led invasion -- Reuters
US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,319 -- Yahoo News/AP
The First Deadline -- New York Times editorial
U.S. Troops Withdraw From Iraq's Cities -- Washington Post opinions
Iraq: Mission Not Yet Accomplished -- Washington Post opinion
The Troop Drawdown Could Be Costly for Iraq -- Wall Street Journal opinion
Cracks show as US leaves Iraq cities -- The Guardian

UN Probe Into Gaza Conflict

From Christian Science Monitor:

Israelis and Palestinians question the credibility and effectiveness of 'unprecedented' public hearings about last January's attacks.

Gaza City, Gaza - In a tearful and gruesome testimony, Salah Al-Samouni spoke of the two days of Israeli helicopter attacks in the Zaytoun area of Gaza that claimed 29 members of his family on Jan. 5 and 6.

"They hit us, they hit us with Apaches," Mr. Samouni told United Nations war crimes investigators in Gaza City on Sunday. "I found my 2-year-old daughter, she was dead.... Why?"

Six months after Israel's winter military offensive that left over 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead (10 soldiers and three civilians), the UN is holding unprecedented public hearings in Gaza City and Geneva this week into allegations that war crimes were carried out during the conflict.

Read more ....

My Comment: By not examining the events that led up to the war (Hamas rocket attacks into Israel), this UN probe is going to be a useless exercise. If I can think of something similar, it is like having a UN probe on the U.S. - Japan conflict in the Second World War .... but ignoring Pearl Harbor.

House Intelligence Panel’s Report Warns of Emerging Threats

From CQ Politics:

The House Intelligence panel is worried about emerging threats in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Mexico, and thinks spy agencies are behind in addressing cybersecurity, diversity and foreign language training, according to a committee report released Monday.

The Democrat-controlled committee approved a fiscal 2010 intelligence authorization bill June 18 behind closed doors. The bill and committee report are made public later in accordance with the panel’s procedures. Republicans, meanwhile, bristled in their section of the report at what they said was poor Obama administration consultation with Congress on intelligence matters such as the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay and the release of previously secret documents on Bush administration interrogation policies.

Read more ....

My Comment: It appears that there is a considerable amount of discussion on what threats are now emerging .... but there is no followup on what to do about it. I can only hope that the reason why such information is not disclosed is because it is classified.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- June 30, 2009

Three A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fly in formation over Tucson, Ariz., during an air refueling training mission April 14, 2006. The A-10 aircraft are assigned to the 358th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christina D. Ponte)


US Marines Seeking F-35 JSF Instructor Pilots -- Defense Talk

Virginia-class Submarines Receive the Highest Ranking of Operational Test Agency
-- Defpro

Air Force tests missile in launch from Calif coast -- CBS/AP

South Korea getting U.S. missiles to boost defences -- Reuters

NKorea criticizes US missile defense for Hawaii -- Washington Post

Russia buys 12 spy drones from Israel -- RIA Novosti

Netanyahu to Putin: Stop selling missiles to Iran -- Haaretz

UK Trident upgrade could be scrapped: Ministers target £20bn project to save cash -- The Telegraph

Typhoons will come back in service -- Barents Observer

SA-5 Update -- ELP Defens(c)e Blog

Congress Coordinates Combat Colors -- Strategy Page

MATV Decision Likely Tuesday -- DoD Buzz

Navy Seeks Unblinking Eye for Battlefield Surveillance
-- Danger Room

Army lab works to improve Soldier health, performance
-- Army.mil

The Nightmare Of Nigeria's Oil-Rich Delta

Niger Delta militants show off their firepower during
armed combat training in the jungle. Photo: REUTERS

From Yahoo News/AFP:

LAGOS (AFP) – Immensely rich in oil and gas, the Niger Delta is the cornerstone of Nigeria's economy, but the southern region is a nightmare for both the authorities and its poor residents.

Rebels on Monday announced their latest raid on a Shell oil facility, saying they had caused a "massive explosion" at the Forcados terminal and sunk a military gunboat with a score of troops aboard after a gun battle.

President Umaru Yar'Adua, in office since May 2007, has officially made the Delta a priority, but sabotage and the clashes go on, oil production falls and grinding hardship is widespread.

Read more ....

More News On Nigeria's Oil Conflict

Oil rises to near $70 on another attack in Nigeria
-- AP
Nigerian Militants say Offshore Facility on Fire -- Voice of America
MEND destroys Shell platform in Monday attack -- NEXT
Shell Confirms Nigerian Attack; Some Output Shut Down -- Wall Street Journal
Militants attack Nigeria oil base -- BBC
President orders amnesty for top Nigeria rebel -- Reuters

Keeping News of Kidnapping Off Wikipedia

David Rohde of The New York Times in the Helmand region of Afghanistan in 2007. Tomas Munita for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

For seven months, The New York Times managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban.

But that was pretty straightforward compared with keeping it off Wikipedia.

Times executives believed that publicity would raise Mr. Rohde’s value to his captors as a bargaining chip and reduce his chance of survival. Persuading another publication or a broadcaster not to report the kidnapping usually meant just a phone call from one editor to another, said Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times.

But Wikipedia, which operates under the philosophy that anyone can be an editor, and that all information should be public, is a vastly different world.

Read more ....

My Comment: I am glad that he escaped, but no one can argue that a double standard is being at play here.

Flood Of Afghan Heroin Fuels Drug Plague In Russia

From McClatchy News:

CHELYABINSK, Russia — Young men with sores on their arms shuffled up the stairs of a dark, underground shopping arcade and into the daylight to plop dingy wads of rubles into the drug dealers' hands. The dealers casually reached into their pockets or plastic shopping bags and handed over tablets of synthetic morphine, a type also used as a horse tranquilizer, and paper packets that appeared to contain heroin.

Across the street in this gray, post-Soviet industrial town, two Russian policemen sat in a faded wooden booth, and a couple more sat in a police truck outside. They didn't seem the least bit interested.

A police officer walked by but didn't interrupt the transaction. Asked whether he was worried, one of the dealers, a young man with a white driving cap tipped down over his eyes, leaned back against a railing and giggled.

Read more ....

My Comment: I have seen these changes in the past 16 years, especially in Moscow. The Russian drug of choice was always alcoholism .... until now. Heroin addiction is now prevalent everywhere, and it does not discriminate according to status or ethnic background. Cocaine has not made any inroads yet, but (I am sure) that this will change as more Russians start to travel to the West and the Americas.

Old Soldiers Sometimes Do Not Fade Away

General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led Vietnam to victory over
both France and the United States. Kham/Reuters

War Hero In Vietnam Forces Government To Listen -- New York Times

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s great war hero, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, has stood up to defend his country once again, this time against what he says would be a huge mistake by the government — a vast mining operation run by a Chinese company.

Now 97, the commander who led his country to victory over both France and the United States has emerged as the most prominent voice in a broad popular protest that is challenging the secretive workings of the country’s Communist leaders.

In an unusual step, the government has taken note of the criticisms in recent weeks and appears to be making at least gestures of response, saying it will review the project’s environmental impact and slow its full implementation.

Read more ....

My Comment: At 97 he still wears his uniform. Sheeessshhhh .....

John Rizzo: The Most Influential Career Lawyer In CIA History

The CIA's Acting General Counsel John Rizzo, left, will retire this summer — and not entirely on his own terms. His role in the CIA’s interrogation program hurt his chances of a Senate confirmation for the agency’s top legal post. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

From The L.A. Times:

John Rizzo, acting general counsel, has long guided the agency through murky legal matters, but he's paying the price for it.

Reporting from Washington -- In his memoir, former CIA Director George J. Tenet described the agency's first course of action in a crisis. "Despite what Hollywood might have you believe," Tenet wrote, "you don't call in the tough guys; you call in the lawyers."

For more than three decades, that almost always has meant making a call to John A. Rizzo.

The acting general counsel at the CIA, Rizzo has guided generations of agency leaders on the legal contours of clandestine operations and the often-ensuing investigations.

Read more ....

My Comment: Your political bosses tell you to examine the legal guidelines on a policy, and you provide it to the best of your abilities But when the political opponents to the policy hold the reigns of power, your career is then effectively over. this is not a good sign.

The question that needs to be asked now is .... who will replace him, and will the CIA's legal department follow a legal structure on what will be the legal contours of clandestine operations and investigations .... or will it be a political structure with priority on CYA.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Are Our Wars Driving Us Mad? -- A Commentary

From Fabius Maximus:

Recent posts on this site have explored the flimsy analytical foundation for the Afghanistan War. The theories of the war’s advocates are supported neither by obvious facts nor a firm body of expert opinion.

There is another dimension to this. The pro-war comments are this site have become increasingly delusional over the past 4 years. Really disturbing. This is speculation — just guessing — but I believe this shows what 8 years of war have done to America. We’re locked into a seemingly endless war (as described here), whose costs exceed any likely benefit. As so often happens, this rots our minds.

To call this “madness” is an exaggeration, the phenomenon is a historical commonplace. WWI is the classic example. The original aims were quickly made obsolete by events. The blood and treasure spent made backing down impossible. Madness was the result.

Read more ....

My Comment: A profound analysis .... Fabius Maximus is getting better with time.

There Is Stupid, Then There Is REALLY Stupid In The U.S. Air Force

Airmen Sound Off On Stupid Rules -- U.S. Air Force

There’s stupid. Then there’s Air Force stupid.

At least that’s what hundreds of airmen told us when Air Force Times threw out the question: What are the dumbest rules in the Air Force?

We’d like to take credit for the question, but it really goes to Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, who asked his soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division what griped them about the way the Army lays down the law.

Oates got nearly 100 responses to his blog post; we counted more than 350 posts to our callout and received nearly 20 letters through the mail.

We passed on some of the gripes to service leaders to get their take.

The response: Cut us some slack, we’re working on it.

Read more ....

My Comment: Sometimes we need a laugh.

America is Vulnerable to An Electromagnetic Pulse Attack

(Click Image to Enlarge)
A map showing the extent of the 1998 Ice Storm that affected eastern Ontario, southwest Quebec, New Brunswick, and parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The map shows the accumulation of ice in millimetres from January 4 to January 10, 1998. Image from Wikipedia.

From Human Events:

If a small atomic bomb were to explode 400km above Chicago it could fry all electronically-based technology from Chicago to Dallas affecting the infrastructure of all major cities on the east coast and as far as South Dakota.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack is as instantaneous as an atomic bomb blast. It moves like a wall of energy overloading, and destroying all computer based technology. Such an attack would shut down the power grid. Air traffic would be grounded, telephone, internet and other communications would be shut down. America would be reduced to the agricultural economy we had in the 1800s.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is an exaggeration of the worse degree .... I should know, because I live in a city of 2.5 million that had its power cut off for a week (in the middle of winter) .... and there was no disaster.

In 1998 Quebec experienced an ice storm that destroyed the electrical infrastructure for Montreal (I live in Montreal), southern Quebec, Eastern Ontario, and parts of New England. It was in the middle of winter, and the temperature inside my house reached -5 C (it was -20C outside).

So what happened during this disaster.

In Montreal, a city with over 2 million people, everyone pitched in. Emergency shelters were opened. Food distributed. Hospitals and old age homes were prioritized. Candles, generators, batteries .... everyone helped everyone. During this period, there was no crime .... I repeat .... crime dropped to nothing. There were few if any fatalities, and the economic costs were serious, but we recovered very quickly after. It took months to repair the grid .... but they did.

If the U.S. gets hit with an EMP attack, the consequences will be serious, but nowhere near the disaster that some are saying it will be.

Russia Holds Major War Games In Caucasus, Stokes Tensions in The Region

Artillery practice at Ingur frontier post, where Russian border guards have been deployed to defend Abkhazia's border with Georgia. Photo Radio free Europe

From CBS News:

Russia Holds Largest War Games Since War With Georgia. In Signal To Georgia, And To US

(AP) Thousands of troops, backed by hundreds of tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry, began rumbling through the North Caucasus on Monday, as Russia began its largest military exercises since last year's war with Georgia.

The Caucasus 2009 war games are being seen by many experts as a warning shot for nearby Georgia, where the government says it has rearmed armed forces and where NATO recently wrapped up its own exercises.

Read more ....

More News On Russia's Military Exercises

Russian Military Exercises Increase Georgian Tensions
-- Huffington Post
Russia stokes tensions with Georgia as troops gather near border -- Times Online
Friction Feeds Fears Of New Russia-Georgia Conflict -- Radio Free Europe
Russian exercises anger Georgia -- BBC
Russia starts large-scale war games, Georgia fumes -- Reuters

My Comment: This is Russia flexing its muscle, but it is also a symbol of Russia's concerns with the Caucasus, and the growth of terrorism and separatist movements in this region.

Closing The Outside World In China

China's Information Dam -- Washington Post editorial

Should Yahoo, Google and Microsoft help the censors?

"IT IS NOT our job to fix the Chinese government," Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said last week. Maybe not. But search engines operating in China face a dilemma come July. Starting Wednesday, China is embarking on a broad initiative to clamp down on Web content the government views as obscene, billing these efforts as a fight against pornography. For Chinese officials, there has always been an overlap between pornography and references to politically sensitive topics such as the Falun Gong and Tiananmen Square. June traditionally marks a crackdown in China's Web censorship as the country brings down sites such as You Tube (inaccessible since March) and Twitter for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. But more is in the works.

Read more ....

My Comment:The money and market potential is so big in China, U.S. search engines will huff and puff .... but in the end they will accommodate the Chinese Government's needs.

South Korea, Japan Want North Korea to Return to Talks

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso attend their joint press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Sunday, June 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai, Pool)

From The Wall Street Journal:

TOKYO -- The leaders of South Korea and Japan pledged Sunday to work together to bring North Korea back to the table for negotiations aimed at persuading the isolated regime to abandon its nuclear-weapons program.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak spent the day in Tokyo for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a month after Pyongyang's underground nuclear test ratcheted up tensions in the region.

Read more ....

My Comment: You can bring a camel to the water, but you cannot make him drink it. The same can be said about North Korea.

Which State Security Branch Rules Tehran's Streets?

The Iranian basij paramilitary, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard.
Vahid Salemi / AP

From Time Magazine:

Two weeks after the contested results of Iran's Presidential elections led to widespread street riots and demonstrations across the country, the Islamic Republic pronounced its harshest threat yet to protesters. At the official ceremony for Friday prayers, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a hard-line cleric who often delivers the sermon, said those who agitate on the streets were "waging war against God," a crime that carries the death sentence.

Read more ....

My Comment: They are just a bunch of thugs picked off the street and given a uniform a license to intimidate and physically injure others.

Beijing Formalizes Call for New Reserve Currency

From The Wall Street Journal:

BEIJING -- China's central bank reiterated its call for the creation of a new international currency that could replace currencies such as the dollar in countries' official reserves.

In its annual report on financial stability, issued Friday, the People's Bank of China said the country will push reform of the international currency system to make it more diversified and reasonable. While it didn't specifically target the U.S. currency, it said it aims to reduce over-reliance on the current reserve currencies, of which the dollar is the biggest.

"To avoid the shortcomings of sovereign credit currencies acting as reserve currencies, we need to create an... international reserve currency that can maintain the long-term stability of its value," the PBOC said.

Read more ....

My Comment: I guess the Chinese have given up on the U.S. greenback. I must confess that as a Canadian, I am (somewhat) relieved that I get paid in Canadian dollars .... even though I do know that if the U.S. economy goes into the toilet, so will the rest of the world.