Wednesday, March 30, 2005

1981 attack on Pope planned by KGB: Report : HindustanTimes.com

1981 attack on Pope planned by KGB: Report : :
Agence France-Presse

New documents found in the files of the former East German intelligence services confirm the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II was ordered by the Soviet KGB and assigned to Bulgarian agents, an Italian daily said on Wednesday.

The Corriere della Sera said that the documents found by the German government indicated that the KGB ordered Bulgarian colleagues to carry out the killing, leaving the East German service known as the Stasi to coordinate the operation and cover up the traces afterwards.

Bulgaria then handed the execution of the plot to Turkish extremists, including Mehmet Ali Agca, who pulled the trigger."

U.S. May Bring Troops Home from Iraq if Violence Low: NY Newsday

New York City: U.S. May Bring Troops Home if Violence Low:

WASHINGTON -- U.S. forces in Iraq could begin coming home in significant numbers if insurgent violence is low through the general elections scheduled for the end of the year, a top general said Wednesday.

A larger and more capable insurgency, setbacks in the efforts to develop Iraq security forces, or missed deadlines by the transitional government could delay any significant drawdown, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith.

Smith, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which has military authority over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, commented in an interview with reporters at the Pentagon.

'(If) the elections go O.K., violence stays down, then we ought to be able to make some recommendations ... for us to be able to bring our forces home,' Smith said.

Smith is the latest senior general to express conditional optimism about improvements in Iraq since the Jan. 30 elections. Previously, officials had spoken very little about prospects for withdrawal of the tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq. "

Monday, March 28, 2005

Gang will target Minuteman vigil on Mexico border - The Washington Times

Gang will target Minuteman vigil on Mexico border - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - March 28, 2005: "Gang will target Minuteman vigil on Mexico border

NACO, Ariz. -- Members of a violent Central America-based gang have been sent to Arizona to target Minuteman Project volunteers, who will begin a monthlong border vigil this weekend to find and report foreigner sneaking into the United States, project officials say.
James Gilchrist, a Vietnam veteran who helped organize the vigil to protest the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration, said he has been told that California and Texas leaders of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have issued orders to teach 'a lesson' to the Minuteman volunteers.

"We're not worried because half of our recruits are retired trained combat soldiers," Mr. Gilchrist said. "And those guys are just a bunch of punks."
More than 1,000 volunteers are expected to take part in the Minuteman vigil, which will include civilian patrols along a 20-mile section of the San Pedro River Valley, which has become a frequent entry point to the United States for foreigner headed north.
About 40 percent of the 1.15 million foreign nationals caught last year by the U.S. Border Patrol trying to gain illegal entry to the United States were apprehended along a 260-mile stretch of the Arizona border here known as the Tucson sector.
Many of the Minuteman volunteers are expected to be armed, although organizers of the border vigil have prohibited them from carrying rifles. Only those people with a license to carry a handgun will be allowed to do so, Mr. Gilchrist said.
[...]

The MS-13 gang has established major smuggling operations in several areas along the U.S.-Mexico border and have transported hundreds of Central and South Americans -- including gang members -- into the United States in the past two years. The gang also is involved in drug and weapons smuggling.
Gang members in America have been tied to numerous killings, robberies, burglaries, carjackings, extortion, rapes and aggravated assaults. Authorities said that the gang has earned a reputation from the other street gangs as being particularly ruthless and that it will retaliate violently when challenged.
The MS-13 gang, with 20,000 members nationwide, has risen in recent months to such prominence that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, has begun a nationwide crackdown on gang members in this country -- as part of a sweeping law-enforcement initiative known as Operation Community Shield.
ICE agents arrested more than 100 members of the gang during limited raids that began in January in just six cities, including 35 who were taken into custody in Virginia and Maryland. The authorities said MS-13 gang members originally moved into the Los Angeles area in the 1980s.
"

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Iraqi forces seize 131 suspects in raid outside Kerbala

Iraqi forces seize 131 suspects in raid.

Iraqi soldiers, backed by US helicopters, are reported to have seized 131 suspects in a dawn raid on insurgents planning attacks on the holy city of Kerbala.
[...]

Officials say say those arrested included foreigners using fake Iraqi identification papers.

Three tonnes of TNT explosive, hundreds of rocket-propelled grenade launchers and at least three prepared car bombs were also found.

Kerbala, an important Shi'ite Muslim holy city, has been targeted by militants several times in the past.

Next week the city will draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for Arbain, a major mourning ceremony.

Earlier this week Iraqi police commandos said they killed 85 militants in a raid on a suspected insurgent training camp near Baghdad, hailing it as a breakthrough against the insurgency.

The Iraqi's are becoming a potent force fighting terrorists in their country. Far from being the "freedom fighters" the leftists gush about, the insurgents are a collection of foreign jihadis and petty criminals working for hire. Their back is being broken as we speak. Every day the Iraqi police and army become stronger, and every day the insurgency becomes weaker.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Many Germans Want Berlin Wall Back, Study Finds - My Way News

My Way News: "Many Germans Want Berlin Wall Back, Study Finds

BERLIN (Reuters) - Nearly a quarter of western Germans and 12 percent of easterners want the Berlin Wall back -- more than 15 years after the fall of the barrier that split Germany during the Cold War, according to a new survey.

The results of the poll, published Saturday, reflected die-hard animosities over high reunification costs lowering western standards of living and economic turmoil in the east.

The survey of 2,000 Germans by Berlin's Free University and pollsters Forsa found 24 percent of those living in western Germany want the Wall back -- double the eastern level.

In Berlin itself, 11 percent of westerners and 8 percent of easterners said 'yes' when asked: 'Would it be better if the Wall between East and West were still standing?.'

The Berlin Wall was breached on Nov. 9, 1989, paving the way for the unification of Communist East Germany with the West on Oct. 3, 1990. But billions of euros (dollars) spent rebuilding the east have failed to prop up the depressed region, which is plagued by high unemployment and a shrinking population.

The poll also found that 47 percent of the easterners agree with the statement that the West 'acquired the east like a colony,' while 58 percent of the westerners back the statement that 'easterners tend to wallow in self-pity.'"

Iraq's insurgents ‘seek exit strategy' - Financial Times

Iraq's insurgents ‘seek exit strategy'

Many of Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Arab insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process in exchange for guarantees of their safety and that of their co-religionists, according to a prominent Sunni politician.

Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq’s main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba’ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election.

“Firstly, they want to ensure their own security,” says Sharif Ali, who last week hosted a pan-Sunni conference attended by tribal sheikhs and other local leaders speaking on behalf of the insurgents.

Insurgent leaders fear coming out into the open to talk for fear of being targeted by US military or Iraqi security forces’ raids, he said.
[...]

Unlike Mr Zarqawi's followers, who are thought to be responsible for the big suicide bomb attacks on Iraqi civilian targets, the other Sunni insurgents are more likely to plant bombs and carry out ambushes against security forces and US troops active near their homes.

Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralising blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process.

Deaths in Iraq much lower now than during the Saddam era!

News about Attrition at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.:


"March 2, 2005: Since Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party were removed from power in 2003, there have been about 1,300 deaths among the coalition forces, and between 20-25,000 for Iraqis. The Iraqi deaths include about 5,000 killed during the 2003 invasion. Of the remainder, about half are Sunni Arabs (most of them Iraqi, plus a few Shia Arabs) killed while fighting coalition forces as terrorists. Another five thousand or so are Iraqis killed by the terrorists, and the remainder are Iraqi civilians caught in the cross fire. The deaths among Iraqis is actually lower than when Saddam was in power. During his three decades of rule, Saddam killed half a million Kurds, and several hundred thousand Shia Arabs (and several thousand Sunni Arabs and Christian Arabs). During the 1990s, Saddam used access to food and medical care as a way to keep the Shia Arabs under control, but this process caused twenty thousand or more excess deaths a year (from disease and malnutrition). Foreign media, especially in Sunni Moslem nations, tend to play with these numbers. That is, they downplay the deaths inflicted by Saddam, inflate those that occurred during the 1990s and blame it on the UN, and greatly inflate the number of Iraqi civilians killed during coalition military operations. But Iraqis on the scene provide more accurate numbers, which are the ones presented here. A lot of the documentation for these stats will come out during the war crimes trials of Saddam and his key aides. "

Iraqi Special Forces- the best weapon against terrorists! - StrategyPage.com

News about Infantry at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.But month by month, more Iraqis were identified as effective officers and NCOs. Unfortunately, the few thousand men who filled the bill were spread thinly across a force of some 150,000 police and troops. What this meant, in early 2004, was that where was no Iraqi units that could be used for offensive operations. Meanwhile some foreign police advisors, and American division commanders, took matters into their own hands and collected small numbers of eager and capable Iraqis, and gave them commando or SWAT training. The main need here was for some combat capable Iraqis who could work with American troops in raids and, in particular, operations inside mosques. This worked, and soon the Iraqi Special Operations Force was established. The first battalion, the 36th Special Operations Commando battalion attracted applicants from all over Iraq. Some had served in Saddam’s commando units, but wanted nothing to do with joining the terrorists. Others were Kurds who had been trained by American Special Forces during the 1990s. By the end of 2004, the 36th battalion had 300 trained troops, and effective leadership. By this time, the Iraqi Special Operations Brigade was formed, and additional commando battalions were in training. The terrorists recognized this threat, and began using terror tactics on the families of commando troops. The answer to that was to build a base for the brigade, and their families.

For the police there was the similar Iraqi Security Forces Quick Response units. Basically SWAT teams, which gave police in heavily Sunni Arab areas some offensive forces. The SWAT teams could shoot it out with terrorist units and win. More importantly, the SWAT team commander learned how to outthink the terrorists.

The problem with commandos and SWAT teams is that you cannot create them in a few weeks. It takes careful selection of recruits, months of intense training, and then months on the job, often accompanied by American troops and Special Forces instructors, before the commando squads and platoons are able to operate on their own. But once the commando platoons and SWAT teams are trained, they are the terrorists worst nightmare. Moreover, they are very popular with American troops. The Iraqis are well versed in the same tactics American troops use, are reliable, and, of course, know the language and people. The usual drill is for American troops to go in and surround the area of the raid, secure entry and exit routes (clearing out roadside bombs and booby traps), and provide back up firepower. Then the Iraqis go in and execute the raid. Doing this is a lot easier with the American troops providing all the support and backup.

As more commando battalions and SWAT teams are formed, the rate of formation increases. That’s because Iraqi instructors are taken from existing battalions and teams. In another year, there will be several thousand Iraqis trained, or in training, for commando and SWAT operations. This is what will wipe out the terrorists. The Iraqi police can sort through the arrested a lot more quickly than can Americans, even Americans who speak Arabic. The terrorists also find it demoralizing when they are taken down by Iraqi troops or police. The terrorists recognize the threat, but now regard the Iraqi commando and SWAT operators as difficult targets, just as they do American troops. The result is that this year, you are going to see more battles between Iraqis and terrorists this year, battles the terrorists are going to usually lose.

Friday, March 25, 2005

IRAQ: Al Qaeda Losses Up, American Losses Down - StrategyPage.com

military news about IraqIRAQ: Al Qaeda Losses Up, American Losses Down

March 24, 2005: More Iraqis are losing their fear of terrorists, and it's hurting the anti-government forces. In the last three days, tips from Iraqis have led Iraqi police and troops to several terrorist hideouts. This has resulted in some spectacular gun battles, and the deaths of over 130 terrorists (and about a dozen police and soldiers.) The Iraqis have been using their growing force of SWAT teams to carry out the raids, with American forces providing backup and air cover. One raid, north of Baghdad, left 85 terrorists dead, and revealed a suicide car bomb workshop, as well as documents and weapons. The dead terrorists included men from many foreign countries (Persian Gulf states, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, and the Philippines.) The government was quick to let the local media film the crime scenes and interview people. The police and army commandos have become national heroes, with their fame increasing after each successful raid. The traditional Iraqi style for such work was heavy handed, time consuming and clumsy. The SWAT teams are quick, efficient, and cause little collateral damage. This is in sharp contrast to the terrorists, who continue to set off bombs in crowded civilian areas, killing women and children in the process. The terrorists have also been hitting schools, and killing children, with mortar shells. This is probably a matter of an unskilled terrorist aiming the mortar, but the damage to the terrorists reputation is done. However, there have been deliberate killings of women and children by terrorists recently, apparently in an attempt to terrorize Iraqis into not supporting the government. This tactic isn't working, and the government is jumping all over this barbaric behavior to encourage Iraqis to stand up and turn in terrorists.

There appear to be no more than 3-4,000 terrorists and anti-government fighters out there. This was deduced when American intelligence paid close attention to terrorist operations last January, in an attempt to get a better idea of just how many terrorists, and anti-government gunmen, there actually were in the country. It was believed that the terrorists would make a maximum effort in January to derail the election, and would get all of their people out for this. Since January, there appear to have been substantial defections from anti-government groups, and the terrorists can no longer depend on Sunni Arabs to keep mum about where terrorist safe houses and workshops are set up.

American casualties continue to decline. U.S. combat deaths are down some 40 percent from February, and are only about a third of what they were in January. Casualties haven't been this low since the Spring of 2003, right after Saddam was toppled. The hard core Sunni Arabs who continued to support Saddam and the Baath Party are a broken force, with most of their leaders either captured, or negotiating deals with the government. Al Qaeda continues to see Iraq as their most important battleground. But the terrorists coming to Iraq find themselves fighting Iraqis, not Americans. The Iraqis, not happy about being the target for al Qaeda bombs, has gone after the terrorists with a vengeance. Al Qaeda is also being hammered in countries throughout the Middle East. This is not quite the sort of war Osama bin Laden had in mind, but it's what he's got, and it doesn't play well for bin Laden in the Arab media.

New US “Intel Snipers” Fielded in Iraq, IDF Undercover Unit in Gaza- Debka



New US “Intel Snipers” Fielded in Iraq, IDF Undercover Unit in Gaza


The newly-employed American and Israeli counter-terror tactics have some fundamentally common features, as DEBKAfile’s military experts point out.

In Iraq, the US army has deployed for the first time a 42nd Infantry Division unit known as “Intel Snipers”, i.e. sniper-trained soldiers of the division’s 173rd Long Range Surveillance Detachment. They are armed with newly-issued M-14 rifles which have never been surpassed as a marksman’s weapon.

Some 1,000 km to the west, Israel has belatedly deployed for full-scale operations behind enemy lines in the Gaza Strip the same kind of elite unit, the IDF’s Shimshon Battalion 92, reinforced by scores of intelligence snipers trained to target small terrorist units.

Capt. Michael Manning, commander of the US unit, describes the M-14 as a tremendous force multiplier. It is an integral part of the unit’s equipment for LRS-Long Range Surveillance and targeting. In Iraq, the unit will operate 80-100 km inside enemy terrain, observe and report on improvised explosive devices and indirect fire and, if ordered, eliminate insurgents with their sniper rifles which are capable of neutralizing targets at a distance of 800 meters.

The American Intel Snipers will also be charged with sterilizing the vicinity of US bases, command posts and convoys of hostile threats.

The Shimshon Battalion’s missions in the Gaza Strip are somewhat similar. Based in the Israeli location of Netzarim, this unit’s undercover missions cover the northern part of the Gaza Strip. They include guarding Israeli communities, detentions of wanted and suspected terrorists, and the liquidation of enemy assailants and bombers before they strike. Shimshon’s troops are on hand to abort recoilless rocket grenade attacks and Qassam missile launchings.

These Israeli intel snipers, in full-scale operation for the first time in the first three days of this week, took out 19 Palestinians caught in the act of firing missiles or mortars from the eastern districts of Gaza City.

The New York Times > Science > Tissue Find Offers New Look Into Dinosaurs' Lives

The New York Times > Science > Tissue Find Offers New Look Into Dinosaurs' Lives:

"A 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex recently discovered in Montana, scientists reported today, has apparently yielded the improbable: soft tissues, including blood vessels and possibly cells, that 'retain some of their original flexibility, elasticity and resilience.'

In a paper being published on Friday in the journal Science, the discovery team said that the remarkable preservation of the tissue might open up 'avenues for studying dinosaur physiology and perhaps some aspects of their biochemistry.'

'Tissue preservation to this extent has not been noted before in dinosaurs,' the team leader, Dr. Mary H. Schweitzer of North Carolina State University, said in a teleconference on Tuesday.

The scientists said that an examination with a scanning electron microscope showed the dinosaur blood vessels to be 'virtually indistinguishable' from those recovered from ostrich bones. The ostrich is today's largest bird, and many paleontologists think birds are living descendants of some dinosaurs.

Dr. Schweitzer and other scientists not connected with the research cautioned that further analysis of the specimens was required before they could be sure the tissues had indeed survived unaltered. They said the extraction of DNA for studies of dinosaur genetics and cloning experiments was only a long shot.

But in a separate article in Science, Dr. Lawrence Witmer, a paleontologist at Ohio University, who had no part in the research, said: 'If we have tissues that are not fossilized, then we can potentially extract DNA. It's very exciting.'

If the tissues are as well preserved as they seem, the scientists held out some hope of recovering intact proteins, which are less fragile and more abundant DNA. Proteins might provide clues to the evolutionary relationship of dinosaurs to other animals and possibly help solve the puzzle of dinosaur physiology: whether, as argued, dinosaurs were unlike other reptiles in being warm-blooded.

"If we can isolate certain proteins, we can address the issue of the physiology of dinosaurs," Dr. Schweitzer said.

"

The New York Times > Washington > Report Calls For Punishing Peacekeepers in Sex Abuse

The New York Times > Washington > Report Calls For Punishing Peacekeepers in Sex Abuse:

"A report on sexual abuse by peacekeepers recommended Thursday that offending soldiers and their commanders be punished by their home countries, that payments made to them be recovered and put into a fund for victims and that the United Nations make compliance with these measures a condition for taking part in its missions."

Yeah, this is the group that sits in judgement of the U.S., from its lofty vantage of moral superiority. I hate the UN!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Indiadaily.com - The Middle East is closer to Shiite Sunni all out civil war

Indiadaily.com - The Middle East is closer to Shiite Sunni all out civil war:

"Indication are there that Shiite majority is Iraq and Sunnis in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other countries are on the verge of an all out civil war. On one side Iran is influencing the Shiite population. But on the other side predominantly Sunni Arabs are ready to wage the overt and covert war against Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on 20th march that Iraq was temporarily recalling its ambassador to Jordan for 'consultations.' The decision comes two days after Shiite protesters, demanding an apology for alleged Jordanian involvement in a suicide bombing in the city of Al Hillah, raised the Iraqi flag over the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad.

More interestingly, Kuwait predominantly Sunni came out a few days back with strong words against a secret pact with Israel. The Sunnis all over the Middle East are irritated with Shiite dominance in Iraq. Saddam after all fought the long bloody war with Iran to hold the line on the sand for Sunnis. Now the same Iraq dominated by the Iran backed Shiites worries the Arab Sunnis. The absence of Sunnis who never participated in the Iraqi election is also significant.

The common perception in the Sunni community of Middle East is that Saddam got replaced by Shiites in Iraq who are backed by Iranian Mullahs."
[...]

As Shiites get control of the power structure in Iraq, the Sunnis will try to hurt Shiite interest in any way they can. This may turn out to be something very ugly. Over time this can turn into a fight between Shiite and Sunni in the Middle East. Well, international politics can be complex. This can be a way to keep Middle East busy fighting among themselves.

During British Raj, British created the division between Hindus and the Muslims. And, India and Pakistan is still busy chasing each other and obstructing each others prosperity. That is known as “Divide in Rule” principle.

The Shiites and Sunnis in Middle East should come together, stop fighting, share power in a logical way, deplore violence and focus on economic prosperity.

Indiadaily.com - Converging U.S. Navy aircraft carrier groups in Middle East send strong message to Iran and Syria

Indiadaily.com - Converging U.S. Navy aircraft carrier groups in Middle East send strong message to Iran and Syria:

"The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is on the move in Atlantic Ocean and is possibly headed towards the Mediterranean Sea. The convergence of three carrier groups in the corridor of the Middle East will send very strong message to the Syrians and Iranians. There are indications that soon US is moving two more aircraft carrier battle groups to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. This will spell a formidable strike force for Iran and Syria who are in defiance on issues of Lebanon and Nuclear weapons development."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

New year party gets political on streets of Tehran The Guardian: Iranian New Year party gets political

A Daily Briefing on Iran from regimechangeiniran.blogspot.com: Guardian article: Iranians celebrate ancient holiday hated by Mullah hardliners.:

'This is a way for people to use their national traditions to show their opposition to the regime,' said a man called Reza, before hurrying away, saying that the security forces were lurking nearby.

Stretching back 2,500 years, the significance of Chahar Shanbeh Souri for Iranians is comparable to Christmas in the west. But its pre-Islamic roots have rendered it an object of hostility to the country's hardline clerical establishment. After the 1979 revolution, the authorities tried to ban the celebration, deeming it an affront to Islamic mores.

But with many Iranians chafing against the regime's austere brand of Shia Islam, the festival has increasingly been used to express displeasure with the government.

In previous years, pro-regime vigilantes have been deployed to break up such gatherings by force. This time, however, the regime has tacitly permitted the festivals.

But tolerance has its limits. As people gathered, squads of baton-wielding police officers sealed off the nearby Mohseni Square, lest it become a magnet for unmanageably large crowds. Several times they attacked, using their batons and firing teargas canisters.

Muhammad Ghodzi, 28, a student, bristled with anger as he criticised the regime. 'We hate their brand of Islam because it spills blood,' he said. 'This is a sort of Islam that keeps people backward. But young people nowadays think.'

Asked what kind of political system he wanted, he replied: 'Democratic, with a separation between religion and politics ... We will sacrifice our lives for democracy and freedom.'"

7 al-Zarqawi insurgents found slain in retaliation for killing - The Seattle Times:

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: 7 al-Zarqawi insurgents found slain in retaliation for killing

BAGHDAD, Iraq — When more than 80 bodies were found last week at four different places in Iraq, a fifth gruesome discovery attracted little notice.

In the violent city of Ramadi, a center of Sunni insurgent activity 60 miles west of Baghdad, the bodies of seven men were found lined up in an unfinished house on the western outskirts of town, according to eyewitnesses.

Unlike the corpses elsewhere, which were mostly Iraqi police and soldiers, the bodies in Ramadi apparently were foreigners, fighters working for Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings, kidnappings and assassinations.
[...]

"My cousins are the ones who killed them," said Jabbar Khalaf Marawi, 42, a former army officer and Communist Party member in Ramadi. Marawi said the slayings were carried out by members of his Dulaimi clan in retaliation for the Oct. 2 killing of a clan leader, Lt. Col. Sulaiman Ahmed Dulaimi, the Iraqi National Guard commander for Ramadi and Fallujah, by al-Zarqawi's group.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Mark Steyn on John Bolton and the U.N.

Mark Steyn on John Bolton and the U.N.

You're with a bunch of foreigners and you want them to like you and it's easy to get carried away.

That's what was so stunning about Bolton. In a roomful of Euro-grandees, he was perfectly relaxed, a genial fellow with a rather Mitteleuropean moustache, but he thwacked every ball they served back down their gullets with amazing precision. He was the absolute antithesis of Schmoozer Bill and Pandering Eason: he seemed to relish their hostility. At one event, a startled British cabinet minister said to me afterwards, 'He doesn't mean all that, does he?'

But he does. And that's why the Bolton flap is very revealing about conventional wisdom on transnationalism. Diplomats are supposed to be 'diplomatic'. Why is that? Well, as the late Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson used to say, diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. In other words, you were polite, discreet, circumspect, etc., as a means to an end. Not any more. None of John Bolton's detractors is worried that his bluntness will jeopardise the administration's policy goals. Quite the contrary. They're concerned that the administration has policy goals that it isn't yet willing to subordinate its national interest to the polite transnational pieties. In that sense, our understanding of 'diplomacy' has become corrupted: it's no longer the language through which nation states treat with one another so much as the code-speak consensus of a global elite.

For much of the civilised world the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, and one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality. It doesn't matter whether there is any global warming or, if there is, whether Kyoto will do anything about it or, if you ratify Kyoto, whether you bother to comply with it: all that matters is that you sign on to the transnational articles of faith. The same thinking applies to the ICC, and Darfur, and the Oil-for-Fraud programme, and anything else involving the UN. It was at the heart of Clare Short's freaky objection to the Aussie American post-tsunami relief effort. 'I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to co-ordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN,' she told the BBC. 'Only really the UN can do that job. It is the only body that has the moral authority.'

Leaving aside the question of whether one can be the only body with moral authority when one's tastes run mainly to bodies under the age of 12, the reality is that the UN couldn't do the job. Its permanent 24/7 365-days-a-year humanitarian bureaucracy took a month to get to Banda Aceh. The ad-hoc US Australian operation was on the ground within hours. Miss Short's position seems to be that she'd be willing to forgive Washington's very effective relief effort as long as the Americans were more rhetorically submissive to the UN. In that sense, it's not so much that the American rapid response 'undermined' the UN as that the normal Western deference to the organisation has grossly over-inflated its 'legitimacy' and 'moral authority'.

That's what John Bolton had in mind with his observations about international law: 'It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.' Just so. When George Bush Sr went through the UN to assemble his Stanley Gibbons coalition for the first Gulf war, it may have been a 'diplomatic triumph' but it was also the biggest single contributing factor to the received wisdom in the decade and a half since that only the UN has the international legitimacy to sanction war to the point where, on the eve of Iraq's liberation, the Church of England decided that a 'just war' could only be one approved by the Security Council. That in turn amplifies the UN's claim to sole global legitimacy in a thousand other areas, big and small the environment, guns, smoking, taxation.

Yet the assumption behind much of the criticism of Bolton from the likes of John Kerry is that, regardless of his government's foreign policy, a UN ambassador has to be at some level a UN booster. Twenty years ago, the then Secretary of State George Schultz used to welcome the Reagan administration's ambassadorial appointments to his office and invite each chap to identify his country on the map. The guy who'd just landed the embassy in Chad would invariably point to Chad. 'No,' Schultz would say, 'this is your country' and point to the United States. Nobody would expect a US ambassador to the Soviet Union to be a big booster for the Soviets. And, given that in a unipolar world the most plausible challenger to the US is transnationalism, these days the Schultz test is even more pertinent for the UN ambassador: his country is the United States, not the ersatz jurisdiction of Kofi Annan's embryo world government.
[...]

Reporting on the Bolton appointment in the Financial Times James Harding wrote, 'Mr Bush is eager to re-engage with allies, but is unapologetic about the Iraq war, the policy of pre-emption and the transformational agenda.' 'Unapologetic'? What exactly should he be apologising for? The toppling of Saddam? The Iraq election? The first green shoots of liberty in the desert of Middle Eastern 'stability'? When you unpick the assumptions behind James Harding's sentence, Mr Bush's principal offence is that he remains 'unapologetic' about doing all this without the blessing of the formal transnational decision-making process.

Muslims in America Woman led Muslim Friday service despite illegitimacy :: moroccoTimes.com

:: moroccoTimes.com: "A female professor has broken with Islamic tradition by leading the Friday prayer service in a New York chapel, where men and women sat together, sparking outrage among religious scholars in the Middle East who affirmed that what she did was against Islamic Shari'a (law).

The event, heavily protected by police forces, was held at the Synod House, a small chapel next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York, after several locations had refused to host the service.

The Muslim Women's Freedom Tour, a US grass-roots organisation, and the Web site MuslimWakeUp.com sponsored the service, said to Reuters.

According to Islamic traditions, Muslim women sit separately from men in worship services and, in some places, enter mosques through a back or side door. Orthodox Jews also segregate men from women during religious services. Roman Catholics do not allow women to hold important leadership roles.

Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, led the Islamic weekly service where 50 men and women prayed behind her, after she delivered the sermon, thus defying the basic Islamic rules.

Wadud said at a news conference before the service that she didn't want to 'change Muslim mosques, but to encourage the hearts of Muslim men and women to believe that they are equal.' She added that she wished to help remove 'artificial and inconvenient restrictions' aimed at Muslim women.

Outraged Muslims gathered outside the chapel accusing Wadud of betraying Muslim fundamental principles.

'That woman does not represent Islam at all. This is blasphemy, and the penalty for blasphemy is death and that is what this woman deserves,' said a protester named Nussrah.

'Today, Muslim women are moving from the back of the mosque to the front of the mosque,' said Esra Nomani, the lead organiser of the service. 'This is a historic event,' she added.

Nomani created an uproar last year by entering her Morgantown, West Virginia, mosque through the front door. Some critics accused her of using this event to publicise her new book about women and Islam."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The importance of skilled troops - StrategyPage.com

News about Military Blunders at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.

February 15, 2005: U.S. Department of Defense research has uncovered some interesting aspects of military operations conducted during the last few years. The most useful finding was that it was the skill and training of American troops that accounted for most of their success. Adding more technology did not increase the success of U.S. troops as much as expected, because most of the existing success was due to high skill levels and, all-too-often, low skill levels among the opposition. This was the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in counter-terrorism efforts around the world. The media has not picked up on this, because your average journalist does not realize how important high skill levels are in military success. Like most people, journalists assume that better technology plays a larger role than it actually does. Moreover, the manufacturers of that technology, and their political allies, have a vested interest in giving the technology as much credit as possible for military success. But when you get researchers down where the troops are working, and examine the process carefully, you find that it’s the troop skill that counts the most.

Against more skilled opponents, new technology has a lower payoff than expected, because the other guy is smart enough to come up with some countermeasures. The smart and experienced enemy fighters that were sometimes encountered were quick enough, for example, to figure out how to fool night vision equipment, and overhead vidcams carried by UAVs. Even thermal imagers, which portray a picture of heat differences, could be fooled. In places like Fallujah, UAVs began to see many alleys covered with rugs, sheets and cardboard, so people moving beneath could not be seen. At night, a wet blanket would make you much less visible to a thermal imager.

The use of roadside bombs (IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices), gave Saddams experienced and well trained military and security personnel a chance to show off their skills. But the most effective countermeasures were equally clever American troops using whatever high, and low, tech solutions they could come up with. Again, new technology got the most media attention, but when you went into the details of why over 90 percent of IEDs are spotted and disabled, you found that it was brains, not gadgets, that was mainly responsible.

The lesson learned from this is that more effort should be put into maintaining high levels of training, and more work must be done on examining what combat looks like from the viewpoint of a skilled, and less skilled, opponent. You want to know what the other guy can come up with before he can, so that you will have an idea of how to handle that new situation.

News about Armor at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.

News about Armor at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.ARMORED WARFARE: Streetfighters Wish List

March 17, 2005: American tank crews have now had two years of using their M-1 tanks in urban areas. While the M-1 has done quite well, the tankers have developed a wish list of upgrades they would like to see. First priority goes to protection. While the M-1 has generally been invulnerable to RPG rockets, there are three parts of the M-1 that were vulnerable. First, there is the rear of the tank, where the gas-turbine engine spews out hot exhaust. Put an RPG round in there and you can shut down the engine. Tank crews have noted the success of the slat armor used by the Stryker. Some of this would work to protect the rear of the M-1. The other vulnerability is the running gear (the wheels and tracks. These items were never meant to be resistant to RPGs, but a lucky shot here can slow down or stop an M-1. The solution here would be side skirts covered with reactive armor (that explodes when hit by an RPG, or anything else, and destroys the ability of the RPG to penetrate armor.) Neither of these additions would cost much, weigh much or otherwise lower the performance of the vehicle.

The third vulnerability is the turret machine-guns. The tank commander has a .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine-gun in a powered turret, and the loader has a 7.62mm machine-gun. In city fighting, these two machine-guns are often more useful than the tanks 120mm gun. There is also another 7.62mm machine-gun, mounted next to the 120mm gun, and operated from inside the tank by the gunner. But it’s the first two machine-guns, out in the open, that need some protection. The tank commander and loader have to leave themselves vulnerable to enemy fire while they are operating their machine-guns. One suggestion is to add some armor shields to these two machine-guns. Some tank crews do that, using material scrounged locally. This approach was followed as far back as World War II. Another suggestion is to install a RWS (Remote Weapons Station) for the commanders .50 caliber gun (like the RWS used with great success by the Stryker), so the commander can operate the weapon from inside the tank. The .50 caliber is a very useful weapon in city fighting, but the RWS adds another bit of complex gear to the tank, and is only really useful in urban warfare, where the tank is likely to be taking a lot of small arms fire. When that happens, the most important weapon tends to be the coaxial 7.62mm machine-gun.
[...]

Another problem is communications. Troops outside the tank have a hard time talking to the crew when there’s a lot of enemy fire, and the crew is “buttoned up” inside the tank.

This Was Not Looting - How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered? By Christopher Hitchens

This Was Not Looting - How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered? By Christopher Hitchens

My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or MoveOn.org activist in the entire country who hasn’t stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam’s propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq’s physicists as “our nuclear mujahideen.”

My second question is: What’s all this about “looting”? The word is used throughout the long report, but here’s what it’s used to describe. “In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 ... teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. ... ‘The first wave came for the machines,’ Dr Araji said. ‘The second wave, cables and cranes.’ ” Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to “organized looting.”

But obviously, what we are reading about is a carefully planned military operation. The participants were not panicked or greedy civilians helping themselves—which is the customary definition of a “looter,” especially in wartime. They were mechanized and mobile and under orders, and acting in a concerted fashion. Thus, if the story is factually correct—which we have no reason at all to doubt—then Saddam’s Iraq was a fairly highly-evolved WMD state, with a contingency plan for further concealment and distribution of the weaponry in case of attack or discovery.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yahoo! News - Pakistan lost Bin Laden trail last year: Musharraf

Yahoo! News - Pakistan lost Bin Laden trail last year: Musharraf:

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistani forces hunting Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) lost track of the Al-Qaeda leader after coming close to discovering his whereabouts several months ago, President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview.

Musharraf told the BBC late Monday that intelligence agencies had indications eight to 10 months ago about the whereabouts of Bin Laden but then the trail went cold.

'There have been occasions where, through interrogation of those who have been captured, the Al-Qaeda members who were apprehended there, and through technical means, there was a time when the dragnet has closed,' Musharraf said.

'We thought we knew roughly the area where he possibly could be. That was, I think ... not very long (ago), maybe eight to 10 months back,' said Musharraf, who is a close ally in the US-led war against terrorism."
[...]

In May and July 2004 Pakistan also rounded up scores of Al-Qaeda operatives including some key figures, who had taken shelter in other parts of the country after fleeing tribal sanctuaries.

Notable among these were Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian indicted in the 1998 twin bombings of US embassies in Africa, and a Pakistani computer expert Naeem Noor Khan, thought to have been planning a series of attacks in Britain and the United States.

Security officials have told AFP that Ghailani, who sneaked into the Pakistani tribal regions from Afghanistan soon after the fall of Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime in late 2001, had received messages from Bin Laden as late as 2003.

Ghailani was handed over to the United States and flown out of Pakistan last December.

Security officials believe Bin Laden slipped across the mountainous border into Pakistan after fleeing a massive US assault in eastern Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains in December 2001.

There has been speculation in security circles here that he could be somewhere in the mountainous border area near the Chitral valley in northern Pakistan.

Pakistan also conducted a series of operations in tribal regions near Afghanistan's Kandahar province further to the south back in April 2003, a month after the arrest of the 9/11 chief co-planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammad.

Tens of thousands of troops have remained deployed in the rugged northwestern lawless regions since 2002 to purge hundreds of suspected foreign Al-Qaeda fighters believed to have been hiding there with local support.

Lately the battleground has shifted to North Waziristan after security forces claimed they had wiped out militants' hideouts and training camps in neighbouring South Waziristan.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Anti-Syrian protesters carry Lebanese flags during a rally in Beirut March 14, 2005. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in central Beirut on Monday in the largest anti-Syrian protest in Lebanon since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri exactly a month ago. REUTERS/Sharif Karim

Yahoo! News - Hundreds of Thousands in Lebanon Protest Syria

Yahoo! News - Hundreds of Thousands in Lebanon Protest Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in central Beirut on Monday in the largest anti-Syrian protest in Lebanon since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri exactly a month ago.

Flag-waving crowds from across Lebanon gathered in Martyrs' Square in central Beirut, just meters away from Hariri's grave, to demand an international inquiry into his killing, the sacking of Syrian-backed security chiefs and a total Syrian pullout.

Unlike previous anti-Syrian opposition protests since a bomb blast killed Hariri on Feb. 14, many Sunni Muslims joined Druze and Christians in taking to the streets. Hariri was a Sunni.

The opposition rally came a day after huge crowds turned out in the south for a anti-U.S. demonstration organized by Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim Hizbollah group, an ally of Syria.

Organizers of the Beirut protest say it will draw hundreds of thousands to the central Beirut square that has seen daily protests demanding a full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ion Engine Under Consideration for Jupiter Mission Passes Test

Ion Engine Under Consideration for Jupiter Mission Passes Test:

"Unlike the short, high-thrust burns of most chemical rocket engines that use solid or liquid fuels, the ion engine emits only a faint blue glow of electrically charged atoms of xenon - the same gas found in photo flash tubes and in many lighthouse bulbs. The thrust from the engine is as gentle as the force exerted by a sheet of paper held in the palm of your hand. Over the long haul though, the engine can deliver 20 times as much thrust per kilogram of fuel than traditional rockets.

Key to the ion technology is its high exhaust velocity. The ion engine can run on a few hundred grams of propellant per day, making it lightweight. Less weight means less cost to launch, yet an ion-propelled spacecraft can go much faster and farther than any other spacecraft.

'This test, in combination with the recent test of the High Power Electric Propulsion ion engine at NASA's Glenn Research Center, is another example of the progress we are making in developing the technologies needed to support flagship space exploration missions throughout the solar system and beyond,' said Alan Newhouse, director, Project Prometheus. 'We have challenged our team with difficult performance goals and they are demonstrating their ability to be creative in overcoming technical challenges.'

NASA's Project Prometheus is making strategic investments in space nuclear fission power and electric propulsion technologies that would enable a new class of missions to the outer Solar System, with capabilities far beyond those possible with current power and propulsion systems. The first such mission under study, the Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter would launch in the next decade and provide NASA significantly improved scientific and telecommunications capabilities and mission design options. Instead of generating only hundreds of watts of electricity like the Cassini or Galileo missions, which used radioisotope thermoelectric generators, the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter could have up to tens of thousands of watts of power, increasing the potential science return many times over."

USNews.com: Paul Thompson's mind movies

USNews.com: Paul Thompson's mind movies (3/21/05):

Paul Thompson has brains. Lots of them. The 33-year-old has degrees in Greek and Latin, mathematics, and neuroscience, and a colleague calls him 'the smartest person I know.' But we're not just talking about smarts. Thompson really does have lots of brains--about 7,000 at last count.

To see them, step out of the bright Southern California sunshine and into the dark confines of the Reed neurology building at the University of California-Los Angeles, where Thompson has his office and lab. There, in a room behind a heavy glass panel, is a large, humming black computer, and inside are brain images captured by high-tech medical scanners: young brains, old brains, autistic brains, Alzheimer's brains, schizophrenic brains, drug addicts' brains, and a whole bunch of normal ones. 'My brain is in there somewhere,' Thompson says.

Yet individuality is not what Thompson is interested in. He's mapping brain diseases in large groups of people. By constructing incredibly detailed 3-D images of brains with Alzheimer's and then combining them, he has been able to trace the typical path of the disease and show just how it ravages different parts of the brain over time. Now scientists can see which structures get damaged when--and also see which drugs might keep that damage at bay. In schizophrenia, Thompson's maps have pinpointed a brain region involved in understanding sounds as the first part to be hurt; a common symptom of this mental disorder is hearing voices. His maps are part of a current study of how new and older antipsychotic drugs shield this brain region. 'We've never before been able to show these links between brain changes and behavior,' says Jay Giedd, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. 'So these maps are incredibly powerful.'"

USNews.com: Fouad Ajami sees a strong stirring and lauds Bush's passionate pursuit of freedom for the crowds in Araby

USNews.com: Fouad Ajami sees a strong stirring and lauds Bush's passionate pursuit of freedom for the crowds in Araby (3/14/05): "A sudden, powerful stirring
By Fouad Ajami

In retrospect, it was an appearance by President George W. Bush before the National Endowment for Democracy, in November 2003, that signaled the birth of a new 'diplomacy of freedom' in the Arab world. The American military effort in Iraq was in its early stages then; the euphoria of the military campaign had ended, and a war of attrition had begun. Saddam Hussein was still on the loose,
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and there was no trace of those vaunted weapons of mass destruction that had taken us to war. At that uncertain hour, Bush proposed nothing less than a break with the ways of American diplomacy in the region. 'Sixty years of western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run,' he said, 'stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.'

Today the Arab world is beset by a mighty storm. For decades, the American choice in Arab-Islamic lands was stark. The 'civil society' there was truculent and malignantly anti-American, while the rulers seemed like eminently reasonable men willing to strike bargains in the shadows. It was easy to accept their authoritarianism as the cultural practice of the Arabs: This was what Bush called the 'soft bigotry of low expectations.'

Deep down we may have suspected Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of double-dealing and bad faith in the diplomacy he pursued in the region, in the kind of official culture his regime spread in that surly, unhappy land. We suspected he was taking our dollars while nurturing a culture of anti-Americanism and antimodernism. But we tolerated that terrible bargain. We accepted with resignation that the Islamists were a worse alternative than the military regime. Now the ground has shifted. A budding popular opposition has taken to the streets of Cairo. In one poignant word, its banners proclaim its politics, and tell us so much about that country and its modern-day pharaoh: Kifaya (enough) is the name of the movement. Egypt has wearied of its ruler, of his family, of the mediocrity of his regime. 'Enough' said the crowd that wanted done with the emergency decrees, with the corruption and the plunder. The cancellation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of a visit to Cairo to protest the arrest of a member of Parliament who dared question pharaoh's will was overdue. We owed it to these people. More important, we owed it to ourselves.

Discovering possibilities. The crowds in the plazas of Beirut have been holding aloft placards and banners of their own, ones that tell of a society fed up with a long season of Syrian misrule and extortion.
[...]

We don't know for sure if the American public shares Bush's passion for the pursuit of freedom. We know that America has paid dearly for this democratic movement, in both blood and treasure, for this democratizing push was given force by Iraq's elections. But the outlines of a new Arab world may now be dimly seen. A brilliant American officer, Lt. Col. Mark Martins, whom I met in Baghdad, allowed himself a moment of satisfaction. "Democracy is not a luxury car," he E-mailed me last week. "It is an all-terrain vehicle and good for fighting insurgency."
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We now take democracy on those hard Arab roads. It is their world, and they must repair it. But they hang on Bush's words, in Damascus and Beirut, and in Cairo as well. It is odd that it is a conservative American president who proclaims this confident Wilsonianism. But the crowds in Araby don't seem to mind."

Let's hope everything works out. I'm sure democracy is inevitable in the long run, but we still have alot of work to do.

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion SYRIA'S ROAD TO FREEDOM By AMIR TAHERI


March 7, 2005 -- 'LET'S do the Salsa!" is one of the refrains chanted by Lebanese demonstrators who have vowed to occupy the streets of Beirut until Syria ends its occupation of their country. But the Salsa they are referring to is not the Brazilian style of sexy dancing. It refers to the Syria Accountability and Lebanon Sovereignty (Restoration) Act (SALSA) — passed by Congress over a year ago, and seen as a signal that the Bush administration was determined to extend its quest for status quo change in the Middle East beyond Iraq into the Levant.

And Lebanon's Cedar Revolution — while far from complete — could, and must, become a prelude to the liberation of Syria from half a century of despotic rule.

There is as much pent-up energy for change in Syria as there is in Lebanon.

"We, too, want to do the SALSA," says a senior Syrian economist with years of experience at the World Bank. "The Assad regime is at an impasse, and, as the Lebanese revolution shows, our 'emperor' has no clothes."

Syrians watched with a mixture of awe and admiration as millions of Afghans and Iraqis queued up to vote in their first-ever free elections in recent months.

Aljazeera.Net - Iraqis vent anger over al-Hilla attack

Aljazeera.Net - Iraqis vent anger over al-Hilla attack:

Hundreds of Iraqi Shias have staged protests in Baghdad and Karbala against the alleged involvement of a Jordanian in a devastating bombing in al-Hilla two weeks ago.

Crowds gathered outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad on Sunday shouting: 'No, no to Jordan, close your embassy, we do not want to see you here.'

They urged the government to file charges against the family of Raed al-Banna, who the Iraqi media says carried out a car bombing on 28 February that killed at least 118 people and wounded scores more.


They also demanded compensation for victims from Amman, which rejected the accusations against it and insisted it condemned the al-Hilla bombing, the worst single attack in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.


According to media reports, al-Banna's family organised a funeral for him during which he was a hailed as 'a martyr'.


'We condemn the act and we condemn what the family has done,' Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki said."

Italy to stop paying ransoms - Sunday Times

Italy to stop paying ransoms - Sunday Times - Times Online

THE Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has promised President George W Bush that he will not pay more ransoms to free hostages in Iraq.

The Italian government has denied newspaper reports that $6m (£3.1m) was paid for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, who worked for the Communist daily Il Manifesto. But senior officials and intelligence sources have confirmed that money did change hands.

The affair ended when American soldiers opened fire on the car carrying Sgrena and killed the intelligence officer who had freed her.

Last year Italy paid a reported $5m (£2.6m) for the freedom of two aid workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta. Hours after Sgrena was seized, Berlusconi announced that “negotiations” had begun.

The reports of ransom payments have infuriated American officials, who say they fund violence and encourage more kidnappings. Mel Sembler, the American ambassador in Rome, told Berlusconi last week that the money bankrolled “the war being waged by Sunnis in Iraq”.

In response, Berlusconi has agreed to a change in policy. When a speaker during a debate in parliament urged an end to ransom payments, he nodded and said: “Certainly, certainly.”

hat tip Michelle Malkin

Italy to stop paying ransoms - Sunday Times

Italy to stop paying ransoms - Sunday Times - Times Online

THE Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has promised President George W Bush that he will not pay more ransoms to free hostages in Iraq.

The Italian government has denied newspaper reports that $6m (£3.1m) was paid for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, who worked for the Communist daily Il Manifesto. But senior officials and intelligence sources have confirmed that money did change hands.

The affair ended when American soldiers opened fire on the car carrying Sgrena and killed the intelligence officer who had freed her.

Last year Italy paid a reported $5m (£2.6m) for the freedom of two aid workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta. Hours after Sgrena was seized, Berlusconi announced that “negotiations” had begun.

The reports of ransom payments have infuriated American officials, who say they fund violence and encourage more kidnappings. Mel Sembler, the American ambassador in Rome, told Berlusconi last week that the money bankrolled “the war being waged by Sunnis in Iraq”.

In response, Berlusconi has agreed to a change in policy. When a speaker during a debate in parliament urged an end to ransom payments, he nodded and said: “Certainly, certainly.”

hat tip Michelle Malkin

Americans were not trying to kill me, Italian hostage now decides

News: "Americans were not trying to kill me, hostage decides
By Peter Popham in Rome

12 March 2005

The Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was wounded by American fire last Friday soon after being released by kidnappers in Baghdad, has said that she does not think that the Americans were trying to kill her. 'I never said that they wanted to kill me,' she said on a television talk show, 'but the mechanics of what happened were those of an attack.'

In an interview with The Independent, her partner, Pier Scolari, said: 'None of us is so stupid as to think the Americans did it on purpose. But the dynamic was that of an ambush and we want a convincing explanation of what happened, because the first American explanation was totally false.'

Ms Sgrena, who writes for the daily newspaper Il Manifesto, was freed last Friday after a month in captivity. Two Italian government ministers have said that a ransom was paid to secure her release, although the Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini, has denied it."
[...]
Ms Sgrena was widely quoted as saying that the Americans may have wanted to kill her "because they dislike the Italian policy of negotiating with the hostage-takers". But this week she rejected the idea.

After the shooting, she said: "A soldier opened the door on the right-hand side. When he saw us, I had the impression that he was upset. I seem to remember him saying, 'Oh shit!' And when more turned up in an armoured car, I had the sensation that they were unhappy about what had happened."

Wow. Bet she's a terrible reporter. She was involved in the incident, and can't make up her mind about what happened. Her story changes every day. As far as I'm concerned, she gave millions to the terrorists (ransom), and should be held accountable as an accomplice to murder of innocent Iraqi women and children. Negotiating with terrorists is a crime in my opinion.

HBS Working Knowledge: The Leadership Workshop: Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload

HBS Working Knowledge: The Leadership Workshop: Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload: "
by Stever Robbins

Being at or near the the top of your organization, everyone wants a piece of you. So they send you e-mail. It makes you feel important. Don't you love it? Really? Then, please take some of mine! Over 100 real e-mails come in each day. At three minutes apiece, it will take five hours just to read and respond. Let's not even think about the messages that take six minutes of work to deal with. Shudder. I'm buried in e-mail and chances are, you're not far behind. For whatever reason, everyone feels compelled to keep you 'in the loop.'

Fortunately, being buried alive under electronic missives forced me to develop coping strategies. Let me share some of the nonobvious ones with you. Together, maybe we can start a revolution."
[...]
Use a subject line to summarize, not describe.
Give your reader full context at the start of your message.
When you copy lots of people (a heinous practice that should be used sparingly), mark out why each person should care.
Use separate messages rather than bcc (blind carbon copy).
Make action requests clear.
Separate topics into separate e-mails … up to a point.
Combine separate points into one message.
Edit forwarded messages.
When scheduling a call or conference, include the topic in the invitation. It helps people prioritize and manage their calendar more effectively.
Make your e-mail one page or less.
Understand how people prefer to be reached, and how quickly they respond.

How to read and receive e-mail-
Check e-mail at defined times each day.
Charge people for sending you messages.
Train people to be relevant.
Answer briefly.
Send out delayed responses.
Ignore it.

TCS: Tech Central Station - Syria, Leaving with a Bang?

TCS: Tech Central Station - Syria, Leaving with a Bang?

Even though it has been widely established that Syria was involved in Hariri's assassination, the naysayers are advancing among others this reasoning: Syria knew for sure the backlash that the murder of Hariri would trigger so, why would they decide to go ahead anyway?

The answers are simple.

First and foremost, Assad is playing for his own survival. In fact if Assad leaves Lebanon, then his regime's days are numbered. He is a desperate man. And a desperate man can do desperate things. Having killed Hariri directly or indirectly was a very desperate act, but he had nothing to lose.

In fact, when Hariri decided to join the opposition and built a real national alliance among Sunnis, Druzes and Christians, Assad knew that the upcoming May elections would be lost by his goons.

One of the most understudied aspects of this crisis is the economic factor: Lebanon is Syria's cash cow. According to a World Bank estimate, Lebanon brings year in year out $5.5 billion to Syria. To put this figure in perspective, Syria's total exports for 2003 were about $5.1 billion.

Syria's economy is in shambles especially after the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime, which was one of the biggest sources of revenues for Assad. So, Lebanon is now doubly important for the regime's survival.

According to the CIA World Factbook and the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, for instance, in 2003, the Syrian GDP decreased 3.3%, the unemployment rate is about 22% and 20% of the population is below the poverty line. 500,000 Syrian workers are employed in Lebanon and contribute to the Syrian economy by sending money back to their families in Syria.

In such an environment, Syria will use any means to avoid leaving Lebanon. This was confirmed by four different government and opposition sources cited by the Financial Times. These sources explained that Syria would burn Beirut rather than leave it. Also they added that Syrians told them: "We destroyed the country once and we can do it again -- we will never allow ourselves to be pushed out." And obviously, Syria is preparing for violent action: according to the Arabic news website elaph.com, in a massive destabilization operation started a few weeks ago, Syria has been providing its allies with 10,000 weapons and rocket-launchers. Also, the Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported that Syrian troops are reinforcing their positions in the mountain region, obviously preparing for active combat. By also using its proxy terrorist organization, the Shia Lebanese group Hizbullah, Syria is surely going to foment violence in order to show its legitimacy in remaining in Lebanon to insure security. In the past, Syria has been using the tactic of the pyromaniac fireman; this time it should be no different.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Telegraph | Saddam's $2m offer to WMD inspector

Telegraph | News | Saddam's $2m offer to WMD inspector

Saddam Hussein's regime offered a $2 million bribe to the United Nations' chief weapons inspector to doctor his reports on the search for weapons of mass destruction.


Rolf Ekeus, the Swede who led the UN's efforts to track down the weapons from 1991 to 1997, said that the offer came from Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister and deputy.

Mr Ekeus told Reuters news agency that he had passed the information to the Volcker Commission. 'I told the Volcker people that Tariq [Aziz] said a couple of million was there if we report right. My answer was, 'That is not the way we do business in Sweden.' '

A clean report from Mr Ekeus's inspectors would have been vital in lifting sanctions against Saddam's regime. But the inspectors never established what had happened to the regime's illicit weapons and never gave Iraq a clean bill of health.

The news that Iraq attempted to bribe a top UN official is a key piece of evidence for investigators into the scandal surrounding the oil-for-food programme. It proves that Iraq was offering huge sums of cash to influential foreigners in return for political favours.

Nile Gardiner, of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, who has followed the inquiries, said: 'It's the tip of the iceberg of what the Iraqis were offering. For every official like Ekeus who turned down a bribe, there are many more who will have been tempted by it.'"

Why would he offer millions to hide evidence for non-existant weapons?

Ethnic Map of Pakistan

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Ethnic Map of Pakistan


With the near revolt in Balochistan, thought this map may help sort things out. There are tensions among the different groups, and the CIA supposedly said recently that Pakistan will be a failed state by 2015. Much of the natural resources of the Paks are in Balochistan, and these primitive tribesmen, who love violence much as do the Pashtun people, and who share their love of honor and military feats, are angry that the Pak government gets all the profit from their natural resources. They are now waging low level guerrilla warfare against the central government. This is an area to keep a close eye on.

gulfnews.com: 'Kifaya' is the bud of a new movement on Arab streets

gulfnews.com: Opinion: "'Kifaya' is the bud of a new movement on Arab streets

By Youssef M. Ibrahim, Special to Gulf News
The recent protests in Cairo and Beirut have been organised with the chant of a new Arab movement kifaya, Arabic for enough.

The word, says the Egyptian democracy advocate and sociologist Dr Saad Al Din Ebrahim, is fast becoming a mantra for millions of Arabs wanting to seize their own destiny.

Certainly the slogan has surfaced in banners carried into those street demonstrations, but more important it has now found its way on television shows, read in opinion columns by Arab pundits and certainly advocated by millions of Arabs in the privacy of their homes from Casablanca to Riyadh.

Could this one word be a harbinger of a muscular popular Arab revolt such as the movement that guided millions of people in Eastern Europe in shedding their tired old despotic regimes after the fall of the Soviet Union?

Scepticism abounds, but so do tell-tale signs that it is in fact building up into a people's revolution, certainly in Lebanon, but also in Egypt and to some extent elsewhere in the Arab world.

Ever since the assassination of the former prime minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri on February 14, the Lebanese have taken the lead from the Egyptians, who started the Kifaya movement.

Egyptians have for a year now been asking President Hosni Mubarak not to run for a fifth, six years, term at age 77 or in the least to create the mechanism for orderly succession.

The Lebanese adopted it in their street protests as a vehicle to demand that Syria ends its 29-year-occupation of Lebanon.

Could this be early warnings of an Arab political tsunami? If so, which ruler or what Arab policies are next in the line of fire?

Certainly across the region, kifaya is now addressed to concepts of government including dynastic tyrannies handed down from father to son, massive theft of public funds, the prevalent lack of transparency in business and the conduct of the affairs of state and mental retardation spread by imposters posing as religious leaders.

To all of these, Arabs have for some time now said kifaya."

NDM Article - Stryker Brigade in Iraq Will Protect Bases With Remote-Controlled Mines

NDM Article - Stryker Brigade in Iraq Will Protect Bases With Remote-Controlled Mines

The Army Stryker brigade now fighting in Iraq will be first in line to receive a new radio-frequency kit that allows soldiers to detonate mines from several kilometers away.

The technology, called “Matrix,” essentially turns old-fashioned mines into standoff munitions. It was developed by the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, in New Jersey, to meet growing base-security needs in Iraq. “Matrix allows them to cover their flanks and protect their base of operations with fewer soldiers,” said Maj. Joe Hitt, the project lead.

Matrix consists of three components: a touch-screen laptop, a radio transmitter and a munitions-control assembly that attaches to a Claymore antipersonnel mine. When detonated, the Claymore spits out steel balls out in a fan-shaped pattern, with a lethal radius of about 50 meters.

While Hitt declined to specify the exact range of the radio signal, he noted that, “Matrix allows hundreds of Claymores and non-lethal Claymores to be controlled by a single laptop at extended ranges. By touch-screen command, the operator can initiate any combination of effects at standoff ranges instantaneously.

Tactics for using Matrix were developed by the Army Engineering School. The devices will primarily be used for fixed-site security at forward operating bases. “Layers of non-lethal followed by layers of lethal is one example,” said Hitt. The Stryker brigade will get 25 systems by May, he added.

Friday, March 11, 2005

News about Attrition at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.

News about Attrition at StrategyPage.com's How to Make War.:

"March 2, 2005: Since Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party were removed from power in 2003, there have been about 1,300 deaths among the coalition forces, and between 20-25,000 for Iraqis. The Iraqi deaths include about 5,000 killed during the 2003 invasion. Of the remainder, about half are Sunni Arabs (most of them Iraqi, plus a few Shia Arabs) killed while fighting coalition forces as terrorists. Another five thousand or so are Iraqis killed by the terrorists, and the remainder are Iraqi civilians caught in the cross fire. The deaths among Iraqis is actually lower than when Saddam was in power. During his three decades of rule, Saddam killed half a million Kurds, and several hundred thousand Shia Arabs (and several thousand Sunni Arabs and Christian Arabs). During the 1990s, Saddam used access to food and medical care as a way to keep the Shia Arabs under control, but this process caused twenty thousand or more excess deaths a year (from disease and malnutrition). Foreign media, especially in Sunni Moslem nations, tend to play with these numbers. That is, they downplay the deaths inflicted by Saddam, inflate those that occurred during the 1990s and blame it on the UN, and greatly inflate the number of Iraqi civilians killed during coalition military operations. But Iraqis on the scene provide more accurate numbers, which are the ones presented here. A lot of the documentation for these stats will come out during the war crimes trials of Saddam and his key aides. "

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ynetnews - Israeli Army frowns on Dungeons and Dragons

Ynetnews - News - Israeli Army frowns on Dungeons and Dragons

IDF says players are detached from reality and automatically given a low security clearance
By Hanan Greenberg

Does the Israel Defense Forces believe incoming recruits and soldiers who play Dungeons and Dragons are unfit for elite units? Ynet has learned that 18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.

“They're detached from reality and suscepitble to influence,” the army says.

Fans of the popular roleplaying game had spoken of rumors of this strange policy by the IDF, but now the army has confirmed that it has a negative image of teens who play the game and labels them as problematic in regard to their draft status.

So if you like fantasy games, go see the military psychologist.

Dungeons and Dragons (also known as D&D) has been a popular roleplaying game for decades and is based on a fantasy world.

Spanish Muslims issue fatwa against Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin Laden

Spanish Muslims issue fatwa against Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin Ladin:

MADRID (AFX) - Spain's Islamic Commission, which groups the nation's Muslim community, said it was issuing a fatwa against Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden,
'We are going to issue a fatwa (religious decree) against Bin Laden this afternoon,' Mansour Escudero, who leads the Federation of Islamic religious entities (Feeri) and co-secretary general of the Spanish governmenmt-created Commission told AFP.
The Commission invited Spanish-based imams to condemn terrorism at Friday prayers, when the whole country will be remembering the 191 people who were killed in the train blasts and the 1,900 injured a year ago.

The attacks have been blamed on mainly Moroccan Islamic extremists loyal to Bin Laden."

Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad - World - Times Online

Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad - World - Times Online

On-screen admissions are used in the propaganda war

THE grim-faced young man looks shiftily in front of him, glancing from time to time at the lens recording his discomfort. A disembodied voice barks out: “Tell us about the crime you committed.”

The man clears his throat and begins to mumble. “We attacked the National Guard with machineguns and killed two of them. Then we beheaded one of them.” He stumbles for a moment, as if forgetting his lines. Then the interrogator prompts him with more details of his story and he continues with the tale of how he joined the insurgency and the attacks he carried out.

This is Terror in the Grip of Justice, the latest television hit in entertainment-starved Iraq where it is too dangerous to venture out at night and street life ends at last light. It is also the latest weapon in the Government’s propaganda war against the insurgents, aimed at exposing them as the enemies of ordinary Iraqis and cautioning those tempted to join them. Every night at 9pm thousands tune in to the state-run al-Iraqiya channel to see the “confessions” by insurgents paraded before the camera and interrogated.

The authorities insist that the confessions are genuine and obtained without duress, although some of the scripted-sounding accounts suggest otherwise. The series began several weeks ago with purported Syrian and Egyptian insurgents admitting that they joined the insurgency after training from Syrian intelligence.

Last week, to counter suggestions that the alleged offenders were anything but real, the programme-makers invited victims’ families to hurl abuse at the suspects and detail their bloody crimes.

In one riveting episode this week, a gloating interrogator, barely able to disguise the venom in his voice, sought to cast a motley bunch of alleged insurgents as criminals unworthy of the name of Mujahidin (fighters in a holy war), a word with honourable connotations in the Arab world.

A suspect who confessed to receiving payments from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s insurgent group in turn for killing policemen was asked how he spent the money. “On booze and clothes,” he said.

“You call yourself a holy warrior but you drink?” spat the interrogator. “You discredit the name of jihad.”

Then, like Jerry Springer delivering his “final thought”, the interrogator addressed his own homily to those at home: “For those who say we are discrediting the jihad, I swear by God, if it was a real jihad, we would be leading it. You see how they are killing innocent people and raping under the cover of jihad? The real jihad is not raping and killing, it’s rebuilding this country all together.”

Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad - World - Times Online

Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad - World - Times Online

On-screen admissions are used in the propaganda war

THE grim-faced young man looks shiftily in front of him, glancing from time to time at the lens recording his discomfort. A disembodied voice barks out: “Tell us about the crime you committed.”

The man clears his throat and begins to mumble. “We attacked the National Guard with machineguns and killed two of them. Then we beheaded one of them.” He stumbles for a moment, as if forgetting his lines. Then the interrogator prompts him with more details of his story and he continues with the tale of how he joined the insurgency and the attacks he carried out.

This is Terror in the Grip of Justice, the latest television hit in entertainment-starved Iraq where it is too dangerous to venture out at night and street life ends at last light. It is also the latest weapon in the Government’s propaganda war against the insurgents, aimed at exposing them as the enemies of ordinary Iraqis and cautioning those tempted to join them. Every night at 9pm thousands tune in to the state-run al-Iraqiya channel to see the “confessions” by insurgents paraded before the camera and interrogated.

The authorities insist that the confessions are genuine and obtained without duress, although some of the scripted-sounding accounts suggest otherwise. The series began several weeks ago with purported Syrian and Egyptian insurgents admitting that they joined the insurgency after training from Syrian intelligence.

Last week, to counter suggestions that the alleged offenders were anything but real, the programme-makers invited victims’ families to hurl abuse at the suspects and detail their bloody crimes.

In one riveting episode this week, a gloating interrogator, barely able to disguise the venom in his voice, sought to cast a motley bunch of alleged insurgents as criminals unworthy of the name of Mujahidin (fighters in a holy war), a word with honourable connotations in the Arab world.

A suspect who confessed to receiving payments from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s insurgent group in turn for killing policemen was asked how he spent the money. “On booze and clothes,” he said.

“You call yourself a holy warrior but you drink?” spat the interrogator. “You discredit the name of jihad.”

Then, like Jerry Springer delivering his “final thought”, the interrogator addressed his own homily to those at home: “For those who say we are discrediting the jihad, I swear by God, if it was a real jihad, we would be leading it. You see how they are killing innocent people and raping under the cover of jihad? The real jihad is not raping and killing, it’s rebuilding this country all together.”

Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad - World - Times Online

Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad - World - Times Online

On-screen admissions are used in the propaganda war

THE grim-faced young man looks shiftily in front of him, glancing from time to time at the lens recording his discomfort. A disembodied voice barks out: “Tell us about the crime you committed.”

The man clears his throat and begins to mumble. “We attacked the National Guard with machineguns and killed two of them. Then we beheaded one of them.” He stumbles for a moment, as if forgetting his lines. Then the interrogator prompts him with more details of his story and he continues with the tale of how he joined the insurgency and the attacks he carried out.

This is Terror in the Grip of Justice, the latest television hit in entertainment-starved Iraq where it is too dangerous to venture out at night and street life ends at last light. It is also the latest weapon in the Government’s propaganda war against the insurgents, aimed at exposing them as the enemies of ordinary Iraqis and cautioning those tempted to join them. Every night at 9pm thousands tune in to the state-run al-Iraqiya channel to see the “confessions” by insurgents paraded before the camera and interrogated.

The authorities insist that the confessions are genuine and obtained without duress, although some of the scripted-sounding accounts suggest otherwise. The series began several weeks ago with purported Syrian and Egyptian insurgents admitting that they joined the insurgency after training from Syrian intelligence.

Last week, to counter suggestions that the alleged offenders were anything but real, the programme-makers invited victims’ families to hurl abuse at the suspects and detail their bloody crimes.

In one riveting episode this week, a gloating interrogator, barely able to disguise the venom in his voice, sought to cast a motley bunch of alleged insurgents as criminals unworthy of the name of Mujahidin (fighters in a holy war), a word with honourable connotations in the Arab world.

A suspect who confessed to receiving payments from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s insurgent group in turn for killing policemen was asked how he spent the money. “On booze and clothes,” he said.

“You call yourself a holy warrior but you drink?” spat the interrogator. “You discredit the name of jihad.”

Then, like Jerry Springer delivering his “final thought”, the interrogator addressed his own homily to those at home: “For those who say we are discrediting the jihad, I swear by God, if it was a real jihad, we would be leading it. You see how they are killing innocent people and raping under the cover of jihad? The real jihad is not raping and killing, it’s rebuilding this country all together.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Zacht Ei - About Giuliana Sgrena

Zacht Ei - About Giuliana Sgrena (found via little green footballs)

Zacht Ei translates an article from a Dutch paper about Giuliana Sgrena, by a Dutch reporter who describes Sgrena and her companions as the very epitome of the modern clueless far left, simultaneously naïve and filled with hatred, childish and treacherous.

Mr. Harald Doornbos is a veteran war reporter. He is no archetypical hawk nor a staunch supporter of the United States. In fact, he used to be a reporter for the communist newspaper ‘De Waarheid’ (The Truth, or Pravda, if you like) before it went bust. (This doesn’t necessarily mean he was ever a communist, by the way. De Waarheid used to be a huge employer.)

However, this doesn’t make him overly sympathetic towards Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who was held hostage by Iraqi insurgents. Some snippets from this article which was published today in a Dutch Christian broadsheet.

’Be careful not to get kidnapped,’ I told the female Italian journalist sitting next to me in the small plane that was headed for Baghdad. ‘Oh no,’ she said. ‘That won’t happen. We are siding with the oppressed Iraqi people. No Iraqi would kidnap us.’

It doesn’t sound very nice to be critical of a fellow reporter. But Sgrena’s attitude is a disgrace for journalism. Or didn’t she tell me back in the plane that ‘common journalists such as yourself’ simply do not support the Iraqi people? ‘The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind,’ the three women behind me had told me, for Sgrena travelled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who hated the Americans as well.

(Doornbos goes on to explain how the women demeaned him for travelling as an embedded reporter with the US military, for security reasons. They didn’t want to hear about any safety concerns.)

’You don’t understand the situation. We are anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, communists,’ they said. The Iraqis only kidnap American sympathizers, the enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear.

(Doornbos tells them they’re out of their mind.)

But they knew better. When we arrived at Baghdad Airport, I was waiting for a jeep from the American army to come pick me up. I saw one of the Italian women walking around crying. An Iraqi had stolen her computer and television equipment. They were standing outside shivering, waiting for a cab to take them to Baghdad.

With her bias Sgrena did not only jeopardize herself, but due to her behavior a security officer is now dead, and the Italian government (prime minister Berlusconi included) has had to spend millions of euros to save her life. It is to be hoped that Sgrena will decide to have a career change. Propagandist or MP perhaps. But she should give up journalism immediately.

Not to mention that the millions of dollars ransom for this irresponsible journalist is now purchasing bullets and IED's to kill American soldiers. She's not a reporter, she's an enemy sympathizer and fellow traveller.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Israel unveils tank protection system

Israel unveils tank protection system

Israel Tuesday revealed a system it says will protect vehicles -- from Humvees to tanks -- against attacks launched from a very close range. The system could help American troops in Iraq if they stay there long enough, indicated the head of the government's Rafael armaments development authority, retired Vice Admiral Yedidia Yaari. Yaari told United Press International militant attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq were the kind of "a reality to which (Israel) had to prepare." The system, called Trophy, detects incoming threats, such as anti-tank rockets, and sprays tungsten balls at them. The tungsten disintegrates a rocket-propelled grenade for example. It thus neutralizes the threat without causing an explosion, Yaari said.

BLACKFIVE: Showdown - The Battle of Fallujah - Part 15 - After Action Report

BLACKFIVE: Showdown - The Battle of Fallujah - Part 15 - After Action Report: "Lessons Learned: Infantry Squad Tactics in Military Operations in Urban Terrain During Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq

Introduction

Historically speaking, military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) have created casualty figures that are extraordinary compared to similar operations conducted in different types of environments. The casualties in MOUT present a significant challenge to small unit leaders. Casualties hit Marine infantry squads and fire teams extremely hard because generally speaking they were already under the table of organization (T/O) standards. Some squads in 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5) commenced the assault on the Jolan with only six Marines. It is the small unit leaders’ duty to accomplish the mission with the least amount of casualties possible. In order for small unit leaders to complete the above task they need tactics and techniques that will prevent casualties.

Section 1 of the Scout/Sniper Platoon has attacked and cleared buildings with all the line companies in 3/5. The authors have observed nearly all the squads in the battalion and have “rolled in the stack” with many of them. This is an experience which few in the battalion have. Knowing this, the authors believe it is their duty to consolidate their observations, produce a comprehensive evaluation of squad tactics and techniques, and pass it onto the squad leaders. The authors’ intent is to give the squad leaders options in combat. It is by no means a “bible,” but it is a guideline. All the tactics and techniques have been proven in combat by one squad or another. Section 1 does not take any credit for the information contained within. The information was learned through the blood of the infantry squads in 3/5.

The entire evaluation has one underlying theme: Accomplish the mission with the least amount of casualties possible.

Super interesting discussion of Marine urban warfare tactics.

"

Monday, March 07, 2005

Yahoo! News - U.S. General: Omar Loses Control of Afghan Insurgency

Yahoo! News - U.S. General: Omar Loses Control of Afghan Insurgency

KABUL (Reuters) - Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has lost control of the insurgency in Afghanistan and the number of attacks has fallen dramatically, a senior U.S. general said Monday.

Taliban spokesmen have said attacks will resume once the harsh Afghan winter is over.

But Major General Eric T. Olson told a news conference in Kabul that the Taliban lacked cohesion and were a fading force in the southern and southeast provinces that had been their strongholds.

“We believe that this spring there will be a number of factors combined to make this so-called spring offensive much less effective and much lesser scale than we’ve seen in the past in Afghanistan,” said Olson.
[...]
Many saw the Taliban's inability to mount an effective threat to last October's presidential election as a sign the movement was a spent and demoralized force.

Olson said about 30 fighters, described as mid-level in the Taliban, had surrendered to U.S.-led forces recently.

Karzai has said his government is in contact with Taliban members and the amnesty offer will not extend to Mullah Omar or up to 150 of his most hardened followers.

Omar's whereabouts remains a mystery, said Olson, but the U.S. general was convinced that wherever he is, Omar no longer exerts control over the Taliban.

"It seems very clear to us, given the disjointed and uncoordinated effort that the Taliban has been able to launch, that those types of leaders, Mullah Omar specifically, are not exercising an effective command and control over Taliban operations in Afghanistan."

He put this down to the success of U.S.-led forces in both combat operations and in winning over support from local communities, leaving the insurgents isolated.

Kuwaitis demonstrate for women's suffrage

Kuwaitis demonstrate for women's suffrage

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Around 500 Kuwaiti activists, mostly women, have demonstrated outside parliament to demand female suffrage amidst tensions in the Gulf Arab state over a government drive to grant women political rights.

'Women's rights now,' chanted the crowd, which included women dressed in abayas, or traditional long black cloaks. Some of the demonstrators at Monday's protest wore veils over their faces.

'Our democracy will only be complete with women,' said a placard written in Arabic. 'We are not less, you are not more. We need a balance, open the door,' said one written in English."
[...]
Some Islamic lawmakers have said they would back women voting but not running. Other Islamists and tribal legislators oppose the bill.

"For the past 40 years, Kuwait's society has been used to the idea that elections take place in such a manner (without women)," said parliamentarian Khaled Adwah.

Washington has been pressing its allies in the Middle East to bring in political reforms, saying lack of freedom and democracy have fostered violent Islamic militancy.

Kuwaiti women have traditionally been more liberal and educated than those in other Gulf states, who have already won political rights in Bahrain and Qatar.