Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Putin in Hungary

Russian President Putin is in Hungary for a visit, and today said Russia took "moral responsibility" for crushing the 1956 uprising. The 50th anniversary of the uprising is coming up in October of this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday acknowledged Moscow's moral responsibility for the brutal Soviet suppression of the Hungarian uprising 50 years ago.

The Kremlin sent Soviet tanks into Hungary on Nov. 4. 1956, to crush a revolt after Hungarian Prime Minister and Communist reformer Imre Nagy formed a coalition government, proclaimed neutrality, ended censorship, and withdrew from the Warsaw Pact.

The Soviet army installed Janos Kadar as premier. Nagy, who was in power only 10 days, was arrested and later executed. Some 200,000 Hungarians fled the country and many more were imprisoned.

Putin, making the second visit to Hungary by a Russian leader since the collapse of the Soviet Union, noted that his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, had come to Hungary in 1992 and condemned the Soviet role in crushing the revolt.

"Of course, modern Russia is not the Soviet Union, but we can still feel some sort of moral responsibility for these events,'' Putin said. "Our task is not to forget the past and to think about the future.''

The marquee event of Putin's two-day visit was the formal return of a trove of priceless, centuries-old books seized by the Soviet Army during World War II and taken to Russia. Budapest has long demanded them. But lurking below the surface was the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Soviet invasion.

To this day, Hungarians who were alive then remember how US President Eisenhower failed to come to the aid of Hungary, and they do not think fondly of Ike.

The Suez crisis occupied much of the West's attention at the same time, and certainly war with the Soviet Union would've been no small thing, with a nuclear threat ever present.

However, the US and Europe failed to act, and Communisn brought its brand of brutality to Hungary.

We are faced with a similar threat today, with the rise of Islamofascism. It takes sacrifice to stand up to tyranny. And yet, how much are we willing to let the terror masters gobble up, as we allowed the Soviets to gobble up Hungary?

How much was the Soviet Union emboldened by the lack of response? Certainly the Soviets were not deterred in Prague in 1968. We have emboldened the terrorists by our feeble response to numerous attacks since 1979.

President Bush deserves enormous credit for refusing to leave the people of Afghanistan and Iraq under the heel of their dictators. Do we have the will to continue the fight? Or, will we throw a nation somewhere like Hungary to the wolves as long as our territory is left alone?

24 Day 5 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Am I the only one who sees the graphic violence warning? You see it, too, don't you? I'm not crazy. I know it's real, I know it.

The recaps recap just about the entire show to this point. We've got 8 minutes left for tonight's episode. We are reminded of Nathanson, this mysterious Matrix Guy who seemed to be running the whole Slow Boat to Central Asia thing, and then was killed before we ever got to know him, or what his story was.

Sgt. Bierko and his barracks mates discuss the ambush of the Russian prez. The motorcade is on 118, and the kill zone will be downtown somewhere. The motorcade will take 40 minutes to get there. Goodness. Geometry is so hard to figure out in this show. Jack got from CTU to the presidential retreat in less than 15 minutes. Last season Marwan got from somewhere in LA out to the desert where Air Farce One was shot down in under an hour. It's going to take the motorcade 40 minutes to cover this distance? Are they going to be driving in circles to shake off anybody tailing them?

Once again Mike must be cursing the day he chose to go into politics, for he gets to deliver to Logan the news that Martha is in the limo with Team Suvarov, and hence in danger of becoming Banta fodder. From Logan's reaction, I'm not sure if he considers this a good thing or a bad thing. For purposes of this review, I'm going to go with bad thing.

Charles "Rock of Gibraltar" Logan can't decide what to do about the motorcade. "Yes! No, stop, wait!" With this kind of steady leadership at the top, the country is in Good Hands. Or not.

Logan rings up Martha on the wireless and tries to talk her out of the limo. She's having none of it. She apparently has a death wish. To echo the words of another Martha, the one in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Martha says to Logan "I swear Charles, if you even existed, I'd divorce you." Logan says "Martha, will you please get out of the, uh, euphemism." But Martha is staying putsky. She's having too much fun chatting about orange groves with Mrs. Suvarov.

Back at CTU, Audrey tiptoes by Edgar and says "Edgar, meet me in the server room in a few minutes." Edgar explodes from his chair. "Yeah baby! I knew she'd finally succumb to the charms of Edgar!"

We hear Omicron developed the Sentox nerve gas for the military. And it is there Jack must go. We also hear this Henderson fellow was the one who recruited Jack to CTU. Jack says "things ended badly between us." This being Oscar season, I suppose this is my opportunity to trot out my Brokeback Mountain material.

Edgar dances off to the server room expecting to storm the ramparts of Fortress Audrey, but instead finds Chloe already there. Edgar wouldn't have guessed Chloe and Audrey are into this kind of thing, but he's game.

Actually, he's not. When he sees Chloe Edgar says "What are you doing here?" And Chloe, in one of those sublime Chloe Moments, says "same thing you're doing here."

Audrey and Chloe need Edgar's help to work against Samwise, who clearly is under the spell of Sauron. And indeed, out on the floor Lynn is going ballistic. He fires Sweet Carrie, who was listening to chatter. (Ah, the ubiquitous "chatter". Are these teenage children of terrorists yakking on their cell phones about today's plot? Where is this chatter coming from?) They need Edgar to cover for Chloe while she gives Jack a hand.

Chloe gives Edgar a classic Chloe Look. The kind that made Chloe waltz into our hearts.

Back at White House West, Mike and Logan kick around their very few options. They seem to be operating under the assumption that if the Suvarovs are killed, the terrorists won't release the nerve gas anyway. Is this a good assumption, considering the terrorists have already proved themselves willing to kill civilians with the gas?

Going to commercial, the clocks are at :12 to :12. I quick record a video message to myself so I can tell myself what's happening after the inevitable slip in the space-time continuum. And indeed, after the commercial the clocks are at :17 to :15. (I did appreciate hearing from my past self.)

While Lynn is going cuckoo, apparently Curtis has nothing better to do than just sit in a chair and look on.

Jack has Chloe cook up an excuse to get Jack through the door at Omicron. And aha! This really is Yoyodyne! Jack's cover name is John Barrie. Not quite the same poetic ring as John Many Jars, but it will do.

Amazing, though, that Omicron has its systems available to the outside world. Chloe hacks in with apparent ease, and in the space of a few minutes, figures out how their system works, and just where to slip in an appt for Jack in the right format. She even sends up Jack's fingerprint and photo. Where did that photo come from? To CTU, Jack's been dead for 18 months. Surely they didn't stop today to take Jack's picture. Was it just lying around a server somewhere? But Chloe truly has some m@d hack0r sk1llz. (Which makes it all the more nutty that only Spenser Wolff-ff-ff could hack into Rossler's apartment security.)

Jack has Audrey call Henderson's busty secretary with ye olde Can You Come Down To Accounting trick, and Jack pulls a gun and enters Henderson's office. Only to find... Buckaroo Banzai himself!!!! All bow before his Holiness, Peter Weller! This is Yoyodyne!

Actually, Buckaroo finds Jack. He tasers Jack in the neck as Jack comes through the door. Aw, Henderson, hey, hey, don't be mean. You don't have to be mean.

But does Henderson spend his entire day behind the door waiting to taser anyone who comes through the door? What possible reason did he have to suspect anything?

Jack and Buckaroo have a chat about their past. Jack was part of an investigation that accused Henderson of wrongdoing, and Henderson ended up leaving CTU. Henderson says "I never thought you were dead." Jack says "Yeah, I was ionized, but I'm okay now."

Jack wants Buckaroo to prove he had nothing to do with the gas getting into terrorist hands, and wants to see the bunker where the operations was controlled. Where are we going? The bunker. When? Real soon.

Back at CTU, now Edgar is listening in on chatter. They sure are a bunch of Nosy Nellies. However, Lynn has truly gone into the eighth dimension. He chews out Edgar and Chloe, and does not want to tell the Secret Service about the possible threat to Suvarov. Lynn is about this close to stripping to his altogethers and running through the halls of CTU shouting "It's the night of the long condor! Run for your lives! We're all gonna die!"

At Sgt. Bierko HQ, some baddie is sautering something. Maybe he runs a booth at county fairs and burns family names into wooden plaques. Sgt. Bierko talks to a baddie who looks way too much like Gary Oldman.

At CTU, it's not clear why Audrey can't just call up the Pentagon and tell them about the threat. She is the DoD liaison after all. Instead, Audrey ropes Chloe and Edgar into another act of sedition. They will stage a palace coup. Edgar says "for the record, this is not a good idea." So, uh, since it is "for the record", did someone write that down anywhere?

Audrey convinces Curtis that Lynn is a certified Section 8. I mean, Section 112. Mentally unfit for command. There are not many organizations that need to have a Section 112 on hand as part of their corporate procedures. However, this is getting way too much like an episode of Star Trek. Curtis is the ranking agent, so he can invoke Section 112.

We check in on the limo. For a moment, it looks like a different actor for Suvarov. At White House West, Logan is looking at photos of the back of Martha's head. That's so sweet.

Mike comes in for some more abuse. Logan gets down on his knees. No, no, no! Please don't say "pray with me"! AAUGGH. He does say it. This is a shameless ripoff of a moment from Watergate. The night before Nixon resigned, Kissinger went to see him, and Nixon got down on his knees and asked Kissinger to pray with him.

Back at CTU, Lynn is about to start hanging people from the yardarm, but Curtis invokes Section 112, The Red Shirts back him up. Lynn is taken away, shouting threats of vengeance. Surely we'll see Samwise again?

In the midst of this insanity, our clock slips back a minute, :45 to :42. Our universe can't cope, we are sliding back into the inchoate void where time is reduced to a subatomic froth of random quantum fluctuations.

Bill is released from stir, and immediately takes charge. He calls Logan and tells him about the threat to Suvarov. Which, of course, Logan already knows about. Logan is speechless, though.

As the motorcade approaches the kill zone. We see armed men hanging around. A guy with a missile is up on a roof. The eagle-eyed Secret Service escorts notice none of this.

The attack commences. The limo is made of tritanium, though. It survives bullets and flamethrowers and missiles. Aaron, instead of staying in this impregnable vehicle, opens the door as the flamethrower guy takes aim. Good one, Aaron. Luckily, Aaron takes out the baddies, and the Suvarovs are saved.

Logan is mildly relieved to hear the news. However, he's worried about what Sgt. Bierko is going to say. Bierko calls, and Logan tries to tell him he had nothing to do with the failure of the attack. Bierko is unimpressed. He says "I am sure, in the miserable annals of the Earth, you will be duly enshrined. But, the gas will be released anyway."

Mike says CTU intervened in time. Is that entirely correct? The motorcade was still attacked. The limo was hit with machine gun fire, a missile and a flamethrower. What would've happened if CTU hadn't intervened in time?

Finally, Jack and Buckaroo arrive at the bunker. Only took them a half hour to get there. But, no matter where you go, there you are.

Buckaroo hears that Buchanan is head honcho at CTU. Buckaroo says "What a stiff."

They muck through Yoyodyne files, and discover top scientists on the gas project have been killed. Buckaroos acts surprised, which is some good acting, for Henderson that is, not Weller, considering what happens next.

Buckaroos steps out for a moment, and locks Jack in the bunker. Jack realizes he's been duped. Dad! Dad! Jack's in trouble! Say what?

Buckaroo continues the tradition of bad guys being the most prepared individuals ever. He had no idea Jack was coming, yet had a bomb in a metal case laying around. Just in case.

Jack puts the bomb behind a door, and a filing cabinet. The blast destroys the room, but Jack survives. Now people think he's dead. Again!

We discover Buckaroo really is a bad guy, as he calls up some female Lectroid and says Jack will be dead in a minute.

The episode ends with the clocks at :60 to :57.

And now, once again, here is guest critic Paul Foth. When his secretary went to the ladies room, he got paranoid and tasered the next person who entered his office. He helped that person get to CTU Medical, and then wrote this review.

No, the Squeegee Incident wasn't pretty, but it was nothing compared to what I had to do when that "doctor" came into CTU Medical. Oh, he'll live; I didn't go completely Bauer on his hide. But someone's going to have to design a special toilet for him.

I think Samwise is no longer wearing the Ring; he swallowed it. His stomach juices are slowly making it part of him. It's only a matter of time before we hear his tortured (HA!) voice from a holding cell: "Preciousssss!" It seems what really sent him over the edge was Twisted Sister's boyfriend swiping his CTU Health Club key card. (It couldn't have been a key card to CTU itself, could it? I mean, CTU Security is too top-notch to let someone through without one, right? (Pardon me while I try to stop laughing.))

Samwise's tumble into the Valley of the Shadow of Mount Doom was assured when he fired sweet, doe-eyed Carrie for answering her phone--although, to the writers' credit, she wasn't tortured first, as was done with sweet, doe-eyed Sarah last season. (In fact, we haven't seen anyone tortured in a CTU holding cell this season. We live in an age of miracles.) But then he turned the episode positively self-referential by complaining about not being able to get any work done because he's shorthanded. Later on, Robocreep sealed the deal by commenting on how CTU can't hang on to anyone who's halfway competent. My winking writer detector is giving peak readings.

So, now that the season is just over a third of the way over, Bilbo Cannon is back in charge. His still being around kinda gives lie to Robocreep's charge. Yes, he is stiff, but I think he's exactly the right kind of stiff for what a job of that magnitude requires.

I'm wondering if Samwise is done for the season. In the opening credits, Sean Astin was billed as a "Special Guest Star," which is the same notation that appeared above Dennis Haysbert and Reiko Aylesworth's names in the season premiere. Prior to this, I think he's just been a regular Guest Star. But, then again, there's the unresolved mystery of the key card. This show wouldn't completely ditch a plot thread without resolving it, would it? (Woops, sorry. I have to choke down some more laughter.)

Once again, the show demonstrated that one of its strengths is its acting talent. Some of the most effective (and affective) moments the show has had are those in which two characters are simply talking. I thought Kiefer and Peter did some great work together. (But wasn't Robocreep supposed to be working for someplace called Yoyodyne--I mean, Teradyne--or maybe TerraDyne? I seem to remember from the frenetic exposition last week that Omicron contracted Teradyne to make the gas, not that Omicron itself made the gas. And speaking of the gas, they're definitely calling it Sentox VX now, instead of the Sentox Six it started out as. Jeff must be right in one of his earlier rants, where he speculates that someone (very wrongly) thought VX was a Roman numeral.)

Gregory Itzen continues to impress. Yes, a character that extreme being the president is a completely ludicrous proposition, but Itzen continues to make some great choices in what to do with President Shakes. One that I particularly liked from last night was the way he was sitting just before Bierko called, with his arms hidden under the desk like a nervous third grader. I've been really impressed that he's being allowed to act out the fact that Shakes is a waffling idiot who can't handle the responsibility of his office, without once having anyone explicitly say, "You're a waffling idiot who can't handle the responsibility of your office." It's a prime example of the storytelling maxim "Show, don't tell."

Still, a guy like Shakes being president makes so much of what's going on around him more than a little unconvincing. The attack on Subaru's motorcade was suspenseful, but not nail bitingly so. Shakes blaming everyone but himself for the imminent attack didn't frustrate me as much as it made me think, "Well, he's no Henry Fonda in Fail-Safe." About the only thing that got me going was when it looked like Aaron was dead. He and Bilbo Cannon are about the only two solid, stable characters on the show, and getting rid of one of them would've ended all hope for the country.

Just before the episode aired, I thought it'd be cool if at some point in the middle of the season they decided to lump a couple of hours together, rather than just doing that at the beginning or end of the season. Apparently, I'm a latent psychic, because that's what's happening next week. It looks like Kim is FINALLY going to show up, which I'm looking forward to. I may be in the minority here, but I do like Kim. I think the real turning point was back when she and Jack both thought he was about to crash a plane carrying a nuclear bomb. Their farewell scene was very well done. (Of course, in that season, Kim thought her dad was dead for just a few hours. This time, it's been a year and a half. There's nothing new under the sun.)

And Tony returns to the land of the living. All we got in the previews was a shot of him peeling a bandage away from his neck, thinking either, "Have I been shot in the neck again?" or "What's that bolt doing there?" but he looked coherent enough that my original theory--that he gives Jack a critical piece of information before dying--may not come to pass.

And we're promised "the biggest surprise of the season." Yeah, whatever. We've heard that one before, only to then hear the sound of crickets when the payoff episode finally airs. I'm interested in finding out what they're talking about, but I'm not holding my breath.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 9
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 25
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 11
Number of moles: 3
Approximate Body Count: 46 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 11 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning))

<-2:00 PM - 3:00 PM 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM ->

Monday, February 27, 2006

The race for gas in Asia

As discussed before, part of India's dilemma in deciding how to vote in the IAEA on the issue of Iran's nuclear program was its relationship with Iran, and the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

India is looking to secure supplies of gas, and the India pipeline is not the only option. From the Asia Times:

Following the decision by Myanmar to supply gas to China, India is now making swift maneuvers to ensure that the US$1 billion Myanmar-Bangladesh-India (MBI) gas pipeline materializes. And significantly, India has virtually decided to join the US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline, in part because of the geopolitical difficulties involved in the $7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline that Washington opposes.

Paradoxically, New Delhi has found an uncommon ally in Islamabad, which is pushing for India's involvement in the TAP as well as the IPI.

India did vote against Iran in the IAEA meeting, and in doing so India may have cast its lot.

While India, Pakistan and Iran go through the motions of pursuing the IPI project, apparently unaffected by the International Atomic Energy Agency's referral of Tehran to the UN Security Council, most observers claim that the prospects of the pipeline materializing are now remote. Despite domestic political pressures, India has so far sided with Western powers against Tehran pursuing an independent nuclear program.

In this context, India was an observer at the recent TAP meeting in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat. Dinsha Patel, minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, led the Indian delegation and expressed willingness to join the TAP. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed at the conclusion of the two-day meeting, under which Turkmenistan will supply 3.2 billion cubic feet gas per day to Pakistan for a period of 30 years.

China is not sitting idly by, either, hence India's need to move to secure a reliable supply.

Irked by the delays in implementing the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline, Myanmar recently inked an MoU with PetroChina to supply 6.5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas from Block A of the Shwe gasfields in the Bay of Bengal for over 30 years.

The decision came as a major blow to India's bid to tap gas from its eastern front. It also marked one more victory for Beijing energy giants, which have consistently been beating Indian energy firms in the acquisition of oil and gas reserves around the world. India's state-owned oil giant Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has lost to Chinese companies, in Kazakhstan, Ecuador and Angola.

Now, with Block A-1 gas going to China, the cost of the MBI will increase as the available block close to Bangladesh is A-2, which will require an additional 150km of pipeline for the gas to reach India.

It is a sign of our times, that China and India are making strategic moves and counter moves as far away as Ecuador.

Certainly, any discussion of gas on the Asian continent will soon involve Russia. The deal to end the squabble between Ukraine and Russia at the beginning of the year, and restore Ukraine's gas supply mentioned Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan will supply some of the gas to Ukraine under the deal. But, Russia controls the only pipeline between Turkmenistan and Ukraine. In additin, Gazprom has been making deals for Turkmenistan.

India would take care to see that Russia doesn't swallow up the supply in Turkmenistan.

Pointillism in the Middle East

A trap bloggers can sometimes fall into is to assume the answers to everything are open source and available somewhere in the public domain. Such is not always the case, especially when it comes to making sense of intelligence operations.

We often see many dots, but we may not see all of them, and connecting the dots can be a challenge.

But, we can certainly take a swipe at filling in the gaps, can't we.

There was another sign today of unrest in Khuzestan, the southwestern Iranian province that is home to an Arab population. Ahvaz, the provincial capital, was the scene of bomb attacks just last month.

Two grenades exploded Monday in a southwestern Iranian province known for unrest among its Arab population, wounding at least four people, the official Iranian news agency reported.

The grenades went off in restrooms in local government offices in Abadan and Dezful in Khuzestan province, the Islamic Republic News Agency said, citing official sources.

The agency described the blasts as "terrorist acts," saying they wounded two people in each town.

Oil-rich Khuzestan has a history of violence involving members of Iran's Arab minority. Several bombs exploded in the provincial capital of Ahvaz in January and last year.

An Iranian Arab insurgent group, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, claimed responsibility for the Jan. 24 blasts, which killed six people and wounded 46. The Iranian government blamed the bombings on Britain and United States, which denied any involvement.

Britain has 8,500 troops in southern Iraq, across the border from Khuzestan, serving in the U.S.-led multinational force.

With British troops just over the border from this province, I am curious as to whether or not the Arab groups in the Iranian groups are receiving any assistance from the British, and/or the US. I especially wonder because of this incident over the weekend. The British embassy in Tehran was attacked by a mob.

Several hundred students threw stones and firebombs at the British embassy in Tehran yesterday in protest at the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Iraq.

A number of windows were broken in the embassy and firebombs went off outside its walls during the two-hour protest.

Eventually, Iranian police wielding sticks dispersed the demonstrators.

Nearly 1,000 students had gathered outside the embassy and held a peaceful protest, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Britain".

They blamed the two countries for Wednesday's bombing of the shrine in the Iraqi town of Samarra.

As I wrote about here, it seems likely that Iran used the cartoon controversy as a pretext to allow the Danish and Norwegian missions to be attacked, to send a message quite unrelated to the cartoons.

I wonder if this is a similar case. I don't doubt there are Shiites in Iran angry over the destruction of the Golden Dome in Samarra, and given the lack of a US embassy in Tehran, they might strike out at America's partner in Iraq, Great Britain.

However, the protestors would be a convenient pretext for Iran to send Britain a warning to back off on any aid to the Arab insurgents in Khuzestan.

It's hard to believe a regime like Iran would allow such a mob to form and attack a foreign embassy, unless the regime wished to allow it.

Not a lot of dots to work with, true. However, we can only guess at the kind of smoldering war that is going on as Iran ratchets up the tensions in the region, and continues to wage war by proxy.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the Supreme Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, blames the recent attack on the Shi'ite shrine in Samarra on the United States, Britain and Israel, but some suggest evidence points towards Iran's involvement instead. Kamangir argues that there are similarities between the attack on Samarra and an earlier attack on a holy site in Iran where one of the regime's intelligence officers confessed to attack but was seeking to blame that attack on opponents of the regime. Sunni groups also believe that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security may have been behind the bombing, and some believe the war between Iran and the west has already begun. In the wake of the bombings, Asia Times Online reports several al-Qaeda members have been moved from detention centers to safe houses run by Iranian intelligence near Tehran. So what exactly is spurring Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on?

* Terrorists failed in their attack on a major Saudi oil refinery in Buqayq, the first known terrorist attack on an oil facility in the Kingdom. Reuters and Al-Arabiya report that the attack failed, with Saudi security forces killing the attackers, who used at least two cars in a bombing attempt. The attacks, attributed to al-Qaeda on an Islamic website, follow Ayman al-Zawahiri's December 2005 call for attacks on oil facilities, which are small in number but process vast amounts of oil. Looks like Joe may have to revise his 2004 analysis in "Oil Infrastructure: The Next Terror Target?". "Minerva", who has an intelligence community background on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, writes an open-source-based analysis on the latest attack on the Saudi oil facility at Terrorism Unveiled (see also status of Saudi most wanted list).

* As many as 12 suspected Taliban detained by Afghan National Army (ANA) in eastern Kunar province were Thursday handed over to US led coalition forces, spokesman for defence military said. Sixty former Taliban, including five high-ranking figures, surrendered on Sunday as part of a government amnesty scheme and vowed to lay down arms and work to rebuild Afghanistan, an official said.

Other topics today include: IDF clashes with Hamas; Iran claims deal with Russia; al Qaeda in Yemen had inside help; Bahrain-Turkey counterterrorism agreement; Lebanon rebukes US request for Hezbollah extradition; IDF Operation Northern Lights in Nablus; Abbas may quit; Hamas makes token overtures; more on the UAE port deal; nuclear power plant defense plan; terror arrests in Ohio; southern California Muslims cooperate with authorities; Russian-Iranian discussions; Russian counterterrorism legislation; Georgia denies rumors of facilitating possible strike on Iran; fighting in Kashmir; Taliban attacks; riot in Afghan prison; Coup attempt in Philippines; Australian guilty of aiding al Qaeda; hate crime in Paris; bombing in Spain; Violence in Somalia; Counterterrorism training in Mali; Nigeria racked by violence; US citizen charged with terrorism in Uganda; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian terrorists planting bombs along the Israeli border yesterday, one of them the son of Hamas co-founder and senior leader Abdul Fattah Dukhan, a newly-elected member of the Palestinian parliament.

* International nuclear inspectors are expected to report next week that Iran has started producing enriched uranium on a very small scale, indicating that it is striving to solve technological problems in its nuclear program, European officials said Friday. Only a month after Iran defied Europe and the International Atomic Energy Agency and declared it would restart what it termed research on enrichment, it has put 10 centrifuges into operation at the vast uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.

* Yemeni investigators have accused prison intelligence officials of neglect and placed them under investigation after the recent escape of 23 al-Qaida prisoners. The committee in charge of investigating the so-called "grand escape" issued an official report Friday charging a number of prison officials of gross neglect and failure to inspect the inmates' cells. Thus far, three of the escaped fugitives have been captured, with 20 remaining on the loose.

* Bahrain and Turkey will sign an anti-terror agreement next month that will reinforce their pledge to combat terrorism at international levels and pledge cooperation on combating drug trafficking.

* Lebanon has refused to extradite four suspected Shia Hezbollah members to the United States, believed to have carried out attacks against Americans in Beirut during the 1980s, a request Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made during her visit earlier in the week. Syria responded to comments Rice made during the trip by calling them "inflammatory."

* Yemen is requesting solid proof from the United States before carrying through with a U.S. request to arrest Shaikh Abdul Majid Al Zindani, a leader of a main Islamic opposition party in Yemen.

* Five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops in clashes in the Balata refugee camp just outside of the West Bank city of Nablus. Three of those killed belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, who shot at Israeli soldiers during a raid which was part of Operation Northern Lights.

* Abu Daoud first acknowledged having a role in the Munich operation in a 1999 book, Palestine: from Jerusalem to Munich. Today he maintains the 1972 attacks were worth it because it brought the plight of the Palestinians attention, and excuses it by considering the Israeli athletes, as military reservists, legitimate targets.

* Abu Abir, spokesman for several Palestinian groups gave an interview where he threatened Israel and suggested "if you [west] are so committed to an Israeli state then why don't you help the Jews to build their state in the United States or elsewhere in the West.

* Human rights activists have expressed concern over the arrest on 13 February of some 1,000 Sufi worshippers in the Iranian holy city of Qom. The arrests followed clashes between the police and members of a Sufi group over the closure of a house of worship used by the Sufi Muslims. Observers say the scale and violence of the crackdown on the Sufis is unprecedented in the Islamic Republic (Hattip: Discarded Lies). Kenneth Timmerman also offers commentary on the issue and Iranian reformers are condemning the sectarian violence.

* United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch focused on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday as sole recipient of future financial assistance - but failed to say if aid would continue the flow for the Palestinian Authority. Addressing reporters following a meeting with Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters, Welch said the two discussed the future of US- Palestinian relations and financial support.

* The top US diplomat for international counterterrorism coordination, Henry Crumpton, paid a surprise visit on Saturday to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian security forces have launch-ed massive sweeps in recent months searching for militants. Reports indicate that Crumpton's visit is to review security arrangements in the region.

* In remarks to be broadcast on the British TV channel on Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said if he was no longer able to pursue his peacemaking agenda he would quit. "I will not continue sitting in this place, against and in spite of my convictions," he is quoted as saying. "If I can do something I will continue, otherwise I won't."

* In an interview with the Washington Post, Esmail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister-designate, said Hamas is ready to recognize Israel if it gives the Palestinian people their full rights and a state in lands occupied since 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the interview was "filled with contradictions, including putting old wine in new bottles."

* The head of the UN investigation into the killing of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri has met Syria's foreign minister in Damascus, Syria's news agency says. Talks between Serge Brammertz and Walid al-Muallim on "the means to advance the mission of the commission of inquiry" yielded "positive results", Sana said. The inquiry has implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the killing. A UN Security Council resolution has threatened further action unless Syria co-operates fully with the probe.

* Fatah terrorist Sami Abed Al Khader Hassan Akilan was apprehended by security forces in PA-controlled Jericho Saturday. Akilan, who is 26 and from the Shahti slums in Gaza, is a member of the Palestinian Authority's security forces, yet was involved in planning terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* The debate over giving the UAE control of terminal operations in six US ports intensifed this past week. "The change of ownership at a terminal will not impact or affect the security of our nation's ports," said Leah Yoon, spokeswoman for the Customs and Border Protection, said. "Port employees go through extensive background and security checks." But calls to block the sale raise questions about port security, experts said. And some industry watchers worry that high-tech devices and strategies, such as biometrics, radio frequency identification (RFID) and radiation sensor technology, being installed at ports could fall into the wrong hands.

* Reviews by U.S. intelligence agencies supported Dubai Ports World's purchase of the British company running some terminals at six U.S. ports, and the assessments were made available to the Treasury Department-run interagency committee that approved the deal, senior Bush administration officials said.

* The Treasury Dept released a statement defending the conduct of the committee that made the decision on the ports, and explains how the decision was made. A post at Threats Watch highlights a Dept of Homeland Security press release on some aspects of the UAE-owned Dubai Ports World acquisition.

* The United Arab Emirates has become an aggressive ally in the war on terror, even capturing a top terrorist bomber and earning the seven-state federation a spot on Al Qaeda's hit list, U.S. intelligence experts say. Asked at a Senate briefing yesterday whether the UAE had refused a single U.S. counterterrorism request since 9/11, the deputies at the Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury departments all said no.

* The Department of Homeland Security would receive the biggest boost in technology spending among top-level federal departments under the president's $2.8 trillion budget proposal for 2007. If Congress ultimately approves the president's request, which he made public earlier this month, the department's slice of the information technology allotment would jump more than 21 percent, to about $4.4 billion.

* A government defense plan for nuclear power plants assumes an attack would come from less than half the number of Sept. 11 hijackers and they wouldn't be armed with rocket-propelled grenades or other weapons often used by terrorists overseas. Such assumptions, say critics of the largely classified security document, could make plants vulnerable to a terrorist takeover even though the industry has pumped more than $1.2 billion into defenses at its 64 reactor sites in 31 states since the al-Qaida attacks in 2001.

* Sami Al-Arian, the fired university professor who faces a possible retrial on terrorism-related charges, is confident he will be found innocent and says he is open to a plea deal if it affords him "victory." Even if he wins his second round, as he likes to refer to it, the 48-year-old Kuwaiti-born Palestinian is likely to be deported to the Middle East.

* Federal prosecutors seeking more prison time for an Algerian terrorist argued that the sentencing judge wildly abused his discretion, and they cited his rebukes of the Bush administration as clues to a possible motive. U.S. Attorney John McKay said U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour should have deferred to prosecutors' wishes for a 35-year sentence for Ahmed Ressam, instead of giving him a 22-year term.

* The arrests this week of three men in Ohio on terrorism-related charges involving troops in Iraq followed raids by federal agents on a Toledo-based Islamic charity accused of providing funds to Hamas. Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman el-Hindi and Wassim Mazloum were named in a five-count indictment on charges of conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure people in a foreign country; conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals; and harboring or concealing terrorists.

* Sabri Benkahla was acquitted in March 2004 of being a member of a "Virginia jihad network." Now Benkahla has been indicted again, this time on charges that he lied when he told a grand jury that he had never attended a terrorist training camp. Benkahla was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., on perjury and obstruction of justice counts. The Falls Church, Va., man pleaded not guilty.

* Muslim leaders from Southern California and Sheriff Lee Baca launched an initiative Wednesday to increase cooperation in the fight against terrorism and expand the role of American Muslims in denouncing extremist groups like al-Qaida. The Muslim-American Homeland Security Congress, with representation from nearly every prominent Muslim organization in Southern California, will share information on possible terrorist threats, create a youth council to reach Muslims who might feel alienated in American society and give religious leaders a collective platform to condemn terrorist acts.

* Colombia agreed on Friday to suspend capture orders for two leaders of the country's second-largest Marxist guerrilla group in an effort to build trust in peace talks hosted by Cuba. The Cuban-inspired National Liberation Army, or ELN, which was founded in 1964 by radical students and Roman Catholic priests, said the provisional legal status given to its commanders, Antonio Garcia and Ramiro Vargas, cleared the way for formal negotiations.

* Leftist rebels killed nine people Saturday in an attack on a passenger bus that defied a guerrilla-imposed traffic ban in southern Colombia, authorities said. Insurgents with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, fired several shots at the bus on a remote highway near Puerto Rico, 190 miles southwest of Bogota, causing the driver to lose control and slam into a wall, said Col. Jose Angel Mendoza, police chief of Caqueta state.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* Russia wants to complete building a nuclear power station in Iran as soon as possible, the country's top nuclear official said on Saturday, the Itar-Tass news agency reported. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom, said during a visit to Tehran that the civilian nuclear plant at Bushehr in Iran would be launched as fast as possible. "We don't see any political obstacles to completing Bushehr and we are interested in it (the station) being launched in the swiftest possible period," Kiriyenko said, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

* Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said after talks with Iranian officials on Saturday that resolving questions about Tehran's nuclear program "is absolutely realistic." He added that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear program, but suggested it must act to assure the world that it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons. According to some reports, the two had reached a deal on Sunday in principle.

* Russia's lower house of parliament, the state Duma, passed by a 423-1 vote new anti-terrorism legislation that empowers Russian secret services to tap telephone conversations and control electronic communications in areas where counter-terrorism operations are carried out and entitles air defense forces to shoot down hijacked planes to prevent attacks on strategic facilities or public places. The bill now moves on to the upper house.

* A major weapons and ammunition cache was discovered in the Tukui-Mekteb settlement of the Neftekumsk district of Russia’s Stavropol territory, the place where a gang of militants put up a fierce fight back on February 10th. A suspected accomplice of the gunmen was detained.

* Georgia’s president has refuted recent reports that Georgia might allow the U.S. to use its territories to launch an attack on Iran, and expressed his resentment at the rumors. “The issue is simply out of the question,” Mikhail Saakashvili told the Ekho Moskvy radio station in an interview Sunday. Georgia’s admission to NATO does not mean that the alliance will be able to place its military bases on territory of the country, Saakashvili added. “Talks of this are mere speculation,” he said.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Sri Lankan government negotiators and Tamil Tiger rebels agreed Thursday to resume their cease-fire talks in April and restrain the level of violence, Norwegian mediator Erik Solheim said. Solheim said the two sides agreed during two days of talks that they would meet again April 19-21 in Geneva in the effort to salvage their tattered cease-fire. The opposing sides agreed to take "all necessary measures to ensure that there will be no intimidation, acts of violence, abductions or killings," said a joint statement read by Solheim.

* Three persons, including two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, were arrested in Doda, Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. Security forces have also recovered a large quantity of arms and ammunition from their possession.

* Troops shot dead three Islamic rebels in a gunbattle and two soldiers and a civilian were wounded in a car bomb blast in Kashmir, the army said, a day after India's premier met leaders of the Himalayan state to discuss peace efforts. The explosion happened when an army convoy was on the move near the summer capital of Srinagar, said army spokesman Vijay Batra on Sunday.

* A cleric who offered $1 million and a car for the death of those cartoonists who drew blasphemous caricatures said yesterday that suicide bombers had volunteered to "kill the blasphemers". Yousaf Qureshi, the prayer leader at the 300-year-old Mohabat Khan mosque in Peshawar, announced the reward.

* Seven Islamic militants and two Indian security personnel were killed in violence in Kashmir ahead of talks called by India’s premier in the disputed region, police said on Thursday. Three militants and an Indian soldier were killed during a gunbattle in the southern district of Udhampur late Wednesday, a police spokesman said in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir.

* A strike called by Muslim separatists to protest the fatal shooting of four civilians, allegedly by the army, crippled life in Indian Kashmir, police and residents said, as another eight people died in two gunbattles in the restive region. Most shops, banks and offices in the summer capital Srinagar were closed by the strike, which was called by both moderate and hardline factions of the region's separatist alliance.

* US President George W. Bush leaves on a maiden visit to South Asia this week determined to clinch a landmark nuclear deal with India and prod Pakistan to move more rapidly against Al-Qaeda leaders believed to be hiding in the country. "In this vital region, the stakes are high and the opportunities are unprecedented," Bush said ahead of Tuesday's departure to what is home to the world's most bitter nuclear rivals, the most dreaded terrorists, the largest democracy and a rapidly growing region and vast market.

* Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia said on Sunday her government was bringing Islamist militants to justice in the wake of bomb attacks that have killed at least 30 people including two judges and wounded 150. Police in Bangladesh have detained around 900 suspects since last August following the attacks blamed on Islamic militants.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* A local official was shot dead by unknown armed men Thursday morning in the troubled southern province of Helmand in Afghanistan, a local official said.

* Suspected Taliban militants ambushed an Afghan army convoy in a southern province, killing four soldiers and wounding two by firing a rocket that destroyed one vehicle, an official said.

* Afghan President Hamid Karzai has handed intelligence to Pakistan that indicates Mullah Mohammed Omar, supreme leader of the Taliban regime ousted by US-led forces, and key associates are hiding in Pakistan, a senior Afghan official said.

* Hundreds of inmates, including convicted al-Qaida and Taliban militants, waving knives and wielding clubs made from furniture overpowered guards and took control of parts of a high-security prison in Afghanistan's capital, officials said Sunday. Police and soldiers surrounded the Policharki Prison as government officials tried to negotiate through loudspeakers with the inmates. Their demands were not known.

* An article by Ali A. Jalali in the Spring 2006 issue of Parameters, entitled The Future of Afghanistan, focuses on "ways of fostering the long-term development of governance, security, and economic growth in the country."

* About 25,000 people — some chanting "Death to America!" — rallied against the Prophet Muhammad caricatures in Pakistan's largest city Sunday, but police prevented a rally in the eastern city of Lahore by arresting the religious ringleader and detaining scores of supporters. In Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and economic hub, where the provincial government has not banned such rallies, protesters also chanted "Down with the blasphemer!" and "End diplomatic ties with European countries!" No violence was reported.

* Assailants fired rockets Sunday at the home of a provincial Cabinet in Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province, killing a guest and wounding eight other people, police said.

* Suspected Islamic militants have shot dead two policemen and injured another two in an attack on a patrol in a remote tribal town near the Afghan border, security officials said on Sunday.

* Nepal's opposition parties announced a new round of nationwide protests to restore democracy, piling fresh pressure on King Gyanendra who seized power a year ago. The announcement of the protest programme was a riposte to King Gyanendra's olive branch to the political parties last weekend in which he asked them to take part in talks and push forward "the stalled democratic process."

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Philippine police arrested an opposition congressman and sealed a newspaper office Saturday after President Gloria Arroyo launched emergency measures to foil an alleged coup plot. Congressman Crispin Beltran, a leader of the leftist Bayan Muna (Nation First) coalition, was arrested in his home just outside Manila, spokesmen for the coalition said. Arroyo declared a national emergency Friday, a move that former president Fidel Ramos called "overkill". A Marine brigade chief linked to the plot is calling for the support of the people.

* A senior member of Australia's government has suggested Muslims who do not uphold the country's values should be stripped of their citizenship. Remarks by Finance Minister Peter Costello, at a conference in Sydney, have sparked anger among leaders of Australia's Islamic community who insist his comments are divisive and inflammatory.

* An Australian man has been found guilty of intentionally receiving funds from al-Qaeda, becoming the first person to be convicted under the terrorist funding laws. Joseph Terrence Thomas, 32, was found guilty by a jury in the Victorian Supreme Court sitting in Melbourne, AAP reported. He was also found guilty of possessing a false passport and not guilty on two charges of providing resources to al-Qaeda.


* The Dutch foreign minister has said Serbian officials have told him war crimes suspect General Ratko Mladic might be ill and seeking to surrender. Bernard Bot, who visited Belgrade this week, said authorities told him Gen Mladic might be trying to negotiate his surrender with his own entourage. The former Bosnian Serb commander faces war crimes charges, including genocide.

* Scotland Yard's top anti-terror official today called for radical changes to the way terrorism is investigated and prosecuted. The deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Peter Clarke, called for a new national structure to police terrorism that goes beyond the current plans to merge a number of forces.

* The Moroccan hacker known as Yanis was arrested in Metz by the Paris PJ. Yanis is accused of having defaced several French important websites (university of Strasbourg and Toulouse, website of the city of Lyon etc..), but his activity as defacer is far more complex: Zone-h, the independent observatory of cyber-crime, have monitored nearly 3000 notifications of intrusions in the last month related to the Prophet Mohammed digital Ummah protest (about 710 are by Yanis) while in his whole illegal “career” he compromised 1161 websites.

* Irish nationalists clashed with police on Saturday during demonstrations against a march in Dublin by Northern Irish Protestants remembering those killed by nationalist guerrillas. The protesters hurled bricks and fireworks at police and tore down barriers meant to separate the nationalists from the marchers, a Reuters witness said. Police had to close Dublin's main shopping street and shops brought down their shutters.

* In France, the murder of Ilan Halimi is seen as a wake-up call. French police initially described the brutal kidnapping and killing as a crime-for-cash perpetrated by a gang calling itself "The Barbarians." It routinely used young women to lure unsuspecting victims. But in ensuing days, family members, Jewish organizations and a French magistrate labeled the killing a hate crime, directed against Halimi because of his religion. Many have cited the torture and reports that the gang's suspected leader was later arrested in a Muslim neighborhood in Ivory Coast, in West Africa.

* A small incendiary device exploded at a bank cash machine in the city of Vitoria in Spain's Basque Country on Saturday night, injuring two people, police said on Sunday. Police said they did not know who was responsible, but the tactic is similar to previous attacks by armed Basque separatist group ETA or youth groups that support the outlawed organization.


* A recent upsurge in violence in Somalia's capital has focused attention anew on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the chaotic Horn of Africa state. The violence had killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 140 since Saturday. Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, said by the United States to be linked to al-Qaida, is prominent among the fundamentalists increasingly projecting themselves as an alternative to the numerous armed groups running the clan-based fiefdoms that comprise Somalia (see also Chronology of Somalia's collapse).

* When a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda took 32 Europeans hostage in 2003, it took them to Mali. After a reported ransom of $5 million was paid, the hostages were freed here in Gao. The leader of the terrorist group, Ammari Saifi, evaded capture in the lawless expanses of the Sahara for about a year before finally getting caught in Chad in early 2004. US Special Forces are in Mali training Mali soldiers.

* The cycle of tit-for-tat sectarian violence in Nigeria has pushed the death toll in the last week well beyond 100, making it the hardest-hit country so far in the cartoon controversy. Reports indicated that the riots have spread to Enugu, Kotangora, Minna, Lokoja, even as there were renewed tension in Kaduna, Asaba, Onitsha, Bauchi, Kano and Maiduguri.

* Amnesty International is probing reports that street clashes in Benghazi spread to two other Libyan towns in the east earlier this week. At least 11 people were killed by government police and more than 60 others wounded on Friday February 17 as a protest initially staged by the authorities against the Danish cartoons, turned against Gaddafi’s rule.

* Ugandan police said on Saturday a U.S. man found with guns in his bedroom days before this week's national election had been charged with terrorism. Peter Waldron, 59, pleaded not guilty at a preliminary court hearing this week alongside three fellow suspects from Uganda and another three from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, police said. Waldron, who police earlier said had been planning to start a political party based on Christian principles, was sent back to custody after the hearing on Wednesday and ordered to appear at the High Court in two weeks.

* Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir affirmed that the government will not accept transfer of the mission of the African Union (AU) forces in Darfur to international troops. Addressing the committee of the Comprehensive Conference of Darfur People on Saturday, President Al-Bashir accused foreign circles of targeting Darfur and Sudan.

The Global War

* An article in the March 2006 issue of National Defense Magazine reports on a recent Special Ops forum on the topic of WMDs. Officials at the special operations conference acknowledged the importance of the counter-IED project, but they warned military leaders not to downplay the threats posed by the possibility of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.

* The Sunday Times has an interesting read titled Total War: Inside the new al Qaeda

* The National Defense University will hold a symposium in March entitled Implementing the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. The symposium "seeks to illuminate and promote informed discussion of the issues the QDR addressed, its major recommendations, and the challenges ahead in adapting the U.S. defense strategy and posture."

* Dafna Hochman has an article in the Spring 2006 issue of Parameters entitled Rehabilitating a Rogue: Libya’s WMD Reversal and Lessons for US Policy. The article argues "the Libyan reversal suggests that US policymakers should be mindful to appeal to a diverse array of possible approaches as a necessary, though not sufficient, first step."

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Supporting the troops by not supporting them

Strib columnist Nick Coleman is at it again. He devotes today's column in the Sunday Strib to attacking the Midwest Heroes ads one more time.

Coleman is a cynosure of the Strib's brand of liberalism. He doesn't drink the Kool-Aid, he makes the Kool-Aid.

In today's column, Coleman sets up more straw men and sets them on fire. In ColemanLand, if you hold Position A, and there is one other person on Planet Earth who disagrees with you and holds Position B, then Position A is by definition a lie and propaganda.

Coleman sets this up by sugarcoating his two previous columns.

I've written twice about the pro-war TV ads sponsored by a fat-cat conservative group based in Washington. My points were simple: 1) The ads exploit the deaths of soldiers in order to advance the political agenda that led to the unnecessary war in which they fell. And 2) The ads do NOT represent all troops and families (the mother of one fallen soldier, an opponent of the war, was coldly left out).

His two previous columns are here and here. Read through them and you might agree that Coleman left out a couple of other points he made. From the first one:

Who is paying for this pro-war propaganda?
"The troops do not overwhelmingly support the president in Iraq," says Rieckhoff, who notes that polls show the troops' approval sinking to the low 50 percent range. "And the CIA said there is no link between 9/11 and Iraq. They still say that.

"So this ad is simply not true."

Be warned: Despite the patriotic music, the flags and the burning Twin Towers, these ads aimed at Minnesota's heartstrings are not about supporting the troops. They are just a desperate attempt to salvage support for an unpopular president's reckless war.

We've already discussed that canard. The Bush Administration has never said that Iraq was involved with 9/11.

From the second one:

These cynical ads ignore that. They exploit the fallen and are a disservice to the troops. More than that, they are lies.

(This is also the column where Coleman trotted out another canard, and said the ads claimed M. J. Kesterson was Erik Kesterson's mother, when she is his step mother. The ads make no such claim, and we've discussed here before the lowliness of saying a step mother cannot be someone's mother.)

So, beyond just making "two simple points", Coleman attacked these ads as "lies" and "propaganda."

In this latest column then, Coleman trumpets how he was heard from veterans who are against the war.

Many soldiers, family members and veterans of past conflicts wrote to tell me they, too, object to the pro-war ads.

Fine. People are entitled to their views. But I am still unclear on how the ads are "lies" and "propaganda" when the people behind Midwest Heroes are telling their side of the story, as these people who contacted Coleman are.

One of Coleman's straw men is this:

Many others who wrote to me believe that we should be able to distinguish between supporting the troops and supporting the war. That's a notion that is assaulted by the pro-war ads, which insist that supporting the troops requires supporting the politics that led to war.

Again, Coleman is simply stating his own opinion by mischaracterizing what the ads are saying. Watch the ads for yourself. Nowhere do the ads "insist" that supporting the troops requires supporting the politics that led to war. They don't even imply it.

The ads let us hear from people who are proud of their service, proud of the service of lost loved ones, and who are saying the news in Iraq is better than what we hear from media outlets such as the one that employs Coleman.

So, I gather Coleman is saying he supports the troops in the ads, he just disagrees with the war. He supports them so much he calls them liars, and propagandists.

It is one of the worst characteristics of the anti-war Left. They don't argue by putting forth a position and arguments for it, and consequences if their argument is not followed.

No, they smear their opponents, they dismiss any opposing argument as lies.

Proverbs 14 had these people pegged a long time ago.

An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.
The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.

And from Isaiah 5:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

It is insidious to call an opponent's argument a lie, a priori. By doing so, the Left hopes to absolve themselves of any further debate. It is a sign of their hatred that they must mischaracterize even those troops they claim to support.

That a sizeable segment of our country is so hateful, and so vindictive, does not bode well for our country's future. We have real enemies. How will we stand up to them and protect the freedoms we have when so many ignore them and instead focus their hatred on political opponents in this country?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Uganda elections

It is easy in this country to take for granted what our commitment to the rule of law really means. As a people we agree to be governed by law, and not by who has the most guns. Even in the chaos of the 2000 presidential election, we let lawyers fight it out in court, not in the streets.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni won re-election in this week's elections, but the results have not settled the matter.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni won re-election on Saturday to extend a two-decade rule but his main rival rejected the results and opposition supporters clashed with security forces on the streets.

Final results gave the ex-guerrilla leader 59 percent of votes, compared with 37 percent for his former doctor and main rival, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

As Besigye announced his party was rejecting the outcome because of "widespread irregularities," police were turning teargas and a water-cannon on his supporters gathered outside FDC headquarters in a suburb of Kampala.

At one point, police fired shots over the head of the mainly young FDC backers, witnesses said. The youths threw rocks at the passing cars of celebrating Museveni supporters and had been taunting police for several hours.

"It is disgraceful that the NRM government has decided to use its power to terrorize people," Besigye.

Uganda's first multi-party election for a quarter of a century was being closely watched in the West as a test of African democracy and for the signal it might send to others in the region who have enjoyed lengthy stays in power.

As word of Museveni's victory spread, thousands of his supporters, clad in the yellow of his ruling Movement, blew whistles and honked car horns in the center of Kampala.

Motorbike riders in Movement T-shirts roared past waving the party's thumbs-up symbol. Others sang and chanted "No Change!" as they marched, some draped in dry banana leaves symbolizing another term for Museveni.

From a hill by the High Court, military police on two armored cars mounted with machine-guns surveyed the crowd.

At the FDC headquarters, Besigye supporters chanted "He has to go" and complained the election was stolen, until riot police drove them away.

"We are in a dictatorship now," protester Lubega Bashir, 21, told Reuters. "Why do they want to kill us just because we support our candidate?"

Also, from The Monitor:

Western Uganda was fast turning into a violent hotspot by yesterday afternoon with tension reportedly rising in the districts of Kabale and Ntungamo, while there were reported cases of voter bribery and intimidation in Bushenyi and Mbarara districts.

The region Uganda is home of the two leading candidates, the incumbent and NRM's Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Rain, arrests, and allegations of voter bribery and voter intimidation and reported cases of poor voter turn out and late voting marred the exercise while hundreds of voters failed to vote as their names were missing on the register.

There were several reported cases of violence, intimidation, voter bribery and arrests in Kabale, which has become a bastion of the opposition FDC.

In Rukiga County, where FDC strongman and the incumbent Jack Sabiiti is battling NRM's Sam Byanagwa, a vehicle belonging to Capt. David Matsiko, the Director of Kyankwanzi political school is reported to have been burnt by angry residents as violence escalated.

Daily Monitor witnessed police patrol vehicles ferrying a unspecified number of people to Kabale town that were arrested from Bukinda in Rukiga, accused of inciting violence.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A hearing to look forward to

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will be holding a hearing on March 2 on the topic of A Nuclear Iran: Challenges and Responses.

This hearing was originally scheduled for February 15, but was postponed. The committee heard from Secretacy of State Rice on February 15, so maybe that was the only time she could go to the Hill, and the Iran meeting was thus postponed. I don't know for sure.

At this point, scheduled witnesses are:

-The Honorable Ronald F. Lehman, II
Center for Global Security Research
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, CA

-Dr. Patrick Clawson
Deputy Director for Research
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Washington, DC

This hearing will come four days before the IAEA is scheduled to meet again on the issue of Iran's nuclear program.

Coming up on the discussions at the UN Security Council, this Senate hearing promises to be informative and instructive as to where Congress stands on what to do with Iran.

Iran from the truth

In the wake of the destruction of the Golden Dome in Samarra, Iran, who can always be counted on to be the voice of reason in the region, blamed this atrocious act on..., wait for it, the United States and Israel.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the United States and Israel yesterday for the blowing up of a Shi'ite shrine's golden dome in Iraq, and offered Iran's help in rebuilding the dome.
"They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice," Ahmadinejad said, referring to the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq. These passive activities are the acts of a group of defeated Zionists and occupiers who intended to hit our emotions," the president said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Iran's foreign minister joined in on the fun.

Iran's foreign minister denounced the United States for creating terror groups like Al-Qaeda and reaffirmed Tehran's support for a united Iraq following escalating violence there between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, AFP reported.

Manouchehr Mottaki, reacting to Wednesday's bombing of a key Shiite mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra, said "some hands" were working to stoke ethnic and religious unrest "not only in Iraq but in the Islamic world".
Mottaki also sharply criticised the United States for its role in the current global terrorism crisis, suggesting that it had a hand in creating today's extremists with its cold war support of militant Muslim groups.

"Unfortunately, our region is affected by terrorist groups like the Taliban, like Al-Qaeda, but the main question is, who was the cause of the establishment of such groups in our region?" he said.

"They have offered specifically, the United States, all their support, and then they have started to fight with them."

It does sound especially nutty, but I think there's a somewhat rational reason for making this statement.

These attacks were most likely committed by Zarqawi and Al Qaeda in Iraq, seeking to provoke a sectarian civil war.

Iran is a Shiite nation, and reveres this mosque as well. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the world, but Iran would not countenance destroying the Golden Dome.

So, Iran is quick to blame the US and Israel so Iran won't have to answer the uncomfortable question of why Iran is supporting the people who did destroy the dome.

Zarqawi has been in and out if Iran, and as Dan Darling writes in a recent Weekly Standard article, Iran is most likely harboring senior Al Qaeda officials.

"Iran continues to host senior al Qaeda leaders who are wanted for murdering Americans and other victims in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings. We have called repeatedly for these terrorists to be handed over to states that will prosecute them and bring them to justice. We believe that some al Qaeda members and those from like-minded extremist groups continue to use Iran as a safe haven and as a hub to facilitate their operations."

So said a high State Department official in a speech in Washington on November 30. The assertions by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns were nothing new. Though often overlooked, they have been the position of the U.S. government for some time. As discussion of Iran's nuclear program and its hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intensifies, Iranian aid to al Qaeda should not be allowed to drop off the radar screen.

Hence, Iran probably doesn't want to have to explain to its Shiite population why it has been supporting the nutbars that blew up one of Shiites' most revered sites.

Turn the peoples' anger on the United States and Israel. Pay no attention to the aid to Al Qaeda over here.

Roundup of African conflicts

Central African Republic

From the BBC:

Armed unrest in the Central African Republic has caused thousands of people to flee to Chad in recent weeks.

Sources in the region speak of a nascent rebellion against the CAR government of General Francois Bozize.

The refugees say they were caught in the crossfire between forces loyal to General Bozize and others linked to the government he overthrew in 2003.

They say they are fleeing armed men who attack villages, steal possessions and in some cases kidnap children.

Refugee flows are often the first indication outsiders have of what is happening in the more remote parts of the world.

An estimated 5,000 people are now known to have fled the north-west of the Central African Republic in the past three weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are already living in the countries of this region, having escaped conflicts in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.


Violence and kidnappings in Nigeria's river delta region continues. The MEND group has risen to prominence in recent weeks.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which has threatened "total war" in Nigeria's main oil-producing region and is behind the recent kidnapping of oil workers is a shadowy group, about which little is known.
Mr Tamuno told our reporter that Mend was fighting for "total control" of the Niger Delta's oil wealth, saying local people had not gained from the riches under the ground and the region's creeks and swamps.

He said the Delta had been exploited for the benefit of other parts of Nigeria and foreign companies and ordered all oil companies and Nigerians whose roots lie elsewhere to leave the region.

Nine foreign oil workers were recently kidnapped, including three Americans.

Nigerian separatist militants showed one of nine foreign hostages to reporters and vowed the oil workers would not be released until the military pulls out of the Niger Delta.
The rebels did not allow reporters to see their other prisoners -- two more Americans, a Briton, two Egyptians, a Filipino and two Thais -- but they did release photographs of all nine men being held by armed fighters.


Tensions are still high between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Ethiopia has been cracking down on internal unrest.

Fear has crept back into the wide boulevards of Ethiopia's capital since Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government unleashed a harsh crackdown on opposition members and arrested thousands following post-election violence.

"It's the 'Year of Living Dangerously,"' said a Western embassy official, referring to the 1982 movie, starring Mel Gibson, about political turmoil in Indonesia.

Even months after relative calm was restored, the kind of paranoia last felt under the oppressive Derg military dictatorship is gripping people, residents and expatriates say.

Addis has a reputation as one of sub-Saharan Africa's most urbane and hospitable capitals. Ethiopian eateries are set beside Italian restaurants and shops pour the country's famous coffee from state-of-the-art machines.

In a reminder of Ethiopia's feudal history, tin-roof slums sprawl within sight of five-star hotels favored by visiting diplomats and politicians. While the signs of poverty may be nearly everywhere, crime levels are relatively low.

But people are treading carefully these days in this city of 5 million, perched 7,875 feet above sea level in the Horn of Africa.

"You have to watch every step, you have to watch your mouth, look behind you," one salesman said, refusing to give his name for fear of reprisal. "Such things were not happening before. We were free. It's never been like this under Meles."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

China policy

An article by John Tkacik Jr. at The Weekly Standard entitled Revenge of the Panda Hugger examines how US policy on China may be starting to incorporate reality.

Since then, his China policy has evolved away from its once-cautious optimism that Beijing might possibly, somehow, be persuaded to join Washington in maintaining a rules-based world order on such issues as nonproliferation, trade, human rights, energy, environment, and health policies. The official U.S. agnosticism about where China's rise will take it--and the world--seems to be ebbing. Instead, the administration seems ready to conclude that China is not going in the right direction and that the United States must hedge its bets.

On February 3, a midlevel interagency meeting kicked off a new round of policy reviews in preparation for President Bush's upcoming meetings with Chinese president Hu Jintao, scheduled for the end of April. The meeting was hastily arranged after Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian's remarks questioning the continued utility of Taiwan's official "National Unification Council." (The council was established in 1991 to consider modes of eventual unification should China ever democratize, but has not met since 1999 and is kept on life support by a token annual budget appropriation of roughly $30.)

China is rising, and China is greasing the skids to make it happen. Last month, China reached an important oil deal with Saudi Arabia. From the Jamestown Foundation,

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz arrived in China on January 22 for discussions on energy, trade and anti-terrorism cooperation. This was the first visit by a Saudi king since the establishment of bilateral relations in 1990. Abdullah, as crown prince, visited Beijing in 1998 before he ascended to the throne last year, and other high-level delegations from both countries have visited their foreign counterparts with increasing frequency in recent years (for a full summary of Sino-Saudi relations, see China Brief, September 27, 2005). The most recent three-day state visit saw the signing of an agreement on oil, natural gas and minerals cooperation, in which Saudi Arabia promised to increase the annual oil and gas exports to China by 39%. As part of the agreement, a 100-million-ton crude oil storage facility is planned for construction in China's Hainan province. Moreover, Riyadh is likely to build a new petroleum refinery in China to process oil imported exclusively from Saudi Arabia. As Sinopec will soon bring its eight million ton refinery into operation at Yangpu, Hainan in June 2006, Sinopec is likely to become an active participant in follow-up negotiations regarding project details with Saudi Arabia (Nanfang Daily, January 26, 2006).

Mr. Kong Quan, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, stated during his press conference on January 24 that the Sino-Saudi oil protocol was just one of five agreements signed immediately following a meeting between the king and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The other four agreements cover vocational training; economic, trade, investment and technology cooperation; avoidance of double taxation; and a Saudi loan to fund a development project in China's largely Muslim region of Xinjiang (Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

One reason the US is keen to enhance its relationship with India is because that country's growing importance could be an important counterweight to China in Southeast Asia. And China knows it.

India and China are locked in a bitter struggle for Pan-Asian leadership in South, Southeast and Central Asia. Three regional economic and security organizations—South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)—symbolize their jostling for power. Of these, SAARC is symbolically significant with little political or economic substance. ASEAN combines Southeast Asia’s economic concerns with its security needs, while the SCO primarily remains a security organization dominated by Beijing’s interests in Central Asia.

These organizations, however, articulate multilateral concerns, which are greatly shaped by the competing interests of Beijing and New Delhi. India and China thus build bilateral relations to influence the regional agenda. As a result, it is the economic strength and military might of each country that is fueling the drive for ascendancy in Asia. Although there are several cooperative initiatives between Beijing and New Delhi that are underway at bilateral, regional and global levels, they only fuel their competitive tensions. This analysis, however, is limited to their competitive interests for Asia-wide leadership, which assesses their intrusion into each other’s turf, and that of their neighbors’.

Since the 1980s, China has made deep inroads into South Asia to isolate New Delhi, which culminated in its triumphant entry into SAARC on November 13, 2005. Similarly, New Delhi’s presence in Southeast Asia has dramatically grown since the 1990s, when its economy began to perk up. Yet China’s domination of Southeast Asia is far from having been dented by India’s presence in that region. Also, in Central Asia, both nations are jockeying for ascendancy, but India’s goals are more modest than China’s. India’s primary quest in Central Asia is for energy. To realize this objective, India also has enlisted the West Asian countries of Afghanistan and Iran into its economic and strategic initiatives to encircle Pakistan, which it believes is China’s proxy.

Therefore, it is encouraging if the US finally sees the foolishness in a blind eye, peace love and joy approach to China.

The Weekly Standard report highlights a portion of the recent Quadrennial Defense Review that may be a signal to China that the US means business.

It just so happened that the Pentagon also issued its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) on February 3. A number of Pentagon China hands I spoke with that Friday evening pointed to QDR pages 29 and 30 and commented to me that it was the first time a QDR had ever mentioned a putative adversary nation by name. The passage reads as follows:

of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies.

The QDR then spends an entire page describing how "the pace and scope of China's military build-up already puts regional military balances at risk." And to top it off, one China specialist at Defense pointed to the two photos that bracket the China pages--one depicting a submarine launch of a Tomahawk cruise missile, the other showing Japanese and American F-15 fighter pilots "discussing tactics . . . before a mission." A mischievous smile on my interlocutor's face prompted me to ask, "Was that intentional?" He grinned, "Intentional or not, that's how the Chinese will see it."

The Quadrennial Defense Review can be read here, in PDF, and the two aforementioned pictures can be seen on pages 41 and 42.

Africa, oh Africa

A followup to my post on the Christian rioting in southern Nigeria:

Christian youths burned the corpses of Muslims on Thursday on the streets of Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria, the city worst hit by religious riots that have killed at least 146 people across the country in five days.

Christian mobs, seeking revenge for the killings of Christians in the north, attacked Muslims with machetes, set fire to them, destroyed their houses and torched mosques in two days of violence in Onitsha, where 93 people died.

"We are very happy that this thing is happening so that the north will learn their lesson," said Anthony Umai, a motorcycle taxi rider, standing close to where Christian youths had piled up the corpses of 10 Muslims and were burning them.

Dozens more corpses had been thrown into the back of pick-up trucks by security services overnight, residents said.

Also, a followup to my recent post on Congo:

Thousands of civilians have taken refuge on floating islands in the lakes of Congo's Katanga province to escape rape and murder by government and militia fighters, a top U.N. humanitarian official said on Thursday.

Some 120,000 people have fled their homes in the remote Mitwaba area, where hundreds of women have been raped during fighting between the army and former pro-government militiamen that U.N. peacekeepers are unable to control, he added.

Congo is staggering toward elections, due later this year, but fighting continues in Katanga and elsewhere in the lawless east, where minerals are plentiful and gunmen continue to roam, nearly three years after the war was officially declared over.

Neighboring Uganda has seen its own share of violence, especially in the north. That region has seen sexual violence as well. However, today, Uganda is holding elections.

Long lines formed early at polling stations across Uganda on Thursday as voters waited to cast their ballots in the country's first multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in 26 years.

Election officials said voting generally started off well despite some delays in the capital, Kampala, the eastern town of Jinja and several other places.

Security was tight following the deployment of 12,000 police and army personnel across the country. Cases of voters whose names could not be found on the register were also reported, while heavy rains disrupted early voting in parts of northern and eastern regions.
Campaigning ended on a tense note on Tuesday, after weeks of political activity marked by several violent clashes between security personnel and supporters of the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye.

On Monday, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon at Besigye's supporters in Kampala, as the city hosted several presidential candidates including President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking another five-year term after 20 years in power.

The desire for change runs high in some quarters, particularly in the capital and the war-ravaged north, but observers say Besigye faces an uphill struggle to unseat the ex-guerrilla chief who seized power in a 1986 coup. A victory for Museveni, 62, would make him one of Africa's longest-serving presidents.

Atom feed works again

Just discovered my atom feed could not be directly accessed. Somewhere along the line this changed, and not by me. I check it from time to time through the link on my sidebar, as once or twice before it wasn't getting created. Since I could access it that way, I thought all was fine. Well, there was something in my site administration set to where you couldn't directly go to files like that.

I remedied that situation, so the atom feed should be available again. Grr.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

There is always a story

Michelle Malkin points out a sad story tonight, the story of a soldier who won't be coming home.

The moment of truth Julie Gonsalves dreads is still some time away — when her 3-year-old is old enough to understand that Daddy won't come home anymore.

"That's the hard part, telling Cody his daddy is gone," said Gonsalves, the 30-year-old widow of Turlock native Chad Gonsalves, a Green Beret who was killed in Afghanistan last week.

"I tried to tell Cody, but he just didn't get it," Gonsalves explained by telephone from her home in Fayetteville, N.C. "I told him Daddy wasn't coming home, he was in heaven. Cody said, 'Daddy not coming home? Silly Mommy. Daddy's coming home.'"

If it's hard for her son to grasp the grim reality, Julie understands. It's still hard for her to realize this deployment has no end. He won't be coming home to her, Cody, or twin sons Dylan and Blake.

"When the chaplain came, he was accompanied by another soldier. At first, when I looked out the door I thought it was Chad and I wondered, 'What are you doing here? You should be in Afghanistan.' Then I realized it wasn't Chad, and I knew why they were here."

In my previous post on this particular topic, I included casualties involving Humvess from Jan 1 through Jan 7. Here are combat casualties since then, where Humvees were specified as being involved.

DateNameAssigned ToCircumstances
Jan 20Staff Sgt. Rickey Scott
Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan
Spc. Clifton Yazzie
Spc. Matthew Frantz
101st IDIED detonated near their HMMWV
Jan 28Cpl. Brian Schoff101st IDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Jan 28Sgt. David Herrera101st IDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Feb 11st Lt. Garrison Avery
Spc. Marlon Bustamante
Pfc. Caesar Viglienzone
101st IDIED detonated near their HMMWV
Feb 3Cpl. Jesse Zamora101st IDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Feb 4Spc. Roberto Martinez Salazar555th MEBIED detonated near his uparmored HMMWV
Dec 4Spc. Allen Kokesh Jr.147th FAinjuries from IED detonated near HMMWV
Feb 12Cpl. Andrew Kemple101st ADhis HMMWV came under small arms fire
Feb 13Sgt. 1st Class Chad Gonsalves
Staff Sgt. Edwin Dazachacon
Staff Sgt. Clinton Newman
Sgt. Alberto Montrond
7th SF GrpIED detonated near their HMMWV in Afghanistan
Feb 18Sgt. Charles Matheny IV4th IDIED detonated near his HMMWV

Behind every one of these names there is a similar story, a family who won't be seeing a loved one again.

We went to war with a vehicle ill suited for the combat environment. Yes, as the saying goes, you go to war with what you got. But, three years later, why isn't this country moving heaven and earth to produce a vehicle better able to stand up in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Again, let me point out I am not saying these brave soldiers died in vain. Far from it. We cannot be grateful enough for their bravery and service.

And I don't know the individual circumstances here. Perhaps the IEDs were so powerful nothing could've survived it.

But for us who are back home, we who sent them to fight on our behalf, we owe it to them, to the families of these soldiers, to leave no stone unturned in supporting the war effort, in making sure our military has what it needs.

In previous posts I've touched on efforts to improve or replace the Humvee. And I know the military cares about its soldiers. I know President Bush cares. But we can't be content to lose soldiers one and two and three and four and even five at a time in a vehicle that was not meant to be our primary fighting vehicle.

This country has done amazing things in its history. If we made this a priority, and set our minds to it, devoted our resources and industry to it, we could do better.

And perhaps there would be far fewer families like the families of those listed here.

As Michelle says, pray for them. Pray for all of the families. May God keep them close.

Previous Posts

Can't we do better?
The Rock
It is still an inadequate vehicle
More on the Humvee
We can play a role in the war effort
As a nation, let's not forget our responsibility

Christians react in Nigeria

Needless to say, it's not exactly the most Christ-like reaction. From the Beeb:

At least 20 people are believed to have died in two days of violence in the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha.

Christian mobs rampaged through the city attacking Muslims in retaliation for anti-Christian riots in the north.

Nigerian police said hundreds of Christian Ibos attacked houses belonging to Muslim Hausas when news of the northern clashes reached Onitsha.

Danish cartoon protests in the north led to sectarian clashes which have seen dozens of deaths in four cities.

On Wednesday, groups of Christian men wielding clubs and machetes rampaged through Onitsha for a second day attacking any members of the Muslim Hausa community they could find, according to witnesses.

One eyewitness said cars driving into the town had been stopped by angry crowds demanding to know if there were any Hausa on board.

Those who were identified were dragged out and taken away.
Eyewitnesses told journalists that mosques had been burnt in the city during rioting on Tuesday.

It is worth keeping in mind that designations of "Christian" aren't always the most accurate appellation, i.e., the term shouldn't imply people as quiet as church mice. It can be a reflection of historical influences, as well as political divisions.

All Africa adds this:

Packs of armed youths killed dozens of people and set fire to mosques and Muslim properties on Wednesday in more revenge attacks against Muslims in the mainly Christian southern Nigerian city of Onitsha.

Angered by weekend attacks against Christians in two northern cities, mobs of youths from the mainly Christian Igbo people, armed with machetes, clubs and cans of petrol, hunted down Hausa-speaking Muslim northerners, beating and burning them to death for the second day running.

This violence is a the reaction to the killings a week ago. Igbo shops were burned then as well.

However, there has been violence in the past between Muslims and Igbo people, and those memories linger. Similar violence occurred in 2000.

There is more to the violence than simple religion, but those who willingly take the name of Christ ought live in such a way that honors that name

Odds and Ends

Been hip deep, moving to neck deep, in my masters project. School will continue to occupy the bulk of my time till May. Hence, I've only been doing a post or two a day.

Lately when John is considering options, he'll tap his head with his finger and say "Think, think think." Heh. Wonder if he got that from Winnie the Pooh or what.

Last night I was reading the David and Goliath story to the kids, and John called the Philistine army the "Mean Team." Ha.

Also last night, Rhonda was on the treadmill and was watching the figure skating. She had the closed captions on, and with one of the gals, her father was a podiatrist. However, the closed captions translated that as "Poe Dry Terrorist."

In the You Can't Make It Up Dept, one of the security guards in the building where I work parks in a handicapped space.

Where Sadr goes, Iran goes

Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shiite leader, is sticking his nose into the Lebanon-Syria affairs.

Under tight security, Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq's Sadr Movement, arrived at the Lebanese-Syrian border Tuesday morning from Damascus in the hope of improving Lebanese-Syrian relations. He was asked by reporters at the border if he was playing the role of mediator between Lebanon and Syria.

Sadr said he had suggested this to Damascus, which was responsive to the idea. He said he would put the same suggestion to the Lebanese authorities, hoping they would be equally responsive.

"I am ready to help the Lebanese and Syrian governments to mend their ties and consequently to establish security in the region," he said.

Sadr's visit is part of a tour through Iraq's neighboring countries. "I represent the Iraqi people, or a section of the Iraqi people, but I hope we can help Lebanese and Syrians overcome their suffering so we, Muslims and Arabs, can live in fraternity," he said.

A curious development. Sadr is Iran's man in Iraq. Syria is already Iran's toady, so it is not immediately clear why Sadr would be needed to run interference for Iran in Syria. Iran just needs to pick up the phone.

Also, along with Iran's support of Sadr comes support from Hezbollah. Hezbollah is entrenched in Lebanon. Again, Iran already controls Hezbollah. Sadr is not needed to mediate between Hezbollah and Syria.

Sadr is not the statesman type, he is not a particularly educated individual. So, what is going on?

A month ago, Sadr pledged to defend Iran if Iran was attacked by the West. This pledge came while Sadr was in Tehran.

An Iraqi Muslim cleric who leads a major Shiite militia pledged to come to the defense of neighboring Iran if it were attacked, aides to the cleric, Moqtada Sadr, said Monday.

The commitment, made Sunday in Tehran during a visit by Sadr, came in response to a senior Iranian official's query about what the cleric would do in the event of an attack on Iran. It marked the first open indication that Iraq's Shiite neighbor is preparing for a military response if attacked in a showdown with the West over its nuclear program.

The pledge was also one of the strongest signs yet that Iraq could become a battleground in any Western conflict with Iran, raising the specter of Iraqi Shiite militias -- or perhaps even the U.S.-trained Shiite-dominated military -- taking on American troops here in sympathy with Iran.

The tour, which includes Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait may be a drive to boost the standing of Sadr in the eyes of the Iraqi people, to give Sadr more political power which, if obtained, would give Iran a bigger lever in Iraq.

Coming a month after Sadr's visit to Iran, surely this tour came out of that visit. And given Sadr's pledge then, this tour may be for the purpose of securing support for Iran ahead of the UN Security Council meeting, probably next month, at which Iran's nuclear program will be discussed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Lost Youth

I've mentioned a couple of times now the disgraceful response from the student senate at the University of Washington over a proposed memorial for WWII ace Pappy Boyington. One senator said ""didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce." Another said "many monuments at UW already commemorate rich white men." (Boyington was not rich, and was partly of Native American ancestry.) Another future leader shudder said ""the resolution should commend Colonel Boyington's service, not his killing of others."

In a comment in my post on Iwo Jima, C-Low shared this quote from the Officers Club blog:

"For those who confuse moral relativism for wisdom, who travel to foreign lands to undermine this campaign against terror, who compare American troops to our enemies, Franklin Roosevelt answers with a sharp reply: "As a nation, we may take pride in the fact that we are softhearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed...The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example.""

Another comment in that post said this:

I think President Regan said it best: "Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again."

The same kind of lefty lunacy that has infected the student senate at the UW is alive and well here at the University of Minnesota as well.

An editorial in the Minnesota Daily, the campus paper of the U of M, addressed the Midwest Heroes ads. The editorial is another example of how those who have been given everything, and earned nothing, and who "confuse moral relativism for wisdom" become strangers to truth, and the principles that propelled this country to the greatest nation the world has known. The editorial was entitled Propaganda in the heartland.

In a principled and just stand, the Minnesota ABC affiliate KSTP refused to air the controversial commercial known as "Midwest Heroes" because it thought the ad unfairly was misleading citizens about the media and the progress in Iraq.

Kudos to KSTP for rightly choosing to not air the ad; other stations should follow suit. More than misleading, the commercial is a downright lie and nothing more than laundered propaganda for the Bush administration.

The pro-war ad recalls the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, with testimonials from soldiers who state the necessity of fighting terrorists in Iraq rather than in the heartland. They also state that much progress is being made in Iraq and lament the incorrect picture the media convey about the war. The ad gets instant credibility from some viewers because it supposedly features real families from the Midwest that have a military connection in Iraq, but when taking a closer look the ad is nowhere near authentic.

The ad was produced by the conservative advocacy group Progress for America Voter Fund, which is a national tax-exempt 527 organization closely linked to the Bush administration. The ads that for now are airing only in Minnesota supposedly feature Midwest families, but half of them are from Oregon. One woman, who is labeled as the mother of a fallen soldier, talks about finishing the job in Iraq for her son, but in reality she is the stepmother of the fallen soldier - the real mother is against the war because she believes her son died for a lie.

This manufactured propaganda once again showcases the Bush administration's utter contempt for real democracy and the level it will sink to to sell their failing policies. It is interesting to note that according to a congressional analysis, the Bush administration has spent more than $250 million from taxpayers on "public relations"; contracts during its first term, compared to the Clinton administration spent, which spent $128 million over the span of two terms.

I suppose it's cute when kids try to imitate their elders, but when the kids at the Minnesota Daily use their toy paper to emulate elders in the media like Nick Coleman, it's no longer cute, but dangerous. Folks like these graduate into the mainstream media, and is it any mystery, then, where the MSM's bias comes from.

These embryonic leftys make no pretense about "supporting the troops." They don't. Nor are they patriots. Is the first instinct of a patriot to call ads supporting the troops a "downright lie" and "laundered propaganda?"

Despite the smear, it isn't until the fourth paragraph do the editors come up with something they apparently think is a "lie." Again, they're simply parroting something they see their elders like Coleman saying, but their charge is a false one.

The editorial says "One woman, who is labeled as the mother of a fallen soldier." You can watch the second ad for yourself here. The woman in question, M.J. Kesterson, is not labelled as the mother of Erik Kesterson.

In the bio for the Kestersons, it does say this:

M.J. and Clay's son, Chief Warrant Officer Erik Kesterson, to the right with M.J., was killed in Iraq.

Power Line addressed the issue here.

Col. Repya's letter refers to Coleman's attack on the second Progress for America ad for presenting M.J. Kesterson in a context that would cause viewers to conclude she was Erik Kesterson's mother when she was in fact his stepmother. From an interview with Bill O'Reilly, it appears that Erik "for the most part" lived with and was raised by his father and M.J. Kesterson. Erik Kesterson's mother Dolores is an opponent of the war in the mold of Cindy Sheehan.

Anti-Strib addresses the stepmother issue here:

Here is my problem with this. Nick, do you have any idea how many step parents there are in this state right now? Do you know how many read your publication? It is unbelievably offensive for you to simply dismiss those step-parents out there that spend their lives being a parent to their spouses children. Oh, I realize that in this crazy game of political he said/she said, no rules apply to Nick or his lefty crusaders. But this is out of bounds on so many levels.

Yes, I understand Erik's real mom doesn't agree with the Iraq war and is opposed to our current administration. I feel bad for her and any other parent who has lost someone in this war. But to dismiss M.J. simply on the basis of political reasons is really very disgusting Nick, even for you. She also lost a step-son Nick. She spoke out in the ad to show support to Erik and every other troop defending freedom. Is her loss any less because she's only a "step-mom"?

I'm a conservative and my wife, the Bodacious Mrs. W, is a step-mom to my kids. Do political differences make her role as a step-mom any less important, or does your ridicule of step-moms only apply to those who support the war and tear down your short sighted and biased media reports of doom and gloom?

Face it Nick, you and your pals at Daily Kos are desperate. This attack proves it. You're so hell bent on making everyone believe that things are so awful that you'll attack a step-mom and downplay her role in her dead step-sons life...all for politically biased reasons. That, my friend, is IRRESPONSIBLE.

Mitch Berg adds this:

Nick: Did you ask [PiPress columnist] Laura Billings about what being a step-parent means?

You know - your own childrens' stepmother?

Or any step-parent?

I've been one, Nick. I've helped raise someone else's son. Do you think there's any less involvement in time, effort and love? Oh, it's different than having your own (and I have a couple of them, too), but you still care about them deeply, and worry about them intensely when they go off into the world.

This vindicative smear of step parents is what the Minnesota Daily has also signed on to.

In the third paragraph of the editorial, the editors bring up what I guess they think is something misleading about the ads. They write: "The ads that for now are airing only in Minnesota supposedly feature Midwest families, but half of them are from Oregon."

Again, nowhere do the ads say that the families featured in the ads are Minnesota born and bred.

I suppose it is too much to expect college students to read, but the Midwest Heroes doesn't hide what they hope to do, and who is involved.

The ads are produced by the Progress for America Voter fund, a conservative advocacy group.

From the Midwest Heroes website, you'll find that Merrilee Carlson, who appears in the second ad, is the chair of Minnesota Families United. This is a state chapter of a national organization called Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) organization.

I don't know the precise history behind the ads, but surely the Minnesota chapter got involved in making these ads, and through contacts with other state organizations involved some Oregon families.

In this, the kids at the U of M find reason to call the ads a lie, and propaganda.

Such hate does not spontaneously combust. It is taught and modeled. I have long thought that one reason that liberalism has such a firm hold on universities is that the people there are not responsible for real-world concerns. The students are most likely not paying for the bulk of their education, don't work full time. In the campus setting they don't have to make their meals, they don't clean their bathrooms, in short, everything is done for them. They are free to study, and don't have to produce anything of value.

Same goes for the faculty. The tenure system protects them from the marketplace, and they don't have to produce something the market wants in order to make a living. (The pressure to publish is another matter. That system arises out of a need to justify the fact they don't compete in a market.)

And so, we end up with kids who don't know where we've come from. They become Leftys who think money grows on trees, and who don't believe enemies exist, and if they do, it's because America did something wrong.

They are not being taught the lessons of history by their teachers, because their teachers are hateful leftys who don't believe in America either. They surely don't believe in defending America from her enemies.

In a comment in a post over at Shot in the Dark, an apparently left-leaning commenter said this of the misguided youth at the UW:

It's a bunch of 19-year-olds. They're supposed to be stupid. You right-wingers really need to relax. Have a couple drinks and shoot somebody in the face. That always seems to cheer you guys up.

The problem is the 19 year olds don't learn. At what point will they pick up a book and suddenly discover the cost and sacrifice that bought them their way of life? It doesn't happen. They continue on in their cocoon, reinforced at every turn by Lefty pablum, and they grow into the nutters that worship Cindy Sheehan, and nod their heads at statements like "Bush is the world's biggest terrorist."

Parents, don't expect society to teach our children right and wrong, and the value of the treasures we have in America. Don't expect society to reinforce the need to honor those who have sacrificed for us. We need to do that ourselves. It's our job. Somewhere along the line, someone has failed to teach these sorry students.

See also:

They are us, yet they are better than we will ever be
Indeed they are Americans
The face of the Left

24 Day 5 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

I think the graphic violence warning is winking at me. Cheeky warning.

The Previously on LA Laws go on for about a half hour. We're reminded of the correct code for the detonator, AKC. These are the initials of the American Kennel Club, one last nod to last week's Westminster theme.

Last season, Paul said that the train wreck at the beginning of the season was an apt metaphor for the season. I think Martha's craziness is the metaphor for this season. Insanity seems to be breaking out all over, as we'll see.

As we begin, Yellow Tie, his remaining henchmen, and their new found ride arrive at some other baddie location. Which means they've been driving now for about 4 minutes. If the Chief Bad Guy was so close, one wonders why Yellow Tie didn't contact him before.

We discover this new bad guy is named Bierko. He shall henceforth be known as Sgt. Bierko. Ironic, then, that Sgt. Bierko was conned by Nathanson. I wonder if he has any Doberman guard dogs.

Sgt. Bierko has a British accent, in keeping with the age-old tradition in TV and movies of giving bad guys British accents. It continues the 24 tradition as well. In Season 1 the baddies were Serbian, though Dennis Hopper's accent was more of an atrocity than an accent. Season 2 had Middle Eastern types. Season 3 had Mexicans, plus Saunders (British accent again). Season 4 had Marwan, though his Middle Eastern accent was not exactly top drawer either.

Sgt. Bierko is not pleased with Yellow Tie, and Erwich gets a knife in the gut for all his troubles. There's not a lot of love in this terrorist organization.

Apparently we're in the Matrix Guy's lair, as some bespectacled flunky is shot by yet another member of the terrorist army. Nathanson is on the run.

He calls someone referred to as "Alpha Seven." Nathanson says "someone just took out my men." Alpha Seven says "Oh, that's sweet. Were they nice girls? Of course, with all the confusion today over gender roles, it might be awkward agreeing on who pays for dinner, but I hope your men had a good time."

But the conversation ends there, as Alpha Seven's role in our little pageant comes to a violent end, and he doesn't even have a chance to destroy his databases.

Meanwhile, on another island, Lynn calls Twisted Sister, wanting his key card back. The one he apparently didn't need to get back into CTU earlier.

Jenny, I have your number
I need you to return what's mine
I tried to call you before but I lost my nerve,
I tried my imagination but I was disturbed

Twisted Sister has sure picked a winner for a boyfriend. Dwayne. Dwayne is handling things, hoping the random firings of synapses in his brain come up with an idea for what to do with this key card. Some like it pot!

Samwise's phone rings, and he wonders what strange, magical Elven device this is. Oh, I guess he knows what it is. He picks it up and immediately says "Jenny!" Smooth, Lynn. It's the President.

Logan chews him out yet again. And says "take responsibility for your job." Kettle, meet Pot. Some like it Kettle!

Lynn tries to scoop his intestines back into his abdominal cavity after that evisceration, and is late to yet another CTU conference meeting. Bill tweaks him by saying "I thought you'd want us to start without you." Lynn is a bit irritable, and snaps at his loyal subjects.

Lynn tries to put all this on Jack. (Guess he didn't take to heart the friendly advice about taking responsibility for his job.) In a sign that Samwise may actually possess the Ring, and is being corrupted by it, he orders Jack to be taken into custody.

Curtis is informed of this, and takes Jack's gun. Jack says "I'm calling the President", like some child calling Daddy to settle a sibling fight.

Bill filters intel at Station 3. Not sure what intel they're getting at this point, since they don't know squat.

Nathanson calls Audrey from out of the blue. A resourceful fellow is he. How'd he get Audrey's number? He wants a clean line to Jack. I would think he would have reason to doubt CTU's ability to secure a line, since Nathanson himself listened in on Jack and Novick's call, which was supposed to be on a clean line.

We get one of the hoariest of cliches. Audrey says "How do I know etc...." and Nathanson says "You don't."

Audrey calls up Jack, and gives him a rundown as if Nathanson is on hold, but apparently Audrey forgot to send him over to the elevator music, as Nathanson breaks in. He tells Jack he has a node monitor. Or was it a nematode monitor? Always important to get the soil acidity right for those little worms, so they must be monitored.

Nathanson says he wants "protection." I just can't bring myself to make the obvious jokes here.

Jack is to go to Moorpark and Densmore. Ah, I remember it well, Castle Densmore out on the moors. It began one winter evening, as the fog lay thick over... oh, never mind.

As Curtis is schlepping Jack back to CTU, Jack sees his chance to escape and inexplicably puts the Atomic Sleeper Hold on Curtis. That's going to be an issue for them.

Jack dumps Curtis out on the boulevard and leaves him there like garbage to be picked up. I wonder if you have to use those 5-dollar bags with the orange twist before the garbage truck will take Curtises away.

Going into commercial, the clocks are at :13 to :13, but coming back, as we all knew it would, the clocks are at :18 to :16. A portal opened up in the corner of my living room, and some dinosaurs came running past. Dang these commercial breaks. They have got to stop messing around with the space-time continuum.

Lynn's phone does the boop-boop-BEE-boop, and it's Curtis. Curtis is not in a mood to cover for Jack, and tells Lynn what happened. He recovered admirably from the sleeper hold. Lynn tells Curtis to get back to CTU, though I'm not sure how he'll accomplish that trick. Maybe flag down a taxi and commandeer the taxi at gunpoint.

Speaking of recovering, I guess Jack's cracked rib isn't bothering him too much anymore, either.

Now, Audrey surely commits what must be a federal crime. She lies to Lynn about talking to Jack.

Chloe can't trace Jack's phone, something about a sim card. Speaking of Jack's phone, how did Chloe know Jack's number at the beginning of the season? Jack was supposed to be dead, seems like a security risk. If it was Jack's phone he had while at CTU, isn't someone in the business office wondering why someone was still using minutes on a phone signed out to Jack?

Now Audrey wants Chloe to commit a federal crime and erase the call to Jack from the logs.

Samwise calls Elvis Costello in the comm office and wants to see Audrey's phone logs. Every day, every day, every day I write the logs.

But Chloe makes the offending logs disappear in a very obvious way, and Lynn is suspicious. I'm not sure why Chloe is taking orders from Audrey, who isn't even a CTU employee. Sure, it's "for Jack", but risking time in a federal penitentiary is no trivial matter.

At the presidential retreat, Logan has time to sit around watching TV. Sgt. Bierko calls. Logan whines "I'm not talking to them." Novick says the terrorists are demanding to speak to Logan. Oh, well, since terrorists are "demanding". Logan immediately caves and talks to Bierko. A pillar of strength, he is.

Sgt. Bierko is honest, he wants the route of Suvarov's motorcade, so Bierko can carry out his attack on some Russians. If Logan is such a pushover, not sure why Sgt. Bierko didn't demand that Logan help him get out of the country with the 19 gas cylinders. Then he could still carry out his precious attack on Moscow.

Logan does his head leany thing again, and tells Novick he wants the route, just to have on hand in case. In case Logan wets himself and cowers before the terrorist demands, that is.

Clocks are at :28 to :27. Hey, our universe has gained a minute on the 24 clock! Go universe!

Lynn correctly surmises that "someone is screwing with me." Bill says, with a straight face, that maybe a system glitch just happened to wipe out Audrey's phone log. To his credit, Lynn isn't buying that cartload of donkey dung.

Out on the mean streets, Jack roars up in a street that looks like the one used in the episode from Season 1 were Kim was kimnapped for the very first time. (Speaking of Kim, still no sign of her. Has Audrey forgotten all about getting her to CTU?)

Nathanson makes Jack follow a trail of bread crumbs to make sure he wasn't followed. But, a helo comes from out of nowhere and disgorges bad guys.

Jack says "You have hostiles coming in after you." Then he says "from the adjacent parking structure", but the krazy kaptions say "They are not CTU."

What follows is a running gun battle. Nathanson bounds over a roof with raised structures that fittingly look like the scene from The Matrix where Trinity was running from the cops. The baddies are the usual bad shots, and can't hit Nathanson with automatic weapons from a range of ten feet.

Jack plugs a bad guy or two, wings a second helo, and the battle is over. (Amazing how terrorists can get two helos, fill them with well armed men and fly all over LA.)

Nathanson gives up the ghost, but before he departs he gives Jack some kind of chip.

Jack wants Chloe to "data mine" the chip. He'll send it to her "socket." Ah, that old familiar 24 jargon. Speaking of which, nobody has "gone dark" this episode. Chloe's socket code is 5J55J.

Clocks are at :42 to :41. Our universe is holding steady.

Martha just walks in unannounced as Logan and Novick discuss plans that could start a war. She asks what is going on, and Logan tells all to this crazy person.

When Martha hears that Logan is seriously considering letting the Russian president be killed on American soil, Martha wigs out, and the discussion devolves into a cage match.

Chloe discovers this "t-drive" has data encrypted by DoD pass codes. But CTU is in luck, they happen to have a DoDer in stock. But, Lynn is staying close to Audrey, so Chloe can't talk to her. Bill helps out and runs interference, and unknowingly refers to Lynn's key card, a touchy subject for Lynn these days.

But, Samwise is slowly losing his grip on sanity, and accuses everyone of stealing his strawberry ice cream. Bill is detained. (We find out Audrey's father is still the SecDef.)

Lynn then says something we haven't heard yet this season. He says "Everyone, I want your attention." Michelle used to do that every five minutes last season.

Lynn says they are now under a Section 2-3 redundancy and everybody will be monitored and mirrored through Lynn's station. I think Lynn is on a Section 8 redundancy. How is he going to keep track of everyone?

"Johnson, stop looking at and get back to work! Harris, you play Minesweeper one more time I'll have you shot!"

Lynn finishes with a tender "All right you Goonies, get back to work!"

Clocks are at :52 to :51.

Chloe's data mining proceeds with the usual rapid pace. A company called Terra-Dyne is referred to. It's in La Canada. Something called Omicron is mentioned. Jack knows of their VP for R and D, Christopher Henderson.

(Who can forget that the company in Buckaroo Banzai was Yoyodyne! I wonder if we'll get to meet John YaYa, and John Smallberries.)

Alas, no such comedic touches and we some plain jane names on the screen. Michael Shea, Shawn McElroy, John Mailloux, Daniel Zbel, David D'Amario, Ben Robertaccio. Are these the producers' college buddies?

Logan tries to convince Martha, and himself, that setting up the Russian president to be killed by terrorists in LA is the wisest course of action. It must be, given the huge amount of time Logan spent considering it. Also, given all the input from all the President's advisors, there must be no other options. What's that? Logan only consulted Novick and a crazy woman, not the SecDef, SecState, CIA Director, the Joint Chiefs, etc...? Oh. We're all doomed, then. Logan has gone crackers.

Novick gets a call. The krazy kaptions say "Bierko: It's time. Give me the motorcade route." But, we don't hear anything.

There's a chummy moment with Suvarov and Anya as they all laugh together. It's all Martha can do to keep from blurting out the happy news about the surprise Logan has in store for them. Given Martha's tenuous hold on her mental faculties, it's a wonder Logan left Martha alone with Suvarov.

Martha does come up with a clever response to Logan's treachery, though. Martha gets in the limo with Suvarov, and will go to the airport with them. Unknowing Aaron must go along with her. (Aaron apparently suffered no repercussions for allowing Walt to hang himself minutes after being placed in Aaron's custody.)

With insanity breaking out all over, even our universe can't cope. The clocks slide to :60 and :58 as the hour comes to an end.

Once again, guest critic Paul Foth won't be joining us. His treacherous boss leaked the route Paul takes to work to a squeegee man, and the resulting panhandling accident was horrific. Paul is recovering in CTU Medical.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 9
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 21
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 11
Number of moles: 3
Approximate Body Count: 40 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 10-20 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning))

<-2:00 PM - 3:00 PM 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM ->

Monday, February 20, 2006

Iran to world: "Drop Dead"

Iran imports a significant amount of refined petroleum products as it lacks the refining infrastructure to do so itself. So, instead of investing in this refining technology, what does Iran want to do? Build 20 nuclear plants.

An Iranian official said that country plans to construct 20 nuclear power plants.

The Fars News Agency reported Mohammad Hosein Farhangi, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, said the next Iranian state budget bill orders regulation of the plan, study and construction of the 20 plants.

Farhangi made the announcement at a convention of "resistance units" commanders, the agency said.

The diplomatic waltzes continue over the Russian plan to process Iranian nuclear waste in Russia. As discussed before though, Iran will absolutely not let go of the nuclear material it needs for its nuclear weapons program. These talks will have predictable results.

Iran vowed on Monday to pursue its nuclear research even if talks in Moscow produce agreement on a Russian compromise aimed at keeping bomb-grade enriched uranium out of the Islamic Republic's hands.

There was no word on the outcome of closed-door Kremlin talks between Russian and Iranian officials on Moscow's offer to enrich uranium on Iran's behalf for use in power stations. A Russian source said the two sides would meet again on Tuesday.

"It is too early to talk about results. The negotiations are continuing," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The United States and the European Union trio of France, Britain and Germany -- the countries pressing Iran hardest on its nuclear program -- have welcomed the Russian plan.

But U.S. and other officials are skeptical, saying Tehran is keeping the Russian offer on the table to buy time.

"The Iranians will try to throw sand in everybody's eyes, as they have for the last three years," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said of the Moscow talks. "We'll see what results," he told reporters in New York.

With remarkably convenient timing, clerics in Iran have decreed that using nuclear weapons is peachy keen. From MEMRI:

On February 16, 2006, the reformist Internet daily Rooz ( ) reported for the first time that extremist clerics from Qom had issued what the daily called "a new fatwa," which states that "shari'a does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons."

The following are excerpts from the Rooz report by Shahram Rafizadeh: [1]

"When the Entire World is Armed With Nuclear Weapons, it is Permissible to Use These Weapons as a Counter-[Measure]"

"The spiritual leaders of the ultra-conservatives [in Iran] have accepted the use of nuclear weapons as lawful in the eyes of shari'a. Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of [Ayatollah] Mesbah Yazdi [who is Iranian President Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor], has spoken for the first time of using nuclear weapons as a counter-measure. He stated that 'in terms of shari'a, it all depends on the goal.'

Tick tick tick...

Your gas prices will go up a bit

The unrest in the Niger Delta continues. From the BBC:

Oil prices rose by $1.46 a barrel on Monday, after fresh violence cut production in Nigeria, the world's eighth largest exporter.

Nigeria's oil exports fell by 15% after militants kidnapped nine foreign workers and again attacked facilities in the Niger Delta over the weekend.

With the militia now promising more violence, analysts fear such attacks could continue for at least a year.

The price of Brent crude was up $1.46 to $61.35 a barrel in afternoon trade.

There was no movement to the benchmark US light crude, as the New York Mercantile Exchange is closed on Monday for the US President's Day holiday.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* Four years after the Taliban regime was toppled, the test of wills threatens to set back the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan, American and Afghan analysts say. Suicide bombings were rare in Afghanistan until last fall, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began debating a move into southern Afghanistan.

* Iran’s foreign minister meets with European officials Monday amid new diplomatic efforts to end the standoff with the West over Iran’s nuclear program. Manouchehr Mottaki’s talks in Brussels coincide with a visit to Moscow by Iranian negotiators to discuss Russia’s offer to host uranium enrichment for Iran in an effort to ensure that the Islamic republic’s nuclear program cannot be used to develop atomic weapons.

* Iran's hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies. In yet another sign of Teheran's stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy's traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

* The leader of a Tacoma, Washington, mosque has been accused of training his followers with guns for holy war. A felon in the witness-protection program testified Feb. 10 that the leader of a Rainier Valley mosque acted as the spiritual core of a group in Seattle, some of whose members trained with guns in preparation for religious war, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

Other topics today include: Sakka admits funding attacks; Israel sanctions on PA; IDF arrest IJ terrorists; Palestinian parliament convenes; Iranian suicide bombers prepared; US broadcasts in Iran; Iranian propaganda in Europe; al Aqsa commander arrested; Iran demands British withdrawal from Basrah; Lebanese parliament gives Lahoud 1 month; Iranian talks with Russia; Islamic Jihad chief killed near Nablus; Rice presses Syria; Able Danger; Port Security; Jury selection in Moussaoui trial; No bond for Padilla; Islamic charities in the U.S.; LAX warnings; US protests; Russian-Hamas relations; Tensions between Russia & Georgia; Beheadings in Pakistan; More Taliban attacks; Protests in Pakistan; Offensives in Nepal; North Korean camps; Raids in Japan; US embassy in Jakarta stormed; Bombings in Thailand; Italy a target; British-Muslims polled; Embassy in Libya attacked; and much more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Al Qaeda operative Louai Sakka has admitted to funding a series of bombings in Istanbul, Turkey in the middle of November 2003.

* Israel's cabinet has approved sanctions on the Palestinian Authority in response to the takeover of the Palestinian parliament by Hamas. Before Sunday's cabinet meeting, Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the new Hamas-led legislature a "terrorist authority" and said that all funds to it must be stopped.

* The Palestinian parliament opened on Saturday with Hamas at the helm, who named its leader Ismail Haniyeh as the Palestinian Authority’s next prime minister.

* Israeli Defense forces have arrested 10 Islamic Jihad terrorists in Ro'i, southwest of Jenin. A total of 18 suspected terrorists were captured in the raids.

* An Iranian group that claims its members are dedicated to becoming suicide bombers warned the United States and Britain on Saturday that they will strike coalition military bases in Iraq if Tehran's nuclear facilities are attacked. According to reports from the Jerusalem Post, American officials have been quietly probing whether Georgia will be willing to allow Washington to use its military bases and airfields in the event of military action against Iran.

* Kenneth R. Timmerman examines the problems of current American broadcasts into Iran and what needs to be done to correct the problems. The suggestions come as the administration prepares to ask Congress for $ 75 million to boost democracy in Iran.

* According to reports from Friends of a Free Iran, Tehran is widening their propaganda net in Europe through newspaper advertising, satellite broadcasts and other tactics.

* Israel is criticizing the decision of Turkey to invite Hamas leaders to Ankara for talks. Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for the Israeli government, responded by saying “I wonder what the Turkish authorities would think if we were to invite (jailed Kurdish separatist leader) Abdullah Ocalan for talks in Israel?”

* Palestinian Authority sources early on Sunday morning reported that Ahmed Abu-Ras, a senior Fatah al-Aqsa Brigade commander, was apprehended by IDF soldiers in Shechem.

* Iran's foreign minister urged Britain yesterday to pull its troops out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra, saying their presence was destabilising the city. "The Islamic Republic of Iran demands the immediate withdrawal of British forces from Basra," Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters during a visit to Lebanon.

* Lebanon's parliament has given President Emil Lahoud one month to resign. "Since Lahoud's mandate was imposed on the Lebanese by a Syrian decision in an unconstitutional manner and in opposition to international resolutions...[we] demand an end to this presidency," the coalition said in a statement.

* Two Arab terrorists stabbed a 45-year-old Jewish man in the northern Jerusalem suburb of Ma'aleh Adumim Saturday night. The man remains in serious condition at Hadassah Ein Karem's trauma ward.

* Hamad Abu Sharif, chief of the Al Qods Brigades - the armed branch of Islamic Jihad, was killed near Nablus on Monday by Israeli security forces.

* Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the United States wants to strengthen its sanctions against Syria and is trying to convince other nations to follow suit. "We intend to use the Syrian Accountability Act and use it to its fullest," the top US diplomat told Congress, referring to a 2003 law that allows the US administration to impose sanctions against Syria.

* The Israeli Airforce fired on two Palestinians engaged in terror activity in the Gaza strip on Sunday, and their status remains unknown.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* An ad campaign known as Midwest Heroes is running in Minnesota. The first ad features veterans who served in Iraq saying that progress is being made in Iraq. The second ad features families who have lost loved ones in Iraq. However, the ads are being attacked with the usual venom from the anti-war Left. The Minnesota DFL called the ads "propaganda." A Star Tribune columnist calls the ads "lies." A WCCO report calls parts of the first ad "not true" and "misleading". KVM reports that KSTP has refused to run the ads. Power Line has closely followed the story.

* The top-secret, military intelligence unit known as "Able Danger" identified Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, 13 times before the 2001 attacks, according to new information released Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. Strata-Sphere has closely followed the latest hearings.

* Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff is defending the Bush administration's review of an international shipping deal two days after one company in the Port of Miami sued to prevent an Arab-owned firm from taking over port operations.

* Jury selection continues in the case of al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. A man who served in the U.S. military in Kuwait and called terrorism "the ultimate crime" was cleared Thursday as a potential member of the jury. He joined 15 others selected for the jury pool the day before, including a Muslim man born in Afghanistan and a Marine Corps lawyer whose boss' office was blown up on Sept. 11, 2001.

* U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke refused to set bond on Friday for accused terrorist Jose Padilla. Padilla's lawyers had challenged his pre-trial detention and requested that the alleged al-Qaida operative be allowed to stay at his mother's Broward County condo under 24-hour house arrest. Public defender Michael Caruso argued that Padilla never trained in a terrorist training camp as the government has alleged and that he is not a danger to the community.

* An Islamic charity director accused by federal prosecutors of having links to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was resentenced Friday to 10 years in prison -- about a year less than his original sentence. Enaam Arnaout, 42, pleaded guilty to racketeering in 2003, admitting he defrauded donors to his Benevolence International Foundation by diverting some of the money to Islamic military groups in Bosnia and Chechnya.

* The Treasury Department on Sunday ordered U.S. banks to freeze the assets of an Ohio-based group the government claims funnels money to the militant organization Hamas. The organization, KindHearts of Toledo, Ohio, was connected with the Hamas-affiliated Holy Land Foundation and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Global Relief Foundation.

* A New York jazz musician, a Florida doctor and a Maryland medic pleaded not guilty on Friday to a new indictment in an expanding probe of support for terrorism that stems from an FBI sting operation. Lawyers for the three men complained about their prison conditions during the hearing in Manhattan federal court. The three Muslim men, Tarik Shah, 43, Rafiq Sabir, 51, and Mahmud Faruq Brent, 31, prayed with relatives and supporters before pleading not guilty of conspiring to aid terrorist organizations in the Middle East between 2001 and 2005. A fourth defendant, Brooklyn bookstore owner Abdulrahman Farhane, 51, also appeared after pleading not guilty last week to the new indictment, which accuses him of introducing Shah to an FBI informant and agreeing to help transfer funds to buy weapons for use by jihad fighters in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

* The White House on Thursday said it would compromise with Senate Republicans seeking to change the law on eavesdropping to include the government's controversial domestic spying programme. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said he had reached an "agreement in principle" with the administration.

* Security experts released their third warning in as many years Friday that passengers in line in lobbies and on sidewalks at Los Angeles International Airport are vulnerable to luggage or car bomb attacks. They also recommended, for the second time, that airlines add ticket agents and the federal Transportation Security Administration hire more screeners to speed travelers to secure gate areas.

* American Muslims in New York and Los Angeles say the violent protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are against the teachings of Islam. The New York Muslim Leadership Council held a peaceful rally yesterday in front of the Danish Consulate. About 300 people held a peaceful protest in front of the Danish Consulate in Westwood, California.

* Michelle Malkin highlights the New Black Panther Party's protest at the Danish Embassy in Washington D.C.

* Colombia has launched bombing raids on a nature reserve where a coca eradication programme has come under repeated attack by left-wing rebels. The air force said it had bombed several rebel bases inside La Macarena. On Wednesday, suspected Farc rebels killed six police officers involved in an operation to destroy illegal coca leaf plantations in the area.

* Thomas Jocelyn higlights a press release from Congressman Dan Burton, Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere which reads in part (PDF): "I am very concerned that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Communist Dictator Fidel Castro of Cuba, along with other Latin American leaders are reaching out to known Islamic terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, and cozying-up to renowned terrorist-sponsoring nations like Iran and North Korea. Any alliance between terrorist-sponsoring nations and leftist leaders in Latin America will be viewed as a serious and direct threat to the national security of the United States." Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has warned that he could cut off oil supplies to the US, and has been increasing ties of energy cooperation with Iran, Russia, and China.

* Bank of America Corp., the second largest U.S. bank, is close to settling an investigation of money laundering from South America, according to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Bank of America moved about $2 billion through New York branches from clients in South America, Morgenthau said. Most of the transfers were made for a Uruguayan company, which operates near the borders of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The area is a hub of illegal activity, including drug and arms trafficking, that funds Islamic terror groups, according to a 2003 Library of Congress study.

* In Trinidad, the son of Imam Hassan Ali was murdered on Friday. Ali is an imam attached to the Jamaat al Muslimeen. Ali believes the "G Unit" gang may be responsible.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* Russian President Vladamir Putin created a National Counterterrorism Committee (NAK), a new government body tasked with coordinating all federal-level antiterrorism policies and operations. The committee will be headed by Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev (FSB) and includes members such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Lebedev, the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

* The Russian government has said it will only sell weapons to the Palestinians with Israel's approval. The remarks, by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, come a day after Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky said Russia may supply arms to the PNA after talks in Moscow with leaders of Hamas.

* A total of 450 terrorist attacks were prevented in Russia last year, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said at an expanded session of the ministry’s board in Moscow on Friday. “Search operations helped prevent 450 terrorist attacks [on Russian territory], of them 290 in the Chechen republic,” the Interfax news agency quoted the minister as saying said.

* The future of the two foreign military bases in Kyrgyzstan became clearer this week. During a visit by a Russian delegation, a military official said the Russian base at Kant will be there "forever." Meanwhile, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev was quoted by a Russian newspaper on 15 February as saying the U.S.-led coalition can remain at the Manas base as long as there are still security problems in Afghanistan, and as long as the United States agrees to pay 100 times more than it has been asked to previously.

* Russia and its military bases have been named the main threat to Georgia by the country’s council of advisers, Interfax news agency reported. “The main threats to Georgia are zones of conflict and instability threat from the North. Russian military bases based in Georgia also pose certain threats. We hope that in following months real steps will be made to decrease this threat,” the Chief of General Staff of Georgia Levan Nickoleishvili said. Georgia believes in 2008 it will receive a full invitation to join NATO, and are positioning themselves to do such.

* The Russian state Duma adopted a statement on Friday, calling on the country's authorities to do everything in their power to maintain security in the North Caucasus following an escalation of tensions in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Afghan television broadcast what it said was exclusive footage of men murdered, some of them beheaded, in Pakistan because they were against the extremist Taliban and Al-Qaeda movements. The images broadcast on the evening news bulletin of private Tolo television station showed the decapitated heads of three men being held up in front of a crowd of onlookers.

* A gas pipeline has been blown up in Pakistan's troubled southern province of Balochistan, officials say. An official said the blast in Pirkoh early on Thursday would disrupt gas supplies to some parts of the country.

* Suspected Taleban militants have killed one policeman and wounded four others in an attack in southern Afghanistan, officials say. An official told reporters that some militants also appeared to have been killed in the fighting in Nimroz province on Wednesday.

* As NATO troops replace U.S. forces on southern Afghanistan's battlefields, insurgents are waging a suicide bombing campaign that appears aimed at shaking the alliance's public support in Europe and Canada.

* President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has handed over extensive intelligence dossiers to Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf detailing how suicide bombers who attack targets in Afghanistan are being recruited, trained and equipped in Pakistan. Although Mr Karzai stopped short of accusing Pakistan's military regime of perpetrating the attacks, he said the US and Britain would be "stepping up pressure on Islamabad" to take action to stop the attacks, as British troops soon deploy in southern Afghanistan.

* Pakistani police have detained the leader of an Islamic group to prevent him from leading fresh protests against the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Another 125 people who were protesting in Multan, in the province of Punjab, were also arrested as part of a ban on rallies in eastern Pakistan. At least five people were killed this week in Pakistan when the cartoon-related protests turned violent.

* Security forces on Friday seized heavy weapons and munitions destined for Islamic militants in a northwestern tribal region near Afghanistan, the Pakistan army said. The seizure included 122 mortar bombs, 37 rockets, different types of fuses and cartridges and an unspecified number of mortars near the tribal town of Darra Adamkhel, about 27 miles south of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier province the army said in a statement.

* A team of Tamil Tiger rebels has left for Geneva for crucial talks with Sri Lanka's government, officials say. The meeting on 22-23 February will be the first face-to-face talks at such a high level for nearly three years.

* Nepal's armed forces have launched a major offensive against Maoist rebels in the south-western mountainous region, authorities in Nepal have said. Officials said army helicopters were mounting bombing raids on the Palpa and Nawalparasi districts.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* As recently as 2003, the North Korean cheer squad was the wildly successful showpiece of the regime's self-marketing to South Korea. Unfortunately, the regime learned that some of them were talking about what they saw in the South. This report comes via a newly arrived refugee from one of the camps in North Korea.

* Japanese authorities have raided the offices of two more firms on suspicion of illegally selling North Korea equipment that could be used in the production of biological weapons. The raids on Friday followed one earlier in the week of similar nature.

* Australian Prime Minister John Howard spoke out on Sunday about the challenges that Muslims posed to Australia's immigration system. "I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society, and that is a difficulty," said Howard. "You can't find any equivalent in Italian, or Greek, or Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem."

* Hundreds of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta on Sunday, smashing the windows of a guard post but failing to push through the gates.

* Police in Indonesia have arrested two people and seized some 3,000 detonators and fuses on the island of Borneo. The detonators were found in the town of Nunukan as they were being transferred from a boat that arrived from Malaysia to an Indonesian ferry.

* Two Al Qaida-linked Indonesian terrorists who masterminded the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people are believed to be coddled by splinter groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said yesterday. Col. Gaudencio Pangilinan, head of the AFP Counter-Intelligence Group, reported to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in yesterday’s Command Conference in Malacañang that Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomb experts Umar Patek and Dulmatin are either in Basilan or in Jolo.

* A bomb exploded in southern Thailand on Friday, wounding at least 11 police officers who were responding to a shooting before being ambushed in Narathiwat province. There is also evidence that terrorists are importing weapons and tactics from Iraq and Afghanistan into Thailand. Defense analyst Jeff Moore says over the past year, the separatists have undergone "a remarkable transformation. It's unique...I've never seen anything like it before in an insurgency."

* The trial of Joseph Thomas (aka Jihad Jack) got underway in Victoria, Australia on Thursday and Friday. Thomas travelled to Afghanistan and attended an al Qaeda training camp before being ordered back to Australia to prepare an attack that would "bring down the Australian government."

* According to Benjamin Defensor, Chairman of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force, airports in the Philippines are vulnerable to shoulder fired missiles.

* A bomb exploded on the southern Philippine island of Jolo on Saturday, just outside of an army base where 250 U.S. troops are scheduled to begin annual exercises on Monday. Twenty people were wounded and one died in the blast, which targeted a karaoke bar.

* The case against nine terrorist suspects accused of plotting to bomb sites across Sydney with materials similar to those used in last July's London bombings, has been adjourned in a Sydney court.

* The Philippine army tightened security on Sunday after finding an explosive device in its top military academy, one of the alleged targets in a plot to overthrow and possibly kill the president, military sources said. The device, loaded with 5 lbs (about 2 kg) of TNT, was found late on Saturday hidden in a clutch bag near the parade ground at the Philippine Military Academy, where President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was meant to attend an annual reunion this weekend.


* More than 15,000 people joined an angry but peaceful protest in central London on Saturday against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have infuriated many in the Muslim world.

* A Swedish court charged a Russian researcher at an agricultural genetics laboratory in Sweden with spying for a foreign power on Friday, and the chief prosecutor said the suspect had put the armed forces at risk.

* Britain's anti-terrorism chief has said that it was likely to take police 50 years to get on top of Al Qaeda's comprehensive terror strategy. Speaking at a conference at central London's military think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute, Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist branch, revealed that police were "still learning" about the nature of the Al Qaeda threat and how to deal with it.

* Spain's public prosecutor urged a court on Thursday to overturn an alleged al Qaeda leader's conviction for conspiring with the September 11 plotters, calling the evidence weak and unconvincing. If the Supreme Court agrees with the prosecutor, it would mean that a high-profile trial of 24 alleged al Qaeda members in Spain last year had failed to convict anyone in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

* A Spanish court on Friday ordered the release of two Syrians convicted of belonging to al-Qaida, but withdrew their passports and requested police surveillance of them while another court considers an appeal against their convictions. The National Court's order raised to four the number of men who were convicted of terrorism in a major trial that ended in September but have now been released under a legal technicality.

* Italy's intelligence services warned in their six-monthly report to parliament that the country is again the potential target of a terrorist attack by Islamic radicals - especially in the period between the current Torino Winter Games and the 9-10 April general election. In the 56th report concerning investigations carried out in the second semester of 2005, the intelligence services also noted "the progressive shift of radical activities outside places of worship."

* The French police arrested late Thursday night most of the members of the gang that abducted, tortured and murdered Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew from Paris. Hundreds of SWAT officers raided apartments in Bagneux and arrested 12 people. Another suspect was arrested in Belgium.

* In a post at Threats Watch, Dan Darling writes "The results of a recent ICM poll indicating that 20% of British Muslims sympathize with "the feelings and motives" of the al-Qaeda suicide bombers who carried out the 7/7 bombings as well as that 40% believe that sha'riah should be introduced in predominantly Muslim areas of Britain are rightfully disturbing, but they must also be understood within the context in which the most extreme elements of Islam have emerged in the United Kingdom."


* Thirteen Eritreans employed by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Eritrea have been detained by local authorities and another 30 are in hiding for fear of being arrested, the United Nations said on Tuesday. "While we have protested this, the government of Eritrea still has not given us any official reason for these detentions," U.N. chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. The arrests have taken place at a time of worsening diplomatic ties between Eritrea and the United Nations over the implementation of a peace agreement ending the northeast African nation's 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia.

* Eleven people were killed and an Italian consulate was burned in Libya on Friday night during protests to denounce the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, sources in Libya said. There also was a "high number" of injuries, said an official with the Italian Embassy in Tripoli.

* Battles are being in won in the fight against terrorism financing as countries improve cooperation and tighten systems to identify money transfers, a top official in South Africa said on Thursday. "We have noticed that terrorist organisations are trying to change their way of financing," Alain Damais, the executive secretary of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said.

* President Bush signaled a new American commitment on Friday to addressing the crisis in Darfur, saying he would support an expanded role by NATO to shore up a failing African peacekeeping mission there. Bush also said he favored doubling the number of peacekeepers operating in Darfur under United Nations control, as proposed by the Security Council last month.

* Armed militants carried out a wave of attacks across Nigeria's troubled Niger delta on Saturday, blowing up oil and gas pipelines and seizing nine foreign oil workers. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the attacks and for kidnapping the oil workers from a boat belonging to U.S. oil service firm Wilbros.

* A U.S. drive to deepen anti-terror ties with North African nations needs to be balanced by greater concern for democracy and human rights in order to gain wide political acceptability in the region, analysts say. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, visiting Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco this month, heaped lavish praise on their cooperation in Washington's "war on terror" on his first tour of the strategic energy-rich region on Europe's southern flank. But local ears strained to catch any mention of good governance. It was left to Rumsfeld's aides to voice U.S. hopes for internal reforms in the three countries, tightly governed states struggling with a variety of social and economic strains.

* As the United States grapples with its policy toward Africa, vast ungoverned territories in North Africa are being increasingly used by terrorists groups for training and criminal organizations for smuggling, a top military official said Thursday. But because of sanctions and legal restrictions, the United States is limited in what pressure and inducements it can bring to bear on the situation.

* A U.S. Navy officer testified in a Kenyan court Friday against 10 Somali men accused of piracy, saying U.S. sailors detained the suspects after firing warning shots that forced their vessel to stop. Lt. Lucas Michael Grant told the court that the U.S. sailors, who are part of an anti-terrorism task force based in Djibouti, detained the 10 Somalis on Jan. 22 in an operation involving U.S. military helicopters and a warship that fired several warning shots.

* Sixteen people were killed and 11 churches were burned Saturday in Nigeria as part of the continuing violence over cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammed. Demonstrations and skirmishes broke out Saturday in the Muslim-dominated northern Nigerian cities of Maiduguri and Katsina. The cities also have significant Christian populations. Maiduguri bore the brunt of Saturday's violence. Fifteen people were killed, 11 churches were burned and 115 people were arrested there.

* Two U.S. Marine CH-53E choppers crashed in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Djibouti, while conducting night time exercises on Saturday. Two crewmen were immediately rescued, while the other 12 sadly perished.

The Global War

* Denmark temporarily shut its embassy in Islamabad and Pakistan recalled its envoy from Copenhagen as fresh protests against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed sparked a diplomatic row. An Islamic cleric added fuel to the fire on Friday by offering a one-million-dollar reward and a car for anyone who killed the cartoonists behind the drawings, first published in a Danish newspaper in September. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for a fifth straight day in Pakistan, with police firing tear gas and waving batons at protesters in the southern city of Karachi and the central city of Multan.

* The United States has signed two new agreements to combat terrorism and crime in international waters and to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Holmes Tuttle, signed on behalf of the United States two treaties augmenting the U.N. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA), according to a February 17 State Department announcement. The new agreements, negotiated over a three-year period, will create a new international framework for boarding vessels and for interdiction of dangerous individuals and deadly cargos. The United States is urging other SUA parties to sign and ratify the two new protocols as soon as possible.

* The United States has announced that $ 5 million in grants to Syrian pro-democracy groups will be issued in an effort to accelerate the work of reformers in the region.

* The Palestinian Authority has agreed to return $ 50 million in aid to the United States, following a request by Washington, who didn't want the money going to a terrorist organization (Hamas) that supports the removal of another nation from the face of the map.

* The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations. The Pentagon chief said today's weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.

* The United Nations has concluded that the United States should shut Guantanamo Bay, an idea Kirk Sowell strongly rebukes.

* The CTC at West Point has a report (available here in PDF) that "Salafi jihadists have developed stand-alone web browser software." The software only goes to one site, that of Salafi ideologue Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi.

* Pakistan's long denial of terrorist camps on its territory is coming apart in the face of evidence gathered by the US in a case aimed at prosecuting extremists who allegedly planned to attack targets in California. The US government plans to show satellite photographs of the Pakistani camps with a department of defence expert explaining their significance in the trial of a terror suspect Hamid Hayat, assistant US Attorney Laura Ferris told jurors in her opening remarks. Hayat, 23, a U.S-born resident of Lodi in California, is accused of twice attending camps near Rawalpindi, the military garrison town outside Islamabad, run by the Lashkar e Taiba with intent to wage holy war against the US. Federal prosecutors said Hayat attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan and returned "awaiting orders" to stage attacks in the United States.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Iwo Jima

A battle that will live forever in American history, and in US Marine Corps history, began 61 years ago today. The battle for Iwo Jima.

An island almost devoid of cover, a dug-in and entrenched enemy who had prepared a defense in-depth.

It was destined to be a bloody battle, and it was. The US suffered over 6,800 killed, over 19,000 wounded.

The combat was up close and personal. Destroying caves, digging the Japanese out of their holes with flamethrowers and demo chargers, deadly fire from Mt. Suribachi, snipers, mines.

But our fighting forces got the job done. The island was a strategic location, it would serve has a base for B-29 bombers. It had to be taken, and once again America was blessed to be served by individuals full of courage and grit.

I wonder what the clods of dung that pass for the student senate at the University of Washington would think of the service performed by those who were at Iwo Jima.

Here is an informative timeline of the battle, and the Department of Defense has a multimedia presentation worth looking at.

It is a dangerous thing to forget what others have done in the past to give us what we had today. Remember this battle, so many others like it, and what our military is doing today. If we forget what was necessary to preserve freedom in the past, we are less likely to do what is necessary to preserve freedom in the future.

War is a terrible thing. Mankind at his worst. A time of terror, pain, death, destruction. Nobody wants war. Nobody is "pro-war." But evil is always relentless, always hungry, and our enemies are not moved by mumbled chants and weepy songs of peace sung over melting candles.

Throughout our history, we have been blessed by those willing to leave farm, home, jobs, family, and march into the teeth of dangerous enemies such as those who were dug in on Iwo Jima.

Thank you, God, for our freedom, and those who bought it for us.

France and India

French President Jacques Chirac is in India today for a two-day visit. The visit reflects India's growing importance. Europe wants to maintain ties to the Asian subcontinent as India's economic might grows, as well as its strategic influence in the region. The visit takes on added importance President Bush will be visiting India in a couple of weeks.

Indian officials have complained that Europe has been slow to recast India as a major power, seeing it instead in purely commercial terms as a lesser China. At the same time, the United States and Japan, among others, have sent the message that they see India as a bulwark against China and that they need India at least as much as it needs them.

"France has to recognize that the center of gravity is shifting from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean," Kamal Nath, the Indian commerce minister, said in a telephone interview. "America was the quickest to see that India is the fastest-growing free-market economy in the world. Europe is now catching up."

In planning his trip, however, Mr. Chirac has ensured that the United States will be playing catch-up in at least one way: his delegation, including five cabinet ministers and 32 business and industrial leaders, will get here two weeks before a visit by President Bush.

Under Mr. Chirac, France has been a champion of improving ties between India and Europe, and it was an early backer of India's bid for a United Nations Security Council seat. And France has fostered a strategic relationship between the two nations since Mr. Chirac's first state visit to India in 1998.

"It was true a few years back that the French were a bit standoffish. Now it's changed completely," Dominique Girard, the French ambassador to India, said in an interview.

Trade, as usual, is a driving concern in the relationship. France is looking to India as a potential export market to help its sluggish economy.

Part of the visit includes a desire to drum up arms business. India is shopping around for a large buy of warplanes, as Security Watchtower pointed out here.

In New Delhi, he was meeting with business leaders Sunday before a private dinner with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The weapons market remains a key part of Franco-Indian relations.

While India traditionally buys many of its weapons from France and Russia, the United States is also honing in on the lucrative market, and President Bush arrives in India for a visit in two weeks. Though he denied there was any competition with the U.S. president, Chirac said France has a position "that naturally must be hers in India."

Chirac will also press India to buy French Mirage fighter jets. India is looking to buy 126 new warplanes in a deal worth billions of dollars, but is also considering American F-16s and F/A-18 Super Hornets, Swedish Gripens and Russian MiGs.

A subtext to the visit involved an aging toxic aircraft carrier France was sending to India to be dismantled. However, protests from environmental groups, as well as the unseemly image of a Western power dumping its garbage on a developing nation led to the decision to turn the ship around.

The French leader narrowly sidestepped having the visit overshadowed by a decommissioned French aircraft carrier containing toxic chemicals. The asbestos-carrying Clemenceau had been en route to India to be dismantled when Chirac ordered it back to France on Wednesday after protests from French and Indian environmental groups and trade unions.

Chirac's visit will also include signing a deal for cooperation on nuclear power. This is an attempt to draw India away from the US, as the US-India nuclear deal has yet to get through Congress, with some questioning the wisdom of the deal. France sees an opening to give India another option for help on its civilian nuclear program.

Chirac is a weasel, and while India certainly has reason to be interested in European markets, India should be careful about tying itself too closely to such a weak country.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Great Race

This afternoon during its Olympic coverage NBC aired a terrific story called The Great Race. It was narrated by actor Sam Waterston.

It was about the 1994 4x10 km relay cross country ski race at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics. This race at the Olympics is as popular in Norway as the Super Bowl is here. And being contested on Norwegian soil, emotions in Norway were off the charts.

The race came down to Norway and Italy, with Italy winning a close victory. The video is about that race, and the personal stories involved. The 33 min. video is available here from Google Video. It costs $1.99 to download, but it is well worth it.

This article describes a little bit of how much Europeans pay attention to this race.

Forget Bode, the figure-skating judging scandal, and the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan episode. The real drama in recent Olympic history is an epic but little-noticed struggle that began 12 years ago at the Lillehammer Games.

Since 1994, the Norwegian and Italian men's cross-country relay teams have battled head-to-head for Olympic gold over 75 miles of grueling terrain. In the nearly five hours of cumulative dueling between the two powerhouses, the total difference in their times over three Games is less than one second.

Norway won this race at the 1998 Nagano games, and also at the 2002 Salt Lake games, beating Italy by narrow margins both times.

This year, the 4x10 km relay is tomorrow, Sunday. I believe NBC will be covering the race in prime time. I'll be glued to the screen.

So, avoid hearing any news about the Olympics, so you won't know who won, and watch one of sports' greatest events.

Indeed they are Americans

This comment was left in this post. I wanted to make sure you saw it.

I am one of the people in the commercials. My name is John M. Ellsworth and I am the proud Father of LCPL Justin Ellsworth USMC, Justin was killed in action on November 13, 2004.
While stationed in Iraq, Justin often times told me of all the good things that were happening there. He would be outraged at what was being reported over there. I couldn't sit still any longer when Cindy Sheehan was dubbed "The Moral Authority" on the war. We had to get the good word out. WE WILL PREVAIL
I appreciate all of the support that has been given to my family and I, but most of all... PLEASE LISTEN TO OUR STORIES... for Justin's sake... and just for the record...the commercials... the families... WE ARE NOT REPUBLICANS or DEMOCRATS... We are AMERICANS.
God Bless you
Proud Father of LCPL Justin M. Ellsworth U.S.M.C.

Thank you so much, Mr. Ellsworth. It is an honor to hear from you.

(You can read more about the Ellsworth family here.)

Blogger is melting down again

Blogger is still having problems, and as usual, doesn't have a single word on their website acknowledging the problem. Other people are having problems. Their customer support is horrible, you're lucky if you hear from them.

If people leave comments, it seems to delete recent posts. So, please hold off on comments till this gets fixed. I'll let you know when all is better.

Yet another reason why I'll migrate off Blogger when I get more time, probably later this summer when school is done. Argh.

UPDATE: Blogger claims things are working again. So, comment away.

The face of the Left

Propaganda is not a value-neutral term. A common perception of propaganda is that truth is rarely the primary objective. Rather, the aim is to support, buttress, or further one's position at any cost, even if what is being stated is untrue. Or, the aim might be to destroy the credibility of an opponent, again regardless of the validity of what is being stated.

However, to today's Left, propaganda is merely what the other side thinks is true.

In Minnesota, where "Give us this day our daily Strib" is the extent of religious training in many households, the Left is attacking the Midwest Heroes commercials as "propaganda." Worse, they are claiming the message of the ads is "misleading."

Here is a statement from Minnesota DFL Chair Brian Melendez:

The ad then states that the enemy in Iraq are the same terrorists responsible for 9/11, and images of Saddam Hussein are shown along with the Twin Towers. This tactic is misleading at best, as the 9/11 Commission Report states that there is no connection between Iraq and the 9/11 terrorist attack.

"Minnesota has the chance to take a stand against this kind of misleading propaganda," said DFL Chair Brian Melendez. "Right now, our state is a testing ground for this particular ad, and we can be sure that many more will follow this election season. Minnesota TV stations should pull this ad and send the message that we will not tolerate this kind of swiftboating anymore."

"WCCO has called this ad 'misleading' and only 'partly true,' said Chair Melendez. "Well, partly false advertising insults Minnesotans intelligence. We won’t stand for propaganda that can’t be backed up with fact."

The WCCO report referred to can be found here. The ads were subjected to the "Reality Check" treatment, and the result ought to give pause to any parents shelling out money for their children in journalism schools.

Since the media are very quick to make any story about themselves (witness the hunting accident involving VP Cheney), the first thing the WCCO report focuses on is a statement about the media.

The ad is a skillfully blended mix of war facts and war politics.

"The media only reports bad news," the ad states.

This is NOT TRUE. Even the harshest media critics don't say that.

One conservative study reports 61 percent of network news stories about Iraq were negative last fall. But that study didn't include the 24-hour cable news channels.

And a separate study of Sunday morning political talk shows reports the guests are mostly conservative -- 58 percent of them -- and critics of the Iraq war were largely absent.

Fair enough, Since as a matter of logic the statement "The media only reports bad news" needs only a single counterexample to be shown as false, it cannot rise to the level of axiom.

However, it is an accurate statement of the perception among the military and its supporters, and it is the reason the ads are being made. For the Left to hang its hat on this shaky peg is not a strong promise of unshakeable arguments to come.

Next up from WCCO is a truly puzzling attempt at "gotcha."

"You would never know it from the news reports, but our enemy in Iraq is al-Qaeda," the ad states. "The same terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on 9-11."

This is very MISLEADING.

First, the ad links images of 9-11 and al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. There's no evidence, according to the 9-11 Commission, that there's any real connection.

Um, I think this is very MISLEADING. Watch the ad for yourself. The ad addresses the brutal nature of Saddam Hussein's regime, and then moves to a different point. The images are not "linked" except in the sense one point follows the other. (Given the nature of TV commercials, such transitions are obviously quick.)

The ad then makes the statement referred to by WCCO. And it is absolutely a true statement. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda is behind the most violent elements of the insurgency. The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab Zarqawi, pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden in October 2004.

The ad in no way, shape, manner or form was attempting to say Iraq was involved in 9/11. The Bush administration has not said that.

WCCO simply ties this straw man to a stake because they want to burn it and the ads down.

Another media outlet in town, KSTP, has refused to run the ads. They, too, latch on to this convoluted examination of the accuracy of the ads.

KSTP General Manager Rob Hubbard said the station refused to run the ad, which began running last week, because of the claim that the media are intentionally misleading citizens.

He said the station often airs so-called third-party issue ads whether the station agrees with them or not, as long as it can be determined that the ads are accurate and verifiable.

"We think it may or may not be true for other media but we know it's not true about us, which is why we wouldn't take those spots," he said. "We know it's not accurate about how we approach our news and we didn't feel it was appropriate just to take someone's money. We weren't going to let them take a shot at us that wasn't warranted."

Another example of the media making the story about them, I might add. Wuz'ums wittle feewings hurt? But notice the untruth in that account. The ad never used the phrase "the media is intentionally misleading citizens."

Again, when you have to mischaracterize what your opponent is really saying, it is a sign your own argument is on shaky ground.

In this post, I wondered aloud if the Maureen Dowds of the MSM would attribute absolute moral authority to the families in the one ad, since they lost loved ones in Iraq as did Cindy Sheehan. It goes without saying the unstated answer is of course they won't.

And we're seeing how the Left is reacting. For a bunch that trips all over itself rushing to microphones to proclaim how they support the troops, why do they fight so hard at every opportunity to denigrate what the troops themselves are saying?

In essence, the ads are saying "We are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, it matters to our national security that we fight them there, and the media isn't telling you that." And how does the Left, and the local media, react? By shooting down an argument about a link between Iraq and 9/11 that was never floated in the first place, thereby proving the point the ads are trying to make.

Rob Hubbard, I question your patriotism. Brian Melendez, I question your patriotism.

See also:

They are us, yet they are better than we will ever be
Indeed they are Americans

Andy of Residual Forces wrote a letter to KSTP.

Right Wing Nut House wonders what happened to the Minnesota DFL, the party of Humphrey.

Friday, February 17, 2006

In Search Of... VIII

It's time for another installment of In Search Of... These are some of the more amusing web searches that have stumbled across my blog. (The previous installment is here.)

-what do citizens of indonesia do if they do not like something
-1 jeffry email address in usa 2006 farmers
-stupid terrorist
-what are the failures encountered in the nigerian banking sector and ways to avert them
-can a baby borned in october qualify for income tax
-dainty belmont barber chairs
-2006 executive @ loading arms or swivel joints or floating suction units in bahrain or distributor/dealer
-krazy bosnian and picture
-kouba in lebanon web site
-i want to go to swimming
-how due they live were due they live how due their homes look like
-lesson plan using the cheerios animal playbook
-humvee junk yard in el paso
-2006 email contact of clearing truck in malaysia events
-can i kick my teenager out of the house?
-damon dearing naked theater in phoenix

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Islamic recruiting in Europe

A report by Michael Taarnby entitled Recruitment of Islamist Terrorists in Europe: Trends and Perspectives looked at a process that isn't understand in exquisite detail, the means by which terrorists are recruited into terror networks in Europe. The report was funded by the Danish Ministry of Justice, and was published Januray 14 2005. (It can be viewed here in PDF.)

If you judge by number of arrests, recruiting in Europe is on the rise. In one sense that is puzzling, as the conditions that allowed the 9/11 terrorists to live and planin Hamburg have ceased to exist in the wake of 9/11. Taarnby writes:

A safe haven, a training infrastructure, organisational support, and the integrity needed to prepare a complex terrorist attack have all been dismantled over the past three years.

This development could lead to the assumption that Islamist terrorism has been set back irrevocably. While it is true that the terrorists have been put under considerable pressure, this perspective emphasises the organisational structure of a more or less defunct terrorist organisation and does not take the wider social context into consideration. To simplify the argument, the war on terrorism has notably been successful because Al Qaeda has suffered irretrievable losses. Yet, Islamist terrorism has simultaneously managed to metamorphose into a new threat.

Recruitment certainly existed in Europe before 9/11. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Bosnia in the 1990s required foot soldiers. But Taarnby lists five changes that have transpired since then to transform the nature of recruiting in Europe today.

* The concept of Jihad has devolved into something associated with extreme violence, rather than something to help fellow Muslims

* With increase scruting, recruiting in a Mosque environment has become more difficult.

* The loss of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan forced the terrorists to adapt, and find new ways of training and meeting people.

* Al Qaeda has been significantly weakened since 9/11, and newer ranks of terrorists do not have the ties and experience forged in the earlier successes. Newer networks are more diffuse and dynamic.

* The war in Iraq has been a boon for recruiting in Europe. There has been an increasing number of arrests of terrorists involved in networks sending finances and recruits to Iraq.

One of Taarnby's most interesting points is that the recruitment in Europe is not the result of a focused, top-down approach, but rather results from individual cells and networks developing their own contacts.

The terrorism network analysis undertaken by Marc Sageman has dispelled some prevalent myths about the nature of recruitment to Jihad. His study has revealed the absence of any top-down recruitment: joining the Jihad centres on spontaneously formed groups. Sageman very explicitly states that Al Qaeda never invested much effort into a comprehensive recruitment drive but instead relied on Allah to guide the curious and the dedicated into their fold for further training and indoctrination.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence of a top-down recruitment programme in the global Jihad (Sageman 2004). Somewhat naively, the senior leadership of Al Qaeda expected their vision to be so self-evident that recruits would eventually turn up on the doorstep of the Afghan camps, with a little guidance from their European mentors. This optimism obviously has its roots in an ideology that is only self-evident to the committed insider but it was never rewarded on the anticipated scale. Al Qaeda experienced internal disagreement throughout the 1990s, and the wave of future Mujaheddin never materialised. What did materialise was a small core of very dedicated individuals, so instead of a structured effort it more closely resembled a process in which only the most radical elements joined a terrorist cell. From a conventional organisational perspective the half-hearted recruitment efforts of the past decade cannot be considered a success, yet those who actually joined were fully committed to the cause. This type of non-structured recruitment is very much in place today, and the phenomenon deserves closer scrutiny because it is a critical element in the further development of the Global Jihad.

An interesting study would be to look at whether or not this has changed much in the last year. The rise in recruiting may suggest some more focused efforts. However, as Taarnby writes:

The Global Jihad does not resemble a traditional organisation and there is no point in trying to portray the structure in any kind of organisational diagram. The global Jihad works on quite a different principle, much like that of a social movement defined by a shared ideology and personal interaction. Unlike any other international organisation, the Global Jihad appears to be structured around a number of specific individuals with numerous personal contacts, who through these contacts have the ability to make things happen. These individuals function much like a gatekeeper, since they know the congregations at the radical Mosques, the former Mujaheddin, and active terrorists. While not necessarily conducting terrorist operations themselves, they are able to open the gate to the exclusive community of militant Islamism.

Taarnby goes on at some length on how these gatekeepers develop their recruits. It is usually done in the context of close relationships, often developed through a mosque. The people in these relationships isolate themselves from society, and start to take on a us vs. them mentality.

This pattern of unstructured growth has immense implications. The strength of weak ties makes counterterrorism efforts much more complicated because it is impossible to disrupt an organisational structure that does not exist. Joining as a group appears to be a widespread occurrence in European Islamist circles – the Roubaix gang, the Kelkal group, the Hamburg cell and the members of the 2001 failed embassy plot in Paris are just a few examples of this trend.

Only in this context is the number of militant Islamists residing in Europe of interest. Recruitment to the Jihad is contingent on a pool of candidates of a sufficient size in order to reconstitute itself, to recover from set-backs, and to forge new links.

Taarnby also looks at the type of person being recruited.

As Robert S. Leiken emphasises in a comparative study, the alienated Muslim communities in Europe would appear to be a much more fertile ground for recruitment for radical groups than Muslim communities in the US (Leiken 2004). Through his case studies, Leiken noticed the difference in the level of integration and assimilation between US and French Islamist sleeper cells. Leiken’s analysis resulted in a distinction between two types of candidates of Muslim terrorists, the outsiders and the insiders. The outsiders are the aliens, foreign dissidents, students or asylum seekers, some of whom have sought refuge from anti-Islamic crackdowns in the Middle East or North Africa. The insiders are citizens from the downwardly mobile second-generation immigrants from Muslim countries (Leiken 2004). I am inclined to argue that Leiken’s typology could be augmented by a third type, that of the European convert.

I'll just share Taarnby's thoughts on why second generation Muslims are possible recruits, given that countries like Norway have expressed concern about the threat from their indigenous second generation Muslims.

The reason why second-generation immigrants would be susceptible to recruitment is complex. Arrested terrorists have often been described as seemingly well-integrated, in itself a contradiction in terms. The terrorists were apparently only superficially integrated, and their rejection of society points to a more complex motivation, as witnessed by their deep resentment.

Studies of the French recruits have been helpful in understanding their turn-around. According to Gilles Kepel, they appear to follow a typical trajectory. These young Muslims were all born in Europe and basically tumble into the Islamist circles. The first stage is brainwashing at the hands of a Salafist imam. Later they meet an actual recruiter, who offers to quench their thirst for absolutes through a militant activism. This progression is neither systematic nor inevitable, and often there is a struggle between Salafist imams and the militant Islamists (Kepel 2004). The keyword in Kepel's analysis is tumble, because it is not possible to brainwash someone who is not susceptible. A confused mindset is the mandatory first step. Disillusioned with the society that has excluded them and tired of the empty promises of the official France, second-generation immigrants frequent the Mosque to meet likeminded people. Islam becomes a way to restore their dignity. In the words of Sageman, 'People who are satisfied with life are unlikely to join a religious revivalist terrorist movement'.

If Taarnby is accurate, he has captured why combating the terrorist networks in Europe is difficult. Rather than existing as a dragon with one head, these diffuse networks are more like a Hydra. There is no one head that can be cut off to kill the beast.

Europe is well aware of the threat, and great effort has went into disrupting recruiting efforts.

Last December the European Union adopted an anti-terror strategy that had four areas of focus. One was "prevent new recruits to terrorism."

However, in a sign Europe may still not be prepared to do what it takes to stamp out the terrorist threat in their midst, Swedish justice minister Tomas Bodstrom expressed concern that some might think the strategy was aimed at Muslims.

Swedish justice minister Tomas Bodstrom sought to calm concerns that some parts of the action plan pointed fingers at Muslims as a group, as possible terrorists.

Mr Bodstrom said that as long as the responsible authorities kept repeating that the measures target criminals, and nobody else, it would be obvious that the EU does not wish to accuse any particular religious group.

The Lunatic Left

I may not wait for nuclear war to head to a mountain redoubt and wait for the end. The end may already be near.

The unhinged Left, as Michelle Malkin calls them, have not disappointed in their reaction to the hunting accident involving VP Dick Cheney.

You may be surprised to learn that what actually transpired was not a sad accident involving friends. Instead, the accident was a result of a boozy weekend of adultery. Yes. And if you didn't know that, it's because Cheney's pals in the conservative media are keeping the news from you.

Some chowderhead named RJ Eskow writes this at the Puffington Host:

The real story is already emerging, if you're willing to do a little digging. Cheney and Whittington went hunting with two women (not their wives), there was some drinking, and Whittington wound up shot. Armstrong didn't see the incident but claimed she had, Cheney refused to be questioned by the Sheriff until the next morning, and a born-again evangelical physician has been downplaying Whittington's injuries since they occurrred.
In addition to Cheney and Whittington, the hunting party included Katherine Armstrong (who was in the car at the time of the shooting: more on that later). After lots of evasive comments that only referred to a "third hunter," we now know her identity: Pamela Willeford, the US Ambassador to Switzerland.

Please make sure you are not handling firearms, or directing air traffic, when you read the rest of that piece.

On his radio show Hugh Hewitt spoke with Lawrence O'Donnell about the accident. O'Donnell, who apparently did not have an alien egg beater embedded in his brain, was quite serious in saying Cheney was probably drunk. Radioblogger has the transcript.

HH: Good to have you on. Lawrence O'Donnell, yesterday you posted at the Huffington Post about Dick Cheney, Was Cheney Drunk? Did you come up with the headline by the way?

LO: Yes, I did. That's the first time I've come up with my own headline. I think it was a very simple question that needed to be asked, that now has been asked, and the Vice President's answer is that I had one beer at lunch. When I raised this question, many people thought it was absolutely outrageous to even consider the possibility that Dick Cheney would have any trace of alchohol in his system. We now know that he did, and we have his word that it was one beer. I don't know what his word is worth on this subject. It isn't worth much to me, because he did everything he possibly could to avoid us being able to know the truth about that.

HH: Let me read the two paragraphs from yesterday's post at the Huffington Post. "How do we know there was no alcohol? Cheney refused to talk to local authorities until the next day. No point in giving him a breathalyzer then. Every lawyer I've talked to assumes Cheney was too drunk to talk to the cops after the shooting. The next question for the White House should be, was Cheney drunk? I have never gone hunting with ultra-rich Republicans on a Saturday afternoon, but I have seen them tailgating at Ivy League football games, so it's hard for me to believe that any of their Saturday lunches are alcohol free." Now first off, Larry, did you...what lawyers did you talk to that assumed Cheney was drunk?

There is a dangerous pathology loose in the Left. It goes beyond mere political differences. There is a soulless hatred akin to the animating rage behind the recent demonstrations across the Middle East over cartoons. If you think that is a stretch, take a look at these photos from zombietime. (WARNING, there are some graphic photos in here, including nudity and profanity)

This instant rush to spin conspiracy theories is troubling enough, but I am more concerned about what it means for the future. Is it healthy for this nation to contain within in it a significant portion of the population with such anger and disregard for basic human decency?

Through the media and the entertainment industry, this element influences our culture. With enemies like Iran rising, who will be there to meet them at the gates when the time comes? These young skulls full of mush?

The University of Washington's student senate rejected a memorial for alumnus Gregory "Pappy" Boyington of "Black Sheep Squadron" fame amid concerns a military hero who shot down enemy planes was not the right kind of person to represent the school.

Student senator Jill Edwards, according to minutes of the student government's meeting last week, said she "didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce."
Ashley Miller, another senator, argued "many monuments at UW already commemorate rich white men."

Senate member Karl Smith amended the resolution to eliminate a clause that said Boyington "was credited with destroying 26 enemy aircraft, tying the record for most aircraft destroyed by a pilot in American Uniform," for which he was awarded the Navy Cross.

Smith, according to the minutes, said "the resolution should commend Colonel Boyington's service, not his killing of others."

The Lunatic Left is leeching out of our society what is needed most. A love of country, a love of God, respect, self-control.

If you need me, I'll be somewhere high in the Rockies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

They are us, yet they are better than we will ever be

Midwest Heroes has a new commercial running. It can be viewed here. The latest commercial lets us hear from family members of some who lost their lives in Iraq. It puts faces to the families behind the statistics. For every news report that condenses the heartstopping terror and confusion and exhilaration of combat to a brief notice that a soldier or Marine was killed, there is a family made up of people just like you and me who are left to struggle with the loss.

The people in the commercial speak with dignity and grace. Because they have lost loved ones in Iraq, will the Maureen Dowds of the MSM ascribe absolute moral authority to these families, as she did to Cindy Sheehan?

Merrilee Carlson, the mother of Army Sergeant Michael Carlson, said this:

And thank God there were people like Michael, who would put their lives on the line for the rest of our country and our world.

Joani Kelly, the mother of Marine Lance Corporal Bryan P. Kelly, had this to say:

But we have made progress over there. You can't tell me that Bryan didn't make a difference.

We take so much pride in our soldiers because we know they came from us. They are us. At one point, they were little boys riding bikes through our streets, tossing footballs, swinging out on ropes over slow moving rivers. And then, they volunteered for a job that would put them in harm's way, and this society trained them, took their courage, lit a match to it, and turned them into the most lethal fighting force the world has ever seen. They are Americans, the best of America, and we should care deeply about what happens to them.

Each day they drive out the gates of their forward operating bases, they are patrolling for us. Each firefight, each pursuit, each search, is done on our behalf. We've sent them. If we truly support them, we'd pray fervently for their success, for it is also our success.

The Left is blind to the progress our military has forged in Iraq. As I've written about here, here, here, here, and in many other posts, the progress is there for all to see.

So, before the lions of the media like Nick Coleman spit out their dentures when they see this new commercial, and again condemn it as propaganda (and therefore untrue), here are some more reminders of the progress that is being made in Iraq, little by little, day by day.

From the Feb 13 issue of This Week in Iraq:

Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers were also attacked with a combination of small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire while extracting the weapons cache, but quickly defeated the insurgent attack.
The Iraqi Soldiers performed courageously, employing the proper search techniques while maintaining security throughout the long mission.
Soldiers held the attackers at bay, as a patrol from the 3rd HBCT arrived, killing two of the gunmen. Three Iraqi Soldiers were wounded in the fight and taken to an area hospital.
The coordination and cooperation between the 5th IA Division and the provincial police ensured that the village received the supplies they needed as rapidly as possible. The successful mission shows that the Iraqi Security Forces are capable of helping their fellow Iraqis in their time of need.

In another article,

The Iraqi Army recently planned and executed its first nighttime air-assault operation, resulting in the capture of 19 terrorists who were being trained to conduct attacks on pilgrims participating in the Shiite Muslim holiday of Ashura, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Multi-National Force - Iraq spokesman.

The Iraqi Army is not at a point where most of their forces can operate completely independently, but they are gaining capabilities and taking the lead. The Iraqis still need logistical, artillery, close-air and airlift support from the coalition, but the important thing to note is how much of the land they are controlling, he said. "It's exciting to me that we've reached the point where that much of Iraq is controlled by the people of Iraq," he said.

From Gen. Casey,

The ISF continue to take the lead. In addition to superb security during Ashura, ISF were involved in nearly 70 percent of the missions conducted in January. They are increasingly taking battlespace, too. In September 2005, the Iraqi Army had two brigades and 19 battalions that were leading operations in a few districts of Baghdad and some areas just south of Baghdad.

As of January 2006, the Iraqi Army consisted of two divisions, eight brigades and 37 battalions and provides security for several provinces and portions of other parts of Iraq. In the next month we expect the Iraqi Army to take over even more responsibility across Iraq. The Iraqi Army is not the only one taking on security responsibility. In this "Year of the Police," the Iraqi Police have security responsibilities for parts of Baghdad as well and, like their Iraqi Army counterparts, their responsibility for security will continue to grow.

Iraqis continue to take control of their own space.

The 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division is the latest Iraqi unit to gain control of its own battlespace. The unit commander, Brig. Gen. Ali Mullah, accepted the responsibility of protecting the area, south of Mosul, during a transfer of authority ceremony with a unit from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Saturday. "The terrorists are taking their last breaths and the end is near…there is no place for them [to hide]," Mullah said. His troops now maintain security from Qayyrah to the Mosul-Baghdad highway.

From Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch,

Four months ago across Iraq, only two brigades and 19 battalions controlled battlespace. This is where they owned a piece of Iraq, and they had the lead in counterinsurgency operations.... so there was an area southeast of Baghdad and in portions of Baghdad as well.

Today, two divisions, eight brigades and 37 battalions are now controlled by the Iraqi Security Forces. In green is where they control battlespace. Inside of Baghdad, they continue to control more and more space, to include the Iraqi Police....

So if you can compare those two graphics, what it looked like in September and what it looks like now, you can see significantly improvement on the part of the Iraqi security forces in their ability to control battlespace.

FrRom the Feb 3 issue of Scimitar:

Since Jan.2005, the Mosul Police improved department leadership, and public trust. Training predictions indicate that the Mosul Police Department will have 100 percent of their members academy trained by mid 2007.

The significant progress in security makes improvements in government and the economic sector possible. In Nov. 2005 Coalition Forces started the first Provincial Reconstruction Team in Nineveh Province. The team is composed of civilian and military advisors and subject matter experts to help build the capacity of provincial government to improve areas of governance, economy and rule of law.

The recent success in Mosul over the last year is a testament to the bravery, determination and pride of all Mosul residents and the government officials who lead and serve them.

The Iraqi Army continues to grow,

Twenty-five-year-old Iraqi Army 1st Lt. Hussin, who’s been a Soldier for five years, smiled at the thought of a promising future for Iraq and the hopes of defeating terrorists which plague his country. When asked if he thinks whether the country
will divide or remain together he responded, "Together, but not just Iraq … all of the world."

Despite the presence of insurgents throughout the country, Iraqi Soldiers are hopeful their training will help rebuild a peaceful Iraq. With assistance from Coalition forces, the growing Iraqi Army continues to recruit and train men.

The Army was developed under the Iraq Ministry of Defense after the 400,000-man army of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein was disbanded. The Army is nearly 100,000 troops strong, but the goal is to have 135,000 properly trained Soldiers.
Confident in their training, the two Iraqi instructors are proud to don their uniforms, although they fear for their lives. "There are too many terrorists out there, but we don’t care," said Hussin. "It is our duty and we have to work on that. This is my country. If I don’t fight for it no one will."

There are rebuilding efforts all over Iraq,

Marines assigned to the 6th Civil Affairs Group, 2nd Marine Division, prove there is another side of the story to tell as they continue to carry out their missions within Al Anbar province, the largest province in Iraq.

"The stories that we don’t hear enough about – the good news stories about making lives better and a nation stronger – that’s what the civil affairs Marines do every day in Iraq," said Col. Paul Brier, commanding officer, 6th CAG.

The group arrived in September to help rebuild the infrastructure and assist in facilitating the transition into a self-governing people.

"We’re helping the people of Iraq, and I honestly believe it’s come a long way from
where we were," said Sgt. Richard F. Litto, team chief, Team 3, Detachment 4, 6th CAG. "Schools have been built, roads are being repaired, water supplies are coming back into the neighborhoods, and people are actually smiling at us. That’s pretty good."

Medical care and aid are being given,

From July 2005, in terms of humitarian missions, Polish Soldiers distributed to Iraqi 1,500 school items, more than 1,500 pounds of food, more than 2,000 shoes, nearly 3,800 pounds of clothes, 12,000 toys, and 9,700 pounds of hygiene products.
The care and hard work the medics put into the small community clinic has not gone unnoticed. It is a continuation of the work they did in south Baghdad. Many of the sheiks and tribal leaders from Mahmudiyah, Yusifiyah and Lutifiyah have visited the
108th Armor Regt.’s battalion commander.

"Our commitment is to leave our area of operation better than we found it," said Lt.
Col. John King, commander of the 108th Armor Regiment. "Being a good neighbor and taking care of them is security for the Iraqi people. They are perplexed as to why we do what we do and ask nothing in return. We are happy simply to do the job that
the Army pays us to do and the Soldiers seem really excited about doing something

The families of the fallen know all too well what their loved ones paid for. To Joani Kelly and all of the families, we can say with confidence progress is being made, and we do thank God for each and every one who serves.

It's not too difficult to find heroes. Wherever someone is standing up to killers, terrorists, torturers, brutes, wherever someone is fighting oppression, and bringing hope to the dark places, you'll find heroes. Thank you, Progress for America, for reminding us of our heroes.

Spinning up

Iran has put another card on the table in this high stakes game over its nuclear program.

Iran has begun feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at its pilot nuclear fuel enrichment facility at Natanz, an official close to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday.

He said International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors had observed Iranian scientists putting UF6 gas into a "very small number" of centrifuges, machines that can turn uranium into fuel for nuclear reactors or, if enriched to high levels, atomic bombs.

The head of Iran's atomic program, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said the enrichment begun at Natanz was on a "small and laboratory scale," the ISNA students news agency reported soon after.

"Injecting gas into one or a few centrifuges could not be termed enrichment," he was quoted as saying.

If Iran is letting the IAEA see this operation, I would bet good money Iran isn't feeding UF6 into just a "very small number" of centrifuges. Surely there are centrifuges spinning away in some clandestine location.

And aside from Iran's enrichment program, nobody knows for sure how much nuclear material Iran has received from outside sources such as Pakistan and North Korea.

Iran is not in a cooperative mood. Iran is not genuinely trying to assuage the fears of the world community. By letting the IAEA see this, Iran is sending another message. The message is "Here's what we can do, we are enriching uranium, and surely you don't think we just let you see our entire operation."

Over at Winds of Change, Trent Telenko has analysis that is sobering if accurate.

We are now in a fast count-down to Iran’s first nuclear test. The only issues left are:

1) When it will take place, and
2) What kind of nuke will be used.

If Iran’s nuclear test happens this spring, the device will be a plutonium-fueled, implosion triggered, bomb of North Korean design and fissile material. If the test happens in the fall, there will probably be two devices - one each of each of Plutonium and Enriched Uranium. The plutonium bomb will be North Korean and the enriched uranium bomb will have a mix of Iranian fissionables and “world market pre-enriched” uranium feed stock. In either case the Iranian test sites will be infested with North Korean technicians – North Korea’s nukes will be tested in Iran to give China plausible deniability concerning its role in these matters.

Tom Holsinger, in his The Case for Invading Iran, and Rafi Eitan (former Israeli Intelligence chief) in a Jerusalem Post article, both contend Iran possesses operational nuclear devices today.
Tom Holsinger contended that Iran would delay its first nuclear tests until it had backfilled a complete nuclear weapons production line, from unprocessed uranium, to fissionables being cooked at every stage, and to finished weapons-grade fissionables being fabricated into weapons. But Iran doesn’t have to wait that long. It would be prudent to do so, but it doesn’t have to wait if it already has some working nuclear weapons made with North Korean materials and assistance.

At Threats Watch, Steve Schippert points out what should have been abundantly obvious to European diplomats all along.

News surfaces that Iran has also concurrently delayed talks on the Russian Proposal.

The moves coincide logically and serve as proof to the assertion that any suggestion by Iran in the past that they were interested in discussing the Russian Proposal (with or without Chinese participation) were disingenuous stalls for time. Iranian claims of interest in the proposal, as with other claims of interest in talks and negotiation, were nothing more than an attempts at delay and buying time, usually when it appeared the West was throwing its hands in the air intimating that it had done all it could do to resolve the situation through negotiation. Each time, Iran would suddenly make frustratingly well-received gestures that they were once again interested in a ‘peaceful resolution’.

Iran is effectively demonstrating today what it has insisted all along: That it will only accept enrichment on its own soil under its own control and that enrichment is seen as its right.

Steve also highlights what is currently known about Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Iranian indigenous nuclear fuel cycle begins at uranium mines in Yazd and Gachin, where the ore is also milled and converted to yellowcake. The yellowcake then needs to be converted from its yellow solid state into a more concentrated white solid form called UH6, or uranium hexafluoride. This is the primary purpose of the Isfahan nuclear facility. The UH6 is then taken to the enrichment facility (Natanz), where it is superheated and transformed into a gas state and fed into the centrifuges and further concentrated (enriched). Further enrichment (and separation) would eventually take place to create highly enriched uranium (weapons grade), and eventually this could include using Iran’s Arak heavy water plant. The plant is still under construction and Iran tried to keep it secret. The heavy water plant will be capable of not only producing highly enriched uranium, but also plutonium, from the otherwise ‘spent fuel’ byproduct of the enrichment process. This is the most important aspect of the Russian Proposal, which reports often under-emphasize, preferring to focus on the original UH6 enrichment rather than the return of the spent fuel.

When a threatening individual is moving at you rapidly with a knife, the wisest course of action is not to actually let him stab you to ascertain if the man intends to stab you.

The knife is in Iran's hand. Iran is moving towards possessing nuclear weapons. Are we truly prepared to let Iran gain nuclear weapons and then just hope Iran, the world's chief supporter of terrorism, really isn't as dangerous as it seems?

Tick, tick, tick...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity

The White House Press Corps has been in high dudgeon over the most regrettable hunting accident involving Vice President Cheney.

The majority of Americans understand that this was an accident, it happened during a private excursion involving friends, and while informing the public earlier wouldn't have hurt anything, sober adults realize that the Republic is not going to fall over this issue.

Yet, the White House Press Corps have been chomping away at Press Secretary Scott McClellan's ankles. Soon his femurs will be mere stumps.

A press briefing on February 9 involved some of most important issues of the day. The NSA surveillance program, Iraq, Darfur, India, the Iranian nuclear program.

Yet, Monday, after the news came out over the weekend, here's the very first question from Monday's press briefing.

That's all I've got to begin with, so I'll be glad to go to your questions. Terry.

Q Scott, do you think that the shooting accident involving the Vice President on Saturday should have been disclosed to the public on Saturday?

Tha press conference went on for about 6,000 words on the Cheney incident. Then, the attack puppies in the press corps deigned to devote 1,200 words to other matters of the day, before coming right back to the Cheney incident. The press conference finished up with a few hammer blows over Hurricane Katrina.

Today, Tuesday. The press corps, having got it out of their system, went back to the serious matters of the day, right? Ahem.

Right out of the chute, the press went to the Cheney incident.

The first part of the conference devoted about 1,800 words to the hunting accident and the White House reponse.

There were two questions on other matters, before coming back to Cheney. For the remainder of the press conference there were questions about other matters, with questions about Cheney mixed in throughout.

The Democrats on the Hill have been no better.

Asked at a press conference for her reaction about how the White House has handled the incident, US Senator Hillary Clinton called the Bush administration's failure to be more forthcoming "troubling."

"A tendency of this administration -- from the top all the way to the bottom -- is to withhold information ... to refuse to be forthcoming about information that is of significance and relevance to the jobs that all of you do, and the interests of the American people," Clinton said.

"Putting it all together, going back years now, there's a pattern and it's a pattern that should be troubling," she said at a press conference calling for a more robust federal response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The former first lady continued: "The refusal of this administration to level with the American people on matters large and small is very disturbing, because it goes counter to the way our constitutional democracy ... is supposed to work."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid at a press conference Tuesday said the secretive tendency goes beyond Cheney, pervading the entire Bush White House.

"I think the reason it took the vice president a day to talk about this is part of the secretive nature of this administration," the top Senate Democrat said. "They keep things pretty close to the chest."

"I think it's time the American people heard from the vice president, in a real meeting just like we're having here," said Reid, who called the George W. Bush presidency "the most secretive administration in modern history."

"In the last many, many decades, there's no administration more secretive than this," he said.

Have the Democrats stopped hiring political consultants? Is no one telling them how foolish they look to the American public in flogging a story the American public understand is just a sad accident?

How petty and snide they look in using this an accident as "proof" the Bush Administration would bulldoze our civil rights into a pit if they could?

I'll say it again. Go ahead, Dhimmicrats. Keep trying to figure out why the American people do not trust you on serious matters like our national security.

Here's some advice. Have a level-headed, measured response to accidents like this. Act like adults who understand the emotions involved when someonce accidentally wings a friend, and you'll be amazed at how much more willing people are to look to you for guidance on matters that truly require cool heads.

Tony Blankley holds up a mirror to the MSM, and it's a wonder it doesn't crack.

Embracing India

On Monday Real Clear Politics had an excellent article by Parag Khanna and C. Raja Mohan entitled Getting India Right.

The authors argue at some length that India could be a key US ally in the region, if the US handles the relationship right.

When viewed through the prism of geopolitical shifts, however, Indo-U.S. alignment is if anything long overdue. American military and diplomatic movements from the Middle East through Central Asia to the Pacific Rim are in a state of flux for reasons ranging from the Iraqi insurgency to the Iranian nuclear crisis to the rise of vocal new regional institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and East Asian Community. Asia, where two-thirds of the world’s population resides, is the new geopolitical stage. It is the principal source of the global power shift and will also face most of the political consequences. Yet the constantly shifting loyalties and alliance patterns in Asia confound both historians and experts in geometry. There is the patron-client dyad from Beijing to Islamabad, routine Russian-Chinese-Indian summitry with declarations affirming the need for multipolairty, joint Russo-Japanese and Sino-Russian military maneuvers, talk of a three-cornered nuclear calculus in the U.S.-China-India triangle, and America’s attempt to transcend its historical “tilting” between India and Pakistan. The only clear inference from these asymmetrical configurations is that most Asian states continue to subscribe to an adage common to their cultures: to be polite especially to one’s enemies.

India views itself as an important power in its own right, and would not react well to being taken for granted. India also has other security concerns in the region to balance against close ties to the US. Iran and Pakistan come to mind.

China, however, may be the chief rival for India in the region.

China presents the biggest geopolitical test for both the U.S. and India, and relations with China have always been more decisive for the making of Indian foreign policy than the U.S. has appreciated. Though China currently views Russia, Japan, and India as peer competitors, it seeks to be second to none. After the 1950s-era fraternal mantra of "Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai," India suffered a humiliating military defeat at China’s hands during their 1962 border clashes, ceding the Aksai Chin region of the Himalayas (though it remains disputed still). A 20-year cold war ensued with the glacial process of normalization hampered by the upswing in New Delhi-Moscow relations after the Sino-Soviet split, as well as China’s broadening relations with Pakistan.

Chinese defense ministry white papers do not refer to South Asia as a region of strategic interest, but China’s accelerating effort to build a sphere of influence in Central Asia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) make it a de facto part of India’s calculus as it seeks to capitalize on a stabilizing Afghanistan to improve trade ties with post-Soviet nations. Furthermore, India feels increasingly encircled by Chinese naval activity in the Bay of Bengal, both through its client Burma and through its massive investment in deepening the Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Sindh province. Despite its current limited resources, India has been determined to engage in quiet competition with China in Southeast Asia even as the region is increasingly drawn towards Beijing. Whether it is growing political cooperation with Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan or deeper involvement in Burma, India will not simply cede primacy to China in Asia. Chinese efforts to keep India out of the core group directing the creation of an East Asian Community and Beijing’s attempts to undercut India’s primacy in South Asia will remain important spurs to a complex Indian engagement with China.

As China builds up its defense capabilities, and works worldwide to secure petroleum sources, there is a growing edge to relations with the US. This rivalry will play out in Inda, as the US and China each seek to draw India closer, or at least away from the other.

There are other issues addressed in the article, so do read it. India experiences terrorism attacks itself, and with terrorism increasing in neighboring Bangladesh, the usual problems with Pakistand, Jammu and Kashmir, and the troubles with the Maoists in neighboring Nepal, India could be a natural ally in the war on terror.

India is so much more than call centers and software development. We in the United States should be mindful of India's importance to us.

President Bush will be travelling to India, as well as Pakistan, at the beginning of March. Secretary of State Rice will be going with. Certainly the agreement reached last July will be front and center, as will the question of Iran before the UN Security Council. Such high level talks are key to mapping out strategic relationships for the uncertain future.

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Michelle Malkin on the Winds of War Briefing C.S. Scott of Security Watchtower and I do every Monday...

Winds of Change has the Monday Winds of War, an invaluable weekly round-up of news and developments in the global War on Terror.

24 Day 5 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

I see my reflection in the TV screen. It is the graphic violence warning. I am seeing my dark soul as it really is.

In the Previously on LA Laws, we see Logan harping about the "weaponized" nerve gas. Again, I'm curious, is there any other kind? Is nerve gas being used as anesthesia somewhere? And, the White House continues to mull over how long they can keep secret the death of the Chief of Staff. I'm thinking after, oh, two months of "Walt's in a meeting", the press is going to get suspicious.

As the hour begins, Samwise is disheveled, and hurriedly trying to get sheveled. He looks like he just returned from the john. Trying to get his shirt tucked in, etc... I hope he got all the blood wiped off. I wonder though, he must have walked back into the building past all those layers of CTU Security like that. Didn't anyone wonder why the highest ranking official in the building looked like he had met the business end of a speeding locomotive? Maybe the guards at the door just figured Samwise had run across the street to the parking lot for a quick little rnnh-nnh and a little rnnh-nnh, and his personal life was none of their business.

Samwise is obviously still a bit addled, because Bill tells him Rossler is dead, and instead of exploding in disbelief that their only link to the nerve gas, excuse me, weaponized nerve gas that could kill hundreds of thousands is dead, being alive only minutes before, Samwise just acts like oh, spot of bad luck, eh what, what's Plan B?

We hear that Yellow Tie has been contacting sleeper cells, trying to drum up some assistance for his "Gas Across America" plan. We hear about the 24-favorite "chatter". Two things though. How in the bleep do they know Yellow Tie has been contacting sleeper cells? Are they listening in on his phone? And how does CTU know they are sleeper cells? I would think CTU would consider this a small problem if there are unknown terrorist cells operating in the US. Marwan practically had an army last season, and he nearly reduced the US to molten nuclear slag. News that there are still terrorists out there might be worrisome.

Yellow Tie calls, and Jack does the old "short answer low voice" trick to pretend he's Rossler. Jack/Rossler (hey, Westminster started Monday night, let's hear it for the Jack Rossler terriers!) is to go to a parking garage at White Oak and Mattison. Ah, 24 never tires of using parking garages for locales. When Yellow Tie hangs up, the krazy kaptions say "(dial tone)", but we don't hear anything. Sack the Foley guy!

Jack uses logic-fu and says that he can pass for Rossler, because Yellow Tie and Rossler must not know each other because Yellow Tie said to watch for a blue van. Uhhhh, that's a pretty thin strand from which to hang your life, Jack. Does Jack think if they knew each other they'd sit around chatting "How are the kids, Rossler? Oh, fine, how's that blue van of yours, Erwich?"

I also want to stop and review the logic of giving the chip to the terrorists. The terrorists need it to release the nerve gas. Isn't the equation here no chip=no release of nerve gas? Why make it easier for the bad guys to gas Americans? (As we've seen over the last couple months, Russia has a thing for turning off the gas. I guess these Russian separatists have the opposite philosophy. Turn the gas on!)

Bill says that Jack will need Chloe and Edgar to "tech support him through the installation of the chip." Oh, there's a gold mine of material there.

"Ok, Chloe, walk me through the installation of the chip."
"Sure, Jack. My name is Chloe. This call may be monitored for quality. First, is your computer turned on?"
"Is your computer plugged in and turned on?"
"I'm installing a chip in a detonator!"
"Sorry, let me bring that up. Here we go. Is your detonator turned on?"

We're reminded that the chip is useless without the correct unlock code. Which reminds me, just who has that code? We haven't been told that. If Rossler had it, aren't they all pretty much hosed?

Polakov and Romar are dispatched in the blue van. Still no other employees or customers at the metal shop.

Some guy with the worst Russian accent ever is working on an alternative way to release the nerve gas. Sounds like a high school theater production of Dr. Zhivago. And isn't it a bit risky to be poking around in the guts of a nerve gas cylinder experimenting with things?

Back at the presidential retreat, Mike schemes about the Walt problem, wondering if the public really needs to know about his treachery. Yeah, like that kind of thing would stay secret.

Evelyn goes in to see the First Lady. The krazy kaptions say Evelyn "(clears throat)", but we don't hear anything. Did they fire the sound guys this week?

Evelyn asks the First Cleavage "Can I ask your advice on something?" and then proceeds to ask "Why did Walt kill himself?" Okaaay, good question, Evelyn, but what kind of advice do you want? Martha tells Evelyn Walt was a traitor.

Back at the parking garage, Curtis helpfully informs CTU that the blue van's license plate is six-Quebec-four-nine-nine-five-one. Quebec?

This parking garage looks like the Guggenheim museum.

Jack is in contact with CTU through an earpiece. With the sound guys missing this episode, Jack better hope the inexperienced intern running the thing doesn't create a high-pitched feedback squeal and alert to the baddies to the earpiece.

CTU immediately zens that the license plate doesn't match the van. See, that's just the kind of thing Rossler would know if he knew Yellow Tie.

Chloe has got the schematics of the detonator up already? Huh? How? Is thing a standard issue detonator from WMDs R' Us?

Jack exchanges pleasantries with the baddies, and Chloe starts to tech support Jack through the installation of the chip.

"Ok, Jack. Did you back up everything on your hard drive first?"
"What?" (I can't help myself. You'll be proud I refrained from any India jokes.)

Jack gets the chip in, but the baddies say Jack/Rossler is going with them to make sure it works. Jack protests, and the baddies beat him up and toss him into the van. The krazy kaptions say "blows thudding". This really throws CTU for a triple toe loop. Audrey goes into a sit spin.

Why did the baddies feel it was necessary to beat Rossler up? He's their fellow terrorist buddy, isn't he?

Back at CTU, the team wonders what to do now, with Jack being taken captive. Audrey is coming up with plans? Why is a DoD liaison running a CTU operation?

Going to commercial break, the clocks are at :13 to :13, but coming back, the universe winks out, and the clocks are at :18 to :16. I hope a Balrog didn't just slip through the space-time continuum into our universe. Samwise already has his hands full.

Martha finds out she's lost her head speechwriter job she just got minutes before, as she reads a press release saying Walt was apple pie and John Wayne all rolled into one. She is nonplussed. She goes to have it out with Logan. Mike really really wants to "wait outside". But Martha barks at Mike "your fingerprints are on this."

RunLoganRun barks right back. "I am the President!" Yeah, only because Air Farce One was shot down. Martha barks right back (I'm trying to be subtle with the Westminster theme) "Charles, you're dead wrong." I suppose after slapping the President, telling him he's dead wrong isn't that big a deal.

Walt's wife will be there soon. Martha will talk to her, and do the right thing. Because Martha is all about doing the right thing.

Curtis is going west on Nordhoff, passing Sepulveda. CTU has Jack on satellite. Whoa, how did they get that? Did Chloe retask one? Took her purt'near a half hour to do that last season. Technology must have improved since then.

The baddies are headed for the Sunrise Hills Mall. Sounds more like the name of a nursing home. Curtis talks to his mythical "other teams". I have yet to see more than one other vehicle, or more than a couple guys.

Again, Audrey is trying to run things. Shouldn't an actual CTU employee be making tactical decisions? Isn't she supposed to be getting Kim to CTU or something?

And again Lynn is content to tell everyone to hold off, and let the baddies go to the mall with the gas cylinder. Lynn wants the rest of the cylinders.

Holy crikey, Lynn wants to let the baddies gas everyone in the mall! The logic being the baddies will then return to Yellow Tie, and CTU can find out where the rest of the cylinders are.

At this point I'm a little confused. They put a transponder in the chip precisely so it could be tracked. Nobody seems to remember this crucial detail. They're all worried about how they can follow the terrorists.

Clocks are at :29 to :27.

Chloe has hacked into the mall's video system. Nicely done, but, a short time ago she needed Spenser Wolff-ff-ff to hack into Rossler's video system. Because he was the best hacker alive and not even lumpy Edgar could do it. So why was this one so easy? It's good that in the middle of her total eclipse of the heart, Chloe can soldier on and do Spenser's job, even though it must bring back all kinds of painful memories.

Ah, we see a group of kids with balloons. Nothing like kids in danger to make us fall to our knees and scream at the tv "Come on Jack!"

As we the kids, a balloon floats up and the krazy kaptions say "cha cha cha!" with notes to indicate music. Huh? We hear nothing. I'm really worried about the sound guys. Are they ill? Kidnapped by aliens?

The baddies waltz into the security/utility room at the mall cleverly disguised as HPAC repairmen, and a security guard asks for their paperwork. It's a wonder the baddie didn't say "I got your paperwork right here!" when he shot the poor guard.

The baddie says to Jack "Throw me the bag!" Jack says "Throw me the whip!" The baddie says "Throw me the bag and I throw you the whip!" Jack throws the bag. The baddie says "Adios, Dr. Jack."

CTU has to ask the President for his permission to gas the children at the mall. Logan's decision would be easier if the kids were a bunch of punk skateboarders, but since they're cute kids, it's a tough call.

Logan says "Yes?", but the krazy kaptions have him saying "Go ahead"

Lynn goes through the entire cast list for Logan, but leaves out the two unknown flunkies who had been in the conference room. Where'd they go? Lynn says there's no guarantee the baddies will lead them back to the cylinder. Again, what about the transponder?!

Logan, in one of his rare endearing moments, says to Lynn "Are you out of your mind?" (But maybe he's thinking to himself, this way my Jack/China problem goes away.)

Lynn says nobody would ever have to know about this, it would be a covert decision. Another display of stupidity. Like the President giving the go ahead for nerve gas, excuse me, weaponized nerve gas to be released in a mall would remain a secret. All it takes is one Democrat working at CTU to leak it to the press and the game is up for Republican Logan.

Logan immediately returns to jellyfish form. He tries to punt and put the decision on CTU. Mike is no help, he just says it's Logan's call.

Back at the utility/security room, the baddie asks Jack/Rossler for the unlock code. Ah, so now we see the flaw in this little plan.

Wait! Bill says the code is alpha-kilo-charlie!! How did he know that?

(AKC is the initials of the American Kennel Club! Westminster again, bada-bing!)

And isn't the fact the baddies don't know the code some leverage here?

Jack is not a kid-gasser though, and gives the baddies the wrong code. At CTU they're just looking at camera coverage of the mall itself. Aren't there any cameras in the security room?

Lynn is practically foaming at the mouth (sorry) and ordering Jack to release the gas. Kill those kids, Jack! Kill them! I order it! Mmwwwoooh--hhhaaaa-hhaaaaa!

Jack is bashed over the head for being obstinate about the whole correct code thing. Clocks are at :41 to :39

Jack shakes off the severe blow to the head and comes around. The baddies and the guy with the horrible Russian accent are discussing another way to release the gas. Bad accent guy is going through a long spiel of technobabble, and the krazy kaptions don't print a word of it. I feel sorry for hearing impaired people watching this. They ain't gonna have any idea what's going on.

Audrey tries to take a pound of flesh out of Lynn, which wouldn't be too hard a task, I guess, but Lynn stands firm. The kids must die.

The other HPAC repairman baddie is told to kill Jack. But darn the luck, he gets too close to Jack who uses CTU-fu and dispatches the baddie.

The other bad guy immediately executes a 360 Air to Fakie and runs out.

The gas is released. Jack gets a gas mask on and gets himself unlocked from the pipe to which he is chained.

Jack goes running out and accosts some guy in a suit who has no visible id. In a spectacularly right guess, Jack zens he is not someone who works in a women's shoe store, but is in fact a mall employee.

Jack tells the employee the bad news. Three times Jack refers to the "ventilation system", but three times the krazy kaptions say "air system." The mall guy orders a "Red Alert". Ha, who knew shopping malls have Red Alerts. But where's the flashing red lights and blaring klaxon? (Who was Mall Guy talking to anyway, if the guy in the security office was dead?)

We see the nice orderly evacuation quickly turn into something out of Airplane. Or Night of the Living Dead.

Logan chews out Lynn for making such a hash of things. This just isn't Lynn's day is it.

Jack tells Curtis to go after the escaping bad guy.

A number of people in the food court area are dropping from the gas. Must have had some bad tacos. A little girl is affected by the gas. Jack gives her his mask. Will that help at this point, though?

Curtis comes running in, he orders his "teams" to inject anyone who is down and get the people out as soon as possible. Uh, Curtis? Weren't you just ordered to go after the terrorist?

The girl needs a shot of atropine, and Jack, being a former heroin addict, does quick work with the needle.

Why did they just happen to have atropine with them? Were they planning on dealing with a sudden release of gas? This was just supposed to be a quick trip to a parking garage.

No visual on the bad guy. Did anyone think to go watch the blue van?

Ah, finally, Jack remembers there is a tracking device on the chip. Clocks are at :48 to :45.

Jack says to the little girl, don't be scared, this big stranger in full combat gear looming over you will take care of you.

The baddie bashes his way into a car, and fortunately there were already some loose wires under the dash all ready for hotwiring.

Clocks are at :53 to :50.

The bad guy calls Yellow Tie. Luckily Erwich was not in the middle of chattering with sleeper cells, and takes the call.

Suzanne, former Wife of Walt, arrives. Why is she in LA anyway? This was a road trip for the White House. Why isn't she in DC? Martha goes to speak to her. Logan lurks and eavesdrops outside. Martha caves in, and merely says Walt loved his country. Logan tries to crow about Martha's failure of nerve, but she brushed past him, hating herself for not doing the right thing. Though, of course, maybe she just did do the right thing, in an interesting little moral and ethical problem.

CTU tracks the baddie (with the transponder!) to 1136 East Muldauer. Which is just off of West Scully.

Lynn tells Curtis to set up a perimeter. Curtis just says screw you hobbit, and says "We're moving in", skipping right past that whole perimeter setting up thing.

Yellow Tie is watching all this across the street. He says to the baddie in the still empty metal shop "You know what you must do." And the baddie promptly caps himself in the head. Now there's a dedicated employee.

Say, what happened to the big white semi the baddies drove up in?

Inside the shop, Curtis says "Air is clean!" and takes off his mask. But, the krazy kaptions have him saying "Erwich's gone". Again, some poor hearing impaired person is going to be very confused.

Erwich and what remains of his team drive off in some pickup. Where'd that come from?

CTU can only stand amid the rubble of their plan as the hour comes to a close.

Guest critic Paul Foth won't be joining us this week. He dashed over to the mall on his lunch hour for a quick nosh, and got caught in the middle of a rock and roll attack. A few shots of atropine jammed directly into his heart and he'll be as right as rain next week.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 9
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 16
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 11
Number of moles: 2
Approximate Body Count: 33 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 10-20 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning))

<-1:00 PM - 2:00 PM 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ->

Monday, February 13, 2006

Time to question their patriotism again

At the Jeddah Economic Forum over the weekend, Al Gore continued his journey to the dark side, and flayed his own country while in a country that funds terrorism and gave the world the virulent Wahhabi ideology.

Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

Tigerhawk says this about Gore's rant:

There is simply no defense for what Gore has done here, for he is deliberately undermining the United States during a time of war, in a part of the world crucial to our success in that war, in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections. Gore's speech is both destructive and disloyal, not because of its content -- which is as silly as it is subversive -- but because of its location and its intended audience. He should be ashamed. But he won't be. The leadership of the Democratic party should disavow Gore's Jiddah speech. But it won't.

I assume when Gore is referring to the thoughtless ways visas are handled, he means he'd like to return to the pre 9/11 days, when 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were issued visas in Saudi Arabia. According to Joel Mowbray, most of them should have been denied. For example,

Even to the untrained eye, it is easy to see why many of the visas should have been denied. Consider, for example, the U.S. destinations most of them listed. Only one of the 15 provided an actual address — and that was only because his first application was refused — and the rest listed only general locations — including "California," "New York," "Hotel D.C.," and "Hotel." One terrorist amazingly listed his U.S. destination as simply "No." Even more amazingly, he got a visa.
Brothers Wail and Waleed al-Shehri applied together for travel visas on October 24, 2000. Wail claimed his occupation was "teater," while his brother wrote "student." Both listed the name and address of his respective employer or school as simply "South City." Each also declared a U.S. destination of "Wasantwn." But what should have further raised a consular officer's eyebrows is the fact that a student and his nominally employed brother were going to go on a four-to-six-month vacation, paid for by Wail's "teater" salary, which he presumably would be foregoing while in the United States. Even assuming very frugal accommodations, such a trip for two people would run north of $15,000, yet there is no indication that the consular officer even attempted to determine that Wail in fact had the financial means to fund the planned excursion. They appear to have received their visas the same day they applied.
On June 18, 2001, Abdulaziz Alomari filled out a simple, two-page application for a visa to come to the United States. Alomari was not exactly the ideal candidate for a visa. He claimed to be a student, though he left blank the space for the name and address of his school. He checked the box claiming he was married, yet he left blank the area where he should have put the name of his spouse. Although he claimed to be a student, he marked on his form that he would self-finance a two-month stay at the "JKK Whyndham Hotel" — and provided no proof, as required under law, that he could actually do so.

Despite the legal requirement that a visa applicant show strong roots in his home country (to give him or her a reason to come back from America), Alomari listed his home address as the "ALQUDOS HTL JED" (a hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia). Alomari didn't even bother filling in the fields asking for his nationality and gender, apparently realizing that he didn't need to list much more than his name to get a visa to the United States. As it turns out, he didn't. He got his visa.

Those mean, wascly Amewicans, making it harder for sweet Saudis to enter the US.

Al Gore was nearly the President of the United States. And he's decrying efforts to make it harder for terrorists to get into the US. Go ahead, Dhimmicrats. Keep trying to figure out why a majority of Americans don't trust you on national security.

Al Gore, I question your patriotism.

(As a side note, at this same Jeddah Economic Forum, Gerhard Schroeder, former German chancellor, said this:

The Jeddah Economic Forum opened with an appeal by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for Europeans to show more sensitivity to the beliefs of Muslims and with Saudi calls for homegrown democratic change.

Schroeder's call was linked to the row raging around the world over the printing of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed(S), which Muslims consider as blasphemous. "European integration is built upon the foundation of respect of other cultures, tolerance and the recognition of diversity," Schroeder told the seventh annual edition of the forum, whose theme is: "Honoring Identity and Celebrating common grounds."

He's German, so I guess I can't question his patriotism, even though he is on the payroll of the guy who just invited the terrorist outfit Hamas to Moscow for a chitchat normally reserved for legitimate organizations.)

Closer to home, Strib columnist Nick Coleman laid into a wonderful commercial currently airing on national networks.

I about fell out of my chair the first time I saw the commercial. I wondered how it ever got by the network poobahs. The commerical features three men who have served in Iraq, and offers unabashed support for the mission in Iraq. (See Power Line's excellent description of the commercial here.)

You can see the commercial at the website for Progress for America.

Power Line does an excellent job summarizing the message, and Coleman's response to it. I wanted to highlight a couple excerpts, though.

But for those devoted to political spin more than truth, there was a positive development in the war, a development which, oddly, took place on TV sets in Minnesota.
Be warned: Despite the patriotic music, the flags and the burning Twin Towers, these ads aimed at Minnesota's heartstrings are not about supporting the troops.

I see. A commerical that does not follow the MSM party line that we are one rickshaw bomb away from the darkest days of Vietnam is "political spin." An effort to inform the American public that progress is indeed being made is propaganda, and not about supporting the troops. Nick, I invite you to go back and read this blog's archives since last August, and then tell me again how progress is not being made in Iraq.

Go ahead, Strib. Keep trying to figure out why people are cancelling their subscriptions.

Nick Coleman, I question your patriotism.

Michelle Malkin wonders how much Al Gore was paid.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* A new Taliban movement has taken control in a swath of neighboring Pakistan. Taliban militants control much of Waziristan, a rocky, mountainous area twice the size of Long Island along the Pakistani border. Despite a heavy presence of Pakistani troops, Waziristan has become the largest and most protected sanctuary for Islamic militant guerrillas in the Afghan-Pakistani theater of the war on terror.

* In a speech marking the 27th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the west and Israel over the Danish cartoon controversy, saying "the people of the U.S. and Europe should pay a heavy price for becoming hostages to Zionists."

* In Turkey, al Qaeda operative Loa'i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa was charged with masterminding a series of bombings in Istanbul in 2003, killing 58 people. Al Saqa was captured in August 2005 while plotting attacks on Israel cruise ships.

* Iran is prepared to launch attacks using long-range missiles, secret commando units, and terrorist allies planted around the globe in retaliation for any strike on the country's nuclear facilities, according to new US intelligence assessments and military specialists.

Other topics today include: al Qaeda escape in Yemen; Khaddam says Damascus regime to collapse; the Iranian-western conflict; al Saqa charged in Turkey; Iran could pull out of NPT; al Qaeda in Lebanon; Egyptian official kidnapped in Gaza; the Hamas-Israeli conflict; security measures in West Bank; Lodi case prosecutors release documents and tapes; al Qaeda in Virginia seeks legal review; American arrested in al Qaeda sting; UAE to take over port operations in US; al Qaeda member charged in Boston; Alaska pipeline security; militants in Trinidad; Firefight in Russia; Putin and Hamas; Georgia arrests Russians; Russian anti-terror units in Ingushetia; Russian prosecutor wants death for Beslan suspect; Shootout in Chechnya; Training Afghan army; IEDs in Afghanistan; Burning down schools in Afghanistan; Taliban recruiting video; Threat from Waziristan; Sectarian fighting in Pakistan; Violence in Nepal; Raids in Japan; Threats against Danish; US forces in Philippines; European cartoon controversy; al Qaeda in South Africa; US Special forces in Africa; al Qaeda in East Africa; Kenyan bomb plot; Protests in Bangladesh; NATO meeting in Italy; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Authorities believe it is likely that among the escaped al Qaeda members in Yemen last week was Jaber Elbaneh, an American citizen wanted in the United States for providing material support to al Qaeda. Elbaneh trained at the al-Farooq terror camp in Afghanistan, along side six others known as the "Lackawanna Six".

* Newsweek has an article this week titled "The Tunnel Rats of Terror" that details the al Qaeda escape in Yemen recently.

* Hamas has decided to name Ismail Haniyeh prime minister in the new Palestinian Authority government, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported Saturday. However, Sheikh Yasser Mansour, number five on the Hamas national electoral list, told The Jerusalem Post that "there has been no official decision to name Haniyeh prime minister."

* Former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam is certain the current regime in Damascus will collapse and Syria will see a move to democracy this year. On Saturday the regime reshuffled their cabinet.

* Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami warned on Saturday that world oil prices would rise if the United Nations imposes sanctions on Tehran, saying “the price of each barrel of oil is 70 dollars and this high price has created many difficulties for the industrialised world. The first effect of a sanction against Iran will be that this high price will even increase higher.”

* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad implicitly warned on Saturday that the Islamic republic would leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if forced by the West to limit its disputed nuclear programme.

* In comments this weekend, Lebanese Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat said al-Qaeda has been trying to settle in Lebanon for the last few months. Appointed to replace Hassan Sabeh, the former youth minister who resigned last week over the cartoon protests in the capital Beirut, Fatfat said, "A short while ago, we collapsed the two groups suspected for affiliation with al-Qaeda network."

* Saad Hariri, son of slain Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, returned to Lebanon on Sunday and vowed to fight terrorism and "prevent another assassination." Hariri also accused Syria of trying to provoke sectarian conflict in Lebanon.

* U.S. Naval vessels are patrolling the coast of Yemen in an effort to prevent escaped al Qaeda suspects from fleeing the country to Africa or elsewhere. Reports indicate that members of the prison staff may have passed along information and tools to the terrorists in assisting their escape.

* Twenty four hours after being kidnapped in the Gaza strip, Hussam al-Musali, Egypt's military attache, was released unharmed. A previously unknown Palestinian militant group, the al-Ahrar Brigades group, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

* Dozens of newly recruited Palestinian security forces stormed the finance ministry in Gaza to demand payment of their salaries. According to the reports, they were promised salaries at the beginning of training but three months later still have not been paid, highlighting the financial crisis that grips the Palestinian leadership.

* Israeli and Palestinian diplomats met in Washington D.C. on Friday and outlined their respective cases for moving forward. Israel wants Hamas to recognize Israel, while the Palestinians want an end to "Islamophobia".

* On Friday U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan again called on Hamas to recognize Israel and continue forward with the 'road map for peace'. Declaring that most Palestinians oppose terror attacks on Israeli civilians and support Israel's right to exist, Annan warned the Palestinians that "the international community will be watching very carefully to see how a new government rises to these challenges."

* Some U.S. and Israeli officials believe the secular Shi'ite nation of Azerbaijan could play a role in toppling the theocratic regime in neighboring Tehran, who the Shi'ite in Azerbaijan regard as threatening.

* Israel is considering the idea of issuing biometric cards to West Bank drivers who use crossings into Israel on a regular basis. The card could be swiped from around 100 meters away so soldiers or private security guards would know who is approaching and prepare accordingly. Whether cards would be issued to Israelis, in addition to the Palestinians who are already receiving them at Kalandiya and Erez, had not yet been discussed.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* Federal prosecutors have released mounds of documents and hundreds of hours of audiotapes to attorneys defending a father and son charged in a terrorism probe, but the defense said the last-minute flood of evidence will not delay the trial. Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday in the trials of Umer Hayat, 48, and his 23-year-old son, Hamid, both of Lodi, CA. Their trials will run concurrently with separate juries. The Hayats are accused of lying to the FBI about Hamid Hayat attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004. Hamid Hayat also is charged with providing material support to terrorists by attending the camp and returning to the United States last May with the intent to commit terrorist acts.

* A Virginia man convicted of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush has joined the ranks of those seeking a review of their convictions based on concerns about President Bush's post-9/11 eavesdropping program. Lawyers for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 24, of Falls Church, last week asked a federal judge to order prosecutors to divulge whether Abu Ali was ever a subject of the warrantless eavesdropping program that Bush ordered implemented shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They also asked the judge to delay Abu Ali's Feb. 17 sentencing.

* Michael Curtis Reynolds says he's a patriot. Federal authorities say he's a terrorist. The FBI believes that the unemployed Wilkes-Barre man tried to conspire with al-Qaeda to wreck the American economy. Agents say Reynolds plotted to blow up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, a Pennsylvania pipeline, and a New Jersey refinery.

* A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.

* A Canadian national whose father allegedly was an associate of Osama bin Laden was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Boston on charges he supplied the al-Qaida terror network with weapons. Abdullah Khadr, 24, has been held in Canada on an extradition warrant since his Dec. 17 arrest in Toronto.

* The trans-Alaska pipeline looks like it would be an easy target for terrorists intent on destroying a valuable American asset, but those responsible for its safekeeping say looks can be deceiving. Terrorism experts say pipelines in general are easy targets, but tend to be low priority because they can be repaired so quickly. And officials with an intimate knowledge of the pipeline say it's far less vulnerable than it appears — in part because of the difficulty a saboteur would have getting any weapon capable of serious damage into Alaska. The pipeline has state, federal and local agencies keeping an eye on it.

* Two staff members of the medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) detained by gunmen in Colombia have been freed, the organisation says. The British and Dutch men were held on Saturday while assessing health services in a guerrilla-dominated province in north-east Colombia.

* Trinidad launched its first strike to recover a growing $31 million debt owed by Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr and 57 other defendants for the destruction of Police Service Headquarters during the 1990 attempted coup. Akii Bua, who has assumed leadership of the Jamaat since Abu Bakr was incarcerated in November 2005 on five criminal charges arising out of his controversial Eid sermon, told the Daily Express that the Jamaat intends to challenge the State's action.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* Militants in the Russian village of Tukui-Mekteb opened fire on security forces, sparking a firefight that stretched over 24 hours and ended with the death of 12 militants and 6 security officers. According to Viktor Barnash, head of the Stavropol territory department for the fight against organized crime, the militants were planning a Beslan style attack.

* Russian President Vladamir Putin has angered Israel by inviting Hamas to Moscow for discussions and for stating his belief that Hamas was not a terrorist organization. In response the U.S. State Department reminded Russia of their obligations as a member of the "Quartet". France has come out in support of talks between Russian and Hamas, believing it could help advance the peace process.

* Georgian authorities arrested three Russian peacekeepers in the separatist republic of South Ossetia as tensions continue to mount over deployments in the region by both nations. The trio was released a short time later and ordered out of the country.

* Vlad the appeaser offers a good analysis of the Russian President's decision to invite Hamas to Moscow, which makes little sense and jeopardizes the work other western nations are doing to try to hold Hamas to a greater level of account and responsibility.

* Russian anti-terrorism units killed one gunmen and captured another who had fired on Russian forces at a traffic post in Ingushetia, killing one and wounding three.

* A top Russian prosecutor demanded the death penalty for the man alleged to be the only surviving attacker of the 2004 Beslan school seizure, in which more than 330 people died, most of them children. Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel told a court in the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz that Nur-Pashi Kulayev should be executed.

* In Chechnya, security forces killed one militant in the Itum-Kala district after a firefight erupted. In the past 24 hours, three militant gang members have been captured in Chechnya.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Increasingly, coalition forces in Afghanistan are turning over some of the training to Afghan sergeants. Fresh recruits learn the basics of how to take protective measures and launch counterattacks, skills that will help them hold their positions in a fight. How well they absorb these lesson will be crucial for Afghanistan's ability to stand on its own two feet. Now half-way toward the goal of a 70,000-man force, the Afghan National Army is reaching a crucial testing period: The US military is preparing to draw down its forces in Afghanistan, NATO forces are moving in, and security conditions along the southern border with Pakistan are worsening.

* At least eight Afghan soldiers have been killed and several wounded by two roadside bombs in Kunar province, according to officials. Two soldiers were killed by the first blast and a second device went off as troops rushed to the scene.

* Militants, battling US and government forces have recently launched numerous attacks on schools and teachers in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Suspected Taliban guerillas set fire to three primary schools in the Nawa district of Helmand in January. The siege on schools appears to be having the desired effect. "We have closed 50 schools where around 10,000 students were studying in Kandahar province due to insecurity and fear of attacks," said Hayat Allah Rafiqi, head of the education department in Kandahar, adding that more than 200 schools in total had been closed in southern Afghanistan due to the violence.

* In Afghanistan, more than 20 suicide attacks have taken place in just four months as one of the most brutal and effective tools of the Iraqi insurgency is being exported to Afghanistan, where newly resurgent militant groups are seeking to regain power. Militants have taken up other Iraqi-style techniques: beheadings, targeting civilians and building the powerful improvised bombs that are the biggest killer of U.S. forces in Iraq. And there are early indications of another worrisome trend -- the presence of al-Qaida-backed Arab and Pakistani fighters coming into Afghanistan to ply these terror tactics, particularly suicide bombings.

* Newsweek has an article saying the Taliban has produced its first fund-raising, recruiting and training VCD shot entirely in Afghanistan.

* Here is the CDI's Afghan update for the month of January. It is a roundup of events from Jan 1 to Feb 7.

* Pakistan's president has confirmed that "a close relative" of al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US air strike in Pakistan last month. Pervez Musharraf also confirmed for the first time that Zawahiri had been expected to be at the house targeted by the US, a military spokesman says.

* Tribal insurgents have killed two soldiers and injured seven others in an attack on a paramilitary convoy in Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said.

* Shia and Sunni Muslims in Pakistan exchanged fire killing at least four people in and around the north-western town of Hangu, say officials.

* Cross-border firing from Afghanistan hit the tent of a nomad family on the Pakistan side of the frontier, killing two women and injuring at least four children, two Pakistani officials said Sunday. The Pakistani officials said four rockets or shells were apparently fired by the U.S. military in fighting with suspected militants in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province late Saturday, and one hit the nomads' tent at Bangi Dar, in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* A PINR report on last Wednesday's elections in Nepal says the elections "did little to resolve the tri-polar power struggle in Nepal." A PINR report from a week ago says "Nepal continues to slip further into instability, creating a power vacuum in which regional powers India and China compete for influence. The power struggle in Nepal consists of three domestic players: the king, the major parties of the former government, and the Maoist rebels of the countryside."

* At least seven people have been killed and scores wounded in clashes between government troops and Maoists in Nepal, reports say. The fighting took place on Thursday when the rebels attacked an army convoy in south-western Nepal. The BBC's Sushil Sharma says the clashes appear to be one of the heaviest in recent months.

* Two members of Kashmiri guerrilla outfit Al Badr were nabbed in New Delhi with a large quantity of explosives, were allegedly planning to carry out blasts in busy markets in the national capital, police said.

* A Hindu religious leader and seven of his followers were shot and killed by unidentified attackers in northern India, police said on Saturday.

* Here is a very brief profile of Salahudin alias Bilal alias Hyder Karar, Operations Chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Jammu and Kashmir.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* On Monday, Japanese police raided the headquarters of the Mitutoyo Corporation, a precision instrument maker, amid media reports that the company was exporting machinery to China and Thailand that could be used in uranium enrichment.

* A Malaysian recruited by al-Qaida to become a pilot for a second wave of suicide airliner attacks on the United States pulled out of the plan after he witnessed the carnage of the first assaults according to Asian officials.

* Danish nationals have been urged to leave Indonesia over concerns they may be targeted in attacks over the cartoon controversy. According to Danish intelligence reports, extremist groups are actively seeking out Danish citizens and interests in the country.

* Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, an Islamic scholar, said Osama bin Laden doesn't speak for Islam and warned of a "huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam" at a conference in Kuala Lumpur.

* US troops began arriving on the southern Philippine island of Jolo in preparation for a humanitarian mission, just hours after a suspected Muslim extremist gunned down the local head of police intelligence. Roughly 250 American soldiers will take part in the Balikatan exercise, focusing on civic works and humanitarian activities for Jolo’s poor residents, from Feb. 20 to March 5.


* Sweden's government has expressed concern that a small anti-immigrant party had put cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on its newspaper's website, which could drag Sweden into protests by angry Muslims. The far right-wing Swedish Democrats, who unlike a similar party in neighbouring Denmark where the cartoon row began are too small to have a seat in parliament, invited readers to send in their own cartoons for publishing with the Danish cartoons.

* Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero today said he has a "conviction" that ETA is ready to end its armed campaign for an independent homeland in the Basque region of northern Spain and southern France. The fact that ETA hasn't killed for more than two years suggests the group is open to a settlement, Zapatero said.

* British Treasury Chief Gordon Brown plans to assemble a team of financial experts to end terrorism funding streams -- the equivalent of the intelligence experts who broke the Nazis' Enigma Code during World War II, his office said Friday. In a speech Monday at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies_ a professional forum concerned with national and international defense and security -- Brown is expected to outline a series of measures aimed at cutting off terrorists' cash flow.

* In that same speech, Brown will say that U.K. security forces have thwarted three terrorist attacks since the failed London bombings of July 21.

* In London, militant Muslim protesters could face arrest on charges of incitement to murder after calling for those responsible for publishing offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed to be beheaded, police warned. Ministers gave the clearest signal that they expected the police to act, after a public outcry over their failure to make arrests when demonstrators in London waved placards calling for those responsible for offending their faith to be murdered.

* Unknown to Abu Hamza al-Masri, Mr Hassaine, an Algerian who had been praying at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London since 1996, began acting as an undercover agent for MI5, British counter-intelligence. For two years from 1998 he passed information on activities in the mosque to his handlers. He told them about how the dress code of Hamza's young acolytes changed. "You didn't need to go to Afghanistan. Inside the mosque were people wearing combat clothing; it was like being in an al-Qaeda camp." From the outside, the mosque looked unassuming, set in a residential street close to the Arsenal football ground in Highbury. Inside, the atmosphere was increasingly fervent.

* When worldwide Muslim fury over cartoons of the Prophet spread to Britain, the flag-burning protests outside the Danish embassy in London appeared to be an entirely spontaneous outpouring of anger. Inquiries by the Guardian have shown, however, that a key role in organising the demonstration was played by an Islamist sect whose supporters have repeatedly been linked to violence and terrorism. On Saturday, Denmark also withdrew their ambassador and staff in Syria and Iran due to security concerns.

* Italy has dissolved its parliament, and elections will be held April 9. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his upcoming electoral campaign gatherings were considered a target for possible acts of terrorism. He said Italy has been doing everything in its power to avoid such acts with special measures. This activity, the prime minister said, has allowed the arrest of more than 200 alleged international terrorists, who have in many cases either been kept in prison in Italy or have been expelled.

* The boycott of Danish goods, propelled by Muslim leaders and imams preaching in mosques, has brought exports of Danish products to the Middle East and North Africa to a virtual standstill. It has scuttled a flow of goods to the region that was worth about $1 billion in the first 10 months of 2005, according to government statistics. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the boycott was not a major threat to Denmark's economy.

* European vice-commissioner Franco Frattini has said media should sign up to a voluntary code of conduct on reporting on Islam and other religions, in a bid to avoid future Danish cartoon-type disputes. In an interview with UK daily The Telegraph on Thursday (9 February), Mr Frattini argued that the cartoons in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten "humiliated" millions of muslims.


* During a demonstration by Muslims in Nairobi a vehicle the protestors hijacked overturned, killing one. Several others were injured when the driver of the overloaded pick-up lost control of the vehicle that overturned on Waiyaki Way. The demonstrators had hijacked two pick-ups to take one of their colleagues to hospital after anti-riot police shot him on the leg. Kenyan police opened fire at hundreds of people demonstrating against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on Friday.

* An article by Kurt Shillinger in the Armed Forces Journal looks at the emergence of Al Qaeda in southern Africa. Southern Africa is anchored by South Africa, but otherwise is characterized by weak states. A range of factors makes the region attractive to foreign terrorist groups.

* U.S. Special Forces are teaching Malian soldiers how to fight terrorism in the country's northern desert, a region potentially rich in oil but seen by U.S. military officials as a sanctuary for Islamic militants. More than 300 Malian soldiers in the Saharan towns of Timbuktu and Gao and the capital Bamako will practice parachuting into the desert, marksmanship, operating under fire and other activities over the next 50 days, officials said.

* Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son and advisor of the Libyan leader, has come out in support of President Bush's goals to help spread democracy and reform in the Middle East.

* Opening a three-day tour of North Africa, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Saturday the United States wants to build closer military ties to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to help combat Islamic extremism and terrorism. Speaking aboard an Air Force plane en route to Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, Rumsfeld called Tunisia and Morocco "long-standing friends and constructive partners in these efforts against terrorism."

* Strategy Page writes about the leader of al Qaeda in East Africa, Harun Fazul (or Fazul Abdullah Mohammed), a native of the Comoro Island with dual citizenship in Kenya. Fazul was a ringleader in the 1998 East African embassy bombings and other attacks in the region. In his early 30s, Fazul has been a member of al Qaeda since the early '90s.

* Kenyan police have arrested five men suspected of plotting a bomb attack on last Friday's African Nations Cup final between Egypt and Ivory Coast where Egypt President Hosni Mubarak was in the 74,000 crowd, a police official has said. The men were detained in separate raids on Thursday and Friday in Nairobi and the northeastern town of Waji.

The Global War

* In Bangladesh on Friday police beat back about 10,000 protesters marching on the Danish Embassy in the capital Dhaka and there were also demonstrations in Egypt, Afghanistan, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

* Meeting in Italy on Thursday and Friday, NATO defense ministers expressed the desire for closer cooperation with North African and Middle Eastern nations in fighting terrorism and vowed that "contacts with Hamas" were "out of the question." Other discussions focused on staffing a NATO rapid response force and providing maritime security in the Mediterranean.

* Squeezed between Russia and China, Mongolia increasingly has forged relations with "third neighbors," more distant nations that can offset the influence of Moscow and Beijing. Japan has played the role prominently, becoming Mongolia's largest aid donor, and so have Germany and South Korea. But foremost among the third neighbors is the United States, the superpower that Mongolians have courted as an aid source and a counterweight to Russia's residual status and China's economic tentacles stretching across the Gobi Desert.

* Iraq has suspended dealings with Australia’s monopoly wheat exporter AWB over allegations that it paid bribes to the former regime of Saddam Hussein. The suspension would remain in force until an official inquiry into the charges, under former judge Terence Cole, is complete.

* The Pentagon made tough choices in its once-in-four-years review of military posture, forces and strategy as well as the 2007 budget, said Ken Krieg, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisitions. Krieg said among them were the Pentagon’s decisions to scale back the number of aircraft carriers from 12 to 11, shed several old Air Force systems, terminate production of C-17 airlifters and cancel the Army’s Aerial Common Sensor surveillance program. In September, Krieg said in coming years, the United States was likely to ask more of its military services while budgets remained flat or declined, and such a mismatch would force the country to make tough choices.

* The Air Force officially opened a permanent staging area at Ramstein AFB for wounded troops waiting for flights to hospitals across the United States. The $1.6 million Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility replaces a temporary building built about two years ago.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Comparative religion

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another...
-John 13:35

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...
-Luke 6:27-28

Something struck me in a recent Strib story about a local nightclub reopening, after having some cash problems.

The Quest nightclub in Minneapolis, which closed in December and has seen its share of controversy, reopened Friday night with a concert as far from controversy as possible: a Christian rock show.
"It's a good show to start with," said Ricardo Cervantes, Minneapolis' deputy director of licenses, who gave final approval for the reopening. "This is a show I expect will have no incidents."

Interesting, isn't it. A show that would attract Christians is not expected to have any problems.

Reminds me of something I heard long ago, I forget the context. Was basically this. If you were in a dark alley and you saw a group of tough looking youths coming towards you, would you feel more comfortable if you knew they just came from a Bible study? (Probably, I would think)

This caught my eye because of the angry, violent demonstrations by Muslims worldwide over the infamous cartoons. Have you ever seen similar demonstrations by Christians? Have you ever heard Christians demanding punishment for publishers of cartoons? Burning down foreign embassies? In a different crisis, demanding the captivity and slaughter of IAEA inspectors?

OK, standard nod to tepid multiculturalism. Are all Muslims violent and murderous? No. Are all Christians ideal examples of Christ-like love? No.

But on the whole, which religion's adherents would you rather have coming at you in a dark alley? Do you think the Quest nightclub would be just as sanguine about holding a comedy show poking fun of Mohammed?

Muslims will have to take ownership of their actions, and if the world recoils from what they see, whose fault is that?

A moment of decision for Italy

Italy's Parliament was dissolved on Saturday, and elections have been set for April 9.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi signed a decree ending the current legislature after receiving parliament's speakers, raising the curtain on five stormy months for Italian politics.

After the April 9-10 election there will be nationwide mayoral ballots and a referendum on plans to reform the constitution. The new parliament will also have to choose a successor to Ciampi, whose mandate expires in May.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been an ally in the war on terror. And Italy itself has been on the front lines. Terrorist cells and networks are entrenched in Italy.

This article describes a terrorist underground railroad of sorts in Italy, and as I discussed in this post, Milan is a center for terrorism in Europe.

Italy certainly has domestic issues to decide, but in the war on terror, will Italy stick with the center-right coalition that has proven itself willing to fight?

With all the demonstrations over the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper, Europe is seeing the true face of Islam. Will Italy flinch, and like Spain, try to appease the terrorists by rolling over and electing a left-leaning, perhaps even pacifist government? Or will Italy stand firm and strengthen their resolve to fight? We shall see.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Elections are coming up in March in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they could prove to be a crucial turning point. The country (formerly Zaire) has seen a lot of trouble in recent years. In my post on conflicts in Africa, I briefly described how the current leader, Joseph Kabila, came to power.

Mobutu Sese Seko was president till 1997. His rule was exceedingly corrupt. Civil war began in 1994, and Mobutu was forced out of power in 1997 by Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He was corrupt as well, and a rebellion began in 1998. Kabila was assassinated in 2001, and his son Joseph Kabila now rules. There has been a shaky peace since 2003, but unrest remains, and there are challengers to Joseph Kabila's rule.

A constitutional referendum was held last December, and passed by a wide margin. This was seen as an encouraging sign. A report from the PINR describes the results and the implication for the coming elections this way:

The referendum was considered a test to see whether general elections could take place in a successful way (former Zaire and the D.R.C. have not held an independent election in over 40 years), and the outcome has generally been deemed positive. Despite the huge difficulties in organizing and participating in the vote, nearly 25 million Congolese were registered and half of them went to the poll stations. The E.U. and other international observers said the referendum was free and fair. Additionally, the threat of violence and armed attacks from the bands of militiamen was limited and did not affect the regularity of the operations.

The international community's judgment on the whole electoral process testifies that there are hopes for the development of an institutional transition system in D.R.C., acknowledging that the Independent Electoral Commission has demonstrated its ability to handle what the U.N. repeatedly defines as "the most complicated elections it has ever been involved in." Most of the burden in the coming months will be on the transitional government's shoulders. Kabila, although very young at 33, has shown great ability in maintaining the government's power and in dealing with the many obstacles coming from the transitional process, the internal political arena and the critical situation in the eastern regions of the country. Therefore, Kabila is widely expected to win the presidential poll.

What emerges clearly is that Kabila appears to have gained solid support from the international community, and mainly from Belgium, South Africa, France and the U.S. Both the United States and France have been crucial actors in the shaping of the geopolitical balances in the Great Lakes region, particularly since the end of the Cold War; Washington and Paris have been fighting a long "underground" struggle to obtain a sort of political supervisory role in this area but their attention is now oriented toward more strategic areas of the continent, such as the Sahel region, the Gulf of Guinea, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

There are two serious trouble spots, however. One is the Katanga region, in the southeast corner of the country. The region is divided by conflicts and rivalries between locals, outsiders, and militias. A report from the International Crisis Group looks at this region. From the executive summary:

The home province of President Joseph Kabila and many other senior Kinshasa politicians is divided by three conflicts: tensions between southerners and northerners, between outsiders and natives, and between Mai-Mai militias and the national army.

The north-south competition has become pronounced since Laurent Kabila, a northerner and father of the current president, Joseph Kabila, seized power by overthrowing the Mobutu dictatorship in 1997. The south is one of the most mineral-rich areas of the continent, whose copper and cobalt deposits have prompted Katangan politicians – mainly northerners – to cultivate personal networks in the local security forces to protect their interests and threaten their rivals. These officials are resented by southerners, who feel excluded from the wealth of the province. This rivalry has triggered violence. In October 2004, for example, the army killed over 70 civilians while suppressing a rebellion by a ramshackle militia in the mining town of Kilwa. In May 2005, officials alleged a secession plot in Lubumbashi and arrested south Katangan politicians and military officers. Both operations appear to have been prompted by Kinshasa politicians eager to protect their mining interests and to squash opposition.

The election campaign has reignited conflict between native Katangans and immigrants from Kasai province. Under Belgian rule, many Luba from Kasai came to run the mining companies and state administration, creating tensions manipulated by politicians, who in 1992-1993 organised militias to ethnically cleanse the province. More than 5,000 Luba were killed. The Union of Congolese Nationalists and Federalists party (UNAFEC), which is run by some of the same figures who led the violence in the early 1990s, is using its youth gangs to intimidate its opposition, who are often Luba. Leaders of the party’s youth wing have called for “necklacing” opponents with burning tyres.

The violence in the remote areas of northern Katanga is tightly linked to actors in Kinshasa. During the war, Laurent Kabila created Mai-Mai militias in the region to stem the advance of Rwandan-backed rebels. These militias, bolstered by arms from officials in Kinshasa as recently as 2004, have not been integrated into the national army and are fighting each other and the army over poaching and taxation rights.

The other trouble spot is the Kivu region, on the eastern border with Rwanda. Severe fighting has displaced tens of thousands, and humanitarian needs are great.

Thousands of people continue to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as fighting continues between the Army and dissident forces in the eastern part of North Kivu province, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

UN and other humanitarian agencies are particularly concerned about people whom have fled the Kiberezi area to surrounding hills and forests and are surviving in the bush with no shelter, water, food or access to assistance.

Much of the fighting is between the government army and rebels that come over from Rwanda. As the PINR report says:

In Kivus, the Rwandan Armed Liberation Forces (F.D.L.R.) still constitute a military menace; after negotiations in Rome in March 2005 with the Kinshasa government and the Sant'Egidio community, the F.D.L.R. announced that it would return to Rwanda peacefully; however, after one year the process of disarmament and demobilization is in jeopardy. The threats toward the institutional transition in D.R.C. come not only from the F.D.L.R.'s 8,000 combatants, but also because their presence in the border zone between D.R.C. and Rwanda provides the Kigali government with an alibi to intervene in the defense of its interests, mainly directed to the arrest of some of the F.D.L.R.'s leaders accused of a central role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

And according to this news account:

Most of the FDLR rebels fled Rwanda following the 1994 genocide, for which they have largely been blamed. According to the Rwandan government, some 937,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during the genocide.

The rebels, most of them Hutus, formed the FDLR in 1998 and the Congolese government initially used them to fight the Rwandan army, which withdrew from the Congo in 2001. The DRC banned the FDLR in 2002 after it signed a peace deal with Rwanda.

Close to 8,000 FDLR fighters have been demobilised and returned to Rwanda under a MONUC voluntary repatriation scheme. The remaining FDLR elements in eastern Congo continue to fight the Congolese army, looting and raping civilians in the process.

As mentioned there, rape has been a tragic problem in the area.

Incidents of rape have risen sharply along the Kanyabayonga-Kayna road in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu Province, where fighting between the army and renegade soldiers has displaced at least 70,000 people, according to humanitarian workers.

"We are witnessing a quadruple increase in rape cases in the Kanyabayonga-Kayna axis this week, where victims have been treated by [Medecines Sans Frontieres] MSF-France," Patrick Lavand'homme, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Goma, the provincial capital, said on Thursday.

Kanyabayonga, Kibirizi and Kayna are towns in North Kivu's Lubero Territory. Those blamed for the rapes are suspected to members of the army and the renegades.

Confirming the increase in the number of rape cases reported to their mobile clinics, the head of the MSF mission in Kayna, Jean Guy Vataux, said, "The number of rape victims has reached 23 especially, in the Kibirizi area."

A lot is at stake for the upcoming elections. With much human suffering taking place, the elections could go a long ways in bringing stability to that country. The PINR report concludes this way:

D.R.C. is going to face one of the most crucial and delicate situations in its recent history. If the coming elections finally take place and the result is judged and accepted as free and fair by the majority of the political parties, rebel groups and militias that will take part in the reconstruction process, the situation could improve. The local vote scheduled for March and April will be a significant test, not only for the effectiveness of the whole electoral process, but mainly because it could draw the basic lines of the future political and institutional structure of the country. Indeed, D.R.C. may be too large of a territory to be considered a single political and administrative unit.

Security appears to be the key word in the coming months, with a pivotal role for the international community, both at the U.N. level (with the M.O.N.U.C. military contingent) and for the single actors -- the U.S., France, Belgium and South Africa -- to deploy their political and diplomatic influence and provide their financial support.

Is this just hot air, mere talk?

This from the IRNA today:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Saturday that the real holocaust should be sought in Palestine, where the blood of the oppressed nation is shed every day and Iraq, where the defenseless Muslim people are killed daily.

Stressing that these crimes mark western liberalism, he noted that the Zionists are about to be annihilated and that the era of occupation of Palestine is over.

The chief executive added that meanwhile, the destruction of colonial and Zionist culture is quite obvious.

Turning to the fact that Zionism has lost its philosophical foundations, he called on the Western states to resume worshiping God Almighty rather than selling the glory of enlightenment to the disgrace of being subject to the Zionists.

In another part of his speech, he referred to the recent Palestinian election as an example of the will and determination of Muslim nations and called upon the Zionist occupiers not to hinder the Palestinians' path to solve the issue, adding that the referendum in Palestine will serve as a guideline to them.

Also in the speech, Ahmadinejad said this:

Speaking at the rally held at Tehran Azadi Square on Saturday marking the 27th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, he added that the enemies are not frightened of the nuclear weapons rather are concerned over the self-confidence of the Iranian youth.

"They believe that by hiding their ugly and abominable face behind the United Nations nuclear watchdog and Security Council, their ugliness will be demolished," he added.

The chief executive called upon the West, in particular the US, and said, "You do not respect the international bodies and have even defamed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by your approach." In another part of his remarks, he pointed to the proposal on enrichment outside Iran and said that there is no guarantee that they will comply with their commitments.

"They have even deprived us of the aircraft spare parts over the past 27 years and despite having paid for them, they have avoided delivering them. Therefore, what is the guarantee that we will be supplied with the nuclear fuel in future?," added Ahmadinejad.

In response to the threats by western countries to impose economic sanctions against Iran and hampering import of any product to the country, he said that Iran does not actually need the consumer goods which are being sold to it.

You can bet Israel takes very seriously Iran's statements that Israel is about to be destroyed. Why is the West so reluctant to confront Iran over such statements? Yes, there is the usual diplomatic knee twitch to shy away from aggressive rhetoric. But are the nations of the West willing to dismiss this kind of rhetoric as hyperbole? Especially when it comes from an oppressive regime who is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons?

An Iranian cleric said this in another speech:

A senior Iranian cleric called on Muslims on Friday to direct their fury over cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad at the United States, rather than Denmark.

When crowds of worshippers in Tehran chanted "Death to Denmark" during his fiery sermon, Tehran Friday prayers leader Ahmad Khatami told them, "We shouldn’t say 'Death to Denmark'. Denmark is nothing! We must say, 'Death to America'. It’s the Americans who set up the likes of the Danes".

Khatami, who is not related to Iran’s former president, accused the European Union of "double standards" in its approach to the publication of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and Iran’s denial of the Holocaust.

"They talk about human rights and freedom of expression, but at the same time they disgustingly insult more than a billion Muslims", the ayatollah told worshippers in central Tehran.

"They justify this great crime on the grounds of freedom of expression and the stupid Prime Minister of Denmark says that they are willing to pay the price of freedom. But these very countries who claim to respect freedom of expression do not allow the smallest talk about the myths of Holocaust and persecution of the Jews", he said.

Any serious criticism of the cartoon controversy would acknowledge the United States has nothing to do with it. Yet, this cleric wants to turn the engines of hate towards the US. Why? Because there's much more involved here than insults over arguably tasteless cartoons.

The Iranian regime recognizes the United States as a power that could stand in Iran's way, and is reacting accordingly. As I've written about earlier in the week, the demonstrations may attract the average violence-prone Muslims, but the terror masters are using the demonstrations to send some not-so-subtle messages in this larger context. Through its actions and words, the Iranian regime is making threats.

I haven't yet heard US officials refer to Iran as a "partner for peace." If I ever do, I'll move the family to a mountain cabin and just wait for the end. But why aren't the nations of the West doing more to push back against Iran?

Tick tick tick...

Another American stands in the gap

One of my good blogger buddies is Leo, aka Psycmeistr. His son is now on his way to Iraq.

Let's remember him in our prayers, as well as all of those who are serving in harm's way on our behalf.

We enjoy the way of life we have because somewhere between us and the evil in this world a well-armed American is standing, saying "You are not getting by me."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Nepal's elections

Nepal's municipal elections went forward on Wednesday despite a lack of candidates for many offices. Violence and intimidation kept many candidates from running.

In addition, the government cracked down on the opposition.

The leading Opposition parties plan to peacefully disrupt the vote, the first since 1999.

"We have instructed all our supporters and cadres to go the polling stations in their areas and do whatever they can to stop voting," Krishna Sitaula of the Nepali Congress said on Tuesday.

Gyanendra's Government has responded by rounding up hundreds of politicians, activists and journalists.

Turnout was low on Wednesday, due in part to the low number of candidates and also because Maoist threats and a Maoist call to boycott the elections.

The royal government's move to hold Nepal's first elections in seven years was marred Wednesday by rebels who killed two people and took 10 hostage in an eastern town and a boycott of the local polling by most political parties.

Relatively few voters turned up at the polls for the municipal elections following vows by both the country's Maoist rebels and political dissidents to disrupt polling and threats by the government to shoot anyone caught doing so.

The government of King Gyanendra billed the local elections as a step back toward democracy, hoping to ease a power struggle among the monarchy, rebels and the country's main political parties. Instead, they prompted near-daily attacks from rebels and a boycott by most politicians who called the polls a ploy to legitimize Gyanendra's seizure of absolute power just over a year ago.

Hours before the polls opened, rebels launched a major assault on the eastern town of Dhankuta, where the guerrillas bombed at least 12 government buildings and destroyed the local bank, police officials said.

They killed one policeman and one civilian, and took seven government officials and three policemen hostage during the assault, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

AP Correspondent Matthew Rosenberg has been in Nepal to cover the elections, and has been keeping a blog.

The election is over in Nepal. It wasn't nearly as bad as everyone had braced for, although the rebels did make good on their threats to launch attacks, killing a police officer and a civilian. The government also made good on its threats to shoot anyone caught trying to disrupt the vote, killing a protester in the heartland of the Maoist insurgents in western Nepal.

There was no widespread violence, and while most of Katmandu is shut, a few places are open, the casinos, for example.

In America and Europe, people dream of coming to Katmandu to get taste of its Eastern spirituality and see the Himalayas, maybe even climb a peak.

But in New Delhi, where I'm based, Indians dream of coming to Katmandu to do what they can't at home, take a spin on the roulette wheel and maybe even play blackjack.

These elections will solve little. A government unwilling to truly let go of power, combined with a violent murderous insurgency is a bad combination. The violence will continue, as it did today.

At least two Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) soldiers and a woman were killed and 12 persons sustained injuries in a clash between the RNA and Maoists in Nawalparasi district on February 9. The clash occurred when the Maoists opened fire at a group of RNA personnel who were clearing obstructions placed by the former along the Mahendra Highway in the Rambhapur and Ghodaha areas. In another incident, a woman traveling on a bicycle at Itabhatti on the Butawal-Parasi section of the highway was killed as she ran over a landmine planted by the Maoists. Three other women were injured in the explosion.

Meanwhile, at least two Maoists were killed in an encounter with the security forces (SFs) at Satdobato in the western district of Gorkha on February 9. A child and five women were injured in an explosion triggered by the Maoists in an area between the Pindeshwor Temple and Dantakali Primary School in Sunsari district on February 8.

Further, security forces on February 8 killed Hurilal Rana, an activist of the Nepali Congress (Democratic), on charges of disrupting the municipal polls in Dhangadi.

Why Denmark?

In this post yesterday, I looked at possible reasons why the embassies of Norway, of all countries, were attacked.

Danish missions were also attacked in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut. I think Amir Taheri, in a New York Post column, nails down why that country's missions were attacked. As with Norway, it was for reasons that go well beyond the cartoons themselves. (Note, this comes courtesy of Regime Change Iran)

As the first rent-a-mob crowds appeared on global TV screens, Ahmadinejad realized that here was a cow worth milking.

For Denmark is set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council — at the very time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to refer Iran to the Security Council and demand sanctions. What better, for Tehran's purposes, than to portray Denmark as "an enemy of Islam" and mobilize Muslim sympathy against the Security Council?

To regain the initiative from the Sunni-Salafi groups, Ahmadinejad quickly ordered a severing of commercial ties with Denmark, thus portraying the Islamic Republic as the Muslim world's leader in the anti-Danish campaign.

Syria was next to jump on the bandwagon, again for mercenary reasons. The United Nations wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and five of his relatives and aides, including his younger brother, for questioning in the murder of Lebanon's former premier, Rafiq al-Hariri. (Assad has tried to negotiate immunity for himself and his brother in exchange for handing over the others — but the U.N. wouldn't play.) As with Iran's nuclear program, the Syrian dossier will reach the Security Council under Danish presidency. To portray Denmark as "an enemy of the Prophet" would not be such a bad thing when the council, as expected, points the finger at Assad and his regime as responsible for a series of political murders, including that of Hariri.

The Danish-cartoons cow will also be milked in another way: Tehran and Damascus have launched a diplomatic campaign to put the issue of "protecting religions against blasphemy" on the Security Council agenda. If that were to happen, issues such as Iran's quest for the atomic bomb and Syria's murder machine in Lebanon might be pushed aside, at least as far as world public opinion is concerned.

People watching TV news may think that the whole Muslim world is ablaze with righteous rage translated into "spontaneous demonstrations." The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, even if offended by cartoons which they have not seen, have stayed away from the street shows put on by the radicals and the Iranian and Syrian security services.

The destruction of Danish and Norwegian embassies and consulates happened in only two places: Damascus and Beirut. Anyone who knows Syria would know that there are no spontaneous demonstrations in that dictatorship. (Even then, the Syrian secret police failed to attract more than 1,000 rent-a-mob militants.) And the Syrian government refused the Norwegian Embassy's request for additional police protection. It was clear that the Syrians wanted the embassies sacked.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why Norway?

In this post yesterday, I discussed how the burning of various European diplomatic missions, in particular the embassies of Denmark and Norway in Damascus and Denmark and Austria in Tehran, may have been a message sent to the Europeans by Iran and its toady Syria, warning them of what may happen if they go too far in opposing Iran.

(Update: In a more direct example of Iran getting to the point, the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Tehran were also attacked.)

One question comes to mind, though. Why Norway?

This whole mess started when a Danish newspaper published the cartoons late last year. A Norwegian Christian weekly Magazinet then published them in January in support of the Danish newspaper.

For that reason, it is understandable that the Muslim masses would be angry at Norway and would wish to protest at Norwegian embassies. But what about the terror masters who direct the mobs?

As I noted yesterday, in police states like Syria mobs just don't burn down foreign embassies unless the government allows it. The mob in Damascus first attacked the Danish embassy, and then went to the Norwegian embassy, which is about four miles away. The mob didn't just happen to be in the neighborhood. If this was orchestrated, why would someone want to send that mob to the Norwegian embassy, using the cartoons as a convenient pretext?

Syria has allied itself with Iran, and certainly Iran was trying to send a message. If Syria is doing Iran's bidding here, why would Iran want to send a message to Norway?

Ah, Grasshopper, now there's a tale that may lie in the shadows.

The answer may have to do with Mullah Krekar.

Krekar has been in Norway since 1991 with refugee status. He had been working in the Kurdish areas of Iraq in the wake of the Halabja attack. As this Frontline story says:

According to his autobiography, published in Norway in 2004, Krekar left Iraq because Saddam Hussein had ordered his death for his work with the Kurds. In 1991, Krekar and his family received refugee status in Norway.

However, Krekar continued to work to make the region an independent Islamic theocracy, and in 2001 various factions united to form Ansar al-Islam. The United States considers Ansar al-Islam to be a terrorist group. More importantly for our purposes, Krekar is believed to have become the leader of Ansar al-Islam.

The group became associated with Al Qaeda, and as it grew, developed ties with Saddam Hussein, perhaps out of a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" philosophy.

In fact, Zarqawi, currently the leader of the insurgency in Iraq, is linked to Ansar al-Islam and once spent time with them. Zarqawi has also spent time in Iran, is the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and so is the nexus of Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, Iraq and Iran. (Zarqawi may be back in Iran now.)

Ansar al-Islam operated along the border with Iran, and received support from Iran as well, which should not come as a terrible shock, considering Iran's support for terrorism worldwide. From this 2003 report:

Iran supports Ansar by allowing it to operate along its borders. Iran may also provide logistical support by permitting the flow of goods and weapons and providing a safe area beyond the front. The Turkish daily Milliyet has noted that Ansar militants check cars leaving their stronghold en route to Iran, indicating coordination with the Islamic republic. Moreover, the recently apprehended Mullah Krekar spent many years in Iran and was arrested in Amsterdam after a flight from Tehran.

Iran has several possible reasons for supporting Ansar. For one, having a democratic proto-state on its borders threatens the very nature of the Islamic republic. Thus, continued guerrilla activity benefits Tehran, as does any movement designed to spread Islamism in Kurdistan. Furthermore, by supporting Ansar and other Islamist groups in Iraq, Tehran may attempt to gain influence among the various factions that could contribute to a new Iraqi government if Saddam's regime is overthrown.

The group was hit hard during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and ceased to be an effective fighting force for a time. You may recall the March 2003 missile strikes that destroyed their mountain stronghold.

We'll come back to Ansar al-Islam, but let's return to Krekar.

In the wake of 9/11, the US and other intelligence agencies had their eye on Ansar al-Islam, and Krekar. There was certainly a concern about the group's involvement in terrorism.

In August 2002, Norway arrested Krekar on suspicion of recruiting activities. Krekar went to Sweden, but Sweden ordered him to leave. Krekar then went to Iran where he was arrested and sent back to Europe via the Netherlands. The Dutch authorities arrested him.

When Krekar was arrested at Schipol airport in September 2002, the Dutch authorities claimed the arrest took place on grounds of a drugs related extradition request by Jordan. However, the events that followed revealed that the US suspected Krekar of "terrorist activities" as well as relations with al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, although he does not appear on the FBI's 'most wanted' list. On the day of Krekar's arrest, a Dutch Ministry of Justice spokesman claimed that it was related to immigration offences and that "several countries" were discussing his case with the Dutch secret service (which, it was later revealed, provided the "evidence" for this case).

Krekar was put under house arrest in Norway at the end of August 2002 because of alleged recruitment activities for a cell of Ansar al-Islam in Norway. Preliminary investigations were initiated against him on grounds of terrorism and abuse of his asylum status. In face of prosecution in Norway, Krekar left the country for Sweden, but Sweden told him to leave so Krekar took a flight to Iran to travel on to northern Iraq. The Iranian authorities arrested and imprisoned him in Teheran, despite that fact that he was neither convicted of any crimes, nor had he encountered problems with Iranian authorities in the past. Iran used to support Ansar Al-Islam, but according to the Economist, the Iranian secret services have increased their cooperation with 'Western' (American) intelligence agencies.

Krekar was certainly known to Iran, and Iran was supportive of Ansar al-Islam. Why would Iran turn over someone like Krekar to the West? One would think Iran would consider Krekar an ally.

Remember the time frame, though. This happened in August/September 2002, barely a year after 9/11. The US had gone to war in Afghanistan, but it was not clear what the US would do next. In his State of the Union address in early 2002, President Bush had named Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil. I believe Iran was unsure as to whether it would be the next target, and so threw Krekar over the wall to the Europeans, perhaps at the request of the United States, in an attempt to forestall a potential attack. I believe Iran cooperated in this case because it was still afraid of an American attack. (As time went by and the US became entrenched in Iraq, I believe Iran has become much less afraid of a large-scale American attack, and has resumed its belligerence, as we've seen over its nuclear program lately.)

Krekar eventually ended up back in Norway a free man, but his name once again started to become associated with terrorist activities in Iraq and Europe. From Frontline:

Police arrested him in March 2003, after Krekar threatened coalition soldiers in Iraq with "suicide commandos," but the court saw no reason to keep him in jail.

On Jan. 2, 2004, police arrested Krekar again, on suspicion of financing terrorism and planning assassinations of Kurdish leaders. But the case fell apart when the prosecution found that their key witnesses, Ansar al-Islam soldiers in Kurdish custody, might have been tortured or physically coerced to give their testimony.

Krekar's name has also appeared in conjunction with several other European terrorism investigations. Most significantly, he admits to having had contact with Jamal Zougam and Abu Dahdah, suspects in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings. Krekar's attorney maintains the contact was an innocent exchange. "[Krekar and his brother] operated a Kurdish newspaper, and received many requests for help, among them how to get people to Norway," his lawyer told a Norwegian newspaper, VG. The brothers only directed Zougam and Dahdah to the correct Norwegian authorities, he said.

Here is an MSNBC report on the Jan 2004 arrest of Krekar, and his release.

The Oslo court ruling was a blow to U.S. efforts to nail Krekar—an acknowledged advocate of Islamic holy war whom U.S. intelligence officials believe is an inspirational figure to some of the Islamic extremists involved in mounting attacks on U.S. and other Coalition forces in Iraq. As the head of Ansar Al-Islam from December 2001 until May 2002, Krekar was the de facto ruler of a slice of territory along Iraqi Kurdistan's border with Iran where he tried to established an Islamic regime similar to the now-deposed Taliban government of Afghanistan.

But the U.S. interest in pursuing Krekar is not just historical. It has been given fresh impetus, NEWSWEEK has learned, by recent intelligence linking Krekar to ongoing terror plots in Europe as well as Iraq. U.S. officials believe, despite his adamant denials, that Krekar recently has been communicating through e-mail and Internet postings with followers in Iraq and urging them to attack U.S. occupation forces. (During last Friday's raid on Krekar's Oslo apartment, Norwegian police seized his family's computer as well as a fax machine and several mobile telephones.) When a NEWSWEEK reporter talked to Krekar in Oslo last year, the Mullah seemed to be remarkably well informed about the activities of Ansar Al-Islam resistance fighters in postwar Iraq, even though he conceded Ansar had neither a Web site nor newspaper, television or radio outlets.

In addition, officials say, Krekar's phone number was found in the possession of a Kurdish militant based in Italy suspected of recruiting young European Muslims to fight U.S. occupation forces in Iraq. Krekar last fall confirmed to NEWSWEEK that his number had been found in an Italian suspect's possession and that he had the same suspect's phone number in his computer. But he insisted that he was in contact with the individual in Italy not to foment violence against U.S. troops but in his capacity as a spiritual leader.

In the days before his arrest, German intelligence officials uncovered information linking Krekar and Ansar Al-Islam to a threat reported over the New Year's holiday against a German military hospital near Hamburg where U.S. military personnel were rumored (apparently inaccurately) to be under medical treatment. Heightened German security precautions around the hospital remain in force for the moment, a German official said.

In 2005, Norway did finally decide to expel Krekar. Iraq wants Norway to extradite him to Iraq, but Krekar remains in Norway while that issue is haggled out. Norway does not want to him extradite him to where he might face a death penalty.

And so, still free, Krekar had this to say over the cartoon controversy:

"The war has begun," he told Norwegian journalists. Mr Krekar said Muslims in Norway are preparing to fight. "It does not matter if the governments of Norway and Denmark apologize, the war is on."

Let's return to Ansar al-Islam. What became of the group after the severe blow dealt to it in early 2003? The group reconstituted itself in Europe, and again began to steadily grow, forming networks that in part funneled people back to Iraq.

This is from a January 2005 report from The Jamestown Foundation's Stephen Ulph:

A security sweep in Germany gave indications that the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, a group linked with al-Qaeda and the Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, is spreading its influence outside Iraq. On January 12, according to a report in the German daily Spiegel ( a nationwide pre-dawn operation on homes and shops in Bayern, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Berlin, including a mosque in Frankfurt, secured the arrests of 22 persons suspected of providing logistical support to militant networks and recruiting fighters for "holy war." Nationals of six Arab countries, Bulgaria and Germany were among the detainees.

That some of these had ties to Ansar al-Islam was not unexpected, in that over the last year in Europe some 20 supporters of the group have been picked up. Ansar al-Islam's presence in Europe was spotlighted by the case of "former" leader of Ansar al-Islam Mullah Krekar, convicted in absentia of terrorism in Jordan and since 1991 a refugee in Norway. Last January the CIA intercepted messages from Krekar to contacts in Iraq allegedly ordering suicide missions against coalition troops, and his continued connection, despite denials, with the radical group was reported by the Norwegian daily Aftenpost, which highlighted an interview on al-Jazeera satellite channel where the Mullah was openly referred to as its leader. (

While the original aim of the group was to establish a fundamentalist enclave in Iraq, Ansar al-Islam is increasingly promoting a pan-Islamic image. Its activities in Europe appear geared to setting up two-way traffic for mujahideen recruits into Iraq and is expanding throughout the continent. The fears are that this activity will transform into operations within Europe, and the signs are that this has already begun. For instance, in December German police arrested three Iraqis suspected of planning an assassination attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi during his visit to Berlin. A few months earlier, the group was suspected in a plot to attack the NATO summit meeting in Istanbul. With the return to Europe of combat-trained mujahideen from the Iraq theatre, the fears are redoubled. These were succinctly expressed by Bavarian interior minister Guenther Beckstein, who warned that the over 500 Islamic extremists living in Germany "must be considered extremely dangerous."

The Asia Times reported this in January 2005:

The composition of Ansar al-Islam has changed significantly over the years. Most of its suicide bombers who have given pre-operation videos appear to be non-Iraqi Arabs. While the goal of Ansar al-Islam in its early incarnation was to achieve in Iraq "the Muslims' hope of an Islamic country where Islam and its people are strong", the organization increasingly presents itself as a pan-Islamic movement. Several of its fighters today are from outside Iraq - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and even Europe.

According to the New York Times, Ansar al-Islam was among the groups that recruited Muslims in Europe to fight in Iraq. They were recruited through mosques, Muslim centers and militant websites. The network of recruiters first appeared in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Norway within months of the US-led invasion. That recruitment effort has now spread to other countries in Europe, including Belgium and Switzerland. The network apparently provides forged documents, financing, training and information about infiltration routes into Iraq.

There have been many more arrests across Europe as authorities crack down on terrorist networks, and some of them have involved Ansar al-Islam. Just a month ago, some arrests in Spain involved the Ansar al-Islam network.

The three people arrested in Madrid were suspected of organising the transfer of combatants to Iraq from north Africa while providing cover for those who had returned from Iraq.

"One of the cells had as its objective the recruitment of and logistical assistance for suicide terrorist networks in Iraq.

"The other involved pinpointing, indoctrinating and the sending of combatants to conflict zones, centred on providing forces to the Al Zarqawi-Ansar Al Islam network and facilitating the transfer of operatives from north Africa to their final destination in Iraq," Alonso said.

A full report on Ansar al-Islam's network and activities in Europe over the last year will have to wait for another post.

To answer the question in the title of this post, then. Why Norway?

Probably not over the IAEA meeting in Vienna. Norway's statements were fairly vanilla.

Al Qaeda did name Norway as a possible target in 2003, and Norway has been paying close attention to its own growing Islamic threat. However, I don't think the embassy attack is directly related to that, especially if it was directed by Iran.

I don't have any specific information on what support Iran is giving Ansar al-Islam today, but given its growing influence as a terrorist network in Europe, Iran must be involved behind the scenes somewhere.

The attack on the Norwegian embassy may be a warning to Norway as it decides what to do with Krekar. The attack may be a signal to Krekar that Iran is once again willing to consider him an ally, and the attack may be a sign of solidarity with Ansar al-Islam.

In short, by attacking the Norwegian embassy, Iran may be signaling its support for the terrorist networks in Europe, and may be warning the Europeans that Iran is willing to unleash those networks if pressed too far on its nuclear program.

Krekar said it. This is war.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What's so funny about War, Hate and Misunderstanding?

The terror masters may come to regret ginning up the violent demonstrations over cartoons published several months ago in a Danish newspaper. And make no mistake, Iran and its sidekick Syria have used this controversy to send some very clear signals.

For starters, the Danish embassy in Syria was torched. Later that day, the Norwegian embassy was also torched.

In Lebanon, where Syria still has considerable influence through its agents and Hezbollah, a mob set the Danish mission on fire.

In Iran, the Danish and Austrian embassies were attacked by mobs.

Vienna, Austria just happened to be the home of the IAEA and the site of last weekend's vote referring Iran to the UN Security Council. Pure coincidence? What do you think?

In police states like Iran and Syria, mobs like this do not form and persist, let alone attack and burn foreign embassies, without the knowledge and consent of the authorities.

The demonstrations are a warning to Europe not to go get too cozy with the United States in the push to at minimum impose severe sanctions on Iran via the UN. They certainly are a warning about what might happen if Europe supports military action against Iran.

But in sending such thuggish messages, Iran and Syria may have set fire to the paper cocoon that has drawn Europe and the Muslim world into a warm embrace these past years.

In the past, Europe, safe behind the umbrella of defense provided by the US, has been free to look down their patrician noses at the cowboy Americans and decry US imperialism. European diplomats have been free to sit in golden, silken salons and praise the high virtues of diplomatic dialogue.

But these demonstrations, and they are occuring across Europe as well, coming after the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, and the active terror networks in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and elsewhere, may at long last be rousing Europe from its stupor, and awakening Europe to the stark realities of Muslim extremism.

Europe is keenly aware of the growing Muslim populations within its midst, and these demonstrations are a horrible glimpse of a possible future, for these populations are growing. If these populations will not assimilate into European society, if they will not coexist with European ideals, if they will foment this kind of violence any time they find offense, what does that mean for Europe's future?

A parasite cannot survive if it kills its host, but the terror masters in Iran and Syria, willing to use their parasitic networks in Europe when needed, may have made enemies where before there craven cowards.

Europe cannot blame these demonstrations on the Americans. Instead, it is their embassies on fire in the Muslim world. Europeans now are contemplating European streets on fire, as they indeed were recently in France. The nations of Europe may now be willing to be party to strong action against Iran.

European defense and intelligence and security services have certainly been aware of the threat from Muslim extremism, but their governments have been slow to act. That may now change. Iran and Syria may find they have miscalculated.

The Iranian threat

An article in the Washington Post suggests that Iran is not undertaking a national effort to build commercial turkey farms, day care centers, and convenience stores.

Iranian engineers have completed sophisticated drawings of a deep subterranean shaft, according to officials who have examined classified documents in the hands of U.S. intelligence for more than 20 months.

Complete with remote-controlled sensors to measure pressure and heat, the plans for the 400-meter tunnel appear designed for an underground atomic test that might one day announce Tehran's arrival as a nuclear power, the officials said.
Drawings of the unbuilt test site, not disclosed publicly before, appear to U.S. officials to signal at least the ambition to test a nuclear explosive. But U.S. and U.N. experts who have studied them said the undated drawings do not clearly fit into a larger picture. Nowhere, for example, does the word "nuclear" appear on them. The authorship is unknown, and there is no evidence of an associated program to acquire, assemble and construct the components of such a site.

"The diagram is consistent with a nuclear test-site schematic," one senior U.S. source said, noting that the drawings envision a test control team parked a safe 10 kilometers -- more than six miles -- from the shaft. As far as U.S. intelligence knows, the idea has not left the drawing board.

Other suggestive evidence is cloaked in similar uncertainty. Contained in a laptop computer stolen by an Iranian citizen in 2004 are designs by a firm called Kimeya Madon for a small-scale facility to produce uranium gas, the construction of which would give Iran a secret stock that could be enriched for fuel or for bombs.

Last weekend the IAEA voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. The resolution is here (in PDF), and contains language that illustrates why we don't put diplomats in charge of militaries.

Underlines that outstanding questions can best be resolved and confidence built in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's programme by Iran responding positively to the calls for confidence building measures which the Board has made on Iran,
Calls on Iran to understand that there is a lack of confidence in Iran’s intentions in seeking to develop a fissile material production capability against the background of Iran's record on safeguards as recorded in previous Resolutions,

The problem is not a lack of confidence. The problem is not trying to pound the square peg of evidence into the round hole of assuming Iran is building an exclusively peaceful program.

The problem is Iran has made every indication it wants nuclear weaponsn and will use them as a hedge around its position as the planet's chief exporter of terrorism.

Here is a most informative powerpoint presentation (HT: Security Watchtower) explaining how Iran's program is more consistent with a weapons program, and not a "peaceful" program.

As noted, Iran’s uranium resources cannot support the peaceful program Iran says it is pursuing. However, Iran’s uranium resources are more than sufficient to support a nuclear weapons capability.

Regime Change Iran notes the following from the Iranian press:

Kayhan, the mouthpiece newspaper belonging to Uber-Mullah, Khamnei, in its Tuesday, Feb. 7th edition called for taking the IAEA inspectors hostage and prosecuting them for espionage. The item read: "Now that the Europeans have gone back on their pledges to us and have even begun to beat, even the Americans, in referring our nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council, the regimes authorities must teach them and the spies they call "inspectors of the International Atomic Agency" a profound and interminable much so that they cannot even consider taking one breath."

The item also clearly indicated that "captivity and slaughter" of the IAEA inspectors inside Iran would be an integral part of "the nuclear revolution of the Islamic realm".

This regime is a threat. We had best deal with it now. If it means high oil prices, if it means open conflict, the societies of the West need to be prepared to confront this malignant power.

Tick tick tick...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Elections in Nepal

On Wednesday, February 8, Nepal will hold its first municipal elections in seven years. As mentioned in this post, violence in Nepal has been steady leading up to these elections. However, the Maoists are calling for a boycott of the elections.

Maoist leader Prachanda, whose call for a week-long general strike has ground Nepal to a virtual halt, again urged voters not to take part in controversial polls called by the king, as fresh violence left eight people dead.

"Our party would like to make a final and special appeal to the general public ... to boycott (Wednesday's) municipal polls and take the movement for democracy and peace to a new height," Prachanda said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

"The success of our general strike has made it clear that the public opinion is against the municipal polls slated for tomorrow," the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) chairman said.

Home Minister Kamal Thapa urged citizens to vote.
The Maoists, fighting for the past decade to overthrow the monarchy, have stepped up violence in a bid to derail the polls that the rebels and opposition parties say are a sham aimed at perpetuating Gyanendra's control of the tiny nation of 26 million people.

Gyanendra seized power just over a year ago in what he said was a bid to quell the Maoist insurgency. But the takeover has been condemned by the Maoists and mainstream parties who have formed a loose pro-democracy alliance.

However, Prachanda has said the Maoists might accept a monarchy if the people want it, indicating there is room somewhere for dialogue.

A senior leader of Nepal's Maoists says the rebels will accept the monarchy if the country's people were in favour of retaining it.

In an interview with the Nepal's Kantipur newspaper, rebel leader Prachanda also renewed an offer of dialogue with the government.

The offer came even as seven soldiers and police died in eastern Nepal in a suspected rebel attack.

The rebels have ordered a shutdown to disrupt local elections due this week.

In the newspaper interview, the rebel leader said his group is ready for discussions on all issues including elections for a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution.

"We will accept it if the constitution assembly says we want monarchy," the Associated Press quotes him as saying.

"We will accept it even if the people say we want an active monarchy," Prachanda said.

The government is prepared to shoot anyone trying to disrupt the elections.

Troops in Nepal have been given orders to shoot anyone who tries to disrupt municipal elections after overnight attacks by communist rebels left seven police officers and soldiers dead, officials said Tuesday.
Tuesday's attacks on the outskirts of Katmandu came hours before the Maoist rebels' elusive leader said in an interview he could accept a constitutional monarchy and suggested he was willing to consider a cease-fire.

But the government ordered the troops to shoot anyone who tries to disrupt Wednesday's municipal elections.

"They have been instructed to use ultimate force if there are any attempts to disrupt the polls or harm the voters," Home Minister Kamal Thapa said. In the capital, soldiers patrolled on foot and in armored vehicles.

Nepal's royal government said the local elections are a step toward democracy, but a broad coalition of political parties oppose the vote, calling it a ploy to legitimize the king's rule, and dozens of politicians and activists have been detained ahead of the elections.

The Maoists have threatened anyone who takes part, and candidates have registered in less than half of the more than 4,000 races for mayors and local officials. Two candidates have been killed.

24 Day 5 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

The graphic violence warning and I stand facing each other in a dusty street at high noon in a forgotten frontier town. One of us is going down.

As the credits play, we see Spenser's last name is "Wolff", with two F's. Years ago in an episode of F Troop, Paul Lynde played the "Burglar of Banff", and he added two extra F sounds at the end, so it was pronounced the "Burglar of Banff-ff-ff". So, in honor of F Troop, Spenser shall henceforth be known as Spenser Wolff-ff-ff.

Walt is a plaintive little boy, trying to convince Daddy Logan that they thought they controlled the detonators.

Yellow Tie snarls about being betrayed. Well, Ivan, if you get into bed with snakes, don't be surprised if your feet get bit.

We find out Nathanson (Matrix Guy) is former CIA. Well of course he is. In cheesy spy novels and shows they're always ex-CIA, aren't they? Just once, why can't they be ex-Department of Education?

Walt wraps himself in the flag again, pointing out he is a PATRIOT.

The technowizards at CTU try to trace the call between Walt and Nathanson, but the line has been "disconnected". Goodness, Nathanson has some good resources if he knows what's happened already, and took the time to call the phone company and have the line disconnected. (And good customer service! Way to go, phone company!)

Walt says Nathanson has "gone dark". Argh, I wish I was keeping track of that phrase. It's the sleeper hit catch phrase of this season.

Jack quickly sizes up Walt's blood pressure, the lack of twitching around the nostrils, the lack of subtle furtive glances, and zens that Walt must be telling the truth, and that the actor's contract is up. I mean, that Walt is no longer of any use to them.

Jack says Team CTU can take it from here, and that he needs to go back and be debriefed. Logan says aw, keep your pants on, Jack. You're needed here. I've said it before, this country has a pretty thin bench if only Jack Bauer can save us.

Jack says he needs to disappear again, mentions Kim. Logan says he and Jack have a "complicated history", and that he can reinstate Jack. The quid pro quo wasn't made specific. Is Logan saying if and only if Jack helps out, Jack will get his past and good name back? What are the Chinese going to say about that?

Yellow Tie and his gang have a frank, honest, open discussion about what to do with the leaky canisters of nerve gas. Which Yellow Tie resolves by punching a baddie in the gut. Hmm, could really stand to work on those conflict resolution skills.

Nooooo! No! No! No! They've given Lynn a difficult relationship side story! Argggghhh! That whole Erin Driscoll/needy daughter who caused distractions thread last season was like hearing cats dragged across a blackboard. Obviously, nobody wants to see daughters end up on a hospital floor with opened veins, but who was sorry to see that story line end? Not me. But now they're doing it to us again?

So, Lynn has a sister. Apparently she's a junkie, and needs some money. In the middle of this national crisis, Samwise, the highest ranking official in the building, is going to just step across the street and meet her in a parking lot. Uh-huh. Let's just cut to the chase and hope the sister will be lying there with opened veins, and Lynn can just come back to work and not bother us with some pointless soap opera.

Chloe says they've been listening to the satcom chatter. *zzt* "Abdul, we are a go. Tora! Tora! Tora!" *zzt* "I said sell at 30!" "I thought you meant 30 yen!" *zzt* "Yeah, mom! We're standing on the Great Wall! Cool!" *zzt* "Is Dave there?" "Dave's not here." and so on...

Yellow Tie has a conversation with someone named Rossler. They talk about rejiggering the detonators on the leaky canisters. Yellow Tie will have to cut them open.

And now, as we'll see, in this the seventh hour, the person writing the closed captions has finally succumbed to trying to make sense of the show, and has started smoking crack.

Rossler says "I'll give you the specifications", but the krazy kaptions say "Listen carefully to my instructions."

CTU was trying to trace the phone call between Rossler and Yellow Tie. Edgar says he was unable to trace the call.

Buuuuuuuut, they have an address downtown, 22 North Figueroa, and they know it's a penthouse. Man, what kind of information would they have if they were able to trace the call??

Chloe will hunt up the building manifest. We've seen in every season that CTU is an absolute wizard at pulling up detailed information on any building in the greater LA area.

They find Rossler in their database. A screen briefly scrolls by with personal data about Rossler. He has an "MD in engineering." What the heck is that? He knows how to replace amputated limbs with bionic/cyborg attachments? Also, one of his skills is "software mining". I think a flunky intern somewhere didn't realize the buzz phrase this season is "data mining", and wrote up the graphic as software mining.

Jack wants vectors on every entrance to the building. How about 30 Newtons up an incline of 10 degrees? Or a radial speed of 20 km/hr at a radian angle of pi/2?

Jack wants Curtis there and a small team, they'll have to enter covertly.

Chloe needs Spenser Wolff-ff-ff to help them hack the building's security system. She says he's a far better hacker than Edgar. Ouch, if we cut Edgar, does he not bleed? Last season, Edgar almost single-handedly saved the universe by hacking the nuclear power stations and counteracting Marwan's Flux Capacitor. He's a pretty darn good hacker in his own right. (And a few hours ago he hacked in the ship manifest at the harbor, but that was probably just Hacking 101.)

Nonetheless, Spenser Wolff-ff-ff is temporarily reinstated and Edgar looks a little peeved.

Jack and Audrey have a little chit-chat. Jack says "Audrey, the President thinks I can help." But the krazy kaptions say "Audrey, I have to do this."

Jack wants Audrey to bring Kim to CTU, so she doesn't find out about Jack the wrong way. I can appreciate the sentiment, but yeah, Kim will never find out about Jack in the heart of CTU in the middle of a national crisis. People running around hollering "I've got Jack Bauer on line two!", or Bill shouting "Where's Jack?" etc...

Coming back from commercial, the clocks are at :17 to :17.

RunLoganRun is bellowing, asking if Jack is any closer to recovering the nerve gas. Logan, honey! Chill! Jack's been gone for about ten minutes. What the heck do you think he's been able to accomplish in that time span? Perhaps a trip to the little agents room, and not much else.

Martha and Logan have a talk about sending her off to "Vermont", and... she slaps him! Ouch. Mike is outside, desperately not wanting to get in the middle of this, but Logan gasps with relief and says "Mike, come on in!" Unstated is "And please save me from this harpy!"

Logan says he wants Martha's input on how to handle this crisis with Walt going all rogue, and Mike all but rolls his eyes.

Martha asks if Mike is suggesting a cover-up, and Mike says no, he means exercising discretion to spare this country unnecessary humiliation. And we have a winner for Best Euphemism 2006!

A question occurs to me. Why didn't they press Walt on why exactly Palmer had to be killed? There was no other way to deal with the fact Palmer might reveal the op? Also, has no one stopped to wonder why Tony and Michelle were also hit? Surely they didn't have knowledge of the op, so why not ask Walt about them?

Chloe verbally flays Spenser till he is left bleeding and raw.

Curtis is on a rooftop waiting for Jack. We've seen before, nobody gets to locations in the field faster than Curtis.

More talk about cutting the cylinders. Nobody asks how, specifically, the canisters should be cut. A little one inch gap? Cut from top to bottom? A little square? What?

Spenser Wolff-ff-ff has done the job. He's hacked into the building's security system, and turns the cameras off so Jack and Curtis can go in unseen.

(argh, someone says the camera "went dark")

They grab some poor helpless front desk security guy. The guys upstairs call, wondering what happened to the camera. Jack makes him open the elevator and pulls him in. When the camera comes back on and the front desk guy isn't seen, the guards upstairs wonder where he is. At Jack's order, the guy says "I went to the men's room." And then he quickly adds "And I'm in a flank two position!" For that Jack clonks the guy over the head.

When they get off the elevator there is a brief gunfight. Curtis takes one in the chestal regionaria. Curtis says "It hit my vest!", but the krazy kaptions say "Get my vest!" Um, person writing the closed captions, if Curtis didn't have a vest, and he was shot in the chest, wouldn't getting the vest at that point be rather pointless?

Jack and Curtis burst in, and like last year in shooting Marwan, Jack shoots Rossler and is lucky he doesn't hit an artery. Technomagic tells them someone is in the bedroom. Someone is behind the bed, they come up. It's BOB! No, wait, it's a waif named Inessa.

The clocks are at :32 to :31.

At some metal shop, the baddies unobtrusively drive up in their semi and order some poor guy at gunpoint to do some metalwork for them. Cal asks why they are doing this, after Yellow Tie's speech, I'm sure Cal is sorry he asked. Cal says he has a wife, and Yellow Tie gives his word that Cal will live.

Cal fires up the saw, and when it starts cutting a cylinder, it makes an eerie cry that sounds like music from Forbidden Planet.

Jack orders that nothing be given to Rossler for the pain. Jack is an old hand at this sort of thing. In season 2, Jack shot Marie in the arm, and refused to give her anything for the pain until she talked.

The gas is referred to as Sentox VX. What happened to Sentox Six? Perhaps earlier the poor closed captions person thought VX was the Roman numeral for 6.

Jack snarls at Rossler that since he was aiding a terrorist, Jack gets to hold him as long as he wants, in another cheap attempt to mimic current events.

Jacks urges Rossler to talk, because Jack says "you don't want to go down this road with me." Rossler sneers and says "Go to hell." Like last year, when Stoner was unclear on this same point and said the same thing, you don't tell someone with the power to torture you to go to hell.

Rossler says he'll talk only if he gets immunity and gets to keep Inessa. And he says "Oh, and I also want democracy, whiskey, sexy!"

Jack tells Rossler they're not making a deal (I'll take the waif behind door number two!) and Curtis works Rossler's bullet wound over.

Samwise is listening in, he breaks in, tells Jack to accept the deal, and then leaves. Wow, what leadership. Sell a 15-yr old sex slave out, and then bolt.

Rossler wants a signed agreement, but he obviously doesn't know there is a bad history of honoring such signed agreements on 24.

The clocks are at :43 to :41.

Rossler's contact in Russia is named Sergei Voronov. Jack tells Curtis to be ready to fit Rossler's magic chip with a transponder. Is that part of CTU's standard equipment they carry around? Transponders that can be fit to chips?

The Attorney General is about ready with the documents. Does Lynn really have the power to make the Attorney General of the United States agree to sell a 15-yr old sex slave down the river? Did Logan agree to this? How did this conversation go? Someone bursts in the AG's office, says you have to sign this paper now, it agrees to let a terrorist go and keep the girl he is abusing, and the AG just says OK, and signs the paper?

Having done his task, Chloe consigns Spenser Wolff-ff-ff to the ash heap of history. He does that walk others have taken before him, escorted out of CTU by Redshirts.

Chloe is a little verklempt to see her lover walk out of her life. Oh Chloe, don't turn around your gypsy heart. Come on now love, don't you look back! But, she's drowning in a blue sea of Edgar and won't accept his salt water kisses.

Edgar tries to console her, but he should know better by now that he shouldn't give Chloe an excuse to open her mouth. She just says "Shut up, Edgar."

Back at the presidential, Crazy Martha is helping Logan with a speech. Martha says "And so, you can say 'I like red ducks. They're soft and fuzzy. They make me laugh. All of you in the country should like them too.'" Logan just stares in wide-eyed fear.

Back at the metal shop, which apparently doesn't have any customers or any other employees or any phone calls, Cal is finished cutting open a cylinder. There is a red LED readout, says 1431263.

Back at the presidential retreat, Walk is just hanging around. Literally. He's a suicider. Great security there, Secret Service. The Chief of Staff can hang himself in the hallway, and no one notices?

The krazy kaptions have Martha saying "Oh my God! Oh my God!", but we don't hear her say anything.

The clocks are at :52 to :51.

In the middle of the crisis, while Jack is still interrogating a baddie that might be their only lead to the nerve gas, Lynn is out in the parking lot with Sister. Lynn wants to send her to treatment.

Yikes! Out of nowhere an Uruk-hai Orc jumps out and decks Lynn. He takes some money and a credit card or something, and the Orc and Sister split.

Great security there, CTU. The highest ranking official there leaves the building in the middle of a crisis and nearly gets killed in a parking lot across the street.

Jack asks Audrey to try and contact Kim again. Audrey says "Of course", but the krazy kaptions have her saying "Sure."

Jack gently tries to tell Inessa they need her to go with Rossler. She thinks she's being freed and wonders about her parents. She says "They must be so worried about me", but the krazy kaptions have her saying "Where can I go?"

In case you missed the sledgehammer blow of parallelism, Jack has that little scene about Kim, and then we immediately cut to the scene with Inessa so we know Jack thinks of Kim, his daughter, when he looks at Inessa, someone else's daughter in a tough situation.

Oh! Back at the metalshop, Yellow Tie breaks his word, and shoots Cal. Man, you just can't trust terrorists these days.

The clocks are at :57 to :55.

As part of the deal, Rossler must talk to Yellow Tie and try to arrange a meeting. Yellow Tie calls, and they arrange a meet. Rossler says "And I'll be in a flank two position. Understand, Ivan? A flank two position!"

Inessa gets dressed, comes out of the room, and... shoots Rossler! Yikes, great security there, Jack and Curtis. (Why was a gun in that room? Is Rossler dumb enough to leave a weapon around someone he's abusing?)

Rossler, their only lead to Yellow Tie, is dead. He's passed on. He is no more. He has ceased to be. He's expired and gone to meet his maker. He's a stiff. Bereft of life, he rests in peace! He's pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history. He's off the twig. He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile. He is now an ex-Rossler.

And the hour comes to a close.

And now, once again, here is guest critic Paul Foth. He had been held captive in a dacha north of Moscow as the plaything of a Russian terrorist, but he was able to escape and phone in this review.


I was beginning to like Lynn Cheney--I mean, Gamgee--I mean, McGill. Despite the furtive glances and whispered rumors being exchanged by the CTU rank and file upon his arrival, he wasn't coming off to me as a bureaucratic blowhard so much as a methodical, if somewhat inexperienced, leader. Yes, he and Bill had their moments, but despite the melodrama, those moments seemed more realistic than a lot of the internecine nonsense that we usually get.


Last night we were introduced to Maya--I mean, Jenny--McGill, Samwise's drugged out sister. Should we start a pool on when and how she dies? Will she get hauled in to CTU Medical, where an unlocked drawer labeled "Rusty Razor Blades" will draw her suicidal attention? Will her cretin of a boyfriend shoot her? Will she meet Jack, get him hooked on smack again, and ask him to play Sid to her Nancy? The answer to all of these questions, at least in my mind, is a resounding, "Who cares?" Unless the writers learned a lesson with the Erin/Maya mess last season and do something significant to the overall story with Jenny, this thread will be nothing but a distraction. (Maybe the writers did learn something. The cretin boyfriend grabbed what looked like a security card while he was robbing Lynn. Was he just an average idiot, taking whatever he saw, or was the card what he was really looking for all along?)

It was nice to see Shakes and Cassandra working together as a team. I don't know if it'll last (I'm wondering if Martha will have a genuine psychotic episode at some point), but Gregory Itzen and Jean Smart did a great job showing the two of them trying to get back to what their relationship had been. The episode highlights a flaw in Shakes that goes beyond his getting hysterical in the face of crisis and worrying about his image more than the country: namely, his willingness to cede authority to those closest to him. It was Walt the first few episodes of the season, then it was Jack for a bit, and now it's Martha. So on the one hand, he's acting honorably by allowing his wife to be his partner again, but on the other he's doing what he's done all along by letting someone else make the decisions. That's an interesting combination, and could make for some good non-nonsensical drama.

I wasn't surprised to see Walt the Mole kill himself. Of course the Secret Service in the 24-verse is going to leave him unattended long enough for him to do that, particularly when he's just admitted to betraying the President.

Okay, so it wasn't Kim and it wasn't Mandy hiding behind the bed. (As of this writing, by the way, Elisha Cuthbert is still listed in the IMDB's credits for last night's episode.) Yeah, yeah, it wouldn't have made any sense for it to have been Kim, but what does that matter on this show? And, also yeah, I guess Mandy was hauled off in chains toward the end of last season, but that was a year and a half ago in the 24-verse, so she easily could have escaped by now. Or gotten time off for good behavior.

Why did no one at CTU see the person in the bedroom before Team Jack burst into the apartment? I guess the bad guy was a Level 7 Technomage and had a Spell of Nondetectability thrown up around her. When he got shot, the spell was broken and CTU's SpookyVision satellites found her. Anyway, a quick synopsis of Jack's thoughts re the girl behind the bed:

Wow, she's hot. I think I'm in love. I'd better call Audrey and let her know we're not getting back together when this is through. What? She's only fifteen? How could she betray me like that? I'm tossing her back to the wolves.

Actually, I think the writers made a good choice in having the girl be Jack's motivation in calling Audrey about Kim. It seemed he was thinking back to when she was kimnapped in the first season, when she wasn't much older than the Russian girl.


In yet another example of a television show having a good character moment at the expense of a completely ludicrous plot development, why drag out that tired "I want immunity, and I want it signed by the Attorney General," cliché AGAIN? (Okay, the Attorney General part is new; usually it's the President.) Does the Attorney General's office have an Instant Immunity form that a clerk can just pull up on a monitor and fill in the blanks? And only in the 24-verse, where torture works every time (just once I'd like to see some baddy tell Jack what he wants to hear, even though the information is incorrect, just to make the pain stop), is it possible to get one of these forms filled out, signed by the Attorney General (who, apparently, wasn't otherwise busy at the time), and faxed off quicker than it would take Jack to beat the information out of his prisoner. And would such a document be legally binding? I have no idea, but it seems to me something thrown together so quickly strains the bonds of credulity a wee bit. But, again, we're not supposed to ask such questions.

Meanwhile, the nerve gas (which is now Centox VX rather than Centox Six, as it was last week) is still missing. It looks like Jack catches up with it next week--or, rather, it catches up with him--and he's forced to be part of the team that releases the first batch. Uhh, why are the bad guys making Jack do some of their dirty work? Never mind. I'm also wondering if the mall where they're going to set the gas off is the same one where Tony got shot in the neck a few seasons back. It's a wonder anyone shops there anymore. Will the gas be recovered? If so, what's going to drive the rest of the season? If not, will it become this season's Marwan, destined to disappear again and again and again? "Well, we originally hired the gas for just eight episodes, but the producers liked it so much, we shoehorned it in to a couple more, and then a couple more, and now we can't stop." Is this a cry for help? Should we stage an intervention? Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 6
Number of times Jack says "No!": 7
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 16
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 9
Number of moles: 2
Approximate Body Count: 30 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig)

<-12:00 PM - 1:00 PM 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM ->

Monday, February 06, 2006

More on my al-Maghribi speculation

In this post, I speculated that a chain of intelligence successes in the latter part of 2005 may have provided a lead that played a role in the Jan 13 missile strike in Damodala that killed perhaps as many as 5 senior Al Qaeda commanders.

That post referred to a Stratfor analysis suggesting that US intelligence may have used al-Maghribi in one way or another to find the location in Damodala where it was thought Al Qaeda #2 Zawahiri might be.

The chain of intelligence successes involved a couple of high-ranking terrorist finance officials, and several high-ranking terrorist propaganda officials in Iraq.

One thing that's always puzzled me is why the Coalition Forces and US intelligence chose to tell us about those successes at all. Over the past few months we have heard about other seemingly unrelated intelligence successes, such as the operations against foreign fighter facilitators in the western Euphrates river towns.

But, we haven't heard about too many of these kinds of successes. Coalition Forces have captured or detained thousands in Iraq. Surely some of these have led to some significant successes against the enemy. Yet we are not inundated with accounts of the useful intelligence gleaned from all these captures. Intelligence officials are usually shy anyway about revealing details about their operations. You could be telling the other side information they don't have, and information is key in warfare.

So, why did we hear about these operations involving propaganda officials?

I pointed out in the previous post that al-Maghribi was a senior Al Qaeda propaganda official. And being the son-in-law of Zawahiri, he could have had unique knowledge of either Zawahiri's whereabouts, or how to contact him. That post was about how someone in the chain might have provided information that put US intelligence on to al-Maghribi, and through him, to Zawahiri and the strike which nearly killed him.

One thing I haven't talked much about is what started the chain in the first place. The chain I spoke of started with the capture of Abu Khalil, an executive assistant and banker to the then #2 official in Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Abu Khalil was apprehended Sept 24. How was Abu Khalil found?

This is pure speculation again, but here's a possibility, one related to another significant intelligence success sitting out in plain view.

On October 11, 2005, news was released that a letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi had been intercepted. The letter was dated July 9, but details were not given as to how or when exactly the letter was intercepted. According to the CNN article:

The U.S. government is adamant that the al-Zawahiri letter is real for a couple of reasons.

First is the way in which it was obtained. All a Director of National Intelligence spokesman will say for the record is the letter "was obtained in counter-terrorism operations in Iraq" and that "it was intended for Zarqawi." The DNI is sure because of who they got it from, where, and how.

So, we're told the letter was intercepted in Iraq, and as a result of counter-terrorism operations.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also explained why news of the letter was released.

The letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi is dated July 9, 2005. The contents were released only after assurances that no ongoing intelligence or military operations would be affected by making this document public.

The letter's existence was made public only after officials were satisfied it no longer had any intelligence value that could only be exploited while its existence was still secret. This implies its intelligence value was exploited in the period before news about the letter was released.

My speculation is this: Did the interception of the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi play a role in the intelligence operation that led to the capture of Abu Khalil? Perhaps the letter was carried by a trusted courier who also had knowledge of Abu Khalil's whereabouts.

Again, note the dates involved. Abu Khalil was captured Sept 24. However, news of his capture was not released until October 15. This was four days after news of the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi was released.

The ONDI said the letter's existence was revealed only after officials were sure doing so wouldn't jeopardize any ongoing operations. With the capture of Abu Khalil, had the letter, and the means by which it was intercepted, served its usefulness, and so it was safe to reveal the letter's existence?

If the letter did play a role in the capture of Abu Khalil, it had to have been intercepted before September 24. Starting with the interception of the letter, then, did a plan start to develop aimed at targeting Zawahiri?

With the interception of the letter, US intelligence must have learned a little bit about how it got from Zawahiri to Iraq. If it did play a role in the capture of Abu Khalil, whoever was carrying it somehow had information that could be tied to some very important terrorist officials.

Back to my earlier question then. Why did we hear about these successful operations against various propaganda officials at the end of 2005?

Again, speculation, but perhaps US intelligence was telling al-Maghribi, and also Zawahiri, that their propaganda operation in Iraq was being hit hard. The interception of the letter started a chain of operations that picked off a number of terrorists involved in propaganda operations, and US intelligence wanted the Al Qaeda leadership to know why it was happening.

Perhaps the intent was to spook al-Maghribi, since these people being captured might have knowledge that could lead to al-Maghribi, and make him commit some rash action that would enable US and Pakistani intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan to start tracking him.

In his letter to Zarqawi, Zawahiri said two interesting things. He said:

Please take every caution in the meetings, especially when someone claims to carry an important letter or contributions. It was in this way that they arrested Khalid Sheikh.


However, the real danger comes from the agent Pakistani army that is carrying out operations in the tribal areas looking for mujahedeen.

Zawahiri was no fool. He seems to be saying he knew his courier network to Iraq was vulnerable, and perhaps the intelligence successes mentioned above confirmed his fears.

He also knew that Pakistani troops on the ground in the region where he might have been hiding posed an obvious threat. And indeed, the Jan 13 strike in Damodala proved him right.

Perhaps he avoided that meeting in Damodala because something gave him reason to specifically doubt the security of that meeting. With the propaganda network in Iraq under attack, and its relation to his son-in-law, Zawahiri's antennae were probably extra-sensitive to possible dangers.

It is regrettable that US intelligence may have lost a prime opportunity to nail Zawahiri. That trail may be cold for awhile, until leads can be built up again through other means. I note that since the end of December, CentCom and MNF-Iraq have not released much news at all about similar intelligence successes in Iraq. Perhaps with the end of the al-Maghribi operation, there was no longer a need to.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* By a 27-3 vote, the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) decided to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council, that could pave the way for potential sanctions. In response, Iran has declared the Russian nuclear fuel deal dead, halted snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, and indicated they will resume enrichment of uranium.

* Thousands of protesters in the Syrian capital stormed the grounds Danish embassy and set it on fire in response to cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper. Later in the day the protesters set fire to the Norwegian embassy in Damascus as well. Condemnation came throughout the Arab world (photos), with European flags being burnt in Gaza and two Jordanian newspaper editors being arrested for reprinting the cartoon. Michelle Malkin also highlights an "international day of anger." Muslims in the Caucasus are also demanding an apology from the EU. On Sunday the Danish Consulate in Beirut was set ablaze and Jordan has beefed up security to prevent similar instances.

* Fighting raged across southern Afghanistan for a second day Saturday with attacks on government offices and a police convoy, killing a district chief and 14 others -- raising the death toll from the battles to 36, officials said. Government officials said more than 200 rebels were fighting 250 police and Afghan soldiers, as well as U.S. forces -- making it the biggest battle this year in Afghanistan.

* On Friday, 23 suspected al Qaeda members broke out of a jail in the capital of Sanaa. Authorities in Yemen launched a manhunt for the suspects, some of whom were convicted of involvement in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. In a separate case, members of an al Qaeda linked cell in Yemen admitted in court to plotting suicide attacks on hotels and security facilities.

Other topics today include: Hezbollah attack on IDF post; Palestinian bombers captured; Jordan in the war on terror; Bus attack kills 1 in Israel; Hamas says PA mistaken to recognize Israel; Israeli airstrikes; Hamas says long term truce possible; Missile strike on Al Aqsa rocket production facility; Hezbollah member gets 5 years in U.S. prison; No info on pending al Qaeda attacks; Assassination attempt on Georgian President; Russian military quietly concerned about Hamas win; Russian soldiers killed in Chechnya; Bombings in North Ossetia; Suicide attacks stepped up in Afghanistan; Firefights in Afghanistan; Attacks in Nepal kill 17 police; Rocket attacks in Baluchistan; Bus bombing in Pakistan; Killings in Jolo; Broader reaction to Danish cartoons; Netherlands to deploy troops; Developments in Darfur; Nigerian drug gangs and much more.

Iran & the Middle East

* On Friday, Hezbollah gunmen attacked an Israeli military post inside of the contested Shaaba Farms region in northern Israel with small arms fire and rockets. In response, Israeli war planes carried out four raids, firing 12 rockets while drawing anti-aircraft shoulder fired SAM-7 missiles from Hezbollah gunners.

* On Friday, IDF troops arrested two Palestinian teenagers attempting to smuggle suicide bomber belts out of the West Bank city of Nablus to pass along to another group planning to use them attacks in central Israel. The thwarted bombings were the fourth in the last two weeks according to Israeli defense authorities, who believe Syria is seeking to increase the bombings ahead of the Israeli elections.

* The Jordanian military is quietly playing a solid role in the war on terror, with hospitals in both Afghanistan and Iraq serving millions of patients, donations of equipment and training of Iraqi security forces. Visiting the United States, King Abdullah called on Israel and the Palestinians to return to talks.

* A Palestinian man stabbed five Israelis, four of them women, on a bus in central Israel on Saturday, killing one woman. The cowardly attack took place in the city of Petach Tikva.

* In the IAEA resolution referring Iran to the UN Security Council, the atomic watchdog also issues a broader declaration to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone, a move that may bring Israel's non-acknowledged nuclear program into the spotlight. Israel does not in principle oppose a nuclear free Middle East, but demands recognition from Arab states before any such discussions could transpire. On Sunday, senior Hamas member Musa Abu Marzuk described the Palestinian Authority's recognition of Israel as "an error, which can be rectified."

* On Friday night, Israeli fighter jets struck Qassam rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip in response to attacks earlier in the day that wounded four Israelis in western Negev. Palestinian terrorist are working to step up the Gaza Qassam terror campaign against Israel.

* Senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has declared that Hamas will never recognize the right of Israel's existence, but that a long term truce may be possible. "We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Zionist state that was established on our land," said Meshaal, adding "If you (Israel) are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce then we will be ready to negotiate with you over the conditions of such a truce."

* European and Iranian leaders exchanged heated comments on Saturday, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel likened the Iranian threat to that of Nazi Germany, saying "we see that there were times when we could have acted differently. For that reason Germany is obliged to intervene at an early make clear (to Iran) what is O.K. and what isn't."

* An Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza used by Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to prepare rocket attacks against Israel, resulted in the death of three Palestinians.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* A man holding dual citizenship in Lebanon and Canada has been sentenced to five years in U.S. prison after he admitted trying to aid the militant group Hezbollah by sending it night-vision goggles and other equipment. Naji Antoine Abi Khalil, 39, the chairman of a Montreal shipping company, was sentenced Thursday. He pleaded guilty in August to trying to provide material support to Hezbollah, which had been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

* A lawyer for an Ohio trucker who pleaded guilty to plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge has prepared a motion asking a federal judge to throw out the case on the grounds that the government illegally spied on him. Iyman Faris’ challenge is among the first to seek evidence of warrantless electronic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, a practice that began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Government officials have reportedly credited the practice with uncovering Faris’ terrorist plot and several others.

* U.S. intelligence officials told Congress on Thursday that disclosure of once-classified projects like President Bush's no-warrant eavesdropping program have undermined their work. "The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing disclosures about a variety of CIA programs that he suggested may have been compromised. Goss said a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information." National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said Thursday that the al-Qaida terror network remains the "top concern" of the U.S. intelligence community.

* Despite statements by senior al Qaeda leaders, U.S. intelligence agencies do not have information indicating the group is ready to conduct a major attack, U.S. counterterrorism officials said.

* Ecuador has destroyed a camp allegedly used by Colombia's largest rebel group, the FARC, in its territory. A large amount of weaponry had been found at the site, Defence Minister Oswaldo Jarrin said.

* APM Terminals and the Port Authority of Jamaica are improving their current security systems to allow for better vision of their facilities. "We are adding another 16 cameras to be online within the next couple of months," Peter Ford, general manager of APM Terminals, told The Gleaner at a recent Editors' Forum. He added that further expansion of the security system will see another 16 cameras being installed. "The cameras will be monitored by our experienced operators in the CCTV Centre," he explained. Additional security measures will see the implementation of a biometric identification card that will grant staff members access to certain areas of the port.

* Officials OF the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen in Trinidad say they are determined now more than ever to topple the ruling PNM Government after their leader, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, was again refused bail. One senior Jamaat official told the Express that the organisation intends to provide the police with independent evidence to corroborate the statements of Vernon Paul, who has accused top PNM officials of being involved in a plot to frame two former UNC government ministers on drug and weapons charges in order win the general elections in 2002.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* A plot to kill Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by shooting down his helicopter has been foiled according to Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. He said a portable Igla anti-aircraft missile and its launcher had been discovered in the Shida Kartli area, close to the border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia and near a regular flight path of Saakashvili’s helicopter.

* While Russian diplomats looked favorably at the win by Hamas in the Palestinian elections and President Vladamir Putin stated his "position towards HAMAS differs from the American and West-European one", behind the scenes Russian military officers are concerned it will promote even greater activism of a radical Islamic movement in the Middle East that can indirectly affect the situation in Central Asia and in the Northern Caucasus.

* Secret services of Kazakhstan and Afghanistan have increased co-operation in combating drug business according to Vladimir Bozhko, the First Deputy Chairman of KNB (Antiterrorist Centre).

* A regional supreme court in Daghestan sentenced Magomed Salikhov to four years in prison for his role in a 1999 car bombing killed 64 Russian officers and their family members at their housing complex in Buinaksk.

* Two militants were arrested in Daghestan on Friday, suspected of carrying out attacks against security forces in the region.

* Six Russian soldiers have been killed since Thursday in fighting in Chechnya, in three different incidents.

* Three explosions hit three small gambling establishments in the city of Vladikavkaz, the capital of the republic of North Ossetia on Thursday, wounding 23 people. Investigators are focusing on several possible motives for the explosions on the premises, which housed slot machines, including terrorism and a turf war among local criminals.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Fourteen successive suicide bomb attacks have shaken the Kandahar region in a way that nearly four years of guerrilla insurgency has not. Afghan officials say they have made strides in the last few days to shut down terror networks that launched these attacks, arresting 20 insurgents this week. But Taliban spokesmen say their suicide attacks have only just begun.

* Taliban insurgents launched four attacks in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Friday and three policemen and 20 Taliban were killed, the province's deputy governor said. About 200 insurgents were involved in the fighting, and some of them had ambushed police reinforcements going to the scene of the initial clash, said deputy provincial governor Mullah Mir, who was in a police convoy that came under attack.

* A homicide bomber disguised as a woman blew himself up at an army checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, killing five Afghans and wounding four, police said Thursday.

* Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would raise security concerns plaguing his insurgency-hit country during a visit to neighbouring Pakistan this month. "Afghanistan, as a nation, wants to live in peace and security," Karzai told reporters on Friday. "Once we are there, with our Pakistani brothers and Pakistani officials, we'll discuss this and find a way to resolve these problems," he said, stressing that his relations with Islamabad were "very good and friendly".

* Strategy Page looks at the issue of tribal politics in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and says "the Afghan government believes that the Pakistani government is behind the support from Pakistan."

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* In India, intelligence agencies are looking for commonalities in the arrests of six terror suspects from the city in three separate incidents. Top officials, however, admitted that "for Mumbai, the terror threat is now greater than ever before." Also the back-to-back arrests have sparked immediate police response in large parts of the city and its suburbs.

* At least 17 policemen and three soldiers have been killed in attacks by militants in Nepal's western Palpa district. The army said that the rebels launched raids on armed forces and government posts in the town of Tansen.

* Tribesmen have blown up a gas pipeline in Pakistan's troubled southern province of Balochistan, officials say. Armed militants also fired more than 200 rockets at a major base belonging to the Pakistani security forces in the area, they said.

* A bomb ripped through a passenger bus in a province of southwestern Pakistan wracked by growing tribal unrest, killing at least 13 people Sunday and wounding 20 others, police said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which will deepen concerns over Baluchistan, where violence between tribal militants and security forces has escalated recently in remote areas of the province.

* A land mine ripped through a police vehicle, killing six officers and wounding four in the latest of a wave of attacks that have rocked southern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.

* More than 170 Taliban and other Islamist fighters have surrendered as part of a government amnesty scheme, vowing to lay down arms and work to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan, officials said. The men travelled from various provinces from across Afghanistan to Kabul for a ceremony at which their surrender was announced by the head of the government's reconciliation commission, Sebghattullah Mujaddadi.

* A guerrilla group in Sri Lanka has threatened to attack troops because of the government's "crackdown" on Tamil civilians in the north and the east. The People's Army, which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in the island in December, made the announcement on a Tamil website.

* In Bangladesh, Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Khondokar Mosharraf Hossain has informed the House that the government took short and long-term measures to curb terrorism, especially the bomb attacks in the country. He said under the short-term measures, a total of 597 people were arrested in 214 cases. Of the cases, charge sheets against 121 were submitted and seven cases sent to speedy trial tribunals. Also, police already arrested two members of "majlish-e-sura", the highest policy-making body of Jama''atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), two zone commanders, eight district commanders and 17 members of "ehsar sura" besides recovering a huge quantity of arms and ammunition.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Islamic militants in Thailand are carrying out a murderous insurgency in the southern provinces that border Malaysia, with much of their campaign of terror and intimidation aimed at other Muslims.

* Islamic Gunmen attacked a group of Christian families on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing at least six. The attacks took place in the town of Patikul, a hotbed of Abu Sayyaf activity.

* According to Indonesian authorities, wanted Jemaah Islamiah terrorist Noordin M. Top is still hiding in Central Java. Deputy national police spokesman Brigadier-General Anton Bahrul Alam also announced that police had arrested 12 suspects for their involvement in last year's October 1 suicide bombings on restaurants in Bali, which killed 20 people.

* In Jakarta, Indonesian Muslims threw eggs at the Danish embassy and burned the Danish flag, while verbally condemning the European nation for the cartoon depicting Mohammed as a terrorist. The reaction in Australia and New Zealand was equally as interesting.


* Islamic extremists are using Norway as a base for terrorist operations overseas, but the head of Norway's security police claims they're being watched. Jorn Holme, head of the police security agency PST, claims Norwegian authorities "have control" over terror cells believed to be operating in Norway. "We believe we have control," Jorn Holme, who heads the equivalent of Norway's national security agency (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST), told newspaper Dagbladet on Friday. "But as with any other country's security police, we can't make any guarantees."

* The UK should expect more suicide bombings, the independent reviewer of the terrorism laws has warned. Lord Carlile, who has access to sensitive intelligence reports, says there is a "real and present danger of shocking terrorism acts".

* German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made an appeal broadcast on the Al Jazeera television station on Friday calling on Iraqi kidnappers to free two German engineers threatened with death. Steinmeier said earlier on Friday he had no news to report and declined to give any details of Germany's efforts to free the two men or of its assessment of a film in which the kidnappers said they would kill the men in 72 hours if their demands were not met.

* Daniel Drezner links to a Daily Telegraph article saying "that the defeat of Tony Blair's proposed Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was in part due to defections from his Labor party -- and in part due to [an episode of] The West Wing."

* Spain's top law enforcement official said Thursday he removed a key prosecutor from his job for failing to obey orders in important cases, including one involving al-Qaida suspects due to be released from jail soon because of a backlog in the courts.

* The Netherlands will send an extra 1,400 troops to southern Afghanistan, after parliament ended six months of wrangling to approve the deployment. Despite opposition from one of three parties in the ruling coalition, most MPs supported the plan, including those from the main opposition Labour party.

* A Newsweek article says "British authorities had at least two of the terrorists who bombed London last July 7 under surveillance in 2004."

* A group of more than 400 Muslims in London protested the Danish cartoons in a rally that included a sign stating "Britain you will pay - 7/7 is on its way" and featured a child adorned in a hat stating "I love al Qaeda."


* A US-drafted Security Council statement calls for U.N. peacekeepers to be sent to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region and asks United Nations to draw up plans for an eventual takeover from an African Union force. The statement, circulated for discussion to Security Council members on Thursday by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, would be the first step toward authorizing a larger force in Darfur But the statement, which needs approval from all council members, has not yet received agreement from Qatar, the only Arab nation in the 15-member body and China, a close ally of Khartoum, council envoys said.

* The international community should commit to ending arms sales to Africa in 2006, a senior U.N. official said Feb. 2, while urging Africans to lead a pacifist movement across their continent. ”There’s one slogan I would like to suggest for 2006: No arms sales for Africa for 2006. Zero arms sales — not an embargo, not a sanction, a voluntary cessation of all arms sales to Africa,” said Dennis McNamara, the U.N. special advisor on internal displacement.

* The United Nations urged the warring parties from Sudan’s Darfur region on Saturday to stop the conflict from spreading into neighbouring Chad, which has 200,000 Darfur refugees on its territory. The top U.N. envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk, also rebuked the parties for escalating fighting in Darfur, to the detriment of peace talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja between the Sudanese government and two rebel movements. Pronk described an increasingly chaotic situation in Darfur, where rival rebel factions, bandits, pro-government militias and unidentified gunmen kill, rape and loot with impunity.

* Douglas Farah, who in the past has written on al Qaeda's ties to the African diamond trade, highlights Nigerian drug gangs expanding into the Afghan Heroin trade.

* A court in South Africa has sided with a Muslim group and banned the controversial cartoon of Mohammed, currently at the heart of the conflict between Europe and the Muslim world. The ruling was denounced by the media as "pre-publication censorship." South Africa was also one of five nations to abstain from voting to refer Iran to the Security Council.

* Militias based in Sudan's western Darfur region are carrying out almost daily cross-border raids on villages in neighbouring Chad, says a rights group. The report said most of the victims in Chad, as in Darfur, came from African ethnic groups and that the Arab civilians living in the same area were not harmed.

The Global War

* In Congressional testimony, U.S. Intelligence chief John Negroponte cited Iran, al Qaeda and North Korea as the top threats and defended the NSA wiretapping program currently used by the Bush administration.

* The United Nations nuclear agency reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council on Saturday, signaling growing worldwide unease about the nature and intent of Iran's nuclear program, and concern that it might be military. Iran responded Saturday by announcing that it would resume "commercial-scale uranium enrichment" and halt snap checks of its nuclear facilities by U.N. inspectors.

* The Pentagon will ask the U.S. Congress for expanded authority to train and equip indigenous forces across different parts of the world in order to combat the spread of terrorism and maintain security, a senior official responsible for the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) said.

* A paper from the INSS (available here in PDF) entitled Restructuring Special Operations
Forces for Emerging Threats
says Special Forces are vital for combating terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs, but that "neither Washington nor U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is organized for optimal use" of Special Forces.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tochter aus Elysium

The change in Germany's leadership has manifested itself in perceptible, if small, ways in the growing concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying Saturday that "the threat posed by the Nazis in their early days, as top U.S. officials urged a tough line to stop Tehran from making an atomic bomb."

It is of some significance for a German leader to refer to the Nazi past. It is also significant for a German leader to warn of the dangers Iran poses because Germany has been part of the feckless diplomatic efforts over the past couple years designed to rein in the Iranian nuclear program. Merkel's comments could be taken as self-repudiation.

In a region where history is piled on top of itself, Merkel's comments came in a place of note in Germany's history.

Addressing the annual Munich security conference, Merkel said countries around the world had underestimated the Nazi threat as Adolf Hitler rose to power.

"Looking back to German history in the early 1930s when National Socialism (Nazism) was on the rise, there were many outside Germany who said 'It's only rhetoric -- don't get excited'," she told the assembled world defense policy makers.

"There were times when people could have reacted differently and, in my view, Germany is obliged to do something at the early stages ... We want to, we must prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program."

As she was speaking a few hundred metres (yards) from the Munich pub where Hitler launched his "Beer Hall Putsch" in 1923, the board of governors of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency voted in Vienna to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over concerns it is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Germany still needs to prove the mettle of its words, however. If "we must prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program" simply means "we must wring our hands and talk more", then Ms. Merkel really hasn't taken to heart her own words about the dangers of ignoring the rise of a virulent, aggressive power. (On the other hand, perhaps Ms. Merkel reads this blog.)

Regime Change Iran has a compilation of executions carried out in Iran from Dec 5 to Jan 5. Here are a few.

4- Dec. 28 – Two men, identified only by their first names as Naeem-Abdollah and Jaleel, were hanged in public in the volatile city of Ahwaz, southwest Iran, the official state news agency reported on Wednesday. They were accused of being “mohareb”, or waging war on God. In the past, Iran’s judiciary has executed political opponents of the Islamic Republic on the charge of being a mohareb.

5- Dec. 27 – Iran’s State Supreme Court upheld stoning and amputation sentences for four men and jail terms for several dozen other members of a gang in the north of the country, according to a report in a semi-official daily.
The men, who had been arrested in January in the town of Nowshahr in the northern province of Mazandaran, were all part of a gang called the “Wild West" Three of the men – Eskandar M. (also known as Abbasi), Jamshid E., and his unnamed brother – were each given two death by hanging sentences and one death by stoning sentence. Another man, identified only as Afshin R., was sentenced to have his fingers amputated and receive prison time.

Regime Change Iran also links to some very graphic photos of some victims of Iran's thugs. WARNING: Do not click the link if you don't want to see the photos.

The corrupt, brutal regime in charge of Iran holds a proud, ancient people under its heel. They would expand this violence to other nations if given the chance. Iran does export violence in the terrorism it supports, support given to organizations like Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Hamas.

In the comments of another post, Psycmeistr said this:

Just as the call of the WWII generation was to stand up to tyranny, so, I believe, is the call of our generation to stand up to Islamo-fascism...

Soldier's Dad added:

We didn't stand up in '79. Unfortunately, that sets the stage for a huge miscalculation.

Anonymous added:

Psy; very apt analogy. Nothing good has come from that region of the world for a very long time. And it finally came to this and the Pres and others decided it was time to face facts and do something. Some disagree but the status quo offered nothing but more trouble.

SD; interesting point. Many now would say Carters ineffectual response emboldened the persians to run a mile with their inch. See how much trouble entrusting our national security to a Dem pres is so detrimental?

Indeed, we are facing the challenge of our generation. With growing violence over cartoons published in newspapers, Muslim extremists show yet again their intolerance goes hand in hand with a desire to destroy.

Iran, perhaps encouraged by our lack of response to their acts of war in years past, feels they can intimidate us into backing down and letting them acquire the nuclear weapons they want. And armed with those weapons, they can commit violence such as that described above, sit back with a smile and their finger on a big red button and say "What are you going to do about it?"

And what would we do about it then?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Update on Captain Furat

In this post, I mentioned the story of Capt. Furat, an Iraqi Army officer. He was seriously injured in an attack. That post talked about how those in the US military who served with him would like to see him come to the US for treatment and rehabilitation.

In another article at the Washington Times, Maya Alleruzzo has some encouraging news on that front.

A renowned Atlanta medical center has agreed to treat without charge a decorated Iraqi army captain paralyzed in an insurgent attack during home leave Christmas Day.

The case of Capt. Furat, chronicled in The Washington Times, has been taken up by U.S. Army officers who consider him a hero and by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, who is working to clear bureaucratic hurdles so that the Iraqi soldier can come to the United States for treatment.

Officials from Atlanta's Shepherd Center said they would treat the 28-year-old captain pro bono in response to a personal appeal Tuesday by U.S. Army officers from two battalions attached to Capt. Furat's unit in Iraq's Diyala province.

Capt. Furat -- his real name is being withheld to protect his family in Iraq -- wept upon hearing the news.

"Really, I don't know how to thank everybody for this," he said in a telephone interview from his hospital bed at the giant U.S. Air Force field hospital in Balad, Iraq.

Mr. Frist, a surgeon himself, is trying to clear the remaining hurdles to allow Capt. Furat to go to Georgia for treatment.

"When I heard about [Capt. Furat], I was naturally concerned about the health and future of this valiant young Iraqi officer who fought so bravely alongside our forces," Mr. Frist said of his decision to contact the Pentagon on the captain's behalf.

"If a hospital in Atlanta is willing to provide him the treatment he so desperately needs, then I wanted to help facilitate his transfer and transport from Iraq to the U.S. where he can receive that care," the senator added.

Capt. Furat needs clearance from Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to fly on military aircraft and must obtain a visa from the State Department to enter the United States.

To the Security Council

Saturday the IAEA voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors voted 27-3 to make the referral, with five countries abstaining, at a meeting today in Vienna. The Security Council plans to defer acting until March 6, when the IAEA meets again, U.S. officials said.

Iran will immediately implement full-scale enrichment of uranium in response to the Security Council referral, Javad Vaidi, Iran's deputy secretary to the Supreme National Security Council, said in Vienna. Iran also will curtail IAEA spot checks and access to military installations and people, Vaidi said.

Iran can make tons of enriched uranium using thousands of centrifuges, said Ali Soltanieh, the country's IAEA ambassador. Enriched uranium can be used for nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

In Washington, the Bush administration welcomed the IAEA vote as a triumph for its diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran, and said Iran would have until the March 6 meeting to fully reverse its position on nuclear weapons or face a united world community determined to stop it.

"The vote represents the voice of the entire world community," including Russia, China, India, Brazil, Egypt and Yemen, said Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, in a conference call with reporters. "Only the gang of three supported it -- Syria, Venezuela and Cuba. It has no other defenders in the world."

Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa abstained from the vote.

An interesting vote. No surprise that Syria, Venezuela (friend of Mother Sheehan) and Cuba stood in Iran's corner.

Most interesting is India's vote in favor of referral. India has been under intense pressure from both sides. In the end, India may be most concerned about the fate of its agreement with the US. The agreement still needs to be approved by Congress, and there has been concern expressed about India. As a sample, here is Sen. Richard Lugar from a hearing (PDF) last November of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

India has never signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the foundation of international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. India has developed a nuclear weapons arsenal, in conflict with the goals of the treaty. New Delhi in 1974 violated bilateral pledges it made to Washington not to use U.S.-supplied nuclear materials for weapons purposes. More recently, Indian scientists have faced U.S. sanctions for providing nuclear information to Iran.

India's nuclear record with the international community also has been unsatisfying. It has not acknowledged or placed under effective international safeguards all of its facilities involved in nuclear work, and its nuclear tests in 1998 triggered widespread condemnation and international sanctions.

An excellent analysis at Arms Control Today expresses the opposition some in the US have to the agreement with India this way:

The July agreement requires the United States to amend its own laws and policies on nuclear technology transfer and to work for changes in international controls on the supply of nuclear fuel and technology so as to allow “full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India.” In exchange, India’s government would identify and separate civilian nuclear facilities and programs from its nuclear weapons complex and volunteer these civilian facilities for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection and safeguarding. Yet, as they consider the deal and ways to transform its broad framework into legal realities, political elites in each country have ignored some crucial issues.

Policy analysts in the United States have debated the wisdom of the deal.[1] This debate has been rather narrow, confined to proliferation policy experts and a few interested members of Congress, and largely focused on the lack of specific details with regard to the deal, the order of the various steps to be taken by the respective governments, and the potential consequences for U.S. nonproliferation policy.[2] The larger policy context of a long-standing effort to co-opt India as a U.S. client and so sustain and strengthen U.S. power, especially with regard to China, has gone unchallenged. There is also little recognition of how the agreement could allow India to expand its nuclear arsenal.

India ultimately appears to have been swayed by a desire not to antagonize Congress.

Note Iran's immediate defiance.

Iran remained defiant, threatening to do precisely what referral was meant to prevent. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the resumption of uranium enrichment and an end to snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, according to state television.

"As of Sunday, the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol and other cooperation beyond the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has to be suspended under the law," Ahmadinejad said in a letter to Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also is the head of the nation's nuclear agency.

Javed Vaeidi, deputy head of Iran's powerful National Security Council, also said his country "now has to implement fuller scale of enrichment."

This is a dangerous regime, and it would be foolish to merely assume Iran's talk is all bluster.

Writing at the Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last writes about a documentary on human-rights abuses in Iran entitled A Few Simple Shots.

Many scenes in A Few Simple Shots are worrisome, but familiar: photos of dozens of street executions; testimony from former political prisoners who endured terrible torture. One woman, Roya, recalls seeing the scarred back of her cell mate, a young girl. Her skin was pink and shriveled from the base of her skull to her lower back, as if she had been set on fire. The girl had been flogged for 12 continuous hours.

In Iranian prisons, floggings are a matter of course. Another former prisoner, Hojat, recalls how his torturers sometimes beat him with cables; other times they used the fan belt from a car engine, so as to better split the skin.

A teenage girl named Solmaz recounts another horrific story: When she was 15 months old, she was arrested with her mother, Zari. The two were imprisoned in the same cell, but Solmaz was often left alone while her mother was dragged to the torture chamber. Eventually, Solmaz was released to her father, but only after her mother had been executed for being an enemy of the Islamic Republic.

We have seen this before. Regardless of size or ideology, every rogue state from Hitler's Germany to Pol Pot's Cambodia has brutalized its people. In that sense, Iran is no different.

There is one way, however, in which Iran is different. In most repressive states, such atrocities are cloaked in secrecy. Word of Russia's Gulag Archipelago, for instance, was smuggled out over decades and denied by Soviet apologists for generations.

In Iran, however, torture and abasement are not just a province of the secret police. They are also a matter of public policy.

It is time for the nations of the world to gird up their loins and join together and stop Iran's nuclear program before it is too late. How much harder will it be to rein in this murderous regime after they have demonstrated they have nuclear weapons? The time is now, and time is running short.

Tick tick tick...

Friday, February 03, 2006

One possibility

Did one of the intelligence threads that led to the Jan 13 attack in Damodala that killed 5 senior Al Qaeda commanders originate in Iraq?

The attack was apparently aimed at Al Qaeda #2 Zawahiri, who was not present in Damodala at the time, but the attack did inflict a serious blow on the Al Qaeda command structure.

Among those killed was Abdul al-Maghribi. He was Zawahiri's son-in-law, and a senior Al Qaeda official in charge of propaganda/public relations.

Fred Burton, writing for Stratfor, surmised that perhaps al-Maghribi was the link that provided the key intelligence that led to the attack.

Though there is much that can only be speculated about what such a committee might be drawn together to discuss, it is clear that they did not die in a freak accident involving a passing Predator. U.S. intelligence obviously was aware that a meeting was under way, and in all likelihood that information came from a human intelligence (humint) source who was able, somehow, to guarantee the presence of high-value targets (HVTs) in the village.

If we had to guess where the link was, our money would be on al-Maghribi. As al-Zawahiri's son-in-law, he would be in communication with al Qaeda's top leadership and, as a trusted family member, likely would be able to speak on their behalf as a delegate to wider circles. But his role in media relations is equally interesting: Al-Maghribi is believed to have played a part in distributing statements, CDs and videos featuring al Qaeda leaders, and to have maintained contacts with some Arab journalists. The leadership's need for publicity, along with these outside contacts, may have created an opening that U.S. intelligence exploited in efforts to track down bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. If there was a humint source involved in orchestrating the Pakistan strike, it probably was someone who kept their eyes on al-Maghribi. Find al-Maghribi, and he eventually might lead you back to al-Zawahiri.

It was probably al-Maghribi's presence, more than the other three, that drew the rain of missiles down, with U.S. intelligence believing al-Zawahiri would be nearby.

If true, how did U.S. intelligence first get on to al-Maghribi?

Here is one possibility.

You may recall I had several posts in the last months of 2005 detailing some key successes that Coalition Forces achieved in taking down key propaganda officials in Iraq. The arrests seemed to come in a chain, with one arrest of a propaganda official or terrorist leading to another.

Complete details and reasoning are contained in the following posts. I can't reproduce them all here.

* Fighting the real propagandists (12-28)
* Shooting the Messengers (11-25)
* Links in the chain (11-20)
* Dominos (10-20)
* The log keeps rolling (10-17)

To summarize these posts, here are the terrorists involved:

(Note: AQI = Al Qaeda in Iraq)

Abu Khalilexec. assistant and banker to Abu Assam
Abu Assam#2 AQI official
Abu Dijanasenior AQI propaganda cell leader
Yasir Ibrahimtop financier to Iraqi insurgency
Abu Hassensenior AQI propaganda cell leader in Baghdad
Abu Ibrahimsupplied equipment to Abu Hassen
Abu Shihaba senior propaganda chief in Baghdad
Abu Nabachief propagandist in Mosul

The chain of events seems to be this.

The capture of Abu Khalil leads to the death of Abu Assam, the capture of Abu Dijana, and the capture of Yasir Ibrahim.

The capture of Yasir Ibrahim leads to the capture of Abu Hassen and Abu Shihab.

The capture of Abu Hassen leads to the capture of Abu Ibrahim.

The capture of Abu Shihab leads to the capture of Abu Naba.

Now, how does all this relate to al-Maghribi and Damadola? Here is where we can only speculate.

The intelligence successes in Iraq involved some very senior officials, though. They included some senior money men, who would have knowledge of key operations, and some senior propaganda officials.

Since al-Maghribi was a senior propaganda official, he could have had reason to interact with some of these officials in Iraq. Contrary to what you might hear from a casual reading of the mainstream media, Al Qaeda is very much interested in Iraq, and al-Maghribi would have had a keen interest in propaganda operations in Iraq.

Also, this article (HT: Thomas Joscelyn) from Der Spiegel says the following:

He [al-Maghribi] is believed to have helped equip al-Qaida with modern computer technology and given it a high level of expertise in using the Internet, enabling the group to spread its message across the Web without being tracked by intelligence agencies.

al-Maghribi might have been in contact with someone like Abu Ibrahim, who supplied computer equipment to propganda cells in Iraq.

I haven't been able to find much on al-Maghribi's movements and locations in the latter part of 2005. I don't know if he was physically in Iraq at that time. Or, I don't know if he would've kept in contact with these officials with couriers or electronic means.

It is a possibility, though, that some of these Iraqi terrorists mentioned above knew where or how al-Maghribi could be found, told their interrogators, and got U.S. intelligence started on an operation that led to the severe blow dealt to Al Qaeda on January 13.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Drudge has a report that ABC News hasn't yet viewed the video footage from the attack which injured ABC news guy Bob Woodruff. Here's my favorite bit from the report:

ABC executives made the controversial decision not to remove the tape from the camera.

"It is not first, second, or third thing on anyone's mind," said the insider.

The camera will be hand-carried and delivered to ABCNEWS headquarters in New York later on Thursday, from Washington, a source claims. "No one has seen what is on the tape. No one."

On whether ABCNEWS will air the footage: "It will be treated with the same standard and editorial judgment as any war footage."

Translation: We will milk this thing for every iota of publicity this is worth. We are currently determining the best time to run this during sweeps month. We'll have every last one of our shows promoting it, with teary pathos, of course. Heck, we'll even make ESPN Sportscenter start off with the promos.


I understand it is news when a prominent journalist is injured on a battlefield. It's the celebrity factor has much as anything.

But if ABC really "supported the troops", they'd devote just as much time to the soldiers and Marines who are injured every day.

Here are just a few of the reactions from around the web...


The real problem with this "culture of self" so prevalent in the liberal MSM and among liberals in general, is that in being so self-absorbed, they engender the mistaken belief that, since everything revolves around them, everyone and everything else is naturally sucked in to their own little universe by their perceived sense of gravity.


However, I also got very angry at the newswoman. Very angry. A million emotions and thoughts rushed through me - sorrow for the families of Woodruff and Vogt, frustration that this was a big news story, that the news people valued their own over the men and women fighting for their freedom...and don't get me started on the difference between Woodruff's pay and Corporal Snuffy's *cough* salary. Of course, I felt angry that she never shed tears on national television for my friends.

Media Blog:

The real problem with the coverage of the Woodruff story is that it's allowed some critics — who already opposed the war — to draw attention to the journalists rather than the troops in a way that cheapens the enormous sacrifices of the latter.

Update: That didn't take long. Now just have to wait for when they decide to air it.

In Search Of... VII

It's time for another installment of In Search Of... These are some of the more amusing web searches that have stumbled across my blog. (The previous installment is here.)

-beiruts most popular songs
-pinhas moroccan songs
-why did god even put us on earth if he knew what would happen
-wild boys and man stories of men in motels and camping
-philippines. for your eyes only 2000 rebels (npa) seem unafraid of government plan
-sudan militia rebel gorilla warfare [this came from the UW-Madison]
-jack and the beanstalk and today's society
-chinese women marraige -date -site -agency
-pakistanis drivers union associations contacts and guestbook 2006 pakistan
-boy! man!
-how long does it take 2 get to the himalayas
-why do peoples are powerless that they use there cars as weapons or toys in american society
-my scene were you make up a person n u c if they like it

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A crumbling Russian army?

MosNews has been tracking an awful story in Russia, an extreme incident of hazing.

Russian army conscripts were reportedly badly beaten in the city of Chelyabinsk, in the Russian Urals over the New Year holidays, with the incident only being made public now.

Eight of 40 draftees who were in barracks at the local tank school were beaten up by drunk servicemen, with the connivance of the battalion officers. One of the draftees, Andrei Sychev, who was subjected to abuse for over three hours, is still in a grave condition, having had his legs amputated and genitals removed. Sychev was not only beaten but raped. However, the military leadership of Chelyabinsk garrison conceals this fact, Regnum web agency reported.

In the case of Sychev, the amputations were done because gangrene set in as result of the beatings. Twelve have been charged in the matter.

According to the military investigation, it was Sivyakov who meted out the brutal beating over the New Year holiday that led to Andrei Sychev’s legs and genitals being amputated.

The 19-year-old conscript at the Chelyabinsk tank academy in the Urals had been forced to crouch down for hours, then repeatedly kicked. He did not receive medical treatment for three days despite being in pain, by which time gangrene had set in.

The head of the military school has been dismissed.

Russia’s Defense Minister and Deputy PM Sergei Ivanov has ordered the dismissal of the head of the Chelyabinsk military school where a brutal attack on conscripts took place over the New Year holidays.

The minister ordered on Friday to dismiss and retire from military service Major-General Viktor Sidorov, the ministry’s information directorate officials were quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

Later, Russia’s chief military prosecutor Alexander Savenkov said the criminal proceedings had been instigated against Sidorov. It was reported that the head of military school had been aware of the attack but had not informed the military district headquarters, nor the Main Commisariat of Land Forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has gotten involved. The family of Sychev will sue the Defense Ministry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Defense Ministry to help the family of Private Andrei Sychev who was the victim of a brutal attack by fellow soldiers.

The president said to render the necessary assistance to the family regarding a housing problem. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said all the necessary medical aid would be rendered to the soldier, RIA-Novosti news agency repored.

This is hardly the first indication of problems in the Russian military. Corruption and abuse are not unheard of. Pay is not always a regular thing.

But this lack of discipline is a sign of deep flaws. A military that allows this kind of abuse, with the knowledge of officers even, is not a military. It is little better than an armed gang. I've written before about the many problems Russian society is facing. These problems are merely reflected in Russia's military.

This story tugs at me in a special way, too. My son was adopted from a Russian orphange, and it is common for boys to go into the military when they grow up and leave the orphanage, as they often have nowhere else to go. I have countless reasons to thank God John is home with us, but one of them is the knowledge that John will never have to face an abusive stint in a decaying Russian military.

Putting the pressure on Iran

Last night in his State of the Union address, President Bush referred to Iran specifically.

Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.

The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon -- and that must come to an end. The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.

Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

Two things about that. First, note that President Bush said, straight out, "the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." That is a line in the sand, and the United States' credibility is now resting on it. If the United States and its allies do allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons, having done little to prevent it, we will be seen as weak, all talk and no action. President Bush didn't go as far as saying the United States would act alone if necessary, he roped other nations into sharing the responsibility. Also, it is not quite as strong as his father's words "This will not stand" when Hussein invaded Kuwait. But, this is a clear, direct statement that includes the possibility of armed confrontation.

Second, President Bush was right to address the people of Iran, to let them know the United States is not their enemy. He was right to say he looked forward to meeting them as a free nation. However, he did not promise them any direct help. In fact, he said "We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom." They will win their freedom. Apparently not with a lot of help from us. I think this is one of the most serious errors the Bush Administration has made in the last three years, not actively supporting regime change in Iran. President Bush can say nice words, but that's all they are without action to back them up.

Yesterday there were interesting developments as the IAEA considers whether or not to refer Iran to the United Nations. From Reuters:

The permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council agreed on Tuesday that this week's meeting of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog should report Iran to the Council over its nuclear programs, said a statement from the five.

"(Ministers) agreed that this week's extraordinary IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Board meeting should report to the Security Council its decision on the steps required of Iran," said a joint statement after the meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain as well as Germany and the European Union's foreign policy chief.

A senior U.S. official said the statement meant Russia and China were on board with the United States and the European powers that there must be strong action taken by the IAEA on Thursday or Friday against Iran to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

It is not insignificant that Russia and China would agree to refer Iran to the UN. However, this is not exactly the formation of a strong coalition against Iran. There is plenty of wiggle of room here for Iran, Russia and China.

For starters, part of the deal included this:

The statement said the ministers agreed that the U.N. Security Council should await the IAEA director general's report to a March IAEA meeting before deciding what further action to take.

Iran has bought another month to push its program forward. I've said before, Iran is acting like it thinks it is close to having nuclear weapons. There have been recent reports it may already have the bomb, but is working to perfect its missile technology. It's hard to know the truth, but Iran's actions are consistent with an aggressive power stalling for time so it can conduct a nuclear test this year.

As for Russia and China, they have made no commitment as to how they would vote in the Security Council. They could still veto sanctions there. Agreeing to an IAEA referral is a good deal for them. It buys them good will in the international arena, but they didn't commit to a decision on the only issue that really matters in the discussion, UN sanctions, something neither Russia and China are very eager to impose on Iran.

The agreement with the nations mentioned above came with the news that Iran had in its possession documents on casting uranium into the shape of a warhead.

A document obtained by Iran on the nuclear black market serves no other purpose than to make an atomic bomb, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday.

The finding was made in a report prepared for presentation to the 35-nation IAEA board when it meets, starting Thursday, on whether to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions on Iran.

This isn't really news. As C.S. Scott points out here, he included an item about that last November in our Winds of War Briefing (yet another to keep up with the Briefings!), when news of these documents first came to light.

And as I pointed out here, there's long been discussion about what exactly Pakistan's Dr. Khan gave to Iran. Khan is the likely source of these documents.

All in all, it seems the nations of the world that President Bush referred to just kicked the can down the road for another month. However, the sigh of relief you hear is coming from India, who doesn't have to make a difficult choice on how to vote in the IAEA meeting this week. India will probably abstain, and Russia and China gave them the cover to do so. (Though there are also reports India may still be considering its vote.)

Certainly, an abstention would still be a rebuff to the United States, but it would allow India to avoid antagonizing Iran.

Regime Change Iran links to an interesting analysis from Reuters concerning a move India made Sunday.

India has moved to secure the fate of a rickety nuclear deal with Washington by replacing its pro-Iranian oil minister with a reformist seen as having close US contacts, analysts say.

Murli Deora was handed the key post on Sunday in a surprise move, pushing aside Mani Shankar Aiyar who was a strong supporter of a projected gas pipeline from Iran - something which the Indian foreign ministry was not comfortable with and which is opposed by the United States.

Ruling Congress party sources say Deora, who currently co-chairs a India-U.S. parliamentarian forum according to his Web site (, is known to have "deep contacts" in the US Senate and business circles.

It is certainly significant if India put a person in that key role who is more friendly to the US than his predecessor.

The analysis does go on to quote a foreign policy expert (in India, I gather) that The Iran gas pipeline is now dead."

I'm not sure about that yet. That pipeline has been in the works for years. Lots of money is at stake, control of energy resources is at stake. Projects like that don't get killed for small reasons.

I mentioned Russia, and China, did India a favor by giving them cover on the IAEA referral. Such a favor is not without value in diplomatic circles. Russia may want something from India in return for this favor. We'll have to keep an eye out for what form India's appreciation might take. It might end up having something to do with this pipeline. I've mentioned before Russia has expressed an interest in being a part of that gas pipeline project. And Security Watchtower has another possibility.

The Great Game continues.