31 January 2007

Learning counterinsurgency: observations from soldiering in Iraq

Learning counterinsurgency: observations from soldiering in Iraq
Military Review, Jan-Feb, 2006 by David H. Petraeus

"THE ARMY HAS LEARNED a great deal in Iraq and Afghanistan about the conduct of counterinsurgency operations, and we must continue to learn all that we can from our experiences in those countries.

The insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan were not, in truth, the wars for which we were best prepared in 2001; however, they are the wars we are fighting and they clearly are the kind of wars we must master. America's overwhelming conventional military superiority makes it unlikely that future enemies will confront us head on. Rather, they will attack us asymmetrically, avoiding our strengths--firepower, maneuver, technology--and come at us and our partners the way the insurgents do in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is imperative, therefore, that we continue to learn from our experiences in those countries, both to succeed in those endeavors and to prepare for the future.

Soldiers and Observation
Writing down observations and lessons learned is a time-honored tradition of Soldiers. Most of us have done this to varying degrees, and we then reflect on and share what we've jotted down after returning from the latest training exercise, mission, or deployment. Such activities are of obvious importance in helping us learn from our own experiences and from those of others.

In an effort to foster learning as an organization, the Army institutionalized the process of collection, evaluation, and dissemination of observations, insights, and lessons some 20 years ago with the formation of the Center for Army Lessons Learned. (1) In subsequent years, the other military services and the Joint Forces Command followed suit, forming their own lessons learned centers. More recently, the Internet and other knowledge-management tools have sped the processes of collection, evaluation, and dissemination enormously. Numerous products have already been issued since the beginning of our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and most of us have found these products of considerable value as we've prepared for deployments and reviewed how different units grappled with challenges our elements were about to face.

For all their considerable worth, the institutional structures for capturing lessons are still dependent on Soldiers' thoughts and reflections. And Soldiers have continued to record their own observations, particularly in recent years as we have engaged in so many important operations. Indeed, my own pen and notebook were always handy while soldiering in Iraq, where I commanded the 101st Airborne Division during our first year there (during the fight to Baghdad and the division's subsequent operations in Iraq's four northern provinces), and where, during most of the subsequent year-and-a-half, I helped with the so-called "train and equip" mission, conducting an assessment in the spring of 2004 of the Iraqi Security Forces after their poor performance in early April 2004, and then serving as the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and the NATO Training Mission-Iraq.

What follows is the distillation of a number of observations jotted down during that time. Some of these observations are specific to soldiering in Iraq, but the rest speak to the broader challenge of conducting counterinsurgency operations in a vastly different culture than our own. I offer 14 of those observations here in the hope that others will find them of assistance as they prepare to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan or in similar missions in the years ahead.

Fourteen Observations

Observation Number 1 is "Do not try to do too much with your own hands." T.E. Lawrence offered this wise counsel in an article published in The Arab Bulletin in August 1917. Continuing, he wrote: "Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is. It may take them longer and it may not be as good as you think, but if it is theirs, it will be better." (2)

Lawrence's guidance is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in his own time in the Middle East during World War I. Like much good advice, however, it is sometimes easier to put forward than it is to follow. Our Army is blessed with highly motivated Soldiers who pride themselves on being action oriented. We celebrate a "can do" spirit, believe in taking the initiative, and want to get on with business. Yet, despite the discomfort in trying to follow Lawrence's advice by not doing too much with our own hands, such an approach is absolutely critical to success in a situation like that in Iraq. Indeed, many of our units recognized early on that it was important that we not just perform tasks for the Iraqis, but that we help our Iraqi partners, over time enabling them to accomplish tasks on their own with less and less assistance from us.

Empowering Iraqis to do the job themselves has, in fact, become the essence of our strategy--and such an approach is particularly applicable in Iraq. Despite suffering for decades under Saddam, Iraq still has considerable human capital, with the remnants of an educated middle class, a number of budding entrepreneurs, and many talented leaders. Moreover, the Iraqis, of course, know the situation and people far better than we ever can, and unleashing their productivity is essential to rebuilding infrastructure and institutions. Our experience, for example, in helping the Iraqi military reestablish its staff colleges and branch-specific schools has been that, once a good Iraqi leader is established as the head of the school, he can take it from there, albeit with some degree of continued Coalition assistance. The same has been true in many other areas, including in helping establish certain Army units (such as the Iraqi Army's 9th Division (Mechanized), based north of Baghdad at Taji, and the 8th Division, which has units in 5 provinces south of Baghdad) and police academies (such as the one in Hillah, run completely by Iraqis for well over 6 months). Indeed, our ability to assist rather than do has evolved considerably since the transition of sovereignty at the end of late June 2004 and even more so since the elections of 30 January 2005. I do not, to be sure, want to downplay in the least the amount of work still to be done or the daunting challenges that lie ahead; rather, I simply want to emphasize the importance of empowering, enabling, and assisting the Iraqis, an approach that figures prominently in our strategy in that country."

Now, click on the link in the title of this post for a link to the Counterinsurgency Manual everyone is talking about, but like War and Peace, nobody has read.

The manual is written by:
Lieutenant General, USA
U.S. Army Combined Arms Center

Lieutenant General, USMC
Commanding General
Marine Corps Combat Development Command

If you've read Cobra II or Fiasco then these two names should sound familiar

Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency

"In 2004, when McFate had a fellowship at the Office of Naval Research, she got a call from a science adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had been contacted by battalion commanders with the 4th Infantry Division in a violent sector of the Sunni Triangle, in Iraq. “We’re having a really hard time out here—we have no idea how this society works,” the commanders said. “Could you help us?” The science adviser replied that he was a mathematical physicist, and turned for help to one of the few anthropologists he could find in the Defense Department."
--“Knowing the Enemy”, George Packer, The New Yorker, December 12, 2006

David Kilcullen has a strong background in modern military theory: Lt. Col in the Australian Army, Ph.D. in anthropology, Chief Strategist in the Office of the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, recently awarded the Medal for Exceptional Public Service, and subject of a glowing review in the New Yorker article quoted above.

You might want to read Kilcullen's:
“Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency” Military Review, May – June 2006 (203 KB PDF)
at the link in the title above.

then check out:

which is where I pulled the begining of this post

The Quiet War in the Horn of Africa

By KATE WILTROUT, The Virginian-Pilot
© January 28, 2007
ALI ADDÉ, Djibouti — A curious crowd of women and men in billowing skirts streamed toward the landing zone as two U.S. Marine helicopters touched down on rocky African desert.

The Marines had pistols strapped to their legs, but the choppers from New River Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina were doves, not hawks.

Inside were an Air Force doctor and a team of Army civil affairs specialists on a mission to bring help – and hope – to 12,000 Somali refugees.

The forbidding landscape is a 20-minute flight – but seems a world apart – from Djibouti’s capital city, where the U.S. military has established a base, Camp Lemonier.

U.S. air strikes on suspected terrorists in Somalia this month called the world’s attention to the region.

However, the U.S. military has been quietly engaged in the Horn of Africa since 2002, using about 1,500 troops to build schools and medical clinics, dig wells, treat sick people and inoculate livestock. Dozens of Navy sailors and officers from Hampton Roads are part of the force, and more are preparing to head to Djibouti in early February.

With its mission to win hearts and minds through goodwill, this unorthodox military operation looks more like the Peace Corps than the Marine Corps. But the effort is primarily to deter al-Qaida and Muslim extremists from spreading throughout a region rife with poverty and despair.

“Our mission is not capture and kill,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Moon , deputy commander of the Navy-led task force.

Moon, a reservist from Suffolk, calls it an experiment. “I hope it works.”

There’s reason for the United States to worry about terrorists in Africa.

In three of the eight countries where the task force labors, al-Qaida has orchestrated anti-American attacks. U.S. embassies were bombed in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, killing 250 people. And 17 Norfolk-based sailors died in a blast that crippled the destroyer Cole in Yemen’s Gulf of Aden in 2000.

Here in Ali Addé, the military visitors toured a newly refurbished health clinic about the size of a gas station. Renovated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the tidy facility had a closet-sized pharmacy and a few exam rooms.

About 75 women gathered on the porch, ailing children in their arms. The wait was long. One toddler played with a discarded surgical glove blown up into a hand-shaped balloon.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Parnell, a broad, balding Army reservist – and a police officer and paramedic in Cleveland in his “other” life – said a recent influx of about 5,000 refugees from war-torn Somalia had taxed the resources of this clinic and another nearby, which ran out of medicine.

Hungry people boil the bark of scrubby trees and bushes to soften it, then eat it. Chronic malnutrition, influenza and poor sanitation are the main scourges, said Parnell, his face and voice filled with distress.

He estimated that one to two women in this community die each week from diarrhea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria or asthma. Children perish, about five a day, Parnell said.

Fatouma Ali desperately hoped her son would not become one of them.

Ali held her toothless, feverish 2-year-old beneath the bright orange shawl she wore. She didn’t know her own age – she guessed 45. She gave birth to her first child 11 years ago; five more children followed.

Through a translator, Ali said her family fled Somalia at the beginning of Ramadan last fall, coming to Djibouti in a car loaded with as many possessions as they could fit.

“Here is a peaceful country, and everybody wants to live in a peaceful area,” Ali said.

Somalia hasn’t had an effective central government since 1991, when warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then began battling among themselves. Al-Qaida has moved in, prompting the U.S. airstrikes this month.

The clinic is another way to keep al-Qaida at bay. Here, a volunteer nurse and a local physician typically see as many as 50 patients a day. Air Force Col. Dan Shoor, dispatched here from Alaska, sometimes helps.

In an exam room with unscreened windows overlooking craggy mountain peaks, Shoor diagnosed a 3-year-old Somali child with pneumonia and an underlying case of tuberculosis.

Back home, Shoor would have prescribed antibiotics for the pneumonia, as well as a nine-month regimen of drugs for the TB. Active cases of TB often require at least four different drugs administered simultaneously.

Shoor said the child would get antibiotic treatment, and the clinic nurse also would try to treat the boy’s relatives, who probably have latent cases of TB.

He viewed the child’s odds of survival as even.

About 800,000 people in the region suffer from the infectious lung disease, Shoor said. Some are infected with strains resistant to multiple drugs. Sometimes, there is little doctors can do.

read the rest of the story at the link above in the title

Civilian Reserve Corp or Merc Army?

There was an interesting tidbit in the State of the Union Speech the President made recently. I've been waiting and watching to hear more about this fascinating topic.

The idea was first proposed back in July/August 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs
Addressing State Failure
Stephen D. Krasner and Carlos Pascual
From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005
Summary: In today's interconnected world, weak and failed states pose an acute risk to U.S. and global security. Anticipating, averting, and responding to conflict requires more planning and better organization -- precisely the missions of the State Department's new Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

Stephen D. Krasner is Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State. Carlos Pascual is the State Department's Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Security Council.

In today's increasingly interconnected world, weak and failed states pose an acute risk to U.S. and global security. Indeed, they present one of the most important foreign policy challenges of the contemporary era. States are most vulnerable to collapse in the time immediately before, during, and after conflict. When chaos prevails, terrorism, narcotics trade, weapons proliferation, and other forms of organized crime can flourish. Left in dire straits, subject to depredation, and denied access to basic services, people become susceptible to the exhortations of demagogues and hatemongers. It was in such circumstances that in 2001 one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan, became the base for the deadliest attack ever on the U.S. homeland, graphically and tragically illustrating that the problems of other countries often do not affect them alone.

The international community is not, however, adequately organized to deal with governance failures. The United States and the rest of the world need to develop the tools to both prevent conflict and manage its aftermath when it does occur. Such efforts will entail not just peacekeeping measures, but also influencing the choices that troubled countries make about their economies, their political systems, the rule of law, and their internal security. Weak countries are unable to take advantage of the global economy not just because of a lack of resources, but also because they lack strong, capable institutions. To promote sustainable peace, Washington and its partners must thus commit to making long-term investments of money, energy, and expertise.

The United States is moving in the right direction. Following a decision of the National Security Council in the spring of 2004, the Bush administration created a new office within the State Department: the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. S/CRS will help lead and coordinate joint operations across agencies to respond effectively to evolving crises around the world, in concert with the international community. The White House has requested $124.1 million from Congress to finance the first phase of the new office and the programs it will support. The price for building a rapid-response capability is small. It is miniscule compared to the cost of ignoring the threats posed by failed states.

Conflict prevention must become a routine element of policymaking. Leaders in Congress, the administration, and the nongovernmental community must continue to devote their energies to stabilizing the vulnerable regions of the world. The U.S. government must be able to anticipate potential problems quickly and effectively so that they can be managed before they develop into full conflagrations. There is always the risk that prevention in any given situation may fail, and that must be accepted -- both by senior policymakers and by the entire government. Crises will inevitably occur, but if they are the United States' only impetus for response, there will be less chance of success."

read the rest of the article at: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050701faessay84411/stephen-d-krasner-carlos-pascual/addressing-state-failure.html

Of course there are now many pundits citing other more nefarious plots:
Merc Army
Tue, 30 Jan 2007 21:48:04 -0800
By Jeremy Scahill
Blackwater, Inc. and the privatization of the Bush war machine
As President Bush took the podium to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday, there were five American families receiving news that has become all too common: Their loved ones had been killed in Iraq. But in this case, the slain were neither “civilians,” as the news reports proclaimed, nor were they U.S. soldiers. They were highly trained mercenaries deployed to Iraq by a secretive private military company based in North Carolina – Blackwater USA.
The company made headlines in early 2004 when four of its troops were ambushed and burned in the Sunni hotbed of Fallouja – two charred, lifeless bodies left to dangle for hours from a bridge. That incident marked a turning point in the war, sparked multiple U.S. sieges of Fallouja and helped fuel the Iraqi resistance that haunts the occupation to this day.
Now, Blackwater is back in the news, providing a reminder of just how privatized the war has become. On Tuesday, one of the company’s helicopters was brought down in one of Baghdad’s most violent areas. The men who were killed were providing diplomatic security under Blackwater’s $300-million State Department contract, which dates to 2003 and the company’s initial no-bid contract to guard administrator L. Paul Bremer III in Iraq. Current U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who is also protected by Blackwater, said he had gone to the morgue to view the men’s bodies, asserting the circumstances of their deaths were unclear because of “the fog of war.”
Bush made no mention of the downing of the helicopter during his State of the Union speech. But he did address the very issue that has made the war’s privatization a linchpin of his Iraq policy – the need for more troops. The president called on Congress to authorize an increase of about 92,000 active-duty troops over the next five years. He then slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps.
“Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them,” Bush declared. This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.
Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest “force” in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What’s more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.
The president’s proposed Civilian Reserve Corps was not his idea alone. A privatized version of it was floated two years ago by Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, conservative owner of Blackwater USA and a man who for years has served as the Pied Piper of a campaign to repackage mercenaries as legitimate forces. In early 2005, Prince – a major bankroller of the president and his allies – pitched the idea at a military conference of a “contractor brigade” to supplement the official military. “There’s consternation in the [Pentagon] about increasing the permanent size of the Army,” Prince declared. Officials “want to add 30,000 people, and they talked about costs of anywhere from $3.6 billion to $4 billion to do that. Well, by my math, that comes out to about $135,000 per soldier.” He added: “We could do it certainly cheaper.”
And Prince is not just a man with an idea; he is a man with his own army. Blackwater began in 1996 with a private military training camp “to fulfill the anticipated demand for government outsourcing.” Today, its contacts run from deep inside the military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House. It has secured a status as the elite Praetorian Guard for the global war on terror, with the largest private military base in the world, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 soldiers at the ready.
From Iraq and Afghanistan to the hurricane-ravaged streets of New Orleans to meetings with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about responding to disasters in California, Blackwater now envisions itself as the FedEx of defense and homeland security operations. Such power in the hands of one company, run by a neo-crusader bankroller of the president, embodies the “military-industrial complex” President Eisenhower warned against in 1961.
Further privatizing the country’s war machine – or inventing new back doors for military expansion with fancy names like the Civilian Reserve Corps – will represent a devastating blow to the future of American democracy.
GNN contributor Jeremy Scahill is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and the author of the forthcoming Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He can be reached at jeremy [at] democracynow.org.



Spray-On Solar-Power Cells Are True Breakthrough

Spray-On Solar-Power Cells Are True Breakthrough
Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
January 14, 2005

Scientists have invented a plastic solar cell that can turn the sun's power into electrical energy, even on a cloudy day. The plastic material uses nanotechnology and contains the first solar cells able to harness the sun's invisible, infrared rays. The breakthrough has led theorists to predict that plastic solar cells could one day become five times more efficient than current solar cell technology. Like paint, the composite can be sprayed onto other materials and used as portable electricity. A sweater coated in the material could power a cell phone or other wireless devices. A hydrogen-powered car painted with the film could potentially convert enough energy into electricity to continually recharge the car's battery.

The researchers envision that one day "solar farms" consisting of the plastic material could be rolled across deserts to generate enough clean energy to supply the entire planet's power needs. "The sun that reaches the Earth's surface delivers 10,000 times more energy than we consume," said Ted Sargent, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Toronto. Sargent is one of the inventors of the new plastic material. "If we could cover 0.1 percent of the Earth's surface with [very efficient] large-area solar cells," he said, "we could in principle replace all of our energy habits with a source of power which is clean and renewable."

Infrared Power
Plastic solar cells are not new. But existing materials are only able to harness the sun's visible light. While half of the sun's power lies in the visible spectrum, the other half lies in the infrared spectrum. The new material is the first plastic composite that is able to harness the infrared portion. "Everything that's warm gives off some heat. Even people and animals give off heat," Sargent said. "So there actually is some power remaining in the infrared [spectrum], even when it appears to us to
be dark outside." The researchers combined specially designed nano particles called quantum dots with a polymer to make the plastic that can detect energy in the infrared. With further advances, the new plastic "could allow up to 30 percent of the sun's radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to 6 percent in today's best plastic solar cells," said Peter Peumans, a Stanford University electrical engineering professor, who studied the work.

Electrical Sweaters
The new material could make technology truly wireless. "We have this expectation that we don't have to plug into a phone jack anymore to talk on the phone, but we're resigned to the fact that we have to plug into an electrical outlet to recharge the batteries," Sargent said. "That's only communications wireless, not power wireless." He said the plastic coating could be woven into a shirt or sweater and used to charge an item like a cell phone. "A sweater is already absorbing all sorts of light both in the infrared and the visible," said Sargent. "Instead of just turning that into heat, as it currently does, imagine if it were to turn that into electricity." Other possibilities include energy-saving plastic sheeting that could be unfurled onto a rooftop to supply heating needs, or solar cell window coating that could let in enough infrared light to power home appliances.

Ultimately, a large amount of the sun's energy could be harnessed through "solar farms" and used to power all our energy needs, the researchers predict. "This could potentially displace other sources of electrical production that produce greenhouse gases, such as coal," Sargent said. In Japan, the world's largest solar-power market, the government expects that 50 percent of residential power supply will come from solar power by 2030, up from a fraction of a percent today.
The biggest hurdle facing solar power is cost-effectiveness.

At a current cost of 25 to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, solar power is significantly more expensive than conventional electrical power for residences. Average U.S. residential power prices are less than ten cents per kilowatt-hour, according to experts.
But that could change with the new material. "Flexible, roller-processed solar cells have the potential to turn the sun's power into a clean, green, convenient source of energy," said John Wolfe, a nanotechnology venture capital investor at Lux Capital in New York City.

24 January 2007

Gonzales Questions Habeas Corpus

In all the buildup to the State of the Union address you might have missed this little tidbit...

Gonzales Questions Habeas Corpus
In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales questioned whether the

U.S. Constitution grants habeas corpus rights of a fair trial to every American.
Responding to questions from Sen. Arlen Specter at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended.
“There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales’s remark left Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, stammering.

“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”

Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.”

“You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense,” Specter said.

While Gonzales’s statement has a measure of quibbling precision to it, his logic is troubling because it would suggest that many other fundamental rights that Americans hold dear also don’t exist because the Constitution often spells out those rights in the negative.

For instance, the First Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Applying Gonzales’s reasoning, one could argue that the First Amendment doesn’t explicitly say Americans have the right to worship as they choose, speak as they wish or assemble peacefully. The amendment simply bars the government, i.e. Congress, from passing laws that would impinge on these rights.
Similarly, Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution states that “the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

The clear meaning of the clause, as interpreted for more than two centuries, is that the Founders recognized the long-established English law principle of habeas corpus, which guarantees people the right of due process, such as formal charges and a fair trial.

That Attorney General Gonzales would express such an extraordinary opinion, doubting the constitutional protection of habeas corpus, suggests either a sophomoric mind or an unwillingness to respect this well-established right, one that the Founders considered so important that they embedded it in the original text of the Constitution.

Other cherished rights – including freedom of religion and speech – were added later in the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights.

Ironically, Gonzales may be wrong in another way about the lack of specificity in the Constitution’s granting of habeas corpus rights. Many of the legal features attributed to habeas corpus are delineated in a positive way in the Sixth Amendment, which reads:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed … and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; [and] to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses.”
Bush's Powers
Gonzales’s Jan. 18 statement suggests that he is still seeking reasons to make habeas corpus optional, subordinate to President George W. Bush’s executive powers that Bush’s neoconservative legal advisers claim are virtually unlimited during “a time of war,” even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror” which may last forever.
In the final weeks of the Republican-controlled Congress, the Bush administration pushed through the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that effectively eliminated habeas corpus for non-citizens, including legal resident aliens.

Under the new law, Bush can declare any non-citizen an “unlawful enemy combatant” and put the person into a system of military tribunals that give defendants only limited rights. Critics have called the tribunals “kangaroo courts” because the rules are heavily weighted in favor of the prosecution.

Some language in the new law also suggests that “any person,” presumably including American citizens, could be swept up into indefinite detention if they are suspected of having aided and abetted terrorists.

“Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission,” according to the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in September and signed by Bush on Oct. 17, 2006.

Another provision in the law seems to target American citizens by stating that “any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States ... shall be punished as a military commission … may direct.”

Who has “an allegiance or duty to the United States” if not an American citizen? That provision would not presumably apply to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, nor would it apply generally to foreign citizens. This section of the law appears to be singling out American citizens.

Besides allowing “any person” to be swallowed up by Bush’s system, the law prohibits detainees once inside from appealing to the traditional American courts until after prosecution and sentencing, which could translate into an indefinite imprisonment since there are no timetables for Bush’s tribunal process to play out.

The law states that once a person is detained, “no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever … relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”

That court-stripping provision – barring “any claim or cause of action whatsoever” – would seem to deny American citizens habeas corpus rights just as it does for non-citizens. If a person can’t file a motion with a court, he can’t assert any constitutional rights, including habeas corpus.

Other constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights – such as a speedy trial, the right to reasonable bail and the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” – would seem to be beyond a detainee’s reach as well.

Special Rules
Under the new law, the military judge “may close to the public all or a portion of the proceedings” if he deems that the evidence must be kept secret for national security reasons. Those concerns can be conveyed to the judge through ex parte – or one-sided – communications from the prosecutor or a government representative.
The judge also can exclude the accused from the trial if there are safety concerns or if the defendant is disruptive. Plus, the judge can admit evidence obtained through coercion if he determines it “possesses sufficient probative value” and “the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statement into evidence.”

The law permits, too, the introduction of secret evidence “while protecting from disclosure the sources, methods, or activities by which the United States acquired the evidence if the military judge finds that ... the evidence is reliable.”

During trial, the prosecutor would have the additional right to assert a “national security privilege” that could stop “the examination of any witness,” presumably by the defense if the questioning touched on any sensitive matter.

In effect, what the new law appears to do is to create a parallel “star chamber” system for the prosecution, imprisonment and possible execution of enemies of the state, whether those enemies are foreign or domestic.

Under the cloak of setting up military tribunals to try al-Qaeda suspects and other so-called “unlawful enemy combatants,” Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress effectively created a parallel legal system for “any person” – American citizen or otherwise – who crosses some ill-defined line.
There are a multitude of reasons to think that Bush and advisers will interpret every legal ambiguity in the new law in their favor, thus granting Bush the broadest possible powers over people he identifies as enemies.

As further evidence of that, the American people now know that Attorney General Gonzales doesn’t even believe that the Constitution grants them habeas corpus rights to a fair trial.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.' This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.

Note: Also read Deborah Kory's parody: How to Interpret the Ten Commandments -- An attempt at legal analysis of Biblical law following Gonzalesian logic.

The state of the (dis)union

The state of the (dis)union
By Pepe Escobar

"Security is a shared destiny. If we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe. And if we are struck and killed, you will definitely - with Allah's permission - be struck and killed."
- Ayman al-Zawahiri, in the new al-Qaeda video The Correct Equation.

US President George W Bush's State of the Union address - apart from the amalgam of al-Qaeda and Iran in the same sentence - was a non-event in terms of a new strategy for the Middle East.

Bush said, "We could expect an epic battle between Shi'ite extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country [Iraq] - and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict."

Bush did admit that "we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction" in Iraq, adding that the war, with its sectarian fury, "is not the fight we entered in Iraq. But it is the fight we are in. It is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory."

With Bush offering nothing new, US and world public opinion might do well to focus on the state of the (dis)union in the heart of Islam. What the "enemy" is thinking has been personified by a video starring al-Qaeda's No 2, Sunni Arab Ayman al-Zawahiri, and an interview by Iraqi Shi'ite nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Zawahiri, looking like a bearded Woody Allen in a slick, al-Sahab-produced, 14-minute-plus video with English subtitles, once again repeated what al-Qaeda has been stressing for years: if Islam is not attacked, the West won't be attacked. He took great pains to stress that security is a "shared destiny" between Islam and the West. The White House hasn't exactly been listening.

When Zawahiri taunts Bush to send the entire US Army to Iraq, it is not because he believes Arab mujahideen will pull a 1980s Afghanistan remix and "destroy the equivalent of 10 armies". It's because he knows Bush's "surge" and "new way forward" multiply the quagmire while further enraging US public opinion. Al-Qaeda has already telegraphed many times that it would consider an unthinkable (what about the oil?) US withdrawal as an invaluable strategic victory.

Zawahiri's geopolitical reading could not but be optimistic. He states the obvious: al-Qaeda is thriving again in Afghanistan, with Taliban offensives running rings around the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He knows al-Anbar province in Iraq is practically an al-Qaeda-secured emirate. So there's plenty of room left in his address to regiment moderate Muslims and "Arab nationalists and leftists" and incite them to become jihadis in the name of pan-Islamism. There's no guarantee moderate Muslims will be swayed. But "al-Qaeda" - the brand - is set to remain on a roll among poor, disfranchised Muslims on the peripheries of Islam, especially after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.

Paradise now for martyr Muqtada
Muqtada al-Sadr's interview with Italy's La Repubblica, published late last week - his first interview with a Western news medium in recent memory - was also tremendously enlightening. The core of his platform might place him close to Zawahiri: Americans out, now. But that's where the similarities end. Both may be US Public Enemies 2 and 3 (assuming Osama bin Laden is still No 1). But al-Qaeda wants a Sunni Arab-dominated emirate in Iraq, while Muqtada wants a light, Shi'ite-dominated nationalist theocracy not submissive to Iran.

Muqtada regards Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki - whom the Sadrists theoretically support in Parliament - as little more than a puppet ("I never trusted him"). He insists Maliki told him he was "forced to fight us". But most of all he correctly evaluates that former interim prime minister Iyad "Butcher of Fallujah" Allawi is the Americans' man, the new "Saddam without a mustache" who would be able, in Washington's scheme, to pacify Iraq with an iron fist.

Muqtada is well aware he's being hunted. He telegraphs that his Mehdi Army won't oppose any resistance to the current Maliki-ordered sort-of-crackdown prior to the upcoming US surge/escalation/"new way forward". And it makes total sense: after all, this is the sacred Shi'ite month of Muharram, which celebrates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Muqtada emphasizes that for a true believer, there could not be a better time to become a martyr: "Paradise is assured." Next month - or a year from now, for that matter - is another story.

Muqtada meanwhile plays a clever game with Maliki. The Sadrists are back in Parliament, but with the promise of a formal timetable to be set in the next few months by the Maliki government for US withdrawal, and with any possible extension submitted to a parliamentary vote. This is a key point uniting the Sadrists and the Sunni parties.

Muqtada characterizes the 80,000-plus Mehdi Army as a free-flowing "popular army" - which is correct; this means it is porous, and infiltrated by all sides. There are at least two major, violent Mehdi Army splinter groups - the ones who may be acting as death squads. What Muqtada does not say is that he is more than happy to have these splinter groups being arrested by Maliki's soldiers. At the same time, he's confident that the majority of the Baghdad police are still Mehdi Army infiltrators.

The Mehdi Army's core - better-trained soldiers loyal to Muqtada, currently lying very low - may be preserved. But Muqtada is also more than aware he may soon have to confront no fewer than four armies: a "shadow army", trained in the Jordanian desert by the Americans; Allawi's private goons, who are training "in the former Muthanna military airport"; the Kurdish peshmerga, who are coming to patrol Baghdad alongside the Americans; and the US surge.

Muqtada does not need to say that the Pentagon escalation could force up to 3 million poor Shi'ites (including more than a million kids under 14), who barely survive in the monster slum that is Sadr City, to become Sadrists - making the "surge" one of the most stupidest follies in the history of the Middle East. But he secretly fears that hundreds of thousands may perish under US bombs in the Battle of Sadr City.

Muqtada denied he was part of the Shi'ite lynch mob present at the hanging of Saddam Hussein: "The objective was to depict Muqtada as the real enemy of the Sunnis. And they succeeded." But who are "they"? The Maliki government? The Americans? Muqtada has been trying a rapprochement with moderate Sunnis for almost two years now. But his conditions are clear: Sunnis must reject Ba'athists and al-Qaeda. He believes this still might happen. Reality, for the moment, suggests otherwise.

(Dis)united we fight
What both Zawahiri and Muqtada are saying torpedoes the heavily spun Bush-system propaganda according to which Iranian "networks" inside Iraq are allied with the Iraqi resistance to kill Americans. The last thing on Earth Iranian Shi'ites would do is smuggle weapons to Ba'athists, Saddam allies and/or al-Qaeda. The surefire way for the leadership in Tehran to raise hell in Iraq against the United States would be to help the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI's) Badr Organization, or the Mehdi Army for that matter, to launch its own anti-US guerrilla war. That is obviously not happening - at least while Iran has not been the victim of a US/Israeli attack.

The winner in the short term in Iraq will be the clever chess player who has managed to ingratiate himself as Bush's man - apart from the momentarily shadowy Allawi: SCIRI's Abdulaziz al-Hakim, whose Badr Organization, holed up in the Ministry of the Interior, actually deploys anti-Sunni death squads.

Why is he Bush's man? Simple: he supports the soon-to-be-voted-on Iraqi oil law, the Holy Grail for Anglo-American Big Oil. Muqtada, on the other hand, is fiercely against it. From the Bush/Cheney system's perspective, two crucial "sins" - Muqtada's courtship of moderate Sunnis to get their act together against the occupation, and his admiration of Hezbollah's strategy - pale before the ultimate sin: Muqtada wants Iraqi oil for Iraqis.

The US plan B anyway is on. If Maliki does not deliver and defang the Mehdi Army - as he certainly won't - a US-engineered white coup will be inevitable, and there are only two possibilities: "Saddam without a mustache" Allawi, or a Hakim-blessed candidate.

Hakim is already cleverly manipulating the US escalation to strike against his two real mortal enemies - the muqawama (resistance) and the Mehdi Army - at the same time. No wonder Sunni tribal leaders started accusing the US of ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. So there's no way for Iraqification-cum-surge to appeal to Sunnis. The muqawama knows it - and it is already making plans to lie low at times, hide its constant flow of weapons bought with funding from private, wealthy Saudi and Persian Gulf individuals, or retreat from Baghdad and melt away in the desert province of al-Anbar.

Bush's surge is perfect if the template is divide and rule. The Battle of Sadr City will divide the Shi'ites into a pro-US "elite" (SCIRI and Da'wa) and a guerrilla force of the damned (the Sadrists). It will divide the Shi'ites from the Kurds (peshmergas from Kurdistan killing Shi'ites in Baghdad). It will keep Shi'ites and Sunnis bitterly divided (the other battle front in the surge is against the Sunni Arab resistance). Hakim may consider himself the winner. But Zawahiri, of course, will also love it, confident that his emirate in al-Anbar - led by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - will ride the storm. Like the White House/Pentagon, al-Qaeda after all insists on also fighting a two-pronged war, in al-Qaeda's case against the Americans and the Shi'ites.

With Baghdad to be divided into nine military districts, each with its dedicated Iraqi army/police and its embedded US battalion, the muqawama is also more than relishing the prospect of laying siege to the sitting-duck Fort Apaches that will spring up in each of these districts. What happened in Karbala last Sunday will be quite common in Fort Apache land: attacks by guerrilla commandos disguised as American soldiers, driving in a convoy of GMCs. And Black Hawk Down will be endlessly replayed - just like last Saturday, when a helicopter was shot down by a clumsy Russian SA-7 shoulder-fired missile.

Most of all, the dire prospect is of a devastating air war over Baghdad - followed by wholesale slaughter of Sunnis and Shi'ites alike as counterinsurgency fails (there are no hearts and minds to be won; everyone wants US troops out). But as US bombs and missiles now define who is a "terrorist" and who is not - see the recent bombing of Somali nomadic herdsmen sold as dangerous al-Qaeda operatives - Iraqification-cum-surge will be a disaster mostly for every Baghdadi caught in the crossfire.

The Pentagon cannot at the same time launch the Battle of Sadr City, fight the muqawama spread out and in control all over western Baghdad, and fight al-Qaeda in al-Anbar province. Or maybe it could: if bombs and missiles from above are The Great Decider on who's a terrorist, why not take out everybody down there on the ground? Forty years after Che Guevara's "one, two, a thousand Vietnams", meet "one, two, a thousand Fallujahs".

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Will the Surge Succeed?

January 24, 2007

Will the Surge Succeed?
President Bush's announcement of the deployment of more troops to Iraq has come under fire from several quarters. Nevertheless, the White House is confident that the troop "surge" together with new generals and a new strategy can help quell the violence in Iraq and buy time for political progress to be made. Some of the key elements of the new approach were recommended by Andrew Krepinevich in his influential Foreign Affairs article "How to Win in Iraq" a year and a half ago. The war in Iraq is not a lost cause, he argued, but even a successful counterinsurgency campaign will be long, difficult, and costly.

How to Win in Iraq
Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.
From Foreign Affairs, September/October 2005
Summary: Because they lack a coherent strategy, U.S. forces in Iraq have failed to defeat the insurgency or improve security. Winning will require a new approach to counterinsurgency, one that focuses on providing security to Iraqis rather than hunting down insurgents. And it will take at least a decade.

ANDREW F. KREPINEVICH, JR., is Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. He is the author of The Army and Vietnam


Despite the Bush administration's repeated declarations of its commitment to success in Iraq, the results of current policy there are not encouraging. After two years, Washington has made little progress in defeating the insurgency or providing security for Iraqis, even as it has overextended the U.S. Army and eroded support for the war among the American public. Although withdrawing now would be a mistake, simply "staying the course," by all current indications, will not improve matters either. Winning in Iraq will require a new approach.

The basic problem is that the United States and its coalition partners have never settled on a strategy for defeating the insurgency and achieving their broader objectives. On the political front, they have been working to create a democratic Iraq, but that is a goal, not a strategy. On the military front, they have sought to train Iraqi security forces and turn the war over to them. As President George W. Bush has stated, "Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But the president is describing a withdrawal plan rather than a strategy.

Without a clear strategy in Iraq, moreover, there is no good way to gauge progress. Senior political and military leaders have thus repeatedly made overly optimistic or even contradictory declarations. In May of 2004, for example, following the insurgent takeover of Fallujah, General Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, "I think we're on the brink of success here." Six months later, before last November's offensive to recapture the city, General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, "When we win this fight -- and we will win -- there will be nowhere left for the insurgents to hide." Following the recapture, Lieutenant General John Sattler, the Marine commander in Iraq, declared that the coalition had "broken the back of the insurgency." Yet in the subsequent months, the violence continued unabated. Nevertheless, seven months later Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that the insurgency was in its "last throes," even as Lieutenant General John Vines, commander of the multinational corps in Iraq, was conceding, "We don't see the insurgency expanding or contracting right now." Most Americans agree with this less optimistic assessment: according to the most recent polls, nearly two-thirds think the coalition is "bogged down."

The administration's critics, meanwhile, have offered as their alternative "strategy" an accelerated timetable for withdrawal. They see Iraq as another Vietnam and advocate a similar solution: pulling out U.S. troops and hoping for the best. The costs of such premature disengagement would likely be calamitous. The insurgency could morph into a bloody civil war, with the significant involvement of both Syria and Iran. Radical Islamists would see the U.S. departure as a victory, and the ensuing chaos would drive up oil prices.

Instead of a timetable for withdrawal, the United States needs a real strategy built around the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. Although it is too early to tell for sure whether this approach will ultimately bring success, its current record is not good: even when an attack manages to inflict serious insurgent casualties, there is little or no enduring improvement in security once U.S. forces withdraw from the area.

Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort -- hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.


The insurgency plaguing Iraq has three sources. One is the inexplicable lack of U.S. postwar planning. The security vacuum that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime gave hostile elements the opportunity to organize, and the poorly designed and slowly implemented reconstruction plan provided the insurgents with a large pool of unemployed Iraqis from which to recruit. The second source is Iraq's tradition of rule by those best able to seize power through violent struggle. Washington's muddled signals have created the impression that American troops may soon depart, opening the way to an Iraqi power struggle. (This is why the Shiite Arabs and the Kurds, even though they generally support the new government, have refused to disband their own militias.) The third source of the insurgency is the fact that jihadists have made Iraq a major theater in their war against the United States, abetted by the absence of security in Iraq and the presence of some 140,000 U.S. "targets."

For the rest of the article click the link above. It is worth the read time.

18 January 2007

Ahmadinejad be damned

Ahmadinejad be damned
By Pepe Escobar

It's all over the Iranian press: President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, self-described "street cleaner of the people", is in deep political trouble at home, subjected to crossfire from conservatives and reformers alike. All the more ironic considering the biblical tsunami of Washington spin portraying Ahmadinejad as the newest "new Hitler" (Saddam Hussein, after all, fell victim to a lynch mob).

As far as geopolitical strategy is concerned, it's as if Ahmadinejad might be as clueless as his US counterpart, President George W Bush. Well, it's not that simple. The conservative Etemad e-Melli newspaper rhetorically asked what exactly the Iranian president was up to in Latin America while US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was lobbying dictatorial Arab regimes - from Egypt to Saudi Arabia - to deep-freeze Iran over alleged "interference" in Iraq.

Well, he was consolidating what the White House already regards as the new "axis of evil" - the strategic relationship between Iran and Venezuela, sealed last September during Ahmadinejad's first visit to Caracas, right inside what the US historically considered its "back yard".

The ultra-conservative Keyhan newspaper, very close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei, could not help but consider it "a great victory for the diplomacy of Ahmadinejad's government".

In the lightning-quick Latin America tour that took him to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador, meeting re-elected leftist stalwart Hugo Chavez, the recently elected former guerrillero Daniel Ortega, and US-educated economist Rafael Correa, the key Ahmadinejad stop was in Caracas. A joint Iran-Venezuela US$2 billion fund for myriad projects will also benefit other friendly developing countries in Latin America and Africa that, in Chavez' words, "are making efforts to liberate themselves from the imperialist yoke".

Both Iran and Venezuela are key members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Washington's nemesis Chavez once again was clear: "There's too much crude in the market." So both presidents agreed on Saturday to lobby OPEC for a further cut in production to boost crude-oil prices.

That's not what major OPEC producer Saudi Arabia wants - or what Washington "suggested" Riyadh not to want. OPEC had already reduced production by 1.2 million barrels a day in November and will reduce by another 500,000 barrels a day from February 1.

Both Chavez and Ahmadinejad want more - Chavez to fuel his ambitious domestic social programs, Ahmadinejad at least to start a few. Even if global oil prices fell sharply - an unlikely scenario - Venezuelan analysts project that Chavez would still proceed full speed ahead with oil at $30 a barrel. But for Iran, that would be an economic disaster.

To boost Washington's ire to stratospheric levels, Chavez once again stressed that the Bolivarian and the Islamic revolutions were "sisters" - a link impeccably translated by the official exchange of gifts: Ahmadinejad received a Persian translation of a book on Simon Bolivar, the great South American liberator, while Chavez received a Spanish translation of a book on ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 revolution.

Now shut up and work
Ahmadinejad being hailed as a post-modern co-liberator of South America was not enough to placate criticism back in his part of the world. For the conservative Iranian religious newspaper Jomhouri Islami - also very close to Khamenei - in an unusually blunt article, the president's non-stop interference with the nuclear dossier was viewed as ruining Iranian diplomacy (Ahmadinejad expelled experienced diplomats from the Foreign Office in 2005, sprinkling it with his Revolutionary Guard allies).

The article aptly translates the fierce battle going on in the opaque nationalist theocracy's corridors of power. And Ahmadinejad's faction appears to be losing the battle. The Supreme Leader - who is responsible for the nuclear dossier anyway - seems to have had enough, and has in essence ordered the president to shut up.

Khamenei and his supporters - the clerics' faction - believe that Ahmadinejad's explosive tirades have been used as firepower by the US to persuade the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. In addition, Ahmadinejad's faction - via his mentor Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi - lost ground in last month's election to the Council of Experts, the only body that can hold the Supreme Leader to account. Victory went to perennial Machiavellian Hashemi Rafsanjani - who leads a moderate, semi-secular faction hostile to Ahmadinejad's.

There's now ample speculation in Tehran that new, Supreme Leader-appointed faces will shake up Iran's nuclear negotiation team. And in the middle of all this, eyebrows East and West were raised when Keyhan slipped in an editorial last Friday saying that Iran "is only a few steps away from becoming a nuclear power". Was that a fact, a warning, or a figure of speech?

Ahmadinejad anyway will have to shelve his rhetoric - and start delivering. A group of reformist and moderate Parliament members is signing petitions to force him to explain his (non-existent) policies. Jomhouri Islami even issued a prescription: "Speak about the nuclear issue only during important national occasions, stop provoking aggressor powers like the United States, and concentrate more on the daily needs of the people." Not to mention fulfilling electoral promises of fighting inflation, corruption and the oil mafia.

Keeping Ahmadinejad on a leash will be a crucial part of the nationalist theocracy's strategy of doing everything in its power not to incur further US wrath - as the Bush administration escalates its formidable array of acts of provocation. Ahmadinejad is now seen as too much of a loose cannon to be left to his own devices - especially when 45 centuries of accumulated Persian diplomacy can be effectively deployed.

Iran enjoys good political relations with the majority of countries around the world - especially in the South. The glaring exceptions are the US and Israel. Iran is not a backward, repressive regime like Saudi Arabia. The talk in Tehran is that the Supreme Leader and professional diplomats have concluded that the best course of action for Iran is to ride the tempest of provocations - sanctions, illegal raids on consulates, US intelligence infiltrating sensitive Khuzestan province, encirclement by nuclear-equipped aircraft carriers, propaganda over Iranian "networks" killing Americans in Iraq - while advancing Iran's interests in Lebanon, Central Asia, China, Russia and South America.

Washington might need to start manufacturing another "new Hitler".

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.

Iran: Thinking the Unthinkable

Conn Hallinan
Foreign Policy In Focus

Is Israel, supported by the Bush Administration, preparing to launch an atomic war against Iran? On January 7, the London Sunday Times claimed that the Israeli government is planning to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. While the Israeli government denies the story, recent statements by top Israeli officials and military figures -- along with recent White House threats against Iran and Syria and a shuffling of American commanders in the Middle East -- suggest that the possibility is real.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls Iran an “existential threat,” and Deputy Minister of Defense Ephraim Sneh recently said, “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.” An Israeli Defense Force (IDF) official told the Jerusalem Post that “only a military strike by the U.S. and it allies will stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Brigadier General Oded Tira, former commander of the IDF’s artillery units, not only urges an attack on Iran, but because “President Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran,” Israel and its supporters “must lobby the Democratic Party and U.S. newspaper editors” to lay the groundwork for such an attack. Tira says that if the Americans don’t act, “we’ll do it ourselves.”

According to the Times, the attack will use a combination of conventional laser-guided bombs and one kiloton tactical nuclear “bunker busters.” The targets would be the centrifuges at Natanz, a uranium conversion plant near Isfahan, and the heavy water reactor at Arak.

One source told the Times, “As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished.”

Bluster or Bunker Buster?

Bombast to scare the Iranians? Maybe, but a number of pieces have fallen into place over the past month that suggest that the Bush administration is also seeking to widen the Middle East conflict, and that time may be running out for Iran.

In his January 10 speech announcing an escalation in Iraq, the president singled out Iran and Syria as aiding “terrorists,” and warned, “We will seek out and destroy the networks” that are training and arming “our enemies in Iraq.” According to The New York Times, the president ordered several raids against diplomats and advisors in Iraq, accusing them of supplying advanced improvised explosive devices to Iraqi insurgents.

While the last election was a repudiation of the neo-conservative’s policies of aggressive militarism, many of those neo-conservatives are steering the current escalation in Iraq. President’s Bush’s “new way forward” is lifted directly from a policy paper by Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the neoconservative think tank that pushed so hard for the initial invasion of Iraq. Kagan -- along with William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard -- designed the plan that will send more than 20,000 troops to Iraq.

But is the escalation just about Iraq? According to Robert Parry, author of Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, and former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter, “one source familiar with high-level thinking in Washington and Tel Aviv said an unstated reason for the Bush troop ‘surge’ is to bolster the defenses of Baghdad’s Green Zone if a possible Israeli attack on Iran prompts an uprising among Iraqi Shiites.”

The neoconservatives may well have engineered the ouster of John Negroponte, National Security Director, because he said that Iran could not produce a nuclear weapon until sometime in the next decade. The statement outraged neoconservatives and directly contradicted alarmist Israeli intelligence assessments that Tehran could have a warhead in less than two years.

If the United States does intend to hit Iran, or to support such an attack by Israel, then it just appointed the right man for the job. The new head of Central Command (CENTCOM) that oversees the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, is the former head of U.S. Pacific Command and an expert on air war. Fallon commanded an A-6 tactical bomber wing in Vietnam, a carrier wing, and an aircraft carrier. As retired U.S. navy commander Jeff Huber writes in Pen and Sword, “If anybody knows how to run a maritime and air operation against Iran, it’s ‘Fox’ Fallon.”

Fallon is also close with the neoconservatives and attended the 2001 awards ceremony of the Jewish Institute for National Security (JINSA), a think tank that strongly pushed for the war in Iraq and currently lobbies for attacking Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney and ex-UN Ambassador John Bolton are both former members of JINSA. The organization sponsored a 2003 conference entitled: “Time to Focus on Iran -- The Mother of Modern Terrorism.”

The White House has also secretly formed a policy unit called the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group (ISOG) to influence U.S. media, funnel covert aid to Iranian dissidents, and collect information and intelligence. One former U.S. official told the Boston Globe that group’s goal in Iran was “regime change.” ISOG is headed up by two neoconservative hawks, James F. Jeffrey and Elliott Abrams.

Abrams formally worked for rightwing Israeli ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and helped write the policy paper, “A Clean Break,” which advocated attacking Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah and unilaterally imposing a “settlement” on the Palestinians. According the Inter-Press Service, during last summer’s war in Lebanon, Abrams carried a message from the Bush Administration encouraging the Olmert government to attack Syria.

Israel’s Role

Parry suggests that one explanation for recent meetings between Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Olmert is joint planning on how to widen the war in the Middle East to embrace Iran, and possibly Syria. Olmert’s government is deeply unpopular, Blair is leaving office this spring, and Bush can’t get much lower in the polls without hitting negative numbers. In a sense, Parry suggests, there is nothing to lose if all three “double-down” their gamble on the Iraq War.

If the Israelis do decide to go through with the attack, initially there would be little Iran could do about it. Given Israel’s hundreds of nuclear warheads, any direct retaliation by Tehran would be suicidal.

A similar attack on two U.S. carrier groups currently deployed in the Gulf of Iran would be equally self-destructive, as would any serious attempt to close off the Straits of Hormuz through which about 20% of the world’s oil moves. The White House just added a third carrier battle group.

But the long-term impact of a nuclear strike on Iran is likely to be catastrophic and not only because it would enrage Shiites in Iraq. Parry suggests that local U.S.-backed dictators might find themselves facing unrest as well. If Hezbollah rocketed Israel, Tel Aviv might decide to invade Syria, igniting a full-scale regional war. It is even possible that Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf might fall, says Parry, “conceivably giving Islamic terrorists control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.” In that event, India would almost certainly intervene, which could spark a nuclear war in South Asia. India and Pakistan came perilously close to such an exchange in 1999.

“For some U.S. foreign policy experts,” writes Parry, “this potential disaster for a U.S.-backed Israeli air strike on Iran is so terrifying that they ultimately don’t believe Bush and Olmert would dare implement such a plan.”

They may be right, but many Democrats are willing to join the Republicans in attacking Iran. New House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told the Jerusalem Post that a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable, and when asked if he would support a military strike, replied, “I have not ruled that out.” Add heavy lobbying by the AEI, JINSA, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, coupled with “cooked” intelligence that claims the Iranians are on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon, and they might indeed dare.

Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) columnist.

17 January 2007

Scientists Warn of Diminished Earth Studies From Space

Published: January 16, 2007
The nation’s ability to track retreating polar ice and shifting patterns of drought, rainfall and other environmental changes is being put “at great risk” by faltering efforts to replace aging satellite-borne sensors, a panel convened by the country’s leading scientific advisory group said.

By 2010, the number of operating Earth-observing instruments on NASA satellites, most of which are already past their planned lifetimes, is likely to drop by 40 percent, the National Research Council of the National Academies warned in a report posted on the Internet yesterday at www.nas.edu.

The weakening of these monitoring efforts comes even as many scientists and the Bush administration have been emphasizing their growing importance, both to clarify risks from global warming and natural hazards and to track the condition of forests, fisheries, water and other resources.

Several prominent scientists welcomed the report, saying that while the overall tightening of the federal budget played a role in threatening Earth-observing efforts, a significant contributor was also President Bush’s recent call for NASA to focus on manned space missions.

“NASA has a mission ordering that starts with the presidential goals — first of manned flight to Mars, and second, establishing a permanent base on the Moon, and then third to examine Earth, which puts Earth rather far down on the totem pole,” said F. Sherwood Rowland, an atmospheric chemist at the University of California, Irvine, who shared a Nobel Prize for identifying threats to the ozone layer.

Read the entire article at the link above in the title.

Political Bloggers May Be Forced to Register

Congress Wants to Blame the Grassroots for Its Own Corruption

MANASSAS, Va., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of GrassrootsFreedom.com, regarding legislation currently being considered by Congress to regulate grassroots communications:

"In what sounds like a comedy sketch from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, but isn't, the U. S. Senate would impose criminal penalties, even jail time, on grassroots causes and citizens who criticize Congress.

"Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive
intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.

"The bill would require reporting of 'paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying,' but defines 'paid' merely as communications to 500 or more members of the public, with no other qualifiers. "On January 9, the Senate passed Amendment 7 to S. 1, to create criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone 'knowingly and willingly fails to file or report.'

"That amendment was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). Senator Vitter, however, is now a co-sponsor of Amendment 20 by Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) to remove Section 220 from the bill. Unless Amendment 20 succeeds, the Senate will have criminalized the exercise of First Amendment rights. We'd be living under totalitarianism, not democracy.

"I started GrassrootsFreedom.com to fight efforts to silence the grassroots. The website provides updates in the legislation and has a petition to sign opposing Section 220.

"Thousands of nonprofit leaders, bloggers, and other citizens have hammered the Senate with calls in opposition to Section 220, which seeks to silence the grassroots. The criminal provisions will scare citizens into silence. "The legislation regulates small, legitimate nonprofits, bloggers, and individuals, but creates loopholes for corporations, unions, and large membership organizations that would be able to spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars, yet not report.

"Congress is trying to blame the grassroots, which are Americancitizens engaging in their First Amendment rights, for Washington's internal corruption problems."

CONTACT: Mark Fitzgibbons, +1-703-392-7676 or +1-703-408-3775, for

Wires in the Brain?!?!

Ok there is a new set of series premier's on PBS. The first one aired tonight:

"Rodolfo Llinas tells the story of how he has developed bundles of nanowires thinner than spider webs that can be inserted into the blood vessels of human brains.

While these wires have so far only been tested in animals, they prove that direct communication with the deep recesses of the brain may not be so far off. To understand just how big of a breakthrough this is—US agents from the National Security Agency quickly showed up at the MIT laboratory when the wires were being developed.

What does this mean for the future? It might be possible to stimulate the senses directly - creating visual perceptions, auditory perceptions, movements, and feelings. Deep brain stimulation could create the ultimate virtual reality. Not to mention, direct communication between man and machine or human brain to human brain could become a real possibility.

Llinas poses compelling questions about the potentials and ethics of his technology."

You should check out the website and then watch the "wiring your brain" episode. Like WOW! People talking to each other through networked brains?!?!? Military Troops communicating by thought?!!?! Pretty crazy stuff!

"Many scientists and futurists believe we are on the verge of a technological revolution that will look like a page ripped directly from a scifi novel.

22nd Century dives head-first into this brave new world on Wednesday, January 17, 2007, at 8 pm.

The program is one of three science pilots airing on PBS in January; only one pilot will move forward to become a series. Watch online or on-air and then tell us what you think of the program using the feedback form below.

In the premiere episode, guests arrive from the future, past and present to guide you through a quirky tour of the “World Wide Mind,” an intriguing theory that proposes that in the future our brains will be wired up so that we can communicate with the world effortlessly and instantly.

Science fantasy or futuristic nightmare? Watch the show and decide for yourself! Tune in on the 17th or come back January 1st to stream the program here."

After checking out the PBS site go here and check this out:

15 January 2007

An Old Idea...

From the press anouncement of Imperial War Museum's T.E. Lawrence exhibition, autumn 2005 - spring 2006: iwm.org.uk
The Imperial War Museum is to display for the first time a newly-discovered map outlining TE Lawrence's proposals for the reconstruction of the Middle East at the end of the First World War. These proposals, never before seen in such detail, show that Lawrence opposed the allied agreement, which eventually determined the borders of Iraq as it is today. The document is one of a number of previously unseen exhibits featured in Lawrence of Arabia: the life, the legend, a major new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London about one of the most famous British icons of the twentieth century.
The peace map, recently uncovered in The National Archives, Kew, illustrates the proposals Lawrence made to the Eastern Committee of the War Cabinet in November 1918.
As a British officer, Lawrence's work was protected by Crown Copyright. If the map was published, the copyright expired 50 years after publication, eg. 1969. If the map was not published, the copyright possibly expires in 2040. See Crown Copyright for details.
The copyright status is difficult to determine but since this is a unique map its use on Wikipedia can be considered "fair use".

06 January 2007

The United States, Iraq, and the War on Terror

Summary: In spite of its diffculties in Iraq, the United States was not wrong to have removed Saddam Hussein. The outcome of the Iraqi enterprise will be crucial to the course of the "war on terror." And success is still possible -- if Washington takes a page out of its Cold War playbook.

Lee Kuan Yew is Minister Mentor of Singapore. He was Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. This piece was adapted from a speech he delivered when accepting the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in October 2006.

"A Singaporean Perspective
The basic feature of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was inclusiveness -- a willingness to embrace any country that opposed communism, whatever its type of government. The United States contested the Soviet system and held the line militarily, and its consistent and comprehensive approach eventually led to the Soviet Union's implosion.

After the Cold War came the "war on terror." Islamist terrorists tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 and bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Then came the attacks of September 11, 2001. In response, the United States attacked Afghanistan and routed the Taliban. Then, in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and establish democracy there.

During the war on terror, however, the United States has not been as inclusive as it was in its war against communism. Aside from those in the "coalition of the willing," even most European countries have distanced themselves from Washington.

The United States did not realize, moreover, the depth of the fault lines in Iraqi society -- between Kurds and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites, and the members of different tribes and local religious groups. These tensions were contained during four centuries of Ottoman rule, and the British, who took over from the Ottomans in 1920, put Iraq under strong Sunni control, centered on Baghdad. Now, because of the destruction of the old Iraqi society, for the first time in centuries, power is in the hands of the Iraqi Shiites.

With Sunni control of Iraq removed, Shiite Iran is no longer checked from extending its influence westward. And by allowing the emergence of the first Shiite-dominated Arab state, the United States has stirred the political aspirations of the 150 million or so Shiites living in Sunni countries elsewhere in the region.

The United States has long relied on its traditional Sunni Arab allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict in check. Now the power of the Sunni bloc may no longer be able to counter an Iran that supports militias such as Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. The new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, found it necessary to publicly support the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon during the fighting this past summer.

I am not among those who say that it was wrong to have gone into Iraq to remove Saddam and who now advocate that the United States cut its losses and pull out. This will not solve the problem. If the United States leaves Iraq prematurely, jihadists everywhere will be emboldened to take the battle to Washington and its friends and allies. Having defeated the Russians in Afghanistan and the United States in Iraq, they will believe that they can change the world. Even worse, if civil war breaks out in Iraq, the conflict will destabilize the whole Middle East, as it will draw in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey."

For the rest of the article click the above title...

It's an excellent article.