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23051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reality bites BO in the butt #3 on: May 20, 2009, 05:49:46 AM
WASHINGTON — In an abrupt shift, Senate Democratic leaders said they would not provide the $80 million that President Obama requested to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The move escalates pressure on the president, who on Thursday is scheduled to outline his plans for the 240 terrorism suspects still held there.


In recent days, Mr. Obama has faced growing demands from both parties, but particularly Republicans, to lay out a more detailed road map for closing the Guantánamo prison and to provide assurances that detainees would not end up on American soil, even in maximum security prisons.

The move by Senate Democrats to strip the $80 million from a war-spending bill and the decision to bar, for now, transfer of detainees to the United States, raised the possibility that Mr. Obama’s order to close the camp by Jan. 22, 2010, might have to be changed or delayed.

“Guantánamo makes us less safe,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said at a news conference where he laid out the party’s rationale for its decision, which is expected to be voted on this week. “However, this is neither the time nor the bill to deal with this. Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president. We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.”

Senate Democrats said they still backed Mr. Obama’s decision to close the prison. But lawmakers have not exactly been eager to accept detainees in their home states. When the tiny town of Hardin, Mont., offered to put the terrorism suspects in its empty jail, Montana’s senators, both Democrats, and its representative, a Republican, quickly voiced opposition.

Administration officials have indicated that if the Guantánamo camp closes as scheduled more than 100 prisoners may need to be moved to the United States, including 50 to 100 who have been described as too dangerous to release.

Of the 240 detainees, 30 have been cleared for release. Some are likely to be transferred to foreign countries, though other governments have been reluctant to take them. Britain and France have each accepted one former detainee. And while as many as 80 of the detainees will be prosecuted, it remains unclear what will happen to those who are convicted and sentenced to prison.

At the White House, the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the administration expected that Congress would eventually release the money to close the camp, and he suggested that the concerns of lawmakers would start to be addressed on Thursday, when Mr. Obama will present a “hefty pa rt” of his plan.

At the Pentagon, a spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said he believed that the administration remained on track to meet the deadline for closing the prison. “I see nothing to indicate that that date is at all in jeopardy,” Mr. Morrell said.

As the administration has struggled with the issue, it has come under assault from the right and the left.

Conservatives have sought to portray the president as weak on national security. Liberals, including some human rights advocates, have criticized several of Mr. Obama’s decisions, including his plan to revive the military commissions created by the Bush administration to prosecute terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo.

Lawmakers, mindful of polls showing wide public opposition to bringing detainees to the United States, have expressed concerns about the safety of their constituents, and some have said that any location housing detainees, even the most secure prisons, would become a potential target for a terrorist attack.

On Tuesday Republicans, including the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has been warning for weeks about the dangers of closing the prison, applauded the Democrats’ decision.

At a news conference, Mr. McConnell said he hoped it was a prelude to keeping the camp open and dangerous terrorism suspects offshore, where he said they belong. He noted that no prisoner had escaped from Guantánamo since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Guantánamo is the perfect place for these terrorists,” Mr. McConnell said. “However, if the president ends up sticking with this decision to close it next January, obviously they need a place to be. It ought not to be the United States of America.”

Senate Democrats on Tuesday conceded that their decision to shift course in part reflected the success of Republicans in putting them on the defensive.

But the Democrats said they had also acted to avert a partisan feud that would delay the military-spending measure, which is needed to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security programs through Sept. 30.

, , ,

continued
23052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 20, 2009, 05:47:14 AM
As noted in the Nuclear War thread, it appears that our money is financing intensification of Pak's nuke program.  Now, surprise!, it appears we are arming the Taliban.   cry cry cry  God bless our troops and keep them safe.

===========================

KABUL — Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.


Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

The presence of this ammunition among the dead in the Korangal Valley, an area of often fierce fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, strongly suggests that munitions procured by the Pentagon have leaked from Afghan forces for use against American troops.

The scope of that diversion remains unknown, and the 30 magazines represented a single sampling of fewer than 1,000 cartridges. But military officials, arms analysts and dealers say it points to a worrisome possibility: With only spotty American and Afghan controls on the vast inventory of weapons and ammunition sent into Afghanistan during an eight-year conflict, poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces may have helped insurgents stay supplied.

The United States has been criticized, as recently as February by the federal Government Accountability Office, for failing to account for thousands of rifles issued to Afghan security forces. Some of these weapons have been documented in insurgents’ hands, including weapons in a battle last year in which nine Americans died.

In response, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, the American-led unit tasked with training and supplying Afghan forces, said it had made accountability of all Afghan police and military property a top priority, and taken steps to locate and log rifles issued even years ago. The Pentagon has created a database of small arms issued to Afghan units.

No similarly thorough accountability system exists for ammunition, which is harder to trace and more liquid than firearms, readily changing hands through corruption, illegal sales, theft, battlefield loss and other forms of diversion.

American forces do not examine all captured arms and munitions to trace how insurgents obtained them, or to determine whether the Afghan government, directly or indirectly, is a significant Taliban supplier, military officers said.

The reasons include limited resources and institutional memory of issued arms, as well as an absence of collaboration between field units that collect equipment and the investigators and supervisors in Kabul who could trace it.

In this case, the rifle magazines were captured last month by a platoon in Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry, which killed at least 13 insurgents in a nighttime ambush in eastern Afghanistan. The soldiers searched the insurgents’ remains and collected 10 rifles, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, 30 magazines and other equipment.

Access to Taliban equipment is unusual. But after the ambush, the company allowed the items to be examined by this reporter.

Photographs were taken of the weapons’ serial numbers and markings on the bottoms of the cartridge casings, known as headstamps, which can reveal where and when ammunition was manufactured. The headstamps were then compared with ammunition in government circulation, and with this reporter’s records of ammunition sampled in Afghan magazines and bunkers in multiple provinces in recent years.

The type of ammunition in question, 7.62x39 millimeter, colloquially known as “7.62 short,” is one of the world’s most abundant classes of military small-arms cartridges, and can come from dozens of potential suppliers.

It is used in Kalashnikov rifles and their knockoffs, and has been made in many countries, including Russia, China, Ukraine, North Korea, Cuba, India, Pakistan, the United States, the former Warsaw Pact nations and several countries in Africa. Several countries have multiple factories, each associated with distinct markings.

The examination of the Taliban’s cartridges found telling signs of diversion: 17 of the magazines contained ammunition bearing either of two stamps: the word “WOLF” in uppercase letters, or the lowercase arrangement “bxn.”

“WOLF” stamps mark ammunition from Wolf Performance Ammunition, a company in California that sells Russian-made cartridges to American gun owners. The company has also provided cartridges for Afghan soldiers and police officers, typically through middlemen. Its munitions can be found in Afghan government bunkers.

The “bxn” marking was formerly used at a Czech factory during the cold war. Since 2004, the Czech government has donated surplus ammunition and equipment to Afghanistan. A.E.Y. Inc., a former Pentagon supplier, also shipped surplus Czech ammunition to Afghanistan, according to the United States Army, including cartridges bearing “bxn” stamps.

Most of the Wolf and Czech ammunition in the Taliban magazines was in good condition and showed little weathering, denting, corrosion or soiling, suggesting it had been removed from packaging recently.

There is no evidence that Wolf, the Czech government or A.E.Y. knowingly shipped ammunition to Afghan insurgents. A.E.Y. was banned last year from doing business with the Pentagon, but its legal troubles stemmed from unrelated allegations of fraud.

Given the number of potential sources, the probability that the Taliban and the Pentagon were sharing identical supply sources was small.

Rather, the concentration of Taliban ammunition identical in markings and condition to that used by Afghan units indicated that the munitions had most likely slipped  rolleyes  from state custody, said James Bevan, a researcher specializing in ammunition for the Small Arms Survey, an independent research group in Geneva.

================


Mr. Bevan, who has documented ammunition diversion in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, said one likely explanation was that interpreters, soldiers or police officers had sold ammunition for profit or passed it along for other reasons, including support for the insurgency. “Same story, different location,” he said.

The majority of cartridges in the remaining 13 Taliban magazines bore headstamps indicating they were made in Russia in the Soviet period. Several rounds had Chinese stamps and dates indicating manufacture in the 1960s and ’70s. A smaller number were Hungarian. Much of this other ammunition was in poor condition.

Hungarian and Chinese ammunition had also been provided to the Afghan government by A.E.Y., making it possible that several of the remaining magazines included American-procured rounds.

The American military did not dispute the possibility that theft or corruption could have steered Wolf and Czech ammunition to insurgents.

Capt. James C. Howell, who commands the company that captured the ammunition, said illicit diversion would be consistent with an enduring reputation of corruption in Afghan units, especially the police. “It’s not surprising,” he said.

But he added that in his experience this form of corruption was not the norm. Rather than deliberate diversion, he said, the more likely causes would be poor discipline and oversight in the Afghan national security forces, or A.N.S.F. “I think most A.N.S.F. don’t want their own stuff coming back at them,” he said.

Captured Taliban rifles provide a glimpse at arms diversion as well.

After the battle in the eastern village of Wanat last year, in which 9 Americans died and more than 20 were wounded, investigators found a large cache of AMD-65 assault rifles in the village’s police post, which was implicated in the attack, according to American officers. In all, the post had more than 70 assault rifles, but only 20 officers on its roster. Three AMD-65s were recovered near the battle as well.

The AMD-65, a distinctive Hungarian rifle, was rarely seen in Afghanistan until the United States issued it by the thousands to the Afghan police. They can now be found in Pakistani arms bazaars.

In the American ambush last month, all of the 10 captured rifles had factory stamps from China or Izhevsk, Russia. Those with date stamps had been manufactured in the 1960s and ’70s.

Photographs of the weapons and serial numbers were provided to Brig. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the deputy commander of the transition command. Upon checking the Pentagon’s new database, the general said one of the Chinese rifles had been issued to an Afghan auxiliary police officer in 2007. How Taliban insurgents had acquired the rifle was not clear.

The auxiliary police, which augmented the Afghan Interior Ministry, were riddled with corruption and incompetence. They were disbanded last year.

Speaking about the captured Taliban ammunition, General Ierardi cautioned that the range of headstamps could indicate that insurgent use of American-procured munitions was not widespread. He noted that the captured ammunition sampling was small and that munitions might have leaked through less nefarious means.

“The mixed ammo could suggest battlefield losses; it could suggest captured ammo,” he said. He added, however, that he did not want to appear defensive and that accountability of Afghan arms and munitions was of “highest priority.”

“The emphasis from our perspective is on accountability of all logistics property,” he said. Leakage of Pentagon-supplied armaments to insurgents is an “absolutely worst-case scenario,” he said, adding, “We want to guard against the exact scenario you laid out.”


23053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our 400th post! on: May 20, 2009, 05:40:27 AM
"This Government, the offspring of your own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
23054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: May 20, 2009, 05:12:15 AM
Ha!  Great minds think alike , , , or something like that.  I just posted the same piece on the SCH forum a couple of minutes ago smiley
23055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 20, 2009, 05:10:42 AM
Now, now, gentlemen, lets stick to the merits of the subject matter at hand , , ,
23056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / GPS satellites to begin failing? on: May 20, 2009, 05:05:42 AM
Network of satellites could begin to fail as early as 2010

It has become one of the staples of modern, hi-tech life: using satellite navigation tools built into your car or mobile phone to find your way from A to B. But experts have warned that the system may be close to breakdown.

US government officials are concerned that the quality of the Global Positioning System (GPS) could begin to deteriorate as early as next year, resulting in regular blackouts and failures – or even dishing out inaccurate directions to millions of people worldwide.

The warning centres on the network of GPS satellites that constantly orbit the planet and beam signals back to the ground that help pinpoint your position on the Earth's surface.

The satellites are overseen by the US Air Force, which has maintained the GPS network since the early 1990s. According to a study by the US government accountability office (GAO), mismanagement and a lack of investment means that some of the crucial GPS satellites could begin to fail as early as next year.

"It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption," said the report, presented to Congress. "If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected."

The report says that Air Force officials have failed to execute the necessary steps to keep the system running smoothly.

Although it is currently spending nearly $2bn (£1.3bn) to bring the 20-year-old system up to date, the GAO – which is the equivalent of Britain's National Audit Office – says that delays and overspending are putting the entire system in jeopardy.

"In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within cost and schedule goals," said the report. "It encountered significant technical problems … [and] struggled with a different contractor."

The first replacement GPS satellite was due to launch at the beginning of 2007, but has been delayed several times and is now scheduled to go into orbit in November this year – almost three years late.

The impact on ordinary users could be significant, with millions of satnav users potential victims of bad directions or failed services. There would also be similar side effects on the military, which uses GPS for mapping, reconnaissance and for tracking hostile targets.

Some suggest that it could also have an impact on the proliferation of so-called location applications on mobile handsets – just as applications on the iPhone and other GPS-enabled smartphones are starting to get more popular.

Tom Coates, the head of Yahoo's Fire Eagle system – which lets users share their location data from their mobile – said he was sceptical that US officials would let the system fall into total disrepair because it was important to so many people and companies.

"I'd be surprised if anyone in the US government was actually OK with letting it fail – it's too useful," he told the Guardian.

"It sounds like something that could be very serious in a whole range of areas if it were to actually happen. It probably wouldn't damage many locative services applications now, but potentially it would retard their development and mainstreaming if it were to come to pass."

The failings of GPS could also play into the hands of other countries – including opening the door to Galileo, the European-funded attempt to rival America's satellite navigation system, which is scheduled to start rolling out later next year.

Russia, India and China have developed their own satellite navigation technologies that are currently being expanded.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/may/19/gps-close-to-breakdown
23057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 19, 2009, 12:34:34 PM
Doug:

That was very funny.

Marc
23058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 19, 2009, 11:38:04 AM
And on that gracious note, may I suggest we move on from this particular little discussion.
23059  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rest in Peace on: May 19, 2009, 08:19:30 AM
Kaju:

Nice piece.  Nice picture.

All:

I regret to inform that Poi Dog's uncle has died in a motorcycle accident.  Our prayers to the family and Poi.

TAC,
CD
23060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: May 19, 2009, 08:14:49 AM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/
23061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's shopping on: May 19, 2009, 12:55:55 AM
Back when the Bush Administration was warning about Iran's nuclear progress, or its deadly meddling in Iraq, the typical Democratic and media response was to treat the Islamic Republic as innocent until proven guilty. This month, Democrat Robert Morgenthau supplied the proof.

In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was largely ignored by the media, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney opened a window on how Iran is secretly obtaining the ingredients for an arsenal of mass destruction. Mr. Morgenthau, whose recent cases have exposed illicit Iranian finance and procurement networks, has discovered what he calls "Iran's shopping list for materials related to weapons of mass destruction." They add up to "literally thousands of records."

Missile accuracy appears to be a key Iranian goal. In one of Mr. Morgenthau's cases -- the prosecution of Chinese citizen Li Fang Wei and his LIMMT company for allegedly scamming Manhattan banks to slip past sanctions on Iran -- the DA uncovered a list that included 400 sophisticated gyroscopes and 600 accelerometers. These are critical for developing accurate long-range missiles. He also found that Iran was acquiring a rare metal called tantalum, "used in those roadside bombs that are being used against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan." So much for the media notion that Iran has played no part in killing American GIs.

Mr. Morgenthau also noted that the material shipped by LIMMT "included 15,000 kilograms of a specialized aluminum alloy used almost exclusively in long-range missile production; 1,700 kilograms of graphite cylinders used for banned electrical discharge machines which are used in converting uranium; more than 30,000 kilograms of tungsten-copper plates; 200 pieces of tungsten-copper alloy hollow cylinders, all used for missiles; 19,000 kilograms of tungsten metal powder, and 24,500 kilograms of maraging steel rods . . . especially hardened steel suitable for long-range missiles."

Lest anyone think that these materials may have innocent uses, Mr. Morgenthau added that "we have consulted with top experts in the field from MIT and from private industry and from the CIA. . . . Frankly, some of the people we've consulted are shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they're buying."

Mr. Morgenthau's information is corroborated by a staff report for the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Democrat John Kerry, which notes that Iran is making nuclear progress on all fronts, and that it "could produce enough weapons-grade material for a bomb within six months." The committee also notes that "Iran is operating a broad network of front organizations," and that authorities suspect "some purchases for Iran's nuclear and missile programs may have come through an elaborate ruse to avoid U.S. financial sanctions on dealing with Iranian banks."

As we've reported, Lloyds bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in January with Mr. Morgenthau's office in which it admitted to a $300 million "stripping" scheme designed to hide the Iranian origin of banking transfers from 2001 to 2004. Several other banks are also in the crosshairs of Mr. Morgenthau and the Justice Department.

All this should put to rest any doubts about the Iranian regime's purposes and determination. As for what the U.S. should do about it, the committee report insists that "direct engagement" must be a part of American strategy, and so it seems fated to be under the Obama Administration. The least it can do is heed Mr. Morgenthau's central point about everything he's learned about Iran's nuclear progress: "It's late in the game, and we don't have a lot of time."
23062  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 18, 2009, 10:54:02 PM
"You guys sure do have a lot of fat people in the U.S."

Reminds me of a very international after dinner conversation in Bern, Switzerland.  We were riffing on national stereotypes.  I asked what the stereotype was of Americans.  "Fat people in shorts with white socks" came the answer.  Ouch!!!
23063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's latest move against Israel on: May 18, 2009, 10:49:11 PM
Obama's latest calculated move against the Jewish State

By Anne Bayefsky

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In advance of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the United States today, President Obama unveiled a new strategy for throwing Israel to the wolves. It takes the form of enthusiasm for the United Nations and international interlopers of all kinds. Instead of ensuring strong American control over the course of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or the Arab-Israeli peace process, the Obama administration is busy inserting an international mob between the U.S. and Israel. The thinking goes: If Israel doesn't fall into an American line, Obama will step out of the way, claim his hands are tied, and let the U.N. and other international gangsters have at their prey.


It began this past Monday with the adoption of a so-called presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council. Such statements are not law, but they must be adopted unanimously — meaning that U.S. approval was essential and at any time Obama could have stopped its adoption. Instead, he agreed to this: "The Security Council supports the proposal of the Russian Federation to convene, in consultation with the Quartet and the parties, an international conference on the Middle East peace process in Moscow in 2009."


This move is several steps beyond what the Bush administration did in approving Security Council resolutions in December and January — which said only that "The Security Council welcomes the Quartet's consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009." Apparently Obama prefers a playing field with 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 22 members of the Arab League — most of whom don't recognize the right of Israel to exist — and one Jewish state. A great idea — if the purpose is to ensure Israel comes begging for American protection.


The U.N. presidential statement also makes laudatory references to another third-party venture, the 2002 Arab "Peace" Initiative. That's a Saudi plan to force Israel to retreat to indefensible borders in advance of what most Arab states still believe will be a final putsch down the road. America's U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, announced to the Security Council that "we intend to integrate the Arab Peace Initiative into our own approach."


Make no mistake: This U.N. move, made with U.S. approval, sets America on a well-calculated collision course with Israel. U.S. collusion on this presidential statement was directly at odds with Israel's wishes and well-founded concerns about the U.N.'s bona fides on anything related to Israel. Israeli U.N. ambassador Gabriella Shalev issued a statement of Israel's position: "Israel does not believe that the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East. This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves. Furthermore, the timing of this Security Council meeting is inappropriate as the Israeli government is in the midst of conducting a policy review, prior to next week's visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the United States…Israel shared its position with members of the Security Council."


By contrast, Rice told reporters: "We had a very useful and constructive meeting thus far of the Council. We welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov's initiative to convene the Council, and we're very pleased with the constructive and comprehensive statement that will be issued by the president of the Council on the Council's behalf. This was a product of really collaborative, good-faith efforts by all members of the Council, and we're pleased with the outcome."


The Obama administration's total disregard of Israel's obvious interest in keeping the U.N. on the sidelines was striking. Instead of reiterating the obvious — that peace will not come if bigots and autocrats are permitted to ram an international "solution" down the throat of the only democracy at the table — Rice told the Council: "The United States cannot be left to do all the heavy lifting by itself, and other countries …must do all that they can to shore up our common efforts." In a break with decades of U.S. policy, the Obama strategy is to energize a U.N. bad cop so that the U.S. might assume the role of good cop — for a price.


On Tuesday the Obama administration did it again: It ran for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. As expected, the administration won election to represent the Council's Western European and Others Group — it was a three-state contest for three spaces.


The Council is most famous, not for protecting human rights, but for its obsession with Israel. In its three-year history it has:




adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than condemning the 191 other U.N. members combined;
entrenched an agenda with only ten items, one permanently reserved for condemning Israel and another for condemning any other U.N. state that might "require the Council's attention";
held ten regular sessions on human rights, and five special sessions to condemn only Israel;
insisted on an investigator with an open-ended mandate to condemn Israel, while all other investigators must be regularly renewed;
spawned constant investigations on Israel, and abolished human-rights investigations (launched by its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights) into Belarus, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Moreover, every morning before the Human Rights Council starts, all states — and even observers like the Palestinians — get together in their regional blocs for an hour to negotiate, share information, and determine positions. All, that is, except Israel. The Western European and Others Group refuses to give Israel full membership. Now the U.S. will be complicit in this injustice.


Joining the Council has one immediate effect on U.S.-Israel relations: It gives the Obama administration a new stick to use against Israel. Having legitimized the forum through its membership and participation, the U.S. can now attempt to extract concessions from Israel in return for American objections to the Council's constant anti-Israel barrage.


Obama administration officials may believe they can put the lid back on Pandora's box after having invited the U.N., Russia, the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to jump into the process of manufacturing a Palestinian state while Israel is literally under fire. They have badly miscalculated. By making his bed with countries that have no serious interest in democratic values, the president has made our world a much more dangerous place.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and editor of www.EYEontheUN.org.
23064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Pak clusterfcuk continues to deepen on: May 18, 2009, 11:00:01 AM
NYT

Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says
By THOM SHANKER and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: May 17, 2009
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.


Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the assessment of the expanded arsenal in a one-word answer to a question on Thursday in the midst of lengthy Senate testimony. Sitting beside Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he was asked whether he had seen evidence of an increase in the size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

“Yes,” he said quickly, adding nothing, clearly cognizant of Pakistan’s sensitivity to any discussion about the country’s nuclear strategy or security.

Inside the Obama administration, some officials say, Pakistan’s drive to spend heavily on new nuclear arms has been a source of growing concern, because the country is producing more nuclear material at a time when Washington is increasingly focused on trying to assure the security of an arsenal of 80 to 100 weapons so that they will never fall into the hands of Islamic insurgents.

The administration’s effort is complicated by the fact that Pakistan is producing an unknown amount of new bomb-grade uranium and, once a series of new reactors is completed, bomb-grade plutonium for a new generation of weapons. President Obama has called for passage of a treaty that would stop all nations from producing more fissile material — the hardest part of making a nuclear weapon — but so far has said nothing in public about Pakistan’s activities.

Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who served as the co-author of Mr. Obama’s review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, reflected the administration’s concern in a recent interview, saying that Pakistan “has more terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth.”

Obama administration officials said that they had communicated to Congress that their intent was to assure that military aid to Pakistan was directed toward counterterrorism and not diverted. But Admiral Mullen’s public confirmation that the arsenal is increasing — a view widely held in both classified and unclassified analyses — seems certain to aggravate Congress’s discomfort.

Whether that discomfort might result in a delay or reduction in aid to Pakistan is still unclear.

The Congressional briefings have taken place in recent weeks as Pakistan has descended into further chaos and as Congress has considered proposals to spend $3 billion over the next five years to train and equip Pakistan’s military for counterinsurgency warfare. That aid would come on top of $7.5 billion in civilian assistance.

None of the proposed military assistance is directed at the nuclear program. So far, America’s aid to Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure has been limited to a $100 million classified program to help Pakistan secure its weapons and materials from seizure by Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “insiders” with insurgent loyalties.

But the billions in new proposed American aid, officials acknowledge, could free other money for Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, at a time when Pakistani officials have expressed concern that their nuclear program is facing a budget crunch for the first time, worsened by the global economic downturn. The program employs tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including about 2,000 believed to possess “critical knowledge” about how to produce a weapon.

The dimensions of the Pakistani buildup are not fully understood. “We see them scaling up their centrifuge facilities,” said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been monitoring Pakistan’s continued efforts to buy materials on the black market, and analyzing satellite photographs of two new plutonium reactors less than 100 miles from where Pakistani forces are currently fighting the Taliban.

“The Bush administration turned a blind eye to how this is being ramped up,” he said. “And of course, with enough pressure, all this could be preventable.”

As a matter of diplomacy, however, the buildup presents Mr. Obama with a potential conflict between two national security priorities, some aides concede. One is to win passage of a global agreement to stop the production of fissile material — the uranium or plutonium used to produce weapons. Pakistan has never agreed to any limits and is one of three countries, along with India and Israel, that never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Yet the other imperative is a huge infusion of financial assistance into Afghanistan and Pakistan, money considered crucial to helping stabilize governments with tenuous holds on power in the face of terrorist and insurgent violence.

Senior members of Congress were already pressing for assurances from Pakistan that the American military assistance would be used to fight the insurgency, and not be siphoned off for more conventional military programs to counter Pakistan’s historic adversary, India. Official confirmation that Pakistan has accelerated expansion of its nuclear program only added to the consternation of those in Congress who were already voicing serious concern about the security of those warheads.

During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, veered from the budget proposal under debate to ask Admiral Mullen about public reports “that Pakistan is, at the moment, increasing its nuclear program — that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”

It was then that Admiral Mullen responded with his one-word confirmation. Mr. Webb said Pakistan’s decision was a matter of “enormous concern,” and he added, “Do we have any type of control factors that would be built in, in terms of where future American money would be going, as it addresses what I just asked about?”

Similar concerns about seeking guarantees that American military assistance to Pakistan would be focused on battling insurgents also were expressed by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee chairman.

“Unless Pakistan’s leaders commit, in deeds and words, their country’s armed forces and security personnel to eliminating the threat from militant extremists, and unless they make it clear that they are doing so, for the sake of their own future, then no amount of assistance will be effective,” Mr. Levin said.

A spokesman for the Pakistani government contacted Friday declined to comment on whether his nation was expanding its nuclear weapons program, but said the government was “maintaining the minimum, credible deterrence capability.” He warned against linking American financial assistance to Pakistan’s actions on its weapons program.

“Conditions or sanctions on this issue did not work in the past, and this will not send a positive message to the people of Pakistan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his country’s nuclear program is classified.

23065  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: May 17, 2009, 11:45:12 PM
Finally spoke with the producer/director.  We're next in the cue-- they're on a project that is giving them some trouble-- and then it is us.  They liked the footage they shot a lot.   They asked my ideas on how to put the piece together.  We shall see.  The Adventure continues , , ,
23066  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: tennis elbows in kali on: May 17, 2009, 11:42:22 PM
Well, the new agey guys snored me before I could get to the end, but the Doczac guy is dead on with one of what I believe to be the two principal patterns to look for.   Guro Inosanto taught me to to put a rubber band around my, pardon the expression, "crane's beak" and to high rep spread the fingers against the resistance of rubber band.  Doczac bring to my attention a point I had not appreciated previously-- adding the flexion of the wrist.  I will explore this.
23067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 08:21:59 PM
Now you've done it JDN!  cheesy

First rule when you find yourself in a hole.  Stop digging  cheesy cheesy cheesy
23068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / !Que verguenza! on: May 17, 2009, 08:17:17 PM
From New York Times:

May 17, 2009

Men Dressed as Police Free Mexican Inmates

By MARC LACEY

MEXICO CITY — Armed men dressed as Mexican federal police officers entered a heavily guarded prison in the northern state of Zacatecas early Saturday morning and freed more than 50 inmates, many of whom were believed to be drug traffickers allied with the powerful Gulf Cartel, the authorities said.

The huge jailbreak, which took place about 5 a.m., was an embarrassment to the government of President Felipe Calderón, who has touted the arrests of thousands of drug traffickers over the last two years as evidence that organized crime groups were on the defensive.

The team of criminals who gained entry to the prison in Cieneguillas showed how vulnerable Mexican institutions remain.

The men arrived in a caravan of 15 vehicles with police markings as well as in a helicopter, according to news reports. To gain entry, the gunmen claimed that they were carrying out an authorized prisoner transfer.

After subduing the guards, they left with 53 of the prison’s 1,500 inmates, in an operation that lasted only minutes, officials said.

After they got away, police officers and soldiers swarmed the state, closing many roads as they searched for the fugitives, El Sol de Zacatecas, a local newspaper, reported.

Gov. Amalia García Medina of Zacatecas told reporters that there were indications that prison guards and their supervisors, who were being held for investigation, might have been complicit in the jailbreak.

It would not have been the first time. One of Mexico’s top drug lords, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001 in a getaway that investigations found was possible only with the aid of dozens of prison guards. Mr. Guzmán, who was named this year to the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, hid in a laundry cart.
Mexican authorities are well aware of the vulnerability of their prisons. Mr. Calderón has dramatically increased the number of top drug traffickers extradited to the United States in recent years, to reduce the likelihood that they will continue to run their operations from behind bars or, worse still, find a way out.
23069  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / LAST MINUTE CHANGE on: May 17, 2009, 02:47:49 PM
TOMORROW (MONDAY) will be held at 12:30!!!
23070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq recommends this article on: May 17, 2009, 02:44:37 PM


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/16/AR2009051602137.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR
23071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 02:41:31 PM
Or as I put it when I ran for Congress for the Libertarian Party:  "They had a vote.  You're paying."
23072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 17, 2009, 11:23:27 AM
TANGENT:

GM:

Your basic point is sound, but I would also point out that many women's rights groups define rape in very Orwellian terms.  A few years back we had a thread here where it was reported that as they define it (working from memory here so the number could be off somewhat) some 80% of women who have been raped don't know they were raped.   huh huh huh

23073  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: May 17, 2009, 12:08:04 AM
From here forward the plan is for Monday's at 11:00.  We should have the place to ourselves then.
23074  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: May 17, 2009, 12:06:54 AM
After a week hiatus due to the silat camp, we were back in action today.

Was planning to go deep into military DLO with those who were there, but an out of towner showed up so instead we went deep into Kali Tudo.  Good times!

Then after class was over, Kevin stuck around and we went deep into military DLO Cool
23075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 16, 2009, 09:44:06 AM
By RONEN BERGMAN
Those who leaf through the secret files of any intelligence service know what grave mistakes bad intelligence can lead to. But they also know that sometimes even excellent intelligence doesn't change a thing.

The Israeli intelligence community is now learning this lesson the hard way. It has penetrated enemies like Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet despite former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's willingness to authorize highly dangerous operations based on this intelligence, and despite the unquestionable success of the operations themselves, the overall security picture remains as grim as ever.

In 2002, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed his friend and former subordinate, Gen. Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad. Gen. Dagan found the organization lacking in imagination and shying away from operational risks. Mr. Sharon, who knew Gen. Dagan from his days as head of a secret assassinations unit that acted against Fatah in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s, told the general that he wanted "a Mossad with a knife between its teeth."

Gen. Dagan transformed the Mossad from top to bottom and made the organization's sole focus Iran's nuclear project and its ties to jihadist organizations. He put tremendous pressure on his subordinates to execute as many operations as possible. Moreover, he built up ties with espionage services in Europe and the Middle East on top of Israel's long-standing relationship with the CIA.

In tandem with Gen. Dagan's Mossad revolution, other Israeli military intelligence has also made outstanding breakthroughs. The Shin-Bet (Israel's internal intelligence service), in cooperation with the military, has made huge strides in its understanding of Palestinian guerilla organizations.

The results have been tremendous. During the last four years, the uranium enrichment project in Iran was delayed by a series of apparent accidents: the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes carrying cargo relating to the project, and two labs that burst into flames. In addition, an Iranian opposition group in exile published highly credible information about the details of the project, which caused Iran much embarrassment and led to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

On July 12, 2006, thanks to precise intelligence, the Israeli Air Force destroyed almost the entire stock of Hezbollah's long-range rockets stored in underground warehouses. Hezbollah was shocked.

In July 2007, another mysterious accident occurred in a missile factory jointly operated by Iran and Syria at a Syrian site called Al-Safir. The production line -- which armed Scud missiles with warheads -- was shut down and many were killed.

In September 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor built by Syria and aided by North Korea in Dir A-Zur -- despite Syria's significant efforts to keep it a secret. With indirect authorization from a very high ranking Israeli official, the CIA published incriminating pictures obtained by Israel of the site before it was bombed. These photos convinced the world that the Syrians were indeed attempting to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

In February 2008, Hezbollah's military leader, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in Damascus. In August of that year, Gen. Mohammed Suliman, a liaison to Hamas and Hezbollah who participated in the Syrian nuclear project, was assassinated by a sniper.

In December 2008, Israel initiated operation Cast Lead, which dealt Hamas a massive blow. Most of its weapons were destroyed within days by Israeli air strikes. (Israel also knew where the Hamas leadership was hiding, but since it was in a hospital Mr. Olmert refused to authorize the strike.) In January 2009, Israeli Hermes 450 drones attacked three convoys in Sudan that were smuggling weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

These are all excellent achievements, but did they change reality? Mostly not.

The destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor seems to have put a temporary end to President Bashar Assad's ambitions of acquiring a nuclear weapon. However, the public humiliation caused by the site's bombing did not sway him from supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and hosting terrorist organizations.

Even worse, the heads of Israeli intelligence are now losing sleep over recent information showing that attempts to delay the Iranian nuclear project have failed. Despite some technical difficulties, the Iranians are storming ahead and may possess a nuclear bomb as early as 2010. Hezbollah, although weakened by the 2006 war and Mughniyah's assassination, has become the leading political force in Lebanon.

On the southern front, despite the convoy bombings in Sudan, the trafficking of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip continues. Hamas's standing among Palestinians has strengthened. And if a cease-fire is negotiated between Hamas and Israel it would be perceived as a victory for Hamas.

The bottom line is that excellent intelligence is very important, but it can only take you so far. In the end, it's the tough diplomatic and military decisions made by Israeli leaders that ensure the security of the state.

Mr. Bergman, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is the author of the "The Secret War With Iran" (Free Press, 2008).

 
23076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Armed Forces Day on: May 16, 2009, 09:35:10 AM
Today is Armed Forces Day.

Thank you for all you do.

23077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 09:08:45 AM
I simply went from one form of aggression to another. 
23078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: May 16, 2009, 12:18:50 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Familiar U.S.-Israeli Course On Iran
May 15, 2009
A report published Thursday by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama had sent an American envoy to tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to lose patience and surprise Washington with an attack against Iran. The report claimed that, rather than waiting for Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington on May 18, Obama decided to send a senior American official to Israel (who was not named) to meet with Netanyahu and senior Israeli leaders. The message reportedly revealed the Obama administration’s concern that Washington would be “caught off-guard and find themselves facing facts on the ground at the last minute” in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran.

This report, like several preceding it in the Israeli press, appears to be a deliberate leak. On May 10, another report from Haaretz — this one citing “confidential reports sent to Jerusalem” — claimed that the United States had set October as the deadline for completing its first round of talks with Tehran over its nuclear program. If the Iranians remained intransigent, the United States was expected to harden its stance against Tehran, according to the article.

Whether these leaks are coming from the Israelis or the Americans doesn’t matter much. What matters is the motive driving them — and in this realm, we see a familiar “good cop-bad cop” routine between the United States and Israel emerging.

The Israelis have made no secret about their lack of enthusiasm over Obama’s attempts to engage Iran diplomatically. They believe little will come out of these negotiations, and that Tehran feels little compulsion to make meaningful concessions over its nuclear program. All the same, Israel’s options toward Iran are limited. Talking about a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is one thing, but carrying out an operation on the scale necessary to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability would be extraordinarily difficult, even with U.S. participation, and nearly impossible without it. The Israelis understand the need to preserve their strategic relationship with the United States, but also harbor real fears about the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States, meanwhile, is juggling a dozen foreign policy issues at once. Given the growing military focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last thing Washington needs is an Israeli attack against Iran and the Middle East flare-up that would follow. Right now, the goal for Washington is to seal things up in Iraq, hand off a good deal of responsibility for the region to Turkey, an ascending power, and turn its attention to other issues.

The Haaretz reports send a very clear message: The United States wants talks with Iran, does not want an Israeli attack against Iran, but is assuring Israel that firm deadlines are being established for negotiations. The Israelis are not pleased about the prospect of talks, and the U.S.-Israeli relationship is under strain. Therefore, Israel just might be rash enough to attack Iran on its own and surprise the United States.

This is a useful message for both Israel and the United States to be disseminating. Netanyahu can reaffirm perceptions at home that he is being tough on the Iranian nuclear issue and drawing a line with the Americans. Obama, meanwhile, can apply more pressure on the Iranians by giving the impression that Washington can only do so much to hold the Israelis back from attacking Iran. The likely next step in the cycle is for Iran to start reaching out to Russia and exaggerating perceptions of Moscow’s support for Iran. This can be accomplished through rhetoric over things like potential sales of Russian strategic air defense systems to Iran and Moscow finally giving Iran what it needs to complete the Bushehr nuclear facility.

So far, this is all very much expected. Israel’s options are limited; the United States’ options are limited; even Iran’s options are limited. The most practical move just now would seem to be a return to the rhetoric with which all three are so familiar.
23079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 12:16:31 AM
Perhaps your retired judge exemplifies that we have a legal system and not a justice system  smiley

Neither of my French speaking sources have responded to my requests to summarize the contents.

BTW, I am reminded of the time some union goons took me to the top floor (12th floor) of a building under construction when I was in the carpenter's union in Philadelphia oh so many years ago.   Word was that they had held the son of the president of the general contractor out over the edge by his feet.   Word was that they had dropped a can of spackling (the stuff for sealing seams of drywall-- weight about 50 pounds?) onto the hood of the Cadillac of the president of the electrical contractor (from 12 floors, it made one helluva dent , , ,).  So by the time they chatted with me, there was nary a threat as they persuaded me of the merits of their position , , ,
23080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 16, 2009, 12:10:36 AM
Ok, I'll beg-- please tell us why  cheesy
23081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 16, 2009, 12:08:17 AM
Can't you guys just skim past posts by posters you don't like?
23082  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 15, 2009, 08:38:53 PM
SG:

Would you please be so kind as to send me these various clips in as high a resolution as feasible please?  It would be greatly appreciated.

Craftydog@dogbrothers.com
23083  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio: Una matanza por cuchillo en el metro on: May 15, 2009, 08:33:35 PM
Mucho para analizar y pensar aqui.  !Adelante caballeros!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDSXnnjZAWA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVNekTyg65E&feature=related
23084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 14, 2009, 07:18:21 AM
"Problem here is that this isn't supposed to be a debate IMO, just each person who wants to make their own observations about a situation.  I am here to look for a wider and deeper understanding, not here to dish out punishment."

Well said!
23085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: May 14, 2009, 07:15:35 AM
The impression of Commander in Chiefs competence, character, and integrity left by this episode are dispiriting indeed.
23086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / School girls poisoned on: May 13, 2009, 05:37:38 PM
84 Hospitalized in Apparent Poisoning at Afghan Girls School
Tuesday , May 12, 2009
MUHMUD RAQI, Afghanistan —

At least 84 Afghan schoolgirls were admitted to a hospital Tuesday for headaches and vomiting in the third apparent poison attack on a girls school in as many weeks, officials and doctors said.

The students were lining up outside their school in northeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning when a strange odor filled the school yard, and one girl collapsed, said the school's principal, who was herself in a hospital bed gasping for breath as she described the event.

"We took her inside and splashed water on her face," said Mossena, who like many Afghans goes by one name. Then other girls started passing out in the yard and they sent all the students home.

It was unclear if the incident was a deliberate attack on the school, though the Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan, who oppose girls education, have been known to target schoolgirls.

Mossena said she did not know what happened next because she collapsed and woke up in the main hospital in Muhmud Raqi, the capital of Kapisa province, which lies just northeast of Kabul.

At least 98 patients were admitted from Aftab Bachi school, including the principal, 11 teachers and two cleaners, said Khalid Enayat, the hospital's deputy director. He said about another 30 students were being monitored to see if they developed symptoms, although they were not admitted to the hospital. An official earlier said 89 schoolgirls had been hospitalized.

Click here for photos.

Tuesday's apparent attack is the third alleged poisoning at a girls' school in less than three weeks. It comes one day after 61 schoolgirls and one teacher from a school in neighboring Parwan province were admitted to a hospital after complaining of sudden illness. They were irritable, confused and weeping, and several of the girls passed out.

The patients in Kapisa complained of similar symptoms to those in the Parwan incidents -- headaches, vomiting and shivering, said Aziz Agha, a doctor treating the girls.

"I got dizzy and my head hurt. Some other students took me home, then I passed out and they brought me to the hospital," said a startled looking 11-year-old, Tahira, from her hospital bed.

The fifth grader said she planned to go back to school when she felt better, but that now it would fill her with fear.

"I'm going to be scared when I go back to school. What if we die?" she said.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Zemeri Bashary said officials suspect some sort of gas poisoning, and that police were still investigating.

Under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, girls were not allowed to attend school. Though it was unclear if the recent incidents were the result of attacks, militants in the south have previously assaulted schoolgirls by spraying acid in their faces and burning down schools to protest the government.

Scores of Afghan schools have been forced to close because of violence. Still, the three recent apparent poisonings have taken place in northeast Afghanistan, which is not as opposed to education for girls as Afghanistan's conservative southern regions.

The first apparent poison attack took place late last month in Parwan, when dozens of girls were hospitalized after being sickened by what Afghan officials said were strong fumes or a possible poison gas cloud.
23087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CEO BO on the advertising budget on: May 13, 2009, 02:22:44 PM
I see CEO BO is halving the advertising budget for Chrysler.

Oy fcuking vey!!! 

The march to liberal fascism continues, and our Pravda press cheers and the sheople bleat  tongue tongue tongue cry cry cry
23088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: May 13, 2009, 01:37:17 PM
From Borneo

13 May 2009

The command shakeup in Afghanistan has many people talking.  I've been with the British Army.  British officers have many questions about the change.  I have no special knowledge of the situation other than a couple of hunches based on recent experiences. I can say that of my concerns about AfPak, U.S. military leadership is at the very bottom of the list.  Our leadership is strong and experienced.  In broad strokes, I'm simply not concerned.  I am greatly concerned about AfPak, though.  The situation continues to rot.

Please see read: Gates, Petraeus, McKiernan, McChrystal and Rodriguez
23089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Paine; and noting a landmark on: May 13, 2009, 10:31:10 AM
"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

--Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

Also, with quiet satisfaction I note today that this thread now has over 25,000 reads and one short of 400 posts-- which works out to over 62 reads per post.  In that when the thread began it averaged much less (15) for the longest time, that means that current reads per post are much higher.

Together, inspired and informed by what we read here, we shall sally forth and defend the American Creed.


23090  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: May 13, 2009, 03:26:24 AM
Agradezco los retos que la Vida me esta' brindando.
23091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: May 13, 2009, 03:23:27 AM
Maturity of the Soul


By Tzvi Freeman
The ultimate elevation of the soul is to find it has purpose. To discover that it is not here simply to be, but to accomplish, to heal, to make better. In that moment of discovery, the soul graduates from being G‑d's little child to become His representative.
23092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 13, 2009, 03:03:26 AM
JDN:

I salute your determination to stay in good spirits here, but , , , dude!!! On the logic front my vote is that you are getting your butt kicked!   cheesy
23093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 13, 2009, 02:04:25 AM
Thank you.
23094  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: May 12, 2009, 09:24:47 PM
Ron Balicki shared that with me back around '96-97.  It wouldn't surprise me if he got it from Erik Paulsen.
23095  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Reality Toys on: May 12, 2009, 09:06:30 PM
a) The key ring of the key fob is removable

b) What are the philosophical issues pertaining to a stylus?
23096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: May 12, 2009, 10:45:09 AM
HAven't looked into this for myself yet, but these are said to have GPS jammers:

DIY version. Some experience required.
http://www.navigadget.com/index.php/...ade-gps-jammer

Store-bought versions. Some do cell phones or GLONASS as well.
http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/GPS_Jammer.html
23097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare will stifle your doctor on: May 12, 2009, 12:02:49 AM
By SCOTT GOTTLIEB
At the heart of President Barack Obama's health-care plan is an insurance program funded by taxpayers, administered by Washington, and open to everyone. Modeled on Medicare, this "public option" will soon become the single dominant health plan, which is its political purpose. It will restructure the practice of medicine in the process.

 
Chad Crowe
 Republicans and Democrats agree that the government's Medicare scheme for compensating doctors is deeply flawed. Yet Mr. Obama's plan for a centrally managed government insurance program exacerbates Medicare's problems by redistributing even more income away from lower-paid primary care providers and misaligning doctors' financial incentives.

Like Medicare, the "public option" will control spending by using its purchasing clout and political leverage to dictate low prices to doctors. (Medicare pays doctors 20% to 30% less than private plans, on average.) While the public option is meant for the uninsured, employers will realize it's easier -- and cheaper -- to move employees into the government plan than continue workplace coverage.

The Lewin Group, a health-care policy research and consulting firm, estimates that enrollment in the public option will reach 131 million people if it's open to everyone and pays Medicare rates, as many expect. Fully two-thirds of the privately insured will move out of or lose coverage. As patients shift to a lower-paying government plan, doctors' incomes will decline by as much as 15% to 20% depending on their specialty.

Physician income declines will be accompanied by regulations that will make practicing medicine more costly, creating a double whammy of lower revenue and higher practice costs, especially for primary-care doctors who generally operate busy practices and work on thinner margins. For example, doctors will face expenses to deploy pricey electronic prescribing tools and computerized health records that are mandated under the Obama plan. For most doctors these capital costs won't be fully covered by the subsidies provided by the plan.

Government insurance programs also shift compliance costs directly onto doctors by encumbering them with rules requiring expensive staffing and documentation. It's a way for government health programs like Medicare to control charges. The rules are backed up with threats of arbitrary probes targeting documentation infractions. There will also be disproportionate fines, giving doctors and hospitals reason to overspend on their back offices to avoid reprisals.

The 60% of doctors who are self-employed will be hardest hit. That includes specialists, such as dermatologists and surgeons, who see a lot of private patients. But it also includes tens of thousands of primary-care doctors, the very physicians the Obama administration says need the most help.

Doctors will consolidate into larger practices to spread overhead costs, and they'll cram more patients into tight schedules to make up in volume what's lost in margin. Visits will be shortened and new appointments harder to secure. It already takes on average 18 days to get an initial appointment with an internist, according to the American Medical Association, and as many as 30 days for specialists like obstetricians and neurologists.

Right or wrong, more doctors will close their practices to new patients, especially patients carrying lower paying insurance such as Medicaid. Some doctors will opt out of the system entirely, going "cash only." If too many doctors take this route the government could step in -- as in Canada, for example -- to effectively outlaw private-only medical practice.

These changes are superimposed on a payment system where compensation often bears no connection to clinical outcomes. Medicare provides all the wrong incentives. Its charge-based system pays doctors more for delivering more care, meaning incomes rise as medical problems persist and decline when illness resolves.

So how should we reform our broken health-care system? Rather than redistribute physician income as a way to subsidize an expansion of government control, Mr. Obama should fix the payment system to align incentives with improved care. After years of working on this problem, Medicare has only a few token demonstration programs to show for its efforts. Medicare's failure underscores why an inherently local undertaking like a medical practice is badly managed by a remote and political bureaucracy.

But while Medicare has stumbled with these efforts, private health plans have made notable progress on similar payment reforms. Private plans are more likely to lead payment reform efforts because they have more motivation than Medicare to use pay as a way to achieve better outcomes.

Private plans already pay doctors more than Medicare because they compete to attract higher quality providers into their networks. This gives them every incentive, as well as added leverage, to reward good clinicians while penalizing or excluding bad ones. A recent report by PriceWaterhouse Coopers that examined 10 of the nation's largest commercial health plans found that eight had implemented performance-based pay measures for doctors. All 10 plans are expanding efforts to monitor quality improvement at the provider level.

Among the promising examples of private innovation in health-care delivery: In Pennsylvania, the Geisinger Clinic's "warranty" program, where providers take financial responsibility for the entire episode of care; or the experience of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia, where doctors are paid more for delivering better outcomes.

There are plenty of alternatives to Mr. Obama's plan that expand coverage to the uninsured, give them the chance to buy private coverage like Congress enjoys, and limit government management over what are inherently personal transactions between doctors and patients.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D., N.Y.) has introduced a bipartisan measure, the Small Business Cooperative for Healthcare Options to Improve Coverage for Employees (Choice) Act of 2009, that would make it cheaper and easier for small employers to offer health insurance. Mr. Obama would also get bipartisan compromise on premium support for people priced out of insurance to give them a wider range of choices. This could be modeled after the Medicare drug benefit, which relies on competition between private plans to increase choices and hold down costs. It could be funded, in part, through tax credits targeted to lower-income Americans.

There are also measures available that could fix structural flaws in our delivery system and make coverage more affordable without top-down controls set in Washington. The surest way to intensify flaws in the delivery of health care is to extend a Medicare-like "public option" into more corners of the private market. More government control of doctors and their reimbursement schemes will only create more problems.

Dr. Gottlieb, a former official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a practicing internist. He's partner to a firm that invests in health-care companies
23098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Big Picture on: May 11, 2009, 07:03:41 PM
   
The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan
May 11, 2009




By George Friedman

After U.S. airstrikes killed scores of civilians in western Afghanistan this past week, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones said the United States would continue with the airstrikes and would not tie the hands of U.S. generals fighting in Afghanistan. At the same time, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus has cautioned against using tactics that undermine strategic U.S. goals in Afghanistan — raising the question of what exactly are the U.S. strategic goals in Afghanistan. A debate inside the U.S. camp has emerged over this very question, the outcome of which is likely to determine the future of the region.

On one side are President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a substantial amount of the U.S. Army leadership. On the other side are Petraeus — the architect of U.S. strategy in Iraq after 2006 — and his staff and supporters. An Army general — even one with four stars — is unlikely to overcome a president and a defense secretary; even the five-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur couldn’t pull that off. But the Afghan debate is important, and it provides us with a sense of future U.S. strategy in the region.

Petraeus and U.S. Strategy in Iraq
Petraeus took over effective command of coalition forces in Iraq in 2006. Two things framed his strategy. One was the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm congressional elections, which many saw as a referendum on the Iraq war. The second was the report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan group of elder statesmen (including Gates) that recommended some fundamental changes in how the war was fought.

The expectation in November 2006 was that as U.S. President George W. Bush’s strategy had been repudiated, his only option was to begin withdrawing troops. Even if Bush didn’t begin this process, it was expected that his successor in two years certainly would have to do so. The situation was out of control, and U.S. forces did not seem able to assert control. The goals of the 2003 invasion, which were to create a pro-American regime in Baghdad, redefine the political order of Iraq and use Iraq as a base of operations against hostile regimes in the region, were unattainable. It did not seem possible to create any coherent regime in Baghdad at all, given that a complex civil war was under way that the United States did not seem able to contain.

Most important, groups in Iraq believed that the United States would be leaving. Therefore, political alliance with the United States made no sense, as U.S. guarantees would be made moot by withdrawal. The expectation of an American withdrawal sapped U.S. political influence, while the breadth of the civil war and its complexity exhausted the U.S. Army. Defeat had been psychologically locked in.

Bush’s decision to launch a surge of forces in Iraq was less a military event than a psychological one. Militarily, the quantity of forces to be inserted — some 30,000 on top of a force of 120,000 — did not change the basic metrics of war in a country of about 29 million. Moreover, the insertion of additional troops was far from a surge; they trickled in over many months. Psychologically, however, it was stunning. Rather than commence withdrawals as so many expected, the United States was actually increasing its forces. The issue was not whether the United States could defeat all of the insurgents and militias; that was not possible. The issue was that because the United States was not leaving, the United States was not irrelevant. If the United States was not irrelevant, then at least some American guarantees could have meaning. And that made the United States a political actor in Iraq.

Petraeus combined the redeployment of some troops with an active political program. At the heart of this program was reaching out to the Sunni insurgents, who had been among the most violent opponents of the United States during 2003-2006. The Sunni insurgents represented the traditional leadership of the mainstream Sunni tribes, clans and villages. The U.S. policy of stripping the Sunnis of all power in 2003 and apparently leaving a vacuum to be filled by the Shia had left the Sunnis in a desperate situation, and they had moved to resistance as guerrillas.

The Sunnis actually were trapped by three forces. First, there were the Americans, always pressing on the Sunnis even if they could not crush them. Second, there were the militias of the Shia, a group that the Sunni Saddam Hussein had repressed and that now was suspicious of all Sunnis. Third, there were the jihadists, a foreign legion of Sunni fighters drawn to Iraq under the banner of al Qaeda. In many ways, the jihadists posed the greatest threat to the mainstream Sunnis, since they wanted to seize leadership of the Sunni communities and radicalize them.

U.S. policy under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been unbending hostility to the Sunni insurgency. The policy under Gates and Petraeus after 2006 — and it must be understood that they developed this strategy jointly — was to offer the Sunnis a way out of their three-pronged trap. Because the United States would be staying in Iraq, it could offer the Sunnis protection against both the jihadists and the Shia. And because the surge convinced the Sunnis that the United States was not going to withdraw, they took the deal. Petraeus’ great achievement was presiding over the U.S.-Sunni negotiations and eventual understanding, and then using that to pressure the Shiite militias with the implicit threat of a U.S.-Sunni entente. The Shia subsequently and painfully shifted their position to accepting a coalition government, the mainstream Sunnis helped break the back of the jihadists and the civil war subsided, allowing the United States to stage a withdrawal under much more favorable circumstances.

This was a much better outcome than most would have thought possible in 2006. It was, however, an outcome that fell far short of American strategic goals of 2003. The current government in Baghdad is far from pro-American and is unlikely to be an ally of the United States; keeping it from becoming an Iranian tool would be the best outcome for the United States at this point. The United States certainly is not about to reshape Iraqi society, and Iraq is not likely to be a long-term base for U.S. offensive operations in the region.

Gates and Petraeus produced what was likely the best possible outcome under the circumstances. They created the framework for a U.S. withdrawal in a context other than a chaotic civil war, they created a coalition government, and they appear to have blocked Iranian influence in Iraq. But these achievements remain uncertain. The civil war could resume. The coalition government might collapse. The Iranians might become the dominant force in Baghdad. But these unknowns are enormously better than the outcomes expected in 2006. At the same time, snatching uncertainty from the jaws of defeat is not the same as victory.

Afghanistan and Lessons from Iraq
Petraeus is arguing that the strategy pursued in Iraq should be used as a blueprint in Afghanistan, and it appears that Obama and Gates have raised a number of important questions in response. Is the Iraqi solution really so desirable? If it is desirable, can it be replicated in Afghanistan? What level of U.S. commitment would be required in Afghanistan, and what would this cost in terms of vulnerabilities elsewhere in the world? And finally, what exactly is the U.S. goal in Afghanistan?

In Iraq, Gates and Petraeus sought to create a coalition government that, regardless of its nature, would facilitate a U.S. withdrawal. Obama and Gates have stated that the goal in Afghanistan is the defeat of al Qaeda and the denial of bases for the group in Afghanistan. This is a very different strategic goal than in Iraq, because this goal does not require a coalition government or a reconciliation of political elements. Rather, it requires an agreement with one entity: the Taliban. If the Taliban agree to block al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, the United States will have achieved its goal. Therefore, the challenge in Afghanistan is using U.S. power to give the Taliban what they want — a return to power — in exchange for a settlement on the al Qaeda question.

In Iraq, the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds all held genuine political and military power. In Afghanistan, the Americans and the Taliban have this power, though many other players have derivative power from the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; where al-Maliki had his own substantial political base, Karzai is someone the Americans invented to become a focus for power in the future. But the future has not come. The complexities of Iraq made a coalition government possible there, but in many ways, Afghanistan is both simpler and more complex. The country has a multiplicity of groups, but in the end only one insurgency that counts.

Petraeus argues that the U.S. strategic goal — blocking al Qaeda in Afghanistan — cannot be achieved simply through an agreement with the Taliban. In this view, the Taliban are not nearly as divided as some argue, and therefore their factions cannot be played against each other. Moreover, the Taliban cannot be trusted to keep their word even if they give it, which is not likely.

From Petraeus’ view, Gates and Obama are creating the situation that existed in pre-surge Iraq. Rather than stunning Afghanistan psychologically with the idea that the United States is staying, thereby causing all the parties to reconsider their positions, Obama and Gates have done the opposite. They have made it clear that Washington has placed severe limits on its willingness to invest in Afghanistan, and made it appear that the United States is overly eager to make a deal with the one group that does not need a deal: the Taliban.

Gates and Obama have pointed out that there is a factor in Afghanistan for which there was no parallel in Iraq — namely, Pakistan. While Iran was a factor in the Iraqi civil war, the Taliban are as much a Pakistani phenomenon as an Afghan one, and the Pakistanis are neither willing nor able to deny the Taliban sanctuary and lines of supply. So long as Pakistan is in the condition it is in — and Pakistan likely will stay that way for a long time — the Taliban have time on their side and no reason to split, and are likely to negotiate only on their terms.

There is also a military fear. Petraeus brought U.S. troops closer to the population in Iraq, and he is doing this in Afghanistan as well. U.S. forces in Afghanistan are deployed in firebases. These relatively isolated positions are vulnerable to massed Taliban forces. U.S. airpower can destroy these concentrations, so long as they are detected in time and attacked before they close in on the firebases. Ominously for the United States, the Taliban do not seem to have committed anywhere near the majority of their forces to the campaign.

This military concern is combined with real questions about the endgame. Gates and Obama are not convinced that the endgame in Iraq, perhaps the best outcome that was possible there, is actually all that desirable for Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, this outcome would leave the Taliban in power in the end. No amount of U.S. troops could match the Taliban’s superior intelligence capability, their knowledge of the countryside and their willingness to take casualties in pursuing their ends, and every Afghan security force would be filled with Taliban agents.

And there is a deeper issue yet that Gates has referred to: the Russian experience in Afghanistan. The Petraeus camp is vehement that there is no parallel between the Russian and American experience; in this view, the Russians tried to crush the insurgents, while the Americans are trying to win them over and end the insurgency by convincing the Taliban’s supporters and reaching a political accommodation with their leaders. Obama and Gates are less sanguine about the distinction — such distinctions were made in Vietnam in response to the question of why the United States would fare better in Southeast Asia than the French did. From the Obama and Gates point of view, a political settlement would call for either a constellation of forces in Afghanistan favoring some accommodation with the Americans, or sufficient American power to compel accommodation. But it is not clear to Obama and Gates that either could exist in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, Petraeus is charging that Obama and Gates are missing the chance to repeat what was done in Iraq, while Obama and Gates are afraid Petraeus is confusing success in Iraq with a universal counterinsurgency model. To put it differently, they feel that while Petraeus benefited from fortuitous circumstances in Iraq, he quickly could find himself hopelessly bogged down in Afghanistan. The Pentagon on May 11 announced that U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David McKiernan would be replaced, less than a year after he took over, with Lt. Gen. Stan McChrystal. McKiernan’s removal could pave the way for a broader reshuffling of Afghan strategy by the Obama administration.

The most important issues concern the extent to which Obama wants to stake his presidency on Petraeus’ vision in Afghanistan, and how important Afghanistan is to U.S. grand strategy. Petraeus has conceded that al Qaeda is in Pakistan. Getting the group out of Pakistan requires surgical strikes. Occupation and regime change in Pakistan are way beyond American abilities. The question of what the United States expects to win in Afghanistan — assuming it can win anything there — remains.

In the end, there is never a debate between U.S. presidents and generals. Even MacArthur discovered that. It is becoming clear that Obama is not going to bet all in Afghanistan, and that he sees Afghanistan as not worth the fight. Petraeus is a soldier in a fight, and he wants to win. But in the end, as Clausewitz said, war is an extension of politics by other means. As such, generals tend to not get their way.

 
23099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big Brother is tracking you on: May 11, 2009, 02:13:49 PM
Wisconsin court upholds GPS tracking by police
By RYAN J. FOLEY | Associated Press Writer
2:42 PM CDT, May 7, 2009
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody's movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

However, the District 4 Court of Appeals said it was "more than a little troubled" by that conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to regulate GPS use to protect against abuse by police and private individuals.

As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights -- even if the drivers aren't suspects.

Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.



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Picking a GPS That means "police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone's public movements with a GPS device," he wrote.

One privacy advocate said the decision opened the door for greater government surveillance of citizens. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials called the decision a victory for public safety because tracking devices are an increasingly important tool in investigating criminal behavior.

The ruling came in a 2003 case involving Michael Sveum, a Madison man who was under investigation for stalking. Police got a warrant to put a GPS on his car and secretly attached it while the vehicle was parked in Sveum's driveway. The device recorded his car's movements for five weeks before police retrieved it and downloaded the information.

The information suggested Sveum was stalking the woman, who had gone to police earlier with suspicions. Police got a second warrant to search his car and home, found more evidence and arrested him. He was convicted of stalking and sentenced to prison.

Sveum, 41, argued the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. He argued the device followed him into areas out of public view, such as his garage.

The court disagreed. The tracking did not violate constitutional protections because the device only gave police information that could have been obtained through visual surveillance, Lundsten wrote.

Even though the device followed Sveum's car to private places, an officer tracking Sveum could have seen when his car entered or exited a garage, Lundsten reasoned. Attaching the device was not a violation, he wrote, because Sveum's driveway is a public place.

"We discern no privacy interest protected by the Fourth Amendment that is invaded when police attach a device to the outside of a vehicle, as long as the information obtained is the same as could be gained by the use of other techniques that do not require a warrant," he wrote.

Although police obtained a warrant in this case, it wasn't needed, he added.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said using GPS to track someone's car goes beyond observing them in public and should require a warrant.

"The idea that you can go and attach anything you want to somebody else's property without any court supervision, that's wrong," he said. "Without a warrant, they can do this on anybody they want."

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's office, which argued in favor of the warrantless GPS tracking, praised the ruling but would not elaborate on its use in Wisconsin.

David Banaszynski, president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said his department in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood does not use GPS. But other departments might use it to track drug dealers, burglars and stalkers, he said.

A state law already requires the Department of Corrections to track the state's most dangerous sex offenders using GPS. The author of that law, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the decision shows "GPS tracking is an effective means of protecting public safety."
23100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fighting in Panjwayi District on: May 11, 2009, 11:45:54 AM
Mideast Stars and Stripes
May 10, 2009

Taliban Command Of Afghan Terrain Makes Fighting Conditions Difficult

By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan — Two companies of American soldiers accompanied Canadian forces on a recent four-day operation into Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, where some of the sharpest fighting has occurred against the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan.

The American mission was to help secure a narrow dirt track that led to the village of Mushan, about 10 kilometers to the west, where the Canadians would tear down a small outpost that had been occupied since late 2006 by eight Canadian advisers and 60 Afghan soldiers.

According to U.S. and Canadian officers, the small force had not been able to do much to counter the Taliban in the area. The fort had been under frequent attack. So the troops would be pulled out as part of a new NATO strategy to reposition forces around Kandahar and other major population centers in southern Afghanistan.

By early afternoon on the third day, the mission was almost complete. The engineers had finished their work, and the armored column of more than 400 Canadians, 200 Americans and 100 Afghans was beginning to move out.

Then a Taliban bomb struck a Canadian tank, wounding two soldiers and putting the tank out of action.

There was no way for the rest of the convoy to move around the wreckage. The high-walled compounds and deeply trenched opium and wheat fields along the road gave almost no room to maneuver. With most of the column bottled up behind the disabled tank, the convoy was stalled for most of another day as recovery specialists worked to extract the vehicle.

"It’s amazing that 10 dudes with shovels can stop a whole battalion," said Capt. Chris Brawley, commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, commenting on how a single Taliban bomb had brought the convoy to a halt.

The column moved safely out of the area the next morning. Soldiers with Company A engaged in three firefights, but suffered no casualties. A soldier from Company D had been slightly injured in a blast, one of several bombs that had either exploded or been found along the route.

By any measure, the mission had been a success, but it bore out a fundamental challenge that U.S. and other NATO forces face in southern Afghanistan: While western troops have the technology, the Taliban own the terrain.

Although U.S. and NATO troops enjoy the edge over the Taliban in almost every respect — superior weapons, communications gear, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and air support by fighters, bombers, helicopters and unmanned drones — those tactical advantages are often offset by terrain that favors guerrilla tactics and a lightly armed, highly maneuverable enemy.

"The fighting conditions here are amazingly difficult," said Brawley, 28, of Ellington, Mo. "The enemy pretty much has free rein down here, and there’s just endless places to hide."

Another complicating factor in the Mushan operation was that "there’s only one way in, and there’s one way out," said Brawley, allowing the Taliban to detonate bombs along the route that were probably buried weeks and months ago.

Panjwayi district lies about 40 kilometers southwest of the provincial capital of Kandahar and has long been considered a Taliban stronghold. During Operation Medusa in 2006, Canadian and other NATO forces fought one of the bloodiest battles so far of the eight-year-old Afghan war in Panjwayi and nearby Zhari district.

The area is heavily cultivated with wheat, grapes, opium, marijuana and other crops. The fields are partitioned by thick mud walls, and irrigation ditches crisscross the landscape like a maze. A group of soldiers on patrol in a grape field can suddenly drop six to 10 feet into a series of trenches in which an enemy can move undetected.

Rows of open slats in the two-story structures the soldiers refer to as "grape huts" offer the Taliban ready-made firing ports that they use to fire on NATO forces from concealed positions. The thick mud walls of the buildings can withstand multiple hits from all but the heaviest ordnance.

"[The enemy] definitely has the advantage down here," said Company A 1st Sgt. Christopher Kowalewski, 36, of Chicago. "[Despite] all of the technology that we have — all of our helicopters — he still has the advantage down here."

Soldiers from Company A engaged in three gunbattles with Taliban fighters over a two-day period during the Mushan operation. An estimated 10 fighters ambushed about 30 soldiers on the first day, keeping them pinned down for about two hours. The firefight ended only after American troops called for mortar and artillery fire, support from Kiowa helicopter gunships and, finally, an airstrike.

At one point, the Taliban were firing on the Americans from three sides. First Lt. Ashton Ballesteros, of 3 Delta platoon, said Canadian troops familiar with Taliban tactics in the area had told him the fighters typically "cloverleaf" around NATO forces during a fight, probing for weak spots.

"That’s exactly what they were trying to do to us," said Ballesteros, 24, of Grayson, Ga.

U.S. mortar teams fired more than 30 rounds of 60 mm high explosives and nearly 30 rounds of white-phosphorous smoke, according to Staff Sgt. Jason Calman, 27, of Las Vegas. Fire batteries at a nearby Canadian camp fired nearly 30 rounds of high-explosive 155 mm artillery rounds and another 18 rounds of white-phosphorous smoke. A NATO jet dropped a 500-pound bomb.

The soldiers used the smoke to cover their retreat. They made their way back to their patrol base through fields of wheat, opium and grapes, the latter with trenches that were deeper than the soldiers were tall.

"You could sit out an artillery barrage in this stuff and probably survive everything but a direct hit," one soldier said during a short rest break.

A second gunbattle broke out a couple of kilometers to the south when 2nd Platoon of Company A was ambushed by another group of Taliban fighters. The platoon was hit for a second time the next day not more than 100 meters from its patrol base.

An Afghan man with a child was spotted several times at various points during the second day’s action. The soldiers believed the man was acting as spotter for the Taliban and using the child as a shield.

"They know we’re not going to shoot him when he’s with a kid," said 1st Lt. Jared Wagner, 25, of Hillsborough, N.J. "It’s frustrating."

With so much Taliban activity around Zangabad and Mushan, Brawley predicted that NATO forces would have to "retake this whole area" at some point.

With Canadian forces scaling back their presence in Panjwayi and with more American forces coming into the south, that job will very likely fall to U.S. troops.
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