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27451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: FBI's Ali Soufan on: April 23, 2009, 03:47:54 AM
Here's another take on all this:

My Tortured Decision
        By ALI SOUFAN
Published: April 22, 2009

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

One of the worst consequences of the use of these harsh techniques was that it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.

It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out. This should not be a partisan matter, because it is in our national security interest to regain our position as the world’s foremost defenders of human rights. Just as important, releasing these memos enables us to begin the tricky process of finally bringing these terrorists to justice.

The debate after the release of these memos has centered on whether C.I.A. officials should be prosecuted for their role in harsh interrogation techniques. That would be a mistake. Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective and harmful to our national security.

Fortunately for me, after I objected to the enhanced techniques, the message came through from Pat D’Amuro, an F.B.I. assistant director, that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out of the interrogations by the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller (this was documented in the report released last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general).

My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue. (It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)

As we move forward, it’s important to not allow the torture issue to harm the reputation, and thus the effectiveness, of the C.I.A. The agency is essential to our national security. We must ensure that the mistakes behind the use of these techniques are never repeated. We’re making a good start: President Obama has limited interrogation techniques to the guidelines set in the Army Field Manual, and Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director, says he has banned the use of contractors and secret overseas prisons for terrorism suspects (the so-called black sites). Just as important, we need to ensure that no new mistakes are made in the process of moving forward — a real danger right now.

Ali Soufan was an F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005.
27452  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: April 23, 2009, 03:25:52 AM
California Ride-Along Explorer Rescues Deputy

Posted: April 22nd, 2009 11:44 AM EDT
The Stockton Record

VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. -- A 16-year-old Explorer Scout riding along Friday with a Calaveras County sheriff's deputy may have saved the deputy's life during a brawl in Valley Springs, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said Monday.
Sgt. Dave Seawell, a department spokesman, did not identify the teenager but said Deputy Michael Dittman was on the verge of losing consciousness during a Friday night brawl when the Explorer intervened to pull an assailant's forearm off of Dittman's throat.
"I think he probably saved Dittman's life," Seawell said.

According to a written release, Dittman was called about 11:30 p.m. to a disturbance in the 100 block of Daphne Street in Valley Springs. Dittman reported that he arrived to find three men fighting on the front porch of a residence.
The deputy reportedly ordered the men to stop fighting. They ignored the command, and Dittman prepared to use his stun gun, Seawell said in the release.

The release described the events as follows:

Thomas E. Jones, 51, at the time was reportedly trying to restrain his son, Thomas C. Jones, from assaulting Michael Koppi, 22. But when the elder Jones realized the stun gun was pointed at his son, he confronted Dittman.
The deputy warned Thomas E. Jones to get out of the way. At that point, Thomas C. Jones broke free from Koppi and charged at Dittman.

The stun gun malfunctioned, and all three men then assaulted Dittman.

The deputy, realizing his stun gun failed to operate, tried to reholster it.

Thomas E. Jones grabbed the stun gun while Thomas C. Jones punched Dittman in the face. The deputy lost the stun gun to the elder Jones, who tried to turn it on the deputy. He failed to do so when Dittman struck the elder Jones on the arm with his baton.
The deputy said he struck both Joneses with his baton multiple times with little or no effect. The younger Jones wrestled the baton away while the older Jones punched the deputy in the face.

The fight continued, and Dittman and the younger Jones fell to the ground while the older Jones punched the deputy in the face. The younger Jones pushed his forearm into the deputy's throat.

Dittman reported he felt himself on the verge of losing consciousness when the Explorer intervened, pulling the arm away.
Then the elder Jones pushed the Explorer away.

As Dittman tried to get control of the younger Jones, his father tried to choke Dittman.

For a second time, Dittman felt himself on the verge of passing out and reluctantly was finally reaching for his firearm when Deputy Josh Crabtree arrived and successfully stunned Thomas E. Jones with a stun gun. Dittman and the Explorer were then able to handcuff Thomas C. Jones.

The father was booked into Calaveras County Jail on charges of battery on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a stun gun, resisting arrest, removing a weapon from a peace officer and public intoxication. His bail was set at $110,000.
His son was jailed on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest, removing a weapon from a peace officer and public intoxication. His bail was set at $125,000.

Koppi was booked into jail on charges of battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest and public intoxication. A 16-year-old girl was also arrested at the scene for public intoxication and resisting or delaying an officer.

Dittman was treated at Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital for multiple cuts and bruises to his head and neck.

The Explorers program is a division of the Boy Scouts of America devoted to exploring careers.
"This is not something we expect our Explorers to do," Seawell said.
Combat is not part of the program, he said.
27453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2009, 03:20:42 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Taliban Problem Going Critical in Pakistan
April 22, 2009

A spokesman for Pakistan’s military said Tuesday that the peace agreement between the government and Islamist militants in the Swat region has given the Taliban an opportunity to regroup, after having been flushed out by army operations some months back. Elsewhere, the information ministers of both the federal government and North-West Frontier Province warned the Taliban group in Swat, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-Muhammadi (TNSM), to uphold its end of the peace deal and disarm, or face government action.

These comments followed statements made during the weekend by TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad: He denounced Pakistan’s constitution, parliament and Supreme Court as un-Islamic and called for Sharia to be imposed throughout the country. In a related development, the rebellious imam of Islamabad’s Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz — who led a bloody rising in July 2007 — was released on bail. He told followers to be ready to make sacrifices to ensure that Islam is enforced through the entire country.

As expected, the Swat “Sharia for peace” deal appears to be falling apart — within a week of being ratified. The collapse is yet another manifestation of a weakened Pakistani state being manipulated by Taliban rebels. But a far important point is that the current situation is untenable.

Pakistani government leaders cannot remain on the path of negotiations while the Taliban are going for the jugular. The entire rationale behind the peace agreement was that the insurgency in Swat could be ended if Sharia was enforced in the restive area. The Taliban not only have shown that they are unwilling to disarm, but their ambitions are escalating from a local to a national level.

This leaves the government with two choices: Either continue down the current path — allowing the jihadists to advance their cause while trying to avoid confrontation — or draw the line. In either case, conflict would be inevitable.

The difference is one of time and location. The Pakistanis either can fight the jihadists now, seeking to limit the conflict to the Pashtun regions of the northwest, or wait to fight — while the jihadists move to strengthen their ability to strike in Punjab province, the heart of Pakistan. The state is being pushed toward taking action by both the deteriorating security situation at home and mounting pressure from the United States. But it is not clear whether there is sufficient political will in Islamabad to go on the offensive.

Much of this is because the state is caught between the contradictory needs to combat the “bad” Taliban (those that fight in Pakistan) while still maintaining influence over the “good” ones (those that fight in Afghanistan). This distinction itself is a problem: The jihadist landscape is far more complicated than such neat binary categorizations would seem to allow. The problems Islamabad faces in this regard offer a glimpse of what the Obama administration can expect in its efforts to distinguish between what Washington sees as Taliban it can deal with versus Taliban it cannot deal with.

Overall, Pakistan’s situation is far more dire than the situation the United States will face in Afghanistan as it increases troop commitments and seeks out pragmatic Taliban with whom to negotiate. For Islamabad, the war is hitting home now more than ever.

27454  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The next Vince Foster? on: April 22, 2009, 01:22:16 PM
Freddie Mac chief financial officer found dead in apparent suicide

David Kellermann, 41, was found dead in his home in Vienna, Virginia before dawn

Daniel Nasaw in Washington,
Wednesday 22 April 2009 15.37 BST

The acting chief financial officer of troubled US mortgage giant Freddie Mac was found dead in an apparent suicide this morning.

David Kellermann, 41, was found dead in his home in Vienna, Virginia on the outskirts of Washington, before dawn. Fairfax county, Virginia police said no foul play was evident and that the cause and manner of death was under investigation by the state medical examiner. CNN reported Kellermann had hung himself, citing a law enforcement source. Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said police responded to the house just before 5am (10am BST). She would not say who called police but said others were in the house.

Kellermann was named acting chief financial officer in September, after Anthony Piszel resigned following a government-takeover of the firm and a dramatic internal shake-up of the management. He reported directly to Chief Executive Officer John Koskinen. Before that he was senior vice-president and led the company's accounting and finance operations.

Kellerman had been with the company 16 years in a variety of positions.
As acting chief financial officer, Kellermann was charged with certifying the truth and accuracy of the company's financial statements and certain regulatory filings.

The company remains under government conservatorship and has received billions in loans from the US treasury department to help keep it afloat.

But the company has complained that requirements from the treasury department and other US government offices conflict with its long-term business objectives, and last month warned investors that the conflict could lead to "suboptimal outcomes".

The McLean, Virginia-based company finances home mortgages by purchasing loans from mortgage lenders. It has been battered by floods of loan defaults caused by the credit crunch and plummeting home values. In 2008, the company lost $50.1bn (£34.4bn), compared to $3.1bn in 2007.

The company was chartered by the US Congress in 1970. At the end of 2008, Freddie Mac held $1.8tn in single-family home loans.

At least six other financial services executives have committed suicide under stress from the current credit crisis. Those include Germany's fifth richest man, Adolf Merckle, who in January threw himself under a train in an act his family blamed on his company's "desperate situation". In December, a French fund manager who had lost $1.4bn of clients' money to Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme was found dead at his desk in New York.

In a statement, Koskinen praised Kellermann's "extraordinary work ethic and integrity".

"The Freddie Mac family is truly saddened by the news this morning of David Kellermann's death," he said. "We extend our deepest condolences to David's family and loved ones for this terrible personal tragedy."
27455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: April 22, 2009, 08:42:39 AM
Will The Tea Parties Matter?
by Newt Gingrich

The elite media tried to ignore us.  The government labeled us "extremists."  But on April 15, more than one million Americans came together, spontaneously, to defend fairness and freedom.  I know because Callista and I were there. Here is our story.

A Reaction to the Left's Effort to Create a Radical, Secular,
and Socialist America

Callista and I spent last Wednesday evening at the New York City Tea Party in City Hall Park. We had a terrific time, as did the crowd that the New York Police estimated numbered 12,500 fellow citizens.  The Tea Party in New York was a great example of the nature of the entire movement: It was a grassroots citizens' initiative aroused in reaction to the left's aggressive effort to create a more radical, secular, and socialist country.  The force behind the New York Tea Party was Kellen Giuda, a 26-year-old small businessman (three employees), who decided on his own to organize a protest.

A Modern Day Sam Adams

At the New York Tea Party, I called Kellen a modern day Sam Adams.

Like the original 1773 Boston Tea Party, the nationwide Tea Parties of 2009 were held in response to a government treating Americans as subjects to be commanded rather than citizens with God-given rights.

Kellen Giuda is a citizen, not a subject. His first internet-based effort led 300 people to get together. These 300 then reached out and organized an effort which drew 12,500 people to City Hall Park. It was a bubbling-up of the grassroots comparable to anything the left-wing anti-war movement had been able to achieve in the last eight years.

More than One Million Americans Held Tea Parties

Dave Ryan, the head of American Solutions, had a great time with Fox News' Sean Hannity and 20,000 fellow citizens in Atlanta on Wednesday evening.  My friend and co-author Bill Forstchen estimated there were 1,500-plus citizens at the Asheville Tea Party.

Rick Tyler, founding director of Renewing American Leadership, helped drive tens of thousands of people of faith out to Tea Party Day rally sites around the country.

Will the Tea Parties Be a Moment Quickly Forgotten
or the Start of Something Big?

Adam Waldeck, the Tea Party coordinator for American Solutions, reported that the Tax Day Tea Party effort organized in at least 850 sites, with more than one million people all told.

An impressive showing, especially considering that the elite media virtually ignored the movement, no big donor or organization was behind it, and right and center-right leaning Americans generally have jobs and lack the professional protest and "community organizing" prowess and funding of the left.  Still, David Axelrod, President Obama's chief strategist, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" last Sunday that the Tea Party movement was potentially "unhealthy."  So what does this movement really mean? Will the 2009 Tax Day Tea Parties be a brief moment in time quickly forgotten or the beginning of something big?

Dispelling the Media Myths about the Tea Parties

Liberal politicians and pundits did their best to discredit the Tea Parties by describing them, first, as a partisan Republican movement, and, second, as a revolt of greedy rich people who don't want to pay more income tax.

But as Callista and I saw - and anyone who went to a Tea Party with an open mind would have seen as well - the Tea Parties were not essentially Republican. People were as disgusted with big spending under President Bush as they are opposed to big spending under President Obama. This was a powerful movement of Americans fed up with the irresponsible politicians of both parties. In most cities they did not have a politician speaking. In some places, politicians were barred from speaking and forced to listen.

Alarm at the Growing Burden of Government on All Americans

Second, Tea Party participants were not simply angry about higher federal income taxes. Like Kellen Giuda, they were alarmed at the growing burden of government on all Americans, and the America we are leaving to our children both born and unborn. Taxing future generations to pay for our irresponsible spending is the epitome of "taxation without representation" which was precisely in line with the spirit of the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

What the elite media missed is that state and local taxes are going up for everyone. Add that to higher gasoline taxes, corporate taxes, death taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the threat of an energy tax. All of these combine to convince people that the general burden of government is getting bigger.

The Obama budget being negotiated in a House-Senate Conference Committee this week projects an astounding $9 trillion increase in federal debt over the next eight years. Since no one expects the liberals in control of Washington to cut spending, this level of debt virtually guarantees either higher taxes for the middle class or higher inflation. Higher taxes or higher inflation - either path means declining incomes, declining savings, and fewer economic opportunities for every American.

The elite media didn't get this. The Americans at the Tea Parties last week did. They understand that more government means more taxes and more taxes means less freedom. That's why we came out.

The Real Meaning of the Tea Parties: Fairness, Responsibility, and Freedom

But more important than understanding what the Tea Parties were not is understanding what they were. I believe there are three much deeper meanings to the Tea Party movement that the elite media completely missed. The first is fairness, the second is responsibility, and the third is freedom.

Fairness is the great Achilles heel of the left. As Callista and I travel around the country, more and more people tell us how unfair it is for the government to pick winners and losers.

More and more people tell us they are disgusted that the government is subsidizing those who bought houses they couldn't afford while making those who worked hard, lived prudently and saved for a home they could afford help pay for the transfer of wealth to those who chose to live beyond their means.

Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility: The Choice of the Next Generation

The Obama Administration's new budget document is entitled "A New Era of Responsibility," yet there is nothing responsible about increasing the size of the federal debt by $9 trillion over the next decade. This means that the average 21-year-old college graduate will have to pay $114,000 over the course of his or her lifetime just to pay for the interest on the new Obama debt.

Burdening the next generation with this much debt is the height of irresponsibility. It's akin to the parents of today buying and driving a mid-range Porsche 911 and stiffing their kid with the bill. It's going to get harder and harder for new college graduates to pay down school loans, their first car, a down payment on a mortgage, and start a new family if part of every paycheck has to go to pay for their parents' $100,000 sports car.

The Most Radical Administration and Congress in American History?

The ultimate underlying force behind the Tea Parties is the cause of freedom. There is increasing recognition that this is the most radical administration and most radical Congress in American history.

This is a left-wing team that wants to raise taxes, undermine charities, churches, and synagogues, (see my piece in Christianity Today) impose a radical secular agenda (eliminating the conscience clause protecting doctors of faith from being compelled to perform abortions is just one example), create bigger and bigger bureaucracies and take control of more and more of the private sector. This is a left-wing team dedicated to centralizing power in Washington.

The Difference Between Subjects and Citizens

The Democrats, Republicans and Independents who went to Tea Parties last week want the same thing that the patriots of 1773 wanted: To be treated as free citizens with inalienable rights, not indentured subjects of an all-powerful government.

Subjects don't complain when government makes their lives more secular and more socialized.

But citizens demand the "right to pursue happiness" as their Creator endowed them in the Declaration of Independence.

Citizens do not want to be told that they can earn up to $250,000, but above that, they are illegitimate possessors of the "people's wealth" and should expect to have it taken by the government.

Citizens do not want to be told that members of Congress or bureaucrats in the Treasury will set salary schedules and decide income for Americans in private business.

The Tea Parties were a reaction to all these threats to the American way of life.

Will the Tea Party Movement Matter? July 4 May Tell the Story

All that said, if the Tea Parties prove to be a one-time event they will probably not matter.  But if the Tea Party movement is the beginning of a larger, broader and deeper dialogue about the future of America then they will matter a great deal.

People are wondering what they can do next. American Solutions has an easy answer: Contact your representatives in Washington and urge them to oppose the big spending, big deficits, big government, big taxes, and big debt Obama Budget. Visit to learn more.

Then, we should make July 4, 2009 "American Freedom Day." Tea Party activists across America should plan to go out and recruit supporters from every Fourth of July celebration in their community.

If one million freedom-loving Americans work from now to July 4, the size of the Tea Party movement will grow dramatically.

As Tea Party leaders around the country email, chat, and call each other, they should learn the lessons from this past week and begin laying plans to make July 4, 2009 a day that goes down as a decisive turning point in the history of defending freedom.
27456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to Milligan on: April 22, 2009, 08:37:10 AM
"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, 6 April 1816
27457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No inquiry into past use on: April 22, 2009, 08:31:23 AM
The often-suspect NYTimes weighs in with an interesting article:


April 22, 2009
In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use
WASHINGTON — The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.

Today, asked how it happened, Bush administration officials are finger-pointing. Some blame the C.I.A., while some former agency officials blame the Justice Department or the White House.

Philip D. Zelikow, who worked on interrogation issues as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 and 2006, said the flawed decision-making badly served Mr. Bush and the country.

“Competent staff work could have quickly canvassed relevant history, insights from the best law enforcement and military interrogators, and lessons from the painful British and Israeli experience,” Mr. Zelikow said. “Especially in a time of great stress, walking into this minefield, the president was entitled to get the most thoughtful and searching analysis our government could muster.”

After years of recriminations about torture and American values, Bush administration officials say it is easy to second-guess the decisions of 2002, when they feared that a new attack from Al Qaeda could come any moment.

If they shunned interrogation methods some thought might work, and an undetected bomb or bioweapon cost thousands of lives, where would the moral compass point today? It is a question that still haunts some officials. Others say that if they had known the full history of the interrogation methods or been able to anticipate how the issue would explode, they would have advised against using them.

This account is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former senior officials of the C.I.A., White House, Justice Department and Congress. Nearly all, citing the possibility of future investigations, shared their recollections of the internal discussions of a classified program only on condition of anonymity.

Leaked to the news media months after they were first used, the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods would darken the country’s reputation, blur the moral distinction between terrorists and the Americans who hunted them, bring broad condemnation from Western allies and become a ready-made defense for governments accused of torture. The response has only intensified since Justice Department legal memos released last week showed that two prisoners were waterboarded 266 times and that C.I.A. interrogators were ordered to waterboard one of the captives despite their belief that he had no more information to divulge.

But according to many Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and some intelligence officers who are critics of the coercive methods, the C.I.A. program would also produce an invaluable trove of information on Al Qaeda, including leads on the whereabouts of important operatives and on terror schemes discussed by Al Qaeda. Whether the same information could have been acquired using the traditional, noncoercive methods that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military have long used is impossible to say, and former Bush administration officials say they did not have the luxury of time to develop a more patient approach, given that they had intelligence warnings of further attacks.

Michael V. Hayden, who served as C.I.A. director for the last two years of the Bush administration, devoted part of his last press briefing in January to defending the C.I.A. program. “It worked,” Mr. Hayden insisted.

“I have said to all who will listen that the agency did none of this out of enthusiasm,” he said. “It did it out of duty. It did it with the best legal advice it had.”

A Program Takes Shape

When Mr. Bush assigned the C.I.A. with the task of questioning high-level Qaeda captives in late 2001, the agency had almost no experience interrogating the kind of hostile prisoners it soon expected to hold.

It had dozens of psychiatrists, psychologists, polygraphists and operations officers who had practiced the arts of eliciting information and assessing truthfulness. Their targets, however, were not usually terrorists, but foreigners offering to spy for the United States or C.I.A. employees suspected of misdeeds.

Agency officials, led by Mr. Tenet, sought interrogation advice from other countries. And, fatefully, they contacted the military unit that runs the SERE training program, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which gives American pilots, special operations troops and others a sample of the brutal interrogation methods they might face as prisoners of war. Mr. Tenet declined to be interviewed.

By late 2001, the agency had contracted with James E. Mitchell, a psychologist with the SERE program who had monitored many mock interrogations but had never conducted any real ones, according to colleagues. He was known for his belief that a psychological concept called “learned helplessness” was crucial to successful interrogation.

Martin Seligman, a prominent professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who had developed the concept, said in an interview that he was puzzled by Dr. Mitchell’s notion that learned helplessness was relevant to interrogation.

“I think helplessness would make someone more dependent, less defiant and more compliant,” Dr. Seligman said, “but I do not think it would lead reliably to more truth-telling.”

Still, forceful and brainy, Dr. Mitchell, who declined to comment for this article, became a persuasive player in high-level agency discussions about the best way to interrogate Qaeda prisoners. Eventually, along with another former SERE psychologist, Bruce Jessen, Dr. Mitchell helped persuade C.I.A. officials that Qaeda members were fundamentally different from the myriad personalities the agency routinely dealt with.

“Jim believed that people of this ilk would confess for only one reason: sheer terror,” said one C.I.A. official who had discussed the matter with Dr. Mitchell.

Overwhelmed with reports of potential threats and anguished that the agency had failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet and his top aides did not probe deeply into the prescription Dr. Mitchell so confidently presented: using the SERE tactics on Qaeda prisoners.

A little research on the origin of those methods would have given reason for doubt. Government studies in the 1950s found that Chinese Communist interrogators had produced false confessions from captured American pilots not with some kind of sinister “brainwashing” but with crude tactics: shackling the Americans to force them to stand for hours, keeping them in cold cells, disrupting their sleep and limiting access to food and hygiene.

“The Communists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture,’ ” one 1956 study concluded. “But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.”

Worse, the study found that under such abusive treatment, a prisoner became “malleable and suggestible, and in some instances he may confabulate.”

In late 2001, about a half-dozen SERE trainers, according to a report released Tuesday night by the Senate Armed Services Committee, began raising stark warning about plans by both the military and the C.I.A. to use the SERE methods in interrogations.

In December 2001, Lt. Col. Daniel J. Baumgartner of the Air Force, who oversaw SERE training, cautioned in one memo that physical pressure was “less reliable” than other interrogation methods, could backfire by increasing a prisoner’s resistance and would have an “intolerable public and political backlash when discovered.” But his memo went to the Defense Department, not the C.I.A.

One former senior intelligence official who played an important role in approving the interrogation methods said he had no idea of the origins and history of the SERE program when the C.I.A. started it in 2002.

“The agency was counting on the Justice Department to fully explore all the factors contributing to a judgment about legality, including the surrounding history and context,” the official said.

But it was the C.I.A. that was proposing the methods, and John Yoo, the Justice Department official who was the principal author of a secret August 2002 memorandum that authorized the interrogation program, was mostly interested in making a case that the president’s wartime powers allowed for the harsh tactics.

A Persuasive Case

After the March 28, 2002, capture in Pakistan of the Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah — the C.I.A.’s first big catch after Sept. 11 — Mr. Tenet told Ms. Rice, then the national security adviser, he wanted to discuss interrogation, several former officials said. At a series of small-group and individual briefings attended by Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mr. Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin, laid out their case.

They made a persuasive duo, former officials who heard their pitch recalled. Mr. Tenet, an extroverted former Congressional staff member, was given to forceful language about the threat from Al Qaeda, which he said might well have had operations under way involving biological, radiological or even nuclear weapons. Mr. McLaughlin, a career intelligence analyst, was low-key and cerebral, and some White House officials said they found his support for the methods reassuring.

In the briefings, Mr. Tenet said that after extensive research, the agency believed that only the methods he described — which he said had been used on thousands of American trainees — could extract the details of plots from hardened Qaeda fanatics.

“It was described as a program that was safe and necessary, that would be closely monitored by medical personnel,” a former senior official recalled. “And it was very much in the context of the threat streams that were just eye-popping at the time.”

Mr. Tenet’s descriptions of each proposed interrogation method was so clinical and specific that at one briefing Mr. Ashcroft objected, saying that cabinet officials should approve broad outlines of important policies, not the fine details, according to someone present. The attorney general later complained that he thought Mr. Tenet was looking for cover in case controversy erupted, the person said.

Ms. Rice insisted that Mr. Ashcroft not just pass along the conclusions of his Office of Legal Counsel, where Mr. Yoo worked, but give his personal assurance that the methods were legal under domestic and international law. He did.

The C.I.A. then gave individual briefings to the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell. Neither objected, several former officials said.

Mr. Cheney, whose top legal adviser, David S. Addington, was closely consulting with Mr. Yoo about legal justification, strongly endorsed the program. Mr. Bush also gave his approval, though what details were shared with him is not known.

With that, the C.I.A. had the full support of the White House to begin its harshest interrogations. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have never publicly second-guessed their decision. Though some former officials expressed regret that such a momentous decision was made so quickly without vital information or robust debate, none were willing to be quoted by name.

There was one more check on intelligence programs, one designed in the 1970s to make sure independent observers kept an eye on spy agencies: Congress. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees had been created in the mid-1970s to prevent any repeat of the C.I.A. abuses unearthed by the Senate’s Church Committee.

As was common with the most secret programs, the C.I.A. chose not to brief the entire committees about the interrogation methods but only the so-called Gang of Four — the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate and House committees. The rest of the committee members would be fully briefed only in 2006.

The 2002 Gang of Four briefings left a hodgepodge of contradictory recollections that, to some Congressional staff members, reveal a dysfunctional oversight system. Without full staff support, few lawmakers are equipped to make difficult legal and policy judgments about secret programs, critics say.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough.”

Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who was committee chairman in 2002, said in an interview that he did not recall ever being briefed on the methods, though government officials with access to records say all four committee leaders received multiple briefings.

Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the committee, declined to discuss the briefings.

Vicki Divoll, general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002 and a former C.I.A. lawyer, would have been a logical choice to advise senators on the legal status of the interrogation methods. But because of the restricted briefings, Ms. Divoll learned about them only years later from news media accounts.

Ms. Divoll, who now teaches government at the United States Naval Academy, said the interrogation issue revealed the perils of such restricted briefings.

“The very programs that are among the most risky and controversial, and that therefore should get the greatest congressional oversight,” she said, “in fact get the least.”

27458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Internet, Cyberwar on: April 21, 2009, 11:10:54 PM
Related threads:
27459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus on: April 21, 2009, 02:40:22 PM
Turkey: Challenges To Ankara's Influence in the Caucasus
Stratfor Today » April 20, 2009 | 1648 GMT

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (L) shakes hands with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Russia on April 17


Recent top-level meetings between Azerbaijan and Russia revealed the obstacles that Turkey faces in attempting to broaden its sphere of influence in the Caucasus. While Azerbaijan is threatening to move its natural gas eastward toward Russia and edge the Turks out, the Turks are exploring their options with the Europeans while continuing to probe the limits to its cooperation with Russia in the Caucasus.


A series of meetings between top Azerbaijani and Russian officials in Moscow that were held April 16-18 have shed light on what exactly Turkey is up against in trying to enlarge its footprint in the Caucasus.

STRATFOR has been closely tracking negotiations between Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Turkey’s attempt to restore diplomatic relations with Armenia and fortify Ankara’s foothold in the Caucasus was being done under Moscow’s close supervision. Russia was willing to allow Turkey to patch things up with Yerevan, so long as Ankara stayed true to its pledge to remain neutral in Russia’s ongoing tussle with the West.

However, Russia came to doubt Turkey’s intentions when U.S. President Barack Obama made clear to the world during his visit to Ankara in early April that the United States and Turkey were reinvigorating their alliance, and that Washington would be Ankara’s biggest supporter in its regional rise. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, was deeply resentful that its Turkish patrons were leaving Baku out of the negotiations with Armenia and leaving the contentious Nagorno-Karabakh issue out of the deal. As far as Baku is concerned, if Turkey betrays Azerbaijan by striking a deal with Armenia that does not include a demand for Yerevan to return Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, then the Azerbaijanis have no choice but to turn to Moscow to try and keep the Turks in line. So, the Russians invited Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Moscow for talks.

Aliyev was apparently treated quite well during his three-day trip to Moscow, where he met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitri Medvedev and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. The Russians allowed Aliyev to vent against Turkey and reassured him that Moscow would stand behind Baku. Shortly after Aliyev’s meetings with Putin and Sechin, he told Russia’s Vesti state television channel in an interview that he would like Russia to serve as a transit state for Azerbaijan to transport natural gas to Europe. In other words, Europe can forget about trying to diversify its energy supply away from Russia through Turkey. With Azerbaijan now shifting into Moscow’s camp due to its recent falling out with Ankara, Aliyev is threatening to send his country’s natural gas east through Russia to reach the Europeans, thereby giving Moscow more political leverage in its energy relationship with Europe.

According to a STRATFOR source in Baku, Aliyev made this statement because Russia and Azerbaijan struck a deal to expand the Soviet-era natural gas pipelines running between the two countries. During the trip, Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy firm SOCAR signed a deal with Gazprom to send natural gas extracted from the second phase of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field (which is expected to become operational in November 2009) to Russia and on to Europe. Shah Deniz contains 1.2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves and, in its first phase of production, pumps 8.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually, which goes to Europe. The second phase of the field is expected to pump another 8.6 bcm annually. This deal between Azerbaijan and Russia is a major blow to Turkey, who was expecting to sign the Shah Deniz deal at the April 16 Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit in Yerevan so that it could reap more revenues from transiting Azerbaijan’s natural gas to Europe via Greece.

As STRATFOR reported, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier requested to be present at the Russian-Azerbaijani talks in Moscow so that he would not be caught by surprise by any deals between Moscow and Baku (such as the aforementioned Shah Deniz deal) that would edge the Turks out of the energy equation. Though Moscow granted Erdogan’s request to attend the meeting, Erdogan did not show up. Instead, STRATFOR was told that he sent a Turkish delegation to Moscow for talks while he spent the weekend in Hannover, Germany, where he attended former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s birthday party.

During Aliyev’s meeting with the Turkish officials who did show up in Moscow, Aliyev apparently lashed out against Ankara over its perceived betrayal, telling the Turkish delegation “we were supposed to be one nation of two states, yet you have left us in the dark and have now lost our confidence.” Fearful that the Turks would sidestep the Nagorno-Karabakh issue to make the deal with Armenia go through, Aliyev made clear that he could not tolerate Turkey’s refusal to share documents that were being exchanged between Turkey and Armenia that detailed the timetable and conditions attached to normalizing relations. He also expressed his disappointment with the Russians and Europeans for leaving Azerbaijan out of these talks, but Putin and Sechin assuaged him by pointing out that the Russians were the ones bringing Azerbaijan back into the fold. Azerbaijan will follow up with these talks with Russia when Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian travels to Moscow on April 24.

Given Azerbaijan’s threats to cut energy cooperation with Turkey and send its natural gas east toward Russia, the Turks are backing off the Armenia deal for the time being. The timetable for announcing a peace deal has already been delayed indefinitely, and Erdogan made a gesture to Baku when he announced during his trip to Hannover that “a decision to open the border gate with Armenia will depend on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue being solved. If the Armenian occupation of Azeri territory continues, Turkey will not open its border gate.”

Turkey has set the Nagorno-Karabakh condition to temporarily calm Baku, but Ankara is still keeping its options open with Armenia. A STRATFOR source in Baku explained that the Turkish negotiators told Aliyev that Turkey would not be the one mediating Armenian-Azerbaijani talks over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and would not set firm conditions on the Armenians to resolve the territorial dispute. In essence, Turkey is signaling to Baku that it is washing its hands of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in order to keep its negotiations with Yerevan alive. The Armenians, meanwhile, see the writing on the wall and are privately discussing what to do now that the Turks are clearly waffling on the deal.

The Turks are not about to bend to Russian and Azerbaijani demands that easily. After all, Turkey knows Azerbaijan cannot put all its trust in Moscow, who is backing Baku’s chief rivals in Yerevan simultaneously. Azerbaijan still needs Turkey’s support and is using these talks with Russia to grab Ankara’s attention. At the same time, Turkey wants to test how far it can actually go in cooperating with the Russians in the Caucasus before the Russians feel threatened enough by Ankara’s relationship with the West to pull the plug on the Armenia deal.

Erdogan also wants to see how he can use these negotiations to gain leverage in Turkey’s talks with the Europeans, particularly on energy issues and Turkey’s EU accession bid. If the Europeans get serious about Turkish EU membership, Turkey could find it worthwhile to stand up against Russian wishes in the Caucasus by signing on to energy projects that circumvent the Russian network. Erdogan likely discussed these issues while in Germany, and this will be the main item on the agenda when Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan arrives in Prague on April 21 for an EU-Turkey ministerial meeting. So far, the Turks appear to be unimpressed by the European Union’s recent move to open chapters on taxation and on social policy and employment in its EU membership negotiations. Turkey wants to see the Europeans demonstrate their seriousness in these talks by opening a key chapter on energy and by assuring Ankara that these talks will actually lead somewhere.

Nonetheless, German and French opposition to Turkey’s EU accession will not be easy to overcome, and all it takes is one veto in the EU voting bloc to kill Ankara’s chances of making it into the club should talks even progress that far to begin with. Turkey will take its time to explore its options in Europe while it stalls on Armenia, but the Russians are already laying the groundwork with Azerbaijan to constrain Turkey’s moves in the Caucasus.
27460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 21, 2009, 02:36:06 PM
Mexico Security Memo: April 20, 2009
Stratfor Today » April 20, 2009 | 2149 GMT
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
A Possible Clue to El Chapo’s Whereabouts

A Roman Catholic archbishop in Durango state sparked a minor controversy this past week by publicly stating that Mexico’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera lives near the small town of Guanacevi, Durango, as everyone knows except the authorities. The claim came as he was criticizing the government for not adequately investigating reports of organized criminal activity. The statement prompted inquiries from several politicians, and brought a response from the federal attorney general’s office that anyone with such information about criminals or fugitives was obligated to come forward. The archbishop later clarified that he was simply repeating rumors he had heard from his parishioners, and that he had no firsthand knowledge of El Chapo’s whereabouts.

Given Guzman’s legendary status, rumors and myths about him are in no short supply. Over the past two years, he has been said to be hiding in several spots in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and even Brazil. Against this backdrop and given the lack of supporting evidence, it is difficult to judge the credibility of the archbishop’s statement. Even so, it is among the more plausible theories regarding Guzman’s potential whereabouts.

Guanacevi is a small town in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. The western edge of this range extends into eastern Sinaloa state, considered the home of the Sinaloa cartel and Guzman himself. The rugged terrain associated with this area makes road access difficult, decreasing the likelihood that an army patrol might pass by at random. Moreover, authorities pursuing someone through this region on foot or in a vehicle would be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis locals given their lack of knowledge of the various routes through mountains.

While it is certainly possible that the rumors about Guzman living near Guanacevi are just that, STRATFOR would not be surprised to learn that he spends at least part of his time in this area. But had he been living near Guanacevi, he most certainly has moved on by now given the archbishop’s statement.

Prison Convoy Attacked in Nayarit State
At least six federal agents and two prison employees reportedly were killed April 18 when their convoy came under attack by an estimated 30-40 armed men around 2 p.m. local time. The agents were transporting nine prisoners — including Geronimo “El Primo” Gamez Garcia, an important member of the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization (BLO) — from the Nayarit state airport to a federal penitentiary some 20 miles away. This was the final leg of a transfer of these prisoners, who had been held in a federal facility near Mexico City. Although the agents ultimately delivered all nine prisoners to their destination, the fact that the attack occurred and caused so many casualties highlights the vulnerabilities associated with these types of convoys as they are operated at present.

Based on various media accounts and statements from federal officials, it appears the convoy may have been ambushed at multiple points along the route, with the attackers also pursuing the convoy on one occasion and engaging it from the rear. The first incident reportedly occurred less than 1 mile from the airport exit, and began with the attackers driving a large agricultural truck onto the two-lane road in an attempt to block its path. The convoy was traveling at a high rate of speed, however, and managed to avoid the truck and to continue driving as two teams of assailants armed with assault rifles opened fire on the convoy from each side of the road.

This initial ambush appears to have disabled at least three convoy vehicles, killing at least two federal agents and two officials from the prison. One SUV reportedly pursued what remained of the convoy, firing on it several times before pulling away. Several reports also describe two additional attacks on the convoy at other points along the route to the prison, though federal officials have not confirmed this.

While this is certainly not the first time gunmen have attacked prisoner transfer convoys in Mexico, this particular incident appears to have involved a high degree of pre-operational planning and tactical intelligence. That no prisoners were reported wounded during the various gunbattles, for example, suggests that the gunmen knew what vehicles the prisoners were riding in and avoided firing at those vehicles. This assumes, of course, that the objective of the attack was to rescue one of the prisoners, not to capture him for interrogation and execution. In addition, the assailants also had foreknowledge of which prisoners were to be transferred — something reportedly kept secret even from the federal agents assigned to the convoy.

The BLO has a history of high-ranking penetrations of federal law enforcement. Of all the drug cartels in Mexico, they seem to have the best intelligence network inside the federal government. Considering that this attack looks to have been a well-planned attempt to free a high-ranking BLO member, it appears that intelligence network remains intact.

Click image to enlarge

April 13
Authorities in Venustiano Carranza, Michoacan state, found the body of an unidentified woman with a single gunshot wound to the head.
A sixteen-year-old boy died in Celaya, Guanajuato state, when a police officer shot him once in the chest and fled with several other officers. Authorities are investigating possible motives.
One man died when multiple assailants shot him several times as he sat outside his home in Guasave, Sinaloa state.
Mexican soldiers exchanged gunfire with a group of men in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, after responding to an anonymous tip regarding armed men in the area. Authorities reported no casualties and no arrests, but seized an assortment of firearms and grenades from an abandoned vehicle at the scene.
April 14
Federal authorities announced the arrest in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero state, of Ruben “El Nene” Granados Vargas, a lieutenant of the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization responsible for various cartel activities in the region.
Authorities in Santa Ana, Sonora state, seized an assortment of firearms and ammunition from a series of safe houses, including what appears to be an M2 Browning .50 caliber and an M1919 Browning .30 caliber, though a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official told reporters that the guns were actually semi-automatic variants of those weapons that came from U.S. sources.
April 15
One soldier and 15 alleged drug traffickers died during an eight-hour gunbattle in a remote area near San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero state. An unknown number of suspects were also detained after the firefight in possession of eight vehicles, assorted assault rifles, grenades and two .50-caliber Barrett rifles.
April 16
Authorities found the bodies of three people bearing signs of torture in the trunk of a car in Petatlan, Guerrero state. The victims were reported kidnapped from Zihuatanejo two days before.
The body of an unidentified man was found in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, with a note signed by La Familia warning against cooperating with Los Zetas. Two bodies with similar messages were found the following morning.
April 17
Police in San Lucas, Michoacan state, found the bodies of four unidentified men; three of the victims had been beheaded.
April 19
Authorities in Morelia, Michoacan state, arrested some 44 members of La Familia crime organization. One of the suspects detained was Rafael “El Cede” Cedeno Hernandez, who stands accused of managing the organization’s activities in Lazaro Cardenas, as well as of running a religious group designed to recruit and indoctrinate new members.
27461  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zirconia KOs Liddell on: April 21, 2009, 01:41:33 PM
Am I fair to call this an example of the Zirconia technique the I teach in "Kali Tudo"?
27462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Selective Outrage on: April 21, 2009, 12:50:50 PM
Few places on earth have been as systematically brutalized over the past decade as Chechnya. So you might have thought that the Russian government's decision last week to declare an end to its "counterterrorism" operations in the territory would have been an occasion for somber reflection in the Western media. Forget it. It's a 600-word news item at best.

Here's a contrast to ponder. Since the beginning of the second intifada in the autumn of 2000, roughly 6,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. That figure includes combatants, as well as those killed in January's fighting in Gaza.

As for Chechnya, there are no solid figures for the number of civilians killed since the second war began in late 1999; estimates range anywhere between 25,000 and 200,000. Chechnya's population, at a little over one million, is about one-third or one-fourth that of the Palestinians. That works out to between 25 to 200 Chechen deaths per 1,000, as against 1.5 to 2 Palestinian deaths per 1,000.

Now type the words "Palestine" and "genocide" into Google. When I did so Monday, I got 1,630,000 results. Next, substitute "Chechnya" for "Palestine." The number is 245,000. Taking the Google results as a crude measure of global outrage, that means the outrage over the Palestinian situation was 6.6 times greater than over the Chechen one. Yet Chechen fatalities were anywhere between 13 to 133 times greater.

Final calculation: With an "outrage" ratio of 6.6 to one, but a proportional kill ratio of one to 13 (at the very low end), it turns out that every Palestinian death receives somewhere in the order of 28 times the attention of every Chechen death. Remember that in both cases we're mainly talking about Muslims being killed by non-Muslims.

I'll admit this math exercise is a bit of a gimmick. But it raises a worthwhile question: Why is Palestinian life so dear in the eyes of the world -- and Chechen life so cheap?

Maybe the answer is that the Palestinian cause is morally worthier than Chechnya's. But that can't be right. Yes, Chechen terrorists have committed spectacular atrocities, notably the 2004 Beslan school massacre. Yet modern terrorism is a genre Palestinians practically invented. As it is, Chechnya has been suffering grievously under Russia's thumb since the 1800s. (Just read Tolstoy's "Hadji Murat.") If colonialism is your beef, the case for Chechen independence is inarguable.

Maybe, then, the answer is that there is no shortage of imagery of Palestinian death, and thus it engages more of the world's attention. By contrast, the Russians imposed a virtual media blockade on Chechnya, and journalists who covered the story, like Anna Politkovskaya, had a way of ending up dead.

But imagery need not simply be televised to be vivid, nor does the world lack for testimonials of Russian brutality. "I remember a Chechen female sniper," a Russian soldier told L.A. Times reporter Maura Reynolds. "We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it."

Maybe it's that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simply more important strategically than Russia's war against Chechnya, in the same way that the attacks of 9/11 mattered more in the scheme of things than, say, Tamil Tiger atrocities in Sri Lanka.

Yet even before 9/11, there was evidence that al Qaeda was feeding money and arms to Chechen fighters, putting Chechnya squarely into the context of what became the global war on terror. Evidence of al Qaeda involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sparser, and only came to light in 2007.

Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inflames the Muslim world in a way the Chechen one does not. But why is that, when so many more Muslims are being victimized by Russia?

Then too, why does the wider world participate in the Muslim world's moral priorities? Why, for instance, do high-profile Western writers like Portuguese Nobelist José Saramago make "solidarity" pilgrimages to Ramallah, but not to the Chechen capital of Grozny? Why do British academics organize boycotts of their Israeli counterparts, but not their Russian ones? Why is Palestinian statehood considered a global moral imperative, but statehood for Chechnya is not?

Why does every Israeli prime minister invariably become a global pariah, when not one person in a thousand knows the name of Chechen "President" Ramzan Kadyrov, a man who, by many accounts, keeps a dungeon near his house in order to personally torture his political opponents? And why does the fact that Mr. Kadyrov is Vladimir Putin's handpicked enforcer in Chechnya not cause a shudder of revulsion as the Obama administration reaches for the "reset" button with Russia?

I have a hypothesis. Maybe the world attends to Palestinian grievances but not Chechen ones for the sole reason that Palestinians are, uniquely, the perceived victims of the Jewish state. That is, when they are not being victimized by other Palestinians. Or being expelled en masse from Kuwait. Or being excluded from the labor force in Lebanon. Things you probably didn't know about, either. As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew will ever likely become president of Russia.

Write to
27463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 21, 2009, 10:51:11 AM
Transnational strategies to eviscerate the Second Amendment via the UN:

With Harold Koh at the State Department this is going to get REALLY bad!
27464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buchanan on: April 21, 2009, 10:16:47 AM
The Apologists
by  Patrick J. Buchanan


For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.

After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.

"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."

Hillary Clinton was asked to comment: "I thought the cultural performance was fascinating," she cooed.

Pressed again on Ortega's vitriol, Hillary replied: "To have those first-class Caribbean entertainers all on one stage and to see how much was done in such a small amount of space. I was overwhelmed."

Thus the nation that won the Cold War, contained the cancer of Castroism in Cuba, liberated Grenada, blocked communist takeovers of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and poured scores of billions in aid into this region was left undefended by its own leaders at the Summit of the Americas.

Nor was this the only unanswered insult. Hugo Chavez, who has called Obama an "ignoramus" and Bush "El Diablo," walked over to a seated U.S. president and handed him the anti-American tract "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent."

The book blames Latin America's failures on white Europeans.

It opens, "Renaissance Europeans ventured across the oceans and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations."

Civilizations? Before Pizarro and Cortez, the Inca and Aztec empires these conquistadors overthrew were into human sacrifice.

Evo Morales, the Aymaran president of Bolivia, who is using the race card against Bolivians of European descent, implied a U.S. role in an assassination plot against him.

Argentina's Cristina Kirchner, who allegedly received black-bag money from Chavez, ripped into America for its role in the 1980s. Under Reagan, America aided Britain in the Falklands War, after the Argentine junta invaded the islands, and assisted the Contras in their war of national liberation to oust Ortega's Sandinistas.

Again, Obama offered no defense of his country.

President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who blames the world financial crisis on "white, blue-eyed bankers," told Obama that any future Summit of the Americas without the Castro brothers was unacceptable.

Perhaps Obama believes in turn-the-other-cheek diplomacy, though it is hard to find much success in history for such a policy. Perhaps pacifism is in his DNA. Perhaps he shares the indictment of America that is part of the repertoire of every Latin demagogue.

Whatever his motive, in Trinidad, there were not two sides to the story. There were the trashers of America on the Latino left and a U.S. president who wailed plaintively, "I'm thankful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was 3 months old."

But, the Bay of Pigs, had it succeeded, would have given Cubans 50 years of freedom instead of the brutal dictatorship they have had to endure. And it took place four months before Barack was born.

Obama's silence -- signifying, as it does, assent -- in the face of attacks on his country is of a piece with the "contrition tour" of his secretary of state.

"Clinton Scores Points by Admitting Past U.S. Errors," was the headline over Saturday's New York Times story by Mark Landler:

"It has become a recurring theme of Hillary Rodham Clinton's early travels as the chief diplomat of the United States: She says that American policy on a given issue has failed, and her foreign listeners fall all over themselves in gratitude.

"On Friday, Mrs. Clinton said ... that the uncompromising policy of the Bush administration toward Cuba had not worked. ...

"The contrition tour goes beyond Latin America. In China, Mrs. Clinton told audiences that the United States must accept its responsibility as a leading emitter of greenhouse gases. In Indonesia, she said the American-backed policy of sanctions against Myanmar had not been effective. And in the Middle East, she pointed out that ostracizing the Iranian government had not persuaded it to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions."

Sandler wrote that Hillary brought to mind Bill Clinton:

"On a single trip to Africa in 1998 ... Bill Clinton apologized for American participation in slavery; American support of brutal African dictators; American 'neglect and ignorance' of Africa; American failure to intervene sooner in the Rwandan genocide of 1994; American 'complicity' in apartheid ... ."

Yet, as C.S. Lewis reminds us in "God in the Dock," "The first and fatal charm of national repentance is ... the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing -- but, first, of denouncing -- the conduct of others."

Bewailing the policies of Bush as failures and standing mute in the face of attacks on his country and predecessors may come back to bite Obama.

For when Jimmy Carter assumed a posture of moral superiority over LBJ and Richard Nixon, by declaring, "We have gotten over our inordinate fear of communism," it came back to bite him, good and hard.
27465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams on: April 21, 2009, 09:24:42 AM
"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."

--John Adams, letter to H. Niles, 13 February 1818
27466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Consistency is the hobgoblins of small minds on: April 21, 2009, 09:23:43 AM
Helen Thomas: Why is the president blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there . . .

Robert Gibbs: You're incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

You know we live in interesting times when Helen Thomas is going after Barack Obama. Miss Thomas was asking the White House press secretary last week why detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan should not have the same right to challenge their detention in federal court that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush gave to Guantanamo's detainees. All Mr. Gibbs could do was interrupt and correct the doyenne of the White House press corps about Mr. Obama's class as a law professor.

The precipitate cause of Miss Thomas's question was a ruling earlier this month by federal district Judge John Bates. Judge Bates says that last year's Supreme Court ruling on Gitmo does apply to Bagram. The administration has appealed, saying that giving detainees such rights could lead to protracted litigation, disclosure of intelligence secrets and harm to American security. The wonderful irony is that, at least on the logic, everyone is right.

Start with Judge Bates. The judge is surely correct when he says the detainees brought in to Bagram from outside the country are "virtually identical" to those held at Guantanamo. He's also correct in asserting that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did out of concern "that the Executive could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain an individual" at Bagram.

But President Obama's appeal is also right. Though most headlines from the past few days have focused on the release of Justice Department memos on CIA interrogation, the president's embrace of the Bush position on Bagram is far more striking. Mr. Gibbs became tongue-tied while trying to explain that stand. But the Justice Department brief is absolutely correct in asserting that "there are many legitimate reasons, having nothing to do with the intent to evade judicial review, why the military might detain an individual in Bagram."

Finally, critics like Miss Thomas also have it right. In a long and thorough post called "Obama and habeas corpus -- then and now," Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional law litigator who blogs at, exposes the gaping contradiction between past Obama rhetoric on the inviolability of the right to habeas corpus and the new Obama reality. He also quotes Mr. Obama's reaction to Boumediene as a "rejection of the Bush administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

Manifestly, Mr. Greenwald believes that "black hole" is simply moving to Bagram. "I wish I could be writing paeans celebrating the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law," he writes. "But these actions -- these contradictions between what he said and what he is doing, the embrace of the very powers that caused so much anger towards Bush/Cheney -- are so blatant, so transparent, so extreme, that the only way to avoid noticing them is to purposely shut your eyes as tightly as possible and resolve that you don't want to see it, or that you're so convinced of his intrinsic Goodness that you'll just believe that even when it seems like he's doing bad things, he must really be doing them for the Good."

How can all these people be right? The answer is that each is responding to a different contradiction raised by the president's Guantanamo policy. In an impassioned 2006 speech on the Senate floor on the right to habeas corpus, Mr. Obama declared, "I do not want to hear that this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy." During the campaign, his language implied that all we needed to settle the detainee issue once and for all was to shut down Gitmo.

As president, he is finding out that this very much is a new world, that we do face a new enemy, and that the problems posed by Guantanamo have less to do with the place than the people we detain there.

Put simply, the U.S. needs the ability to detain people we know to be dangerous without the evidence that might stand up in a federal criminal court. Because we can't say when this war will end, moreover, we also need to be able to detain them indefinitely. This is what makes the war on terror different, and why our policies will never fit neatly into a legal approach that is either purely criminal or purely military.

The good news is that Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that the relative obscurity of Bagram, not to mention the approval he has received on Guantanamo, enables him to do the right thing here without, as Mr. Greenwald notes, worrying too much that he will be called to account for a substantive about-face.

The bad news is that we seem to have reached the point where our best hope for sensible war policy now depends largely on presidential cynicism.
27467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BAckdoor nationalization on: April 21, 2009, 09:15:27 AM
Just when you think the political class may have learned something in months of trying to fix the banking system, the ghost of Hank Paulson returns to haunt the Treasury. The latest Beltway blunder -- and it would be a big one -- is the Obama Administration's weekend news leak that it may insist on converting its preferred shares in some of the nation's largest banks into common equity.

The stock market promptly tumbled by more than 3.5% yesterday, with J.P. Morgan falling 10% and financial stocks as a group off 9%, as measured by the NYSE Financials index. Note to White House: Sneaky nationalizations aren't any more popular with investors than the straightforward kind.

The occasion for this latest nationalization trial balloon is the looming result of the Treasury's bank strip-tease -- a.k.a. "stress tests." Treasury is worried, with cause, that some of the largest banks lack the capital to ride out future credit losses. Yet Secretary Timothy Geithner and the White House have concluded that they can't risk asking Congress for more bailout cash.

Voila, they propose a preferred-for-common swap, which can conjure up an extra $100 billion in bank tangible common equity, a core measure of bank capital. Not that this really adds any new capital; it merely shifts the deck chairs on bank balance sheets. Why Treasury thinks anyone would find this reassuring is a mystery. The opposite is the more likely result, since it signals that Treasury no longer believes it can tap more public capital to support the financial system if the losses keep building.

Worse, wholesale equity conversion would mean the government owns a larger share of more banks and is more entangled than ever in their operations. Giving Barney Frank more voting power is more likely to induce panic than restore confidence. Simply look at the reluctance of some banks -- notably J.P. Morgan Chase -- to participate in Mr. Geithner's private-public toxic asset sale plan. The plan is rigged so taxpayers assume nearly all the downside risk, but the banks still don't want to play lest Congress they become even more subject to political whim.

A backdoor nationalization also creates more uncertainty, not less, by offering the specter of an even lengthier period of federal control over the banking system. And it creates the fear of even more intrusive government influence over bank lending and the allocation of capital. These fears have only been enhanced by the refusal of Treasury to let more banks repay their Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money.

As it stands, banks and their owners at least know how much they owe Uncle Sam, and those preferred shares represent a distinct and separate tier of bank capital. Once the government is mixed in with the rest of the equity holders, the value of its investments -- and the cost to the banks of buying out the Treasury -- will fluctuate by the day.

Congress is also still trying to advance a mortgage-cramdown bill that would hammer the value of already distressed mortgage-backed securities, and now the Administration is talking up legislation to curb credit-card fees and interest. Both of these bills would damage bank profits, but large government ownership stakes would leave the banks helpless to oppose them. (See Citigroup, 36% owned by the feds and now a pro-cramdown lobbyist.)

We've come to this pass in part because the Obama Administration is afraid to ask Congress for the money for a meaningful bank recapitalization. And it may need that money now in part because Mr. Paulson's Treasury insisted on buying preferred stock in all the big banks instead of looking at each case on its merits. That decision last fall squandered TARP money on banks that probably didn't need it and left the Administration short of funds for banks that really do.

The sounder strategy -- and the one we've recommended for two years -- is to address systemic financial problems the old-fashioned way: bank by bank, through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a resolution agency with the capacity to hold troubled assets and work them off over time. If the stress tests reveal that some of our largest institutions are insolvent or nearly so, it's then time to seize the bank, sell off assets and recapitalize the remainder. (Meanwhile, the healthier institutions would get a vote of confidence and could attract new private capital.)

Bondholders would take a haircut and shareholders may well be wiped out. But converting preferred shares to equity does nothing to help bondholders in the long run anyway. And putting the taxpayer first in line for any losses alongside equity holders offers shareholders little other than an immediate dilution of their ownership stake. Treasury's equity conversion proposal increases the political risks for banks while imposing no discipline on shareholders, bondholders or management at failed or failing institutions.

The proposal would also be one more example of how Treasury isn't keeping its word. When he forced banks to accept public capital whether they needed it or not, Mr. Paulson said the deal was temporary and the terms wouldn't be onerous. To renege on those promises now will only make a bank recovery longer and more difficult.

27468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 21, 2009, 02:25:07 AM
Geopolitical Diary: CIA Directors Speak About Memo Releases
April 20, 2009
The Obama administration’s decision to release four previously classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration on now-banned interrogation techniques late last week sparked a flurry of articles and debate over the weekend. Critics denounce the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as morally reprehensible torture and want the details brought to light. But on Sunday, former CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly criticized the White House over the release, arguing that it made CIA interrogators’ jobs more difficult.

Hayden, a Bush appointee to the top post in Langley, reportedly was one of four former directors — a mixture of Bush and Clinton appointees — to contact the White House last month in order to warn that the Obama administration’s decision to release the memos would compromise intelligence efforts. These four directors — Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet and John Deutch — are approaching the issue from the perspective of intelligence practitioners. Their argument is that the memos, which specifically detail now-banned interrogation methods, reveal more information on the threshold at which interrogators are legally obligated to stop. Subjects who are aware of these limits, the line of reasoning goes, are better positioned to endure the methods that are used.

These methods were hardly the most draconian used — indeed, captives handed over to foreign governments experienced far worse in many cases. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that even these limited methods could be psychologically devastating if applied over time by a skilled interrogator. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has claimed that their use helped prevent a terrorist attack, though details and evidence of that are scarce.

Cheney’s assertion brings to mind — perhaps not unintentionally — the idea of a captured terrorist refusing to reveal information about an impending and devastating attack on the verge of being carried out. This is great fodder for dramatic television series and movies, but getting to that point is an intelligence-intensive process. A great deal of tactical information on the individual — what he knows, the organization he works for and that organization’s activities — is all necessary to get to that point. This is rarely the case in either police work or the intelligence community — and if authorities did have that much highly specific intelligence, the time-consuming process of torture is rarely either necessary or an efficient means of gathering further details.

Interrogation is rightly termed a dark art. It is difficult to do well, and takes well-trained and experienced interrogators to apply techniques that compel subjects to accurately reveal information they intend to keep secret. Done poorly, these harsh techniques only compel the individual to tell the interrogators what they think they want to hear — some true, but much made up. Indeed, this was reportedly the case with the interrogation of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. False or made-up information is often a problem — even when skilled practitioners (who are very rare) are used. The issue is commonly mentioned in criticism of torture in general.

And in the months and years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, this was how harsh interrogation techniques were being applied: with little concrete intelligence on individual subjects specifically or al Qaeda in general out of a nonspecific and highly generic concern about another impending al Qaeda attack. Dr. George Friedman will explore this issue in depth in this week’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report.
27469  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 21, 2009, 02:11:24 AM
" I thought that the Silva's side kicks to the knee were interesting in that they weren't the range rinding kicks of bjj like royce used effectively in the early UFCs, but more like a straightforward attempt to disrupt his opponents ACL.  I wonder if attacks like this which are designed to inflict serious permanent injury are going to make a comeback in the UFC."

I'd call them chasse's more than I would side kicks, but still the question is an interesting one.
27470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak going down on: April 20, 2009, 07:32:36 PM
Sent to me by someone who has seen and done interesting things in Afpakia:

----- Original Message -----
From: Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 5:30 PM
Subject: Fw: Buy your ammo now

Experts predict Pakistan's collapse
Kansas City Star
17 April 2009
A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists.
“It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution,” said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity.
Pakistan's fragmentation into warlord-run fiefdoms that host al-Qaida and other terrorist groups would have grave implications for the security of its nuclear arsenal; for the U.S.-led effort to pacify Afghanistan; and for the security of India, the nearby oil-rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the U.S. and its allies.
“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American Army, and the headquarters of al-Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.
“Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, a backward, isolated, landlocked place that outsiders get interested in about once a century,” agreed the U.S. intelligence official. “It's a developed state.”
He added: “The implications of this are disastrous for the U.S.”
The experts interviewed by McClatchy Newspapers said their views aren't a worst case scenario, but a realistic expectation based on the militants' gains and the failure of Pakistan's leadership to respond.
“The place is beyond redemption,” said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified. He continued: “If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants.”
That pessimistic view has been bolstered by Islamabad's surrender this week of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan's Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration into the rest of the nation.
27471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: April 20, 2009, 07:21:51 PM

Newt at Tea Party:
27472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 20, 2009, 03:51:15 PM
"The panel instead follows the Supreme Court's "selective incorporation" cases under the Due Process Clause, and concludes that the right to bear arms "ranks as fundamental, meaning 'necessary to an Anglo-American regime of ordered liberty.'"

 shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked
27473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 20, 2009, 03:47:46 PM
Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure
April 20, 2009

By George Friedman

The Obama administration published a series of memoranda on torture issued under the Bush administration. The memoranda, most of which dated from the period after 9/11, authorized measures including depriving prisoners of solid food, having them stand shackled and in uncomfortable positions, leaving them in cold cells with inadequate clothing, slapping their heads and/or abdomens, and telling them that their families might be harmed if they didn’t cooperate with their interrogators.

On the scale of human cruelty, these actions do not rise anywhere near the top. At the same time, anyone who thinks that being placed without food in a freezing cell subject to random mild beatings — all while being told that your family might be joining you — isn’t agonizing clearly lacks imagination. The treatment of detainees could have been worse. It was terrible nonetheless.

Torture and the Intelligence Gap
But torture is meant to be terrible, and we must judge the torturer in the context of his own desperation. In the wake of 9/11, anyone who wasn’t terrified was not in touch with reality. We know several people who now are quite blasé about 9/11. Unfortunately for them, we knew them in the months after, and they were not nearly as composed then as they are now.

Sept. 11 was terrifying for one main reason: We had little idea about al Qaeda’s capabilities. It was a very reasonable assumption that other al Qaeda cells were operating in the United States and that any day might bring follow-on attacks. (Especially given the group’s reputation for one-two attacks.) We still remember our first flight after 9/11, looking at our fellow passengers, planning what we would do if one of them moved. Every time a passenger visited the lavatory, one could see the tensions soar.

And while Sept. 11 was frightening enough, there were ample fears that al Qaeda had secured a “suitcase bomb” and that a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city could come at any moment. For individuals, such an attack was simply another possibility. We remember staying at a hotel in Washington close to the White House and realizing that we were at ground zero — and imagining what the next moment might be like. For the government, however, the problem was having scraps of intelligence indicating that al Qaeda might have a nuclear weapon, but not having any way of telling whether those scraps had any value. The president and vice president accordingly were continually kept at different locations, and not for any frivolous reason.

This lack of intelligence led directly to the most extreme fears, which in turn led to extreme measures. Washington simply did not know very much about al Qaeda and its capabilities and intentions in the United States. A lack of knowledge forces people to think of worst-case scenarios. In the absence of intelligence to the contrary after 9/11, the only reasonable assumption was that al Qaeda was planning more — and perhaps worse — attacks.

Collecting intelligence rapidly became the highest national priority. Given the genuine and reasonable fears, no action in pursuit of intelligence was out of the question, so long as it promised quick answers. This led to the authorization of torture, among other things. Torture offered a rapid means to accumulate intelligence, or at least — given the time lag on other means — it was something that had to be tried.

Torture and the Moral Question
And this raises the moral question. The United States is a moral project: its Declaration of Independence and Constitution state that. The president takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution does not speak to the question of torture of non-citizens, but it implies an abhorrence of rights violations (at least for citizens). But the Declaration of Independence contains the phrase, “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” This indicates that world opinion matters.

At the same time, the president is sworn to protect the Constitution. In practical terms, this means protecting the physical security of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Protecting the principles of the declaration and the Constitution are meaningless without regime preservation and defending the nation.

While this all makes for an interesting seminar in political philosophy, presidents — and others who have taken the same oath — do not have the luxury of the contemplative life. They must act on their oaths, and inaction is an action. Former U.S. President George W. Bush knew that he did not know the threat, and that in order to carry out his oath, he needed very rapidly to find out the threat. He could not know that torture would work, but he clearly did not feel that he had the right to avoid it.

Consider this example. Assume you knew that a certain individual knew the location of a nuclear device planted in an American city. The device would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but he individual refused to divulge the information. Would anyone who had sworn the oath have the right not to torture the individual? Torture might or might not work, but either way, would it be moral to protect the individual’s rights while allowing hundreds of thousands to die? It would seem that in this case, torture is a moral imperative; the rights of the one with the information cannot transcend the life of a city.

Torture in the Real World
But here is the problem: You would not find yourself in this situation. Knowing a bomb had been planted, knowing who knew that the bomb had been planted, and needing only to apply torture to extract this information is not how the real world works. Post-9/11, the United States knew much less about the extent of the threat from al Qaeda. This hypothetical sort of torture was not the issue.

Discrete information was not needed, but situational awareness. The United States did not know what it needed to know, it did not know who was of value and who wasn’t, and it did not know how much time it had. Torture thus was not a precise solution to a specific problem: It became an intelligence-gathering technique. The nature of the problem the United States faced forced it into indiscriminate intelligence gathering. When you don’t know what you need to know, you cast a wide net. And when torture is included in the mix, it is cast wide as well. In such a case, you know you will be following many false leads — and when you carry torture with you, you will be torturing people with little to tell you. Moreover, torture applied by anyone other than well-trained, experienced personnel (who are in exceptionally short supply) will only compound these problems, and make the practice less productive.

Defenders of torture frequently seem to believe that the person in custody is known to have valuable information, and that this information must be forced out of him. His possession of the information is proof of his guilt. The problem is that unless you have excellent intelligence to begin with, you will become engaged in developing baseline intelligence, and the person you are torturing may well know nothing at all. Torture thus becomes not only a waste of time and a violation of decency, it actually undermines good intelligence. After a while, scooping up suspects in a dragnet and trying to extract intelligence becomes a substitute for competent intelligence techniques — and can potentially blind the intelligence service. This is especially true as people will tell you what they think you want to hear to make torture stop.

Critics of torture, on the other hand, seem to assume the torture was brutality for the sake of brutality instead of a desperate attempt to get some clarity on what might well have been a catastrophic outcome. The critics also cannot know the extent to which the use of torture actually prevented follow-on attacks. They assume that to the extent that torture was useful, it was not essential; that there were other ways to find out what was needed. In the long run, they might have been correct. But neither they, nor anyone else, had the right to assume in late 2001 that there was a long run. One of the things that wasn’t known was how much time there was.

The U.S. Intelligence Failure
The endless argument over torture, the posturing of both critics and defenders, misses the crucial point. The United States turned to torture because it has experienced a massive intelligence failure reaching back a decade. The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda’s intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.

That failure was rooted in a range of miscalculations over time. There was the public belief that the end of the Cold War meant the United States didn’t need a major intelligence effort, a point made by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. There were the intelligence people who regarded Afghanistan as old news. There was the Torricelli amendment that made recruiting people with ties to terrorist groups illegal without special approval. There were the Middle East experts who could not understand that al Qaeda was fundamentally different from anything seen before. The list of the guilty is endless, and ultimately includes the American people, who always seem to believe that the view of the world as a dangerous place is something made up by contractors and bureaucrats.

Bush was handed an impossible situation on Sept. 11, after just nine months in office. The country demanded protection, and given the intelligence shambles he inherited, he reacted about as well or badly as anyone else might have in the situation. He used the tools he had, and hoped they were good enough.

The problem with torture — as with other exceptional measures — is that it is useful, at best, in extraordinary situations. The problem with all such techniques in the hands of bureaucracies is that the extraordinary in due course becomes the routine, and torture as a desperate stopgap measure becomes a routine part of the intelligence interrogator’s tool kit.

At a certain point, the emergency was over. U.S. intelligence had focused itself and had developed an increasingly coherent picture of al Qaeda, with the aid of allied Muslim intelligence agencies, and was able to start taking a toll on al Qaeda. The war had become routinized, and extraordinary measures were no longer essential. But the routinization of the extraordinary is the built-in danger of bureaucracy, and what began as a response to unprecedented dangers became part of the process. Bush had an opportunity to move beyond the emergency. He didn’t.

If you know that an individual is loaded with information, torture can be a useful tool. But if you have so much intelligence that you already know enough to identify the individual is loaded with information, then you have come pretty close to winning the intelligence war. That’s not when you use torture. That’s when you simply point out to the prisoner that, “for you the war is over.” You lay out all you already know and how much you know about him. That is as demoralizing as freezing in a cell — and helps your interrogators keep their balance.

U.S. President Barack Obama has handled this issue in the style to which we have become accustomed, and which is as practical a solution as possible. He has published the memos authorizing torture to make this entirely a Bush administration problem while refusing to prosecute anyone associated with torture, keeping the issue from becoming overly divisive. Good politics perhaps, but not something that deals with the fundamental question.

The fundamental question remains unanswered, and may remain unanswered. When a president takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” what are the limits on his obligation? We take the oath for granted. But it should be considered carefully by anyone entering this debate, particularly for presidents.

27474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Pak going down the drain on: April 20, 2009, 03:35:49 PM
Extremist tide rises in Pakistan

After deal in north, Islamists aim to install religious law nationwide

By Pamela Constable

The Washington Post

updated 12:49 a.m. ET, Mon., April 20, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A potentially troubling era dawned Sunday in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a top Islamist militant leader, emboldened by a peace agreement with the federal government, laid out an ambitious plan to bring a "complete Islamic system" to the surrounding northwest region and the entire country.

Speaking to thousands of followers in an address aired live from Swat on national news channels, cleric Sufi Mohammed bluntly defied the constitution and federal judiciary, saying he would not allow any appeals to state courts under the system of sharia, or Islamic law, that will prevail there as a result of the peace accord signed by the president Tuesday.

"The Koran says that supporting an infidel system is a great sin," Mohammed said, referring to Pakistan's modern democratic institutions. He declared that in Swat, home to 1.5 million people, all "un-Islamic laws and customs will be abolished," and he suggested that the official imprimatur on the agreement would pave the way for sharia to be installed in other areas.

Mohammed's dramatic speech echoed a rousing sermon in Islamabad on Friday by another radical cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, who appeared at the Red Mosque in the capital after nearly two years in detention and urged several thousand chanting followers to launch a crusade for sharia nationwide.

Arc of radical Islam
Together, these rallying cries seemed to create an arc of radical religious energy between the turbulent, Taliban-plagued northwest region and the increasingly vulnerable federal capital, less than 100 miles to the east. They also appeared to pose a direct, unprecedented religious challenge to modern state authority in the Muslim nation of 176 million.

"The government made a big mistake to give these guys legal cover for their agenda. Now they are going to be battle-ready to struggle for the soul of Pakistan," said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of security studies at Quaid-i-Azam university here. He predicted a further surge in the suicide bombings that have recently become an almost daily occurrence across the country. Two recent bombings at security checkpoints in the northwest killed more than 40 people.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to the region, said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN that the decision by insurgents to keep fighting in spite of the peace deal should be a "wake-up call to everybody in Pakistan that you can't deal with these people by giving away territory as they creep closer and closer to the populated centers of the Punjab and Islamabad."

Also Sunday, a suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people at a Taliban compound in the South Waziristan tribal region; such attacks have become a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups in Pakistan as anti-American sentiment builds.

‘We really had no other choice’
The government agreed to Mohammed's demands in an effort to halt violent intimidation by Taliban forces that the army was unable to quell despite months of operations in the former tourist haven. In recent interviews, Swati leaders and refugees described armed men in black turbans whipping suspected thieves on the spot, cutting off the ears and noses of village elders who opposed them, and selling videos of police beheadings.

"We really had no other choice. We had no power to crush the militants, and people were desperate for peace," said Jafar Shah, a Swati legislator. His Awami National Party, though historically secular, sponsored the sharia deal. "Now people are calling us Taliban without beards," he said ruefully, "but it was the only option available."

Provincial and federal officials also hoped their show of good faith would halt further insurgent inroads and buy time for foreign aid programs to shore up the impoverished northwest against the Islamists' message of swift justice and social equality.

Instead, the evidence suggests that the extremist forces have drawn the opposite lesson from their victory in Swat and are gearing up to carry their armed crusade for a punitive, misogynistic form of Islam into new areas. There have been numerous reports of Taliban fighters entering districts south and west of Swat, where they have brandished weapons, bombed and occupied buildings, arrested aid workers, and killed female activists.

"When we achieve our goals in one place, we need to struggle for it in other areas," Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told Pakistani news services by telephone last week. "Sharia does not permit us to lay down our arms if the government continues anti-Muslim policies." The goal, he said, is to "enforce the rule of Allah on the land of Allah."

In the northwestern town of Mardan, insurgents attacked girls schools, forced CD shops to close, ordered barbers not to shave beards and bombed the office of a nonprofit aid agency, killing a female worker. Taliban commanders accused the agency of "propagating obscenity." Taliban fighters occupied the Buner district for several days, closed a religious shrine and burned DVDs in the streets. They then toured the region in a convoy of trucks, even entering a secured army area while displaying heavy weapons.

"The inescapable reality is that another domino has toppled and the Taliban are a step closer to Islamabad," the Pakistan-based News International newspaper warned last week after the Buner takeover. The paper compared Pakistan to Vietnam: a weak and corrupt state being "nibbled away" by determined insurgents: "The Taliban have the upper hand, and they know it."

Surprisingly, there has been little official or public protest against the creeping tide of Islamist extremism. Analysts said this is partly because of fear of retaliation and partly because of strong religious sentiments that make Pakistanis reluctant to criticize fellow Muslims.

Even in especially shocking cases, such as the public flogging of a Swati girl suspected of having an affair, the response from national leaders was a muddle of denial and obfuscation. Some said the incident, which surfaced last month on a videotape, had been staged to sabotage the peace deal. Others said it was a minor issue compared with U.S. cross-border missile strikes.

Raising alarm
A handful of influential Pakistanis have begun to raise the alarm, warning in newspaper columns or speeches that government and society need to confront the enemy within and acknowledge the difference between conventional sharia and the crude, brutally enforced Taliban version of an extremist Islamist state.

"In Swat they got their system imposed at gunpoint, and now they are ready to Taliban-ize the whole country," Altaf Hussain, the exiled head of the Muttahida Qaumi Majlis political party, said at a teleconference of Muslim clerics in Karachi on Sunday. Denouncing the insurgents' abusive and autocratic methods, he said, "We have to decide between our country and the Taliban."

Sharia in Pakistan, as in Afghanistan, exists in tandem with a modern legal code but does not supersede it. Sharia courts rule on certain religious and moral issues, while other cases are tried by regular courts. Mohammed, Aziz and other radicals espouse a more severe version like the one Taliban rulers imposed on Afghanistan in the 1990s, which segregates women and imposes harsh punishments.

Supporters of the Swat agreement pointed out that residents have been demanding sharia for years to replace the slow, corrupt justice system. But Swati leaders said that the local version of Islamic law was traditionally moderate and that in elections last year Swatis voted overwhelmingly for two secular parties.

Indeed, older natives of Swat like to recall earlier days when serenity and tolerance prevailed in the region of apple orchards, forested hills and glacial streams. Tourists from Japan and Europe came to explore ancient Buddhist ruins, while residents practiced a timeless mix of tribal customs and Islamic faith.

"There was something in the soil that made the people soft," said Asad Khan, a Swat native in his 40s who lives in the city of Peshawar. "Our culture was one of civilized hospitality. Everyone was a Muslim, but almost no one was a fundamentalist. The climate was not good for harsh people and ideas."

This week, after the peace accord was endorsed, officials and pro-government news media described the atmosphere in Swat as relieved and heading back to normalcy. But several people who visited the Swati capital of Mingora this week said they saw worried faces, no women in the markets, and clusters of black-turbaned men watching everyone closely.

"Things are confused and unclear. People have suffered a lot, and they are desperate for peace, but they don't know if it will last," said Afzal Khan Lala, a provincial legislator, reached by phone in Mingora. "If the Taliban are sincere, then peace should prevail. But if they have ulterior aims and seek supremacy over the state, I doubt peace will come to Swat."
27475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 20, 2009, 12:59:10 PM
What do we make of this?

April 20, 2009
Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects
C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.

The C.I.A. officers used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum. Abu Zubaydah has been described as a Qaeda operative.

A former C.I.A. officer, John Kiriakou, told ABC News and other news media organizations in 2007 that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

The 2005 memo also says that the C.I.A. used waterboarding 183 times in March 2003 against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Mr. Mohammed had been barraged more than 100 times with harsh interrogation methods, causing C.I.A. officers to worry that they might have crossed legal limits and to halt his questioning. But the precise number and the exact nature of the interrogation method was not previously known.

The release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the Bush administration declared legal even though the United States had historically treated them as torture.

President Obama plans to visit C.I.A. headquarters Monday and make public remarks to employees, as well as meet privately with officials, an agency spokesman said Sunday night. It will be his first visit to the agency, whose use of harsh interrogation methods he often condemned during the presidential campaign and whose secret prisons he ordered closed on the second full day of his presidency.

C.I.A. officials had opposed the release of the interrogation memo, dated May 30, 2005, which was one of four secret legal memos on interrogation that Mr. Obama ordered to be released last Thursday.

Mr. Obama said C.I.A. officers who had used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods with the approval of the Justice Department would not be prosecuted. He has repeatedly suggested that he opposes Congressional proposals for a “truth commission” to examine Bush administration counterterrorism programs, including interrogation and warrantless eavesdropping.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has begun a yearlong, closed-door investigation of the C.I.A. interrogation program, in part to assess claims of Bush administration officials that brutal treatment, including slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in standing positions for days and confining them in small boxes, was necessary to get information.

The fact that waterboarding was repeated so many times may raise questions about its effectiveness, as well as about assertions by Bush administration officials that their methods were used under strict guidelines.

A footnote to another 2005 Justice Department memo released Thursday said waterboarding was used both more frequently and with a greater volume of water than the C.I.A. rules permitted.

The new information on the number of waterboarding episodes came out over the weekend when a number of bloggers, including Marcy Wheeler of the blog emptywheel, discovered it in the May 30, 2005, memo.

The sentences in the memo containing that information appear to have been redacted from some copies but are visible in others. Initial news reports about the memos in The New York Times and other publications did not include the numbers.

Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A. for the last two years of the Bush administration, would not comment when asked on the program “Fox News Sunday” if Mr. Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times. He said he believed that that information was still classified.

A C.I.A. spokesman, reached Sunday night, also would not comment on the new information.

Mr. Hayden said he had opposed the release of the memos, even though President Obama has said the techniques will never be used again, because they would tell Al Qaeda “the outer limits that any American would ever go in terms of interrogating an Al Qaeda terrorist.”

He also disputed an article in The New York Times on Saturday that said Abu Zubaydah had revealed nothing new after being waterboarded, saying that he believed that after unspecified “techniques” were used, Abu Zubaydah revealed information that led to the capture of another terrorist suspect, Ramzi Binalshibh.

The Times article, based on information from former intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abu Zubaydah had revealed a great deal of information before harsh methods were used and after his captors stripped him of clothes, kept him in a cold cell and kept him awake at night. The article said interrogators at the secret prison in Thailand believed he had given up all the information he had, but officials at headquarters ordered them to use waterboarding.

He revealed no new information after being waterboarded, the article said, a conclusion that appears to be supported by a footnote to a 2005 Justice Department memo saying the use of the harshest methods appeared to have been “unnecessary” in his case.

27476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Susan Rice and BO get it wrong on: April 20, 2009, 12:53:48 PM
The BO love affair of international "law" continues unabated , , ,

It's strange enough that the Obama Administration is hyping last week's toothless statement by the United Nations Security Council condemning North Korea's recent rocket launch. Even more amazing, it says the U.N. move is "legally binding" on member states.

Those were the words used by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and repeated by a State Department spokesman. Ms. Rice is badly misinformed. As she ought to know, a "presidential statement" issued by the Security Council is legally binding on no one.

A presidential statement is agreed to by all 15 members of the Security Council and issued by the rotating president. Invented in 1994, such statements aren't even mentioned in the Security Council's procedural rules and impose zero obligations on members. They are a last resort when the Security Council can't summon the will or agreement to pass a resolution.

That's what happened after North Korea's April 5 missile launch, when neither China nor Russia would agree to the U.S. wish for a resolution. Legal experts -- including the Permanent Five's attorneys in a 2005 memo -- agree that the only U.N. pronouncement that is legally binding is a Security Council resolution issued under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which sets out the Council's powers to maintain peace. Such resolutions can be enforced with sanctions or military action. Resolution 1718, passed in 2006 after North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, falls in this category.

The distinction between "Chapter VII resolutions" and other U.N. utterances is important -- as the example of Israel illustrates. Since the Jewish state has never been subject to a Chapter VII resolution, no Israeli "violation" of a U.N. pronouncement can give rise to sanctions. Even the famous Resolution 242, issued at the end of the 1967 Six-Day War, was not issued under Chapter VII. If the Obama Administration considers even U.N. presidential statements "legally binding," it's an invitation to the U.N. to ramp up its attacks on Israel.

Last week's statement on North Korea is binding only in the sense that it calls on member states "to comply fully" with their obligations under Resolution 1718, which bans sales of weapons, weapons parts and luxury goods to North Korea. Resolution 1718 is legally binding, but it has never been enforced. This speaks volumes about the sincerity of promises made at the U.N., and about the failure of the Obama Administration to win Security Council support for a serious response to North Korea's missile launch.
27477  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 20, 2009, 12:01:03 PM
Chad:  Thanks.

SG:  Thanks.

Amazing footage!
27478  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: O'Grady on: April 20, 2009, 11:44:45 AM

Si el objetivo de Presidente Barack Obama en la quinta Cumbre de las Américas en Trinidad y Tobago que este fin de semana fue mejor ser querido por los dictadores de la región y populistas izquierdistas que su antecesor George W. El arbusto, la Casa Blanca puede apuntar una victoria.

Si, por otro lado, el comandante en el jefe procuró avanzar ideales norteamericanos, las cosas no fueron bien. Cuando la prensa convencional informó, el Sr. Obama pareció bien recibido. Pero el país más libre en la región tomó una paliza de Chávez de Hugo de Venezuela, de las Moral de Evo de Bolivia, y de Ortega de Danny de Nicaragua.

Jamás desde Bill Clinton organizó la primera Cumbre de las Américas en 1994 en Miami, esta reunión regional ha estado en el descenso. Pareció golpear su nadir en 2005 en Estropea del Plata, Argentina, cuándo Presidente Nestór Kirchner permitió el Sr. Chávez y a sus aliados revolucionarios de alrededor de la región para tener un masivo, la norteamericano Bandera que quema odio-fiesta en un cerca estadio con el objetivo de Sr. Bush humillante. Estas cosas del año consiguieron todavía peor con los peleones de la región que acaparando toda la atención y el Sr. Obama que rechaza una oportunidad inapreciable defender libertad.

El Sr. Obama tuvo que saber que la reunión es utilizada por los políticos de la región para recuperarse la base en casa mostrando que ellos Le pueden poner a Tío Sam en su lugar. Dándose cuenta de esto, el presidente norteamericano quizás había llegado en el Puerto de España preparó para volver su lluvia. Ellos tienen, después de todo, tolerados e incluso favorecidos por décadas uno de los regímenes más represivos del siglo XX. En los últimos años, esa represión ha esparcido de Cuba a Venezuela, y hoy millones de latinoamericanos vive bajo la tiranía. Cuando el líder del mundo libre, el Sr. Obama tuvo el deber para hablar francamente para estas almas sordas. En este él falló.

El sujeto de Cuba fue un béisbol que el presidente norteamericano podría haber golpeado fuera del parque. El supo bien en avance que sus contrapartes lo presionarían para terminar la prohibición de EEUU. El preparó aún para ese hecho unos pocos días adelante de la cumbre por levantar incondicionalmente restricciones de EEUU en el viaje y remesas a la isla, y ofreciendo permitir las compañías de teleco de EEUU para traer la tecnología a la isla atrasada.
Las Américas en las Noticias

 Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
¿Piensa que molde ayudado EEUU en una mejor luz en la región? Oportunidad gorda. Raúl Castro respondió el viernes de Venezuela con una diatriba larga contra el opresor yanqui y una oferta fresca negociar de igual a igual. En caso de que usted no hable a cubano, yo traduciré: Los hermanos de Castro desean crédito de bancos de EEUU porque ellos han dejado de pagar en el resto del mundo, y nadie prestará a ellos ya. Ellos también desean ayuda al extranjero del Banco Mundial.

Cualquiera que piensa que Raúl rumia sobre elecciones libres sueña. No obstante, la sugerencia de Cuba para poner "todo" llegó a ser sobre la mesa las "noticias" de la cumbre. Y mientras es verdad que el Sr. Obama mencionó a presos políticos en su lista de artículos que EEUU quiere negociar, él podría haber hecho mucho más. Verdaderamente, él podría haber llamado el francote de Raúl poniendo el proyector en los presos de conciencia, denominando nombres. El podría haber hablado de hombres como Oscar Elias Biscet pacifista Afro-cubano, que ha escrito eloquentemente acerca de su admiración para Martin Luther Rey Jr., y se sienta hoy en la cárcel para el crimen de disensión.

El primer presidente negro de EEUU podría haber denominado cientos de otros ser contenidos condiciones inhumanas por el dictador blanco. El también podría haber preguntado da del Presidente de Brasil Lula Silva, el Presidente de Chile Michelle Bachelet y Calderón de Felipe de México donde ellos se paran en derechos humanos para todos cubanos. Imagínese si el Sr. Obama pidió una exposición de manos para averiguar que cree que cubanos merecen menos de libertad que, dice, la mayoría negra en Sudáfrica bajo apartheid o chileno durante la dictadura de Pinochet. Por otro parte, eso no sería manera de ganar un concurso de popularidad ni para congraciarselo con partidarios norteamericanos que forman fila para hacer el negocio en Cuba.

En lugar presidente de EEUU flotó simplemente abajo el río de cumbre botando pasivamente de cualquier obstáculos que él se encontró con. El "regalo" de Chávez de la 1971 guía revolucionaria izquierdista "Abre Venas de Iberoamérica" seguido por una sugerencia de renovar relaciones diplomáticas fueron un insulto a las personas norteamericanas. Otorgado, dando la atención venezolana habría sido contraproducente. Pero el Sr. Obama se debía haber quejado fuertemente acerca de la agresión de ese país. Ha apoyado a terroristas colombianos, la droga que trafica con drogas y ambiciones nucleares de Irán. Cuando Michael Hayden anterior de director de CIA dijo Zorro Noticias el domingo, "la conducta de Presidente Chávez sobre los años pasados ha sido categóricamente horrenda -- internacionalmente y con respecto a lo que él ha hecho Venezuela internamente interior".

El Sr. Obama demasiado malo no tuvo una copia del éxito de venta del final de la década del noventa "El Idiota latinoamericano Perfecto" como un regalo para Sr. Chávez. Otra manera que Sr. Obama podría haber neutralizado la izquierda habría sido de anunciar un empujón de la Casa Blanca para la ratificación de EEUU-Acuerdo de libre cambio de Colombia. Eso no sucedió cualquiera. El sólo prometió hablar unos más, una estrategia que ofenderá nadie y no logrará nada. Es una estrategia que resume, para fechar, la política exterior de Sr. Obama para la región.

If President Barack Obama's goal at the fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago this weekend was to be better liked by the region's dictators and left-wing populists than his predecessor George W. Bush, the White House can chalk up a win.

Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama.
If, on the other hand, the commander in chief sought to advance American ideals, things didn't go well. As the mainstream press reported, Mr. Obama seemed well received. But the freest country in the region took a beating from Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, and Nicaragua's Danny Ortega.

Ever since Bill Clinton organized the first Summit of the Americas in 1994 in Miami, this regional gathering has been in decline. It seemed to hit its nadir in 2005 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, when President Nestór Kirchner allowed Mr. Chávez and his revolutionary allies from around the region to hold a massive, American-flag burning hate-fest in a nearby stadium with the goal of humiliating Mr. Bush. This year things got even worse with the region's bullies hogging the limelight and Mr. Obama passing up a priceless opportunity to defend freedom.

Mr. Obama had to know that the meeting is used by the region's politicians to rally the base back home by showing that they can put Uncle Sam in his place. Realizing this, the American president might have arrived at the Port of Spain prepared to return their volley. They have, after all, tolerated and even encouraged for decades one of the most repressive regimes of the 20th century. In recent years, that repression has spread from Cuba to Venezuela, and today millions of Latin Americans live under tyranny. As the leader of the free world, Mr. Obama had the duty to speak out for these voiceless souls. In this he failed.

The subject of Cuba was a softball that the American president could have hit out of the park. He knew well in advance that his counterparts would pressure him to end the U.S. embargo. He even prepared for that fact a few days ahead of the summit by unconditionally lifting U.S. restrictions on travel and remittances to the island, and offering to allow U.S. telecom companies to bring technology to the backward island.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
Think that helped cast the U.S. in a better light in the region? Fat chance. Raúl Castro responded on Friday from Venezuela with a long diatribe against the Yankee oppressor and a cool offer to negotiate on "equal" terms. In case you don't speak Cuban, I'll translate: The Castro brothers want credit from U.S. banks because they have defaulted on the rest of the world, and no one will lend to them anymore. They also want foreign aid from the World Bank.

Anyone who thinks that Raúl is ruminating over free elections is dreaming. Nevertheless, the Cuba suggestion to put "everything" on the table became the "news" of the summit. And while it is true that Mr. Obama mentioned political prisoners in his list of items that U.S. wants to negotiate, he could have done much more. Indeed, he could have called Raúl's bluff by putting the spotlight on the prisoners of conscience, by naming names. He could have talked about men like Afro-Cuban pacifist Oscar Elias Biscet, who has written eloquently about his admiration for Martin Luther King Jr., and today sits in jail for the crime of dissent.

The first black U.S. president could have named hundreds of others being held in inhumane conditions by the white dictator. He could have also asked Brazil's President Lula da Silva, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet and Mexico's Felipe Calderón where they stand on human rights for all Cubans. Imagine if Mr. Obama asked for a show of hands to find out who believes Cubans are less deserving of freedom than, say, the black majority in South Africa under apartheid or Chileans during the Pinochet dictatorship. Then again, that would be no way to win a popularity contest or to ingratiate yourself with American supporters who are lining up to do business in Cuba.

Instead the U.S. president simply floated down the summit river passively bouncing off whatever obstacles he encountered. The Chávez "gift" of the 1971 leftist revolutionary handbook "Open Veins of Latin America" followed by a suggestion of renewing ambassadorial relations was an insult to the American people. Granted, giving the Venezuelan attention would have been counterproductive. But Mr. Obama ought to have complained loudly about that country's aggression. It has supported Colombian terrorists, drug trafficking and Iran's nuclear ambitions. As former CIA director Michael Hayden told Fox News Sunday, "the behavior of President Chávez over the past years has been downright horrendous -- both internationally and with regard to what he's done internally inside Venezuela."

Too bad Mr. Obama didn't have a copy of the late 1990s bestseller "The Perfect Latin American Idiot" as a gift for Mr. Chávez. Another way Mr. Obama could have neutralized the left would have been to announce a White House push for ratification of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. That didn't happen either. He only promised to talk some more, a strategy that will offend no one and accomplish nothing. It is a strategy that sums up, to date, Mr. Obama's foreign policy for the region.
27479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 20, 2009, 10:48:05 AM
This point about the market's beliefs about FUTURE rates is key.
27480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: general orders; NC delegate WR Davie on: April 20, 2009, 09:56:37 AM
"[T]he hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."

--George Washington, General Orders, 23 August 1776

"So low and hopeless are the finances of the United States, that, the year before last Congress was obliged to borrow money even, to pay the interest of the principal which we had borrowed before. This wretched resource of turning interest into principal, is the most humiliating and disgraceful measure that a nation could take, and approximates with rapidity to absolute ruin: Yet it is the inevitable and certain consequence of such a system as the existing Confederation." --North Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention William Richardson Davie (1756-1820)
27481  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ahmadinejad to BO: Fellate me on: April 19, 2009, 08:16:31 PM
27482  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 19, 2009, 08:07:37 PM
Your guro is still to clueless to figure out the URL for that , , ,
27483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs on: April 19, 2009, 11:55:10 AM
One of the scariest parts of all these is the meme that it was deregulation instead of govt meddling (the FMs, the CRA, negative interest rates, etc) that laid the groundwork for all this (see e.g. the professor's conclusion) has become accepted truth
27484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is BO's bug out about to throw the baby out with the bath water? on: April 19, 2009, 11:38:45 AM
Our man in Iraq reports:


More insurgents for the battlefield.  Frankly I personally do not think Iraq will survive our departure:

23 of Anbar residents released from jail
April 19, 2009 - 02:53:47

ANBAR / Aswat al-Iraq: U.S. forces on Sunday freed 23 detainees of Anbar residents from Camp Bucca after they have been cleared of all wrongdoing, according to a media director in the local police.
“The detainees were released from Camp Bucca in southern Iraq after investigations have cleared them of involvement in acts of violence,” Maj. Abd Sattar Mohammed told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

“Those released have been delivered to their next of kin,” the official noted, providing no further details.

Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar province, lies 110 km west of Baghdad.
SS (P)
27485  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 19, 2009, 09:54:57 AM
So, what happened last night?
27486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 19, 2009, 09:39:37 AM

That was very moving and I hope lots of people will see it.


Here's an interesting clip that left me thinking.
27487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-Turkey on: April 19, 2009, 09:14:48 AM
hope the link comes through live:

Presidents of Russia, Turkey adopt strategic declaration: “The presidents of Russia and Turkey adopted a joint declaration following talks in Moscow on Friday to promote ties and enhance bilateral friendship and partnership. Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrived for his first four-day visit to Russia [in February]….They also vowed to move quicker in settling issues related to defense cooperation….Turkey receives about 65% of its gas from Russia, which is pumped via Ukraine and the Blue Stream pipeline that passes directly from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters on Friday that Russia could sign an energy contract worth more than $60 billion with Turkey on the construction of a nuclear power plant and power supplies to the country for the next 15 years. He said four reactors for a potential nuclear plant in Turkey could cost $18 billion-$20 billion….’I believe my current visit will open up a new page in the history of Russian-Turkish ties,’ Gul said.”
27488  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 18, 2009, 10:26:14 PM
A fine time today:

a) Dos Triques

b) Kali Tudo:  Flying Bong Sao variations
27489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 4/15 Tea Tax Protests on: April 18, 2009, 09:43:06 PM
"2. The original tea parties were about taxation without representation, today's spending is the result of Democrats winning elections, so it's taxation with representation."

"There's some fairness to this objection. But one response would be that Democrats are tripling the debt, which means that generations of Americans not yet born will be taxed to pay for spending today. That is a kind of taxation without representation."

Furthermore there is the matter of gerrymandering and "campaign finance reform" creating one party, the Incumbent Party.  I don't have current numbers (anyone out there?) but for much of the 80s and 90s the incumbency rate of the House of Representatives was something like 97-98%.   shocked shocked shocked
27490  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 18, 2009, 05:09:30 PM
Now there's a Black Swan Event!   cheesy
27491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis!!! on: April 18, 2009, 05:04:16 PM
Think of it this way: China started out with about $1 trillion in cash, most of which was held in dollars. Then it looked at the yield on that cash (almost zero) and then they thought about all the money the Fed was printing, and all the commodities they would be buying in the future, and they figured they had too much exposure to dollars and not enough to commodities. Then they realized that if they tried to sell $1 trillion of dollar cash they could depress the dollar's value and thus undermine their entire holdings of dollar-denominated instruments. So they decided to move some money from dollar cash to copper. That is the equivalent of the world suddenly waking up and finding that its demand for dollar cash had declined, and its demand for exposure to commodities had increased. A relative price shift happens, and most of it shows up in an increased price for copper.

The world cannot get rid of all the dollar cash that exists out there, but any attempt to reduce dollar cash exposure must necessarily result in an increased price for the new object of affection. Money doesn't actually flow from one market to another, but changing desires to hold the money balances that exist do result in changes in relative prices.
27492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cavuto caught inflating? on: April 18, 2009, 01:16:41 PM
27493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gay Conservatives on: April 18, 2009, 12:42:07 PM
'There's a stereotype that if you're gay, you're liberal - and if you are a conservative, you're a bigot. Well, there are people like me who are gay and conservative, and we think it's important that we have a voice."

The speaker is Jimmy LaSalvia. Tomorrow morning in Washington, Mr. LaSalvia and his allies will launch a new tax-exempt 527 political organization they hope will be that voice for gay conservatives. Called GOProud, it will certainly make for a more interesting Republican Party -- and a richer internal debate.

Mr. LaSalvia, the new group's executive director, points to the arithmetic. In the 2008 presidential election, between 4% and 5% of voters self-identified as gay. Of these, 27% went for John McCain. That works out to 1.4 to 1.8 million gay Republican votes.

"If you pulled the lever for John McCain in 2008, then passing hate-crimes legislation or ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] is probably not your priority," says Mr. LaSalvia. "Most issues that are defined as 'gay' issues have been defined by the left. We take a different approach."

Health care is one example. Mr. LaSalvia points out that many gays do not believe their best interests are served by government-run health care. To the contrary, he says, they believe they would be better served by private-run individual accounts that are portable, that put them in charge of their own health care, and that would allow them to designate their own beneficiaries.

Some of these issues are explored at, whose founder, Bruce Carroll, is also on the board of GOProud. From the disastrous economic policies of Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Barney Frank to the outing of gay Republicans to the importance of male sexual monogamy, this conservative site offers a perspective you just won't see anywhere else. Even on hot-button social issues, it can make for some strange bedfellows.

Take abortion. Christopher Barron, GOProud's chairman of the board, points to an example from a few years back, when a Maine state legislator introduced a bill that would have outlawed abortion for a child thought to be gay, in the event genetic testing ever reached that point. That politician, Mr. Barron says, received virtually no support from gay groups. Though he himself is pro-choice, he says, "I want pro-life gays to know they have a home here."

There may even be some common ground on the issue that most divides GOProud from long-standing Republican orthodoxy: gay marriage. Like most conservative organizations, GOProud is skeptical about using courts to advance social change. They also tend to believe that social issues like this one are best left to the American people acting through their state legislatures.

"I opposed the federal marriage amendment because I do not believe we should federalize marriage," says Mr. Barron. "Marriage is and always has been a state issue. The last thing I want is for some federal court to impose a tortured Roe v. Wade law on gay marriage that will make sure that this issue is never resolved."

That's not likely to be satisfying to those who oppose gay marriage on the merits. But the approach is consistent with a conservative respect for process. Even more important today, this approach also helps make possible a real conversation between people who share the same principles but operate from strong, opposing beliefs.

As Mr. LaSalvia puts it, "Demonstrating common ground is just as important as saying it exists, and that's where we're different."

Whatever else it is, these are not your father's gay Republicans. To the contrary, GOProud springs from a growing dissatisfaction among some gay Republicans that the Log Cabin Republicans, the traditional gay advocacy group within the party, has drifted to the point where its positions are indistinguishable from those of the left. It didn't help when the Washington Blade chimed in with a report that Log Cabin's biggest contributor, Tim Gill, is a Democrat.

Messrs. LaSalvia and Barron are themselves former officers for the Log Cabin Republicans. They know they belong to a defeated party that has no clear leaders but is now making decisions that will determine that party's future in the years to come. They say they have formed GOProud in part to participate in that conversation -- as conservatives who want to contribute to the team.

The ironies are legion. Since the loss of Congress and Mr. McCain's defeat in November, any number of people have come forward to suggest that if the party ever wants to win again, it has to abandon its conservative principles. What does it say about the Beltway's established ideological boxes that it is the gay wing of the Republican Party which is now advocating for a return to the party's Reaganite roots?

Write to
27494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Minnesota on: April 18, 2009, 06:58:15 AM
Meanwhile, back in the Minnesota Senate recount, the three-judge panel reviewing the race has declared Democrat Al Franken the winner. Republican Norm Coleman intends to appeal to the state's Supreme Court, while Democrats and the press corps pressure him to surrender. We hope Mr. Coleman keeps fighting, because the outcome so far hangs on the fact that some votes have been counted differently from others.

APEven after the recount and panel-findings, the 312-vote margin separating the two men equals about .01% of the 2.9 million votes cast. Even without any irregularities, this is as close to a "tie" as it gets. And there have been plenty of irregularities. By the end of the recount, the state was awash with evidence of duplicate ballot counting, newly discovered ballots, missing ballots, illegal voting, and wildly diverse standards as to which votes were counted. Any one of these issues was enough to throw the outcome into doubt. Combined, they created a taint more worthy of New Jersey than Minnesota.

The Coleman camp pushed for resolution of these problems during the recount, but it was stymied by a state canvassing board that cared more about preserving its "Minnesota nice" reputation than about making tough calls. The state Supreme Court also punted difficult questions. The mess then landed with the three-judge panel overseeing Mr. Coleman's contest trial, a panel that seemed out of its depth.

Case in point: the panel's dismal handling of absentee ballots. Early in the recount, the Franken team howled that some absentee votes had been erroneously rejected by local officials. We warned at the time that this was dangerous territory, designed to pressure election officials into accepting rejected ballots after the fact.

Yet instead of shutting this Franken request down, or early on issuing a clear set of rules as to which absentees were valid, the state Supreme Court and the canvassing board oversaw a haphazard process by which some counties submitted new batches to be included in the tally, while other counties did not. The resulting additional 933 ballots were largely responsible for Mr. Franken's narrow lead.

During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6,500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933. The three judges then finally defined what constituted a "legal" absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied these standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional absentees that the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed only about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now "illegal" according to the panel's own ex-post definition.

If all this sounds familiar, think Florida 2000. In that Presidential recount, officials couldn't decide what counted as a legal vote, and so different counties used different standards. The Florida Supreme Court made things worse by changing the rules after the fact. In Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this violated Constitutional principles of equal protection and due process, which require that every vote be accorded equal weight.

This will be a basis for Mr. Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Should that body be reluctant to publicly rebuke their judicial colleagues who sat on the contest panel, Mr. Coleman could also take his appeal to federal court. This could take months.

Another solution is to hold a special Senate election. Minnesota law does not specifically provide for such a runoff. However, the U.S. Constitution's 17th amendment does provide states with a roadmap for filling "vacancies," which might be a legal starting point for a do-over. Even before the shifting standards of the contest trial, the St. Paul Pioneer Press looked at the ballot-counting evidence and called for a revote. It could be that this is where the court case is leading in any event.

Democrats want to portray Mr. Coleman as a sore loser and make the Republican worry that he will ruin his chances for other political office. But Mr. Coleman has a legitimate grievance that not all votes have been treated equally. If the Franken standard of disparate absentee-voter treatment is allowed to stand, every close election will be settled by a legal scramble to change the vote-counting rules after Election Day. Minnesota should take the time to get this one right.
27495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Delay in lighter body armor on: April 18, 2009, 06:45:44 AM
WASHINGTON — The Army has promised to lighten the soldier’s load, and nowhere more urgently than in eastern Afghanistan, where the unforgiving terrain tests the stamina of troops whose weapons, body armor, rucksacks and survival gear can weigh 130 pounds.

Skip to next paragraph
Finding the Right Coverage But an experiment to shave up to 20 pounds off a soldier’s burden — much of it by reducing the bulletproof plates that protect the chest and back — has stalled, leaving $3 million in new, lightweight equipment sitting in a warehouse in the United States instead of being sent to the war zone where it was to have been tried out by a battalion-size group of 500 soldiers. The delay offers a new window into how Army rules have slowed the deployment of specialized gear that small units are seeking for harsh combat environments.

The new lightweight bulletproof plates, part of what is known as a Modular Body Armor Vest, are already in use by the military’s Special Operations Command, which includes the Army’s elite light-infantry troops, the Rangers.

A team of Army experts went to eastern Afghanistan in early March expecting to begin trial runs of the gear for regular Army soldiers, including a company assigned to the remote Korangal Valley, a harsh and primitive area of eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency has proved especially resilient, and where soldiers regularly set off on multiple-day patrols that require them to hike up and down steep hills and valleys.

But the assessment team was ordered back to the United States late last month when its experiment was put off. The delays in the assessment were reported first by Army Times.

According to Army officials familiar with the effort, senior Army leaders ordered further reviews of the lighter bulletproof plates to guarantee that soldiers would not be put at risk wearing them during the combat field tests; the leaders also wanted to expand the goals for the assessment. The officials who discussed the stalled study did so on ground rules of anonymity because of the senior-level review of the matter still under way.

The lighter set of plates and vest could reduce the load of conventional troops by about 20 pounds compared with the current Army-issue Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

The Special Operations Command prides itself on rapidly equipping its units with the latest in weaponry, body armor and war-fighting technology, and many of its innovations subsequently have been adopted by conventional forces. But some of its highly specialized gear carries with it a greater risk for the user, one that Special Operations commanders say is mitigated by the elite level of training given their forces.

All involved in the debate agree that the lighter plates and vest do not cover as much of the torso as the current Army body armor. But advocates of the lighter protection say that giving a soldier greater mobility contributes to survivability, and that the greatest threat to troops in eastern Afghanistan is from bullets, while the heavier vests were designed also to guard against shrapnel from roadside bombs.

Army officials say that the assessment, headed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in conjunction with the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, will resume in about a month, and that the focus will be on the impact of the total soldier’s load and not on analyzing particular pieces of equipment, like the body armor alone.

“To preserve the validity of this assessment and evaluation on soldier performance, the Army decided to equip the unit with all types of lighter equipment simultaneously rather than in a piecemeal fashion,” an Army spokesman said.

The assessment is expected to resume “in the next month, pending a final decision from senior Army leadership,” the spokesman said.

Advocates of a more cautious assessment schedule cite the importance of getting the study right, saying it will guide decisions on equipping the entire force both to meet the challenges of combat in Afghanistan — where thousands of additional troops are being sent this year — and to lessen the physical strain that can lead to long-term injury.

But other officials counter that time has been wasted, and that the lighter gear is only one option to commanders whose troops are going out on patrol, because heavier body armor would remain at each base for use when more coverage of the upper body was needed.

Critics say the delays in testing the lighter body armor are another sign of Army inflexibility, even after years of efforts by the service to speed up its procurement process. The Army was also late to recognize the dangers posed by a reliance on soft-skinned Humvees for troops in Iraq, and then was slow in buying and building better-armored troop transports.

The Army has been driven to examine how to lighten the soldier’s load after years of adding heavier armor, night-vision goggles, rifle scopes, knives, water and food. A soldier on patrol carries, on average, 60 pounds of equipment, but in places like Afghanistan, where the terrain requires prolonged missions away from an operating base, the load can be doubled by the need for shelter, extra food, ammunition and other gear.
27496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 18, 2009, 05:56:22 AM
Still hoping for feedback on the veracity of my previous posts:

SKorean navy repels Somali pirate attack: military
Fri Apr 17, 1:58 pm ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – South Korean naval forces drove away pirates who were trying to board a Danish-registered ship in waters off Somalia, the military and the vessel's owner said Friday.

The incident occurred Friday about 110 kilometres (70 miles) off the coast of Yemen, said a Joint Chiefs of Staff official in Seoul as well as shipowner Shipcraft in Copenhagen.

The Munmu the Great destroyer, carrying a crew of 300, received a distress call from the ship which reported it was being chased by a pirate boat, said Army Colonel Lee Hyoung-Kook, a JCS official who oversees the deployment.

The 2,500-ton ship Puma -- carrying a generator from Singapore to Germany with a crew of three Danes, four Filipinos and five British security guards -- was about 55 kilometres from the South Korean destroyer.

"The crew of the Puma, upon seeing Friday six pirates in an outboard motor boat approaching at full speed, began to zig-zag to keep them from boarding, and fired a distress flare in their direction," said Shipcraft director Per Nykjaer Jensen.

That gave them just enough time for the Puma to call for help from international naval forces in the area, he told AFP.

The South Korean destroyer dispatched its Lynx anti-submarine helicopter, which arrived at the scene in just over 20 minutes, Lee said.

"The pirates gave up (their) attempt to board the ship and turned away when the helicopter threatened to fire," he said.

Jensen agreed that the helicopter's arrival saved the Puma from being seized, but he added: "We are really frustrated by these intolerable conditions whereby the pirates more often than not get away with impunity."

The South Korean destroyer began operating this week to help fight piracy off Somalia, where several Korean ships have been seized.

Up to 20 foreign warships now patrol the waters off the Somali coast to safeguard major shipping lanes.
27497  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 17, 2009, 10:38:11 PM
Unsourced.  Caveat lector:

Having spoken to some SEAL pals yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:
1. BHO wouldn't authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn't do anything unless the hostage's life was in "imminent" danger
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his "daring and decisive" behaviour. As usual with him, it's BS.
So per our last email thread, I'm downgrading Oohbaby's performace to D-. Only reason it's not an F is that the hostage survived.
Read the following accurate account.
Philips’ first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn’t worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country’s Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors — and none was taken.
The guidance from National Command Authority — the president of theUnited States, Barack Obama — had been clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage’s life was in clear, extreme danger.
The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates — and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance fromWashington and a mandate from the commander in chief’s staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a “peaceful solution” would be acceptable.
After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on-scene commander decided he’d had enough. Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage’s life and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer — unnamed in all media reports to date — decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips’ back was a threat to the hostage’s life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.
Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.
There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in yesterday’s dramatic rescue of an American hostage.
Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in theIndian Ocean and declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president’s toughness and decisiveness.
Despite the Obama administration’s (and its sycophants’) attempt to spin yesterday’s success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort.
What should have been a standoff lasting only hours — as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its team of NSWC operators to steam to the location — became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship.
27498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chirs Matthews struggles with SEALs' "lucky" three shots on: April 17, 2009, 10:33:20 PM
27499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now this is more like it!!! on: April 17, 2009, 12:48:46 PM

Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban With Swift and Lethal Results
Published: April 16, 2009

KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — Only the lead insurgents were disciplined as they walked along the ridge. They moved carefully, with weapons ready and at least five yards between each man, the soldiers who surprised them said.

Last week, members of Second Platoon, Company B, surprised a Taliban column and killed at least 13.

Behind them, a knot of Taliban fighters walked in a denser group, some with rifles slung on their shoulders — “pretty much exactly the way we tell soldiers not to do it,” said Specialist Robert Soto, the radio operator for the American patrol.

If these insurgents came close enough, the soldiers knew, the patrol could kill them in a batch.

Fight by fight, the infantryman’s war in Afghanistan is often waged on the Taliban’s terms. Insurgents ambush convoys and patrols from high ridges or long ranges and slip away as the Americans, weighed down by equipment, return fire and call for air and artillery support. Last week a patrol from the First Infantry Division reversed the routine.

An American platoon surprised an armed Taliban column on a forested ridgeline at night, and killed at least 13 insurgents, and perhaps many more, with rifles, machine guns, Claymore mines, hand grenades and a knife.

The one-sided fight, fought on the slopes of the same mountain where a Navy Seal patrol was surrounded in 2005 and a helicopter with reinforcements was shot down, does not change the war. It was one of hundreds of firefights that have occurred in the Korangal Valley, an isolated region where local insurgents and the Americans have been locked in a bitter stalemate for more than three years.

But as accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province, who have seen it as a both a validation of their equipment and training and a welcome bit of score-settling in an area that in recent years has claimed more American lives than any other.

The patrol, 30 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, had left this outpost before noon on April 10, and spent much of the day climbing a ridge on the opposite side of the Korangal River, according to interviews with more than half the participants.

Once the soldiers reached the ridge’s crest, almost 6,000 feet above sea level on the side of a peak called Sautalu Sar, they found fresh footprints on the trails, and parapets of rock from where Taliban fighters often fire rifles and rocket-propelled grenades down onto this outpost.

The platoon leader, Second Lt. Justin Smith, selected a spot where trails intersected, and the platoon dug shallow fighting holes before dark. Claymore antipersonnel mines were set among the trees nearby.

At sunset, Lieutenant Smith called for a period of absolute silence, which lasted into darkness. Then he ordered three scouts to sit in a listening post about 100 yards away, 10 feet off the trail.

The scouts set in. Less than a half-minute later, a column of Taliban fighters appeared, walking briskly their way.

Sgt. Zachary R. Reese, a sniper, whispered into his radio. “We have eight enemy personnel coming down on our position really fast,” he said. He could say no more; the Taliban fighters were a few feet away.

More appeared. Then more still. The sergeant counted 26 gunmen pass by.

The patrol, Second Platoon of Company B, was in a place where no Americans had spent a night for years, and it seemed that the Afghans did not expect danger.

The soldiers waited. The rules of the ambush were long ago drilled into them: no one can move, and no one can fire until the patrol leader gives the order. Then everyone must fire at once.

The third Taliban fighter in the column switched on a flashlight, the soldiers said, and quickly switched it off. About 50 yards separated the two sides, but Lieutenant Smith did not want to start shooting too soon, he said, “because if too many lived then we’d be up there fighting them all night.”

He let the Taliban column continue on. The soldiers trained their weapons’ infrared lasers, which are visible only with night-vision equipment, on the fighters as they drew closer. The lasers mark the path a bullet will fly.

The lead fighter had almost reached the platoon when Pvt. First Class Troy Pacini-Harvey, 19, his laser trained on the lead man’s forehead, moved his rifle’s selector lever from safe to semi-automatic. It made a barely audible click. The Taliban fighter froze. He was six feet away.

(Page 2 of 2)

Lieutenant Smith was new to the platoon. This was his fourth patrol. He was in a situation that every infantry lieutenant trains for, but almost no infantry lieutenant ever sees. “Fire,” he said, softly into the radio. “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

As accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province.

The platoon’s frontage exploded with noise and flashes of light as soldiers fired. Bullets struck all of the lead Taliban fighters, the soldiers said. The first Afghans fell where they were hit, not managing to fire a single shot.

Five Taliban fighters bolted to the soldiers’ left, unwittingly running squarely into the path of machine-gun bullets and the Claymore mines. For a moment, the soldiers heard rustling in the brush. They detonated their Claymores and threw hand grenades. The rustling stopped.

Two other Taliban fighters had dashed to the right, toward an almost sheer drop. One ran so wildly in the blackness that his momentum carried him off the cliff, several soldiers said.

Another stopped at the edge. Pvt. First Class Brad Larson, 19, had followed the man with his laser. “I took him out,” he said.

The scout at the listening post shot three of the fleeing fighters, and dropped two more with hand grenades. “We stopped what we could see,” Sergeant Reese said.

The shooting had lasted a few minutes. The hillside briefly fell quiet. The surviving Taliban fighters, some of whom had run back up the trail, began shouting in the darkness. “We could hear them calling out to one another,” Specialist Soto said.

Lieutenant Smith called the listening post back in. After two Apache attack helicopters showed up, an F-15 dropped a bomb on the Taliban’s escape route, about 600 yards up the trail. Then the lieutenant ordered teams to search the bodies they could find on the crest.

Sergeant Reese gave his rifle to another sniper to cover him while he tried to cut away a Taliban fighter’s ammunition pouches with a four-inch blade. The fighter had only been pretending to be dead, the soldiers said. He lunged for Sergeant Reese, who stabbed him in the left eye.

In all, the soldiers found eight bodies on the crest. They photographed them to try to identify them later, and collected their weapons, ammunition, radios and papers. Then the patrol swept down a gully where a pilot said he saw more insurgents hiding.

Four scouts, using night-vision gear, spotted five fighters crouching behind rocks, and killed them with rifle and machine-gun fire, the scouts said. The bodies were searched and photographed, too. The platoon began to hike back to the outpost, carrying the captured equipment.

Second Platoon, Company B has endured one of the most arduous assignments in Afghanistan. Eight of the platoon’s soldiers have been wounded in nine months of fighting in the valley, part of a bitter contest for control of a small and sparsely populated area.

Three others have been killed.

In a matter of minutes, the ambush changed the experience of the surviving soldiers’ tours. The degree of turnabout surprised even some the soldiers who participated.

“It’s the first time most of us have even seen the guys who were shooting at us,” said Sgt. Thomas Horvath, 21.

The next day, elders from the valley would ask permission to collect the villages’ dead. Company B’s commander, Capt. James C. Howell, would grant it.

But already, as the soldiers slid and climbed down the mountain, word of the insurgents’ defeat was traveling through Taliban networks.

Specialist Robert C. Oxman, 21, had put a dead fighter’s phone in his pocket. As the platoon descended, the phone rang and rang, apparently as other fighters called to find out what had happened on Sautalu Sar. By sunrise, it had been ringing for hours.
27500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Exploiting class issues on: April 17, 2009, 12:41:09 PM
Its the NYTimes, so caveat lector:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.

Supporters of Islamic law on Thursday in the Swat Valley, a Pakistani region where the Taliban exploited class rifts to gain control.

The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab Province.

In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.

To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.

The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.

“This was a bloody revolution in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.”

The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal.

Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.

Analysts and other government officials warn that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab, saying that the province, where militant groups are already showing strength, is ripe for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas.

Mahboob Mahmood, a Pakistani-American lawyer and former classmate of President Obama’s, said, “The people of Pakistan are psychologically ready for a revolution.”

Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.”

The Taliban strategy in Swat, an area of 1.3 million people with fertile orchards, vast plots of timber and valuable emerald mines, unfolded in stages over five years, analysts said.

The momentum of the insurgency built in the past two years, when the Taliban, reinforced by seasoned fighters from the tribal areas with links to Al Qaeda, fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, said a Pakistani intelligence agent who works in the Swat region.

The insurgents struck at any competing point of power: landlords and elected leaders — who were usually the same people — and an underpaid and unmotivated police force, said Khadim Hussain, a linguistics and communications professor at Bahria University in Islamabad, the capital.

At the same time, the Taliban exploited the resentments of the landless tenants, particularly the fact that they had many unresolved cases against their bosses in a slow-moving and corrupt justice system, Mr. Hussain and residents who fled the area said.

Their grievances were stoked by a young militant, Maulana Fazlullah, who set up an FM radio station in 2004 to appeal to the disenfranchised. The broadcasts featured easy-to-understand examples using goats, cows, milk and grass. By 2006, Mr. Fazlullah had formed a ragtag force of landless peasants armed by the Taliban, said Mr. Hussain and former residents of Swat.

At first, the pressure on the landlords was subtle. One landowner was pressed to take his son out of an English-speaking school offensive to the Taliban. Others were forced to make donations to the Taliban.

Then, in late 2007, Shujaat Ali Khan, the richest of the landowners, his brothers and his son, Jamal Nasir, the mayor of Swat, became targets.

After Shujaat Ali Khan, a senior politician in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, narrowly missed being killed by a roadside bomb, he fled to London. A brother, Fateh Ali Mohammed, a former senator, left, too, and now lives in Islamabad. Mr. Nasir also fled


Page 2 of 2)

Later, the Taliban published a “most wanted” list of 43 prominent names, said Muhammad Sher Khan, a landlord who is a politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, and whose name was on the list. All those named were ordered to present themselves to the Taliban courts or risk being killed, he said. “When you know that they will hang and kill you, how will you dare go back there?” Mr. Khan, hiding in Punjab, said in a telephone interview. “Being on the list meant ‘Don’t come back to Swat.’ ”

One of the main enforcers of the new order was Ibn-e-Amin, a Taliban commander from the same area as the landowners, called Matta. The fact that Mr. Amin came from Matta, and knew who was who there, put even more pressure on the landowners, Mr. Hussain said.

According to Pakistani news reports, Mr. Amin was arrested in August 2004 on suspicion of having links to Al Qaeda and was released in November 2006. Another Pakistani intelligence agent said Mr. Amin often visited a madrasa in North Waziristan, the stronghold of Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, where he apparently received guidance.

Each time the landlords fled, their tenants were rewarded. They were encouraged to cut down the orchard trees and sell the wood for their own profit, the former residents said. Or they were told to pay the rent to the Taliban instead of their now absentee bosses.

Two dormant emerald mines have reopened under Taliban control. The militants have announced that they will receive one-third of the revenues.

Since the Taliban fought the military to a truce in Swat in February, the militants have deepened their approach and made clear who is in charge.

When provincial bureaucrats visit Mingora, Swat’s capital, they must now follow the Taliban’s orders and sit on the floor, surrounded by Taliban bearing weapons, and in some cases wearing suicide bomber vests, the senior provincial official said.

In many areas of Swat the Taliban have demanded that each family give up one son for training as a Taliban fighter, said Mohammad Amad, executive director of a nongovernmental group, the Initiative for Development and Empowerment Axis.

A landlord who fled with his family last year said he received a chilling message last week. His tenants called him in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, to tell him his huge house was being demolished, he said in an interview here.

The most crushing news was about his finances. He had sold his fruit crop in advance, though at a quarter of last year’s price. But even that smaller yield would not be his, his tenants said, relaying the Taliban message. The buyer had been ordered to give the money to the Taliban instead.
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