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28751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 06, 2007, 07:22:52 PM
Geopolitical Diary: A Well-Timed Announcement on Iraq

U.S. forces in Iraq said on Sunday they killed the planner of two attacks against the Shiite al-Asakariyah shrine complex during an air strike east of As Samarra on Aug. 2. A U.S. military spokesman identified the top jihadist operative as Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al-Badri, al Qaeda in Iraq's leader in Salahuddin province. Al-Badri is believed to have masterminded the February 2006 attack against the shrine -- which triggered a massive Shiite backlash against Sunnis -- and another attack June 13 that destroyed the shrine's two minarets.

The timing of this announcement is quite telling. It came a day before the third round of direct public U.S.-Iranian talks are set to take place in Baghdad. This round is expected to focus on the composition and agenda of a tripartite security committee created during the second round of talks July 24. At the upcoming meeting, representatives will decide which security officials will represent Washington, Tehran and Baghdad on the committee and how it will accomplish its Herculean tasks. One of these will be to divvy out responsibility for working with those who oppose a U.S.-Iranian settlement. Each side will attempt to rein in the group with which it has the most influence: Iran will take the Shia and the Americans the Sunnis.

Though public distrust has marred past rounds of negotiations, this time might be different -- and not just in its atmospherics. The Americans now are figuratively dropping a head on the table as a token of sincerity. One of the few groups al Qaeda hates more than the Americans is the Shia, who they see as heretics; the Iranians are Shia, and al-Badri was one of the most active al Qaeda operatives working against the sect.

No matter what happens during the Aug. 6 meeting, the Iranians are very interested in ensuring that Sunni political power in Baghdad is limited; even more than they want to eliminate the jihadists, they do not want to see the return of a Saddam Hussein-like figure. That means the Iranians want to make sure the Iraqi military remains a nonoffensive force. This is why the Iranians likely are carefully studying remarks made Sunday by Iraqi air force commander Lt. Gen. Kamal al-Barzanji.

Speaking at a press briefing in Baghdad, al-Barzanji expressed hope that Iran will return some of the scores of Iraqi warplanes that flew to the country ahead of the 1991 Gulf War, meanwhile acknowledging that many of them are probably beyond repair. He added that the Iraqi air force, which has been built up from scratch since 2004, currently has only 45 aircraft -- for transport and reconnaissance -- and helicopters. Additionally, U.S. Brig. Gen. Bob Allardice, commander of the air force transition team, said a program to train new aviators has begun, and that the new air force currently has no offensive capability.

The two most critical issues concerning the Iranians in terms of the future of Iraq are the role of the Baathists and the nature of the Iraqi armed forces -- both of which relate to Iran's national security interests and Tehran's expectation of being able to use Iraq as a launch pad to project its power into the region and beyond in the future. Therefore, the statements from the Iraqi and U.S. air force commanders were hardly a coincidence. On the contrary, they were arranged to coincide with the upcoming talks -- reminding the Iranians that while Washington is willing to offer up mutual enemies as a gesture of trust, it is not without options in Iraq, and it is Tehran's turn to deliver.
28752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 06, 2007, 07:10:37 PM

Please forgive me, but what does this have to do with media issues?
28753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Unorganized Militia on: August 06, 2007, 07:06:15 PM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily

"[T]he people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are
left in full possession of them."

-- Zacharia Johnson (speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
25 June 1778)

Reference: The Debates of the Several State..., Elliot, vol. 3
28754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 06, 2007, 06:58:41 PM
I've seen similar reports-- although the idea of Iraqi "donations" sounds a bit implausible, the ransom racket is probably pretty active. 

As for financing AQ, I suspect the fact that Afg now produces over 95% of the western world's opium may have something to do with it even more.
28755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: August 06, 2007, 06:54:12 PM
On the City funded Islamic school:

It would appear that the initial suspicions have basis , , ,
28756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: August 06, 2007, 11:36:57 AM

Domestic Terror in Iran
Iran has just carried out the largest wave of executions since 1984.

Monday, August 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It is early dawn as seven young men are led to the gallows amid shouts of "Allah Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) from a crowd of bearded men as a handful of women, all in hijab, ululate to a high pitch. A few minutes later, the seven are hanged as a mullah shouts: "Alhamd li-Allah" (Praise be to Allah).

The scene was Wednesday in Mashad, Iran's second most populous city, where a crackdown against "anti-Islam hooligans" has been under way for weeks.

The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.

The latest wave of executions is the biggest Iran has suffered in the same time span since 1984, when thousands of opposition prisoners were shot on orders from Ayatollah Khomeini.

Not all executions take place in public. In the provinces of Kurdistan and Khuzestan, where ethnic Kurdish and Arab minorities are demanding greater rights, several activists have been put to death in secret, their families informed only days after the event.

The campaign of terror also includes targeted "disappearances" designed to neutralize trade union leaders, student activists, journalists and even mullahs opposed to the regime. According to the latest tally, more than 30 people have "disappeared" since the start of the new Iranian year on March 21. To intimidate the population, the authorities also have carried out mass arrests on spurious grounds.
According to Gen. Ismail Muqaddam, commander of the Islamic Police, a total of 430,000 men and women have been arrested on charges related to drug use since April. A further 4,209 men and women, mostly aged between 15 and 30, have been arrested for "hooliganism" in Tehran alone. The largest number of arrests, totaling almost a million men and women according to Mr. Muqaddam, were related to the enforcement of the new Islamic Dress Code, passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) in May 2006.

Most of those arrested, he says, spent a few hours, or at most a few days, in custody as "a warning." By last week, 40,000 were still in prison. Of these, 20,363 men and women are held on charges related to violating the Islamic Dress Code. According to the Deputy Chief of Police Gen. Hussein Zulfiqari, an additional 6,204 men and women are in prison on charges of "sexual proximity" without being married.

The wave of arrests has increased pressure on the nation's inadequate prison facilities. At a recent press conference in Tehran, the head of the National Prisons Service, Ali-Akbar Yassaqi, appealed for a moratorium on arrests. He said Iran's official prisons could not house more than 50,000 prisoners simultaneously while the actual number of prisoners at any given time was above 150,000. Mr. Yassaqi also revealed that each year on average some 600,000 Iranians spend some time in one of the 130 official prisons.

Since Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered the crackdown, work on converting 41 official buildings to prisons has started, with contracts for 33 other prisons already signed. Nevertheless, Mr. Yassaqi believes that, with the annual prison population likely to top the million mark this year, even the new capacities created might prove insufficient.

There are, however, an unknown number of unofficial prisons as well, often controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or militias working for various powerful mullahs. Last week, human rights activists in Iran published details of a new prison in Souleh, northwest of Tehran, staffed by militants from the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah. According to the revelations, the Souleh prison is under the control of the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, and used for holding the regime's most "dangerous" political foes.

The regime especially fears the growing free trade union movement. In the past four months, free trade unionists have organized 12 major strikes and 47 demonstrations in various parts of the country. They showed their muscle on International Labor Day on May 1 when tens of thousands of workers marched in Tehran and 18 provincial capitals. The regime retaliated by arresting scores of trade unionists and expelling many others.

According to Rajab-Ali Shahsavari, leader of the Union of Contractual Workers, 25,795 unionists have been fired since April. He estimates that now over 1,000 workers are losing their jobs each day, as the regime intensifies its crackdown.

Worse still, the number of suspicious deaths among workers has risen to an all-time high. According to Deputy Labor Minister Ibrahim Nazari-Jalali, 1,047 workers have died in "work-related accidents" since April. Labor sources, however, point out that none of the accidents have been investigated and, in at least 13 cases, the workers who died may have been killed by goons hired by the regime.

The biggest purge of universities since Khomeini launched his "Islamic Cultural Revolution" in 1980 is also under way. Scores of student leaders have been arrested and more than 3,000 others expelled. Labeling the crackdown the "corrective movement," Mr. Ahmadinejad wants university textbooks rewritten to "cleanse them of Infidel trash," and to include "a rebuttal of Zionist-Crusader claims" about the Holocaust. Dozens of lecturers and faculty deans have been fired.

The nationwide crackdown is accompanied with efforts to cut Iranians off from sources of information outside the Islamic Republic. More than 4,000 Internet sites have been blocked, and more are added each day. The Ministry of Islamic Orientation has established a new blacklist of authors and book titles twice longer than what it was a year ago. Since April, some 30 newspapers and magazines have been shut and their offices raided. At least 17 journalists are in prison, two already sentenced to death by hanging.

The regime is trying to mobilize its shrinking base by claiming that the Islamic Republic is under threat from internal and external foes. It was in that context that the four Iranian-American hostages held in Tehran were forced to make televised "confessions" last month about alleged plots to foment a "velvet revolution."
Over 40 people have been arrested on charges of espionage since April, 20 in the southern city of Shiraz. Khomeinist paranoia reached a new peak last week when the authorities announced, through the Islamic Republic News Agency, the capture of four squirrels in the Western city of Kermanshah and claimed that the furry creatures had been fitted with "espionage devices" by the Americans in Iraq and smuggled into the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Ahmadinejad likes to pretend that he has no worries except "Infidel plots" related to the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions. The truth is that, faced with growing popular discontent, the Khomeinist clique is vulnerable and worried, extremely worried. The outside world would do well to carefully monitor and, whenever possible, support the Iranian people's fight against the fascist regime in Tehran.

Iran today is not only about atomic bombs and Iranian-American hostages. It is also about a growing popular movement that may help bring the nation out of the dangerous impasse created by the mullahs.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).
28757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: August 06, 2007, 11:32:20 AM

Mad House
Congress needs an intervention.

Monday, August 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The House of Representatives almost turned into the Fight Club Thursday night, when Democrats ruled that a GOP motion had failed even though, when the gavel fell, the electronic score board showed it winning 215-213 along with the word FINAL. The presiding officer, Rep. Mike McNulty (D., N.Y.), actually spoke over the clerk who was trying to announce the result.

In the ensuing confusion several members changed their votes and the GOP measure to deny illegal aliens benefits such as food stamps then trailed 212-216. Boiling-mad Republicans stormed off the floor. The next day, their fury increased when they learned electronic records of the vote had disappeared from the House's voting system.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made matters worse when she told reporters, "There was no mistake made last night." Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had to rescue her by acknowledging that, while he thought no wrongdoing had occurred, the minority party was "understandably angry." Under pressure, the House unanimously agreed to create a select committee, with subpoena powers, to investigate Republican charges the vote had been "stolen."

Congress appears to be gripped by a partisanship that borders on tribal warfare. In a forthcoming book, Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein compares it to a "second Civil War" that has led to "the virtual collapse of meaningful collaboration" between the two parties. Public disenchantment with Washington is such that now both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic former senator Sam Nunn of Georgia are musing openly about an independent run for president. But Congress itself has to act if it doesn't want to degenerate into one of those fist-wielding European or Asian parliaments we occasionally see on TV.

The breakdown has been a long time coming. In the 1980s, after almost 40 years of control, House Democrats had become arrogant and casually exercised the near-absolute power that body gives the majority. In 1985, Democrats insisted on handing a disputed Indiana House seat to the Democratic incumbent by a four-vote margin despite clear evidence that ballots had been handled in a completely arbitrary way during a special recount by a House task force. In 1987, Speaker Jim Wright held open a budget vote for an extra 10 minutes in a frantic effort to convince someone to change his vote. The maneuver prompted then-Rep. Dick Cheney to call Mr. Wright "a heavy-handed son of a bitch."
Republicans didn't act any better during the reign of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In 2003, a massive Medicare prescription drug entitlement was passed only after a vote was held open for three hours at 3 a.m. as Mr. DeLay strong-armed reluctant GOP members into voting for it. Votes were held open at least a dozen times during the last years of the Republicans' troubled control of the House.

Democrats issued a report in early 2006 pointing out the abuses of GOP rule. None other than Newt Gingrich admitted that he thought his party was too dismissive of the rights of the minority and risked a backlash if Democrats regained control.

Indeed, that happened with stunning speed after the GOP's fall from power last November. Despite Ms. Pelosi's pledge that "we would have the most honest and open government," the new majority quickly adopted a whatever-it-takes approach to passing legislation. Last week alone, a dubious ethics bill was passed less than 24 hours after being introduced. The bill expanding health-care coverage to children was rewritten at 1 a.m., a rule harshly limiting debate was passed at 3 a.m., and the bill was sent to the floor for a final vote the same day.

The Senate operates under a different rule book that is more open to debate. But it has its own problems, such as allowing individual senators to put holds on legislation and presidential nominees without revealing that they're behind the delaying tactic. It's become a cliché that nothing passes the Senate without 60 votes. But that wasn't the case in the past. Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson dominated the Senate in the 1950s with just a one- or two-vote advantage over Republicans and routinely passed legislation by margins that close. When filibusters were real and actually required senators to stay on the floor, they were threatened--and employed--less frequently.

But it's the House where the elbows have become sharp as razor blades. Despite efforts by members to form a "civility caucus" to find ways to cooperate across party lines, it is increasingly apparent that the inmates of the House asylum aren't the best judges of how to better working conditions there.

Almost exactly a year ago, former speakers Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich, a Democrat and his Republican successor, appeared at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss "How Congress Is Failing America." The two old warhorses conducted a remarkably civilized exchange and proved that with the passage of time they had clearly put aside old animosities. Mr. Foley joked that if he heard today's Newt Gingrich on the campaign stump, his reaction would be "I think I'll vote for this guy." He added in a more serious vein, "I think he's absolutely dead right in his diagnosis of what's happening to this country and to the Congress."
Both men decried a runaway spending process, the demise of bipartisan committee deliberations, and the gerrymandered districts that have led to the election of more fierce partisans and fewer centrists. Both called for an end to the earmark culture that distorts budget deliberations. The two agreed that for real change to occur, Congress needs fresh blood. However, they disagreed on the desirability of term limits, with Mr. Gingrich favoring them and Mr. Foley demurring.

Mr. Foley also made a very prescient warning. He urged his fellow Democrats not to exact retribution or respond in kind to heavy-handed GOP tactics should they win back control that November, as they ended up doing: "Democrats [should] clearly and intensely [promise] that if they take the majority back again, they will not go back and try to pay back, so to speak, what they felt were the excesses and even the outrages of this period, but will promise minority rights in reaching those majority decisions."

Clearly, his fellow Democrats in the House haven't been following his advice. Maybe they ought to appoint Messrs. Foley and Gingrich to head an outside task force to recommend ways to make the House work again. If the House had the sense to recognize it had to appoint a select committee to investigate last Friday's vote fiasco, it should see the possible benefits of having an outside group weigh in on its dysfunctional ways.

Democrats and Republicans alike have an interest in reform. Scenes like last Friday's meltdown on the House floor can only lower Congress's dismal approval ratings. With both parties held in low regard, we could be heading for a repeat of the 1990 and 1992 elections, which took place at a time of economic uncertainty and bipartisan congressional scandals involving the House bank and post office. In those years, House incumbents in both parties went down to defeat--14 in 1990 and 24 in 1992.

Incumbents loathe political uncertainty. If Democrats and Republicans don't find a way to stop the erosion of pubic confidence in their work, they could be heading into a 2008 election in which neither party has a clear advantage and voters are looking to take scalps in both their camps. This just might be one of those rare times where House members should resort to outside intervention.

28758  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dirty Bomb radiation protection on: August 06, 2007, 02:00:12 AM

Los Angeles is a city likely to go into heavy gridlock in the event of Islamofascist attack.  If the attack is a dirty bomb, what are the realistic options for the citizen at home or caught in the mother of all gridlock on some LA freeway.  Picture a woman with children in a van.  What is she to do?  I've heard iodine potassium (IIRC) tablets protect the thyroid gland.  Is there some sort of mask that lessens inhalation of nasties into lungs?  Will a child wear these?  What else?

28759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: August 06, 2007, 01:50:11 AM
Interesting point.
28760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 06, 2007, 12:57:29 AM
Tom:   Lets post your question/answer in a thread relevant to its content.  This thread is about Islamic Fascism vs. Free Speech.
28761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 05, 2007, 04:09:49 PM

The logic of you post #111 eludes me, both as a response in the context of this thread to what Buz posted or in general.  As best as I can tell, as has been explained in this thread and on this forum with what I perceive to be reasonable clarity NO ONE is calling for killing anyone because they are Iraqi.

28762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 04, 2007, 12:51:05 PM
PAKISTAN: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile to run in parliamentary elections expected in December or January 2008, despite running the risk of being arrested, Reuters reported, citing comments from a Bhutto spokesman. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has met with Bhutto, who leads the opposition Pakistan People's Party, twice recently in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, creating speculation that the two have reached a political compromise allowing for her return.
28763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: August 04, 2007, 12:49:49 PM
U.S./INDIA: The United States and India have released the text of the 123 civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. The 22-page document, which covers nuclear technology sharing, fuel supply and security protocol, will stay in effect for 40 years and can be terminated on a year's notice if a change in the security environment occurs. The United States will help India obtain approval from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group before the agreement is submitted to the U.S. Congress for approval.
28764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 04, 2007, 12:45:16 PM
Concerning whether we are fighting AQ in Iraq, see the following piece from the Left Angeles Times today:


Aided by U.S., militants widen reach
A Sunni group, partners in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq, is becoming more ambitious. Some fear it can't be trusted.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Times Staff Writer
August 4, 2007

‘Goldmine of Information'
 click to enlargeBAGHDAD — The leader of the Revolutionaries of Amiriya sits in his headquarters in an abandoned high school here, explaining the militant group's latest mission: policing and rebuilding Sunni Muslim neighborhoods.

"We need to return the services to the neighborhoods. Al Qaeda destroyed streets, schools, electricity, even mobile phone towers," said the man known as Abu Abed, or Saif. "They made the people here desperate."

Since partnering with U.S. forces in May to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq in the walled, middle-class west Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriya, the Sunni militant group has broadened its reach to overseeing city services. And it is pushing ambitious plans to police a few other Sunni neighborhoods, against the wishes of the Iraqi army and government, some Sunni leaders and U.S. soldiers, who say the militants can't be trusted.

U.S. military leaders, who have used the same tactic in Al Anbar province, say their goal is to turn the fighters into Iraqi police in areas where the Shiite-dominated security forces aren't trusted, or can't go.

Military commanders acknowledge that there's a risk that the Sunni fighters they're attempting to co-opt could betray them or fuel the country's civil war by turning their arms on Shiite militias such as Al Mahdi army and Badr Organization. But U.S. strategists are betting that giving the Sunni Arab groups a stake in a stable Iraq, and paying them a monthly salary, will quell violence and help U.S. forces repel Al Qaeda in Iraq, one of several high-profile Sunni Arab groups in the insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"You make them dependent on you for a paycheck, you take their biometrics; you've got their names, you know where they go for work every day because they work for you," a U.S. diplomat said of the experiment.

"You have got commanders over them. This is a much safer place to be than having these guys out in the wilderness fighting you."

Analysts say the experiment is risky at best.

"They may be infiltrated by the unturned insurgents like Al Qaeda in Iraq and use knowledge gained about American forces and positions to abet attacks on our troops," said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Most of all, their loyalty to the central government is questionable at best, so you are creating even more warlords and militias in an already confused and volatile situation."

Already, U.S. commanders have begun reining in their new allies.

"You can watch your own neighborhoods, but you can't watch somebody else's neighborhood," U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said he has told tribal leaders in the Taji area north of the capital, where Sunni militias have been enlisted in policing roles.

Saif, the Amiriya Revolutionaries commander, is becoming a power broker of sorts between U.S. forces and Sunni groups eager to assume the same roles in Khadra, Shurta overpass, Haifa Street and Bakriya, and in more mixed neighborhoods such as Adhamiya, Bab al Muadam and Fadil.

"All I need and ask of the U.S. is protection for me and my fighters," he said. "We still apply the law."

'Going undercover'

Last month, the militants, clad in T-shirts and tracksuits and openly toting AK-47 assault rifles, greeted U.S. soldiers visiting the group's headquarters in the former high school.

Saif, 35, looked more like a police detective than a militant, in pressed slacks and a button-down plaid shirt, a gold Iraq pin on his lapel and a black pistol strapped to his right thigh.

Capt. Dustin Mitchell, 30, who serves as a liaison with the group, said he was impressed by their ability to find weapons stockpiles, roadside bombs and Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders.

"It's like going undercover in the police, in civilian clothing. And that's kind of something we can't do as white boys in the U.S. Army," Mitchell said. "It's just a goldmine of information that you ain't going to find anywhere else."

Saif, a former member of Saddam Hussein's military, said many in his group had been members of the 1920 Revolution Brigade and Islamic Army, groups that have fought U.S. forces, Al Qaeda in Iraq and Shiite militias.

Asked whether his men had fought U.S. troops, Saif, with soldiers looking on, smiled.

"If the door gets broken down and my family is inside, I'm going to defend myself, I'm going to defend my family," he said. "Then I discover he's my friend, that he came from a faraway country to give me freedom."

Saif claims to have killed 22 Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives during two months of working with U.S. forces.

"We are the sons of this neighborhood, of the streets," Saif said. Residents trust them "because they know what kind of morals we have."

Reviews are mixed from U.S. soldiers who have worked with the Revolutionaries of Amiriya.

Sgt. Joe Frye, 31, of Panama City, Panama, has watched them search homes, nimbly traversing streets laced with roadside bombs with a speed and stealth that can't be matched by armored U.S. convoys.

"We've accomplished more in the few weeks working with these guys than in the nine months we've been here," Frye said.

But Lt. Brendan Griswold, 24, says he's seen members of the group, who often patrol in black ski masks, confiscate cars with little cause, a common complaint among Amiriya residents. Other soldiers reported seeing the militants beat suspects with rifle butts during raids.

"I don't like going out with them. I don't trust them," Griswold said during a patrol in Amiriya. "They get a little bit out of control."

Plan is paying off

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, a West Point graduate whose 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, has provided supplies, ammunition and other aid to the militants, said the partnership was paying off. U.S. and Iraqi casualties, explosions and shootings in Amiriya have dropped in the last three months, military records show, and U.S. and Iraqi troops have detained more suspects, defused more bombs and seized more weapons.

"Even with [the] surge, you can't put a soldier on every street corner," he said. "That's the value of what they do."

Kuehl is trying to persuade Iraqi army leaders to support the group, but those commanders remain critical of the fighters.

"We've been in government four years, and we're not giving weapons to anyone who comes," Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari said. "If we don't control those people, they will use their arms against us."

Kuehl acknowledges that as the Revolutionaries of Amiriya grows, the group may abandon plans to join the Iraqi police and become a Sunni counterpoint to the Shiite militias they have long fought.

"The challenge will be trying to keep it under control," Kuehl said of the group. "We do not want this to become another sectarian militia."

The U.S. military collects identifying information from the members, including fingerprints and retina scans, but the fighters are not screened or supervised.

"You don't know how far you can trust them a few months from now," said Sgt. David Alexander, 24, of Amarillo, Texas, stationed in a bombed-out bunker near the group's office. "They're with us now because we have a common goal. But what happens when we kill all the Al Qaeda guys? … If they want to go out and capture somebody for revenge, there's nobody to prevent them from doing that."

Saif seemed to confirm those fears, saying that even as his men become Iraqi police officers, they will continue to go after Shiite militias to avenge dead comrades, including his brothers.

"It is our nature as Iraqis," he said. "We have revenge issues."

28765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mindanao's Rising Tensions on: August 04, 2007, 12:36:11 PM

Philippines: Mindanao's Rising Tensions
Two improvised explosive devices exploded at a bus terminal in Koronadal City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Aug. 3, killing one person and wounding seven. South Cotabato province's police chief said the bombing followed an extortion attempt by a group calling itself al-Khobar. This latest attack will only add to the already high tensions on Mindanao resulting from the beheading of 10 Philippine marines in July.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in fact, has been threatening to launch an all-out offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- the militant group it holds partly responsible for the marines' deaths -- though the operation has been put on hold because of pressure from the World Bank and multinational corporations operating in Mindanao. The possibility for an escalation in violence remains, however, as the enraged marines are unlikely to be satisfied with the small concessions MILF has made to atone for the attack, which also resulted in the shooting deaths of four other marines.

Bombings are fairly common on Mindanao, and usually are related to crime rather than militancy. Many of the militant attacks are blamed on several rogue factions that split off from MILF in protest of the group's entrance into peace talks with the Philippine government. These smaller groups, which use extortion and kidnapping for ransom as primary means of funding, operate in Mindanao's remote villages and small towns, where the group's leadership cannot exercise control over them. The Communist New People's Army and the militant Islamist Abu Sayyaf group also use kidnapping and extortion to fund themselves.

The July 10 battle that ended with the beheadings started when hundreds of MILF fighters ambushed a marine contingent as it searched for a kidnapped Italian priest in MILF territory on the island of Basilan. The priest, who had been kidnapped a month earlier from the town of Payao on Mindanao, was released near Karamutan municipality on Mindanao nine days after the ambush.

After the beheadings, the AFP demanded that the MILF surrender those responsible or else face an all-out offensive. MILF acknowledged initiating the ambush, but said the marines were in its territory in violation of a cease-fire agreement with Manila. The AFP contends the beheadings were carried out by both MILF and Abu Sayyaf members.

The Philippine government put the offensive on hold in response to threats by the World Bank and foreign contractors -- mainly Japanese and Canadian nongovernmental organizations working on infrastructure and development projects on Mindanao -- to suspend aid projects if violence escalates. There are fears that if the AFP initiates a major offensive against MILF, elements of the group will retaliate with attacks against soft targets on Mindanao.

In an effort to prevent more fighting, MILF has turned over a few fighters suspected of participating in the ambush. Also, on Aug. 3, two suspects from Abu Sayyaf surrendered to authorities, bringing a rifle they said was taken from one of the dead marines. These small gestures, however, are unlikely to satisfy the AFP, which has issued about 130 arrest warrants for rebels suspected to have been involved in the beheadings. Because MILF has split into so many different factions, the main group's leadership, which apparently is attempting to work with the government, is unlikely to be able to deliver the suspects.

The AFP, particularly the marines, undoubtedly is champing at the bit to retaliate against MILF for the gruesome attack. Meanwhile, many of Mindanao's Christian inhabitants also are urging the government to take a stronger stance against MILF. If MILF fails to deliver a good portion of the suspects, Manila could accede to the military demand for action and approve a major offensive -- something it has done in the past when the group has dragged its feet on issues important to the government. Severe military action, in fact, could spur the MILF leadership to make more serious efforts to rein in its various splinter factions.
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28766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 04, 2007, 10:44:12 AM
Woof Tom:

All this is a tad confusing.  Are you referring to post #967, 971, 974 or 975 and now that you have read it/them, how does affect what you are saying?

28767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 03, 2007, 10:43:23 AM

With this forum, I like to keep a fairly tight leash on thread coherency. Lets take a look at the title of the this thread.  The question of whether IF is a sound term readily falls within this heading, but we are starting to drift into a shapeless mishmash of subjects here.  By all means please continue the conversation, but please move the question(s) presented to the relevant

28768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: August 03, 2007, 10:32:44 AM
Sicko Europe
August 3, 2007; Page A9


We live in an age of unprecedented medical innovation. Unfortunately, most of today's cutting-edge research is conducted outside Europe, which was once a pioneer in this field. About 78% of global biotechnology research funds are spent in the U.S., compared to just 16% in Europe. Americans therefore have better access to modern drugs. One result is that in the U.S., the annual death rate from cancer is 196 per 100,000 people, compared to 235 in Britain, 244 in France, 270 in Italy and 273 in Germany.

It is both a tragedy and an embarrassment that Europe hasn't kept up with the U.S. in saving and improving lives. What's to blame? The Continent's misguided policies and state-run health-care systems. The reasons vary from country to country, but broadly speaking, the custodians of public health budgets aren't devoting the necessary resources to get patients the most modern and advanced medicines, and are happier with the status quo. We often see news headlines about promising new cures and vaccines next to headlines about patients who can't get life-saving drugs as politicians impose ever stricter prescription controls on doctors.

The human toll can be measured in deaths and unnecessary suffering. It also costs us a lot of money. Prevention is cheaper than treatment. Modern medicine can prevent many medical complications that would otherwise require hospitalization and other expensive care. For every euro spent on new medicine, national health-care systems could save as much as €3.65 in later treatments, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.

This situation is especially dire in Italy. The government has capped spending on pharmaceuticals at 13% of total health-care expenditures while letting expenses for infrastructure and staff skyrocket. From 2001 to 2005, general health expenses in Italy grew by 31% while expenditure on medicines increased a mere 1.7%. Italian patients might well have been better off if the reverse was the case, but the state bureaucrats who make these decisions refuse to acknowledge the benefits of advanced drugs.

Also as a result, pharmaceutical research in Italy is falling behind even faster than in the rest of Europe. In 2004, pharmaceutical R&D spending was €3.9 billion in Germany, €3.95 billion in France and €4.78 billion in Britain, compared to only €1.01 billion in Italy.

Part of the problem is that regional authorities manage most of Italy's health-care spending. A strike by health-care personnel has an immediate impact on the region, but the consequences of cutting the budget for medicines are only felt in the long term and distributed across the nation. Hence, local authorities continue to focus on personnel and infrastructure in an age when medical research has become the most efficient way to improve public health.

Most recently, some Italian regions decided to drastically expand the scope of reference pricing, in open defiance of the central government. Reference pricing is used in most European countries to reduce government spending on medicine and is one of the reasons the Continent is lagging behind in pharmaceutical research. New drugs are grouped with existing drugs used to treat the same medical condition, and the government typically limits reimbursement to the cheapest price in the reference group. This way, patients are discouraged from using the most modern and more expensive medicine.

The Italian regions, however, are taking reference pricing one step further by grouping together drugs that do not necessarily have identical therapeutic effects. This way, the reference groups grow larger, and the regions can save more money. But patients are forced to choose between paying high out-of-pocket expenses or the risk of taking the wrong medicine.

This is a tragic state of affairs in a country with a higher natural demand for advanced medicine than most others in Europe. The older people get, the more likely they are to get ill, and today 20% of Italians are 65 years of age or older -- by far the largest percentage of any European country. The proportion is projected to rise to 24.5% by 2020.

Italian leaders have a responsibility to prevent parochialism from undermining public health and pharmaceutical research. But it is worth repeating that the combination of an aging population and an inefficient health-care system is a European, not exclusively Italian, problem.

It is time for politicians and regulators to confront our backward health-care systems and unleash the powers of medical research. Besides expanding drug budgets, European countries should work together to deregulate the pharmaceutical industry -- for instance, by speeding up the approval process for new drugs. The EU can better ensure that drug patents are adequately protected both in Europe and around the world against compulsory licensing and other infringements. Finally, we should give medical researchers tax incentives to slow the brain drain to the U.S. -- much like Ireland is attracting artists with favorable tax laws. We Europeans are getting older; we should be getting wiser, healthier and happier, too.

Mr. Capezzone is the president of the productivity committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

28769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Job Creation in Mexico on: August 03, 2007, 10:26:45 AM

Mexico's Job-Creation Problem
August 3, 2007; Page A9

Why do so many Mexicans leave their families, friends and homes to make the arduous journey to the United States?

It's a central question to the immigration debate and is essential for setting workable policies. But it's also a question that has rarely been asked.

After looking at the numbers, what I discovered is that Mexico has a job-creation problem. During President Vicente Fox's six years in office his goal was to create six million jobs across all sectors of the economy. Mr. Fox fell far short of that goal. Between 2000 and 2006, the period when he was in office, Mexico created only 1.4 million jobs. Though accurate figures are difficult to arrive at, the Government Accountability Office estimates that during each year of Mr. Fox's presidency between 400,000 and 700,000 illegal immigrants arrived in the U.S. from Mexico. The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico was roughly equal to the number of jobs Mr. Fox did not create.

If one were to do a CAT scan of Mexico's economy, one would find a country with the potential to become a job creator's paradise. Mexico has far more oil than fast-growing Dubai (a net labor importer) and almost as much as Qatar, another labor importer. If Mexicans working in the U.S. are any indication, Mexico has a work force that is trained and disciplined. With thousands of miles of coastline, Mexico is a tourist haven. It shares a border with its largest trading partner. But even with these positive attributes, Mexico's job-creation engine has stalled.

Research shows that big companies -- especially big Mexican companies -- do not create many jobs. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs who start companies from scratch. To perform their job-creating function, entrepreneurs need access to capital, which is where Mexico falls short. According to the Milken Institute's 2006 Capital Access Index, Mexico ranks a dismal 43rd with regard to capital access out of 122 countries studied. To compare, the U.S., the world's top job-creating developed country, ranks No. 4, and Hong Kong, Asia's most vibrant, entrepreneurial hub, ranks No. 1.

Mexicans with drive, ambition and a willingness to take risks sneak across the border to the U.S. But they don't just come for jobs. They also come for the capital. When these immigrants arrive they don't just sell their labor, many start small businesses in the food, construction, maintenance and landscaping trades. When those businesses are launched, illegal Mexican immigrants hire other illegal Mexican immigrants. A great deal of Mexico's job creation takes place inside the U.S.

Mexico's financial and economic structures fail at providing entrepreneurs with the capital they need to create jobs. The economy is too concentrated, with nearly half of it controlled by a single family -- that of the billionaire Carlos Slim. A handful of other families own the bulk of Mexico's remaining wealth. Mexico's legal and business structures effectively fence off from competition whole sectors of the economy. In telecommunications, petroleum and much of the real-estate and tourism sectors, real competition is restricted. Mexico could jumpstart its job-creation engine by opening these sectors of its economy to real competition.

Mexico's oil wealth is another job-creator's nightmare. It is controlled by a single government-owned company, Pemex. Even with today's high oil prices, Pemex is the world's most heavily indebted oil company and one of the least efficient producers. Pemex -- whose monopoly status is protected by the Mexican constitution -- is so bogged down by bureaucracy, conflicting interests, political meddling and sweetheart union deals, that it has failed to find any new oil reserves in years. It is not that new oil reserves don't exist. Last year, Chevron found huge deposits in the U.S.-portion of the Gulf of Mexico. The problem with Pemex is that it isn't really looking for oil. If Mexico's oil industry were opened up to competition, even within the confines of its constitution, not only would more oil be found, more jobs would be created.

Mexico's financial system is to entrepreneurship what sharks are to a swimmer's beach. Banking, which is conservative and risk-averse, dominates Mexico's financial system, accounting for about 55% of all financial assets, compared with just 24% of all financial assets in the U.S. In the U.S., the capital markets and a diverse array of funds provide most of the capital. If that weren't enough, Mexico's top three banks control 60% of all banking assets. If entrepreneurs are turned down by the first bank, they really have only two more places to apply. For a country its size, Mexico's stock and bond markets are hugely underdeveloped when measured as a percentage of GDP.

Household credit is also scarce in Mexico and amounts to only about 5% of GDP, versus 65% in the U.S. Without access to credit, Mexico's consumer and retail sectors have not grown sufficiently. These sectors could be vibrant job-creation engines if Mexicans had wider access to credit.

But perhaps most strikingly, Mexico has not yet succeeded in building a robust residential mortgage market. Whereas the U.S. has $8.2 trillion outstanding in residential mortgages, Mexico, with a population a third the size of U.S., has just $47 billion outstanding. Not only that, more than half of Mexico's homes are self-built and substandard. As a result, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimates Mexico has a housing deficit of five million units. If mortgages were cheap and plentiful -- through the increased use of mortgage securitization tools, for example -- the epicenter of demand for Mexico's trade- and craftsmen would not be California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. It would be in Mexico.

Solving the immigration problem will not happen unless Mexico solves its job-creation problem. To do that, Mexico needs to modernize and open up to competition its antiquated and concentrated economic and financial systems. For decades, Mexico has argued that if it were to do so, America would take over. It's time to dispel that urban myth with a little reality. If Mexico can succeed in providing capital to risk-taking Mexicans, they will create jobs in Mexico, not just in the U.S.

Mr. Kurtzman, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute, is co-author of the forthcoming book, "Global Edge: Using the Opacity Index to Manage the Risk of Cross-border Business" (Harvard Business School Press).
28770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The New Race for the Arctic: on: August 03, 2007, 10:22:09 AM
 New Race for the Arctic
August 3, 2007; Page A8

Melting polar ice and the high cost of energy are creating a new battleground at the top of the world. Yesterday a Russian mini-sub released a capsule containing a Russian flag onto the seabed at the North Pole. This was the climax of a research expedition whose purpose is to support Russia's claim to what could be billions of tons of oil and gas reserves in an area of the Arctic twice the size of France. Russia has already been setting up new military and civilian posts, such as in the Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa archipelago in the northeastern Barents Sea.

Meanwhile, Canada has reasserted its claim over the melting Northwest Passage, a portion of the Arctic Ocean linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its recent announcement that it will build patrol vessels in order to establish sovereignty over the passage had a belligerent tone uncharacteristic of our peaceful neighbor.

The United States has long resisted both claims. The international legal arguments are esoteric, but boiled down they amount to this: Russia's claim is based on the principle that a coastal nation controls the mineral resources of its continental shelf, and the as-yet unproved assertion, which the U.S. disputes, that the continental shelf abutting Russian territory extends deep into the Arctic. Canada argues that the straits composing the Northwest Passage amount to inland seas, and therefore are subject to Canadian sovereignty, just as the U.S. controls Lake Michigan. The U.S. replies that these straits are part of the high seas, and thus anyone can enter them without obtaining Canada's consent.

Power, not international law, will settle the issue. Indeed, international law recognizes this fact by making title dependent on a nation's ability to exert control over an area. That is why Russia is sending ships into the Arctic, and why Canada is saying that it will patrol the Northwest Passage. As long as such expressions of power are credible, other nations, disadvantaged by distance, will generally acquiesce and sovereignty will be extended accordingly.

Russia's expression of power is credible; Canada's is not. Canada cannot prevent other countries from sending ships up the Northwest Passage, as the U.S. has demonstrated from time to time for just this purpose. The melting of the Northwest Passage will significantly shorten the sea route between oceans, as well as open up access to energy resources. The U.S. does not want Canada to reap all the benefits of control of the passage, but this is a side show. The real threat is the Russian bear, not the Canadian beaver.

The world is divided into two types of space: areas controlled by states and areas that are uncontrolled. Oceans are mostly uncontrolled, with the significant exception of territorial seas, where states have been able to exert some control with naval resources. International law has long recognized states' control over their coastal seas (which extend about 12 miles), which means they can block and regulate foreign shipping in those areas. The high seas, however, are free to all.

The major naval powers have always advanced the principle of freedom of the seas for the simple reason that their naval forces dominate them. But "commons" are subject to overexploitation, and overfishing has been the predictable consequence of uncontrolled oceans. Predictable and unavoidable: If no one can control the oceans, then the problem cannot be solved by giving a country nominal title to them.

Where a state can exert control, it is best for it to do so, because this avoids the commons problem. It is in the world's interest for Canada to control the Northwest Passage, even if it will profit and has the formal power to keep the rest of the world out. Canada has an interest in protecting the passage and exploiting its resources, which the rest of the world can purchase. But given its military weakness, Canada cannot have this control without the support of the U.S.

Russia's claims present a different case. It is re-emerging as a global troublemaker, and its claims are far more ambitious than Canada's. At some point, Russia, the U.S. and other countries will carve up the Arctic into mutually exclusive economic zones. Russia is positioning itself to take the lion's share. Russia has major advantages over Canada and the U.S. in the battle over the Arctic. Control over the seas is determined by two things: power and propinquity. With respect to the Arctic, Russia has both. The U.S. has power but not, for the most part, propinquity; Canada has propinquity but not power. As long as the U.S. and Canada are at loggerheads over the Northwest Passage, they will have trouble resisting Russia's claims to the rest of the Arctic.

If the U.S. supports Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage, in return for some sort of guarantee of U.S. military and civilian access, the two countries will strengthen their position vis-à-vis Russia. As the world heats up, the two countries need to prepare themselves for the re-emergence of old rivalries, and in the battle over control of the Arctic, the U.S. and Canada are natural allies.

Mr. Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago, is co-author of "The Limits of International Law" (Oxford University Press, 2005).
28771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 03, 2007, 09:42:30 AM
'Get Smart' in Washington
Democrats pretend to be serious about intelligence.

Friday, August 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Imagine this scenario: U.S. intelligence against al Qaeda has declined by two-thirds because of court restrictions, and President Hillary Rodham Clinton is asking Congress to fix the problem. But Senate Republicans refuse to cooperate until the White House turns over executive branch documents, and because they won't protect phone companies from lawsuits for cooperating on the wiretaps.

Do you think President Clinton would be denouncing Congress? Or that there might be a political uproar? Or that the press corps would assail Republicans for endangering national security?

Yet this is precisely what is now happening in Washington--albeit with the political party roles reversed--and almost nobody seems to care. President Bush is mum while his aides beg Congress to do something, and Democrats claim they want to help but keep adding legal roadblocks that would continue to limit U.S. intelligence. The only person showing any alarm is Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, but he's in the minority and so is ignored by the press.

As we reported last week, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell has been working behind the scenes for weeks to restore what even Democrats now concede is declining U.S. ability to eavesdrop on terrorists abroad. The phone companies have limited their cooperation due to the risk of lawsuits following the New York Times exposure of the wiretap program in 2005.

Mr. Bush's January decision to subject these wiretaps to the supervision of the special FISA court has eroded intelligence even further. In many cases, the National Security Agency now needs a warrant to tap even foreign-to-foreign contacts that happen to be routed through U.S. telephone switches. No wonder Osama bin Laden thinks America is a "weak horse." Our politicians are behaving with all the gravitas of Don Adams listening to the phone in his shoe in "Get Smart."
Democrats are the worst actors here because they won't even agree to mere six-month legal fix before they leave town this weekend for their August vacation. The White House has already compromised far too much and is only asking for two main temporary changes: Allow foreign-to-foreign calls to be tapped without a warrant. And if Democrats won't give the phone companies retroactive liability protection, then at least give them prospective immunity so they can cooperate from now on.

But even this is proving to be too much for Democratic leaders, who are apparently worried more about than they are about another intelligence failure. They say they want to fix the foreign-to-foreign problem. But they're worried that a suspected foreign terrorist might call someone in the U.S., either a citizen or permanent resident, and so they have been insisting that any wiretap on that terrorist's communications require a warrant from the FISA court.

Thus if Ayman al-Zawahiri calls a terror cell in Detroit to give the green light for an operation, the NSA had better get a warrant before it listens in. Warrants for wiretaps on such calls originating overseas have never been required on FISA, for the obvious reason that foreign enemies don't deserve the same due process protections as U.S. citizens. What Democrats are seeking is an entirely new restriction on the executive branch's ability to gather intelligence during wartime.

By our deadline yesterday evening, Democrats were also still insisting on limiting warrantless wiretaps to known "foreign terrorists." Admiral McConnell, the DNI, wants to be able to listen in to the larger universe of "foreign targets" as well, because America's enemies include state actors and others who may not be terrorists or linked to al Qaeda. In other words, Democrats want the NSA to get a warrant even to listen to, say, North Korean spies.

And all of this, keep in mind, would only be for a six-month fix. If Mr. Bush wants a permanent fix for the next President, the White House would still have to deal with Democratic demands for documents related to the origins of the warrantless wiretap program after 9/11. Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy has been blocking any wiretap compromise until the White House discloses documents that may well be protected under executive privilege. Mr. Leahy's purpose isn't to sort out the right policy but to score partisan points by claiming the Bush Administration has broken the law. Never mind that every President has claimed the Constitutional power to wiretap our enemies without a warrant in the name of national security.
This episode is most distressing for what it reveals about the unseriousness of our political class. Democrats so loathe the Bush Administration that they are willing to throw away one of our best weapons in the war against al Qaeda. It's long past time the President stopped pleading with Congress, and started explaining this outrage to the American people.

28772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 03, 2007, 09:36:23 AM
On His Armor
A refugee to our shores finds a way to protect our soldiers.

Friday, August 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It's not every day that you get to take a heavy armor panel into the family backyard and blast away at it with a shotgun. But on this occasion, I was doing my brother-in-law David Warren a favor. We were testing a new kind of armor he developed that he hoped would protect American soldiers. That day three years ago was among the first of many tests--bringing him from a workshop in his garage to the Pentagon and eventually to the front lines in Iraq.

Something of an American success story, David arrived in this country in 1975, an 8-year-old refugee from Vietnam. His father, a U.S. soldier, disappeared and was likely killed in action during the war. His mother couldn't manage to fend for her family when the communists took control of the country; so David lived on the streets in Saigon for a while before, thanks to a little divine intervention, he ended up on a flight that eventually took him to New York. He was adopted by an American family and grew up on a farm in the Hudson Valley. When he graduated from high school, he joined the Marines. And during his four-year stint, he served very briefly in the Persian Gulf just before the liberation of Kuwait.

David always liked to tinker. He used to make a good living at a security company that designed surveillance systems, and he held nearly a half-dozen patents. But none for armor.

After reading a story I had published on this Web site and a later one in The Wall Street Journal about U.S. soldiers in Iraq not receiving all the armor they needed to shield themselves from insurgent attacks, he changed course. Why, he asked me, was the U.S. military unable to move armor to the front lines fast enough? I explained that it wasn't just the bureaucratic snafus in Washington that held up the armor plating. It was also the manufacturing bottlenecks that made it difficult to quickly fabricate and ship hardened steel and other materials used for armor.
And so David decided to design a new kind of armor that would be lighter than steel and easier to produce. Part of him, he tells me, was drawn to the difficulty of it. "You challenged me to stop a bullet," he'd say on several occasions over the next few years.

But there was another reason as well. As a refugee and a former Marine, he empathized with both the American soldiers and the Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire. He saw the fight in Iraq as more than toppling a dictator. He saw it as a return of the U.S. to the kind of war that it had abandoned in Southeast Asia. And this was his opportunity to turn his talents to the aid of a country that had taken him in.

"It all really leads up to this," he told me. So David took a steep cut in pay and pulled away from his security business--though the company kept him on the payroll to support his venture. He played around with several different types of metals and other substances. He found a financial backer and a plastics manufacturer, Wayne Schaeffer, who helped him work on the armor designs. And, within a few months, I found myself in David's backyard about to test his home-made product.

To my amazement, and maybe David's too, the panel withstood the shotgun blast. It also withstood a shot from a high-powered rifle. Seeing his armor's success, David sold the rights to one of his patents to raise more funds. Eventually, he got to show his armor to the folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), who put it through several rounds of tests, including a few bomb explosions. After David made more improvements, he was contacted by some soldiers in Iraq who had heard about his armor and wanted to put it on their vehicles.

Late last year, David went to Baghdad. He spent several days with soldiers to see, firsthand, what they needed. In the coming months he expects to send large panels of his armor to Iraq, where they will be bolted onto military vehicles. If all goes according to plan, he'll get orders for more panels, which he and his partners will build in a factory they're setting up in Kingston, N.Y.
During the course of the past three years, as David worked his way through several prototypes, he received plenty of help. Nearly every manufacturer he approached--about a dozen--has donated time or materials; sometimes they moved him to the top of their order lists. Each, it seems, feels he owes it to the men and women fighting to protect our way of life. But maybe David feels it a little more.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of
28773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 03, 2007, 09:11:34 AM
Woof Tom:

When it comes to politics, I am no "GM"  cheesy

1) "Would you just say that any Islamist that opposes us Is automaticly A Islamofascist?"

I certainly would NOT say that any Muslim that opposes us is a Islamofascist, but note that the term "Islamist" is used by many to mean something quite similar to the intended meaning of IF.

2)  SH, to the extent that anything can be attributed to him, was a Baathist-- a thoroughly secular ideology

3) "Can an Iraqi fight Americans in his back yard simply because he dosen't want a Occupying force in his home, without being a Islamo?"

Sure-- and the motivation can be mixed in with his being a Sunni Baathist fearful of losing the position he held under SH.  And, having experienced AQ and the other IFs, he now increasingly is working WITH the US to get rid of the fcukers.  Again, I encourage you to read Michael Yon's reports-- see the thread on this forum dedicated to him.

4) "Of the list above which ones are we currently and directly engaging in combat?"

a) In Iraq:  Saudi financed Wahhabis/Al Qaeda.  General Petraeus said recently that “al-Qa’ida is carrying out the bulk of the sensational attacks, the suicide car-bomb attacks, suicide-vest attacks, and so forth... and all of the individuals in the intelligence community, General [Stanley] McChrystal, the head of our Joint Special Operations Command, all of us feel that the central front of al-Qa’ida’s terror war is focused on Iraq.”
b) In Iraq:  Iranian backed forces-- I would define the Iranian govt. as IF
c) In Afg/Pak:  AQ
d) In Afg/Pak:  the Taliban

There are others, but this list will suffice for the purposes here.

I'm not familiar with the Jama'atis.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood does not meet the criterion of resorting to violence, but it most certainly seeks a theocratic state and Sharia-- which, in that government is force, it seeks to acquire force legally.  In the American context I would define any group seeking a theocratic state and Sharia as seditious.

5) "Care to name a Islamofascist that we are actually fighting?"    Well, I'm not sure we have the name of the late, unlamented Zarqawi's replacement, but he would be a pretty good example.   

As we both know well, there are many players in Iraq-- but the IFs most certainly are some of them.  The AQ have sedulously worked in the most despicable manner to create a religious civil war-- similary the IF Iranian government.  But for their efforts, IMHO the situation in Iraq would be quite different.

6) "For clarification purposes there wasn't so much a question of "Islamofascism" more a question of how do you identify them among the 100's of millions of Muslims.....Or do we just "kill them all and let god sort em out"

For clarification purposes, it is a mystery to me that you would associate me with a "Kill them all and let God sort 'em out" mindset. 

The difficulties of identification of IFs when the IFs are hiding are considerable, especially in that a goodly percentage of the Muslim population seems unwilling to point them out.  Whether this is due to sympathy or intimidation can be very hard to discern.  When they are shouting "Allahu Akbar" while decapitating civilian hostages it would be easier-- but for the masks they always seem to be wearing.  When they are blowing up innocent people in market places in the name of Allah, it would be easier-- but for the fact that they are vaporized.

Have I answered your questions?


28774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Unorganized Militia on: August 03, 2007, 08:25:48 AM

You have some really good finds.  Thanks for sharing them here.

28775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: August 03, 2007, 08:24:34 AM

I suspect this piece is not too far off the mark in several respects.

28776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 03, 2007, 08:22:54 AM
It is a mystery to me too.
28777  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Training too much? on: August 02, 2007, 10:01:22 PM
Also worth noting is that Jerry Robinson of "The 7 Minute Rotator Cuff Solution" feels that a goodly percentage of the population should avoid upright rows period.  Something about the bones in many people having a shape that makes this movement rub on a narrow slender muscle and irritate it so as to lead to scar tissue.
28778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: August 02, 2007, 08:55:55 AM
Second post of the morning:

The Health Care Lies of Paul Krugman
By Stuart Browning, Co-Director of Dead Meat
January 4, 2006
Although I'm not an official member of the Krugman Truth Squad, New York Times editorial page columnist Paul Krugman churns out enough mendacity and innuendo to keep a truth army occupied - so I'm just getting around to doing my part in response to his November 7 column[1] in which he declares national health insurance the "obvious solution" to the problems in our health care system. Obvious, that is, if you accept Krugman's "facts" at face value:

Let's start with the fact that America's health care system spends more, for worse results, than that of any other advanced country.
In 2002 the United States spent $5,267 per person on health care. Canada spent $2,931; Germany spent $2,817; Britain spent only $2,160. Yet the United States has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than any of these countries.

What Krugman doesn't say is that its easy to hold down health care costs if you do what Canada does: withhold medical treatment from sick and injured people. The U.S health care system could save billions of dollars if we drastically reduced the number of doctors, hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical devices and diagnostic machines available. If we followed Canada's lead, we would severely limit each surgeon's allotted hours in the operating room so that they couldn't perform too many surgeries. Americans would wait months and years for critical medical tests and treatments - many would suffer greatly, become crippled, addicted to painkillers, go blind or die while waiting - however, the country would spend a lot less money on health care.

Paying More For Less?

For heart disease, cancer or any other serious health condition, there's no better place to be than the United States where more modern medical technology and expertise are available and accessible than anywhere else in the world. However, Krugman insists that the U.S is paying more than other countries and getting less health care as evidenced by 1) lower life expectancies and 2) higher infant mortality rates.

There are many factors that determine life expectancy averages and infant mortality rates which are beyond the control of the health care system. These include ethnicity, genetics, lifestyle, environment, education and cultural attitudes. In one column[2], Krugman does attempt to inoculate himself with some well-chosen weasel words:

It would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that this poor performance is entirely the result of a defective health care system; social factors, notably America's high poverty rate, surely play a role. Still, it seems puzzling that we spend so much, with so little return.
Well, yes "it would be wrong to jump to this conclusion" - however that's precisely what Krugman does - and what's really "puzzling" is that Krugman never offers any other proof for his assertion that we pay more and get less. In column after column, he monotonously cites these two statistics as clear evidence of the failings of American health care without offering any argument that an alternate health care financing method would make any improvement in these areas.

Life Expectancy Averages

While it may seem counterintuitive, there is very little correlation between the quality of a health care system and life expectancy averages. Many people die before encountering the health care system. Others would die prematurely regardless of the system - while some would live to a ripe old age anyway. Blacks have shorter life expectancies than whites, hispanics or asians. The black population of Canada is numerically insignificant while black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population. Japanese females have the longest life-spans of all - regardless of whether they live in Japan or in America - i.e. regardless of the health care system they live under[3]. Thus, a good way for a country to raise the life expectancy average would be to import females of Japanese descent!

Instead of basing broad conclusions about the quality of the U.S. health care system on unreliable indicators - as Krugman does - why not judge our system by how well it prevents deaths from cancer, heart disease and other conditions that modern medicine can actually treat? Well, because the U.S. is better at these things than other nations - and that's not part of Krugman's message.

Consider breast cancer. In the U.S., the mortality ratio - the percentage of people with the disease who die from it - is 25%. The breast cancer mortality ratios for Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand are 28%, 46% and 46%, respectively[4]. The U.S. prostate cancer mortality ratio is only 19%. In Canada, its 25%, in France, its 49% - and in the U.K., over half - 57% - of men diagnosed with prostate cancer die from it[5]!

Infant Mortality Rates

The primary reason that the U.S has higher infant mortality rates than other industrialized nations is that we experience a higher incidence of low-birth-weight babies due to demographic factors beyond the control of doctors and hospitals[6]:

Several factors are known to increase the likelihood of low-birth-weight babies, but the most significant is race. African American women deliver very small babies at twice the rate of white American women, This is true even when controlling for the mother's age, income and education. It is even true holding constant the number of prenatal medical visits. Why some ethnic groups have disproportionate numbers of low-birth-rate babies is not fully understood.
Krugman's Choice: A "Single-Payer" Model

So which country's health care system does Krugman recommend [7] as a model for our own?

You guessed it:

Does this mean that the American way is wrong, and that we should switch to a Canadian-style single-payer system? Well, yes.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are suffering and waiting long periods of time for medical care that, for the most part, is quickly available in the U.S. The Canadian press consistently reports outrageous stories detailing the callousness and inhumanity of a system which intentionally limits supply and rations health care to its citizens. Krugman, however, merely glosses over this inconvenient fact[8]:

Yes, Canada also has waiting lists, but they're much shorter than Britain's -- and Canadians overwhelmingly prefer their system to ours.
Its hard to imagine that long-suffering Canadians would find solace in the notion that British citizens are suffering even more under their thoroughly socialized medical system (which rations care in much the same way as Canada) - and that this would somehow justify similar waits in the U.S.
Similarly, Krugman's assertion that Canadians prefer their system to ours is laughable. Most Canadians have no idea how the U.S. health care system works. They've been fed a steady diet of Anti-American propaganda for more than twenty years to the point that there's a perception among many that poor and lower-middle-class Americans are literally dying in the streets after have been denied health care. Younger and healthier Canadians - who have never been really sick - boast of their "free" national health insurance and love the perception that they are getting something at someone else's expense. Many of them change their tune later in life when they find themselves on painfully long wait lists for diagnostic tests or surgery - while others have merely become accustomed to the idea that waiting months for an MRI or even years for orthopedic surgery is a normal feature of any health care system. Since they have little knowledge of the American system, they have nothing else to compare their experiences to.

The Trojan Horse

Under the government-run health care system that Krugman advocates, Americans would suffer and die while waiting for rationed health care just as the Canadians and the British do. By making health care "free" at the point of delivery and making government the payer for all medical transactions, the advocates of a "single-payer" system would reduce both the quantity and the quality of health care in this country - for everyone.

Its therefore, reasonable to ask if Krugman and his ilk have motivations other than promoting better and more available health care. Here's a hint[9]:

In the long run, medical progress may force us to make a harsh choice: if we don't want to become a society in which the rich get life-saving medical treatment and the rest of us don't, we'll have to pay much higher taxes.
Apart from the patent dishonesty of the implication that only the rich get life-saving treatment in the U.S. - Krugman is finally getting to the point. By establishing the notion that everyone has an unlimited "right" to health care, the left has the perfect trojan horse to effect confiscation of private wealth in this country on a large scale.

[1] Pride, Prejudice, Insurance (registration required), Paul Krugman, New York Times, November 7, 2005 (Also, available without registration here)

[2] The Medical Money Pit (registration required), Paul Krugman, New York Times, April 15, 2005 (Also, available without registration here)

[3] Lives At Risk: Single-Payer National Health Insurance Around the World, John C. Goodman, Gerald L. Musgrave, & Devon M. Herrick, Roman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004, page 51

[4] Goodman, Musgrave & Herrick, page 72

[5] Goodman, Musgrave & Herrick, page 73

[6] Goodman, Musgrave & Herrick, page 53

[7] America's Failing Health (registration required), Paul Krugman, New York Times, August 27, 2004 (Also, available without registration here)

[8] The Medical Money Pit, Paul Krugman, New York Times, April 15, 2005

[9] Ailing Health Care (registration required), Paul Krugman, New York Times, April 11, 2005 (Also, available without registration here)

© Copyright 2006 Stuart Browning, All Rights Reserved
28779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: August 02, 2007, 07:12:16 AM
I use an "Urgent Care" clinic in my neighborhood.  No appointment is necessary, the doctors are friendly and competent, and the prices far distinctly lower.  This from today's WSJ
Health Care When You Want It
August 2, 2007; Page A11

Much of the recent debate about how to reform our inefficient, two trillion-dollar health-care system has revolved around who should pay, but the problem will not be fixed until we find ways to increase access and reduce costs that have been rising for many years at more than twice the rate of inflation.

One of the most promising developments is the emergence of retail-based "convenient care" clinics that are providing consumers with easier access to high-quality, routine health care at affordable prices. There are about 400 such clinics today and could be several thousand more in the next few years, but their growth is being threatened by burdensome regulations in some states and opposition from some corners of organized medicine.

Convenient care clinics are small health-care facilities with new brand names like RediClinic, MinuteClinic, and Take Care Health Clinics. Most are located in high-traffic retail outlets with pharmacies, such as Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreen stores. Regional health-care systems have also opened retail-based clinics in their service areas, either directly or in partnerships with independent operators. These clinics generally are staffed by certified nurse practitioners who diagnose, treat and prescribe medications for a limited set of common ailments, such as strep throat and ear infections. They also administer health screenings, medical tests, immunizations, basic physical exams and other preventive care.

Convenient care clinics have been embraced by consumers, who give them consistently high marks for patient satisfaction: 97% of the more than 4,000 RediClinic patients surveyed this year said they would recommend RediClinic to their relatives and friends. This is because the clinics are delivering something that is all too rare in our system -- convenient and affordable health care.

The quality of care at convenient care clinics stems from their use of nationally certified nurse practitioners, who are registered nurses with master's degrees or comparable advanced training. Research over the past 30 years has consistently shown that the primary care provided by nurse practitioners is comparable in quality to that provided by physicians, though nurse practitioners are still required to collaborate with local physicians in most states.

Patients who have conditions that are outside of convenient care clinics' limited scope of practice, or who need ongoing care, are referred to local physicians, and nurse practitioners use evidence-based treatment protocols and electronic medical-record systems to standardize care and facilitate continuity of care when other clinicians are involved. According to a recent study conducted by the RAND Corporation, Americans receive evidence-based care only 55% of the time at conventional health-care delivery outlets. MinuteClinic's recent analysis of 58,000 sore-throat cases seen at their clinics showed that the diagnosis and treatment conformed to evidence-based guidelines 99.15% of the time.

Convenience is assured through the location of the sites and the fact that they are open seven days a week, including extended hours on weekdays. No appointments are necessary, and visits take only about 15 minutes due to the clinics' limited set of services. The clinics' location in stores with pharmacies provides additional convenience because patients can go across the aisle to get their prescriptions filled rather than having to make separate trips for this purpose.

Treatment for most common ailments ranges from $40 to $70 and preventive services start as low as $15, significantly less than what most physicians, urgent care clinics or emergency rooms charge. Indeed, research shows that as many as 50% of the people who seek care at overburdened emergency rooms could be treated much less expensively in convenient care clinics. Prices are prominently displayed so patients know what they will pay before they are treated, and visits are covered by a growing number of insurance plans, including Medicare.

Applicable regulations vary by state. In some states they are already compatible with the goals of convenient care clinics to increase health-care access and affordability, or there are legislative efforts underway to make them more so. In other states, however, regulations discourage convenient care growth. They may prohibit the "corporate practice of medicine," which prevents non-professional operators from employing nurse practitioners or owning equity in the clinics, or unreasonably restrict the number of nurse practitioners that can be supervised by a physician.

In Texas, for example, a physician can supervise a maximum of only three nurse practitioners and the physician has to be on-site for 20% of the time a clinic is open, even though he or she is not treating patients. This needlessly increases the clinics' cost structure, which creates higher prices for consumers and third-party payers. Moreover, it unproductively ties up physicians who are in short supply and could be attending to patients with more serious conditions.

Although the medical community was suspicious of convenient care in the beginning, many physicians and professional organizations changed their view when they saw how rapidly consumers embraced the concept and how operators provide high-quality care within a limited scope of practice, treat many patients who do not have established physician relationships (an estimated 30% of all convenient care patients to date), and refer many others. The American Academy of Family Physicians, which represents more than 94,000 family practitioners, recognized that convenient care clinics were filling a need. Rather than opposing the clinics, it published standards of care that it suggested convenient care operators should follow. Operators gladly complied because they had been meeting or exceeding these standards. The Convenient Care Association, which represents more than 20 of the largest operators, subsequently published more stringent standards that their members are now required to meet.

Some physician organizations, however, including ones in Illinois and Massachusetts, are pushing for new regulations that would impede the growth of convenient care clinics through expensive permitting requirements (which physician practices do not have to face), further limitations on the number of nurse practitioners that an individual physician can supervise, and prohibitions against advertising that compares the fees of convenient care clinics with those of physicians. This is exactly the kind of price transparency our health-care system needs. In addition, the American Medical Association passed resolutions at its recent annual meeting that push for government intervention, legislation and other measures that could curtail the expansion of convenient care clinics.

Opposition to convenient care from some parts of the medical community is made under the pretext of wanting to ensure quality and continuity of care, which is a legitimate but thus far unfounded concern. But the opposition is also about wanting to maintain the status quo even in the face of rapidly escalating costs and a growing shortage of primary-care physicians.

While resistance to disruptive change is understandable, it does not diminish the fact that the status quo in health care is not working for millions of consumers and that it is economically unsustainable even if it were. Instead of opposing convenient care, physicians should be working collaboratively with operators -- as many physicians are today -- to fill the critical need that all Americans share for easier access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Mr. Golinkin is the president and CEO of RediClinic, LLC, one of the nation's largest convenient care providers, and is a director and co-founder of the Convenient Care Association
28780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 02, 2007, 06:52:08 AM
The timing of the entry of "Islamofascism" could not have been better for me.  On the DBMAAssn forum someone was taking me to task for my use of the term so in addition to the article on this term which I posted earlier in this thread it was quite perfect for me to quote the OED smiley
28781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers: Glenn Sacks on: August 01, 2007, 03:30:45 PM

Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers
By Jeffery M. Leving and Glenn Sacks
San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/07

In the heartbreaking Melinda Smith case, a father and daughter were needlessly separated by the foster care system for over a decade. Last week, Los Angeles County settled a lawsuit over the case for an undisclosed sum. Yet a recent Urban Institute study found that the Smith case typifies the way the foster care system harms children by disregarding the loving bonds they share with their fathers.

Smith was born to an unwed couple in 1988. Her father, Thomas Marion Smith, a former Marine and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, saw Melinda often and paid child support. When the girl was four, her mother abruptly moved without leaving a forwarding address. Two years later, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services found that Melinda’s mother was abusing her. Though the social worker for the case noted in the file that Thomas was the father, he was never contacted, and his then 6-year-old daughter was placed in the foster care system.

Thomas--whose fitness as a father was never impugned nor legally questioned--continued to receive and pay his child support bills. Authorities refused to disclose his daughter’s whereabouts, and didn’t even inform him that his daughter had been taken by the County. Smith employed private investigators and attorneys to try to find Melinda and secure visitation rights, but he eventually ran out of money.

Rather than allowing Smith to raise his own daughter, the system shuttled Melinda through seven different foster care placements. An understandably angry child, her outbursts led authorities to house her in a residential treatment center alongside older children convicted of criminal activity—when she was only seven years old.

Melinda says that during this period she was told that her father was a “deadbeat dad” who had abandoned her. When Melinda was 16, she told an investigating social worker that the “most important thing” for her was to find her dad. Moved by her story, the social worker began searching for Melinda’s father--and found him in one day. In 2005, Thomas and Melinda were finally reunited.

Unfortunately, the Smith case is no aberration. When a mother and father are divorced or separated, and a child welfare agency removes the children from the mother’s home for abuse or neglect, an offer of placement to the father, barring unfitness, should be automatic. Yet in the report What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies’ Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers, the Urban Institute presents a shocking finding: when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers only 15% of the time.

Fathers can offer their children a sense of permanence, security and emotional support that a foster family (or a succession of foster care placements) cannot provide. Many foster children are pushed out of their homes and into a tenuous existence when they turn 18 and the foster parents no longer receive state subsidies. Fathers could be a valuable source of long-term resources and sponsorship for these young adults.

Child welfare agencies often operate on the assumption that the fathers of the children they’ve taken away from their mothers are, like the mothers, unfit or uninterested in parenting. Yet many of these men are loving fathers who have been forced out of their children’s lives by mothers who denied visitation, moved away and/or hid the children, or employed spurious abuse charges.

What About the Dads? makes it clear that many child welfare workers treat fathers as an afterthought. The report found that even when a caseworker had been in contact with a child’s father, the caseworker was still five times less likely to know basic information about the father than about the mother. Just as with Thomas Smith, 20% of the fathers whose identity and location were known by the child welfare agencies from the opening of the case were never even contacted.

These policies are harmful and misguided. One shudders to think how many little Melinda Smiths are lost in the foster care system right now—being raised by strangers, and denied their father’s love.

This column first appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune (7/11/07).

28782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 01, 2007, 12:52:18 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Beyond Borders

Iraq really looks like a mess.

Factions within Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki's party are challenging his position, to the point that his Shiite allies are even reaching out to rival Sunni and Kurdish parties in an effort to depose him. Some Shia in the south -- in a move unrelated to al-Maliki's problems -- have formed a "semi-official" autonomous government that will "at the present time" continue to follow the Iraqi Constitution. Washington is leaking reports that a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq in order to root out Kurdish insurgents is nearly inevitable. And the chief of staff of Iraq's armed forces, Gen. Babaker Zibari, tendered his resignation on Tuesday in protest of what he called consistent political interference in his duties.

Normally, when a country faces a rebellion against its prime minister, the formation of a de facto separatist government, the threat of invasion and resignation of its military chief -- simultaneously, no less -- Stratfor considers it a failed state. But Iraq is a bit of a different animal (and has been a failed state for years) so our assessment is different.

Believe it or not, all of this is actually good news.

Iraq's future is not going to be settled by Iraq's various Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish factions unless outside actors choose to empower them (and even that would be no small task). The locals are all too weak, too fractured and too fratricidal to be able to establish internal control without a huge amount of outside help -- and this assessment extends to the "national" government of al-Maliki as well.

Which means that if Iraq is to have a future, it will be determined either by the independent or collaborative actions of the major outside powers -- the United States and Iran. For the past five years those two states have been at odds over Iraq, but over the past several months fleeting clandestine negotiations have turned public and become substantial. Task lists have been drawn up and implemented, with benchmarks established to demonstrate trust and progress.

Among those tasks and benchmarks is achieving the buy-in of the various Iraqi factions -- by force if necessary -- with the Iranians responsible for the Shia and the Americans responsible for the Sunnis and Kurds. But not everyone likes what Tehran and Washington are cooking up -- and this leads to various, shall we say, objections. Some powers object by challenging the prime minister, others by threatening secession, yet others by backing Kurdish militants or interfering with military operations. The jihadists object by blowing up cheering soccer fans.

Chaos in Iraq is to be expected -- not because it is a failed state (although it is) but because everything is up in the air and a new political and military reality is being imposed by outsiders. Rebellion, violence, institutional failure and confusion are all natural byproducts.

Which means that "progress" -- such as it is in Iraq -- is now not only largely out of the hands of the Iraqis, but also largely outside of Iraq itself. The country's future no longer can be ascertained by reading the local smoke signals, but only by looking at the wider region. It is not so important that some southern Iraq Shia are threatening to break away, but it is critical that the United States is dumping a few tens of billion of dollars in weapons on the region's Sunni states in order to ensure their agreement in Iraq. It is now a side note that the Kurds might shelter Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels from Turkey, and far more critical that Washington might give Ankara a green light to invade northern Iraq to root out the PKK in order to demonstrate to Iran that the United States still has some cards to play.
28783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: August 01, 2007, 09:15:08 AM
A new dispatch is posted:  "Bread and a Circus."
I'll be on the Dennis Miller show live in few hours.  The time for the show is 1015 EST.  Please click here to visit Dennis' site.  The man is hilarious.
I'm taking a quick break from the war and am in Singapore.  They sincerely like Americans here, and so I love Singapore. 
28784  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mid-West FMA training/seminars on: July 31, 2007, 11:36:34 PM
Woof Sgt Mac:

See this nearby thread: and feel free to email me at

28785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / In games, an insight into the Rules of Evolution: NYT on: July 31, 2007, 03:35:47 PM
In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution

Published: July 31, 2007
When Martin Nowak was in high school, his parents thought he would be a nice boy and become a doctor. But when he left for the University of Vienna, he abandoned medicine for something called biochemistry. As far as his parents could tell, it had something to do with yeast and fermenting. They became a little worried. When their son entered graduate school, they became even more worried. He announced that he was now studying games.

In the end, Dr. Nowak turned out all right. He is now the director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard. The games were actually versatile mathematical models that Dr. Nowak could use to make important discoveries in fields as varied as economics and cancer biology.

“Martin has a passion for taking informal ideas that people like me find theoretically important and framing them as mathematical models,” said Steven Pinker, a Harvard linguist who is collaborating with Dr. Nowak to study the evolution of language. “He allows our intuitions about what leads to what to be put to a test.”

On the surface, Dr. Nowak’s many projects may seem randomly scattered across the sciences. But there is an underlying theme to his work. He wants to understand one of the most puzzling yet fundamental features of life: cooperation.

When biologists speak of cooperation, they speak more broadly than the rest of us. Cooperation is what happens when someone or something gets a benefit because someone or something else pays a cost. The benefit can take many forms, like money or reproductive success. A friend takes off work to pick you up from the hospital. A sterile worker bee tends to eggs in a hive. Even the cells in the human body cooperate. Rather than reproducing as fast as it can, each cell respects the needs of the body, helping to form the heart, the lungs or other vital organs. Even the genes in a genome cooperate, to bring an organism to life.

In recent papers, Dr. Nowak has argued that cooperation is one of the three basic principles of evolution. The other two are mutation and selection. On their own, mutation and selection can transform a species, giving rise to new traits like limbs and eyes. But cooperation is essential for life to evolve to a new level of organization. Single-celled protozoa had to cooperate to give rise to the first multicellular animals. Humans had to cooperate for complex societies to emerge.

“We see this principle everywhere in evolution where interesting things are happening,” Dr. Nowak said.

While cooperation may be central to evolution, however, it poses questions that are not easy to answer. How can competing individuals start to cooperate for the greater good? And how do they continue to cooperate in the face of exploitation? To answer these questions, Dr. Nowak plays games.

His games are the intellectual descendants of a puzzle known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Imagine two prisoners are separately offered the same deal: if one of them testifies and the other doesn’t talk, the talker will go free and the holdout will go to jail for 10 years. If both refuse to talk, the prosecutor will only be able to put them in jail for six months. If each prisoner rats out the other, they will both get five-year sentences. Not knowing what the other prisoner will do, how should each one act?

The way the Prisoner’s Dilemma pits cooperation against defection distills an important feature of evolution. In any encounter between two members of the same species, each one may cooperate or defect. Certain species of bacteria, for example, spray out enzymes that break down food, which all the bacteria can then suck up. It costs energy to make these enzymes. If one of the microbes stops cooperating and does not make the enzymes, it can still enjoy the meal. It can gain a potential reproductive edge over bacteria that cooperate.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma may be abstract, but that’s why Dr. Nowak likes it. It helps him understand fundamental rules of evolution, just as Isaac Newton discovered that objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

“If you were obsessed with friction, you would have never discovered this law,” Dr. Nowak said. “In the same sense, I try to get rid of what is inessential to find the essential. Truth is simple.”

Dr. Nowak found his first clues to the origin of cooperation in graduate school, collaborating with his Ph.D. adviser, Karl Sigmund. They built a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma that captured more of the essence of how organisms behave and evolve.

In their game, an entire population of players enters a round-robin competition. The players are paired up randomly, and each one chooses whether to cooperate or defect. To make a choice, they can recall their past experiences with other individual players. Some players might use a strategy in which they had a 90-percent chance of cooperating with a player with whom they have cooperated in the past.

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The players get rewarded based on their choices. The most successful players get to reproduce. Each new player had a small chance of randomly mutating its strategy. If that strategy turned out to be more successful, it could dominate the population, wiping out its ancestors.

Dr. Nowak and Dr. Sigmund observed this tournament through millions of rounds. Often the winners used a strategy that Dr. Nowak called, “win-stay, lose-shift.” If they did well in the previous round, they did the same thing again. If they did not do so well, they shifted. Under some conditions, this strategy caused cooperation to become common among the players, despite the short-term payoff of defecting.

In order to study this new version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, Dr. Nowak had to develop new mathematical tools. It turned out that these tools also proved useful for studying cancer. Cancer and the Prisoner’s Dilemma may seem like apples and oranges, but Dr. Nowak sees an intimate connection between the two. “Cancer is a breakdown of cooperation,” he said.

Mutations sometimes arise in cells that cause them to replicate quickly, ignoring signals to stop. Some of their descendants acquire new mutations, allowing them to become even more successful as cancer cells. They evolve, in other words, into more successful defectors. “Cancer is an evolution you don’t want,” Dr. Nowak said.

To study cancer, however, Dr. Nowak had to give his models some structure. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the players usually just bump into each other randomly. In the human body, on the other hand, cells only interact with cells in their neighborhood.

A striking example of these neighborhoods can be found in the intestines, where the lining is organized into millions of tiny pockets. A single stem cell at the bottom of a pocket divides, and its daughter cells are pushed up the pocket walls. The cells that reach the top get stripped away.

Dr. Nowak adapted a branch of mathematics known as graph theory, which makes it possible to study networks, to analyze how cancer arises in these local neighborhoods. “Our tissue is actually organized to delay the onset of cancer,” he said.

Pockets of intestinal cells, for example, can only hold a few cell generations. That lowers the chances that any one will turn cancerous. All the cells in each pocket are descended from a single stem cell, so that there’s no competition between lineages to take over the pocket.

As Dr. Nowak developed this neighborhood model, he realized it would help him study human cooperation. “The reality is that I’m much more likely to interact with my friends, and they’re much more likely to interact with their friends,” Dr. Nowak said. “So it’s more like a network.”

Dr. Nowak and his colleagues found that when they put players into a network, the Prisoner’s Dilemma played out differently. Tight clusters of cooperators emerge, and defectors elsewhere in the network are not able to undermine their altruism. “Even if outside our network there are cheaters, we still help each other a lot,” Dr. Nowak said. That is not to say that cooperation always emerges. Dr. Nowak identified the conditions when it can arise with a simple equation: B/C>K. That is, cooperation will emerge if the benefit-to-cost (B/C) ratio of cooperation is greater than the average number of neighbors (K).

“It’s the simplest possible thing you could have expected, and it’s completely amazing,” he said.

Another boost for cooperation comes from reputations. When we decide whether to cooperate, we don’t just rely on our past experiences with that particular person. People can gain reputations that precede them. Dr. Nowak and his colleagues pioneered a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma in which players acquire reputations. They found that if reputations spread quickly enough, they could increase the chances of cooperation taking hold. Players were less likely to be fooled by defectors and more likely to benefit from cooperation.

In experiments conducted by other scientists with people and animals, Dr. Nowak’s mathematical models seem to fit. Reputation has a powerful effect on how people play games. People who gain a reputation for not cooperating tend to be shunned or punished by other players. Cooperative players get rewarded.

“You help because you know it gives you a reputation of a helpful person, who will be helped,” Dr. Nowak said. “You also look at others and help them according to whether they have helped.”

The subject of human cooperation is important not just to mathematical biologists like Dr. Nowak, but to many people involved in the current debate over religion and science. Some claim that it is unlikely that evolution could have produced humans’ sense of morality, the altruism of heroes and saints. “Selfless altruism presents a major challenge for the evolutionist,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, wrote in his 2006 book, “The Language of God.”

Dr. Nowak believes evolutionary biologists should study average behavior rather than a few extreme cases of altruism. “Saintly behavior is unfortunately not the norm,” Dr. Nowak said. “The current theory can certainly explain a population where some people act extremely altruistically.” That does not make Dr. Nowak an atheist, however. “Evolution describes the fundamental laws of nature according to which God chose to unfold life,” he declared in March in a lecture titled “Evolution and Christianity” at the Harvard Divinity School. Dr. Nowak is collaborating with theologians there on a project called “The Evolution and Theology of Cooperation,” to help theologians address evolutionary biology in their own work.

Dr. Nowak sometimes finds his scientific colleagues astonished when he defends religion. But he believes the astonishment comes from a misunderstanding of the roles of science and religion. “Like mathematics, many theological statements do not need scientific confirmation. Once you have the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, it’s not like we have to wait for the scientists to tell us if it’s right. This is it.”

28786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey on: July 31, 2007, 03:05:38 PM
Woof All:

With this analysis of the geopolitics of Turkey by the ever impressive , we open this thread.


The Geopolitics of Turkey
By George Friedman

Rumors are floating in Washington and elsewhere that Turkey is preparing to move against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an anti-Turkish group seeking an independent Kurdistan in Turkey. One report, by Robert Novak in the Washington Post, says the United States is planning to collaborate with Turkey in suppressing the PKK in northern Iraq, an area the PKK has used as a safe-haven and launch pad to carry out attacks in Turkey.

The broader issue is not the PKK, but Kurdish independence. The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group divided among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and, to a small extent, Syria. The one thing all of these countries have agreed on historically is they have no desire to see an independent Kurdistan. Even though each has, on occasion, used Kurdish dissidents in other countries as levers against those countries, there always has been a regional consensus against a Kurdish state.

Therefore, the news that Turkey is considering targeting the PKK is part of the broader issue. The evolution of events in Iraq has created an area that is now under the effective governance of the Iraqi Kurds. Under most scenarios, the Iraqi Kurds will retain a high degree of autonomy. Under some scenarios, the Kurds in Iraq could become formally independent, creating a Kurdish state. Besides facing serious opposition from Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions, that state would be a direct threat to Turkey and Iran, since it would become, by definition, the nucleus of a Kurdish state that would lay claim to other lands the Kurds regard as theirs.

This is one of the reasons Turkey was unwilling to participate in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Americans grew close to the Kurds in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, helping augment the power of an independent militia, the peshmerga, that allowed the Iraqi Kurds to carve out a surprising degree of independence within Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Turks were never comfortable with this policy and sent troops into Iraq in the 1990s to strike against the PKK and pre-empt any moves toward more extensive autonomy. Before the war started in 2003, however, the Turks turned down a U.S. offer to send troops into northern Iraq in exchange for allowing the United States to use Turkish territory to launch into Iraq. This refusal caused Turkey to lose a great deal of its mobility in the region.

The Turks, therefore, are tremendously concerned by the evolution of events in Iraq. Whether northern Iraq simply evolves into an autonomous region in a federal Iraq or becomes an independent state as Iraq disintegrates is almost immaterial. It will become a Kurdish homeland and it will exist on the Turkish border. And that, from the Turkish point of view, represents a strategic threat to Turkey.

Turkey, then, is flexing its muscles along the Iraqi border. Given that Turkey did not participate in the 2003 invasion, the American attitude toward Ankara has been complex, to say the least. On one hand, there was a sense of being let down by an old ally. On the other hand, given events in Iraq and U.S. relations with Iran and Syria, the United States was not in a position to completely alienate a Muslim neighbor of Iraq.

As time passed and the situation in Iraq worsened, the Americans became even less able to isolate Turkey. That is partly because its neutrality was important and partly because the United States was extremely concerned about Turkish reactions to growing Kurdish autonomy. For the Turks, this was a fundamental national security issue. If they felt the situation were getting out of hand in the Kurdish regions, they might well intervene militarily. At a time when the Kurds comprised the only group in Iraq that was generally pro-American, the United States could hardly let the Turks mangle them.

On the other hand, the United States was hardly in a position to stop the Turks. The last thing the United States wanted was a confrontation with the Turks in the North, for military as well as political reasons. Yet, the other last thing it wanted was for other Iraqis to see that the United States would not protect them.

Stated differently, the United States had no solution to the Turkish-Kurdish equation. So what the United States did was a tap dance -- by negotiating a series of very temporary solutions that kept the Turks from crossing the line and kept the Kurds intact. The current crisis is over the status of the PKK in northern Iraq and, to a great degree, over Turkish concerns that Iraqi Kurds will gain too much autonomy, not to mention over concerns about the future status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The United States may well be ready to support the Turks in rooting out PKK separatists, but it is not prepared to force the Iraqi Kurds to give them up. So it will try to persuade them to give them up voluntarily. This negotiating process will buy time, though at this point the American strategy in Iraq generally has been reduced to buying time.

All of this goes beyond the question of Iraq or an independent Kurdistan. The real question concerns the position of Turkey as a regional power in the wake of the Iraq war. This is a vital question because of Iran. The assumption we have consistently made is that, absent the United States, Iran would become the dominant regional power and would be in a position, in the long term, to dominate the Arabian Peninsula, shifting not only the regional balance of power but also potentially the global balance as well.

That analysis assumes that Turkey will play the role it has played since World War I -- an insular, defensive power that is cautious about making alliances and then cautious within alliances. In that role, Turkey is capable of limited assertiveness, as against the Greeks in Cyprus, but is not inclined to become too deeply entangled in the chaos of the Middle Eastern equation -- and when it does become involved, it is in the context of its alliance with the United States.

That is not Turkey's traditional role. Until the fall of the Ottomans at the end of World War I, and for centuries before then, Turkey was both the dominant Muslim power and a major power in North Africa, Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. Turkey was the hub of a multinational empire that as far back as the 15th century dominated the Mediterranean and Black seas. It was the economic pivot of three continents, facilitating and controlling the trading system of much of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Turkey's contraction over the past 90 years or so is not the normal pattern in the region, and had to do with the internal crisis in Turkey since the fall of the Ottomans, the emergence of French and British power in the Middle East, followed by American power and the Cold War, which locked Turkey into place. During the Cold War, Turkey was trapped between the Americans and Soviets, and expansion of its power was unthinkable. Since then, Turkey has been slowly emerging as a key power.

One of the main drivers in this has been the significant growth of the Turkish economy. In 2006, Turkey had the 18th highest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, and it has been growing at between 5 percent and 8 percent a year for more than five years. It ranks just behind Belgium and ahead of Sweden in GDP. It has the largest economy of any Muslim country -- including Saudi Arabia. And it has done this in spite of, or perhaps because of, not having been admitted to the European Union. While per capita GDP lags, it is total GDP that measures weight in the international system. China, for example, is 109th in per capita GDP. Its international power rests on it being fourth in total GDP.

Turkey is not China, but in becoming the largest Muslim economy, as well as the largest economy in the eastern Mediterranean, Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and east to the Hindu Kush, Turkey is moving to regain its traditional position of primacy in the region. Its growth is still fragile and can be disrupted, but there is no question that it has become the leading regional economy, as well as one of the most dynamic. Additionally, Turkey's geographic position greatly enables it to become Europe's primary transit hub for energy supplies, especially at a time when Europe is trying to reduce its dependence on Russia.

This obviously has increased its regional influence. In the Balkans, for example, where Turkey historically has been a dominant power, the Turks have again emerged as a major influence over the region's two Muslim states -- and have managed to carve out for themselves a prominent position as regards other countries in the region as well. The country's economic dynamism has helped reorient some of the region away from Europe, toward Turkey. Similarly, Turkish economic influence can be felt elsewhere in the region, particularly as a supplement to its strategic relationship with Israel.

Turkey's problem is that in every direction it faces, its economic expansion is blocked by politico-military friction. So, for example, its influence in the Balkans is blocked by its long-standing friction with Greece. In the Caucasus, its friction with Armenia limits its ability to influence events. Tensions with Syria and Iraq block Syrian influence to the south. To the east, a wary Iran that is ideologically opposed to Turkey blocks Ankara's influence.

As Turkey grows, an interesting imbalance has to develop. The ability of Greece, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Iran to remain hostile to Turkey decreases as the Turkish economy grows. Ideology and history are very real things, but so is the economic power of a dynamic economy. As important, Turkey's willingness to accept its highly constrained role indefinitely, while its economic -- and therefore political -- influence grows, is limited. Turkey's economic power, coupled with its substantial regional military power, will over time change the balance of power in each of the regions Turkey faces.

Not only does Turkey interface with an extraordinary number of regions, but its economy also is the major one in each of those regions, while Turkish military power usually is pre-eminent as well. When Turkey develops economically, it develops militarily. It then becomes the leading power -- in many regions. That is what it means to be a pivotal power.

In 2003, the United States was cautious with Turkey, though in the final analysis it was indifferent. It no longer can be indifferent. The United States is now in the process of planning the post-Iraq war era, and even if it does retain permanent bases in Iraq -- dubious for a number of reasons -- it will have to have a regional power to counterbalance Iran. Iran has always been aware of and cautious with Turkey, but never as much as now -- while Turkey is growing economically and doing the heavy lifting on the Kurds. Iran does not want to antagonize the Turks.

The United States and Iran have been talking -- just recently engaging in seven hours of formal discussions. But Iran, betting that the United States will withdraw from Iraq, is not taking the talks as seriously as it might. The United States has few levers to use against Iran. It is therefore not surprising that it has reached out to the biggest lever.

In the short run, Turkey, if it works with the United States, represents a counterweight to Iran, not only in general, but also specifically in Iraq. From the American point of view, a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq would introduce a major force native to the region that certainly would give Iran pause in its behavior in Iraq. This would mean the destruction of Kurdish hopes for independence, though the United States has on several past occasions raised and then dashed Kurdish hopes. In this sense, Novak's article makes a great deal of sense. The PKK would provide a reasonable excuse for a Turkish intervention in Iraq, both in the region and in Turkey. Anything that blocks the Kurds will be acceptable to the Turkish public, and even to Iran.

It is the longer run that is becoming interesting, however. If the United States is not going to continue counterbalancing Iran in the region, then it is in Turkey's interest to do so. It also is increasingly within Turkey's reach. But it must be understood that, given geography, the growth of Turkish power will not be confined to one direction. A powerful and self-confident Turkey has a geographical position that inevitably reflects all the regions that pivot around it.

For the past 90 years, Turkey has not played its historic role. Now, however, economic and politico-military indicators point to Turkey's slow reclamation of that role. The rumors about Turkish action against the PKK have much broader significance. They point to a changing role for Turkey -- and that will mean massive regional changes over time.
28787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 31, 2007, 10:51:39 AM
President Bush's Broken Promises
July 31, 2007; Page A14

During his last 18 months in office, President Bush confronts a broader set of international crises than in his first 18 months. While pundits blame unilateralism and the Iraq war, the deterioration of Washington's relations with once-staunch allies has less to do with a lack of diplomacy and more to do with its kind.

Too often, the administration has sacrificed long-term credibility for short-term calm. Take Turkey. At the June 2004 NATO summit in Istanbul, President Bush promised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the U.S. military would shut down Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists in Iraq. He did not. Three years later, the Turks no longer trust U.S. promises and may send their army into Iraqi Kurdistan.

Already the damage to U.S. prestige is severe. Once among America's closest allies, Turkey, according to a Pew Global Attitudes Project poll last month, is the most anti-American country in the world. Only 9% of Turks have a favorable impression of the U.S.; 83% hold the opposite view. Most blame U.S. inaction against the PKK.

On June 24, 2002, Mr. Bush declared, "The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure." Less than a year later the State Department reversed course, eliminating the cessation of terror as a precondition for engagement. Palestinian terrorism grew.

While the White House condemns Hamas terrorism, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, to which Mr. Bush promised a half billion dollars in July, is equally culpable. A year ago Fatah's military wing threatened to "strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries [the U.S. and Israel], here and abroad," and it claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Israeli town of Sderot in June.

Empty promises of accountability encourage terror by diminishing the costs of its embrace.

While terrorists benefit, Arab liberals pay the price for the president's rhetorical reversals. His promise in the second inaugural speech to "support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture" rings hollow as Egyptian police beat, arrest and sodomize protestors rallying to demand the rule of law.

Mr. Bush has yet to act on his promise to resolve the case of Palestinian banker Issam Abu Issa, whose visa the State Department revoked in February 2004 as he prepared to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Palestinian Authority corruption. Nor has the president fulfilled a promise to demand the release of Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi, imprisoned by Moammar Ghadafi since March 2004. State Department officials say Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will visit the Libyan dictator this autumn, regardless of Mr. Jahmi's fate.

On June 5, 2007, Mr. Bush endorsed the Prague Declaration, which calls upon governments to instruct diplomats "to actively and openly seek out meetings with political prisoners and dissidents committed to building free societies through non-violence," and announced that he'd tasked Secretary Rice to implement it. U.S. embassies in the Middle East have yet to reach out to any dissident or political prisoner.

Increasingly, friends view Washington as an unreliable ally; foes conclude the U.S. is a paper tiger. This latter conclusion may transform broken promises into a national security nightmare.

Way back in April 2001, the president established a moral redline when he declared that the U.S. would do "whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself" in the face of Chinese aggression. But amid Beijing's steady military build-up, Mr. Bush stood in the Oval Office beside Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and condemned Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian for holding a referendum on missile defense. Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Bush has yet to send a single cabinet-level official to demonstrate commitment to the island nation. Such contradictions may raise doubt in Beijing and encourage Chinese officials to test U.S. resolve.

After promising Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in May 2003 that Washington would "not settle for anything less than the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear weapons program," Mr. Bush directed his administration to do just that. Despite the administration's self-congratulations over its ephemeral deal with North Korea in February of this year, the fact remains that, against its allies' wishes, Washington acquiesced to Pyongyang's continued custody of its reactor and nuclear weapons. This broken promise is guaranteed to haunt the next U.S. administration.

Kicking diplomatic problems down the road is not a strategy. Addressing crises with insincere promises is as counterproductive as treating a hemorrhagic fever with a band-aid. Empty promises exacerbate crises. They do not solve them. While farsighted in his vision, it is the president's failure to abide by his word that will most shape his foreign policy legacy. It would be ironic if he justifies the "Bush lied, people died" rhetoric of protestors across the White House lawn in Lafayette Park, though not for the reasons they believe.

Mr. Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly.
28788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 31, 2007, 10:44:26 AM

By B. Raman

Pakistan's President Gen.Pervez Musharraf and Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, twice Pakistan's Prime Minister in the past, have met in Abu Dhabi to discuss their plans for a three-legged race to refurbish their dented image and save  Pakistan from a fate  similar to what happened to Afghanistan post-1994, when the two acting in tandem----she as the Prime Minister and he as the Director-General of Military Operations--- brought the Taliban into existence and allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from Khartoum in the Sudan to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

2. Nobody can question their patriotism. Both wish well of Pakistan and want it to play an important role not only in South Asia, but also in the Islamic world and the international community as a whole. Unfortunately, both have a strongly dented image.

3. Benazir's image got dented during her two spells as the Prime Minister (1988-90 and 1993-96).  Her most important contribution to Pakistan during this period was in persuading North Korea, through the intermediary of Beijing, to sell medium and long-range missiles and related technologies to Pakistan in return for Pakistan's help  to North Korea in getting over its food crisis and developing a military-related nuclear technology. The proliferation activities of Dr. A. Q. Khan reached their zenith when she was the Prime Minster and continued thereafter under Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

4. She had no other contribution to make to the well-being of Pakistan and its people. Karachi was up in flames. The Sindhis and the Mohajirs hated her despite the fact that she was from Sindh. Pakistan's economy went into the intensive care unit (ICU) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fears that Pakistan might become a failed state surfaced for the first time when she was the Prime Minister. She let her husband Mr.Asif Zirdari handle the governance of the country for all practical purposes and draw financial benefit from it.

5. When Musharraf seized power in October,1999, and jailed his democratically-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his action was greeted with some public applause. Not because he was popular with the people, but because Benazir and Nawaz through their misgovernance had become so unpopular that anybody after them was seen as a possible source of salvation. Musharraf's brief honeymoon with his people was not the outcome of any positive qualities which he had, but because of the people's disenchantment with the political class in general and with Benazir and Nawaz in particular.

6. Musharraf, a zig-zagger and a tactician par excellence, exploited the newly-realised importance of Pakistan for the US post-9/11, not only to improve his image in the eyes of the West, but also to take Pakistan out of the IMF's ICU. Pakistan has benefitted in some ways under Musharraf. Its economy has done well. Its strategic importance to the West is once again admitted. Its Armed Forces have once again been the recipients of military equipment from the US. Musharraf too has been a beneficiary of these changes. He is no longer seen as an unadulterated military dictator in the mould of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq. He has managed to have himself perceived as an enlightened authoritarian ruler----- just the medicine the jihadi-ridden Pakistani society supposedly needs.

7. But, unfortunately for him, his honeymoon with his people ended after the ham-handed manner in which he tried to intimidate Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury of Pakistan. His honeymoon with the US shows signs of ending after his repeated failures to implement his promises to modernise the madrasas, bring them under effective state control and put a stop to the use of Pakistani territory by Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and other terrorist organisations.

8. After Musharraf, the jihadi deluge. That was the impression he had managed to create in the US State Department. That impression now shows signs of changing. The present belief in the State Department is: Musharraf is good for the US so long as he lasts, but the jihadi deluge is already there.

9. The exercise to explore the possibility of  power-sharing by Musharraf and Benazir, which has been undertaken, is an attempt by two leaders----one military and the other political--- whose image has been dented by their sins of commission and omission, to prop up each other and help each other in retrieving some of their lost image. Domestically in the case of Benazir and domestically and internationally in the case of Musharraf.

10.If the two reach a final understanding and rule Pakistan jointly---he as the President with or without the uniform and she as the Prime Minister--- will Pakistan and its people benefit, will it be the beginning of the end of jihadi terrorism,will moderate forces ultimately prevail in Pakistani society?

11. Unlikely. Benazir and Musharraf let loose the jihadi Frankenstein's monsters during her second tenure as the Prime Minister. It will be unwise to believe that these two joint creators of the monsters will be able to vanquish them. Both are manipulators and opportunists to the core. Look at the way Musharraf is prepared to ditch the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), which he brought into existence in 2002, in order to ensure his continuance in power. Look at the way Benazir is prepared to ditch the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders, who had suffered under Musharraf, in order to get back into the political orbit with the help of Musharraf.

12. What Pakistan needs today is a sincere ruler genuinely committed to the task of ridding  Pakistan of the evil of religious extremism and jihadi terrorism.  Neither Musharraf nor Benazir is such a figure. There is no such candidate for power visible on the horizon. Pakistan will continue to bleed till such a leader emerges.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

28789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / India-Iran on: July 31, 2007, 10:41:09 AM
Bad Company
Before the U.S. makes a nuclear deal with India, it should insist on an end to ties with Iran.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

American and Indian diplomats have now completed negotiations for the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord, also known as a 123 Agreement (after a section of the 1954 U.S. Atomic Energy Act that governs such deals). The agreement, which bridges the gap between what Congress approved late last year and the conditions demanded by India's government, would allow India to purchase U.S. nuclear technology and fuel, ostensibly for civilian purposes only. Whether New Delhi abides by that commitment is another matter: India first tested a nuclear device in 1974 using plutonium it had illicitly diverted from a Canadian-built reactor--a point apparently forgotten by Undersecretary of State Nick Burns, who noted in a press conference Friday that "unlike Iran. . . . India has not violated its nuclear obligations."

But never mind. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not the noxious Indira Gandhi, 2007 is not 1974, and there are defensible reasons to support a deal--cementing a strategic relationship between two great democracies foremost among them. But that doesn't mean any deal, under any circumstances. Nor does it mean that Mr. Burns is entitled to shade what some of those circumstances entail, especially as they relate to India's curiously solid ties to Iran.

Take the following statement by Mr. Burns: "I would disagree . . . that somehow there's a burgeoning military relationship [between India and Iran]."

Now take an item from the March 19 issue of DefenseNews, under the headline: "India, Iran Form Joint Group to Deepen Defense Ties." According to the report, the agreement, "which follows the broader strategic partnership accord the two countries signed in 2003, emerged from high-level talks held here during the March 4-9 visit of Rear Adm. Sajjad Kouchaki Badlani, commander of Iran's Navy."

Or consider this Burnsian nugget: "We've made the argument that India has not proliferated its nuclear technology, that India, in effect, outside the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] system, has played by the rules. . . ."

Yet in September 2004 the U.S. imposed sanctions on Chaudhary Surendar and Y.S.R. Prasad, both former chairmen of India's state-run Nuclear Power Corporation, "for allegedly passing nuclear secrets to Tehran," according to a March 2005 report in this newspaper. Though State later dropped the sanctions on Dr. Surendar, they remain in force against Dr. Prasad, who is believed to have passed on "the technology needed to extract tritium from heavy-water nuclear reactors." Iran is currently building such a reactor in Arak; tritium can be used to boost the yields of atomic bombs. Dr. Prasad denies the charges.

That is not all. Last year, State slapped sanctions on two Indian companies for selling Iran precursor chemicals for rocket fuel and chemical weapons. In April, the Department of Justice released a 15-count indictment against two Indian individuals "on charges of supplying the Indian government with controlled technology," including "electrical components that could have applications in missile guidance and firing systems."
In an eye-opening article in the current issue of the Washington Quarterly, Christine Fair notes that "India has developed intelligence outposts in Iran, including the Indian consulate in Zahedan and a relatively new consulate in Bandar Abbas, which. . . . provides India significant power-projection advantages in any future conflict with Pakistan."

Ms. Fair, a research associate at the United States Institute of Peace, also notes that "in the past, India helped Iran develop submarine batteries that were more effective in the warm-weather Persian Gulf waters than its Russian-manufactured batteries and is planning to sell Iran the Konkurs antitank missile."

Advocates of the U.S. nuclear deal with India recognize these facts. But they argue that they are largely driven by India's need for energy, which explains the 700-mile gas pipeline being built between India and Iran. Thus, says Mr. Burns, "the agreement also gives India greater control and security over its energy supplies, making it less reliant on imports from countries . . . like Iran."

Would that this were even half-true. India's relationship with Iran is driven as much by the desire to encircle Pakistan and gain access to Afghanistan as it is by energy concerns. Then, too, nuclear power, which can only provide base load electrical demand, cannot by itself supplant the need for hydrocarbons. "Any time you increase the base load generating capacity of a country, you generally must increase the amount of peak load capacity to match it," says nonproliferation expert Henry Sokolski. "And the most efficient peak load generators are natural-gas fired." Put simply, it's hard to see how building nuclear power will reduce India's interest in Iranian natural gas.

None of this has gone unnoticed in Congress. In May, seven members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs sent a letter to Prime Minister Singh raising concerns about the Indo-Iranian relationship. Mr. Singh received a similar letter from eight U.S. Senators, including Republican Jon Kyl and Democrat Barbara Boxer. The letters were never answered. "You can take a sledgehammer to the heads of the Indians about this issue and they still won't get it," complains a Congressional staffer.
Actually, the Indians are starting to get it. "We are aware of our responsibilities and we know the danger of an Iran with nuclear weapons," says Raminder Singh Jassal, India's deputy chief of mission in Washington. He dismisses the naval visits as "ceremonial" and insists "we know how to calibrate our relationship [with Iran] without compromising on essentials."

Maybe that's true. Or maybe the U.S. and India have different notions of what a "calibrated" relationship means. But if Congress is going to punch a hole in the NPT to accommodate India--with all the moral hazard that entails for the nonproliferation regime--it should get something in return. Getting India to drop, and drop completely, its presumptively ceremonial military ties to Iran isn't asking a lot.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

28790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 31, 2007, 10:17:22 AM
An interesting interview with the NY Times man in Iraq
28791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: July 31, 2007, 12:53:31 AM
Some fascinating details about the arresting officer
28792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: July 30, 2007, 10:51:18 PM

The tactics and learnings observed by Fumento last NOVEMBER where the product of many months of experience before THAT.

Belmont Club notes the same:

"Of course these Iraqi units did not spring into existence over night. They are the cumulative result of years of sustained effort. Even the removal of Iraqi deadwood grew from a process of weeding out the failures. Without diminishing the achievements of the current group of commanders the situation in Iraq must reflect both the mistakes and the solid accomplishments of those who came before."
Interestingly, al-Qaeda chose to make Iraq its decisive arena of confrontation with the United States. The US came to Iraq primarily to topple Saddam Hussein and remove one "state sponsor of terrorism" but it was Al-Qaeda that rushed in to stake its reputation there. A networked insurgency with followers in many Muslim countries could have chosen to attack America elsewhere. But instead it decided to focus its efforts on driving the US from Iraq. For that purpose its leadership established al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and funneled recruits into it from all over the world. This force was tasked with the explicit political goal of creating a Islamic Caliphate that would provide a prototype for a future Islamic state after the hated Americans had been driven out. Therefore much of the post-Saddam violence was probably the consequence of al-Qaeda's decision to flood all the resources of world terrorism into Iraq. Clearly Zarqawi's clear intention from the Samarra mosque bombing onward was to incite as much violence as he could. Given that al-Qaeda made Iraq the center of its global efforts, O’Hanlon and Pollack's admiration of MNF-I's decision to focus against it seems perplexing. Surely Petraeus had no alternative? Surely he was simply picking up the gauntlet? But that would not quite be true. Through much of 2005 and 2006 a variety of lines were suggested. Some argued that the US should lash out against Syria or Iran for allowing "militants" to transit their borders. Some believed Shi'a militias should be the primary target operations. Until recently many argued -- and still argue -- that al-Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq at all; so how could MNF-I focus against what was not there? So while taking on al-Qaeda now seems the obvious choice, in retrospect there were many other candidates vying for the title of Center of Gravity. Those bad guys still remain, but MNF-I saw al-Qaeda in Iraq as the key to the position and that choice, according to O’Hanlon and Pollack, appears to be the right one.

Time will tell. But if focusing on al-Qaeda in Iraq is the right choice the most interesting question is why. My own guess is that by attacking al-Qaeda, the US took engaged not only the most fanatical force in Iraq but the one with the most powerful narrative. And by shrewdly matching kinetic warfare with political warfare, organizing the victims of al-Qaeda's depredations, it brought the myth down to earth. As long as al-Qaeda remained an "idea" it might be regarded as invincible, a mystical will o' the wisp. But once this mystical force was forced to materialize in Iraq, it became embodied in the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his henchmen, who, viewed up close, turned out to be nothing more than brutal gangsters of the lowest and most sadistic type instead of latter day Companions of the Prophet. Even Zawahiri, despite his pretensions to refinement, could not avoid discrediting himself as he proved unable to resist threatening to gouge people's eyes out if they did not follow his bidding. It is said that no man is a hero to his own valet. Familiarity with the genuine article brought disillusionment, contempt and finally hatred for al-Qaeda.

And without the romantic mantle of apocalyptic Islamism to puff them up, both Syria and Iran would shrink to the third-rate powers that they truly are. In choosing al-Qaeda as its focus, MNF-I indirectly weakened both Teheran and Damascus in ways that both were powerless to counter. None of this has been completely achieved yet. But as O’Hanlon and Pollack state, Iraq while not yet won is getting better. And if the process continues much will be accomplished if al-Qaeda can be defeated in Iraq; their image tarnished beyond repair and their narrative shown to be a pack of lies. The New York Times article concludes "there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008." Yes, but to some degree it misses the point. What is happening on the battlefield is changing perceptions in Iraq and perhaps throughout the region. Ironically, the US Armed Forces may now know much better than the press that operations go beyond body counts. But whenever US forces are withdrawn the information war must go on. Because the one great probability in the Middle East is that each failed creed gives rise to a new one. The same Six Day War which discredited Nasserism simultaneously launched its successor movement. Radical Islamism harnessed the tide of disillusionment and redirected it to its purposes. And as Al-Qaeda falls in esteem in the Muslim world from its post-September 11 halcyon days, other ideologues will probably attempt to fashion a new movement based on its carcass. That's why the information war should go on until politics in the Middle East is transformed from a sequence of messianic movements to practical endeavor. Until then the victories on Iraq's battlefields will be temporary.
28793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 30, 2007, 08:49:19 PM
Second post of the day:

Pakistan: Mooting the Bhutto-Musharraf Alliance

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the South Asian country's largest opposition party, could be on the verge of the much-awaited deal catapulting Bhutto out of exile and into the prime minister's chair. Contrary to expectations, the deal could end up damaging both. It also is unlikely that a power-sharing agreement between the military and Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party will help the struggle against extremism in the country -- and even could exacerbate it.


Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the country's main opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), met July 27 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Pakistani presidential spokesman retired Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi officially confirmed July 30. Meanwhile, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi, himself a former PPP leader, said Musharraf can step down as military chief in order to facilitate the power-sharing agreement being worked out with Bhutto. Reports also surfaced that a number of Bhutto's bank accounts were unfrozen ahead of the meeting.

It appears back-channel negotiations between the Musharraf regime and the PPP, which have been going on for several years now, finally are headed toward the much-anticipated Musharraf-Bhutto power-sharing arrangement. Both Musharraf and Bhutto face intense opposition from within their respective camps regarding any deal. Musharraf's allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League are worried about their party's future in any power-sharing arrangement with the PPP, while Bhutto's party is very concerned about the fallout of doing business with a military ruler, an unthinkable deal not too long ago.

We have predicted that Musharraf is unlikely to emerge unscathed -- to say the least -- from the multiple crises brewing in Pakistan, especially his attempts to deal with the situation. But Musharraf might not be the only casualty from the political wheeling and dealing: Bhutto and her party also could end up being damaged. The expectations in various quarters -- such as the Pakistani government, Washington, etc. -- that Bhutto's entry into the Pakistani political system will stabilize it and will be good for democracy ignore certain ground realities.

First, Bhutto's party does not enjoy a monopoly over the Pakistani electorate. Though in a relatively free and fair parliamentary election the PPP probably will emerge as the single-largest party in parliament, a fresh legislative vote will produce a parliament divided among five major political forces and a number of smaller parties. This means the PPP probably will head an unstable coalition government, one far more volatile than during two previous PPP governments in the 1990s.

Second, the PPP is not what is used to be in 1986, when Bhutto made her first dramatic return to her country. The PPP's reputation has been tainted by allegations of corruption during her two terms. Moreover, in the last five years, the party has been weakened significantly because of the defection of some two-dozen members of parliament who joined the Musharraf government. Thus, going into the negotiations the PPP already is a weak force.

Deal-making between Bhutto and Musharraf, which has become a very public affair, is bound to cost the PPP some more votes no matter how carefully its leadership pursues the negotiations. Bhutto knows this well, and has acknowledged as much. She faces an uphill task involving doing business with a military government to stage a political comeback and avoid the cost of abandoning her party's historic image as the anti-establishment party.

PPP re-entry into the halls of power in Islamabad is thus unlikely to put Pakistan on the path of democracy, or for that matter even political stability. More disconcertingly, for a number of reasons a PPP government will be unable to deal effectively with increasing extremism and militant activity in the country.

Pakistan's problems run much deeper than a simple question of democracy versus authoritarianism, and extremism and militant activity are not simply byproducts of chronic political instability. The issue goes to the historical debate over the nature of the Pakistani state, which has raged since before the country's birth. The debate is over whether Pakistan should be secular or "Islamic;" and over who would define the latter using what criteria.

Further complicating matters, the historic mullah-military relationship has empowered radical and militant Islamist forces. Extremism and militancy are problems that cannot be cured alone by a democratically elected government working with the country's military establishment. As a secular party, the PPP cannot contain extremism and radicalism without working with moderate and pragmatic Islamist forces. Even the United States, with all its resources, is forced to work with political Islamists to contain the violent ones.

Historically, the PPP has faced the religious right's ire. In the current polarized atmosphere, particularly in the wake of the Red Mosque operation and Bhutto's open support for the facility's storming, such anti-PPP sentiment is likely to have grown. The PPP has gone out of its way to shun the country's main Islamist alliance, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), fearing that by cooperating with the MMA against Musharraf could strengthen the MMA.

Even assuming the PPP would work with the MMA or its relatively moderate component, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the incoherent nature of the MMA and/or the JUI would present a serious obstacle. Pakistani Islamists not only are divided, they also have a murky relationship with the jihadists, further complicating matters from an anti-extremism and counterterrorism perspective. Overall, political Islamists in Pakistan are far more radical in their agenda than their Muslim Brotherhood counterparts in the Arab World.

Regardless of whether a deal between Musharraf and Bhutto emerges and how political events unfold as elections approach, the PPP is unlikely to create a stable democratic setup by partnering with the Musharraf government's civil-military hybrid. And the PPP not only would fail to curb extremism and militancy, the situation could get worse.
28794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 30, 2007, 08:41:13 PM
Iraq: The United States and Turkey Put Iraq's Kurds Under Pressure
July 30, 2007 21 44  GMT


U.S. syndicated columnist Robert Novak published an op-ed article July 30 saying the United States and Turkey are planning to launch a joint operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq. This appears to be an intentional leak from the U.S. administration to appease Ankara and pressure Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government to act against the PKK to fend off a Turkish incursion. But just the talk of a U.S.-Turkish military operation in Iraq will end up further complicating U.S. efforts to effect a political resolution in Baghdad and could even give Iran an opportunity to outshine the United States.


The United States is planning a covert operation with the Turkish army to "help neutralize" Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq, according to a July 30 Washington Post op-ed article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. In the article, Novak says that secret briefings were held on Capitol Hill during the previous week by Eric S. Edelman who, before taking his current job as undersecretary of defense policy, was the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and an aide to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. When Edelman proposed the plan to unspecified lawmakers on the Hill, he reportedly assured them the operation would succeed, "adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied."

Evidently, this plan is not so secret anymore, and it would be nearly impossible for the United States to conceal its role in any operation in northern Iraq now that the plan has been made public. It comes as no surprise that this leak came through the Washington Post and through Novak, who is well-known for his 2003 expose that identified Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. Washington evidently wanted to leak this story -- but why?

First, it assures Turkey that the United States is not turning a blind eye to PKK activity in northern Iraq, where the group has set up at least seven camps consisting of some 3,000 fighters. Anti-U.S. sentiment is soaring in Turkey to the point where senior officials in the political and security apparatus are seriously questioning whether Washington is intentionally using the PKK to harm Turkish interests. Turkish newspapers now regularly carry headlines accusing the United States of directly providing weapons support to the PKK, which only further enflame the Turkish public, whose feelings toward the PKK mirror those the Americans have about their soldiers getting killed in Iraq every day. News of a planned joint operation in northern Iraq is music to many Turkish ears, though the Turks will remain skeptical of the U.S. relationship with the PKK until they see action on the ground.

Second, Novak's article sends a clear message to Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that Washington's patience has worn thin, and that the only way to stave off a major Turkish incursion is for the KRG to do the dirty work itself and take action against the PKK. Though the PKK has sympathizers in northern Iraq for its fight against Turkey, and PKK rebels have found a safe-haven in the mountains, Massoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) do not exactly get along with their Kurdish PKK brothers. More than once, the KDP and PUK have fought against the PKK. In past internal struggles, the KDP has pitted the PKK against the PUK and vice versa. In fact, Barzani, who is largely in control of the areas bordering Turkey in northwestern Iraq, offered Turkey the KDP's assistance against the PKK in May 1997 in exchange for Turkish help in fighting the PUK. To make a long story short, the PKK is essentially a bargaining chip for the now-united Iraqi Kurdish leadership, which is fully expecting political concessions from Washington in exchange for a crackdown on PKK guerrillas.

But Washington is not exactly in a position to make significant political concessions to the Kurds -- namely anything involving the status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk -- while it is desperately attempting to forge a political consensus in Baghdad among Iraq's warring factions. Any talk of the United States launching a joint operation with the Turks in northern Iraq is only going to harden the Kurds' stance on contentious issues holding up the political process (such as the pending oil legislation), making it all the more difficult for Washington to move the negotiations along.

With Novak's story making the headlines, the United States is betting that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership will succumb to pressure to act against the PKK itself, and thus preclude the need for a major Turkish incursion -- which would be an extremely messy situation considering the bloody result of having two NATO allies, PKK rebels and battle-hardened peshmerga forces fighting it out in mountainous terrain. U.S. forces in Iraq also are deeply engaged in the ongoing surge strategy to bring everything below Iraqi Kurdistan under some semblance of control, and they simply cannot afford to divert a significant number of forces up north to a new battlefront.

It is now up to the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to decide its next steps. Barzani is the more boisterous and nationalistic of the Iraqi Kurdish leaders in his statements, but has (not coincidentally) put a lid on his remarks to avoid riling the Turks further when the country is already itching to take action against the PKK. The PKK also has scaled back its attacks, and -- with some nudging by the KRG -- even called for a cease-fire July 17 to make it harder for Turkey to justify a major military operation. But insincere cease-fire calls will not suffice for Turkey, and the KRG is beginning to realize it will need to take a step further in pressuring the PKK if it wants to ensure that northern Iraq maintains its stable security and investment climate.

Moreover, Turkey has had a tumultuous election season and still has to hold what will likely be a very contentious presidential election some time in the next month. In order to maintain stability, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is very unlikely to approve a military operation into northern Iraq until after the presidential election passes. That election will probably involve the AK Party, with the backing of the Nationalist Movement Party, choosing as its presidential candidate Abdullah Gul, whose earlier nomination sparked a countrywide legislative crisis. If Gul gets the job, then the AK Party will have an even stronger incentive to go after the PKK to neutralize any potential backlash to Gul.

Before deciding on a course of action, the KRG has another important thing to consider: weather. Turkey historically has invaded northern Iraq in the spring, when the weather is optimal for military operations and the foliage in the region is not fully grown. After the Turkish presidential election, it will be fall, and snow sometimes falls in northern Iraq as early as November. That leaves a very short time frame for Turkey to act, or it would likely have to wait until the following spring. The weather does not completely rule out a Turkish military operation in the fall or early winter, but it will play a major role in the Turkish military chief's decision based on past incursions. If U.S. and Iraqi diplomacy could buy the KRG some time during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's upcoming visits to Iraq in August and to Washington in the fall, Iraq's Kurdish leadership might be able to get by with taking limited action against the PKK. After all, the PKK traditionally calls for a cease-fire once the cold weather starts to kick in and heads for its hideout in the Qandil mountain range along the Iranian border to hibernate until the snow melts and the insurgency can start anew.

Iran, meanwhile, is watching Washington's diplomatic games closely and has been looking for opportunities to get closer to Ankara while anti-U.S. sentiment over the PKK is flaring in Turkey. The Iranians have strategically carried out cross-border military strikes against PKK hideouts in northern Iraq in recent months to win the hearts and minds of the Turkish public and highlight the common threat Turkey and Iran face from PKK activity in northern Iraq and the growing autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan. As U.S.-Turkish tensions intensify in the coming weeks and months over military action against the PKK, Iran could see this as an opportunity to take action on its own against PKK guerrilla fighters and outshine the United States, thus bringing Tehran a step closer to its vision of a more robust, albeit flawed, anti-U.S. alliance in the region.

With so many variables in play in northern Iraq, Washington will have to move carefully to avoid getting caught in a bigger mess than it can handle while the bulk of its attention remains on finding a political resolution in Baghdad. The PKK might be a nuisance for the United States at this stage of the negotiations, but Turkey is set to convince Washington that this so-called nuisance is the crux of the U.S.-Turkish partnership
28795  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Teachers, Schools, and Training Partners on: July 30, 2007, 08:40:10 PM
Yes, I had inferred that from the SD. My question however was and is what is there? cheesy
28796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: July 30, 2007, 08:34:06 PM
Mexico Security Memo: July 30, 2007
July 30, 2007 21 26  GMT

Renewed Violence in Cartel Territory

Violent flare-ups occurred across much of northern Mexico this week, as Stratfor suggested it would in the previous Mexico Security Memo. The most noteworthy examples include a firefight in the border town of Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas state; a cartel shooting death in Ciudad Camargo, Chihuahua state; and three similar shooting deaths in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, where one body showed signs of torture and was wrapped in a sheet with a message pinned to it. In addition, a police official assigned to counternarcotics was found dead July 24 in Navolato, Sinaloa state, with a message from the Zetas pinned to his body, which showed signs of torture. He had been kidnapped a day before with another police officer. Sonora state police reported July 25 that a member of a drug gang was killed July 25 in the city of El Sasabe after being shot twice in the head. It is important to note that these states and most of northern Mexico, in addition to housing several large industrial cities with international companies, are considered cartel territory, and attacks in the region are becoming increasingly frequent.

One southeastern state that recently has become a hot spot for cartel violence is Veracruz. The state has long been important territory for the Gulf cartel, which brings drugs in from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Northeast and ships them on into the United States. However, only in the last few weeks has cartel-related violence increased in the area, including a rise in kidnappings and attacks against government officials. Some of the most recent incidents include the July 26 killing of a municipal official in the town of Zongolica and two firefights in the city of Veracruz on July 25. One possible explanation for the increase in reported violence in Veracruz is that previous incidents went unreported. This is plausible, especially considering claims made by police in Veracruz in June that they had been ordered not to report drug-related violence. However, the brazen nature of these more recent attacks -- firefights in large cities and attacks against government officials -- indicates this is a shift worth monitoring.

Corruption on the U.S. Side

Our reports have consistently documented instances of corruption among Mexico's police and government officials at all levels. However, it is important to note that the cartels' control of the border, and their ability to effectively smuggle drugs and people into the United States, suggests an ability to control officials on the U.S. side of the border as well. Cases in recent years have revealed corruption among U.S. Border Patrol agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, city police officers, a Texas sheriff and Texas National Guard members assigned to patrol the border. These cases demonstrate that bribing immigration officials can be done for a relatively small amount of money, and that the officials are often unaware of the contents of the shipments they are allowing to pass through the border. Local law enforcement officers might participate in two ways: either by actively taking part in smuggling activities or by more passively agreeing to look the other way at a certain time and place while smugglers transport illegal shipments. The corruption problem is difficult to combat due to the enormous amount of money associated with the drug trade.

July 23

Authorities in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, discovered the body of a man wrapped in a blanket. The man reportedly had been kidnapped several hours before, and his body showed signs of torture.

July 24

Police in Guerrero state reported finding the body of an unidentified individual near the town of Atoyac de Alvarez. The victim had been shot twice in the head.

State police in Mexico state reportedly detained an agent of the Federal Investigative Agency for extortion.

July 25

Workers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, found the body of a woman stuffed in a plastic bag in a rural area.

Two separate firefights between suspected cartel gunmen and security forces were reported in the city of Veracruz, Veracruz state. The engagements resulted in a high-speed chase through the city and the detention of one suspect.

A Catholic priest in Hidalgo state was abducted from church property and later killed by his kidnapper, state officials said. Violence against clergy is rare in Mexico, and the preliminary results of the investigation do not suggest organized crime links.

Mexican army soldiers stopped a tractor-trailer with nearly 12 tons of marijuana on board in Ensenada, Baja California state, and arrested the driver.

July 26

A city official in Zongolica, Veracruz state, was found dead inside her home, bound at the hands and feet. Her brother is a candidate for city office in a nearby town.

Authorities in Michoacan state reported the shooting death of a man in Apatzingan, the wounding of a man in a shooting in Morelia and a kidnapping in Morelos.

A well-known businessman in Veracruz, Veracruz state, was abducted by a group of armed men while he was driving his vehicle. This was the eighth reported kidnapping in the state in July.

A group of about 20 heavily armed men attacked a prison in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, wounding one security guard. An official confirmed that the men were attempting to extract a prisoner, though government officials said no cartel-linked prisoners were being held there.

July 27

Mexican army soldiers exchanged gunfire with armed men in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas state, detaining several suspects. Ciudad Camargo is on the U.S. border.

July 28

A small number of armed men claiming to belong to the Popular Revolutionary Army fired shots at a jail being built in Chiapas state, locked up three guards and painted messages on the building. No one was injured during the attack.

Authorities in Navolato, Sinaloa state, discovered the charred bodies of two men in a vehicle. One of the men appeared to be a federal police commander.

July 29

A Catholic priest in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City was found dead on church property, bound at the hands and feet.
28797  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Teachers, Schools, and Training Partners on: July 30, 2007, 05:03:07 PM
I gotta ask, what is in Rapid City SD?
28798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 30, 2007, 04:50:03 PM
Haven't had a chance to review these yet, but it seems like a interesting list
of sources.


Jinnah's Pakistan: An Interview with MA Jinnah, and how the Pakistan of
Yesterday is the Pakistan of Today

Know Your Pakistan

The Monkey Trap: A synopsis of Indo-Pak relations

A landmark article that demolishes myths built up about Pakistan

Pakistani Role in Terrorism Against the U.S.A

Pakistani Education, or how pakistan became what it is: Curricula and
textbooks in Pakistan

Making Enemies, Creating Conflict: Pakistan's Crises of State and Society. A
book written by Pakistanis on Pakistan.

Should Pakistan Be Broken Up? by Gul Agha

Pakistani sponsoring of Terrorism

Ethnic cleansing in Pakistan - a statistical analysis

A chronicle of genocide by the Pakistan army

Inside Jihad - How Pakistan sponsors terrorists in India

Pakistan's Role in the Kashmir Insurgency - Op-ed by Rand's Peter Chalk
This is a list of Pakistani businesses that may be aiding and funding terror
against India and other countries.

On the Frontier of Apocalypse: Christopher Hitchens seminal article on
Pakistan today

Nuclear Enabler - Pakistan today is the most dangerous place on Earth by Jim

A Slender Reed in Pakistan - Editorial in the Christian Science Monitor

Seymour Hersh Interview

Pakistan's Nuclear Crimes (Wash. Post editorial)

Commentary: The real culprit of 9/11?

BOOK REVIEW Fulcrum of Evil: ISI-CIA-Al Qaeda Nexus

PAKISTAN-FAILED STATE: an ebook that owes its origin and existence to BRF.

Article from Vinni Capelli - Foreign Policy Research Institute:
Containing Pakistan: Engaging the Raja-Mandala in South-Central Asia

Essential videos on Pakistan actively supports the Taliban - Files are WMV

The videos are from this documentary:
28799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 30, 2007, 03:21:51 PM
Second post of the day:

U.S./TURKEY: The United States and Turkey are preparing to conduct a covert military strike against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, The Washington Post reported in a column by Robert Novak. The report says the operation is aimed at preventing a Turkish invasion of Iraq and has been presented to members of Congress.
One wonders about the patriotism of Novak here--  angry unless this is a deliberate plant  huh but even that undercuts the ethos that one should not report these things , , , tongue
28800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: July 30, 2007, 10:12:02 AM
"There’s absolutely no mystery why our greatest complaints are in the arena of government-delivered services and the fewest in market-delivered services. In the market, there are the ruthless forces of profit, loss and bankruptcy that make producers accountable to us. In the arena of government-delivered services, there’s no such accountability... Our health care system is hampered by government intervention, and the solution is not more government intervention but less... Before we buy into single-payer health care systems like Canada’s and the United Kingdom’s, we might want to do a bit of research. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute annually publishes ‘Waiting Your Turn.’ Its 2006 edition gives waiting times, by treatments, from a person’s referral by a general practitioner to treatment by a specialist. The shortest waiting time was for oncology (4.9 weeks). The longest waiting time was for orthopedic surgery (40.3 weeks), followed by plastic surgery (35.4 weeks) and neurosurgery (31.7 weeks). As reported in the June 28 National Center for Policy Analysis’ ‘Daily Policy Digest,’ Britain’s Department of Health recently acknowledged that one in eight patients waits more than a year for surgery. France’s failed health care system resulted in the deaths of 13,000 people, mostly of dehydration, during the heat spell of 2003. Hospitals stopped answering the phones, and ambulance attendants told people to fend for themselves. I don’t think most Americans would like more socialized medicine in our country.” —Walter Williams, Economist
“Despite what our Democratic Party leadership would have us believe, the increasing costs and inaccessibility of health care is the result of excessive government interference in this market as opposed to not enough. You’d think that our representatives in Washington would want to fix these distortions so that health care could be delivered more freely and hence more cheaply, imaginatively and abundantly. But this doesn’t sit well with the political-power-loving class in Washington. It would rather do what the Senate Finance Committee has just done: Ignore the real problems and then expand government even more to try and cover those who fall through the cracks. As a result, we get Medicaid for middle-class America and children getting health care from different suppliers than their parents. Brilliant! [President] Bush offered a creative proposal in his State of the Union address this year that would start addressing the problem at its root. It puts a $15,000 ceiling on the deductibility of employer health coverage, and offers a $15,000 tax deduction to every American family to purchase health care. This would change current economics that favor plans delivered through employers rather than purchased individually. Yet, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who chairs the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, declared the president’s proposal dead on arrival and said no hearings would be held. The proposal alone might not deliver gold-plated plans to working-class Americans. But it certainly would increase the accessibility of basic coverage.” —Star Parker
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