Saturday, November 3, 2007

It Had To Happen Sometime

Hat Tip to Cernig @ The Newshoggers
It Had To Happen Sometime

A Swedish man is facing a libel case after falsely accusing his son-in-law of being a member of Al Qaeda in an email to the FBI.
The 40-year-old son-in-law and his wife were in the process of divorcing when the husband had to travel to the United States for business.

...When the husband refused to stay home, his father-in-law wrote an email to the FBI saying the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda in Sweden and that he was travelling to the US to meet his contacts.

He provided information on the flight number and date of arrival in the US.

The son-in-law was arrested upon landing in Florida. He was placed in handcuffs, interrogated and placed in a cell for 11 hours before being put on a flight back to Europe, the paper said.

The FBI contacted Swedish intelligence agency Saepo, which discovered that the email tipping off the FBI had been sent from the father-in-law's computer.

The father-in-law has been charged with aggravated libel.

He has admitted sending the email, but said he didn't think "the authorities were so stupid that they would believe anything. But apparently they are."

He said he "couldn't help the US authorities' paranoid reaction".
The son-in-law is lucky he didn't end up at Gitmo for a few years of non-tortuous waterboarding, without habeas rights and awaiting a rigged military tribunal. Which is, according to Amnesty and HRW, why many of the Afghans there are detained - fingered by ill-wishers in return for a hefty US-paid bounty.

This is your country on Republicanism.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

The Real Deal - Army of Dude

It looks like Iraq veteran Alex, who wrote The Real Deal as his response to Rush Limbaugh calling veterans opposed to the war "phony soldiers", has a pretty good shot at winning the 2007 Weblog Award for Best Military Blog.

The Real Deal:

When I was a kid I watched Rush with my dad every morning when he was still on TV and always found him pretty funny and clever. Over the years I didn't have a very concrete opinion about him, I just knew him as the kooky conservative radio host who defended Bush at every turn (and hey, so did I). What did Rush and I have to lose when the war in Iraq started in 2003? I didn't have any family in the military, and all my friends were too young to even enlist. Why not go kick the sh*t out of a country, as long as someone else was doing it?

This was the last time Rush and I would agree on the war, so here's my opinion of you, Rush: you're as smart, selfless and courageous as I was as a 17 year old high school senior.

You make a good point that people who joined the military during the war knew they were going and shouldn't be against it. As I've seen since I joined in 2004, everyone in the military is gung ho to a certain extent, at least in the beginning of their career. I was part of a large group of new guys who got to a unit that just got back from a year long deployment. After our hazing sessions became less and less frequent in the following months, we listened to the stories all of them were telling, of vicious firefights and rescue missions. We all wanted to do our part, we all wanted to get some too. We were going to see what it was like to take a life. Too bad Rush missed his chance to do so, or maybe he'd be singing a different tune.
As a phony civilian hoping to be a phony soldier, I tried to enlist in the military after I graduated high school in 2003.
Speaking of phony soldiers, I wanted to show Rush a few that I know: {click link above for all of Alex's pictures}

This is Chevy in Baghdad. Brian Chevalier was going to reenlist but decided against it before he was killed on March 14 during our first mission in Baqubah. His phony life was celebrated in a phony memorial where everyone who knew him cried phony tears. A phony American flag draped over his phony coffin when his body came home. It was presented to his phony mother and phony daughter.

I would be in awe if I ever met a real life soldier, and not a phony one like Bill, Matt or Brian Chevalier. Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for telling me the difference. I hope your ass is ok.
You can vote for Alex here. Help him win the award. He deserves it.  His blog is Army of Dude.

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America, Open For Business, Closed To Freedom

Is there any area of our government, over the span of the last seven years, any area, in domestic or foreign policy, national defense, public welfare, the economy, name it, where the average, reasonably informed American might point to success, to signs of progress, of improvement, something, anything, to point to with satisfaction, with pride?

Yesterday I read an article by Steve Benin on the resignation of Karen Hughes from her post as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, a mouthful there, and a job for which she was as ill suited and unqualified as the man who appointed her and in which, during her two year tenure, she accomplished little, if anything.

In truth, she accomplished nothing, unless you want to count convincing large portions of the world that all Americans must be as out of touch with reality, as clueless and unthinking as their current Commander in Chief, and at that she excelled, as anyone might, having been dispatched to the Middle East with the rank of Ambassador, but without knowledge of the language, culture, history, religions, and general pet peeves of the various states and peoples of the region.

But Karen Hughes was tapped for her office for the same reasons as all Bush appointees are chosen, not for expertise or experience, not for performance or integrity in public service but for loyalty, for unwavering belief in the Messianic delusions of neo conservatism, and a willingness to march in lockstep, nah, goose step, against all who might disagree or dissent.

As I read Benin's article I had the thought that he might have written a very similar piece about nearly any federal department and the Bush appointees thereto in the last seven years. Which of the various cabinet level branches of the executive department of this country have not suffered greatly under the politically connected cronyism of the Bush/ Cheney administration?

We witnessed it at Justice, the politicization of the office of the Attorney General, the perversion of law and the resulting descent into the barbarity of denial of human rights and torture.

We saw it at Defense, where the best military minds of a generation were ignored in favor of the views of sychophantic careerists who allowed a lying Vice President and a comic opera Commander in Chief and their apparatchiks to lead them over the cliff and into the abyss of an endless and disastrous war.

We have seen time and again the incompetence, indifference and criminal neglect at "Homeland" Security and FEMA.

We have seen heads of federal departments turned into agents of electioneering, where party politics takes precedence over public welfare and the machinery and energy of the state is turned to the furtherance of private goals.

Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Treasury and the rest are now run by the industries that they are legally bound to restrain, regulate and control in the public interest.

Executive branch departments have been stripped of many of their most dedicated, long serving professionals and replaced with Bush loyalists from business and industry, or, in many cases directly from the most favored campuses, the ivy leagues of Christian evangelism. Regulatory functions have been curtailed, enforcement budgets slashed, and inspection schedules diminished to a laughable degree in nearly every regulatory corner of the federal system.

But this, after all, was the intent, to create central government that would gladly do the bidding of the corporate structure, throw aside all restraints, all regulation and increase its profits and its power.

Nearly every day I encounter a story in the media, a story of illness, injury, death or disaster befalling unsuspecting citizens due to the inattention, incompetence, lack of inspection and failures of enforcement of existing federal laws regulating consumer products, work place safety, environmental prohibitions or other areas where purity, safety and security were once almost taken for granted.

During the last seven years we have devolved into a country whose livestock, produce and other foodstuffs are ridden with bacteria and other contaminants, whose drugs and medical services are becoming untrustworthy, whose ports and borders are dangerously porous, whose bridges and highways are collapsing, whose military is being misused and abused in continuous illegal and futile adventures on behalf of corporate America, whose jobs have largely been moved to other countries and continents, whose pensions have collapsed and whose Barbie Dolls contain enough lead to write a novella. (Or, perhaps, the last paragraph)

The real problem however, the crux of the matter and what may finally deliver us stumbling and stuttering, quavering with dread at the terminus of the road to Fascist hell is the incredible damage that has been inflicted on the American spirit, the American soul, the American psyche. I may be accused of naivete' but in my world, in my mind and in my memory there was a time when the eyes of America contained a great measure of compassion, of kindness, of simple good will.

Those days are gone. Under the current regime the eyes of America, official America, the America of the ruling oligarchy are now filled with hunger, with avarice, with an insatiable lust for resources and power, for wealth and influence. America's eyes are no longer the warm welcoming eyes of Lady Liberty but the cold calculating gaze of the largest and most dangerous predator to ever stalk the planet, a predator to be feared and distrusted, to be resisted at all costs.

The eyes of Americans, our citizens, our electorate are filled with a mixture of apathy and fear, of meekness, a cowering attitude and a shuffling posture which is all too heavily reflected in their parliament.

America, in the brief span of my lifetime and largely in the span of a single decade has devolved into a killer of humanity, a dream slayer, despoiler of freedom, a destroyer, the destroyer of America.

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hey, George Bush, Wanna Buy A Bridge?

Or How About Some Ocean Front Property In Central Arizona?

Cross posted from BFD Blog!

Just contact my friend "Curve Ball", he will give you all the details and sell you a load of shit... er property. Then after you swallow it, hook, line and sinker, you can try and foist it off on the rest of us.

Check out "60 Minutes" this Sunday Evening:

That's Curve Ball during a happier time in Bagdad, tune in to "60 Minutes" and you will learn that Curve Ball, who claimed to be a defecting Iraqi "star" chemical engineer, is actually Rafid Ahmed Alwan, a thief and a liar.

So when are the lies and the dying going to stop, George?

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Army of Dude: Blog Awards Finalist

Dear readers! Today the finalists for the 2007 Weblog Awards were announced and I was nominated for best military blog.

The 2007 Weblog Awards

The full list of nominees:

Michael Yon
Long War Journal
American Soldier
Jeff Emmanuel
Badgers Forward
The Sandbox
Army of Dude
Spouse Buzz

Voting begins Thursday night, so when it goes live, click on the picture above to vote and spread the word! I've got some big names for competition, so wish me luck!


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Instead of drafting all State Department employees for Iraq service …

Secretary of State Rice is planningcompelled foreign service officer duty in Iraq. And the fallout is hitting the fan at diarrhea speed:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to quell a revolt among U.S. diplomats angry over moves to force foreign service officers to work in Iraq under threat of dismissal.

Rice plans to send a cable to all U.S. embassies and missions abroad explaining the decision to begin the largest diplomatic call-up since Vietnam, following a contentious “town hall meeting” at the department in which diplomats raised deep concern about being ordered to work in Iraq, the State Department said. …

The cable was drafted following the meeting and in the wake of widespread news reports highlighting the anger and frustration of many diplomats who attended and applauded loudly when one of their colleagues likened a forced tour in Iraq to a “potential death sentence.”

Several hundred foreign service officers participated in Wednesday’s town hall meeting at which several diplomats, backed by the vocal support of their colleagues there, vehemently complained about the prospect of so-called “directed assignments” to Iraq to make up for a lack of volunteers. …

"Incoming is coming in every day, rockets are hitting the Green Zone," said Jack Crotty, a senior foreign service officer who once worked as a political adviser with NATO forces.

"It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment," Crotty said. "I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?"

Instead of drafting everybody in the foreign service, why don’t we use a combination of Lexis-Nexis for comments in the media and for campaign donations, find all the neo-cons at State, and just draft them?

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Apparently NOT "Made In Iran" - Whose EFPs (IEDs)? Iraqi EFPs - Rightweb

To paraphrase the old Mickey Mouse Club refrain:

"Because they LIKE US!"

The next time someone announces (F’rinstance the State Department, George Bush, ‘Big Dick’ Cheney, Robert Gates, or a co-worker) that Iran is complicit in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq… Show them this:

(Click the pic for the original illustration and article @ Weed Garden)


The copy on top reads:

These hunks of copper found in a workshop in Iraq are the "high-tech" components of deadly "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs) that administration flacks say come from Iran.

Because, clearly, Iraqis are too stupid to make these copper disks on their own.

Never mind that these explosives have been used by many groups, including the Irish Republican Army. Never mind that the U.S. has their own brand of EFP.

Here's what the official Iranian version of this weapon actually looks like:

RightWeb On EFPs:

"The earliest EFPs appearing in Iraq in 2004 were so professionally made that they were probably constructed by Hezbollah specialists, according to a detailed account by British expert Michael Knights in Jane's Intelligence Review last year.

By late 2005, however, the British command had already found clear evidence that the Iraqi Shiites were manufacturing their own EFPs. British Army Maj. Gen. J. B. Dutton told reporters in November 2005 that the bombs were of varying degrees of sophistication.

Some of the EFPs required a "reasonably sophisticated factory," he said, while others required only a simple workshop, which he observed, could only mean that some of them were being made inside Iraq.

After British convoys in Maysan province were attacked by a series of EFP bombings in late May 2006, Knights recounts, British forces discovered a factory making them in Majar al-Kabir north of Basra in June.

In addition, the U.S. military also had its own forensic evidence by fall 2006 that EFPs used against its vehicles had been manufactured in Iraq, according to Knights. He cites photographic evidence of EFP strikes on U.S. armored vehicles that "typically shows a mixture of clean penetrations from fully-formed EFP and spattering." That pattern reflected the fact that the locally made EFPs were imperfect.

Then U.S. troops began finding EFP factories. Journalist Andrew Cockburn reported in the Los Angeles Times in mid-February that U.S. troops had raided a Baghdad machine shop in November 2006 and discovered "a pile of copper discs, 5 inches in diameter, stamped out as part of what was clearly an ongoing order."

In a report on February 23, NBC Baghdad correspondent Jane Arraf quoted "senior military officials" as saying that U.S. forces "have been finding an increasing number of the advanced roadside bombs being not just assembled but manufactured in machine shops here."

In full @ RightWeb

Leighm, 'The Buffalo in da' midst"

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Lowering casualties in Iraq by lowering troop actions

Plucked from a commenter at Washington Monthly, Asia Times says both U.S. troop and Iraqi civilian casualties are down because soldiers are avoiding patrols and missions.

Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here in upstate New York say that morale among US soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed "search and avoid" missions. …

“I never heard of an Iraqi unit that was able to operate on their own,” said Iraq veteran Phil Aliff, who is now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). “The only reason we were replaced by an Iraqi army unit was for publicity.”

Aliff said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. "We were hit by so many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralized, so we decided the only way we wouldn't be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time.”

“So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine,” he said, adding, “All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of command.” …

Other active duty Iraq veterans tell similar stories of disobeying orders so as not to be attacked so frequently.

“We’d go to the end of our patrol route and set up on top of a bridge and use it as an over-watch position,” Eli Wright, also an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division, told IPS. “We would just sit with our binoculars and observe rather than sweep. We’d call in radio checks every hour and say we were doing sweeps.”

Wright added, “It was a common tactic, a lot of people did that. We'd just hang out, listen to music, smoke cigarettes, and pretend.” The 26-year-old medic complained that his unit did not have any armored Humvees during his time in Iraq, where he was stationed in Ramadi, capital of the volatile al-Anbar province.

The story is a good read in other ways, as Aliff is also diagnosed with PTSD.

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Recruiting year off to a slow start

The Army started off the recruiting year with the lowest number of recruits signed up for Basic Training since the United States military became an all-volunteer force in 1973. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Pentagon reporters on Wednesday that the diminished number of delayed enlistment recruits in the pike will make it extremely difficult to reach the goals for 2008.

For the last two years, the goal of 80,000 new recruits has barely been met. To meet the numbers, qualified OCS candidates were not informed of the option (even though the Army is experiencing a paucity of Lieutenants and Captains). Additionally, the Army has been forced to admit a staggering percentage of recruits on waivers. In FY 2006, fully 17% of all recruits were admitted under waivers for psychological, criminal and health problems. Nearly one in five who were actively recruited, would not have gotten five minutes of a recruiters time five years ago.

In a perfect world, the recruiting year starts with 20,000 recruits, or 25% of the yearly goal, in the pike and scheduled for Basic. The remaining 60,000/75% are to be recruited over the course of the fiscal year. Last summer, the Army toted the board and realized they were not going to meet their 2007 numbers unless drastic measures were taken. Over 1000 former recruiters who had fulfilled their recruiting duties were sent back to the sales floor. Additionally, the Army instituted recruitment bonuses. Recruits willing to leave for basic training by the end of September (to bolster 2007 numbers) were offered healthy $20,000 bonuses - a years salary in many cases.

[keep reading]

As a result of rushing recruits into uniform to meet the 2007 goals, the Army started this recruiting year with less than 7400 recruits, or a mere 9% of the 2008 goal, in the queue. “It’s going to be another tough recruiting year,” said General Wallace.

From Army Times:

The bonus program, which began July 25, was part of a last-minute push by the Army to meet its year-end recruiting goal, after having fallen short on recruiting numbers in May and June. It had the effect of getting many of the recruits who signed up after July 25 into basic training sooner than they would have otherwise, thus reducing the number with entry dates after Oct. 1.

“That is of concern for us because the delayed entry program gives us guaranteed enlistees to meter out across the year,” Wallace said. Without that cushion to begin the recruiting year, recruiters are going to have to sign up enough people to meet the existing goal as well as replenish the pool for next year.

Coupled with the recruiting problems are retention problems. The backbone of any military is the mid-level NCO's, and they are not reupping. Instead, worn out by repeated deployments and feeling a sense of futility about the misadventure in Iraq that has cost nearly 4000 American lives, they are opting to leave the service. These losses in leadership will undoubtedly haunt the military for the next two decades.

Without top-notch NCO’s the force suffers. They fill a unique role, because they manage both up and down the chain of command. They transmit orders to the troops they supervise, and they have great influence over the decisions made by the officers they serve.

NCO’s simultaneously prepare their units to complete their mission and know the personal pertinents of their personnel. They know whose kids are struggling to adjust, whose marriage is rocky, who is expecting a baby, whose mother is ill, who has an in-law “vacationing” on their couch and clueless about why they can’t come play. They have the standing to pull a green Lieutenant aside and tell him or her the real score.

These middle managers are especially important in wartime. Not the least of all among reasons: seasoned NCO’s keep Leiutenants alive long enough to become seasoned officers. There are more Sergeants leading Soldiers and Marines down dangerous alleys and on patrol than there are Lieutenants and Captains.

These are the enlisted personnel that an Army facing a three-decade rebuilding process after the folly of destabilizing and occupying Iraq needs to retain most, but they are not staying. Instead they are leaving in droves. And Sergeants who leave after 8, 12, 15 years in service are not G.I.'s who can be replaced at the local recruiting station.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This round goes to Gates

The Department of Defense and the State Department agreed on Tuesday that the DoD would assume a greater role in the oversight and management of armed security personnel operating in Iraq.

The DoD has wanted greater control over the mercenaries who run in and out of the battle space wreaking havoc since the earliest days of the occupation. Blackwater alone has been involved in over 190 incidents in which they discharged their weapons since 2005, and have earned a reputation as trigger-happy thugs who undermine the mission (whatever it is this week). The most recent incident, on September 16, left 17 Iraqis dead and started a deluge of bad publicity for Blackwater, including charges of weapons smuggling, theft of military aircraft, and tax evasion.

The rate of Blackwater violence is at least twice that of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the other security companies operating in Iraq. Blackwater’s hired guns are just that, discharging weapons, on average, twice every convoy. (The other companies frequently escort convoys completely without incident.)

“You can find any number of people, particularly in uniform, who will tell you that they do see Blackwater as a company that promotes a much more aggressive response to things than other main contractors do,” a senior American official said. “Is it the operating environment or something specific about Blackwater?” asked one government official. “My best guess is that it is both.”

While the bloody rampage at the Nissour traffic roundabout was the most shocking in the level of wanton killing, the modern-day Pinkerton's of Blackwater are under investigation in six other episodes that left ten people dead and at least 15 wounded.

Slowly, American officials are accepting the position that Blackwater's behavior in Iraq is counterproductive to the stated 'mission' by fueling resentment among the local population.

“They’re repeat offenders, and yet they continue to prosper in Iraq,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who has been broadly critical of the role of contractors in Iraq. “It’s really affecting attitudes toward the United States when you have these cowboy guys out there. These guys represent the U.S. to them and there are no rules of the game for them.”

[keep reading]

Currently, there are approximately 10,000 armed mercenaries running around Iraq, under contract to various branches of the United States government and NGOs. I know it sounds bizarre, but there is no central oversight authority to which they must answer.

Pragmatically, it just makes sense to bring all armed civilians who are under contract to American government agencies and NGOs, as well as the American military under one authority. It would mean, effectively, that those armed civilians would no longer have multiple bosses at multiple levels and a disparate set of rules. Pentagon officials say it would allow for better coordination and communications between the American military and the private security personnel.

When contractors get in trouble, they call on the US military to bail them out. Fully 30% of the incidents in which the military was called on to save mercenary bacon involved movements and convoys that the military was not even aware had mobilized.

American commanders often perceive the private security personnel in an adversarial light. Civilian casualties, victims of mercenary gunfire, infuriate the Iraqi government and damage the American perception and image among the locals. This frustrates military officers who say the heavy-handed, shoot-first-and-don’t-even-bother-to-ask-questions-later tactics by mercenaries undermine the broader mission.

Also on Tuesday, the Iraqi parliament hammered out draft legislation that would repeal Order 17, the imperialistic, extraterritorial immunity granted to mercenaries by Paul Bremmer on his way out of town when the CPA turned over authority to the Iraqi government. Order 17 exempts mercenaries who commit wanton murder of Iraqi civilians (and any other crimes) from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

It was already a given that State was not going to be of much help to their hired guns. Indeed, it has been known for a while now that Blackwater is on it's way out of Iraq, and State will not be renewing their contracts. But the constant barrage of evidence pointing up the incompetence and fecklessness of the State Department under Condi Rice, including the revelation less than 24 hours before the agreement was made that State Department investigators had sanctioned Blackwater lawlessness by routinely issuing immunity to mercenaries involved in shooting incidents, Gates got less resistance from State than was expected.

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WWIII; who will stop it?

(Originally posted at The Motley Patriot)

Larry Johnson at NoQuarter has an article up titled, `Diego Garcia Secretly Readied for Bunker Busters`. This should scare the living daylights out of everyone no matter where they live in the world.

Diego Garcia is a small island in the Indian ocean. It is owned by the British and was leased to the United States. It currently houses a joint United States/United Kingdom air and naval refueling station and support facilities. Currently, the base is used to house and refuel stealth bombers that were used during the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Bush administration has asked for $88 million dollars, tucked into a war funding supplemental, to upgrade stealth bombers so they are capable carrying the bunker buster bombs. The request was based on an "urgent operational need". The bunker buster bomb was originally conceived as a conventional weapon, however, there is another "bunker buster" bomb; one that carries a nuclear warhead.

The Bush administration has repeatedly denied that it is readying to attack Iran. It claims that they are trying every diplomatic option to work out our differences with Iran. This is laughable. The "diplomacy" that President Bush used with Saddam Hussein was to force Iraq to prove a negative; disarm the WMD's you don't have or face invasion. The diplomacy that President Bush is using with Iran? Dismantle the nuclear weapon program you don't have or we attack you.

I say "don't have" in reference to Iran for two reasons; 1) as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has every right to develop peaceable nuclear energy, and 2) even with the Additional Protocol forced upon Iran, the IAEA has no evidence of a weapons program. Still, the Bush administration clings to the rhetoric that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and we have to stop them at all cost. This leads us to the latest statement made by President Bush; "if you are interested in averting WWIII, you don't want to see a nuclear armed Iran".

So, understand this entire process that President Bush is using:

- We force an Additional Protocol on Iran for IAEA inspections that produces no evidence of a weapon, but, the rhetoric increases.
- Our "diplomacy" with Iran consists of sharpening the rhetoric that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and if they don't stop we will attack them.
- Since Iran doesn't stop what we have no evidence they are doing, we instill sanctions on their country.
- We are now readying the stealth bombers to carry the bunker busters, which will include carrying the nuclear bunker busters.

Why is this path leading to WWIII? Russia and China.

Russia and China have already held two joint military exercises since our invasion of Iraq. The "missile defense" system President Bush is trying to put on Russia's doorstep isn't to stop Iran, it is to stop Russia from being able to back Iran if we do attack. Russia knows this and is taking steps to block it. China holds most of our debt for the Iraq war and can easily plunge our country into economic ruin if it dumps that debt onto the world market all at once.

The war in Iraq, and by default, the entire Middle East, is about oil and getting U.S. military bases into the Middle East to protect/control that oil. That has been American foreign policy since the 1950's. That is why in 1953 the CIA pulled the coup in Iran to instill the pro-western Shah. That is why we supported Saddam Hussein as he was gassing the Kurds in the 1980's. That is why we are supporting General Mousharraf in Pakistan; another dictator. That is why President Bush is clamoring for regime change in Iran and Syria today. It is all about getting friendly puppet governments into power so we can build military bases and shut out Russia and China from having access to the oil.

President Bush's entire gambit at this time is to bet that even if he attacks Iran, even if he drops a nuclear bunker buster or two, countries like Russia and China will not put the entire world at risk by retaliating with a nuclear strike against the United States. But, this premise also hinges on the fact that Russia and China will be willing to sit back and watch the United States take over the Middle East one country at a time, even by nuclear means, until they are shut out totally. This is a mistake of catastrophic proportions; Russia has formally backed Iran.

President Bush is taking a page out of history. In 1940 and 1941, President Truman put so many sanctions on Japan that eventually Japan attacked Pearl Harbor thereby drawing the United States into WWII. Then, President Truman, to stop the war, used nuclear weapons to bomb Japan into submission. Today, President Bush is using sanctions to try and goad Iran into attacking the United States to give him the justification to start a war with Iran. Unfortunately, as we saw with Iraq, even without provocation President Bush will merely lie his way into the war. This time, America may start with nuclear ordnance instead of end with it.

The stealth bombers are already being fitted to use them. The rhetoric is getting worse, not better. The lies are told repeatedly that Iran has a nuclear weapon program despite the fact no evidence has yet been discovered. The sanctions are already being put into effect and military forces gathered.

Who will stop WWIII?

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Line In The Sand

clammyc asked on Sunday at Docudarma in Selling out values for political expediency is disastrous:
...we progressives constantly find ourselves banging our heads against the wall or just shaking our heads as we read, see or hear about yet another situation where our core values are being sold out for reasons that I can't fathom.
Why is this?  Is it out of fear?  Is it out of complacency?  Is it out of not wanting to rock the boat in order to potentially win big next year?  Either way, the answer isn't a good one.  Right now,  we are at a crossroads as the general public still trusts Democrats more on nearly every issue, yet we have always been good at being ahead of the curve.

What happens if a few things that I mention above backfire?
Magnifico noted on Saturday in A Tale of Two Iraqs:
If Americans prove incapable of even admitting we have a problem, let alone working on solutions, in the coming months, then America might be in need of an intervention.
It appears that that intervention is happening, and has been in the works for some time.

The world has had enough of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and of those who enable them.

Time to pay attention, Nancy. Now you are free to concentrate on avoiding an electoral debacle in 2008, by ending the occupation of Iraq.

Iran's Capital, Tehran.

This is the country that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership, through their complicity and their refusal to do what they were elected in November 2006 to do - stop funding and end the Iraq Occupation - are helping George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to expand their Iraq Debacle into with the continued funding that they provide to Bush.

Fortunately, there are clearer heads in the world than Bush's, Cheney's, or Pelosi's, and if the Democrats will not put a stop to or set a limit to Bush's insanity, it now appears that our old "enemies" the Russians, will.

Pepe Escobar wrote in Asia Times on Friday of something that has been, as many things are, almost completely ignored by our complicit mainstream media:
The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia.
Iranian hawks close to Ahmadinejad are spinning that Putin's proposal involves Iran temporarily suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for no more United Nations sanctions. That's essentially what International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammad ElBaradei has been working on all along. The key issue is what - in practical terms - will Iran get in return. Obviously it's not the EU's Solana who will have the answer. But as far as Russia is concerned, strategically nothing will appease it except a political/diplomatic solution for the Iranian nuclear dossier.

US Vice President Dick Cheney - who even Senator Hillary Clinton now refers to as Darth Vader - must be foaming at the mouth; but the fact is that after the Caspian summit, Iran and Russia are officially entangled in a strategic partnership. World War III, for them, is definitely not on the cards.
And it's not only the Russians drawing a line in the sand. China and other Asian countries are also doing their best to box Bush And Cheney and the necocons in and render their imperialist ambitions impotent. Unfortunately their strategies will likely impact all of us.

Pluto, a currency trader, noted in a comment at Docudharma last Thursday that from a monetary standpoint:
...the World is killing us:

Last night (while you were sleeping) Japan, China and Taiwan sold U.S. Treasuries at the fastest pace in at least five years in August.

Japan cut its holdings by 4% to $586 Billion, China cut its holdings 2.2% to $400 Billion, and Taiwan's holdings slid 8.9% to $52 Billion... Japan's selling was at the fastest pace since 2000, China's since 2002, and Taiwan's since 2000...

This sell off was the biggest sell off of Treasuries since Russia defaulted in 1998.

Stick a fork in the U.S.

We're done.

We can't borrow any more money to kill people.

The funny thing is that the entire world knows this. And is talking about it today. Only the Americans are kept clueless.
Pluto also explained in Asia Sez to Americans: "All Your Money Are Belong to Us" that:
My focus is on global markets and currencies (with side orders of petroleum and commodities). Meanwhile, the world's focus is on deliberately kicking America's ass (even if it hurts them in the short term). Many nations are willing to take a hard economic hit to rid the world of a dangerous invading nation with an insane leader threatening to "throw atomic bombs" at his make-believe enemies. As a result, experienced U.S. investors have been dumping their US dollars (frantically over the past ten days)
The world has had enough of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and the neocons, has run out of patience, and is now sending multiple messages that make it obvious that if we don't put a stop to the idiocy ourselves, we will be slapped down by the world.

There's more: "A Line In The Sand" >>

Monday, October 29, 2007

Incompetence? Or Obstruction?

Justice Department officials grappling with bringing to account the Blackwater mercenaries involved in the murderous rampage in Nissour Square on September 16 got a nasty surprise. Investigators from the State Department - who lacked the authority to do so - offered Blackwater USA security guards immunity in exchange for their statements. State Department protocols require that Diplomatic Security agents investigate and report all incidents in which force is used. Last week, the chief of the Diplomatic Security Bureau, Richard J. Griffin, resigned abruptly. Presumably, his inability to control Blackwater was at the root of his sudden departure, but now it looks like he may have left in advance of this information becoming public.

FBI agents took over the State Department's investigation two weeks after the Sept. 16 killing spree, but the damage was already done. None of the information obtained during questioning of the guards by the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the division of the State Department that oversees security contractors, will be admissible. (I believe that defense attorneys call this "fruit of the poisoned tree.")

Subsequently, some Blackwater guards have cited promises of immunity from State, and refused to even be interviewed by the FBI. The Justice Department is not precluded from bringing charges using other evidence, but the inadmissibility of their initial statements complicates matters significantly.

[keep reading]

From the New York Times:

Most of the guards who took part in the Sept. 16 shooting were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, which means that they were promised that they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in their interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true. The immunity offers were first reported Monday by The Associated Press.

The officials who spoke of the immunity deals have been briefed on the matter, but agreed to talk about the arrangement only on the condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to discuss a continuing criminal investigation.

The precise legal status of the immunity offer is unclear. Those who have been offered immunity would seem likely to assert that their statements are legally protected, even as some government officials say that immunity was never officially sanctioned by the Justice Department.

Spokesmen for the State and Justice Departments would not comment on the matter. A State Department official said, “If there’s any truth to this story, then the decision was made without consultation with senior officials in Washington.”

This complicates an already-dicey legal situation. Blackwater and other mercenary outfits are immune from prosecution under Iraqi law under Order 17, signed by Paul Bremmer on his way out of town. The order still stands, the Iraqi parliament has not repealed it. They can't be tried in military courts (at least not yet.) And it is unclear what American criminal statutes apply to armed Americans operating in a war zone.

A review panel sent by State to investigate the incident determined that the legal standing to hold the Blackwater mercenaries to account under U.S. federal statute was lacking, and urged Congress to address this gaping loophole in accountability and oversight authority. To date, the House has passed a bill with an overwhelming majority that would hold all security contractors* liable under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act; the Senate is considering similar legislation. Some legal experts have suggested that the Nissour Square killings be the first cases prosecuted through the act once it is extended.

But...(Isn't there always a great big But...?)

For a case to be tried in federal court, evidence is only admissible when it meets a very high chain-of-custody bar, designed to put in place guarantees that evidence has not been tampered with. Evidence gathered by foreign investigators and turned over to U.S. investigators is reflexively seen as suspect on it's face, and the admissibility of the evidence would be contested by any first year law student. Additionally, the Constitutional guarantee of the accused to cross-examine witnesses is problematic in these instances, requiring foreign witnesses be transported to the United States to appear in court.

What was from the outset a brutally difficult case to bring was complicated further by the actions of the State Department investigators.

So was it incompetence? Could the Keystone Kops run a better State Department?

Or was it obstruction? Yet another instance of sand in the umpires eyes?

*security contractors = mercenaries

There's more: "Incompetence? Or Obstruction?" >>