He does not know that?
This is so remarkable a performance by Jon Stewart that all should watch it and then not watch him again. PL
He does not know that?
This is so remarkable a performance by Jon Stewart that all should watch it and then not watch him again. PL
"Sergeant Jay Cook of the New York State Police was on patrol alone when he spotted Sweat on a road on Sunday afternoon. The fugitive took off running and the officer shot him twice in the torso, police said.
Photographs surfaced on the Internet of the arrest of Sweat, who was unarmed and appeared bloody and slumped over as law enforcement officers tended to him." Reuters
Sergeant Jay Cook, who shot this man in line of duty is being lauded as a hero for shooting Sweat twice in the torso as Sweat ran away from him.
I would describe Cook as having done his duty, but, a "hero?"
Former policeman Slager is under indictment for murder in South Carolina for having shot an unarmed man as the victim ran from him. What is the difference in the deed?
I must ask if the public praise in the Borg would be there if Sweat had been Black?
And why is it that this prisoner with two torso wounds was photographed propped up, evidently for the camera? pl
The United States insists on more intrusive monitoring than Iran is ready to give. With these and other disputes still unresolved, the likelihood that the Tuesday target deadline for an Iran nuclear deal could slip was increasingly growing even before the U.S. confirmation.
The dispute over access surfaced again Sunday, with Iranian Gen. Masoud Jazayeri saying that any inspection by foreigners of Iran’s military centers is prohibited. He said the attempt by the U.S. and its allies to “obtain Iran’s military information for years ... by the pressure of sanctions” will not succeed.
But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Iran’s “nuclear activities, no matter where they take place,” must be verifiable." Daily Star
I have favored the prospect of a verifiable nuclear arms deal with Iran but in the absence of an ability to inspect anywhere and anytime the US and the others should walk away from the table.
Iranian rhetoric is not empty gesture. Khamenei and his crew want to talk tough while still getting the sanctions lifted. They should not be allowed to have it both ways.
Does Iran actually have a nuclear weapons program? Who knows? But this kind of behavior should not be accepted.
In the present context a deal that does not include inspection anywhere, anytime will be greeted with a firestorm of opposition in the US.
Will this ultimately mean war with Iran? Quite possibly. pl
He was just on FZ's Sunday newsie slugging it out with Martn Indyk, former British something or other, former Australian official, former Assistant Secretary of State, etc., and currently an American citizen.
I find Indyk amusing. He called me up on behalf of his neocon pals (probably) to reproach me with not "confessing" to being a registered (FARA) agent (Syria). I told him that I was not and had never been but had been the registered agent of a Lebanese businessman as head of his family foundation, the foundation having been involved in funding various pro-peace studies that were provided to the State Department. He hung up, but, today he walloped Oren hard and I can only offer my congratulations.
BTW, at popular request I will once again cross post things on my two blogs.
“… I believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people … are the safeguard to the continuance of a free government … whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.” RE Lee
One of our commenters provided this link. Another correspondent asked for some statement as to the arguments for secession at the time of the WBS. Lee's letter to the British historian Lord Acton seems apt.
I just heard Eleanor Clift the "liberal" journalist call Lee a traitor on MSNBC. IMO that description only applies to him and the rest of them if the notion prevails that the right of secession did not exist.
BTW, Lee resigned from the US Army and his resignation was accepted by the US Secretary of War. This occurred before he was persuaded to enter Virginia's service. pl
A nonwhite Sikh woman, daughter of immigrants and daughter of the South, made the right call concerning the Confederate flag.
By Sidney O. Smith III
Governor Nimarata Nikki Randhawa Haley of South Carolina made the right decision to support lowering the Confederate flag now located on the grounds of the State Capitol. And she did so under the authority of the official State Flag of South Carolina, ranked as one of the 10 best designed State flags in the country. That State flag better reflects the spirit of the people of Charleston, South Carolina, especially following the horrendous massacre of nine Christian martyrs at Emanuel AME on June 17, 2015.
First elected in 2010, the people of South Carolina chose as their governor an Indian woman who was born and raised a Sikh. According to Wiki, her parents are immigrants from the Amritsar District of India and moved to a small Southern town – Bamberg, South Carolina.
I am hopeful and, increasingly, confident they will support her decision because it appears to have helped with the suffering and grieving in Charleston, and whatever the people of Charleston want, I want. From all those tears, we have seen in Charleston – genuine tears, not political tears -- something beautiful has sprung to life, if you care to look. And Charleston is known as the heart of the Deep South as well as for Southern class.
I mention for a reason that Governor Haley is nonwhite, daughter of immigrants, and was raised a Sikh. The fact that the people of South Carolina elected her, perhaps, tells you more about the people of South Carolina and changes in the South than a few in the mainstream media would like to admit or recognize, as it challenges the perceptions upon which they have profited for so long.
But first, an admission: I know next to nothing about her politics. I consider myself a “one issue” person. My interest is US foreign policy and, more specifically, how certain
"You seem ... to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.... Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves." Thomas Jefferson writing as president of the United States. Wiki on the US Constitution
"Roberts invokes the founders of the US, writing, "Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority's conception of the judicial role ... They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges."
Notably, though, when seeming to address people who would celebrate Friday's decision, Roberts is clear that he does not have a personal problem with the outcome, just the process of getting there:
Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration ...
If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."
Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent in Business Insider
"Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court," Scalia said.
"This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."
The conservative justice railed against his fellow justices, calling the majority opinion "egotistical" and pointing out that the justices were a homogeneous group that didn't represent the people. As proof, Scalia pointed out that many went to the same law schools, and none were evangelical or protestant Christians." Scalia in his dissent in Business Insider
Jefferson wrote the first quotation above as an apology for his failure to act to stop Chief Justice John Marshall's successful grab for the power of judicial review for constitutionality of government actions or laws.
There is nothing in the constitution that grants the federal courts the power of judicial review, nothing. Jefferson's own view was that the three branches of the federal government were completely equal and that each was responsible for judging the constitutionality of its actions.
But, at the very end of the John Adams administration, Adams appointed a man named Marbury to be a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. This is a minor office. James Madison, Jefferson's new Secretary of state declined to carry out the appointment and Marbury sued before the Supreme Court on the basis that Madison lacked the constitutional power to negate Adams' appointment.
John Marshall ruled in favor of Marbury (a fellow member of the defeated Federalist Party) and Jefferson, distracted by the business of his initial days in office as President, let Marshall's ruling go unchallenged and Marbury got the job.
This is how the federal courts came to be the "oligarchy" of which Jefferson complains.
I should make it clear that I am completely indifferent to the outcome in the same sex marriage case.
What bothers me is the assumption of this much power by the "five unelected lawyers." pl
By Patrick Bahzad
Let's cut the chase and get straight to the point. This is what is established as of now, 5.30 pm CET.
What happened ?
- At approximately 10 a.m. this morning, a van entered an chemical production site in the suburbs of Lyons, in south-eastern France. Contrary to what was said in previous reports, the van didn't crash the security gate, but had proper clearance to enter the premises, a facility registered on the so-called "Seveso List" (a list of sites producing hazardous dioxin-like compounds).
- Having entered the site, the driver crashed his van into a gas tank, probably expecting this to cause an explosion likely to damage the chemical production-line itself.
- Although the crash caused an explosion, only two people were injured. The driver of the van then tried to ignite an oxygen tank but was knocked-out by a fireman who had rushed to the scene. He was immediately turned over to French Gendarmerie and taken into custody.
- Shortly after the police had secured the perimeter, a severed head was found in the immediate vicinity of the attack (the body was found in a nearby bush), together with a black Islamic banner and another flag with inscriptions in Arabic. Both pieces of evidence are currently being analysed and translated.
What can we say about the driver/attacker ?
- French officials confirmed that the driver of the van is 35 year-old Yassin Salhi, a French citizen of North-African origin. He grew up in the East of France and lost his father while still a teenager, a recurring profile among a number of French Jihadis.
- Yassin Salhi was known to French counter-terrorism police, but was never arrested or sentenced in relation with a terrorist enterprise.
- However, he had been under surveillance between 2006 and 2008. This surveillance was ended, given that it hadn't come up with any evidence suggesting Salhi might be involved in terrorist activities.
The issue of Turkey's relationship to the Islamic State was raised on a recent thread. Here is a hypothesis (based mostly on informed speculation) designed to provoke discussion of the issue.
Erdogan's vision for the future of Turkey is a re-created "empire", with Turkey at its centre and himself at its head. He is realist enough to know that the form of the new empire will be quite different from the old Ottoman Empire: it will most likely be a treaty alliance of Muslim countries in the MENA area. And that it will take time to bring it into being.
The eruption of the IS to Turkey's south has speeded things up. They have brought the Sunni areas of Iraq into play, and pose a major threat to Assad of Syria, Erdogan's principal current target. They are also a counter to the Kurds in the area. Their establishment in Iraq and Syria would suit his plans. While treading carefully, he will aid them in achieving this goal. Once established, he may also be able to use them later against the Saudis and the Gulfies.
The resurrection of the Caliphate by al Baghdadi has added a new dimension to his plans and prospects. If he could some day assume this mantle, his authority and influence would extend throughout the Sunni Muslim world. An added reason for him to not only prevent the destruction of the IS, but indeed to help it succeed.
The taking over of the IS after it is established in Syria and Iraq, and possibly beyond, would be a delicate operation - a smooth change-over at the top. He is probably already planning and preparing for it by inserting Turkish agents into its top layers, and establishing clandestine relations with the former Iraqi officials already there. At an appropriate time, the Salafis leading the IS would be quietly removed, and a more cooperative head would take over. Someone who, at the appropriate time, would transfer the title of Caliph of Islam to the most powerful Muslim leader of the time ‒ Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
It is a very difficult path that Erdogan is treading, but the prize at the end is worth the risks and problems. He has to not only fight off and defeat enemies, but has also to deceive, fend off and neutralize friends and allies. It will be interesting to see if he is clever enough to pull it off.
My senescent state of decrepitude condemns me to a lot of 24/7 news. Unable to reach the controller in time I watched in abject horror yesterday as General (Ret.) Jack Keane, Chairman of the Kagan controlled Institute for the Study of War, (ISW) told Fox News that it "is obvious" that Russia will "test" NATO in eastern Europe and that we (NATO) should be ready to meet the test.
This is a revelation (irony)! I thought it had become a truism that nuclear armed powers should not prepare to fight each other because of the general belief that escalation to a nuclear exchange would be a constant danger in such situations. To prepare for war is a different thing from establishment of deterrence against war through presentation of a plausible image of readiness.
The recent musings of the soldiery here (SST) on the paucity of conventional resources in the non-US countries of NATO would seem to point to the impracticality of a conventional war betwixt NATO and Mother Russia.
At some point in such a war the incipient losers are likely to say something like "Ah, to hell with it lets bomb them with the B-2s." After that the game would truly be "on."
But, I suppose Jack Keane is "onto something" now, something new. pl
ISIS launching operations towards Kobane and Hasakah ?
By Patrick Bahzad
A couple of days have passed since Kurdish YPG militias achieved an important victory against ISIS in Syria, where they took the city of Tal Abyad, a large border-crossing into Turkey. With the support of US airstrikes, the combined forces of the YPG and a number of Syrian rebel groups also advanced South towards Raqqa, the capital of the "Caliphate", apparently managing to take control of Ain Issa, a strategic traffic junction between the road from Tal Abyad to Raqqa and the"Syrian Road" going all the way from Mosul to Aleppo. While these advances are quite significant as such, they will only have a lasting effect in the fight against ISIS if they can be consolidated and maintained.
The Islamic State however seems to have opted for its favoured method of defence, which is to avoid large scale engagements and instead redeploy and counter-attack in the enemy's hinterland. The success or failure of such moves will have a strong bearing on what is now a battle for control over the Turkish-Syrian border.
Up until a few weeks ago, ISIS was controlling a much larger part of the border area, including vital border-crossings that the organisation used as smuggling and resupply routes. The fall of Tal Abyad has dealt a severe blow to the Jihadis' stream of trucks carrying oil, cotton, grain and other goods over the Turkish border, as they now have to take a longer route to reach a border-crossing still under their control.
Kurdish Advance and Victories
In this context, the Kurdish YPG advances further South onto Ain Issa can clearly be seen as an operation aimed at cutting of the smuggling route used by ISIS - i.e. the famous M4 known as the "Syrian Road" - which provided ISIS with a major East to West traffic connection, all the way from North-Eastern Iraq to North-Western Syria. Several border crossings North of the M4 have been used over time to maintain a steady flow of goods getting back and forth over the Turkish border.
From that perspective, the recent Kurdish victories could potentially have serious consequences for the Islamic State. For one thing, these gains could enable the anti-ISIS coalition to seriously disrupt ISIS logistical and financial operations. The Kurdish expansion into areas along the Turkish border might also be used as a means to stop or reduce the arrival of new ISIS recruits, and serve as a launch-pad towards major offensive actions against the Caliphate's territory in Syria, especially its capital Raqqa, which is located just about 40 miles South of Ain Issa, the furthest point of YPG advance so far.
The blogosphere is now going to forensically study and reinterpret this publication. The works of John Yoo will no doubt get a mention even though he wasn't in the Military, as will various cases.
For what it's worth, the link is below. I must find my copy of "The Caine Mutiny".
(Jackson Circle at Arlington National Cemetery)
"THE HISTORICAL MEMORY OF A NATION IS NOT MERELY A REPOSITORY. OUR VISION OF THE PAST CHANNELS OUR VISION OF THE FUTURE BY CONSTRAINING OPTIONS, BUT ALSO IT PLAYS A PROACTIVE ROLE. THIS MEMORY IS ACTUALLY A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR IN STRUGGLE.... IF ONE CONTROLS PEOPLES' MEMORY, ONE CONTROLS THEIR DYNAMISM.... IT IS VITAL TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THIS MEMORY, TO CONTROL IT, TO ADMINISTER IT, TELL IT WHAT IT MUST CONTAIN.' COLLECTIVE MEMORY IS THE TOOLSHED, TOMORROW'S IDEOLOGICAL ARSENAL, FROM WHICH POLITICAL CONCEPTS AND SYMBOLS ARE SELECTED, REINTERPRETED, AND MANIPULATED BOTH BY ESTABLISHED GOVERNMENTS AND OPPOSITION GROUPS. IT MAY WAIT FOR DECADES, PATIENTLY DORMANT, ONLY TO BE REACTIVATED SUDDENLY AS AN EXPLOSIVE CONTAGIOUS FORCE." DR. CHRISTINE M. HELMS IN MCNAIR PAPER # 10 "ARABISM AND ISLAM: STATELESS NATIONS AND NATIONLESS STATES." SEPTEMBER, 1990.
Dr. Christine Helms is an old friend. Years ago I read this quotation from her work and was as impressed with it then as I am now. All too often we Americans seem to think that the past has little relevance except as a matter of antiquarian concern. As I have written before it is only in this country that the statement "That's history" is dismissive.
A belief in the malleability of human consciousness and the irrelevance of the past underlay our ridiculous overconfidence in Iraq.
Have we learned anything from the experience? Do we now grasp the notion that collective memory will not be expunged by public relations campaigns or lying "information operations?"
"After fierce clashes with loyalists, rebels, including Islamist fighters, surrounded the village of Hader, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said.
“Hader is now totally surrounded by rebels, who just took a strategic hilltop north of the village,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The village lies along the cease-fire line, with the Israeli-occupied Golan to the west and the border with Damascus province to the northeast.
Abdel Rahman said the rebels had received reinforcements from elsewhere in Qunaitra province, which covers much of the Golan." Daily Star
"Despite surviving more than four years of civil war, the Syrian regime might still fall, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday.
“We would like to see a transition in which Assad disappears from the scene,” Carter testified before the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee. “That is possible because his forces are much weakened.”
Government forces are more and more isolated in and around Damascus and in the Alawite-majority region of the northwest of the country, Carter said." Daily Star
SECDEF Carter actually said this week that the "best thing" would be for Bashar Assad to remove himself from the scene. That is pretty funny since Assad's certain fate would be extradition and execution from whatever refuge he might seek.
Israel is playing its usual two-faced game with the Druze. Many Druze serve in the IDF and Israeli Border Police. Israel wants the rebels to destroy the present Syrian government in the belief that whatever successor government might then exist would be weak, disorganized and harmless to them. To that end the Natanyahu government is quite willing to see the Druze inhabitants of Hader, a village just beyond the UNDOF zone, be massacred by "rebels" many of whom are the Izzies newfound Nusra friends.
Understandably, the Israeli Druze are displeased by this and last week a group of them attacked with stones IDF ambulances that were evacuating "rebel" casualties to IDF hospitals so that they could be repaired and returned to the fight.
At the top of the Israeli list of priorities is the destruction of Hizbullah and the rocket artillery and guided missile threat it poses to most of Israel. Iron Dome is an inadequate defense against that threat and the IDF has no real "stomach" for another ground fight against Hizbullah. Much of the Israeli animosity against Assad is probably based on his long term alliance with Hizbullah.
I asked an Israeli officer last week if he knew what Irish Alzheimer's was. He did not so I explained that it is a condition that occurs when one forgets all else but one's real or imagined enemies. He laughed but clearly did not grasp the reference. pl
Outsourcing is the rage these days and the US businesses, chasing cheaper labour in perpetual pursuit of efficiency/savings/greater profits, are at the head of the field. US government agencies have followed suit, trying to make do with the limited budgets they have, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is no exception.
The OPM is a somewhat obscure US federal agency which, among other things, conducts 90+% of background checks for personnel applying for sensitive jobs in the military and security agencies. Just as with large corporations, the cost and staff requirements of maintaining their IT infrastructure led them to seek savings by hiring outside talent for the job. What OPM did was't any different than what many US corporations do.
As it goes, outsourcing functions one can easily end up outsourcing the related know-how and the judgement acquired by experience (all the stuff you can't put into an SLA). Which savings just were not worth it usually becomes apparent only in hindsight. Given that there are things that are irreversible, lack of foresight results in a self-inflicted wound.
Obviously, with outsourcing knowledge retention becomes a real problem. Staff tends to run away when they see the writing on the wall and the best leave quickly in pursuit of more rewarding employment and to escape the terminal boredom administering to Whatnot in Mumbai or worse, having to train their replacement before being given the boot. That is to say, those who remain are usually not the creme de la creme.
I'm guessing, but perhaps that was why the OPM hired the wrong people. That they did so is clear. I wonder whether the OPM will heed the sage advice Dr. Watson dispensed to the hapless pawn shop owner in the Jermey Brett adaptation of the The Red-Headed League: "Next time you engage an assistant, pay him the proper wage!" ... but I digress.
As it went, OPM came to hire apparently chinese hackers - and gave them root access. This would have been bad for a company, but became something else entirely when it came to government data. Here, the hackers were able to steal the senstitive personnel records of federal employees working in military and security agencies. Businessinsider reports (links below):
"Specifically, the hackers reportedly acquired SF86 forms, which detail sensitive background information."Security-wise, this may be the worst breach of personally identifying information ever," Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday.
"[The] OPM is responsible for administering the SF 86, which is one of the most extensive national security questionnaires that exists."
"Federal employees and contractors who want government-security clearance have to disclose virtually every aspect of their lives via an SF 86 questionnaire, which is then stored on OPM's largely unencrypted database. ..."
"In fact, the breach was unprecedented in its breadth and scope: "Security-wise, this may be the worst breach of personally identifying information ever," Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday."
The time the hackers had to sift through all that data likewise was unprecedented:
"The average time Chinese hackers have access to a compromised system is 356 days and the longest recorded was 4 years and 10 months"
This has a potential to severely compromise US personnel and more, and here I hand over to TTG who is better able to explain what it means:
"When I heard of this data breach, my first thought was that here was another reason to watch my credit card and bank accounts very closely. What more could I lose after the news of the Anthem Blue Cross data breach discovered back in February. Then when the loss of the security files of up to 14 million Federal employees, retirees and contractors was announced, I knew this was a lot worse than the temporary loss of a credit card or two.
I have seen opinions that the information lost in this data breach poses a danger to U.S. personnel operating overseas in sensitive and covered positions. Fortunately, most people operating in those kinds of positions do not have records stored at OPM. I didn’t have contact with OPM until I retired from DIA. However, a lot of people who work with those in sensitive positions do go through the OPM for their security clearances. That includes a slew of support personnel and contractors. Those working under cover could be discovered through their associations with those support personnel and contractors.
The loss of the information contained in the SF86s and background investigations of these people is a treasure trove to China or whoever has this information. Filling out an SF86 is a laborious and time consuming task for anyone. It can take weeks to gather the detailed information requested in the form. The information in the OPM’s database of SF86s represents decades of man-years of detective work.
With that information and a halfway decent data mining tool, one can easily construct an accurate and detailed model of the vast national security structure of the USG. This model would include all the myriad government and contractor offices, the leadership structure along with detailed contact information, what they think of each other, and everyone’s dirty laundry. This model would also show how this national security structure evolved over time, at least since 9/11. With additional inputs, this model may even be predictive. This is indeed a serious data breech."
“Life on Earth is in trouble. That much we know. But how bad have things become – and how fast are events moving? How soon, indeed, before the Earth’s biological treasures are trashed, in what will be the sixth great mass extinction event? This is what Gerardo Caballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and his colleagues have assessed, in a paper that came out on Friday.“ (The Guardian)
This paper lacks the cautious caveats that are usually present in scientific studies. The researchers are pretty damned sure of their results and the implications of those results. The entire study along with supporting data and metrics is freely available online under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license. My guess is that the researchers feel it is too important to be merely summarized in a few sensational articles and then left to languish in an obscure scientific journal. It’s available here. This is one paragraph from the study.
“The evidence is incontrovertible that recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history. Our analysis emphasizes that our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years. If the currently elevated extinction pace is allowed to continue, humans will soon (in as little as three human lifetimes) be deprived of many biodiversity benefits. On human time scales, this loss would be effectively permanent because in the aftermath of past mass extinctions, the living world took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to re-diversify. Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species and to alleviate pressures on their populations—notably habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change. All of these are related to human population size and growth, which increases consumption (especially among the rich), and economic inequity. However, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.” (Science Advances)
Gerardo Caballos, the leader of the research team, pointed to Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, as a sign of hope. This encyclical goes far beyond a simple message of “give a hoot, don’t pollute.” This sinner does not feel up to divining the deeper meanings of Laudato Si at the moment. That will take time and prayer. Pope Francis begins by saying the encyclical is for every living person on the planet, not just Roman Catholics. I suggest we all read it or, at least, read some of the more serious reviews. Is it mere coincidence that Laudato Si and the study on the sixth mass extinction appear within days of each other? Perhaps the timing is divine.
Laudato Si The encyclical on the Vatican website
The US definition of terrorism in the criminal code is found in 18 U.S. Code § 2331. 18 USC § 2331 states:
Dylan Roof, 21, of Lexington SC, evidently a high school drop-out, has confessed to the murders of nine people who had welcomed him into their midst and into a Bible study group in their church's basement in Charleston, SC. Roof sat with them for an hour and then produced a pistol, a Glock Model 21, .45 ACP semi-automatic with which he shot to death six women and three men, sparing one after telling her that she would live to recount what he had done.
There are various questions raised in the media concerning mental health, Southern culture, gun sales, etc. Roof was from a little town 1oo miles away. He traveled to Charleston to do this.
- This weapon costs at least $500. Who paid for that? He was evidently unemployed and not living in his parents home.
- One account of how he got the gun describes the acquisition as a birthday gift from his father. This young man had nothing about him to recommend to a parent the gift of a large caliber pistol. If that is what happened then a case is strengthened for required federal and state background checks for private transfer of firearms including between family members.
- According to a second version of the acquisition, Roof bought the pistol himself with birthday gift money. In this version of the story he bought the pistol from a gun dealer in Charleston. In that case the dealer would have had a Federal Firearms License and a federal background check would have been required. Roof does not seem to have had a record of treated mental health problems. He had been convicted of a trespass misdemeanor and was awaiting trial for felony possession of illegal drugs. The federal firearms transfer check should have picked up the pending felony trial and blocked the sale. I don't know what SC law is on this. In Virginia the transfer would have been illegal and picked up in the additional state check. If Roof's purchase of this pistol was not blocked by the background check then the efficacy of such checks is questionable.
Possession of a firearm is an individual constitutional right in the US. The federal courts including SCOTUS have repeatedly supported that right although allowing "reasonable" restrictions on the right. These restrictions include background checks, but are background checks really effective blocks to possession of firearms by criminals or the mentally ill?
If the answer is "no," then some solution must be found for the obvious problem we have in the use of firearms for crimes like the one in Charleston.
Politicians will, of course, demagogue the issue and the media will chatter stupidly but Obama is right in saying we must find some solution to this problem.
I am a Lifetime member of the NRA. I own a lot of guns and intend to keep them and keep shooting them, but this problem should be dealt with. pl
(The Death of Mathieu de Clermont, Grand Master of the Hospitallers on the walls of Acre -1291. For those who do not know, Acre was the last Christian city in the Levant to fall to the Muslims, in this case Mamelukes from Egypt))
"... the people of the region must change their political culture to succeed. Long-term success must come from the people, he added, because much of the appeal of extremist groups would evaporate if government is seen as representing all aspects of a country fairly.
Given this, the general said, “the role the United States military is taking against a transregional threat of ISIL represents, in my judgment, an appropriate level of effort.” defense.gov
Well, Martin, the people of the region are changing their political culture. They are reverting to the medieval pattern of faith and strongmen as the arbiters of history. They are shaking off the bonds imposed by ecumenical empires (Ottoman, European, etc) of various kinds and reverting to what lies close to their hearts. We don't like it? What is the alternative?
I listened to this testimony today. It was before the HASC and this Pentagon blurb does not capture the true import.
Dempsey went on about the nine aspects of THE POLICY, or was it nineteen or maybe twenty-nine? This is frightening because it betrays the existence of a policy deliberation in which logic and knowledge were tortured to death in the interest of interagency consensus. Whenever that happens the result is something like a giraffe. That would be a donkey designed by a large committee.
Mr. Carter expressed grave doubts about the outcome in Iraq. This opinion must be the result of the counsel he is receiving from: Pollack, Kagan and O'Hanlon. (His ME advisers) He took note of the fact that few trainees of any kind are showing up for training in the US training bases. He thinks that is a bad sign.
When pressed Dempsey said that if the Iraq government collapses we (the US Armed Forces) will fight on from our "network" of Hedgehogs assisting whoever wants help and without regard to the wishes of "the government."
I guess he never heard of besieged fortresses, dababat (SVBIEDs or battering rams), or Dien Bien Phu. Ah, I forgot. That was the French... That would never happen to us. pl
By Patrick Bahzad
With discussions having recently taken place about the best course of action in the fight against the Islamic State, a short overview of the modus operandi of IS troops on the tactical level seems helpful to understand how their military capabilities can be targeted, and to what effect. The following assessment is based on IS operations undertaken mostly in Iraq in the period since early June 2014.
As a preliminary observation, it has to be pointed out that ISIS' operations in Syria, although they have been been taken into account for comparative purposes, are dependent on other contingencies and are only mentioned in case of notable discrepancies with Iraq. It also needs to be mentioned that, as an adaptive organisation, the Islamic State would probably be able to change its tactics if there was a significant overhaul of the Coalition's strategy.
For all these reasons, the following assessment should only be seen as indicative of IS' tactics so far and shouldn't be considered a projection of any course of action they might take over the months to come, in particular during Ramadan which is about to start.
A "Survivalist" Organisation
One of the most important things to stress about ISIS is that this is an organisation that has learnt to fight and survive – despite heavy losses – in an environment where they were totally outmatched technologically and under the constant threat of US air-power. The other decisive aspect to their military capabilities is the input of former military and intelligence personnel from the Saddam era.
In its early days, "Al Qaeda in Iraq" lacked the military, logistical and organisational skills of the former Iraqi military and it had a hard time surviving the US led "Surge". However, what was left of AQI in 2009 had merged with the ex-Baathist element and had gradually morphed into a structure that had learnt its lessons the hard way. Renamed "Islamic State in Iraq", it was led by a group of people skilled enough to seize any chance to expand and consolidate their organisation.
The very nature of the terrain that this war is being fought on, i.e. the presence of ISIS on both sides of the international border between Iraq and Syria, makes for a third element with huge implications for the Coalition. Iraq was always seen as the top priority of ISIS leadership, but their expansion into Eastern Syria - both as a logistical base and a sanctuary - has changed the equation. The scope of this change however will not be analysed further in detail in this piece. Instead we will focus primarily on the characteristics of the Islamic State as a hybrid organisation mixing terror, insurgency and urban warfare tactics.
"In northern Syria, the jihadists of the Islamic State have fixed power lines, dug sewage systems and painted sidewalks. In Raqqa, they search markets and slaughterhouses for expired food and sick animals. Farther south, in Deir al-Zour, they have imposed taxes on farmers and shopkeepers and fined men for wearing short beards.
The group runs regular buses across the border with Iraq to Mosul, where it publicly kills captives and trains children for guerrilla war. Last month, it reopened a luxury hotel in the city and offered three free nights to newlyweds, meals included.
A year after the Islamic State seized Mosul, and 10 months after the United States and its allies launched a campaign of airstrikes against it, the jihadist group continues to dig in, stitching itself deeper into the fabric of the communities it controls." NY Times
"ISIS launched a VBIED wave of at least 13 VBIEDS on Saturday, June 13
north and south of Fallujah, near Haditha, and south of Baiji. An additional
VBIED detonated in northern Baghdad on Sunday, June 14, and additional
attempted VBIEDs were reported in the Alas and Ajil oil fields, east of Tikrit,
on Monday, June 15. In total, ISIS has launched at least 36 VBIEDS in the last
ten days, including eight VBIEDs that were intercepted by the ISF west of
Karbala on June 10. This is the largest set of VBIEDs that ISW has documented
in Iraq during a short time interval since 2013." ISW
Throughout the Palace of The Alhambra in what was Islamic Andalus and is now Spain there recurs a cartouche inscription endlessly repeated. la ghalib ila allah "No Victor but God." The palace was built beginning in the 11th Century AD and completed in 1333.
The Muslims ruled much of the Iberian peninsula for many centuries. Their cultural and linguistic influence is everywhere in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. In the time of the Ummayad Caliphate Cordoba was one of the greatest centers of learning and civilized life in the world. Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in Moorish Andalus in considerable harmony so long as the dhimmi Christian and Jewish population understood the second class status they "enjoyed."
The glitter of Moorish life in that time and place obscures the truth that rule over these places and peoples had originally been achieved with fire and the sword and only gradually over many years had the life of Andalus evolved into the glory that it became. The disruption and forced re-organization of society that occurred in the beginning are now conveniently ignored.
As the NY Times reports there is the development of a new society in "The Caliphate," a society that is based on a coherent ideology and that seeks to order people's lives according to rules it finds to be worthwhile. Many here will say, well, that is not real Islam. Feel free to do so but in fact your opinion in the matter is unimportant. What matters is their opinion and their ability to make that opinion live in the territory they control. It is evident that they are making a great effort in what can only be called "nation building." To call them terrorists and think that by killing a leader here and there their new state can be made to disappear is foolish.
VBIEDs are vehicle bombs, vehicles loaded with explosives and used as a kind of battering ram in combat. The word in medieval Arabic for battering ram was dababa (the same word as for tank now). This would be a suitable word to describe VBIEDs. The vehicle can be any size. The most popular vehicles for this purpose now are the 2,200 HUMVEEs we gave the Iraqi Army and which the Iraqi Army abandoned to IS as they fled.
The ISW piece linked to below reports an increase in the use of VBIEDs lately. Like them I think that is a prelude to a major effort somewhere during Ramadan. pl
If you missed this episode of Larry Wilmore's "Nightly Show" I recommend you watch it all the way through. Here we have a group of Black comedians discussing the phenomenon of the "Trans-Racialled" White woman who until last week portrayed herself as Black and who was the head of the Spokane, Washington branch of the NAACP as a Black woman. Among the interesting things about her now known are the lawsuit she brought against Howard University as a graduate student for discriminating against her as a White woman and the hate mail she sent herself in Spokane.
This morning on Fox News a psychiatrist tried to tell the morning news crew that it is a bad thing for people to tell themselves that they are what they feel themselves to be. Given the current mania in the US for self-determination in identity that idea clearly frightened the news people and they did their best to shut him up. pl
Last Wednesday I made my way north to see the French frigate L’Hermione in Alexandria, Virginia. She was worth the trip. For several years I worked in a waterfront office not far from where she was docked. Although it was several years since I last visited the area, I was glad to see little had changed. I found free street parking a half dozen blocks from the waterfront and enjoyed a short walk along the tree lined Queen Street. This street still retains many historic brick and clapboard townhouses. They are well maintained, colorful and a joy to view. If I ever lived in a city, this is the kind of place I would choose. When I got to Founders Park, L’Hermione came into view. She is magnificent.
Among the locals supporting the visit of L’Hermione were men and women of the 1st Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line, a reenacted Revolutionary War living history group. Their presence added much to the festivities. Their ability to pleasantly carry on in the heat and humidity wearing period costumes is remarkable. I talked with one couple in their colonial finery about this. They said they just get used to it just as the colonials did. These two were both history majors and just loved it, although we all did seek the shelter of a tent for a brief respite. I love these reenactors, where ever I find them.
I also stopped at the floating workshop of the Alexandria Seaport Center. I would stop here often when I worked in the area. The Center is run by the Alexandria Seaport Foundation which began to honor the maritime heritage of Alexandria's waterfront. The foundation also has several programs to help local at risk youths including a full time apprentice program and middle school programs to teach math through carpentry-based projects. If I didn’t live fifty miles away, I would be part of this.
My mother always sais that, when we children were quiet, we usually tended to have mischief on our minds. I guess, it isn't any different with interntational policy meetings of which you hear basically nothing, and of Camp David you heard basically nothing.
Gareth Porter reports, that the deal the Gulfies have apparently proposed to Obama at Camp David was that they would tolrate a US-Iranian deal only if they get to destroy all their links, real or imagined, to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The US, concerned about Jihadis getting out of control again, apparently replied that that was ok only if they kept their pets on the leash and make sure that they don't crap on the carpet.
While Al Jazeera asked Al-Joulani fawning questions, according to Syria Comment, Al-Joulani during the interview confirmed his allegiance to al-Qaida twice, saying that he receives orders from its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, all without follow up questions.
Al-Joulani went on to say that JaN's overall goals are overthrowing Assad and defeating Hezbollah, and that Syria would not serve as a base for an attack on the Americans or Europeans.
Just to make things perfectly clear, JaN soon after angrily denied having broken with Al Qaeda.
"Al-Nusra "completely denies reports of a break-up with Al-Qaeda," the group said in a statement released on Twitter.
It said Al-Nusra "remains the backbone of jihadists" in Syria, "the first into battle, dedicated to unifying the ranks around sharia (Islamic law)... righting injustice and defending the disadvantaged".
It denied "completely all reports of a meeting with Qatari or other intelligence services or seeking Qatari or Gulf funding, as this is contrary to the principles on which Al-Nusra has been based from the start".
There is IMO little reason to believe that the Gulfies will be able to control their proxies. Porter is IMO absolutely right when he writes that the disavowal of global jihadist aims in the short run does not mean that the organization has abandoned those aims.
Assuming JaN makes more progress towards Lebanon, and succeeds in seizing Damascus and overthrowing the Syrian Government, there will be the question after the post-Assad order. I find it highly implausible that the group that did all the fighting will allow itself to be excluded from power. Historically it has rarely if ever worked that way. Why should it now?
Beyond that, JaN will likely continue in the mission and take on Hezbollah in their heartland, Lebanon.
This is yet another good piece of work, almost. Its methodology and logic are very familiar to me and reflect the presence in its work force of a good many who learned the trade in the US Armed Forces.
Unfortunately, the work is fatally marred in its Conclusions section. This section abandons the work of intelligence analysis for policy advocacy in that it clearly presses for an alliance between the US and the Islamist forces now fighting the Syrian government.
It does that in the apparent belief that these forces can be controlled and manipulated after their victory and installation in Damascus as the triumphant vanguard of Islamic rule throughout the ME.
This is, of course, absurd. The victors will be unwilling to hand over power to a feeble "army" of semi-secular rebels of the sort favored by ISW, McCain, Graham et al. Would they fight each other? Of course they would. This kind of reduction to struggle amongst Muslim factions is a never ending feature in Islamic history. Does the word tawa'if mean anything to ISW? From Islamic andalus to post Soviet Afghanistan the pattern is recurrent. The inevitable intra-Islamist struggle would not be a fertile ground for R2P inspired installation of a "liberal" government.
The attachment of a "policy prescriptive" conclusion to this document calls into question the integrity of ISW's work products when they are labeled "intelligence forecast."
One must ask if ISW is affecting Obama Administration policy or is it merely indulging the obsessions of its proprietors?
Obama’s decision to launch a major new training cum advising project in Iraq to be augmented by up to 1,000 more American troops is revealing of how his administration’s thinking about Iraq/ISIL/Syria is oriented. Clearly, there remains no coherent strategy; clearly, the incongruities and contradictions among of the various bits and pieces of policy also remain unresolved. There are a few valuable insights to be garnered from this latest move, nonetheless.
11. As to Syria, Obama’s reflections have yet to yield a strategy that links it to Iraq. It should be pretty obvious that a prominent variable in the long war against ISIL in Iraq is its strength next door in Syria. That does not appear obvious to the White House’s deep thinkers. Within Syria, the administration looks to being slowly buying into that other Saudi-Israeli fictional narrative, i.e. that al-Nusra/Army of Conquest is a different sort of beast from ISIL. That means giving a silent benediction to the former’s lending its indirect and indirect support and welcoming the ultimate collapse of the Assad regime. The repercussions from that across the region do not seem to have gotten a hard look – at least, there is no sign as to how Obama would handle that eventuality as registered in Iraq and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the slow-motion training of “moderate” Syrian opposition forces in Jordan proceeds at a snail’s pace – a mute recognition that Syria’s post-Assad future will feature a power struggle between ISIL and al- Nusra.
12. Turkey: Post- election, the big open question insofar as American interests are concerned is what the election results mean for Turkey's role vis a vis ISIL and "The Army of Conquest" - aka al-Nusra & Assoc. Perusal of “expert” commentaries reveals a vague consensus that Erdogan's dreams are now just vain fantasies. Can we accept that facile conclusion, though? Erdogan personally seems to have invested so much of himself in the project to Ottomanize Syria, and seems to be so seriously unbalanced, that he likely will do all within his still considerable power to achieve his ambition. His self-aggrandizing plans abroad, indeed, may take on greater urgency in light of his domestic plans foundering. And doesn't the high degree of control that he has established over Turkey's security agencies and bureaucracies leave him in a position to prolong support for the Islamists he's been backing regardless of political changes in Ankara (short of a second election producing an opposition government).
As to al-Nusra specifically, moreover, he is in a partnership with Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies - a partnership that has received some sort of approval from Obama. So he has substantial support and political coverage on that front and little disincentive to draw back. As to ISIL, since we know so little about the extent and modalities of Turkey's connivance with them, it is much harder to assess the implications of the election. Still, circumstantial logic suggests caution before judging that much will change.
The Obama White House is on a path to nowhere in a maze with no outlet. Timing and sequence of its various disconnected moves matter little
Among the many flaws in the prevailing American philosophy about exercising power is the excessive confidence that it places in kinetic action - i.e. military force. That is most evident in the several fronts of the GWOT where our approach invariably has been futile or counter-productive. Most have involved the use of force in one form or other to achieve regime change: Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria and implicitly Iran.
The stated motive all these years has been to destroy al-Qaeda and to prevent the emergence of hospitable hosts for similar terrorist organizations. We have failed on all counts except for chasing classic al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. Let's consider an analogous case. China experiences a 9/11 type incident by a group of Uighurs based in Peru who have been welcomed by the Shining Path Group. Then try to imagine hundreds of thousands of PLA troops spending the next fifteen years rampaging around the Andes in hot pursuit, invading Chavez's Venezuela, bombing groups in Bolivia and Equator and spending a couple of trillion in the process. Imagine an elite team of Chinese Dragons 6 crisscrossing Latin America cutting throats - and adopting as their signature weapon a Tang Dynasty crossbow. Imagine that in the 15th year of their campaign, the PLA launches a plan to construct a chain of lily-pad bases along the spine of the Andes from Lake Titicaca to Quito – Operation Eternal Llama - so as to ensure “full spectrum dominance” of the Alto Plano.
Ridiculous? Well, let's look in the mirror. Instead, the Chinese in all likelihood would use the two trillion to continue gobbling up the mineral, agricultural and hydrocarbon resources of the continent – along with those of Africa and Central Asia as it now is doing. It would rely on police measures to deal with the Uighur terrorists.
By Patrick Bahzad
On Wednesday, French Air Force Chief – General Denis Mercier – gave an interview to Lebanese newspaper "L'Orient le jour" and offered an interesting view on the ongoing anti-ISIS campaign as well as the current Coalition strategy aimed at fighting the "Islamic State".
The interview is interesting for several reasons. First of all, it can be considered the French armed forces' official take on the current strategy in Iraq and Syria, especially after the recent summit that was organised to discuss future measures (and the ensuing announcements made by the White House). General Mercier has been an effective fighter pilot and squadron leader. He also has extensive experience in planning and leading air campaigns, in so far as he was in charge of the French participation in the strikes against Libya in 2011. Finally, he has already been officially announced as the next Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), based in Norfolk, Virginia.
Although SACT is as much a political command as it is an operational one, it nonetheless is a key player in NATO's restructuring towards the challenges of tomorrow, with the Command's mission being is basically to provide the conceptual framework for the conduct of future combined joint operations and define how future operations will be conducted. Previous Commanders of SACT include Gen. Lance Smith (USAF) and Gen. James Mattis (USMC).
For all these reasons, it's worth having a good look at Gen. Mercier's statements. According to him, the Coalition strategy is flawed and should be based more on the blue-print that was used against Gaddafi's Libya. Basically blasting US tactics, he said the USAF was wasting its time bombing “150 pick-up trucks a day” instead of focusing much more on "ISIS command and control structures". The General was being quoted as stating in particular that "in Libya, we went after Qaddafi's centres of gravity… it was by attacking these centres that we managed to topple Kadhafi, not by firing at 150 pick-up trucks a day. Otherwise we would still be there. It is exactly the same problem in Iraq today. We are only targeting the frontline".
The main issue, according to Gen. Mercier, is that IS' command structures are not necessarily in Iraq, but mostly in Syria now. The situation there is very sensitive, because any determined action against the "Islamic State" might also strengthen Bashar al-Assad, which the US want to avoid at any cost. The other side to the problem seems to be internal Iraqi politics, Baghdad having specifically asked that IS' centres not be hit on Iraqi territory. The reasons behind such demands could be diverse, but the current Iraqi government might fear some sort of backlash, like a major bombing campaign on the capital or attacks against the Shia south.
Regarding the performance of the air campaign however, Gen. Mercier seemed to confirm previous statements by US officials, going even a step further: "If the Coalition hadn't been there, quite frankly, this war would be over. ISIS would be in Baghdad now. Thanks to the airstrikes, we gave Iraqi forces some freedom of action for ground operations. That's it, but it is already a big achievement. Anything further is up to them".
No doubt, issues regarding the Shia sectarian militias are at the centre discussions currently held to determine the future course of action. What is also beyond doubt, is that sending in 450 US trainers into al-Assad airbase in Anbar province is not going to be enough …
Language skills and "regional alignment" - by Patrick Bahzad
Language and cultural skills are among the most important prerequisites in non-combat abilities that any modern military needs to have when it comes to a specific theatre of operation. How much of a take-up in these skills there is, is difficult to assess.
You may have a small pool of sharp and knowledgeable people in a sea of ignorance and blindness. You may also have a larger group with basic "conversational skills" (fit for purpose). You may even have a military where local customs, habits, conventions and language are quite widely known. You may have all of this, or you may have none at all.
Today's Western armies have lost most of what they had in individual as well as unit know-how in that area. This is particularly true among former colonial powers like the United-Kingdom and France.
The legacy of the days when countries such as France had regiments constituted of local, mostly North-African Arab and Berber professional soldiers, doesn't amount to much anymore. Out of the many units with local recruitment in these areas – and I'm not talking here about forced levees in the times of the first or second world war – only one still exists, the "1er Régiment de Spahis", an armoured regiment that is now part of the 1st Mechanized Brigade.
The first "Spahi" units were founded in 1845 among Algerian tribesmen as a cavalry regiment. The word itself comes from Persian and "sipâhis" were light cavalry in Ottoman armies. In British India, they became known as "Sepoys".
"Speaking to reporters aboard his plane to Naples, Italy, General Dempsey described a possible future campaign that entailed the establishment of what he called “lily pads” — American military bases around the country from which trainers would work with Iraqi security forces and local tribesmen in the fight against the Islamic State.
“You could see one in the corridor from Baghdad to Tikrit to Kirkuk to Mosul,” General Dempsey said. Such sites, he said, would require troops in addition to the 3,550 that the president has authorized so far in the latest Iraq campaign.
The lily pads would be modeled after the training hub now being built at Al Taqqadum, an Iraqi base near the town of Habbaniya in eastern Anbar. The American troops being sent are to set up the hub primarily to advise and assist Iraqi forces and to engage and reach out to Sunni tribes in Anbar, officials said." NY Times
What is under discussion here is a number of hedgehog positions that would block major avenues of approach into the Baghdad/Karbala area while simultaneously attempting to provide integration for the various parts of the former country of Iraq.
- This method was attempted many times in the past in Algeria, Vietnam and other counter-insurgency situations. The hedgehogs have been called "oil spots," "fortified zones," etc.
- These inevitably become isolated positions that are as much a liability as anything else because they must be supplied and supported across insecure roads or by air.
- The first hedgehog at Habbaniya/Taqaddum will be astride the main avenue of advance of IS forces into the Baghdad area. This is not an accident and the positioning is an open invitation to IS to attack the hedgehog. Whether that is intended is not clear but the invitation is very clear.
- The hedgehogs at places like Habbaniya/Taqaddum or on the road north to Tikrit would have to be heavily defended. This means that a lot of US combat assets would need to be entrenched there to keep the place from being successfully attacked.
- No matter what the fiction, the hedgehogs would be centers of US power rather than Baghdad government power. This would further diminish the role and power of the Baghdad government outside the de facto boundaries of the Shia enclave from Baghdad south.
The adoption of a "lily pad" strategy would imply a more or less permanent US combat presence in Iraq for many, many years. We would be accepting what would amount to a colonial role.
I will propose an alternative strategy for the ME region, but not today. pl
A reminder: We solved nothing in Iraq. We broke the fragile British construct that was the Kingdom of Iraq. We own it but cannot fix it. What will result ultimately will be; a Shia Iraq from Baghdad south to the Gulf, a Kurdish place in the mountains, and IS stretching across Syria and Iraq. Are SA, Lebanon and Jordan not next on the Islamist agenda.
Former RAF Habbaniya was the center of the balance of British presence in Iraq. Look at the pictures of chapels, cemeteries, and swimming pools for the British troops. Do the pictures not give you a frisson of deja vue? If not, you are dull.
Habbaniya is the place we will defend and try to make Sunni tribesmen and Shia cowards into fighters? The omens for this are not good.
Wherever it is that we will try to do this, we should fortify and defend this place heavily. otherwise, the IS will see it as a place to bring us to battle, either there or along the logistic trail to the east. pl
"Ukraine had an NGO driven bloodless coup (kind of). This coup was clearly the doing of the U.S. ... The CIA appears to have a record of incredible incompetence"
That is not so, not quite, and that deserves some elaboration.
Of course, Bush 43 authorised the CIA do do destabilisation missions in Iran to achieve regime change, so take that with a grain of salt. But today, regime change is largely run out of the State Department. In the 70s, the CIA's history of coups and regime change caught up with it and was met with a public backlash that culminated in the climatic Church comittee hearings.
The politicians who wanted to keep doing these things irrespective of that moved the programs out of sight, and shipped staff and shop over to other organisations and found new sources of funding.
Lest these programs be again interrupted through pesky "oversight" by elected representatives, the new venue needed to be outside the bodies of the executive branch. The solution was government funded NGOs in the mold of Germany's Parteinahe Stiftungen.
Today, to the extent they concern 'soft power', such activities are run by the State Department through surrogates - semi official (USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS), contractors and public relations firms or (congenially) entirely private (Soros' Open Society Foundation) and professional activists (OTPOR veterans). This is being supported by sympathetic journalists (providing friendly coverage or joining the fight) and pundits, lobbies (especially the transatlantic ones - Marshal Fund, Atlantic Society etc.) and think tanks (think Freedom House etc).
The semi-independent 'NGO' character of USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, CIPE and ACILS guarantees continuity in the democratising mission even with changes in government. The diverse ideological thrust of each organisation also addresses different different segments in the society of "to be developed" countries. It also provides plausible deniability. Also, these programs may be run by genuine idealists, who are not serving the US government, let alone the CIA, and will not think of themselves that way.
A lot of US support to Poland's Solidarity movement during the Cold war went trough the AFL-CIO linked ACILS, who apparently were far better connected than the CIA.
In a nutshell, these bodies run their various programs autonomosly in a decentralised fashion. In the absence of intervention, they do so on auto-pilot in accordance with the bipartisan consensus (on regime change in Russia, Cuba, Venezuela etc pp), much like on tram lines - and they may not get every memo.
A perfect example for that is the recent case of USAID vs. Cuba in which USAID sponsored a free twitter-ish program to organise resistance to overthrow the Castros - while the US administration at the same time pursued normalisation with Castro's Cuba.
Baghdad has not identified or sent any new recruits to the Al Asad air base in western Iraq for as many as four to six weeks, defense officials said Monday.
The U.S. is currently training 2,601 Iraqi forces, but none of them are at Al Asad, officials said.
"Al Asad has zero. And Al Asad has had zero now for some time," said one defense official on background." Christina Wong
Is Obama deliberately misleading us all? The US military has faults but lying to the Commander in Chief is not among them. We can be sure that Dempsey et al have informed POTUS of this distressing truth. And yet, he and his mouthpieces, like Twinkle Toes Kirby at State continue to repeat their talking points concerning the aspirational truth.
Obama gave a splendid speech today defending the ACA. This was aimed directly at the largely Catholic mind of SCOTUS and based on Catholic Church social teaching concerning the duty to care for the sick, poor and infirm. It was lovely, but while he does that the ME burns.
The Shia Iraqi government still does not wish to arm potentially dissident Sunni Arab tribes? what a surprise! The potentially dissident Sunni Arab tribes do not want to serve under the Shia enemies of their blood? Another big surprise! Hell! The Shia government is still rationing military assistance to the largely Sunni Kurds with a medicine dropper!
The US has 300 USMC trainers at Asad Air base in western Anbar. They are surrounded. Why are they still there? Their blood is potentially on Obama's hands. pl
On or around the weekend of 16 May, 2015, Eric G. Wintemute, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at American Vanguard Corporation, met with senior policymakers in Washington. The meeting was attended by Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, the Associate Director of Military Affairs at the CIA since January of this year. In the words of other guests who were present at the meeting, Mulholland told Wintemute that everything should be done to draw Russia in the war with Ukraine.
This bit of news has been making the rounds on blogs and twitter accounts reporting on the war in Ukraine. As far as I can tell, it originated on the Moscow blog, pravosudiya.net, run by an amateur named Tatiana Volkova. She describes herself as a choreographer, a web designer, a truck driver and a lawyer. How very Russian. She appears to have obtained this news about Mulholland from a close and reliable friend rather than from some other news source. I have no reason to doubt “gospozha” Volkova, but I would appreciate corroboration of Mulholland’s comment from some other source.
Why am I so worked up over this comment? Mulholland is not some fake product of a neocon think tank. He previously served as deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and commander of US Army Special Operations Command. He also commanded special operations task forces during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and 5th Special Forces Group. He should know better. Why would he say such a thing if it was not Administration policy… a policy conjured up by the likes of Nuland and other neocon warmongers? As Colonel Lang said, “Those challenged in self-esteem may seek to prove themselves by goading The Bear but [we] learned not to do such stupid things.”
How far are we in successfully goading Russia into overtly invading Ukraine? To date, we all owe Putin a debt of gratitude for not taking the bait. Last week it appeared full scale war would break out again in western Ukraine. Best I can gather, the Donetsk rebels got sick and tired of the increasing Ukrainian indiscriminate shelling of Donetsk. This shelling has caused more and more civilian casualties. A strike on a market injuring 60 was the last straw. The rebels struck out at Maryinka and several villages west of there in an artillery search and destroy raid with around 800 troops and up to 40 tanks and IFVs with artillery support. They claim 400 Ukies killed and 60 vehicles destroyed including several artillery batteries. Rebel losses were not inconsequential. Both sides have built up their defensive lines since the Minsk-2 ceasefire began so offensive actions will be more costly for both sides in the future. I doubt this is the beginning of renewed all out war. Just more of the phoney ceasefire.
What is more disconcerting is recent events in Transnistria, an unrecognized state that broke away from Moldova in 1992. Both Moldova and Ukraine have, in effect, established a blockade of this landlocked state far larger than Luxembourg. Poroshenko has pledged to assist Moldova in regaining its territorial integrity. Russia has about 1,350 troops with heavy weapons stationed in Transnistria. Russia has pledged to stand by Transnistria and must find a way to keep its troops and the country supplied. Complicating the situation, Kiev has installed that impetuous hothead Saakasvili as governor of Odessa, stationed an S-300 battery near the border and is building up its troops on that border. NATO ships are building up in the Black Sea including the USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis equipped guided-missile destroyer. Will Russia be forced to resupply Transnistria by air over the Black Sea (and the USS Ross) and Ukrainian territory or will Putin convince Moldova to relent? Will the U.S. and NATO force Moldova to maintain a blockade? Is this what Mulholland meant when he said everything should be done to draw Russia in the war with Ukraine? What could go wrong? Everything.
Pesky thing democracy, just when you think you have it under control, you don't. Egypt was an example. First they voted for Mursi and then applauded for Sisi when the army tossed Mursi out. Faithless!
It seems most Turks (including "mountain Turks" ) did not want to rejoin the Sultanate. I seem to recall that Mursi is under sentence of death? Perhaps Erdogan might consider an extended pilgrimage before the thought of conspiracy with foreign powers to pervert the republican constitution becomes widespread.
Ataturk's army has a long memory. pl
TTG and I have decided to divide up the task of writing of the dangers present in the possibility of escalation in the Syria/Mediterranean area and/or in the NATO/Russian confrontation over Ukraine and the ultimate borders of Russia.
Syria and the Mediterranean - To my surprise I find that many people do not understand that military escalation is not a coldly rational process of war gaming action/reaction in a Hegelian way. The "Wizards of Armageddon" of fifty years ago may have imagined that this was the case but few of them had ever fought anyone nor had they borne the weight of seeking to exercise or advise restraint when group think, imagined proofs of masculinity and fantasies of national destiny were in the air. To some extent the Marxist notion of war as a conspiracy to seize and exploit resources plays into the idea that an escalatory process can be halted whenever the game looks unprofitable. All of history provides evidence that this is not the case. An example would be the deliberations of the Japanese war council before Pearl Harbor. In those discussions the emperor's advisors believed that US determination to stop their drive to power in Asia required them to go to war. It was understood by the members of the council that the US was potentially much the stronger power but in the end the council told Hirohito that if Japan did not fight the US they (the Japanese) would not be the men their ancestors had been.
It may be that the danger of an escalatory incident leading to war may be greater in eastern Europe but my personal focus is on the Levant and Mediterranean. In that area I deeply fear an incident at sea or in the air against Russian forces that could lead us to mutual destruction.
Those challenged in self-esteem may seek to prove themselves by goading The Bear but I learned not to do such stupid things. pl
The following piece, by Milton Viorst, about the late Tariq Aziz, was originally written for the New Yorker in the last months of2002, after Iraq had agreed to re-admitting UN weapons inspectors and a fewmonths before the invasion. The New Yorker, for whatever reason, declined to publish it at the time, even though Viorst had been that magazine’s correspondent in the Middle East for many years. With the passing yesterday of Tariq Aziz, SST makes this sad and prescient essay available to its readers. Roger Trilling
'Tariq Aziz sees the dream of a lifetime vanishing before his eyes. “When we made this revolution we were young men in our thirties,” he said during our meeting in Baghdad in September, “and now we’re in our sixties. We have made mistakes. Maybe we’ve been in power too long. But we’ve done good things for our country and we’re proud of our work. Now we have to contemplate that an American attack will wipe it all out.” Aziz’s tone was free of defiance. It was, rather, a message suffused with despair.
Aziz was, like most Iraqis of his generation, imbued from childhood with a deep indignation of imperialism. A monarchy installed by Britain was still in power when, as a teenager, he enlisted in the revolution. Saddam Hussein, several years his junior, was shepherding goats among his clansmen in the village of Tikrit. By the time Iraq’s king was overthrown in 1958, Aziz had sold his soul to Saddam, the up-and-coming leader of the Ba’ath Party, in the revolution’s behalf. A few years later, Saddam came to power, and Aziz could exult in the fact that the goal of the revolution had been met: Iraq was sovereign, for the first time in centuries governing itself. Now, with American battalions poised on the horizon, Aziz foresees imperialism’s return.
“I look at the situation philosophically,” Aziz once said to me. “The West is not prepared to accept a strong, modern, assertive developed country in the Arab world. I’m not a strong believer in conspiracies, but they do exist. And they exist more in our part of the world than elsewhere, because we have oil, a strategic position and Israel. This thing started with the collapse of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. Since then, America has become more and more arrogant. Our people are frustrated, our mood is fatalistic. It seems to be our tradition to suffer and to fail.”
Abu Deera, the “Shia Zarqawi" – by Patrick Bahzad
In June 2014, Mosul was conquered literally overnight by the “Islamic State”. The very next day, the US finally woke up to the fact that the war in Iraq wasn’t over yet. In a state of shock and disbelief, Average Joe “politico” began to realize – very much like in Faulkner’s quote – that the past was never dead, not even past. What most pundits and analysts in DC have been doing since is underlining the barbaric nature of ISIS, describing it as a modern day death cult, insisting – quite rightfully – on its many crimes and atrocities, but without contributing in any way to solving the actual problem.
What has gone unnoticed in this debate, is that the “Islamic State” is in fact just one side of the coin, the Sunnis of Iraq being now stuck between pledging allegiance to the new "Caliph" or contemplating life as second class citizens in a State that has been confiscated by a faction of Shia politicians and their “enforcers”, a hydra of militias and death squads who have been implementing a sectarian agenda ever since the start of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.
These groups, a Shia mirror image to the Sunni Jihadis, are as much in the way of solving Iraq as ISIS. They are the Islamic State’s nemesis, just as the Islamic State is theirs. Here is the story of one of their most fearsome leaders. The Shia militias’ contribution to taking back Tikrit, earlier this year, already shed some light on the increasing role of these groups in the fight against ISIS.
The fall of Ramadi and the head scratching that has been going on since illustrates the dilemma the Shia paramilitaries pose for the Iraqi government and the US administration. What is at stake is their place in the overall strategy that needs to be implemented in order to defeat Abubakr al-Baghdadi’s stormtroopers and suicide bombers.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
The alternative that the Obama administration is confronted with is simple: continue relying on the Iraqi government and its armed forces, helping them with airstrikes and logistical support, but keeping away the Shia militias, or take in the more combative paramilitaries from the South, perfectly knowing they are to most Sunnis what ISIS is to the Shia, and for good reason.
Based on those terms, the equation is hard to solve and every scenario that is being played through invariably ends up in disaster. Either the non-existent Iraqi army is going to implode, leaving Baghdad wide open to the Jihadi throat-cutters, or the Shia death squads are going to spread mayhem in predominantly Sunni areas, thus bolstering ISIS’ claim as their sole legitimate representative and protector.
This sad state of affairs however is only the end-result of years of mistakes, short sighted policies, misconceptions and duplicity from all sides involved. With their invasion of 2003, the US broke a country that was barely functional, but functional still. Instead of fixing it, Viceroy Paul Bremer and his cronies took decisions with catastrophic consequences, that are being felt to the present day, and then tried to find a way out of that conundrum, always keen to go for the quick fix as the only way to salvage a doomed counter-insurgency and the legacy of a President who nonetheless will go down in history books as one of the most incompetent US leaders ever.
Disney World in Orlando, Florida has laid off some 250 tech workers. Behind-the-scenes programmers and computer operators (Americans) were laid off and replaced by Indian techies with H-1B visas. The visas have been given to out-sourcing companies, including HCLA America hired by Disney to provide the new workers.
H-1B visas are intended for high-level professionals who, it is said, will take on jobs for which no Americans are available. In this case, the Americans were not only available, they were actually working. A humiliating requirement of the severance package was that some of the laid-off workers had to train their Indian replacements. Naturally there was a confidentiality clause. Congressional hearings on increasing the number of H-1B visas seems to have prompted the revelation.
Looks like Scrooge McDuck heads human resources at Disney.
"BEIRUT: Iran has sent 15,000 fighters to Syria to reverse recent battlefield setbacks for Syrian government troops and wants to achieve results by the end of the month, a Lebanese political source has told The Daily Star.
The militia force, made up of Iranians, Iraqis and Afghanis, the source said, have arrived in the Damascus region and in the coastal province of Latakia.
The source said the fighters are expected to spearhead an effort to seize areas of Idlib province, where the regime has suffered a string of defeats at the hands of a rebel-jihadi coalition.
Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds force, was in Latakia this week to shore up preparations for the campaign, the source said." Daily Star
My SWAG is that this is just the beginning of a large scale Iranian intervention in the Syrian civil war.
The entry into the Syria war of a large number of Iranian Quds force led troops would be a game changer. Whether the fighters are Iranian, Iraqi or from the dark side of the moon their presence might well make a decisive change in the balance of combat power in Syria. This article mentions Iranian forces in the Damascus area. They would be useful there in clearing close suburbs of Islamist forces. The entry of Iranian forces in the Latakia region of the Alawi coastal homeland is also significant. Latakia is a significant port and a suitable port of entry for Iranian heavy equipment for defense of the Alawi homeland and the re-capture of Idlib Province.
As I recall the Russian Navy has a port facility at Latakia. Will the world community seek to blockade Latakia and other Syrian ports?
Hizbullah's Nasrallah has made it clear that his organization will continue to fight alongside the forces of the Syrian government. The fighting in the Qalamoun area in the anti-Lebanon mountains east of the Bekaa Valley seems to be going well from the point of view of the Syrian government, but the Islamist coalition of the "Army of Conquest" is making gains in the northwest while IS is attacking the Syrian government garrison at Hasakha in NE Syria.
The aggressive and largely successful IS campaign in Anbar Province continues with the latest development seeming to be a deliberate shutting off of Euphrates River water at the Ramadi Dam near that city. The media seem to think that a scarcity of water at Baghdad is the major threat from this but IMO a major fall in water levels in the river will make IS's movements north-south much easier against government positions south of the river.
There are rumors circulating of a countervailing "army" of Sunni jihadis being assembled in Turkey by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
We will see. We will see. pl
"The shift from conflicts between countries to conflicts within countries triggered an era of American military failure. The United States waded into far-flung quarrels featuring culturally alien enemies, including North Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese communists, Afghan insurgents, and Iraqi guerrillas—handing the opponent home-field advantage. Americans often don’t comprehend local geography, religions, traditions, ethnic politics, or languages. In 2006, there were 1,000 American officials in the Baghdad embassy, but just 33 spoke Arabic and only six were fluent." Tierney
This is a very long standing problem in US history. IMO it originates in the dominant cultural foundation of the country, something that has persisted since the 17th Century and that has spread among non-Anglo later additions to the population. The Puritan culture of New England was based on a pervasive “city on a hill” mentality that saw itself as creating a “New Jerusalem,” a society that would be inherently more pure and virtuous than all others. That attitude is still dominant in the US. Throughout our history we have displayed a remarkably consistent negative response to variations from our pervasive “exceptionalist” culture. Amerindian cultures were viewed as simply that of aboriginal savages, something to be eradicated as quickly as possible, Missionary activity, US government Indian schools like the one at Carlisle, PA, confinement of tribals to reservations where they could be acculturated, these were all indicative and were accelerated by unrelenting mutual hostility that had few exceptions. One of those was among the “Civilized Nations” of the SE and even that ended badly for the Indians. Incidentally, one of my 9th great-grandfathers was Major John Mason, the commander of colonial forces in the Pequot War. Our national attitude and policy toward the Indians was simply that of assimilation or extermination, whichever came first. The successful wars cited by Tierney were all fought against what was seen to be alien and inferior culture. This is the typically “American Way of War” in Russell Weigley’s phrase. We are quite comfortable with the mindset required to mobilize for total war in that context. For us these are wars against evil and evil must be destroyed.
Throughout the same history there has been a minor "theme" of people who could be described as “accomodationists” in term of seeking to live with people of other world views. Roger Williams in Rhode Island, the various pre-civil war presidents of the 1850s now so thoroughly reviled as weak and corrupted, the US Army commanders of Indian scouts in the latter half of the 19th Century. It should be noted that all such officers suffered mightily in terms of career for their association with Indian Scouts. They were thought to “have gone native” and paid the price for that. The US Army Special Forces (Green Berets – I am one such) of the pre-antiterrorist commando era were men specially selected and trained to work with culturally alien peoples on a non-judgmental basis. They (we) were very good at that. To some extent that skill set persists but it has been submerged under the “door kicker” mentality of men like; McChrystal, McRaven, Schoomaker, Boyden, Beckwith et al. The original “model” Green Berets were purged (and this has been noticed by the young) or paid high career prices for their tolerant attitudes. The US Army also tried hard in the 20th Century to develop a small cadre of officers who had a deep knowledge of particular groups of human aliens. This program still exists in the “Foreign Area Officer” career field, but while it once produced culturally sensitive political-military officers, skilled in the languages needed who worked out in the field as trainers, attaches, intelligence collectors,etc., it now produces officers often relegated to high level staffs as advisers to generals who feel obliged to have them but who do not take their advice.
In this general context it is not surprising that the armed forces of a country committed throughout history to “steamrolling” its alien enemies should find itself in difficulties when constricted in its natural predilections by such embarrassments as UN Resolutions (Korea), vibrant widely supported nationalist adversaries (Vietnam) and international religious movements like the present Islamist jihadis. All these sorts of new model enemies are simply not available for steamrolling no matter what people like Lindsay Graham might “think.” Something more subtle is required, something that we , as a country, are probably not capable of.
Mark Twain remains the ultimate authority on American attitudes toward those who do not share our dominant culture. Read what he has to say about foreigners both overseas and domestic. Attitudes have not changed much since his time. Pl
"“The world will be surprised by what we and the Syrian military leadership are preparing for the coming days,” the state Islamic Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) quoted him as saying, according to the London-based daily.
The Quds Force commander’s comment comes after a recent visit to Syria where he toured the Latakia region, which has come under threat from rebels after they seized the nearby Idlib province last week following months of sweeping victories against the regime.
Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that Soleimani “began his trip in Jourin, which lies on the contact point with the opposition forces that form the Army of Conquest.”
The town, which lies a little over 40 kilometers east of Latakia, is not far from rebel lines in the Al-Ghab Plain, where regime forces have begun to bolster defense lines ahead of an expected insurgent attack. " BI
My SWAG would be that Soleimani intends the introduction of IRGC (Qods) troops and cadres in the struggle near Aleppo. pl
The team will look into allegations reported by the Syrian government as well as separate allegations by activists and doctors who say chlorine has been repeatedly used against civilians in recent weeks." seattlepi.com
Devious fellows these Assadistas, imagine having the gall to invite the OPCW to come investigate them again! Imagine!
What are they trying to do, disrupt the narrative? The Borg will not be pleased.
The present director of OPCW is a career Turkish diplomat? Hmm...