"Shelling suddenly stopped at midnight in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk after President Petro Poroshenko gave the order to government forces to halt firing in line with a ceasefire agreement reached last Thursday.
Poroshenko, wearing the uniform of the armed forces supreme commander, said in a televised address in the capital Kiev that there was still "alarm" over the situation around Debaltseve, a key transport hub, where government forces are hard pressed by encircling Russian-backed separatists.
And he warned that Ukraine, if it was slapped once, would not offer the other cheek.
But, seated alongside armed forces chief of staff Viktor Muzhenko, he added: "I very much hope that the last chance to begin the long and difficult peaceful process for a political settlement will not be wasted."" Reuters
"Trust has been eroded to the point of almost being destroyed," said Nunn. "You got a war going on right in the middle of Europe. You got a breakdown of the conventional forces treaty, you got the INF (IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces) treaty under great strain, you got tactical nuclear weapons all over Europe. It's a very dangerous situation." In late January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its "Doomsday Clock" to three minutes to midnight. The last time it was set to that time was in 1983, "when USSoviet relations were at their iciest point," as the group of scientists explained. The only other time when the situation was even worse was in 1953, when the clock was set to two minutes to midnight. Unchecked climate change and the "nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals" pose "extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity," the group's statement read. The current rhetoric coming from the rivals in the East and West seems poorly suited to reducing the threat. "The Russian aggression is a direct threat to NATO," British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said at the Munich Security Conference. The situation is made more complicated by the fact that Russia's actions in Ukraine are difficult to define. With camouflage, trickery and deception, the Russians are applying the full arsenal of socalled hybrid warfare,.." Spiegel
Three minutes to midnight... pl
"Danish police shot and killed a man early Sunday suspected of carrying out shooting attacks at a free speech event and then at a Copenhagen synagogue, killing two men, including a member of Denmark's Jewish community. Five police officers were also wounded in the attacks.
"Denmark has been hit by terror," Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said. "We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator's actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech."
Jens Madsen, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET, said investigators believe the gunman was inspired by Islamic radicalism."
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the attack and said his government plans to encourage a "massive immigration" of Jews from Europe.
"Again, Jews were murdered on European soil just because they were Jews," Netanyahu said at the start of his Cabinet meeting Sunday. "This wave of attacks is expected to continue, as well as murderous anti-Semitic attacks. Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home."
" The brazen kidnapping and slaying of a Sunni sheikh and eight members of his entourage in the Iraqi capital was met with outrage by Sunni politicians Saturday, deepening sectarian distrust and threatening to tear apart the country’s fragile government.
Sunni politicians said they would boycott parliament after the killing of Sheik Qasim al-Janabi, a moderate Sunni tribal leader, his son and the other members of their convoy, blaming the Friday night assault on Shiite militias that they say the government has allowed to act with impunity. Discussions continued into the night as to whether Sunni parties should pull out of the government altogether.
Such a move would strike a blow to the inclusive Iraqi government that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi created under pressure from the United States, which had tied his efforts to reach out to Sunnis to military assistance." Washpost
"The inclusive Iraqi government?" What a joke! Only Obama's girls (whether male or female) could ever have professed to believe Obadi's government was going to be "inclusive."
It takes Kirbyesque dexterity with govspeak to make that idea seem remotely plausible. pl
Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a Sunni Muslim leader of the Albu Nimr tribe, called for more U.S. intervention -- including ground troops, arming tribes directly or at least pressuring the Iraqi government to give the tribes more firepower.
While U.S. officials have said that ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, is on the defensive in Iraq and Syria, al-Gaoud says that's definitely not the case where he is.
"In Anbar, we are losing ground, not gaining," he said." CNN
Yes, pilgrims, in spite of Twinkle Toes John Kirby's dancing, this could go down anytime in Anbar. The Albu Nimr tribe fought AQ in Iraq. Then we walked away from them in support of our fantasy of a one man one vote government for Iraq, thus completely ignoring the actual ethnic and sect based structure of Iraqi society. The destabilization caused by US political interference provided an opening for Islamic extremists and now ten years later we have the result. IS is a coalition of forces that we unleashed inadvertently The US is selling snake-oil that insists that a re-trained Iraqi Army will be a better and far more capable force than the one that ran away a few months ago. Where on earth does that idea come from except from the kind of ambition fueled group think that i have seen so often?
Here we have this Albu Nimr sheikh telling what sounds like the truth to me. He will not be listened to. pl
"... the Islamic State is more and more on the defensive. It has not made any significant conquests since the summer. During the past month, it mounted a major offensive in western Anbar Province but achieved only modest gains.
American military officials in Iraq tell me they are confident that a smaller, revamped Iraqi Army will be ready to begin big operations to retake Iraq from the Islamic State in the next four to eight months. Kurdish and Iraqi forces have largely secured Baghdad and its environs, made gains in the cities of Baiji and Samarra, cut off the road by which the Islamic State was supporting its garrison in Mosul from its base in Syria, and are encroaching on Mosul itself. In six to 18 months, the Islamic State may be driven out of Iraq altogether." K. Pollack in the NY Time
"The main road linking Mosul with the Syrian border has been cut and nearly 100 square miles have been liberated." Ignatius
Ken Pollack has an interesting record. First he was for the invasion of Iraq. Then when Rumsfeld's "dead-enders" became a serious impediment to neocon ambitions Pollack was against the war. Now we have the latest "evolution" of Pollackian thought on Iraq.
It is clearly the main propaganda theme of the US Government to claim/fantasize that IS in IRaq/Syria is doomed by the very evilness that has led to their previous success.
Pollack is clearly "signed up" for that as he always has been "signed up" for whatever the powers that be want. Wait! I take that back. I first knew him when he was a junior ME analyst at CIA and I remember him as an honorable, clear thinking young man.
Nevertheless, now he mouths the Power Point briefings given to him in the kind of process that George Romney described as "brainwashing" after his infamous 1965 VN trip.
The Obadi government is just another Shia run sectarian government? Well, no s--t, Shirlock!
Unfortunately for this latest Pollack venture into self-serving boosterism, IS is knocking on the door at Al-Asad air base in western Anbar near Ramadi. The latest reports indicate near total control by IS of the nearby town of al-Baghdadi. This establishes a "block' between Al-Asad and Baghdad.
Reports also say that IS is using suicide bombers for fire support in both A-Baghdadi and in attacks on the airbase.
Can there be any doubt that a major goal of IS at Al-Asad is to kill Americans and take some prisoner? I would say they have figured out the vulnerabilities of the American public rather well. pl
You notice, I hope, that Ignatius makes two separate statement about the situation north and west of Mosul. One is that nearly 100 square miles of territory has been "re-taken." OK, but what is in that 100 square miles and how much was it defended? Secondly, I have seen video of what it is that supposedly blocks the road from Mosul. It was thirty or so men on a barren hilltop overlooking the road from a distance. Let's see what happens when IS tries running a convoy down that road.
On Ignatius', larger point, I agree that the PM and all the other Kurdish groups should be speedily supplied with heavy weapons and supplies. To that end, an arrangement should be made with Iran for transshipment of materiel from Gulf ports to Kurdistan . IMO opinion the Baghdad government cannot be trusted to deliver the goods to the Kurds. pl
The burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State (IS) was a horrific act, and deserves to be wholeheartedly condemned by everyone. It is, sadly, true that people are incinerated during war, both combatants and non-combatants. But the burning alive of Lt al-Kassasbeh was a brutal crime, since he was a prisoner of war and also because of the 'production' made of the whole miserable episode.
The IS compounded this vicious act by committing a second abomination: claiming that this punishment was administered according to the tenets of 'Islam'.
This 'Islam' that the IS adhere to is a simplistic, medieval code derived from the Wahhabi creed, which is the usual religion of Jihadis. But this creed is not the Islam that was first taught by the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE. It is not even the Religion of Islam that began to be formulated some 200 years after the Prophet and, over the centuries, developed into a complex structure with many variations in different parts of the world (the usual trajectory of religions that start from a simple, fundamental ideology).
Unfortunately (for Islam and Muslims), the Wahhabi creed is spreading in the Muslim world and has become the face of Islam for many on the outside. It is important to understand how this has come about.
Mueller had been spotted “in the company” of an ISIS leader who was being tracked by U.S. intelligence and some officials believed she was in a “forced marriage.”
In a handwritten letter that Mueller’s parents released Tuesday, the 26-year-old captive insisted she was being treated with “the utmost respect + kindness” and that she was “unharmed” and even put on a few pounds." NY Daily News
How do we know that Mueller is dead? (epistemology again) All I have seen mentioned thus far is a photograph of Mueller wrapped in a burial shroud. Is that really "evidence?" What else is there? Tell us if "you" want us to believe.
IS did not see her as a bargaining chip or hostage? No? If that is so, what did they see her as? What is this counter terrorism official trying to tell us?
She was spotted in the company of an IS leader? What? Walking around with him?
Paraphrasing the big red dog in my favorite ad, who is to say what a forced marriage is, or becomes? We should look at the case of Patty Hearst (Tanya) of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
She said she was treated with the utmost respect and kindness and that she was unharmed? OK. Well then, pilgrims, how did she get "deaded?"
There is something wrong with this story, something other than the usual MSM hysteria and ratings exploitation.
Come clean! pl
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catchfire (a strange film on a similar theme)
In the old days, political differences between countries were more often than not settled by war. That was only natural - under the ius ad bellum the right to go to war was an imperative of a monarch, which he was entitled to use as he saw fit and which was regarded as a normal tool of statecraft. And even then there were limits - possibly the first trial for waging aggressive war is that of Conradin von Hohenstaufen in 1268. One could do a lot of mischief, but not just as one pleased.
Over time the European practice of Cabinet Wars emerged - a type of war which affected Europe during the period of absolute monarchies, from the 1648 Peace of Westphalia to the 1789 French Revolution. These wars were characterised by small armies, noble officer corps, limited war goals, and frequently changing coalitions among the belligerents. There was a policy dispute over inheritance or a boundary, war was being declared (usually very politely), fought and settled. Wikipedia's entry sums it up rather well:
The Thirty Years' War, based on religious conflict, had been marked by wild plunders and marauding armies. Order was reestablished by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which formulated the rules of international relations for the next centuries, in particular respective to the laws of war (jus ad bello and jus in bellum). During the Age of Enlightenment and under the direction of the "enlightened despots," wars became more regulated, although the civilian population was still a current victim of mercenaries. Such scenes as the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre became exceptional. Thus, Berlin was not plundered during the Seven Years' War of 1756-1762, despite having fallen into enemy hands not once but twice.
This state of affairs evolved during the era of the formation of nation states in the 19th century ito national wars with citizen particpation and conscript armies. The American Civil War and battles like Solferino (the carnage of which led to Henry Dunant initiating the Geneva Conventions and the Red Cross) offered glimpses into what technological advances in war were to bring in the next century.
by Patrick Bahzad
It is this, the curse of the Evil deed,
Giving birth to new Evil, on which it may feed
F. SCHILLER “Wallenstein”
About three years ago, almost nobody knew them, yet they were about to make a name for themselves. Ever since the onslaught on Northern Iraq and the autonomous Kurdish regions, not a single day has passed without ISIS – the so-called "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" – making the headlines for another gruesome execution, bloody massacre or terrorist attack. In fact, we’ve now heard their name so often, that they almost seem familiar to us.
ISIS, a reminiscence of the Demons of old
In our collective conscience, they’ve become one of those barbaric sects or groups of raiders, ghosts really – very much like the Jinns of the Quran – appearing and vanishing into the sands of the Arabian desert. In some way, they also look to us like a modern version of the Huns, who rode out of the steppes of Central Asia, scorching the earth under a fearsome leader, before being swallowed up again by the vastness of the lands they came from, leaving nothing but a trail of death and the memories of a long dark shadow stretching over the countries they had turned into dust.
More likely though, the fate awaiting ISIS won't be too dissimilar to that of the 13th century Hashashins sent out by the "Old Man on the Mountain" from his fortress Alamut, to strike fear and terror into the hearts of his enemies all over the Middle-East. The Hashashins too managed to challenge the powers that be, mainly Seljuk Turks, even though they were vastly outnumbered, and stroke alliances with regional outcasts like the Crusader States in the Holy Land. But then they finally got defeated and wiped off the face of the earth by a much more powerful and determined foe coming from the East, i.e. the largest Mongol army the world had ever seen.
All this though is already far beyond the knowledge that the average citizen has about the Middle-East in general, and the "Islamic State" in particular. And in truth, it's not that relevant to events unfolding at the moment. Just enough to trigger repulsion and disgust at the men fighting and killing under the Black Banner carrying the seal of the Prophet, insufficient however to answer such basic questions as to who they are, where they come from and what they want.
This is what really matters though. Beyond the usual media hype about the barbaric executions and seemingly medieval lifestyle, these are men with an agenda and an organisation, military gear and logistics, as well as considerable financial means. And what we actually know about them is very little, contrary to what mainstream media and their so-called experts would have you believe. More worrying, Western intelligence is almost as clueless as CNN, and the current state of play of the anti-ISIS coalition and its achievements can bear testimony to that.
ISIS has become a Black Hole in the heart of the Middle-East. Come too close and you'll get sucked into it with no chance of escaping. Try and listen or watch and you'll get almost nothing, just some background noise. That is the scariest part about the "Islamic State". There are ways however to obtain information about it and what's going on inside it. Knowing the enemy is the first step towards defeating it …
But getting there means dealing with a number of factors – local, regional and global. It also means getting into issues unpleasant for us in the West, like the real trigger event that set in motion what is now unravelling before our eyes. The aim here is not to play the blame game, what’s done is done and there’s no way back. The only thing at stake is how to get out of this mess and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future, which won’t be an easy task to achieve.
Operation "Iraqi Freedom"
The seminal event, the one single historic development which made all this possible, is without doubt the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This is not to say that “George W” is to blame for all that happened. In fact, he’s not. He may have been the guy in the Oval Office and, contrary to his successor, he certainly didn’t back away from controversial decisions. He looked like a leader and talked like a leader, but the guy in charge – if there ever was one – was the “wild man” in the office down the hallway. A wild man on the loose, without adult supervision and under the influence of a bunch of sorcerer apprentices, coming right out of the “Neo-Con” school of witchcraft and wizardry, people so full of themselves, they thought they could not only destroy imaginary WMDs, but also build a viable democracy in Iraq, promote peace with Israel and reshape the balance of power in the Middle-East. In the words of a famous RAND Corporation analyst at the time, “Iraq was the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot and Egypt was the prize”.
"... Syria is not just a civil war, but a propaganda war being fought for competing geopolitical interests. The end-result of this tug of war between pro-interventionist and anti-interventionist narratives has been the victory of neither, and thus, the entrenchment of violence amidst a Syrian stalemate.
Unfortunately, some parties see this stalemate as a strategic boon. Noting “the synergy between the Israeli and American positions”, the New York Times recently reported that: “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.” In this context, the threat of “limited” military strikes is more about sending a message to Iran and Syria, rather than about decisively defeating Assad — which may be because “the West needs more time to prop up opposition forces it finds more palatable.” Le Monde
The government/academic/media/thinktank world decided several years back that the Syrian Government was altogether responsible for the death and destruction of the Syrian civil war. In pursuit of that view ALL casualties are said to be the SAG's responsibility because it did not surrender to the various kinds of rebels early on. There does not seem to be any possibility of withdrawal from that lofty consensus (group think) now prevalent among the "cognoscenti." At numerous meetings in the capital (Washington) swamp and the other capital swamp (New York) I have heard all the informational "players" sound off on the wisdom of their judgments about the viability of the SAG, its weakness, the opposition of the "Syrian People" to the SAG, etc. When interlocutors are asked why the Alawis, Shia, Christians, etc and many sophisticated, westernized Sunnis support the SAG, eyes roll upward in frustration. One young man actually told me that "he knew what he was doing." He had served three or four years in the army, had left as a captain and currently held a position as the Syria analyst at a major think tank.
I have made it a habit to challenge the epistemology of their data. "How do you know that?" This would be a typical challenge. This kind of question ALWAYS elicits the same kind of response. The response is hostility to the question followed by a grudging admission that the sources of data that are taken as probably true are all on the rebel sides,. The favorite is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK based rebel propaganda organ.The SAG's statements and reporting is simply dismissed as beneath contempt.
An example of that would be the interview that Bashar Assad gave to the BBC this week. The Beeb had pursued Assad for several years seeking this interview. He finally granted the interview and sat with Bowman, the ME editor of BBC, for an exclusive talk. BBC asked in advance if there were any areas of questioning that were "off limits." The answer was that there were none and Assad answered every question within the limits of expression of someone who does not speak English every day. The on-air reaction of Bowman reporting later from the safety of Beirut was completely dismissive. The attitude was that Assad's willingness to participate in the interview was an unaccountable irrelevance since he was obviously lying about every topic of discussion.
Bowman made a great deal of the subject of "barrel bombs," and their bestiality as evidence of a demonic Nazi-like hatred for the Syrian people. Assad asserted that the Syrian Air Force does not use barrel bombs. He said they had lots of ordinary bombs. Why use barrel bombs? This statement was taken as evidence of Assad's perfidy. "Barrel Bombs" are 55 gallon drums filled with explosives and fragmentation junk that are dropped as sling loads under helicopters. I have no idea if the SAG uses barrel bombs, but it seems to me that the difference in effect between that and common 250 or 500 lb. aerial fragmentation bombs cannot be very great. US air power uses large, destructive bombs all the time as do all air forces across the world. Would it not have been a normal reaction to Assad's position for Bowman to ask for access to Syrian Air Force operations in order to confirm or deny Assad's statements? It seems that Bowman did not do that. Why? Was it because he could not afford to learn something that would be outside the consensus? Actually, why not ask for "embedding" throughout the Syrian Armed Forces for the same purpose?
We should face the truth about the media's statements about the Syrian Civil War. They are something less than objective truth. Why is that? pl
" I am even more concerned about the billions we are planning to spend to prepare the homeland in the event of a nuclear first strike. It was a myth that drove the United States and Soviet Union each to build thousands of weapons during the Cold War. Unlikely then. And it’s certainly unlikely now.Nonetheless, the 2016 budget has millions for hardening redundant Air Force and Navy communications so they can survive a hit by a nuclear first strike.
The United States, as Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy says, is investing in “a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”
The United States shouldn’t spend billions more in the expectation that the deterrence will fail.
It only helps create the impression that this country is preparing for nuclear war, and might strike first." Washpost/Pincus
Just who is it that we think might launch a first strike against us? Russia, China, the UK, France, Pakistan? Iran has no nuclear weapons but the truly paranoid are sure that they are striving mightily to acquire a ballistic missile based capability that would hold at risk Europe and North America.
This continuing theme is, of course, convenient to those who want us to make Israel safe against Iran. Without the "threat to the US" theme the American people and their blundering ham-handed government could not be lured into eternal hostility to the BAD, BAD, IRANIAN SHIA.
If only the Syrian government had a nuclear weapons program!! Sigh... pl
"... if the Army truly does believe that Golsteyn violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, then they should charge him with a crime. If they can’t do that, then we must conclude that insufficient evidence of a crime exists, in which case Secretary McHugh should give him the Distinguished Service Cross he deserves.
Congressman Hunter pointed out in his article that a recent survey conducted by the Military Timesrevealed only 27 percent of the military felt that their leaders were looking out for the best interests of the troops. Golsteyn’s situation illustrates why this is the case, and is of a piece with the case of Will Swenson, whose Medal of Honor package was “lost” after he bitterly criticized his chain of command over the ROEs, or of Jim Gant, one of the most successful special operators of the last decade, who was nonetheless drummed out of the Army after running afoul of his superiors.
Golsteyn, Swenson, Gant, and others like them are led by men who interrupt their political intrigues and email flirtations with wealthy socialites only to crucify the troops actually doing the fighting when, for whatever reason, they become politically inconvenient—preferably, as with Golsteyn, in a manner that allows for no response or appeal. Freebeacon
The US military is now ruled by men and women who have the mentality and character of "big box" chain store managers at your local mall.
The number of them who are selfless servants of the Republic is small. We used to have general officers who were real soldiers. What happened? Careerism and mirror imaging in promotions happened. There are a few good ones around. LTG McMaster is an example but he was passed over for BG at least once and was finally promoted because wise people in the civilian world intervened at the White House. What was his "crime?" He argued with the top brass over strategy in the Iraq War. This was after he had commanded an armored cavalry regiment with great distinction at Tel Afar. He may not remember this now.
We have fallen a very long way from the days when George Marshall fired generals by the dozen if they tried to avoid hard duty. Marshall was also in the habit of giving GIs a ride in his staff car on the way to the Pentagon from his quarters at Ft. Myer. And then there was Ridgeway who was standing by the side of the road one day in Korea when a passing heavily burdened infantry soldier called out to his comrades to ask if any of them would tie his boot lace. This four star general knelt in the mud to do the job.
We have fallen a long way. pl
"... diplomats cautioned that stumbling blocks remain , including the highly charged issue of whether recent land gains made by separatists would be recognized as part of a cease-fire agreement. And there is skepticism that Moscow and the separatists would adhere to a deal . A previous accord reached in Minsk last September — which aimed to create a demilitarized zone and deliver more autonomy for the rebel-held lands — was routinely violated before largely breaking down in recent weeks." Washpost
Stephen Cohen was on GPS this Sunday. He shared a panel on Zakariya's show with several "squirrels" who were quite infected with the delusion that the US rules the world as the manifestation of man's future perfection and destiny. They asserted confidently that Russia must be pressured by the US and Europe until it submits to a brave new world order in which armies, air forces and navies are mere instruments of diplomacy used to push errant childlike states into line. The assertion was heard once again that spheres of influence are things long past in the 21st Century.
Cohen, with his usual perspicacity and determination refused to accept this baloney and pressed the "squirrels" to contemplate the size of Russia's nuclear capability and the risk of backing such a power into a corner from which it cannot escape except through lashing out at its tormentors or falling to its knees in submission.
The Germans and the French have wisely refused to participate in placing such pressure on Russia. Merkel says that under no circumstances will Germany arm the Kiev government. This must be a great cause for frustration for Victoria Nuland and other such people who think of international relations as a schoolyard game of domination among cliques.
Merkel is here in Washington now to try talk some sense into "Obama's Girls" as SWMBO calls Obama's clique. pl
One reason involves a pragmatic recognition of reality, in that Assad’s departure is simply beyond the ability of the United States or any player inside Syria to bring about any time soon (barring a full-scale U.S. military intervention, which would be folly for a host of other reasons). There are soft and brittle parts in this regime, but it would be useful to recall how many predictions of the regime’s demise since the Syrian war began have proven to be wrong.
A second reason is that in most conflicts it would be a prescription for failure, and/or for embarking on an incredibly costly enterprise, to take on simultaneously two different antagonists who are fighting against each other. Think about what World War II in Europe would be like if the United States had tried to take on Nazi Germany and the Stalinist USSR at the same time. Pillar
"A third reason is that collapse of the current Syria regime under the pressure of war could easily mean the loss of the only structure separating Syria from anarchy that would be even worse than what exists there now. We should have learned some lessons in this regard from what happened in de-Baathicized Iraq and what is still happening today in Libya.
In recent months the Obama administration appears to have accepted an understanding of these realities and talks less than it did earlier about the ouster of Assad as a policy priority. Because of that, it has been criticized by some other governments in the region who have different priorities.
The United States needs to consider its own interests in setting its own priorities rather than bowing to the priorities of others. " Pillar
Paul Pillar is right in all of that, but as we know well on SST, he is still swimming against the tide of deep inner yearnings of the Obamanites and the Ziocons who continue to have great influence in US foreign policy. Their influence is so great that a forthright statement that America should look to its interests first will probably have a significant price tag for Pillar.
The tyranny of special interest domination of the media continues to dictate the narrative for the self serving ideologues and careerists who are powerful players in the big game. That narrative requires absolute condemnation of the Syrian government and the continuous application of crude but effective propaganda techniques that reek of big money applied to US PR companies.
Among the most egregious features of the PR campaign is the theme that declares that the Syrian Government and Assad personally are responsible for the existence and rise of the jihadi factions (Nusra and IS). The supposed logic in this claim insists that if Assad had resigned at the very beginning of the civil war in Syria, he would have been succeeded by an administration of enlightened Westernized liberals who would have presided over a secular Syria friendly to Israel.
This is an interesting argument. One of the things it demonstrates is the inability of the Ziocons and the Obamanites to learn from experience. Egypt, Iraq, Libya, these are all examples of Arab states that failed when "summoned" to exactly the same kind of unrealistic projects of transformation. Tunisia is an exception so far but the balance now existing has been very difficult to reach. How long will the Tunisian success last?
Are heads of state and government to be condemned for not surrendering to rebels and foreign enemies? Such surrenders might prevent death and destruction. Should Lincoln have accepted Southern secession? Should FDR have accepted the Japanese attack in Hawaii and sought peace with the attackers? Should the French government have accepted the German invasion in WW I?
Any and all of these "policy decisions" would have saved life and property? pl
"Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi has emphasized that the Houthis do not want to rule Yemen. Given the moves on the ground this may be somewhat disingenuous, but Abdul Malik al-Houthi is an astute strategist who realizes that officially taking up the reins of power in Sana’a could well be ruinous for the Houthis. While the Houthis have broadened their power base to include many Sunni tribal leaders and politicians, both in the north and the south, they are still viewed by most Yemenis as a Shi’a organization. A Houthi led government would be viewed as a return to the Zaidi dominated imamate that ruled north Yemen up until the 1962 revolution, and, as such, it would be deeply unpopular with the majority of Yemeni who are Sunni. While senior Houthi leadership undoubtedly recognizes the dangers of officially leading some kind of future government, Hadi’s resignation and the power vacuum in the nation’s capital may leave the Houthis with no choice." Horton in Counterpunch
I knew their fathers or perhaps now their grandfathers well. Spectacularly gifted in field craft, endowed with a wry, dry sense of humor and fiercely independent among the clans and against whatever government might be, these perpetually armed little hill men make good friends but bad enemies.
They fought the internationally sponsored Sunni based government? For me there was never any doubt that they would do anything else. They fought the Egyptian Army for five years in the early sixties when Nasser sought to dictate the course of events in Yemen. There is a large and well "stocked" Egyptian military cemetery in Sanaa. The mountain road from Sanaa to Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast is marked every few miles with the carcasses of Egyptian armored vehicles where desperate men from Cairo and the Nile Delta fought to save themselves from Zeidi Shia tribal ambushes. They still sang of these battles when I lived in Yemen.
Now they have deposed the government. IMO there should never have been a unified Yemen government. The Yemen Arab Republic (YAR, i.e., north Yemen) was and is a distinctly different and authentically Arab country and it should have stayed that way, separate from the former British domain centered on what had been the Crown Colony of Aden and then the British attempt to create the Federation of South Arabia, a "country" that had territory extending to the east from Aden to Oman and filled with a wondrous mosaic of petty sheikdoms, emirates, sultanates and the like. Just about everyone in that swath of land along the Arabian Sea was Sunni. The British had sent many people from Aden to England to study, many at the London School of Economics and just about all of them returned transformed into communists and filled with contempt for the Zeidi tribesmen of the north.
For some reason hidden in their psyches all Yemenis, north and south yearned for unity, for creation of a country that had never existed and after the fall of the Soviet sponsors of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY - south Yemen) unification was achieved. A Walloon once asked me what I thought of Belgium. I replied that it had been an idea. "Yes," he said, "but a bad idea." This was similar.
The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return. pl
"A sunset clause precommits Congress and the President to revisit the nature and scope of the very diffuse war against Islamic terrorists on a regular basis. It pressures the President on a regular basis to explain the nature of the conflict and the reasons why it must continue (and how), and it pressures Congress to exercise its constitutional and democratic responsibilities to deliberate about and vote on (or at least face) the issue. A sunset clause poses risks. The President could argue after three years that he can continue to fight the Islamic State under Article II without Congress’s imprimatur. But while this argument might be available, it is more of a legal stretch, and certainly politically riskier, for the president to justify the entire conflict on the basis of Article II than it is for him to use Article II to extend the war a bit beyond what Congress authorized (either geographically or in terms of ground troops). There is also the danger that Congress will not renew the authorization, or not renew it to the President’s liking, thus forcing the President into an awkward Article II posture or into narrowing the conflict further than he would like. I doubt any of these outcomes will occur, as it should not be hard for the next President to make the case for renewing authorizations for war if such authorizations are plausibly warranted. But in any event, as a nation we should not shy away from these possible consequences of democratic deliberation on a vital question like war.
In short, a sunset clause is the one provision that a Congress seeking to reassert its constitutional prerogatives should insist on in a new AUMF." Goldsmith in Lawfare
The great danger that we face in the US is that of an unending war against any or all forces that a president can describe as being of hostile intent and capable of carrying out kinetic attacks on the US or powers friendly to the US.
The AUMFs have become the functional equivalents of declarations of war. Under their authority the president and commander in chief can wage war with little restriction on his Second Amendment powers as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.
Unless these powers are limited in some meaningful way we are watching a transformation from Republic to Principate. pl
"Al Jazeera journalist Nir Rosen reported that many of the deaths reported daily by activists are in fact armed insurgents falsely presented as civilian deaths, but confirmed that real civilian deaths do occur on a regular basis. A number of Middle East political analysts, including those from the Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper, have also urged caution.
This was later confirmed when in late May 2012, Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is one of the opposition-affiliated groups counting the number of those killed in the uprising, stated that civilians who had taken up arms during the conflict were being counted under the category of "civilians"." Wiki on casualties
|Syrian military and police||52,290–79,874 killed|
|Shabiha and National Defense Force||29,495–43,495 killed|
|Lebanese Hezbollah||628 killed|
|Non-Hezbollah foreign fighters||2,453 killed|
|Foreign fighters||23,892 killed|
|Kurdish YPG||956–1,125 killed|
wiki on casualties
"The United Nations stated that by the end of April 2014, 8,803 children had been killed, while the Oxford Research Group said that a total of 11,420 children died in the conflict by late November 2013. By the end of December 2014, the opposition activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the number of children killed in the conflict had risen to 10,515, while at the same time 6,682 women were also killed." wiki on casualties
For the sake of discussion let us take SOHR's numbers with regard to child and woman fatalities as fact. This is a generous assumption since SOHR is a rebel propaganda organization. One can take it for granted that SOHR's numbers will reflect the high end of numbers unfavorable to the Syrian government. On that basis we can believe that by 1 January, 2015, 10,515 children and 6,682 women totaling 17,197 had been killed in the war by someone, someone. None of the statistics that I have seen indicate who killed these people and how many were killed by which side.
The data that I have found here indicates that on the low side 84,866 fighters have been killed on the government side and that 86, 657 fighters have been killed on the anti-government side.
These numbers can only be regarded as approximations because as Nir Rosen writes above many of the deaths of armed insurgents are "counted" as those of civilians. Well, pilgrims, a civilian who is armed and participating in the fighting is not a "civilian."
This morning General (ret.) Barry McCaffery was on "Morning Joe" where he labeled Bashar Assad as the killer of 200,000 Syrians. Is it McCaffery's belief that the Syrian Arab Government killed 84,866 fighters who were government forces or allies?
The whole public discourse with regard to the civil war in Syria is dominated by such propaganda nonsense. What is McCaffery's motivation for mouthing such an untruth? What? pl
"Prosecutors defamed Sterling’s character in opening and closing arguments, but few CIA witnesses had anything bad to say about him. The notable exception, CIA official David Cohen — who ran the agency’s New York office when Sterling worked there — testified that “his performance was extremely sub-par.”
Cohen’s affect on the stand gave new meaning to the term hostile witness. He exuded major antipathy toward Sterling, who had been one of the CIA’s few American-American case officers. Sterling filed a racial bias lawsuit before the agency fired him.
“In the wake of 9/11, Cohen moved from the CIA to the NYPD,” Marcy Wheeler wrote. “In 2002, he got a federal court to relax the Handschu guidelines, which had been set up in 1985 in response to NYPD’s targeting of people for their political speech. … After getting the rules relaxed, Cohen created teams of informants that infiltrated mosques and had officers catalog Muslim-owned restaurants, shops, and even schools.”" Solomon
It was an amazing spectacle. Jury selection was the most unimpressive phenomenon of all. In spite of there having been a lot of people of color in the prospective jury pool, the final jury was altogether white and most were women. pl
Adam L. Silverman
Reuters is reporting that Ahmed al Tayeb, the Grand Sheik of al Azhar University has not only condemned ISIL's burning of Lt. al Kasaesbeh, but has stated that "such a form of killing, is abhorrent under Islam, no matter the justification". In fact Sheikh al Tayeb went so far as to state that those who committed such acts deserved to be: "killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.
Al Azhar is the oldest, continuously operating Sunni Muslim school of higher education. It will be interesting to see exactly what, if any, effect Sheikh Tayeb's stance has. Reuters' report also includes reaction from senior Sunni clerical authorities in other parts of the Muslim world, both Arab and non-Arab. Click over to read the whole report.
* al Azhar Crest was found here: http://www.cicot.or.th/2009/images/stories/200px-Al-Azhar_University_logo_svg_png%20(PNG%20Image,%20200x287%20pixels)_1268135062853.jpg
Lieutenant Kasaesbeh death was a terrible thing. IS went to a lot of trouble to stage manage his "trial" and murder. we should not let the production values of the video obscure the simple truth that IS and its medieval fanatics are the enemies of right thinking people pf all nationalities and faiths. I do not agree that their fortunes are trending downward. If left to fester across the world they will make more and more trouble and commit more unspeakable crimes everywhere they can reach.
McCain was on the tube today with his usual nonsensical statements concerning the "need" to crush the Syrian government in response to IS executions of prisoners. Perhaps he has missed the fact that it is IS who has executed these prisoners and not the Syrian government. It seems that this is an obsession that he and his office wife will die with. The neocons and their foreign friends have a lot to answer for in this particular craziness of American policy.
IMO, there should now be formed a coalition of anti-IS and Nusra that consists of anyone who will fight the jihadis. I mean really fight, not just talk about forming an "army" of Syrian unicorns who might or might not ever amount to anything.
Jordan, The US, Britain, France, the Syrian government, Hizbullah in Syria, the "nine brigade new Iraqi army," Iran, Pesh Merga, the other Kurds, (the ones the Turks hate so much) the UAE air force, cats and dogs (you name it). I would become a co-belligerent with anyone who will fight the jihadis, Anyone!
I do not mention Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait because IMO they lack "the right stuff." I do not mention Egypt because IMO their military has little combat value. They are really asphalt soldiers.
Jordan's forces are quite small in this time long after the treaty with Israel. They will need a lot of help logistically, but IMO the US will have to accept that there will must be a conventional US ground component in the fight. If there is not, then this war will last a long, long time. There is a sizable US force in Kuwait. They can be moved NW on the Tapline Road to Azraq Air base in Jordan. More troops can be air transported to that base. A supply line can be opened through the port of Aqaba.
Let us get on with it. pl
""The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan," army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said in a televised statement confirming the death of the pilot, who was captured in December when his plane crashed over Syria.
A government spokesman said in a statement that Jordan would deliver a "strong, earth-shaking and decisive" response.
The fate of Kasaesbeh, a member of a large tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy, has gripped Jordan for weeks and provoked rare protests against King Abdullah over the government's handling of the crisis.
The king cut short a visit to the United States to return home." pl
Well, pilgrims, these fellows are really something. I told Japanese TV a while back that I thought he might already be dead but I did not expect this. It is an unusual but not unknown punishment under some concepts of Islamic law. This is usually reserved for those who try to proselytize Muslims or whose actions severely endanger the Islamic State ('ummah).
He was probably a Beni Sakhr beduin. This action by IS will consolidate tribal support for King Abdullah. Indeed. IMO it will consolidate opposition to IS across the Islamic World. It is sad that some good will come of this.
These IS crazies remind me of the Reiver characters in the SciFi TV series "Firefly." Those madmen had been driven insane by experimental government behavior changing drugs. These madmen are driven insane by the drug of their form of religion.
Tell me again what the argument is for not cooperating with the Syrian Arab Government in destroying this pestilence. pl
WASHINGTON — With Russian-backed separatists pressing their attacks in Ukraine, NATO’s military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, now supports providing defensive weapons and equipment to Kiev’s beleaguered forces, and an array of administration and military officials appear to be edging toward that position, American officials said Sunday.
President Obama has made no decisions on providing such lethal assistance. But after a series of striking reversals that Ukraine’s forces have suffered in recent weeks, the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at the question of military aid. Secretary of State John Kerry, who plans to visit Kiev on Thursday, is open to new discussions about providing lethal assistance, as is Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officials said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is leaving his post soon, backs sending defensive weapons to the Ukrainian forces. In recent months, Susan E. Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, has resisted proposals to provide lethal assistance, several officials said. But one official who is familiar with her views insisted that Ms. Rice was now prepared to reconsider the issue. (NY Times)
Shaved apes! My old mentor, MSG Albert H. Rivers, told me all these politicians and generals could easily be replaced by shaved apes. Take a few grey rock apes out of the zoo, shave 'em and put 'em in suits. You'd never know the difference.
The NYT reporters leave the impression that, according to anonymous officials, all the government officials and military leaders mentioned are leaning towards providing arms to the Kiev junta. Breedlove, Kerry and Rice - yeah, I can see it. But General Dempsey? Say it ain't so! An NBC article suggests the Pentagon is not that keen on the idea. "The Pentagon is reviewing the question "cautiously," one official said. There is concern that providing heavy weapons to Ukraine would only escalate the fighting and increase instability. For that reason, "As of now no one here is pounding the table to provide heavy weapons," the official said." I hope the Pentagon retains its caution and well founded misgivings.
There are no shortage of shaved apes cheerleading for jumping into the war in Ukraine with both feet. Several "think tanks" just put out a paper entitled "Preserving Ukraine's Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do." Good Lord, the title alone conjures up images of a troop of howler monkeys flinging their poop from the tree branches. Among the points made in this report is that one of the rebel advantages is air superiority since they "have denied Ukrainian forces the ability to attack, collect intelligence, maneuver and resupply their forces in Ukraine's sovereign airspace." The report calls for equipping the Ukrainians with counter battery radars and medium range/medium altitude UAVs and armored humvees. The Ukies already have counter battery radars and UAVs. I seriously doubt armored humvees are up to the muddy steppes.
The Ukies may have already received heavy weapons from NATO countries. I'm not talking about the small arms and artillery ammo. This video suggests they are using M-109 Paladin SP artillery systems. When did they come from? No matter. The Ukie forces are close to moral collapse. Their leadership is inferior at all levels. The conscripts are beginning to desert and cross over to the rebel side. Regular Ukrainian army units are fighting the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor filled national guard units. The Aidar Battalion is in Kiev calling for Poroshenko's head. All the humvees in the world aren't going to fix that.
Our best bet is to suck it up. Accept that Sevastopol will never become NATO's Subic Bay on the Black Sea. Don't listen to the shaved apes and walk away from World War III.
In late 1980s and early ‘90s, I was told by senior CIA officials, that for many years, American “national grassroots movements focused on building support of Israel” had been secretly funded by Mossad, whose purpose is to reinforce the strain of Christian fundamentalism in America, a group that displays no knowledge of the Bible and who thinks that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Such groups are now building big churches that teach Creationism, apparently taking great pride in being absurd.
Mossad used to fund pilgrimages trips to Israel and other events, these officials said.
Has that funding stopped?
Probably. A keen-eyed observer commented, “Certainly Israel (Mossad?) funds hundreds (thousands?) of trips to Israel each year. But I wonder how covert Israel needs to be in funding Zionist Christians? They've got lots of money and lots of natural fervor, and, though they may not really like Jews, they have deep ideological commitment to the return of all Jews to Israel. (Of course something like two thirds of all Jews will be killed upon the apocalypse, and the remaining converted to Christianity.”
On its web site, CUFI proclaims,
“There is a new Hitler in the Middle East—President Ahmadinejad of Iran—If we learned anything from the Holocaust, it is that when a madman threatens genocide we must take him seriously.[“
At a CUFI gathering in Washington, John Hagee, the head pastor, said, "President Obama is not pro-Israel."
And on the question of an undivided Jerusalem, Hagee said, "Turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban.”
Hagee also denounced climate change as a fraud, plus he opposes abortion, gays, etc.
Such views dumbfound us or make us gape and scratch our heads at the very least. CUFI seems to be in the forefront of every backward movement.
American Religious Right
One wonders if the Christian Right has spent much time reading the Bible. Are they aware that are two accounts of creation in Genesis or that there are two accounts of Saul being made king? David is twice introduced to Saul. There are two accounts of David having spared Saul’s life. We also read that Goliath was killed by David, yet in another account names Elhanan is the giant’s killer. Clearly there are two different writers at work writers with different intonations, phraseology, methods, styles, talents, and differing sets of facts and legends brought to coherent meaning by marvelous skill.
It is somewhat suspicious to current scholars that the pharaoh that oppressed the Hebrews is not ever named in the Old Testament. Many scholars used to think that it was Ramses the II who died about 1225 BCE. It has become the habit to date Exodus about 125- BCE. Moses is credited with writing Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, but doubts arise. We read about the death of Moses, and clearly he wasn’t able to write about his own demise. So someone else was writing his biography.
The “Pro-Iranian Faction” on Gary Sick’s site.
I am a bit put out by remarks on Sick's site about the pro-Iranian faction on Gary’s site.
The word “faction” seems to denote something conspiratorial.
Who belongs to “the pro-Iranian faction on GGS 2?” What is it? The phrase sounds full of shadowy menace… “The sneaking pro-Iranian, faction whispered last night...” Orrin sees the pro-Iranian faction as misguided, faintly corrupt, intellectually misinformed, a renegade faction that has closed its mind to the truth. Apparently, this group cannot reason coherently or uprightly. It suffers from the defect of a disfiguring bias.
I do not belong to any faction. “I like to be first and alone on any road I travel,” said a great American poet. Having sympathies is personal, not communitarian. Unfortunately groups are always home to mediocrity so one avoids them. If my personal opinions happen to coincide with others, it is not a conspiracy. It makes for the pleasure of agreement, that happy surprise that occurs when we find another who thinks a bit like ourselves. That agreement does not make a faction either.
In any case, what does the “bias” consist of? Is it an inclination, propensity for, a predilection, a leaning whose goal is to promote what is untrue about Iran? In my case, I am a patriotic American who deeply loves my own severely flawed country, and who simply wants justice to be done to the Iranian people. We ordinary Americans, what do we gain by loving Iran and admiring its people? We gain a great deal – knowledge of the Persian Empire, the conquest of Persia by Alexander, knowledge of the wars of the Greeks and Persians, and most valuable of all, we get to know the great Persian poets and Persian epics. Is their any poet more delightful than Sadiq?
We want to obtain a measure of justice for the people of Iran, that desire in no way supports or sympathizes with the country’s oppressive regime.
With greetings to all, and wishing everyone a wonderful, spiritually enriching New Year.
"... ISIS's influence keeps growing around the Muslim world. In the past six months, ISIS has drawn into its fold some dozen militant groups from Algeria to Pakistan.
These affiliates aren't wasting any time in carrying out attacks in the name of ISIS. On January 27, gunmen claiming to be affiliated with ISIS attacked the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya, which is favored by government officials and foreigners. They killed 10 people after storming into the lobby and firing guns at hotel guests. Five of the victims were foreigners, one an American.
Two days later, at least 32 people were killed in a series of attacks on soldiers and police in Sinai in eastern Egypt. The terrorist group known as the Province of Sinai has claimed responsibility for the attacks and had pledged allegiance to ISIS in November.
ISIS has recently claimed even more recruits, as it moved into new territory in Yemen, competing there with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
A Yemeni official who spoke to CNN in January said that the AQAP cadre still significantly outnumbers those in ISIS, but the move into Yemen is significant for the group as it a country where al Qaeda has maintained a presence for more than a decade." CNN
CENTCOM believes that it is winning a war of attrition against IS, but the authors of this piece point to the continuing flow of recruits going to "the caliphate" to seek martyrdom. IMO CENTCOM has no real ability to estimate the casualties they are inflicting on IS. They are probably guessing based on pilot reports of the damage done. Well, pilgrims, I've been there and done that... Pilots always pad their BDA reports. It is in their DNA to do so. I remember what one unit commander told me when I challenged him on this phenomenon. "The guys have to feel they are doing something worthwhile." OK, but that general tendency leads to unreliable data.
And then there is the continuing spread of IS outside the Syria/Iraq area. The IS leadership calls this "annexation" of bits and pieces of jihadiland.
Bergen doubts that the Kurds and the nine brigade new Iraqi army can re-take Mosul this year?
So do I. pl
Uh, by reading my columns. When it comes to foreign policy, I seek out the people who understand the Mideast. See my prior columns warning of the folly of "liberating" our enemies here. These are not politicians. I've yet to meet one who had even the vaguest notion of who's fighting whom in that neck of the woods.
Instead I seek out ex-CIA agents like Bob Baer or ex-Green Berets like Pat Lang. These guys saw this fiasco coming from the very beginning." Mulshine
ACLU, Cuccinelli oppose unwarranted searches and seizures by Victoria Zawitkowski / Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Tea party hero Ken Cuccinelli, the head of the Virginia ACLU and others across the political spectrum called Thursday for an amendment to the state Constitution to protect citizens from unwarranted searches and seizures. They supported a provision similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure. Advocates of the idea want to extend that protection to electronic devices and information given to a third party, such as a cellphone company or a website.
Two resolutions before the General Assembly would start the process of amending the Constitution: HJ 578, sponsored by Del. Richard Anderson, R–Woodbridge, and SJ 302, introduced by Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford. The resolutions’ sponsors and supporters held a press conference to discuss the issue. Anderson called attention to the diverse groups working together on it. “Just think, the Virginia ACLU and the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots,” Anderson said. “This knows support across theological lines simply because it’s the right thing. It returns us to what our founders intended.” Stuart said the amendment would modernize protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. “I think it goes a long way in helping us to ensure those protections into the 21st century,” Stuart said. “Obviously, there are things that our Founding Fathers couldn’t contemplate at the time that this was done.”
Cuccinelli and Anderson said the amendment would protect Virginians against surveillance by organizations such as the National Security Agency and the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Share Network, a database of personal telephone data compiled by police in southeast Virginia. The proposed state amendment would go beyond the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens only in or immediately outside of their home, said Cuccinelli, a former state attorney general. “This would take it to your property line,” he said. (Read the full article at the Free Lance-Star.)
I'm no fan of Cuccinelli, but I'll stand right by his side on this one. Good on him! The entire federal government, including the Supreme Court, has been eroding our fourth amendment rights for the last fifteen years. I've written about this before... many times. Others have fought this fight in their own ways, from Senator Ron Wyden's and Representative Justin Amash's legislative proposals, to the technical evangelism of Bruce Schneier and Jacob Appelbaum, the whistleblowing of Thomas Drake and others, and the shocking revelations of Edward Snowden.
This effort is different. If successful, this legislation will pit the people and Constitution of Virginia against the federal acolytes of the national security state. This will be a frontal assault on on the weasel words concocted by NSA lawyers to justify mass surveillance and retention of all our personal information. It will be a punch in the gut of any federal official trying to serve a national security letter on a Virginian. It will tell the rest of the nation that Virginians would rather stand for our freedom than cower for our safety.
Is the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest legislative body in the New World, up to this? Will Governor McAuliffe embrace this in the face of the inevitable backlash of the Obama Administration? Are we up for this fight? I intend to do what I can to support this legislation. Writing a few letters is the least I can do if I want to claim the title of Virginian like Washington, Jefferson, Lee and Jackson.
"The basic problem is that our policies regarding Iran are not fully aligned. That is a product of many things, including that Israel is closer and more vulnerable to this threat, and has no margin of error.
Israel’s policy is not merely to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon today; it is also to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon in the future. And Israel is very concerned that a deal will be forged that will not dismantle Iran’s nuclear-weapons capability. We are concerned that it would leave Iran with an advanced nuclear infrastructure today—relying on intelligence and inspectors to prevent Iran from breaking out or sneaking out to the bomb—and in the foreseeable future enable Iran to have an industrial-sized nuclear program, as the timeframe for this agreement runs out and all sanctions are removed. That is an outcome that is unacceptable to Israel." The Atlantic
Does it seem odd to anyone else that the former US citizen Ron Dermer is discussing this with Jeffrey Goldberg who either is or was an IDF reservist? No matter, I fully support Goldberg's effort to pry the truth out of Dermer.
Does it amuse others that Dermer threw Boehner under the bus in this interview? To paraphrase - We Israelis always wanted to seek White House agreement but that nasty Boehner didn't let us. All the world is against us...
What Israel seems to want for the rest of the ME is a super-sized Morgenthau Plan that would reduce the surrounding countries to unindustrialized pastoral regions without the potential for manufacturing weapons.
At the same time Israel seems to want the US to continue to march in lock step with it on any issue of interest.
To that end they wish to address the Congress of the United States for the purpose of lobbying against the president of the US.
I will say it again. Obama should deny Bibi a visa. pl
"Younger respondents (age 18-24 and 25-34) are generally more likely to want Netanyahu investigated (73.6 percent and 62.0 percent) than older Americans. Responses vary little between income categories. However females (63.4 percent) were more likely than males (50.4 percent) to prefer Netanyahu be criminally investigated before being allowed to enter America.
Netanyahu has recently announced plans to break diplomatic protocol and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Congress in March, 2015 without coordinating his state visit with the White House. " IRMEP
Maybe we should invade and annex Israel. We could make it part of South Carolina or Alabama. There are lots of Christian Zionists in those states and the former Israelis should feel right at home. If we did that, then we could provide a written constitution and allow the former Israelis to realize their destiny as citizens of a secular state with the protections for the people of the Bill of Rights. Such a move would also allow such people as the last two Israeli ambassadors to the US to resolve their inner identity conflicts. pl
"... the jury convicted Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence: there was not one shred of evidence showing Sterling handing Risen classified information on the operation, the Russian asset, or the letter that Risen found but FBI could not.
The evidence consisted of 57 phone calls between Sterling and Risen (some on their own phones, some on a phone Sterling had access to) between March 2003 and November 2005, the content of which we know nothing. It included a handful of emails, some of which indicate (in 2004, before Risen submitted his book proposal) Risen wanted to continue to talk to Sterling and wanted to send him something. One March 10, 2003 email, which Sterling deleted sometime in 2006, possibly after FBI subpoenaed him in this investigation, showed that Sterling had sent Risen the link to a CNN article claiming Iran had a very advanced nuclear weapons program. “All the more reason to wonder…” Sterling said in the email. The evidence showed that in March 2003, as the Bush Administration started a disastrous war based on claims of a dangerous nuclear program, Sterling used proper legal channels to raise concerns about the operation (citing “current events” to explain the timing of his concern) at the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Perhaps the most damning evidence, which was not submitted as a fact but as to the scope of the investigation, was CIA special agent Ashley Hunt’s revelation that in the initial leak referral CIA relayed a warning – from lawyers she would later learn were the lawyers handling Sterling’s Equal Opportunity complaint – that one of their clients had ”voiced his concerns about an operation that was nuclear in nature, and he threatened to go to the media.” In spite of this tip from the CIA, however, Hunt did not consider Sterling a likely candidate to be the leaker in the early stage of the investigation; she — and CIA press seretary Bill Harlow — thought Senate Intelligence Committee staffers were behind it. Marcy Wheeler
CSE is not allowed to target Canadians or Canadian corporations. Yeah, sure. So who does "track" Canadians or Canadian corporations? The RCMP? pl
Those were my thoughts as I read about the case of former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling who was recently convicted of espionage by a federal court in Alexandria, VA.
However, there are things to keep in mind as we consider this case.
By the year 2000, Iran had for years obtained expertise from Russia and Chinese nuclear specialists equipped to study any blue prints submitted to Iran by countries eager to help Tehran expand its nuclear program. Iran had for years had obtained from the black-market network of the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, plans for developing nuclear weapons. Until 2003, Iran had a strategic goal in developing such a weapon – it was to be a deterrent, not against Israel, but the nuclear forces of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
To be plain, Iran certainly was capable of discerning a fake nuclear blueprint from a genuine one.
The CIA’s targets at the time were North Korea, Iraq, and Iran.
After 9/11, Iran was conspicuously efficient in supporting the U.S. / Northern Alliance against the Taliban, which Iran deeply hated, helping the U.S. to rescue its downed pilots, even giving U.S. forces maps on which Taliban targets were to be bombed.
This changed. Under President George Bush, Iran was now a member of “the Axis of Evil.” The earlier smiley face of Iran had been replaced by a harsh face of murder terrorism and exploitation. The designation, “the Axis of Evil," has always had for me the crudity of a cartoon. In addition, it was wrong. Even then, in 2003, Iran was making efforts to hand over to the U.S. top al Qaeda lieutenants, including a son of Osama bin Laden.
Since the Clinton years, low level US and Iranian talks had been taking in Vienna.
The Counterproliferation Division of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations now came up with what they thought was an ingenious plan. Find a prospect, a Russian that could act as an intermediary, vet him, cross-examine him, and use him to transport nuclear plans to Iran in order to sabotage its program. The highlight of this operation was the insertion of defects into the plans that would be passed on to the Iranians. In other words, the aim of this was to send Iran off on a wild goose chase.
(It has an old idea: you implant defects into a weapon for an enemy, and when war comes and he throws the switch, nothing happens. The CIA had already executed such a plan against the Soviets, and we are doing the same thing to China today.)
Then something unspeakable happened.
A scandal occurred. A CIA official told Jim Risen of The New York Times about the plan, and the pitiless furies of “national security” arguments were unleashed, aimed at proving that Risen was the source of articles about the plan printed in The New York Times. Of course, the burden of proving espionage lies with the government. A government should not be allowed to use mere proximity, tangential conversations or vague-mails to prove espionage. In the Sterling case, such encounters are merely circumstantial. They are not proof. A government may infer that something bad happened, but that is mere supposition. the government didn’t make its case. It had facts on peripheral issues e-mails, et, but there was no one piece of evidence that make clear that Sterling was Risen’s source.
Sadly, Sterling was charged with espionage. In making such charges, the burden of proof is always on the government making the charge. In the Sterling trial, The CIA official who allegedly spoke to Risen, Jeffrey Sterling was indicted and for seven years, the federal government brought pitiless pressure on Risen to name Sterling as his source.
One principle of journalism is always honored, one ideal is impetrative stands above all the rest – that is, never give up the name of a source, and unless they are dead and their family gives the reporter permission to the name.
I have read only news accounts of the case, but one fact strikes one as extremely curious. The Iranians never took the bait. One can infer that the Iranian officials thought the US-manufactured nuclear plans bogus. In spite of the CIA’s plan, the Iranians never stirred a hair.
This brings us to the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007. That document said, “We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
“We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
“We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.”
No matter, and never mind.
According to news accounts, Sterling was initially charged with committing ten felonies, seven of which fall under the Espionage Act. The other charges were mail fraud and obstruction of justice. The mail fraud charge was dismissed by the judge last week before deliberation.
Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.
Notably, Morison’s case was one of the first cases where the Justice Department used the Espionage Act to criminalize a leak. (Morison was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.)
The conviction of Sterling seems to me to be a vast mistake, the wrong thing done for the wrong reasons.
A news account quoted Jesselyn Radack, a Justice Department whistleblower, attorney and director of the Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division. She said, “It is a new low in the war on whistleblowers and government hypocrisy that CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in a purely circumstantial case of ‘leaking.’ It shows how far an embarrassed government will go to punish those who dare to commit the truth.”
Sterling will remain free on bond until his sentencing, which is scheduled for April 24. His defense is working to “seek to have the verdict thrown out” and, if that does not happen, they will appeal.
"... the government failed to produce any proof that Sterling talked with Risen about the Iran operation, Lang and other close observers of his trial have noted. Prosecutors could show only that Risen and Sterling, an African-American, talked and traded emails after an appeals court rejected a race discrimination suit by Sterling against the CIA in 2005.
As Edward MacMahon, Sterling’s defense attorney, said in court, “You’re not going to see an email [relaying information to Risen]. You’re not going to hear a phone call. It doesn’t exist.” He added, “What we really have is a cloud that needs to be lifted off Mr. Sterling.”
On Monday the Justice Department hailed the conviction of Sterling, who worked in clandestine operations beginning in the 1990s, as “a just and appropriate outcome.”
But Lang, a Middle East expert who was the DIA’s first director of the service’s foreign spying program in the 1990s, called the verdict a travesty.
“I was a consultant on the trial and I sat through all the testimony, and there was zero direct evidence that Jeff Sterling was one of Jim Risen’s sources for the book,” Lang told Newsweek. “It was entirely circumstantial and the poor [man] is going to go away for a long, long time.”" Jeff Stein
Pro-Moscow rebels, backed by what NATO says is the open participation of Russian troops, pressed on with their offensive on Sunday after restarting the war in eastern Ukraine with the first all-out assault since a truce five months ago.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington was considering all options short of military action to isolate Russia. The European Union called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of its 28 member states. "We are deeply concerned about the latest break in the ceasefire and the aggression that these separatists -- with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops -- are conducting," Obama told a news conference during a visit to India. "I will look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue. And we will be in close consultation with our international partners, particularly European partners."
NATO accuses Moscow of sending troops to fight on behalf of rebels in territory the Kremlin has dubbed "New Russia" in a war that has killed more than 5,000 people. In some of the strongest language ever from Brussels, Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who now presides over EU summits European Council president, denounced "appeasement" of Moscow, a word with unmistakable World War Two connotations. (Reuters)
The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says. “We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions’,” said Putin. He added that the intention of Ukrainian troops is connected with “achieving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.” Putin was addressing students in the city of St. Petersburg. According to Putin, the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine.”
Kiev has been reluctant to find political solutions to the crisis in eastern Ukraine and only used the ceasefire to regroup its forces, the president stressed. “Unfortunately official Kiev authorities refuse to follow the path of a peaceful solution. They don’t want to resolve [the crisis] using political tools,” Putin said, adding that first Kiev authorities had first used law enforcement, then security services and then the army in the region. “It is essentially a civil war [in Ukraine]. In my view, many in Ukraine already understand this,” Putin added. (Russia Today)
That pretty much sums up where the politicians stand now that last September's Minsk Protocol has collapsed so spectacularly. The Prime Minister of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DNR), Alexandr Zakharchenko emphatically declared that there will be no more ceasefires. What's happening on the ground? It's difficult to know from day to day. Both sides push their own versions of reality. However, I think the photo at the top of this post sums up the current situation on the ground in Novorossiya. At center front, with his fist in the air is Matros, a company commander in the DNR Sparta Battalion. Behind him and two of his soldiers stand a number of Ukrainian prisoners, probably from the 93d Brigade, the “cyborgs” that held part of the airport since last summer. This picture was taken at the airport a few days ago after it was finally captured by the rebels. This video was probably made shortly after the above photo was taken. The words of Matros ring truer than those of any politician... "It's only the beginning."
Let's listen to words of some of the men at the heart of this battle to better understand what's going on. In addition to Matros, hear the words of Motorola (Arseny Pavlov) and Givi (Mikail Tolstoy). Motorola is the 32 year old commander of the Sparta Battalion. He served in the Russian naval infantry in the 2nd Chechen War, but was a stone cutter before he joined the fighting last year. Givi commands the Somali Battalion. He served in the Ukrainian Army from 1998 to 2000 as a conscript tanker. After that he worked in a sling rope factory. Neither individual was a professional military man. They fought beside Strelkov at Slaviansk and were instrumental in closing and reducing the Iliovansk cauldron last August.
In this 16 January interview with Motorola, he describes how the Ukies launched an attack on his position at the airport and were repulsed before his battalion began the assault on the new terminal.
In this 17 January interview Givi describes the airport battles, the importance of suppressive fires and acknowledges the strength of the Ukies and the difficulties of the battles ahead. On 18 January he describes how he repulsed a Ukie attack that attempted to outflank the airport.
This is an interview with Givi and Matros in a more relaxed moment on 18 January. Soldier talk. I miss it.
What does the future hold? For men like Givi, Motorola and Matros hard battles are ahead. Putin appears to be solidly behind the rebels military offensive since he is keepng the voentorg supplies flowing. This is more important than any political support at the moment. Perhaps most important is whatever training and advisory support Russia is providing. The polite men in green seem to be going a bang up job and they certainly know how to STFU. I have no proof of this, but my experience tells me it is so. I'm envious of their expertise and success. This clearly contrasts with whatever training and advisory program is in place for the Ukrainian Army.
How far will Washington and the EU go to support the junta in Kiev? We had Standard and Poor cut Russia's credit rating to junk today. I seriously doubt this move will close the voentorg. If the rebels close and reduce a new cauldron at Debaltsteve, will the Ukrainian conscripts desert and/or defect en masse? Will Pravy Sektor and Svoboda overthrow the current junta in Kiev? Will the US and EU continue to support Kiev in that case? I have a feeling we'll have answers to these questions before General Mud arrives on the steppes of Ukraine.
Adam L. Silverman
This morning, just before I saw COL Lang's post about American Sniper, I read Matt Taibbi's commentary at Rolling Stone. Taibbi has a very interesting and insightful take into why the movie has been so popular. It relates back to what a lot of people - analysts, commentators, and just informed regular citizens - have identified as a problem in our ongoing experiment in self-government. American Sniper, like the war movies that came out in the years after the Vietnam War, allows Americans off the hook. As a result there is no need for deep politial or ideological self examination. There is also no reason to actually do anything to change the circumstances that allow for poorly conceived and ill advised adventures abroad and the ongoing degradation, at all levels, of self-government at home.
"Sniper is a movie whose politics are so ludicrous and idiotic that under normal circumstances it would be beneath criticism. The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question."In reference to an actual revuew of the movie, Taibii also writes that "Griggs added, in a review that must make Eastwood swell with pride, that the root of the film's success is that "it's about a real person," and "it's a human story, not a political one." Well done, Clint! You made a movie about mass-bloodshed in Iraq that critics pronounced not political! That's as Hollywood as Hollywood gets."
"The thing is, it always looks bad when you criticize a soldier for doing what he's told. It's equally dangerous to be seduced by the pathos and drama of the individual solider's experience, because most wars are about something much larger than that, too.
They did this after Vietnam, when America spent decades watching movies like Deer Hunter and First Blood and Coming Home about vets struggling to reassimilate after the madness of the jungles. So we came to think of the "tragedy" of Vietnam as something primarily experienced by our guys, and not by the millions of Indochinese we killed.
That doesn't mean Vietnam Veterans didn't suffer: they did, often terribly. But making entertainment out of their dilemmas helped Americans turn their eyes from their political choices. The movies used the struggles of soldiers as a kind of human shield protecting us from thinking too much about what we'd done in places like Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos.
This is going to start happening now with the War-on-Terror movies. As CNN's Griggs writes, "We're finally ready for a movie about the Iraq War." Meaning: we're ready to be entertained by stories about how hard it was for our guys. And it might have been. But that's not the whole story and never will be.
We'll make movies about the Chris Kyles of the world and argue about whether they were heroes or not. Some were, some weren't. But in public relations as in war, it'll be the soldiers taking the bullets, not the suits in the Beltway who blithely sent them into lethal missions they were never supposed to understand."
Click on over and read the whole thing! And while you're there, if you haven't already, check out his writing on both the financial crisis and the criminal justice system. Make sure to catch his explanation of how turning the commodity markets into a casino helped to hugely inflate the price of gas. And treat yourself to his book and column reviews of Tom Friedman. WARNING: Do NOT eat or drink anything while reading the reviews of Friedman!
Shooting people with a rifle at extended ranges is something I am familiar with. There is nothing particularly noble about shooting people with a rifle at several hundred yards. It is merely necessary in war. I was not a sniper but I was a notable marksman and I shot men with a rifle at long ranges. I am not ashamed of that. It was war and it needed doing, but I sure as hell don't want anyone to thank me for it. I hesitate to tell you all that because some fool will think I am boasting or looking for sympathy. Neither is true.
This SEAL was a sniper by trade. He volunteered for that occupational area and stuck with it for a long time. He is reputed to have shot and killed 150. That is a lot of dead people. I don't understand the whole "confirmed kills" thing. Why on earth would you keep track of that? In the airborne force we kept track of the number of jumps you had made. We had little log books for recording them. that had reason behind it. After "X" number of jumps you received more senior rating as a parachutist. Do people who snipe as a trade receive a "senior sniper badge," and then a "master sniper badge?" I don't get it.
And why is the American public so mad for this film? The American people turned their backs on my generation of soldiers. Some of them still think that the army that fought in SE Asia was essentially a criminal enterprise. A neighbor who is an otherwise sensible person told me a while back that "all the good people went to Canada."
And now we have this adulation for a man who was an effective, efficient killing machine. I don't get it.
“In the course of the Yemen experience, Walt had grown close to his French, Saudi and British colleagues. The insurgent war in the southeast of North Yemen was of great concern to the Saudi government. The notion that left wing guerrillas led by outright communists might defeat the Salih regime and arrive on Saudi Arabia’s southern border was understandably worrying. The Saudi Ministry of Defense called for a US/Saudi meeting in Riyadh. Lang learned of this from the Saudi attaché in Sanaa, but thought little of the matter until the US attaché office in Jeddah sent their twin engine airplane to bring him to the meeting. The night before this “pow-wow,” there was a pre-meeting meeting at MG Jenkins house in his training unit’s residential compound. After dinner, Jenkins tried to brainstorm the coming proceedings. Lang said little until Jenkins off-handedly asked him how long he would speak. The Saudis had told Jenkins that they wanted Lieutenant Colonel Lang to brief.
“How long would you want me to speak, general?” was the reply. Lang was an accomplished briefer and public orator. He could make the presentation be whatever length Jenkins required.
This answer enraged the air force general. His face grew red and he stammered until they all left.
The next day when the Americans arrived at the Saudi conference room they found that Saudi MG Mardini, the head of their overseas military assistance program was presiding. Lang moved to the US side of the table intending to sit as far away from Jenkins as possible.
General Mardini said, “no, no, come sit with us. We invited you.”
Lang took the indicated seat next to the Saudi military attaché from Sanaa. The man reached over and held Walt’s hand. This was a normal gesture of friendship in Arabia, but the Jenkins’ side of the table squirmed and frowned.
When the usual meaningless talk of eternal amity ended, Mardini stated that al-muqaddam Lang would give the Saudi intelligence brief to begin the meeting.
Someone explained that the Arabic word meant lieutenant colonel. Jenkins face grew red again. Mardini watched him as a snake watches a bird.
“Why?” Jenkins rasped at last.
Mardini smiled. He was clearly enjoying this spectacle. “Our attaché in Sanaa, al-muqqadam al-Obeid is not an intelligence man. He is a… political liaison to the tribes south of Sanaa. He learns much of what he knows of the combat situation from his brother antar. Actually, Lieutenant Colonel al-Obeid suggested that antar brief here for us.
“Antar?” Jenkins asked
Lang pointed to his own chest. “Me,” he said. That’s what they call me.”
“I don’t know, sir. I did not pick the name. It is the name of one of their warrior poets.”
Mardini, indicated with a languid hand motion that he might begin.
Lang spent 30 minutes at the map board, briefing the Yemen insurgency in Arabic. When he finished the Saudi officers asked a few questions.
Mardini said, “mumtaz. That means excellent,” he told Jenkins. “I detect a slight Palestinian accent,” he remarked to Lang.
“Yes, general, qudsi. This is from my first teacher.”
“Jerusalem,” Mardini told Jenkins. “Now do it in English if you please, antar…
At the break, several of Jenkins’ officers followed their boss into the hallway to congratulate Lang.
“I did not think you could be as good at this as people said. You are a professional,” Jenkins said and walked away.
The Arabs could be heard laughing in the conference room. They were pleased to see Jenkins eat dirt. It was obvious that they detested him.
The pattern was set. When Lang returned from the United States as the attaché in Saudi Arabia he knew that Jenkins already hated him.
Lang tried to explain the Saudi mentality to Jenkins. He worked at it for a year in which they shared the same country. At the end of his time in Saudi Arabia, Jenkins told Lang that he should have listened to the advice given. In his last visit to the embassy Jenkins said that he had a hard time believing that when Saudi colleagues told him something they did not really expect that he would think them committed. The realization that this was true had been a great blow to him.”
According to the report, the catalyst is Director Brennans allleged desire to do away with the divide between analysis and the clandestine (collection?) service in favour of organising into self contained regional groups.
To this amateur, such a change introduces the risk of "groupthink" where collection activities are shaped to suit the ruling analytic paradigm and unwanted, perhaps contrary, intelligence that doesn't fit the desired narrative is simply not collected. I wonder if it also might negatively impact the security of clandestine assets.
I would like to think that critics of this move within CIA are motivated by a desire to produce "Frank and Fearless" high quality intelligence as opposed to just saving their careers.
I hope Col. Lang might like to comment on this situation.
"Algeria’s unilateral decision to attack kidnappers at a natural gas plant — while shunning outside help, imposing a virtual information blackout and disregarding international pleas for caution — has dampened hopes that it might cooperate militarily in Mali, U.S. officials said. The crisis has strained ties between Algiers and Washington and increased doubts about whether Algeria can be relied upon to work regionally to dismantle al-Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa. “The result is that the U.S. will have squandered six to eight months of diplomacy for how it wants to deal with Mali,” said Geoff D. Porter, an independent North African security analyst. “At least it will have been squandered in the sense that the Algerians will likely double down on their recalcitrance to get involved. They’ve already put themselves in a fortress-like state.” " Washpost
The continuing phenomenon of US inability to deal with MENA countries on their own terms rather than on the basis of our imagined images of these places is just awful.
I wrote an article in FP on-line years ago in which I argued that US illusions about Iraq were the source of of our major difficulties there.
I see that we have learned nothing since then. pl
The recent hysteria over Yemen has caused me to give you all this little piece of the latest draft of my memoir. This is a minimalist statement of what happened in my Yemen years. There, was much, much more. pl
“Lang was Defense and Army Attaché (DATT/ARMA) in the Yemen Arab Republic for three years (1979 to 1982). The embassy was small and lodged in a multi- story mud and palm log building in the middle of Sanaa. The ambassador lived there surrounded by beautiful gardens and many servants. Lang and Marguerite established themselves in a rambling white masonry house about a mile from the embassy. It was surrounded by a ten foot wall topped with broken glass. Water was provided by trucks that filled and refilled tanks on the roof. In time Marguerite’s garden rivalled that of the embassy. There was a guard, an aged Yemeni tribal, who although in his eighties had a large and ever growing family. His name was Ahmad. He had every Saturday off and spent it at home somewhere making more babies. He and one of his wives produced a new one during the Langs’ time in Sanaa. When asked by Lang how he managed that he replied, “Clean living, fasting in Ramadan and effort every Saturday.” Ahmad was very solicitous of the memsahib’s welfare and guarded the place like a lion during Lang’s frequent absences in the field. Ahmad lived in a little whitewashed building by the front gate.
The office consisted of Lang, his US Army sergeant and a driver who was an employee of the embassy, but in reality was a major in the Yemeni National Police. His assignment was surveillance of the American military attaché. His name was Abdullah al-Shami. He was a substantial person whose help was always generously given when it was requested and sometimes when it was not. He knew that Lang’s work required him to “poke around” the country in places that were frequently unsafe because of banditry or some other sort of local warfare. When Lang needed to go somewhere that was probably insecure he formed the habit of asking Abdullah’s opinion. If the answer was positive, they went there together. If the answer was not, he went alone when Abdullah was away. Abdullah spoke reasonably good English having been a driver for several British officers at Aden when the United Kingdom possessed South Yemen, but Lang asked him when they first met to speak nothing but Arabic to him and he always did. From time to time he gave Lang a verbal report as to what sort of grade his Arabic deserved. Abdullah was a wonderful companion on field trips across the mountain and desert country. On some occasions, parties of tribesmen halted their Land Cruiser truck or Peugeot 504 on country roads to demand tribute or the vehicle. Lang and Abdullah were armed with sub-machine guns in the car and Browning 9 mm. automatic pistols in hidden holsters. These were formidable but Abdullah never waved a firearm at the “bandits.” He always walked back to the car’s trunk and picked up two axe handles. With those in their hands they would approach the offending group. Abdullah then greeted them in a friendly way but if the tribesmen were aggressive he would open his jacket to show his pistol and declare, “oh sons of donkeys, do you want to see blood?” The tribesmen were always taken aback and inevitably settled for canned groceries brought as trade goods. On one occasion Lang fired a magazine from an old M-3 “grease gun” sub-machine gun into a river bank when it was clear that there would be no violence. He had bought the weapon at a local arms bazaar. The strike of the .45 ACP bullets astounded the audience and on an impulse Lang handed the gun to the leader as a gift. The stocky little man in native dress embraced him. As they drove off Abdullah laughed in delight. In the mirror the chieftain could be seen standing by the track holding the weapon above his head. For the rest of his time in Yemen Lang and Abdullah knew they were safe in that little valley. On longer journeys to the south they often “staged’ through there and slept in the village after dining on a sheep or goat they had brought to these people as a token of friendship. Their safety was ensured by the tribal Arab’s duty to offer hospitality and protection to friends.
Abdullah’s “cover” as a driver wore thin at times. On the road, policemen sometimes saluted him and addressed him as “major.” When that happened, Lang would pretend to be looking out the window at the barren countryside. Abdullah lived in a small building in the back yard of the Lang’s large house and he, too, went home on the weekends.
Pat Lang was not the cookie pushing type of attaché. He was not someone who particularly liked cocktail parties although he attended many.
Yemen at that time was a lot like Arizona in the 1870s, a country inhabited by savage, heavily armed tribesmen and run by politician soldiers much like the Mexican military “brass” in the film, “The Wild Bunch.”
The USSR had a 500 man military mission in N. Yemen and another of similar size in communist South Yemen. This military mission was commanded by a Tank Corps major general who liked Americans. He had been a 17 year old lieutenant in 1945 and had been among the Soviet armored men who had met the US Army at Torgau on the Elbe in Germany. He had never gotten over the experience and when he discovered that Lang was friendly, a useful relationship developed that drove the State Department people in the embassy to lecture Lang to the effect that he should keep his distance so that the Yemenis would not think he found the Soviets acceptable company. He told them that he was there to collect information and the Soviets had the information he needed. The CIA station chief laughed and said that he was quite right.
The Communist Chinese also had a very big embassy in Sanaa. It was heavily manned with Middle East trained “spooks” who spoke beautiful Arabic. The Red Chinese also had 2,000 construction workers in North Yemen employed in continuing road projects begun earlier by the US all over the country. They were most helpful in reporting what the Soviets were "up to."
There were tribal wars of varying size all over the country. Some were against other tribes. Some were against the government, and some others were in combination with the government against yet other tribes. The variety was endless.
To make the ”stew” even richer, there was a coalition of leftist political groups called the National Democratic Front waging a major war against the North Yemen government. This “front” brought together; Communists, Baathists, Socialists, and just plain dissident folks who had a variety of motives. As an example, North Yemeni forces killed several NDF guerrillas who were found to be second generation Americans from Michigan. One of them had a copy of a pamphlet by Tom Paine in a pocket along with his US passport when he died. The year was 1978. The USSR supported both sides in this war between north and south largely because Ali Abdullah Salih, the Yemeni president, displayed great skill in playing the Soviets, the US and the UK off against each other to make sure that happened. Salih, the British MI-6 station commander, and Lang often went hunting together. The British fellow introduced Pat to Salih. The president often laughed aloud with the Western spies and rejoiced at the ease with which their countries were duped. He said he placed the Britisher and Lang in a different category as being people as devious as he and unlikely to be believed if they "ratted’ on him.
The United States had a six man military mission in North Yemen and a USAF team busy teaching the Yemen Air Force to fly F-5s fighters that the Saudis had bought for them. Assisting the TAFT was a worthless group of Saudi Air Force Pilots whose specialty seemed to be crashing aircraft and a Taiwanese Air Force group seconded to the Saudi Air force to maintain the F-5s.
The US military training groups were confined by directive to execution of training tasks. Lang was not. Jobs always seemed to grow and change to match what he could and wanted to do. He used the Red Chinese to collect against Soviet activities, used the British embassy to collect against tribal activities and the French embassy for collection against the internal activities of the Salih government. French intelligence had two of Salih’s ministers on their payroll.
Lang was an experienced case officer and had a secondary task in Yemen of assisting CIA in recruiting from the diplomatic community. To that end and for his own reporting to DIA, he cultivated the Soviet intelligence people from the GRU and KGB in their embassy as well as the Soviet military mission in general. Many of these came to the house for; cookouts, sit down dinners, movies, card games and the like.
At a steak and shrimp grill party one night, the Soviet general asked if he would like to accompany a counter-guerrilla operation conducted by 8th Yemeni Commando Brigade. He said he reckoned Lang was better at this than his own men. They had been assigned from the 106th Soviet Airborne Division and that he was sure Lang knew more Arabic than they. He had a KGB minder with him that night and the man’s wife held her sides laughing while the spook husband choked on his steak. The general laughed as well and said to ignore him.
Lang asked DIA and was given permission. This trip to the field was often repeated and developed over time into a relationship with the Soviet commando advisers in which “Westerners” supposedly banded together against the wily NDF. After a while Lang wore Yemeni uniform in the field as did the Soviets. The Soviet advisers with this outfit were almost all non-Russians. They were Azeris, Armenians, Georgians, Chechens, etc. Their home division’s permanent station was in the Trans-Caucasus Military District. Lang could talk to the Yemenis on these expeditions and the Soviets could not. The commando brigade made use of the American built F-5s as well as various Soviet provided jets for close air support on the laurel covered mountainsides in the southeast. They also had armed MI-8 helicopters in support of operations. The Yemeni pilots were dangerous to their own soldiers as well as to the targets, and it was soon agreed that Lang would vector the air support onto the targets supposedly because he had much experience in this. The 8th Commando Brigade killed many NDF fighters and lost a good many men as well. Yemenis are real fighters no matter what side they are on.
Lang’s US general officer boss came to visit. Ironically, The Red Chinese ambassador told the man that Pat Lang was a hero of the struggle against Soviet hegemonic ambitions and those of the running dog friends of the Soviets as well. Pat supposed the Chinese ambassador did not know how much Lang had managed to embed himself in the Soviet advisory effort.
The Langs were sorry to leave Yemen. It had been a grand game.” pl
It will be interesting to learn how many of you believe this story.
"... the president also directs U.S. foreign policy. Through the Department of State and the Department of Defense, the president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States. The president decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiates treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds vote of the Senate.
Although not constitutionally provided, presidents also sometimes employ "executive agreements" in foreign relations. These agreements frequently regard administrative policy choices germane to executive power; for example, the extent to which either country presents an armed presence in a given area, how each country will enforce copyright treaties, or how each country will process foreign mail. However, the 20th century witnessed a vast expansion of the use of executive agreements, and critics have challenged the extent of that use as supplanting the treaty process and removing constitutionally prescribed checks and balances over the executive in foreign relations. Supporters counter that the agreements offer a pragmatic solution when the need for swift, secret, and/or concerted action arises." wiki
Clearly it is the president of the United States who establishes and administers the country's foreign policy, not the Congress of the United States. pl
"A visas are issued to "representatives of a foreign government traveling to the United States to engage in official activities for that government." A visas are granted to foreign government ambassadors, ministers, diplomats, as well as other foreign government officials or employees traveling on official business [A-1 Visa]." Wiki
Clearly it is within the legal powers of the president of the US to grant or deny a visa to enter and/or reside in the US to foreign persons who apply for such a visa. It is not within the power of any member of the Congress of the United States to grant a visa to enter to enter the United States.
IMO it is entirely inappropriate for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to seek to bring a foreign head of government to the US for the purpose of undermining the constitutional foreign policy authority of the presidency.
The US Congress is not the UN. Bibi has no right at all to enter the US to address the Congress of the United States without the agreement of the US president. President Obama should require Bibi and Boehner to come to Canossa hat in hand to beg for such a visa. pl
"... the plane was subject to extraordinary forces from the weather. AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said earlier this week that preliminary investigations suggested the jet encountered "very unique" weather on its flight last Sunday morning from Surabaya to Singapore.
Mr Soejatman, a respected analyst in Indonesia, said the extremity of the forces on the plane meant the "black box" flight recorder would be of less use in explaining what happened than forensic examination of the pieces of wreckage currently lying in about 50m of water in the Karimata Strait between Borneo and the Belitung Islands off Sumatra.
"We are fortunate that it crashed in shallow water so we can find physical evidence outside the black box. It puts great emphasis on the importance of recovering pieces of the wreckage," he said." smh.com
My relatively uneducated guess based on experience and training as a light plane pilot long ago is that this captain ran into the mother of all up-drafts and was thrown far higher than he wanted to be at speeds that did not reflect the aircraft's true characteristics. At the point at which the dynamic weather process ended, his speed was suddenly ridiculously low, the airplane stalled and went into something like a flat spin. Whether or not the pilots were able to recover from that before reaching the surface is, IMO, an open question.
The evidence of a floating emergency exit "door," that would normally be thrown out the window it had been in, the associated over wing escape slide, and the intact, clothed body of a flight attendant would indicate to me that there were people on board who were alive on impact and that an escape was attempted after the aircraft struck the water.
On the other hand, bodies have now been recovered still strapped in their seats.
My WAG would be that the aircraft broke up in heavy seas before they could get many people out. I am surprised that a few people who survived in life jackets for a while have not been found.
We will see. pl
Jack Hanson just released the second volume of his science fiction series, Secret Files of the League of Silence. I found this second book entitled “Forlorn Hope” is even better than the first. I read a draft copy several months ago and passed along a few thoughts to the author. I will let some of my comments to him stand for my review.
“I finished the draft you sent me earlier while in Half Moon, NY. It was great. The characters are developing well and the universe is becoming even more interesting. I'm particularly intrigued by the psychic aspects. I've always been fascinated by shamanism and concentrated in that area in my anthropological studies. Years ago I dabbled in remote viewing. Just to see if there was anything to it, I learned enough to prove to myself that there is definitely something to it. There's a lot out there we don't understand.”
“You asked if there was anything else I liked about the second book. Definitely. I found it stronger than the first. That may just be because it builds on the first one. In addition to your handling of psychic abilities, I enjoyed the care you took in developing the four young FOSsils. The third gen FOSsils may be combat veterans who have already acquired a full set of demons and doubts, but they’re still kids. Yeah, at my age that’s how I see soldiers this young. You let them act like kids, with all their innocence and awkwardness, when they were away from the battlefield. I appreciate that.”
“The older FOSsils are of particular interest to me. I hope you develop some of them in addition to Clay in some of the future novels. They remind me of three MACVSOG one zeros that mentored me as a ROTC cadet and as a lieutenant in the 25th Infantry Div. One was a MOH holder. I learned far more from them about soldiering and leadership than from my formal military education. And all this was before I got to SF.”
“You created a very interesting and imaginative universe. I like the way you are slowly revealing it as the stories unfold. You give just enough detail for us to follow the story line. But you let us readers add some understanding from our own imaginations rather than being spoon fed an exhaustively detailed description. Very effective. I hope this is a long, long series and you are well rewarded for your efforts.”
Take a gander at the write up on Amazon. If that doesn’t peak your interest, I don’t know what will.