2007-12-31

Morning Report: December 31, 2007

The times, they are a-changin'.

Feeling the pinch. Citing the latest unhinged rant from the New York Times, a friend of John Weidner at Random Jottings comments: 'This amounts to a fists-pounding-on-the-floor temper tantrum. My favorite theory is that Pinch found himself alone in the editorial room last night and got this thing out before “cooler” heads (Andy Rosenthal??) arrived. This could only happen on a Monday before a major Tuesday holiday. They are probably hoping no one reads it.' What's got the Gray Lady in such a tizzy? Maybe it's the latest good news from Iraq:
With 24 hours remaining...
The US military is on track to see the lowest number of monthly fatalities in Iraq since the war began in March, 2003.

In February 2004 the US lost 20 soldiers in the 29 day period.This month the US has lost 21 soldiers in the 31 day period.

The Bush Surge continues to show amazing results.

This follows the news yesterday that 75% of the Al-Qaeda network has been eliminated in Iraq.

Then again, maybe some folks at the NYT are flustered by the impending arrival of William Kristol in the New York Times op-ed pages.

Commentary. I'll be interested to see what Bill Kristol has to say in the Times' pages. Maybe this is a sign of healthy change for the paper; I will do my part to encourage this development by buying the Times on Mondays at least. Here's the official scoop from the Times:
December 30, 2007
The Times Adds an Op-Ed Columnist
By THE NEW YORK TIMES

William Kristol, one of the nation’s leading conservative writers and a vigorous supporter of the Iraq war, will become an Op-Ed page columnist for The New York Times, the newspaper announced Saturday.

Mr. Kristol will write a weekly column for The Times beginning Jan. 7, the newspaper said. He is editor and co-founder of The Weekly Standard, an influential conservative political magazine, and appears regularly on Fox News Sunday and the Fox News Channel. He was a columnist for Time magazine until that relationship was severed this month.

Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.

In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not “a first-rate newspaper of record,” adding, “The Times is irredeemable.”

Should be fun.

2007-12-27

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Wikipedia: Benazir Bhutto
Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having been twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was sworn in for the first time in 1988 but removed from office 20 months later under orders of then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption. In 1993 Bhutto was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari.

Bhutto went into self-imposed exile in Dubai in 1998, where she remained until she returned to Pakistan on 18 October 2007, after reaching an understanding with President Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn.

She was the eldest child of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi descent, and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Iranian-Kurdish descent. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who came to Larkana Sindh before partition from his native town of Bhatto Kalan, which was situated in the Indian state of Haryana.

She was assassinated on 27 December 2007, in a combined suicide bomb attack and shooting during a political rally of the Pakistan Peoples Party in the Liaquat National Bagh in Rawalpindi.

Phyllis Chesler: RIP Benazir.
Benazir: Rest in Peace. May your death be a turning point, may it inspire your long-suffering people and their leaders to finally say NO! to death cult suicide killers; NO! to Islamism; NO! to despotism.

Evan Kohlmann, CTB: Al-Qaeda to claim responsibility.
There are now widespread reports suggesting that an imminent official statement is expected from Egyptian Al-Qaida spokesman Mustafa Abu Yazid claiming responsibility for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Earlier today, Al-Qaida issued a separate statement from Mustafa Abu Yazid denying any role in recent blasts targeting mosques in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar. According to that communique from Abu Yazid (dated December 24), "We do not attack targets in mosques or in public places where there are crowds of Muslims in order to safeguard Muslim blood and to respect the sanctity of mosques. This is our approach generally, and we inform all of our supporters in Pakistan--and everywhere else--about these facts."

In from the Cold: The real Pakistan.
Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The real Pakistan, [Andrew McCarthy] writes, a country where Osama bin Laden has at 46% approval rating. He compares the Pakistan of western fantasy, against the reality on the ground:

There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war ...

Passages in italics are from Andrew McCarthy's article.

Aaron Mannes, CTB: Real investigation needed.
Facts about Benazir Bhutto's assassination are in short supply. Unfortunately that is unlikely to change. There is a long tradition of failure to investigate political murders in Pakistan. This cannot continue if Pakistan is to become a stable democratic state that serves its people and exists at peace with the world. The first step is that Musharraf invite the international community to advise in the investigation into Bhutto’s death. The investigation will be politically expensive - it may not reach Musharraf himself but it will reach deep into the civilian and military elites running Pakistan. Broad, tough international engagement is essential to seeing this forward - the stakes are very high. ...


Bill Roggio, Long War Journal: Benazir Bhutto assassinated.
Bhutto supporters have begun to blame President Pervez Musharraf for her death. The sophistication of the attack, the governments reported refusal to provide adequate security, and the location of the bombing have created distrust among Bhutto supporters.

But this attack was most likely carried out by the Taliban and al Qaeda. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the newly united Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, threatened to kill Bhutto upon her return in October. The Taliban and al Qaeda manage training camps in Pakistan's tribal areas and have trainers and recruits from the Pakistani military in their ranks.

"My men will welcome Bhutto on her return," Baitullah told a former senator. "We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses. They’re only acceptable if they wear the Pakistani glasses."

Mustafa Abu al Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, has taken credit for Bhutto's assassination. "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen," Yazid told Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani reporter. The attack was reportedly ordered by Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, and carried out by a "defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer."


Muslims Against Sharia: We condemn the murderers.
Muslims Against Sharia condemn the murderers responsible for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her supporters.

Our prayers are with the victims of this atrocity. We send our condolences to their loved ones.

May the homicide bomber rote in hell for eternity. May his accomplices join him soon!


NRO symposium features Jonathan Foreman, Sumit Ganguly, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Victor Davis Hanson, Mansoor Ijaz, Stanley Kurtz, Bill Roggio, and Henry Sokolski.

2007-12-07

NIE: Intentions, Capabilities, and Choices

In reading the controversy over the new National Intelligence Estimate, I've had odd feelings of deja vu. I am persistently reminded of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report of a year ago. But I'll come back to this later. First, I want to look at the wording of two passages in the "Key Judgments" section of the report.

Here's a link to the unclassified summary of the NIE:
National Intelligence Estimate - Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities (DNI release) - PDF document

In reading the text of the NIE summary itself, I was struck by the peculiar wording of the following passages:
Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

and
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

Emphasis added. Now an "assessment" is an evaluation of the available data; it is not, in and of itself, an objective fact. An assessment cannot directly "suggest" or "indicate" anything except the beliefs of the person making the assessment. A more natural way to word the foregoing paragraphs might have been:
Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure, if correct, implies Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

and:
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure is consistent with the theory that Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.

But that's not what the report says. And the strange locution it uses instead suggests - to me - something close to a reversal of cause and effect in the writer's mind. It's as though the NIE's "assessments" on these points have been magically transmuted into empirical, incontrovertible "facts on the ground" from which other things - specifically, foreign policy prescriptions - may be deduced.

You may think I'm quibbling here over a minor point of semantics. I invite you to read the "Key Judgments" section of the report aloud to yourself, all the way through, and see if the awkwardness of those two passages doesn't just jump out at you.

Now go to the second passage in question and read the whole paragraph:
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.


Now, notice how quick the authors are to translate their "assessment", which becomes an objective fact, into foreign policy prescriptions. Just in case you didn't get the point when they claimed that "Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon", they spell out for you the implication that
threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.

At this point, the sages of the NIE modestly refrain from offering any advice on "what such a combination might be", but I think it's awfully nice of them to be so concerned for Iran's "security, prestige, and goals for regional influence", don't you?

John Bolton sees 'a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation'; Michael Ledeen thinks 'those “intelligence professionals” were very happy to take off their analytical caps and gowns and put on their policy wigs.' I agree.

Now about the other thing I was saying. Remember the Baker-Hamilton report? I wrote a couple of posts on it about a year ago. I concluded that with Baker-Hamilton spelling out in such stark terms the choices in Iraq, the public and the Administration would "consider, and reject, the empty and failed policies of the past". I quoted Michael Ledeen saying:
The Surrender Commission Report underlines the basic truth about the war, which is that we cannot possibly win it by fighting defensively in Iraq alone. So long as Iran and Syria have a free shot at us and our Iraqi allies, they can trump most any military tactics we adopt, at most any imaginable level of troops. Until the publication of the report this was the dirty secret buried under years of misleading rhetoric from our leaders; now it is front and center.

As I said earlier, I've been trying to put my finger on why the NIE debate reminded me so strongly of the ISG debate; that's it right there. Now you might argue that Ledeen was wrong - that we did, in fact, win in Iraq by fighting defensively in Iraq. But his point was simply that the report had the unintended value of exposing the utter moral and strategic bankruptcy of the appeasement position.

Which brings us to the new post at The Belmont Club: "Not that far."
What the new NIE has done -- and why I think even the liberals are so worried -- is that the intelligence assessment has made it very difficult to sustain even the bluff of working towards regime change; a threat they would have no truck with but at the same time probably found useful for so long as they could get a President George W. Bush to articulate it. Now that the doves have got what they ostensibly wanted, whether by design or misadventure, it has become apparent that it's not everything they wanted after all. It's ironic that an NIE which was supposed to have "proved" the usefulness of sanctions and diplomacy may wind up underlining its ultimate inadequacy without the threat of more dire action to give it teeth.

And you remember what happened after Baker-Hamilton was released? President Bush smiled politely, thanked the authors of the report, and went ahead and did as he damn well pleased. What Baker-Hamilton wanted was withdrawal from Iraq.

What they got was the surge.


...

2007-11-29

Major Issues

Michael Goldfarb at the Standard wonders, "why the big stink about gays in the military, which just isn't a major issue within the Republican party."

But then again, there's this.

.

2007-11-19

AP's Bilal Hussein to be charged.

AP:
NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.
An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.


Hot Air:
Bilal Hussein is the AP stringer photographer who was arrested in Iraq by US forces in April 2006 and held on suspicion that he had serious connections to terrorists. Trying him in the Iraqi justice system does make sense. Whether he’s guilty or not (and the evidence suggests that he’s as guilty as a Kennedy in a sorority house), his alleged crimes were against the Iraqi people and committed inside Iraq. But the Associated (with terrorists) Press isn’t happy.

Michelle Malkin has a refresher course in Bilal Hussein's career. Please take a moment to go check out those photos, and the accompanying text.

Sweetness and Light recaps Bilal Hussein's oeuvre, and reminds us that "The last two photos are of the heroic “insurgents” who kidnapped and then murdered the Italian national, Salvatore Santoro."

The Belmont Club comments:
The poor performance of government lawyers so far probably means that Bilal Hussein will have better defense lawyers than the prosecution. On the other hand, the plethora of captured insurgent documents and the number of former insurgents who have switched to the coalition side may mean that the government case, if Hussein is guilty, may be unstoppable.

The expression "to the victors go the spoils" is true in more than the military sense. The winners get to write history because theirs by definition is the winning narrative. Bilal Hussein will get his day in court, but the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which the press is only now and very reluctantly beginning to admit -- means that many of the "freedom fighters" and "Minutemen" they devoted such space to have gone from Hero to Zero in the land between the rivers. This should be interesting to watch.


And I'll be watching it here. Stay tuned.

Iran and the shifting battlefield.

Joshua Goodman at ThreatsWatch:
In recent meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran made “guarantees” to stop supplying explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). While these guarantees and those before them were met with skepticism, Major General James Simmons, the deputy commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq, sees reason to be optimistic: “I’m hopeful… What I see is a diplomatic effort being undertaken by the United States government – and I see a positive response from the Iranian government and that’s good.” A few weeks later, Simmons once again noted additional signs of Iranian cooperation: “We have not seen any recent evidence that weapons continue to come across the border into Iraq.” Simmons’ comments echo an early November statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Iran was playing some role in the reduction of bombings by Shi’a militias. Gates did acknowledge, though, that it was difficult to quantify exactly how much of a positive influence Iran was playing in this matter. Nevertheless, there was a clear recognition that positive steps were being taken.

Similarly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari noted Iran’s effort to “rein in” Shi’a militias. In a November 6 interview with Ross Colvin of Reuters, Zebari clearly stated that “Iran has been instrumental in reining in the militias and the Mehdi Army by using its influence.” As such, “Part of the security improvement was their [Iran’s] control of the militias. We see this as a positive development.”

For its part, the United States is making a few overtures to Iran as a gesture of goodwill. On November 6, Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith announced that the U.S. military would release 9 of the 20 Iranians they have captured in Iraq. And while the 9 released Iranians do not include the highest ranking or “most troubling” of the detainees, the U.S. is clearly offering Iran a carrot in the hopes of continuing the cooperation.

Some of these developments were noted in this site's November 18 Morning Report, which cited a Reuters story indicating a perception by the Iraqi government of a "thaw" in US/Iranian relations. That post also cited the NYT article stating that
The Iraqi government on Saturday credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation noticeably. The Iraqi government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking at a lunch for reporters, also said that the Shiite-dominated government was making renewed efforts to bring back Sunni Arab ministers who have been boycotting the government for more than four months.

American Future speculated on the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal between the US and the IRI. Here, Goodman raises another possibility:
The motives for Iran’s temporary shift in strategy with regards to Iraq are unclear, although a number of dynamics are likely to have factored into the equation. For one, with al-Qaeda in Iraq becoming weaker everyday, the focus of the U.S. military was shifting to Iran’s Shi’a network. In fact, the coalition forces have already taken a number of steps in combating the Shi’a threat with notable success – particularly in Baghdad. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Iran’s involvement in Iraq seemed on the verge of spiraling to direct conflict with the U.S. By following through on its promise to stop the flow of weapons and fighters, Iran seems to have temporarily brought calm to an almost certain clash.

If I'm understanding Goodman correctly, he believes that it is the Iranian regime, and not the US government, that has been pressured to cut its losses in Iraq - specifically, in order to avoid a disastrous confrontation with the US and save its own resources for its number one priority, the nuclear program. Goodman's concluding paragraph words it this way:
While Iran has grand ambitions for regional hegemony, it views its nuclear program as a basic necessity to achieve all ends. Iran’s support of Shi’a militias in Iraq was, for the time being, endangering its nuclear endeavors. Although Iran is currently quite secure on the nuclear issue, it is unlikely to take any action in the near future to jeopardize its current position. Thus, in the interim, Iran’s behavior in Iraq will likely continue to foil its actions on the nuclear front.


Now I'm going to zoom back to the beginning of Goodman's article to take a look at the other entity he mentions: the IRGC.
The United States government’s October 25, 2007 “Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism,” was a clear indication of where the administration’s Iran policy will focus on in the near future: namely curbing the threat Iran poses to American forces in Iraq and ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the center of both of these issues is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Crops (IRGC), the elite Iranian military organization that was singled out as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13382. As my colleague Steve Schippert rightly noted back in August before the formal State Department designation, “the intent in the President’s Executive Order to specifically designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity may be to increase international pressure to divest from the Iranian regime and injure the elite IRGC.”

The IRGC plays a central role in Iran’s activities in Iraq, where the Quds force and the Iranian-proxy Hizballah have been actively training and arming Shi’a militias, and in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, as past United Nations Security Council resolutions have suggested. By targeting the IRGC, a military body whose business operations make it susceptible to economic pressure, the administration may well be trying to pressure those elements close to the source of the problem in the hopes of forcing Iran to cooperate.

He's talking about the recently enacted sanctions, which I previously noted in this October 25 post on new Iran sanctions. I quoted the Treasury Department's press release at some length, and cited Walid Phares at the Counterterrorism Blog, who called it "a master strategic strike into the financial web of the major power centers of the Iranian regime". Phares' CTB colleague Andy Cochran expressed similar enthusiasm:
In my opinion, the broad scope of this sweeping announcement signals a decisive foreign policy decision, in concert with other countries, to significantly ratchet up sanctions against Iran to avoid a more dangerous confrontation (the Associated Press characterizes them as "the harshest since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979").

And this view would appear to be supported by Goodman's analysis of today's post. Here, though, Cochran's reference to a "more dangerous confrontation" invites the question: Dangerous for whom? In general, a confrontation is more "dangerous" for the side that expects to lose. The way I'm reading this is that both the US and the IRI have decided against coming to blows over Iraq, each party for its own reasons: Iran because it cannot win such a battle and because it needs to conserve its resources for its nuclear program; and the US because the battle, even if won, would prove costly and a Pyrrhic victory.

So it looks as if what's happening is that the arena of confrontation is being narrowed. Neither the US nor the Iranian regime seems to think a conflict over (or in) Iraq is worth the cost. Where we go from here is anybody's guess, but while I'm on the subject of the IRGC, I want to return to The Spirit of Man's post citing Amir Taheri:
A very well written piece on WSJ by Amir Taheri about the nature and goals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards:

"A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory."

And this is what I have always thought to happen in case of a foreign military intervention. No body will die for this corrupt and monstrous regime and many will not sacrifice their lives for the mullahs. Many many Iranians are willing to take the risk of being bombed if their evil rulers get what they deserve which is what happened to Saddam and Milosevic.

Now read this:

"While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime."

And this is exactly what concerns me. A limited bombing strike against the command and control sectors of the Iranian regime will eventually help accelerate the fall of the clerical establishment.

In Taheri's and Winston's view, then, the IRGC is not a monolithic mass but a structure which, with the application of the right kind and degree of pressure, may at least in part be turned to ends other than those which it was originally created to serve.

And if this view is correct, then the application of targeted economic pressure may serve as a means of testing the organization's response to that pressure - and a possible prelude to further action in the future.

But this leads to the other important question, and the one that Winston asks: Who, in the event of the Mullahs' fall, would take over in Iran?

And before you ask, no, I really don't have anything better to do, so ...

... here's a few links I couldn't resist sharing.

The invaluable MJ at Friday Fishwrap has a roundup of enlightening and edifying links to improve your life. Go to the post to find out how to do DC on $85 a day, why C sometimes means F, some of the most disturbing toys (from Japan and elsewhere) ... and much more.

And do not miss her music roundup!

Speaking of Japan, Zoe at A. E. Brain gives us an awesome photo of the Earth from the Japanese moon probe Kaguya.

From the LiveJournal cohorts:

Israel-based cabal plans world domination!

Rabbits. And more rabbits.

2007-11-18

You gonna shoot us a skeet for dinner?

Longtime screen pal Elisa from Madison has launched a fabulostic new blog on lesbian, gay, and queer themes in science fiction, fantasy, and geek culture. Please welcome Queer Universe to the blogroll.
The lesbian characters of Logo’s Exes and Oh’s are a little nerdy. Main character Jennifer is charming, but she’s no L Word beauty: she’s a flat-chested ectomorph with a cute smile.

Baby dyke Crutch is played by Heather Matarazzo, the actress from Welcome to the Dollhouse. Perhaps it's some intertextual bleed, but to me, for all her Seattle plaid and brightly dyed hair, something about Crutch’s awkwardness says former Debate team member. I saw about a dozen women who looked like her at this year’s Wiscon.

Lesbian couple Chris and Kris are dorks, too -- when Kris finds Chris at the skeet-shooting range, she gets out and asks her girl, fake drawl, "You gonna shoot us a skeet for dinner?" These ladies are not cool.

There’s one non-nerd character, Sam, effortlessly beautiful femme and ex of Jennifer. It’s clear to me that deep down, Sam is a nerd chaser.


You gotta to to the link if you want to see that adorable picture of Heather Matarazzo.

2007-11-11

Veterans' Day

Countercolumn: Disabled.
... Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

--Wilfred Owen
1893-1918

Mudville Gazette: In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae (1872-1918)

Anonymous US Army soldier in Fiji, 1943: Soldier, where's your hatred now?
SOLDIER, WHERE'S YOUR HATRED NOW? (F.I., March 1943)

Soldier,
Where's your hatred now?
You haven't any? But you ought to have.
Remember the advice we gave.
Where will you be anyhow
If you forget that you must fight,
That they are wrong, and we are right?
You must make their heads to bow.

"I will fight because I must.
My hatred falters. In the heat of war
The hatred that was once a sore
Festered with a bitter lust,
Becomes a heartache, throbbing deep,
So that I cannot help but weep
Seeing comrades fall to dust."

Soldier,
Why that tear-wet eye?
Your fallen comrades you won't see again?
Remember, this affair is plain:
You may be about to die
Like them; but while you live, be strong,
For right will conquer all that's wrong.
Fight till they for mercy cry.

"You are right, my hatred's gone,
But I remember they are human too -
Those boys who in a sick world grew,
Groping - while afar, the dawn
Awaits to shine on them again
As it has on Freedom's men.
Can I , hating, speed the dawn?"

Soldier,
Spare no love for those
Who try to tear down what we want to save.
They're bestial, and they're not so brave.
Bring conflict to a quicker close:
Destroy their tanks, destroy their planes;
It is this Justice ordains.
Give them death if death they chose!

"I will wreck their tanks and planes
And let their cities fall, for all I care,
And in the name of right, I'll tear
Their bowels out, and smash their brains,
(For you, my country, killed my soul)
And as we approach the goal,
Clamp them in Revenge's chains!"

Soldier,
Bear it for a while,
And if you find no hatred for the foe,
Hate, then, the evil that brought woe.
Hate the greed and hate the guile.
Hate, then, the motive, not the man.
Love the Truth, for if you can,
Soldier, you have won God's smile.

My father's memoir of the Second World War may be found at Pacific Memories.

2007-11-01

Salah Uddin Shoaib Coudhury Won't Let Islamists Run Him Out of Bangladesh

Judith Apter Klinghoffer:
It is easy to lose heart, become cynical, give up on the human race. One has to look at Saudi King Abdullah's visit to Britain, the feminists efforts to justify the subjugation of Muslim women (recently joined by Laura Bush!) or, for that matter, the current preparation for the upcoming "no concessions" Israeli Palestinian conference in Annapolis. But it would be wrong. For it would fail Salah Uddin Shoaib Coudhury and no one has the right to do that.

Last night I had the unique honor of shaking his hand. I knew of his plight. Only six months ago I asked you to sign a petition on his behalf so I was delighted to discover that he is safe, in the US. He is charged with "Sedition - treason -blasphemy" because he tried to board a flight from Dhaka to Tel Aviv to attend a peace conference in 2003. Yes, "is" is the correct tense. International agitation led to his release on bail in 2005 but not to the dropping of the charges. That means he can be rearrested any minute, tortured and placed in solitary confinement or even worse.

What can be worse? He can be held in the same prison that holds Bin Laden supporters of the type who do not tolerate sharing space with Muslims who have a moderate interpretation of Islam. They have tried to assassinate repeatedly and he has narrowly escaped them at least twice before.

So, imagine my surprise when he told be that he is going back on November 5th . Even Sharansky did NOT go back. Yet, this smiling 42 year old insisted that he is. "I have a family there. I have followers there. If I leave they will be disappointed, lose heart. I must go back." I could only shake my head in wonder. We have asked where are the Muslim moderates? He stepped forward and in so doing demonstrated the price such moderates have to pay. I hope those who advocate cutting and running from the Muslim world realize who they are leaving behind and who they are embracing in their stead.

With these thought swirling in my head, I sat down to listen to his talk. Trust Choudhury to surprise me yet again. "Do not think that if you let Israel fall, the US will be safe," he said. "Israeli flags are always burned together with the American ones. I heard a former Bangladeshi supreme court judge say that peace will come only after Israel and the United States will be erased from the map." ...
Go read the rest.

2007-10-25

"Master Strike" Against Iran Regime

Walid Phares at Counterterrorism Blog:
After Andy Cochran's posting, here is a quick comment on the Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism Today's documents revealing the US financial measures taken against Iran's military power hits the heart of the regime. The US official document can only be described as a master strategic strike into the financial web of the major power centers of the Iranian regime. See the full document. Following are three points:

The first organization, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to the document is "considered the military vanguard of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is composed of five branches (Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Basij militia, and Qods Force special operations) in addition to a counterintelligence directorate and representatives of the Supreme Leader. It runs prisons, and has numerous economic interests involving defense production, construction, and the oil industry. Several of the IRGC's leaders have been sanctioned under UN Security Council Resolution 1747."

Point One: The Pasdaran is indeed the backbone of the regime. Compare it to a combined Communist Party, Militia and KGB during the peak of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union.

The second organization, the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL): According to the report, "the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) controls the Defense Industries Organization, an Iranian entity identified in the Annex to UN Security Council Resolution 1737 and designated by the United States under E.O. 13382 on March 30, 2007. MODAFL also was sanctioned, pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act and the Export Administration Act, in November 2000 for its involvement in missile technology proliferation activities."

Point Two: This is Iran's Defense apparatus. ...


HP-644 - October 25, 2007:
October 25, 2007
HP-644

Fact Sheet: Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism

The U.S. Government is taking several major actions today to counter Iran's bid for nuclear capabilities and support for terrorism by exposing Iranian banks, companies and individuals that have been involved in these dangerous activities and by cutting them off from the U.S. financial system.

Today, the Department of State designated under Executive Order 13382 two key Iranian entities of proliferation concern: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). Additionally, the Department of the Treasury designated for proliferation activities under E.O. 13382 nine IRGC-affiliated entities and five IRGC-affiliated individuals as derivatives of the IRGC, Iran's state-owned Banks Melli and Mellat, and three individuals affiliated with Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO).

The Treasury Department also designated the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) under E.O. 13224 for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, and Iran's state-owned Bank Saderat as a terrorist financier.

Elements of the IRGC and MODAFL were listed in the Annexes to UN Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747. All UN Member States are required to freeze the assets of entities and individuals listed in the Annexes of those resolutions, as well as assets of entities owned or controlled by them, and to prevent funds or economic resources from being made available to them.

...

Effect of Today's Actions

As a result of our actions today, all transactions involving any of the designees and any U.S. person will be prohibited and any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen. Noting the UN Security Council's grave concern over Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program activities, the United States also encourages all jurisdictions to take similar actions to ensure full and effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747.

Today's designations also notify the international private sector of the dangers of doing business with three of Iran's largest banks, as well as the many IRGC- affiliated companies that pervade several basic Iranian industries.

Proliferation Finance – Executive Order 13382 Designations

E.O. 13382, signed by the President on June 29, 2005, is an authority aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, and at isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems. Designations under the Order prohibit all transactions between the designees and any U.S. person, and freeze any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC): Considered the military vanguard of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is composed of five branches (Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Basij militia, and Qods Force special operations) in addition to a counterintelligence directorate and representatives of the Supreme Leader. It runs prisons, and has numerous economic interests involving defense production, construction, and the oil industry. Several of the IRGC's leaders have been sanctioned under UN Security Council Resolution 1747.

The IRGC has been outspoken about its willingness to proliferate ballistic missiles ...

2007-10-16

Burying the Good News

As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch

If Yahoo News keeps this up, they may just put Iowahawk and The Onion out of a job. Anyway, here's the bad news from Jay Price and Qasim Zein:

NAJAF, Iraq — At what's believed to be the world's largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good.

A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.

Few people have a better sense of the death rate in Iraq .

"I always think of the increasing and decreasing of the dead," said Sameer Shaaban, 23, one of more than 100 workers who specialize in ceremonially washing the corpses. "People want more and more money, and I am one of them, but most of the workers in this field don't talk frankly, because they wish for more coffins, to earn more and more." ...

Now it would be unfair to hold this piece to the standards of serious journalism; it's more of a human-interest story - a slice-of-death piece, as it were. In any event, this article was the product of a number of high-calibre journalistic minds, as the footnote informs us:
Price reports for The (Raleigh) News & Observer . Zein is a McClatchy special correspondent. McClatchy special correspondents Janab Hussein , Hussein Kadhim and Sahar Issa contributed to this story.


I'm guessing that Price, Zein, and their illustrious colleagues at McClatchy detected a kindred spirit here: "People want more and more money, and I am one of them, but most of the workers in this field don't talk frankly, because they wish for more coffins, to earn more and more."

Yes indeedy. Or as another source puts it:
"Certainly, when the number of dead increases I feel happy, like all workers in the graveyard," said Basim Hameed , 30, a body washer. "This happiness comes from the increase in the amount of money we have."

Zein and Price must have felt right at home.

2007-10-08

Voices of Dissent

Overheard today in downtown San Francisco.

Young woman at the office: Hey, did ya catch the Blue Angels this weekend?
Mailroom guy: Aaah, I think it's just a waste of the Government's money.
Young woman: Well, I think it's pretty cool.

***

Guy at Starbucks: It sucks we gotta work on Columbus Day. Hey, did you know Columbus had an Nigerian navigator?

2007-10-05

Morning Report: October 5, 2007

State of the world. Your humble blogger returns to reporting the hubbub of humanity.

Coalition kills 25 militants in Diyala. The Long War Journal: 'Coalition special operations forces continue to attack the Iranian-backed Special Groups operating inside Iraq with the same ferocity as it attacks al Qaeda. Twenty-five Special Groups fighters were killed during an engagement northwest of Baqubah this morning during a raid on a Special Groups leader. Coalition forces called in an airstrike on a building after taking “heavy fire from a group of armed men fighting from defensive positions.” Special Groups fighters attacked Coalition forces with AK-47s and RPGs, and spotted what appeared to be a fighter “carrying what appeared to be an anti-aircraft weapon.” At least 25 terrorists are believed to have been killed in the airstrike. The engagement took place in a village near Khalis, a US military officer told The Long War Journal. “Coalition forces were targeting a Special Groups commander believed to be associated with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “Intelligence indicates that he was responsible for facilitating criminal activity and is involved in the movement of various weapons from Iran to Baghdad.”'

1920s faction denounces al-Qaeda. Counterterrorism Blog
: 'A breakaway Sunni insurgent faction from the 1920 Revolution Brigades known as "Hamas in Iraq" has issued a formal response to recent allegations by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of Al-Qaida's "Islamic State of Iraq." In an official communiqué dated October 2, Iraqi Hamas accused Al-Qaida of inflicting "great suffering" on ordinary Iraqi Sunnis: "every day they witnessed heads or headless bodies lying in their streets. Each one of these victims had been accused of a so-called ‘crime’ prohibited by Al-Qaida fatwahs... then [Al-Qaida] attacked Ameriyyat [al-Fallujah] with a car bomb packed with chlorine gas canisters, and they even laid siege to the area to prevent food and fuel from getting to people. Finally, they killed several men at the local market and smashed their heads against boxes of food... We [have] witnessed dozens of beheaded bodies and none of them were Americans. Rather, they were all local people from the area—people who, at one point, had supported the Al-Qaida network until they themselves had become disposable." In fact, according to Hamas in Iraq--as a result of the various crimes Al-Qaida has committed against innocent Muslim civilians--"the Al-Qaida network has actually made people here think that the occupation forces are merciful and humane by comparison."'

Dutch government cuts of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's security, forces her to leave US and return to Netherlands. And a sad day it is for America, and civilization generally. But it gets worse: according to this report from the New York Times, Holland's government backed off when they found out they might have to, like, actually protect her from something:
In the case of Ms. Hirsi Ali, the government also provided security for her while she lived in the Netherlands and traveled abroad. That arrangement continued for several months after she moved to the United States 13 months ago to become a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Subsequently the Netherlands paid for protection provided by an American security firm.

However, last December, she was warned in a letter from the Dutch minister of justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, that payment for her American bodyguards would end in July this year. That decision was revoked after Ms. Hirsi Ali received new credible death threats in the United States.


Sandmonkey on Egyptian textile workers' protest. Daily News (Egypt), September 27:
EL MAHALLA EL KOBRA: A crippling strike at Egypt’s largest public sector factory entered its fifth day on Thursday as workers, angry at corruption and what they call a string of lies and broken promises, say they will not end their occupation of the factory until their demands have been met by both the company’s board of directors and by President Hosni Mubarak.

The strike has united more than 27,000 employees of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, from manual laborers to more highly skilled engineers and clerical staff, and has brought production at the factory in the dusty Delta city of Mahalla to a standstill.

Here's Sandmonkey:
We, me and M., arrive at the Parking lot right next to the AUC. That's the rendez-vous point with Gimmy , H., her boy, and whomever else was coming to this thing. M. and H. were dressed in jeans and male shirts, looking like female british factory workers. I guess if you are a capitalist chick going to a worker's protest, this is what You wear.

The news we heard so far wasn't very comforting: The Talaat Harb square is , again, a War Zone. Police Cars everywhere, plainclothed police Officers lining up the streets, and everybody is afraid to start the protest by themselves. For the life of me, I do not understand their insistence on always protesting in either Tahrir Square, Talaat Harb square or the Press Syndicate. I persoanlly don;t get it. Why not have a protest in Heliopolis? Or Dokki? Or Maadi? Why always Downtown? God knows the State security knows how to completely control the area and squash the protests with ease now. It almost feels like folly. Like we are children and we are about to play Police and Protesters. Where we playing today boys? The Talaat Harb Playground? Fantastic. Let's all go to Al Borsa Cafe after it's all over and talk about how we managed to waste the last few hours, while smoking cheap Shisha. Yeah!

I call Nora to see where she is, and she informs me that she is in the Ghad Party headquarters, an apartment in a Building in Talaat Harb sqre, and that they are having "inside the apartment Protest". The Police is standing in front of the building's door and are letting people in, but not letting them out. ...

Go read the rest to find out how many friends Sandmonkey had on Ramadan - and what happened to Gemmy. And if you read Arabic, check out Gemmy's blog.

So, how did those Israeli planes get into Syria, anyway? OpFor thinks David Fulghum at Aviation Week is on the right track:
U.S. aerospace industry and retired military officials indicated today that a technology like the U.S.-developed “Suter” airborne network attack system developed by BAE Systems and integrated into U.S. unmanned aircraft by L-3 Communications was used by the Israelis. The system has been used or at least tested operationally in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last year.

The technology allows users to invade communications networks, see what enemy sensors see and even take over as systems administrator so sensors can be manipulated into positions so that approaching aircraft can’t be seen, they say. The process involves locating enemy emitters with great precision and then directing data streams into them that can include false targets and misleading messages algorithms that allow a number of activities including control. ...


Debra Cagan hates Iranians. Okay, a personal rant here: If there's one thing that irritates me about the MSM (and there are actually a zillion things, but we'll pick one), it's the way they talk about "the Iranians" as if those assholes that sit in Tehran (yeah, Ahmadinejad and his henchmen) have any relationship to the Iranian people as people. With that in mind, listen to what one of our stellar official Debra Cagan has to say:
Britsh MPs visiting the Pentagon to discuss America's stance on Iran and Iraq were shocked to be told by one of President Bush's senior women officials: "I hate all Iranians."

And she also accused Britain of "dismantling" the Anglo-US-led coalition in Iraq by pulling troops out of Basra too soon.

The all-party group of MPs say Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defence Secretary Robert Gates, made the comments this month. ...

The MPs say that at one point she said: "In any case, I hate all Iranians."

And this lady works for the Defense Department - so we can't even blame this on the usual gang of idiots. (Even Azarmehr was confused.) Anyway, here's Azarmehr:
Debra Cagan has to be sacked immediately if the US has any interest in keeping the most pro-Western population in the Middle East on her side. Only her quick dismissal can reassure the Iranian people that she was just one rotten apple, one amateur diplomat or whatever her official job title is, who got a job she did not deserve and therefore was consequently dealt with.


Montreal activist speaks out on homophobia. The Gazette:
Magella Dionne grew up Catholic, got married and had three daughters. But on a Club Med vacation in 1994, the La Pocatiere dentist had a "coming out" with a young Bolivian man, and is now a militant advocate for gay rights.

So when the Bouchard-Taylor commission on "reasonable accommodations" of minorities came to town today - its seventh stop on a 17-city tour of Quebec - Dionne knew he had to speak up. ...

... he came to denounce religious extremists and their homophobia, which he said puts them on another level entirely from gays.

"The gay and lesbian community doesn't ask for special treatment or to be allowed to do whatever we want - no, we asked for rights, and got them, and want to protect them," Dionne said in an interview.

"But what we see in the future is a risk of things getting out of control. Two gays won't be able to walk in front of a mosque without being mocked," he said.

"Ignorant people with their religious texts, their recipe books of intolerance, are ready to do anything against gays and lesbians, because they see us as an abomination."

In his presentation, Dionne decried the execution of gays in Iran and referred to well-known Canadian Muslim reformer and outspoken author Irshad Manji, a lesbian, who has said some passages in the Qur'an are violently anti-gay.

Read it all at the link.

"The Peace Corps with muscles." Michael Totten reports from Ramadi. Oh, and in case you didn't get the word, Al-Qaeda lost.

"Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind." Christopher Hitchens writes in Vanity Fair about Mark Daily. Hat tip: The Spirit of Man.

Commentary. Joshua Muravchik on neoconservatism at Commentary magazine:
First, following Orwell, neoconservatives were moralists. Just as they despised Communism, they felt similarly toward Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic and toward the acts of aggression committed by those dictators in, respectively, Kuwait and Bosnia. And just as they did not hesitate to enter negative moral judgments, neither did they hesitate to enter positive ones. In particular, they were strong admirers of the American experience—an admiration that arose not out of an unexamined patriotism (they had all started out as reformers or even as radical critics of American society) but out of the recognition that America had gone farther in the realization of liberal values than any other society in history. A corollary was the belief that America was a force for good in the world at large.

Second, in common with many liberals, neoconservatives were internationalists, and not only for moral reasons. Following Churchill, they believed that depredations tolerated in one place were likely to be repeated elsewhere—and, conversely, that beneficent political or economic policies exercised their own “domino effect” for the good. Since America’s security could be affected by events far from home, it was wiser to confront troubles early even if afar than to wait for them to ripen and grow nearer.

Third, neoconservatives, like (in this case) most conservatives, trusted in the efficacy of military force. They doubted that economic sanctions or UN intervention or diplomacy, per se, constituted meaningful alternatives for confronting evil or any determined adversary.

To this list, I would add a fourth tenet: namely, the belief in democracy both at home and abroad. ...

2007-10-03

Sophia Lee Fastaia

I am pleased to announce that my girlfriend Georgianne has become the mother of a happy, healthy, and adorable baby girl. Sophia Lee Fastaia was born at 8:33pm on Tuesday night, September 25, 2007, at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco. Many thanks to friends Emily, Greg, Amanda.

Also special thanks to the nurses Kathleen and Amanda, midwife Emily, doula Annie, and everyone else who helped to make this possible.
092507_2132
Happy_mom_despite_the_stitches
My_sweet_girl

2007-09-20

Israel, Syria, and Iran

Two weeks after an Israeli airstrike against something or other in Syria, Israeli President Shimon Peres suddenly feels all warm and fuzzy toward the Syrians. Here's Ha'Aretz
"I do believe the nervousness in the relationship between Syria and ourselves is over," Peres told foreign journalists. "Why go back to rumors and speculation when we say clearly we are ready to negotiate directly with the Syrians for peace."

... Meanwhile, another indication that tensions with Syria have quieted somewhat is the fact that the Israel Defense Forces have announced that a round of officer appointments, suspended due to the rise in tensions, would resume. The appointments were halted about a month before the September 6 incident, due to fears of a possible war with Syria during the summer.

Commentary. As you know, I'm not any kind of Middle East expert, so what follows here is my strictly amateur analysis. Now we all know that there's been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about a Syrian/Iranian strategic alliance, which would make sense, because neither of those countries has very many friends left in the Middle East. Consequently, there's been speculation on the US/Israeli side about the desirability of trying to weaken the alliance by making peace overtures to Syria in order to woo it away from the Iranian orbit.

The debate within Israel has been between the camp that says "Iran or no Iran, Syria is our enemy - we'd be nuts to negotiate with them"; and the side that says "One thing at a time - Iran is Public Enemy Number One, and we need to keep them from establishing a beachhead on our borders."

So what has just happened is that Israel has taken Syria to the woodshed and whipped it like a naughty schoolboy. Then, to add insult to injury, they've publicly humiliated the Assad regime by saying, "... Oh, you were saying something about peace talks? Let's talk peace."

I think there's a message for everybody here:

For Syria: You are our bitches.

For Iran: Your so-called allies in Syria are useless to you. We can strike any point in Syria at any time. You are alone.

For the Israelis: This is what we mean when we talk about negotiating from a position of strength. We know you think your government are a bunch of wimps, but we do know what we're doing. When we say "let's negotiate with the Syrians", we're not talking about giving away the farm - so don't take us for fools. Our focus must be on prying Syria away from Iran, and that's what we're doing.

And it might be working. Here's Stratfor:

Most intriguing are the reports we have received from Lebanon claiming that a serious division has opened up in the leadership of Hezbollah over the prospect of Syria working out a peace agreement with Israel. To even hear of a division within Hezbollah over the subject is startling, let alone the fact that the group is taking the possibility of a peace treaty seriously.

Israel periodically raises the possibility of a peace settlement with Syria, usually not all that sincerely, so Peres' comment is not completely strange. The report on Hezbollah taking this seriously is more interesting, but remember that rumors always flow in Lebanon, and this one may not be true -- or Hezbollah is simply getting itself bent out of shape.


The report goes on to speculate on the possible role of Turkey, raising the possibility that something was entering Syria from Turkey "that the Israelis didn't want arriving" and noting that the Turkish government is interested in seeing Syria and Israel negotiate.

Here's a roundup of earlier analysis:

Stratfor - September 17, 2007:

This weekend, the mystery of the Israeli aircraft over northern Syria became more important and even less clear than it was before. The story began Sept. 6 with a report from Syria that an Israeli aircraft had dropped ordnance over northern Syria and had been forced by Syrian air defenses to retreat from Syrian airspace. ...

Then, during a meeting of Syrian and Turkish leaders, the Turkish government reported that two auxiliary fuel tanks from Israeli planes had been found in Turkish territory, close to the Syrian frontier. That would indicate that the Israelis were operating very close to the Turkish border, had been detected by the Syrians, released their fuel tanks and took off. That story left two unsolved mysteries: First, what were the Israelis looking for that close to the Turkish border -- or more precisely, right on the Turkish border? And second, why were the Turks so touchy about some drop tanks that were, after all, left behind by Israel, a country with which Turkey has close military relations? And of course, that takes us back to why the Israelis would be monitoring events on the Turkish-Syrian border themselves instead of just asking the Turks.

Then, this weekend, Washington started leaking, with the media carrying a series of utterly contradictory explanations from unnamed American sources. The Washington Post ran a report by an American "expert on the Middle East" (pedigree unclear, but obviously impressive enough to be used by the Washington Post). The Post report said the target was a Syrian facility officially labeled by Syria as an "agricultural research center." The attack was linked with the arrival of a ship in a Syrian port carrying goods from North Korea labeled as "cement." According to the Post's expert, it wasn't clear what the ship was actually carrying, but the consensus in Israel was that it was delivering nuclear equipment. Meanwhile, an unnamed source in The New York Times said the mission was indeed a reconnaissance flight tracking North Korean nuclear equipment. So, two of the major U.S. newspapers have both had similar leaks. This is clearly the official unofficial position of the U.S. government.

The problem with this theory is not with the idea that a North Korean ship might be carrying nuclear equipment to Syria. The problem is the idea that Syria would have a nuclear research facility smack on its border with Turkey. ...

Another leak, provided by Israel to the London Times, hinted that there were chemical weapons at the site, and that the attack (note that this leak claimed there was an attack and not simply a reconnaissance flight) helped save Israel from an "unpleasant surprise." A sub-leak from the Israelis was that the target destroyed in the raid was a store of chemical weapons. So the Americans are talking about North Korean nuclear technology while the Israelis are talking about chemical weapons. Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence, said that he would not discuss the matter, then went on to discuss it by saying that Israel now has the deterrent capability against Hezbollah that it didn't have in 2006. Perhaps the chemical weapons were to be shipped to Hezbollah?

The least credible story of the bunch, which came from the British paper the Observer, was that the raid might have been a dry run for an attack on Iran. That is of course possible, but we are having trouble understanding how flying to the Turkish-Syrian border would constitute a dry run for anything beyond flying to the Turkish-Syrian border.

We do not mean to be flip. We think that this raid or reconnaissance flight, or whatever it was, was important. It's importance was less about U.S.-Syrian relations than about Syrian-Turkish relations. ...

Since when do the Syrians trust the Turks enough to do anything important along the border? Since when do the Israelis have to do reconnaissance flights along the border? The Turks patrol that area pretty intensely. We had thought there was a strong intelligence-sharing program. Perhaps it's no longer a trusted channel? Of course, the Turks somehow might have been complicit in this.

The mystery is deep and we are baffled, but it does not strike us as trivial. Something important happened Sept. 6.


David Horovitz at the Jerusalem Post - September 16, 2007:
Amid reports in the American media that the alleged Israeli raid into Syria 10 days ago targeted a North Korean-Syrian nuclear facility, John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend that "simple logic" suggested North Korea and Iran could have outsourced nuclear development "to a country that is not under suspicion" - namely Syria. Tellingly, he added: "Why would North Korea protest an Israeli strike on Syria?"

Bolton suggested that Syria, which he said has long sought a range of weapons of mass destruction, might have agreed to provide "facilities for uranium enrichment" on its territory for two allied countries which are being closely watched for nuclear development.

Bolton spoke as American newspapers reported that the alleged IAF raid, over which Israel has maintained official silence, was aimed at a facility in northern Syria close to the Turkish border, and that the strike may have been linked to the recent arrival of a shipment from North Korea, labeled as cement, but believed by Israel to contain nuclear equipment.

According to The Washington Post, Israel had been keeping a watchful eye on the facility, which is officially characterized by the Syrians as an agricultural research center. The offending shipment arrived at the Syrian port of Tartus on September 3, three days before the reported IAF raid.

The IAF strike took place "under such strict operational security that the pilots flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know details of the mission," The Washington Post said Saturday, quoting a top US expert who it said had interviewed Israeli participants. "The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air," the paper quoted him as saying.


The Times - September 16, 2007:
IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames. ...

Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from “secret suppliers”, and added that there were a “number of foreign technicians” in the country.

Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that.” He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, could be involved.

But why would nuclear material be in Syria? Known to have chemical weapons, was it seeking to bolster its arsenal with something even more deadly?

Alternatively, could it be hiding equipment for North Korea, enabling Kim Jong-il to pretend to be giving up his nuclear programme in exchange for economic aid? Or was the material bound for Iran, as some authorities in America suggest?

According to Israeli sources, preparations for the attack had been going on since late spring, when Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, presented Olmert with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.

The Israeli spy chief apparently feared such a device could eventually be installed on North-Korean-made Scud-C missiles.

“This was supposed to be a devastating Syrian surprise for Israel,” said an Israeli source. “We’ve known for a long time that Syria has deadly chemical warheads on its Scuds, but Israel can’t live with a nuclear warhead.”


Strategy Page - September 18, 2007:
September 18, 2007: Israel has still not admitted what it's F-15s were bombing in northern Syria on September 6th. Syria complained bitterly, the media speculated and the government said nothing. This caused a spike in popularity polls for Israeli officials, which may have been the main objective of the operation. There are plenty of targets in Syria, like shipments of weapons for Hizbollah, or new Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. Nuclear weapons were also mentioned. But it's all speculation, and all that Israeli officials will talk about is the Israeli ability to hit their enemies anywhere, at any time.


UPDATE: Israel Matzav - citing, of all people, Josh Landis - believes the evidence favors a chemical rather than a nuclear target. Includes maps.

In from the Cold - September 17, 2007:
Not surprisingly, the raid was cloaked in secrecy and deception--hallmarks of past Israeli military operations. Only three members of the Israeli cabinet knew about the raid in advance --Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister. To deceive the Syrians, Mr. Olmert reduced Israel's troop presence along the Golan Heights in the days before the attacks, suggesting an easing of tensions between the two countries.

Obviously, the Israeli strategy worked; the operation caught Damascus by surprise (there was apparently little reaction from Syria's air defense system); the Israelis inflicted serious damage on the target, and both the F-15I crews and the commandos escaped unscathed. Syria has threatened retaliation, but its options are limited. The odds of Syrian aircraft penetrating Israeli airspace are slim, and a missile strike would invite a devastating response, as would an attack across the Golan Heights.

Still, the Times article leaves a number of questions unanswered. We'll begin with the issue of Israel successfully penetrating Syria's air defense system. While it's happened before, the Syrian air defense network was supposedly re-organized after an embarrassing 2003 Israeli strike against a Palestinian terrorist camp near Damascus. During that raid, the Israelis reportedly exploited confusion over geographic responsibilities within the Syrian defense system. The most recent mission--which involved a much deeper penetration into Syrian territory--suggests that (a) Bashir Assad's air defense network hasn't improved, or (b) the Israelis are using more advanced measures to target the system, and render it impotent.

Then, there's the matter of that commando team. If the Times is correct, those personnel arrived in the target area a day ahead of the fighters, inserted (we'll assume) by Israeli Sea Stallion helicopters. As we've noted before, the successful infiltration of a commando team by helicopter, deep into Syrian territory, is an impressive operational feat, indeed. But getting the commandos (and their choppers) all the way across Syria (and back again), undetected, represents a monumental challenge, even for a state-of-the-art military like the IDF.

That raises another interesting question: where did the commandos and their choppers come from? The target also lies relatively close to Syria's northern border with Turkey, which just happens to have close military ties with Israel. It would be far easier for those Sea Stallions to infiltrate from an airfield or forward operating base in Turkey, rather than making the long trip across Syria. So far, little has been said about a possible Turkish "role" in the enterprise, despite the fact that the IDF has long trained in that country, and members of Turkey's armed forces routinely utilize Israeli military facilities.

There's also the possibility that the commando team staged from a location in Iraq, as suggested by the Times:

According to Israeli sources, American air force codes were given to the Israeli air force attaché in Washington to ensure Israel’s F15Is would not mistakenly attack their US counterparts.

But that's something of a red herring. The "codes" refer to signal transmitted by the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders carried by all combat aircraft. But in a combat environment, attacking aircraft shut off their IFF before entering hostile airspace. Israeli jets attacking that Syrian "agricultural" complex (presumably) weren't transmitting an IFF "squawk." Moreover, the target is apparently far enough from the border that an accidental "intrusion" into Iraqi airspace--and targeting by U.S. jets--was a remote possibility, at best. And, the Israelis knew that our fighters wouldn't respond to an incident that was clearly within Syrian territory, and posed no threat to our own forces.

So why did the Israelis have our IFF codes? There are several possibilities. First, there's the slimmest of chances that the commando force staged from one of Saddam's old airfields in western Iraq. However, the chances of that happening are virtually non-existent; in today's Middle East environment, the U.S. can't afford to provide direct support to an Israeli strike on a Muslim nation.

On the other hand, there a better chance that the U.S. would allow a crippled Israeli aircraft to land at an airfield in western Iraq that is under our control. Al Asad Airfield, located 180 miles west of Baghdad would be the most likely candidate for a divert base; obviously, an emergency landing at Al Asad or any other U.S.-controlled airfield would be facilitated by transmitting the right IFF squawk, and preventing intercept by our fighters. There's also the possibility that Israel has made "other arrangements" within Iraq, and needed the IFF codes to simply allow transit through U.S.-protected airspace.

While the aircraft used on the Syrian raid--the F-15I--is no surprise, the inclusion of a ground team (or, at least their stated purpose) is a bit curious. As we noted last week, Israel's most advanced jet fighters are trained (and equipped) for employment of JDAM, which relies on satellite guidance. In many respects, that weapon would be a better choice for targeting the Syrian storage bunkers, since the guidance kit can be attached to virtually any type of conventional bomb (including penetrators), eliminating the need for ground designation. The presence of that commando team suggests that Israel was concerned about potential GPS jamming, or (more likely) the commando were dispatched to retrieve nuclear material from the site--a claim repeated in the Times' article.


Via Kesher Talk, 4 Mile Creek:
It's King Khalid Military City, most commonly referred to as KKMC. It's not too easy to see (click on picture to enlarge), but there is a nice airfield off to the upper right. Built by Vinnell Corp, and designed to land, re-arm and refuel F-15s. KKMC is in northern Saudi Arabia, and was designed to help protect the northern Saudi border from Iraq incursions. I've been there occasionally on a training missions. It's in the middle of friggin' nowhere, and the airfield is to the southwest of friggin' nowhere (the picture is inverted, north is to the bottom of the picture, add'l picture with a little more detail here).

If the Israelis were to disguise their airplanes, and fly in there sometime around 2000 hrs, then capture the airfield personnel, it would be several hours before anyone knew something was going on. Even with the Royal Saudi Land Forces barracks just down the road in the main part of KKMC, it would be several hours after that before the Royal Saudi forces could mount an attack. With only one easily defended road from KKMC to KKMC airfield, it wouldn't be that hard for the Israelis to beat off an attack. It would then be at least six or seven hours (and more likely 24 hours) after that before any sort of Saudi reserve ground force could be mustered from outside of KKMC and brought to bear. As with the airfield, there is only one road into KKMC proper (it's the road visible coming into KKMC from the left), and it wouldn't be too tough for a light battalion to control that high-speed avenue of approach for at least another several hours. All total, the Israelis would have anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to use a well stocked, well built airfield from which their F-15s would be able to be refueled, re-armed and launched to strike nearly anywhere in Iran. Israeli F-16s could fly CAPs over the airfield to deter any Royal Saudi Air Force response coming up from PSAB, and even if the RSAF did attack, their training is mostly in air-to-air combat, not air-to-dirt bombing in support of a ground attack. Add in a few SHORAD sites around the airfield, and the RSAF would likely not affect much of the fighting on the ground.

After using it for maybe a day, the Israelis could load up and quickly cross into Iraqi airspace and hotfoot it home at low level.

2007-09-16

Morning Report: September 16, 2007

Strikes and counter-strikes in the Middle East. The Israelis bombed something in Syria - but what it was, and whose it was, remain a puzzle. Other news items remind us that idiots remain in plentiful supply.

Israel, Syria, Iran, and the US. Rick Moran at American Thinker:
Originally, it was thought the Israeli planes that penetrated deep into Syrian territory didn't drop any ordinance at all. The Syrian response was mild, to say the least.

Then a story leaked that the IAF was targeting a shipment of arms and supplies destined for Hezb'allah. This was eminiently plausiable given Syria's long time support for the terrorist group.

Now the Sunday Times has a story that the real target were bunkers filled with recently acquired nuclear materials and hardware from North Korea:

Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

The Israeli government was not saying. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.” A tale of two dictatorships: The links between North Korea and Syria The Syrians were also keeping mum. “I cannot reveal the details,” said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. “All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.&rdquo

The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

So, was it a dry run for Iran? Here's Israel Matzav: 'The London Sunday Observer (al-Guardian's Sunday edition) claims today that the alleged Israeli raid on Syria ten days ago was a dry run for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. If that's true, it's good news, because, as I have already noted, the Syrians actually had better air defenses than the Iranians have.' Go to Carl's post for the whole thing. Also via Israel Matzav, John Bolton thinks Iran and North Korea outsourced nuclear development to Syria. Also Iran-related, a top US Government official is talking about Iran ... but it's not Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this time, it's Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which ought to tell you something right there.
The Bush administration is committed, for now, to using diplomatic and economic means to counter the potential nuclear threat from Iran, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

Speculation has persisted about preparations for a military strike against Iran for its alleged support for terrorism and its nuclear program.

Gates, in a broadcast interview, said he would not discuss "hypotheticals" about what President George W. Bush "may or may not do."

He's talking about those rumors that the US may have selected as many as 2000 (that's two thousand!) targets inside Iran:
Senior American intelligence and defence officials believe that President George W Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran's nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail.

Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran.

Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.

The Telegraph article states that 'A prime target would be the Fajr base run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force in southern Iran, where Western intelligence agencies say armour-piercing projectiles used against British and US troops are manufactured.' Go to the link for the whole thing.

Iranian-American target of anti-Muslim crime. Fox News: 'MATINECOCK, New York — An Iranian-American nail salon owner was brutalized by robbers who called her a "terrorist" and scrawled anti-Muslim messages on a mirror in her shop, the victim and police said. "I'm in shock," victim Zoreh Assemi told WNBC-TV after the attack Saturday morning, a web of cuts and bruises visible on her face, arms and hands. She said she felt "terrorized ... not by American people, but by a very small group and prejudice. And it hurts." Nassau County police, who were treating the attack as a bias crime, had made no arrests early Sunday and were appealing to the public for tips.'

Iraqi, US forces detain two suspected terrorist leaders. Going after the real terrorists, Iraqi Special Operations forces, aided by US Special Forces, captured two enemy commanders. MNF-Iraq:
Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with U.S. Special Forces as advisers, detained a extremist militant company commander and a cell member Sept. 15 during an operation in Ad Diwaniyah.

During the operation, enemy fighters initiated an attack on Iraqi and U.S. Forces with an improvised explosive device, small arms and machine gun fire. The forces returned well-aimed and proportional fire to eliminate the threat, killing three enemy fighters and wounding several others.

Intelligence indicates the extremist commander leads more than 20 enemy forces, who are responsible for launching improvised explosive device, explosively formed penetrator and indirect fire attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces in the area.

On July 5, the group attacked the Coalition base in Ad Diwaniyah with indirect fires. Further intelligence reports that the group has launched more than 450 rocket and mortar attacks on the base during the past four months.


Iraqi surge against Al-Qaeda. Gateway Pundit, as always, is on top of things:
Thousands of Sunni Arabs in Iraq's Anbar province vowed on Friday to avenge the death of Reesha, a key US ally who was killed in a suspected Al-Qaeda bomb attack.(AFP)

The New York Sun wrote that the actions of Abu Risha taught Al Qaeda that its barbarity would only earn greater enmity from their new Sunni foes. That looks to be correct even more so after Abu Risha's murder by Al Qaeda.

In response, Al-Qaeda of Iraq declared war on the Sunnis on Saturday. ...


Commentary. Here's The Long War Journal on the Iraqi surge:
Camp Victory, Baghdad Province: With the surge in full swing in southern Baghdad province, the increase in US forces has been matched with an unexpected surge in Iraqi forces – local Iraqi residents who have organized to defend their communities from al Qaeda in Iraq and Shia extremist groups such as the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups.

In southern Baghdad province, the establishment of the Concerned Citizens, also referred to as Iraqi Police Volunteers, began to take hold in late spring. Initiated by tribal connections from Anbar province, the movement mimicked the rise of the Anbar Salvation Council in some respects, but differed in many ways. This bottom up process of local reconciliation consists of both Sunni and Shia tribes wishing to restore a measure of peace to the war torn regions south of Baghdad.

To adjust to the growing, grass roots movement spurred by the Anbar Awakening, Multinational Division Baghdad, under the command of Major General Rick Lynch, established a Reconciliation and Engagement Cell in early May. The cell is tasked with devising strategies to get the local communities to provide for their security and become part of the reconciliation process, then to see these strategies through at the tactical level.

The cell, which is comprised of three officers, Lieutenant Colonel Gloria Rincon, Major David Waldron, and Major Scott Matey, work long hours putting together the pieces of a complex puzzle, which includes learning the tribal relationships and influential sheikhs, demarking the geographic and sectarian boundaries. The region is crisscrossed with “sectarian fault lines,” where often a road or canal literally divides communities. To do its job, the reconciliation cell works closely with the intelligence, plans, operations, and economic development sections of Multinational Forces Central, as well as the line companies in the field. ...

This is great news for everybody except the terrorists and their sympathizers. Big Pharaoh reports that the Daily Kos has hit a new low, even for them:
Stupidity gets on my nerves but my blood really boils when this stupidity is mired by ugliness. This is what Daily Kos does to me. These guys simply make me want to vomit.

The last things I expected is them gleeing over the death of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the Anbar tribal leader who was killed by Al-Qaeda for leading the region’s oppositon to these mass murderers. These people at Daily Kos just make me sick. Isn’t so hard to differentiate between their hatred to George Bush and a man who lost his life simply because he doesn’t want Al-Qaeda to rule his area. What did you want Risha to do? Join Al-Qaeda and kill American soldiers?

Well, yes, obviously.

2007-08-27

Neocon thugs for war!

You might wonder whether the title of Scott Horton's piece in Harper's, Those Thuggish Neocons, is a parody. Actually no; neocons who have the insolence to question the veracity of sages like Scott Thomas Beauchamp are, by definition, thugs. And the liberal press has long since passed the outermost orbit of parody, and is hurtling deeper and deeper into the interstellar depths of psychosis.

So, here is Scott Horton at Harper's:
Over the last two weeks there was a flap over a piece published in The New Republic by an American soldier in Iraq named Scott Beauchamp. He described a number of gruesome scenes, some of which did not portray his fellow soldiers in the best of light. The piece drew ferocious blow-back from the Neocon war party, whose hallmark is complete control over the news on the ground and from the front ranks in Iraq. They viewed the report as a violation of their sacred monopoly and were determined to destroy Beauchamp and to lash out at The New Republic.

I have no idea whether Beauchamp’s story was accurate. ...

But that's not going to deter Scott Horton from telling a war story of his own:
But at this point I have seen enough of the Neocon corner’s war fables to immediately discount anything that emerges from it. One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe. And yes, I could hear the gunfire and watch some of the exchanges from my position. No American patrol had passed by and there were certainly no children playing in the street. This was the point when I realized that many of these accounts were pure fabrications.

Well, who was this disgraceful excuse for a journalist? A lot of us would like to know, just as we'd have liked to know more about Beauchamp's accomplices in the morally depraved acts he boasted of committing. (You know, the fellows who made fun of that burned woman soldier - or was she a contractor? - in Iraq ... or was it Kuwait? And why have we never heard from the burned woman herself?)

Pro-war or anti-war, liberal or neocon, a journalist who falsely reports on a war does our whole Nation a disservice. As Confederate Yankee says,
We need a thorough investigation, and if the charges are accurate, this liar should be purged from his news organization and the profession altogether.

But first, we need information. ...

Strangely enough, though, Scott Horton seems to be rather quiet when asked for any identifying details that might bring this neocon fabulist to justice. Odd, that.

Bookworm Room observes
a few striking things about Horton’s red hot attack on the conservative media and on the US military. The most obvious thing is how he glosses over the core fact, which is that Beauchamp lied. Beauchamp, perhaps with help from his wife (shades of Wilson/Plame here), got himself a huge forum in a nationally respected magazine to tell lies about the American troops. There was no witch hunt here, which implies that the person being hunted is innocent. Instead, what happened was that the new media instantly exposed a con man, a scam artist, someone who in the old days would probably have been derided and shunned for what he did. ...

And all this righteous rage on Horton's part, BR says,
is manufactured. What he can’t admit apparently, even to himself, is that someone told a lie that he hoped was the truth, and that this lie was then exposed. All he can do, therefore, is create a swirling sea of anger about everything but the initial lie, in the hopes of obscuring the truth at the core of it all — Beauchamp fabricated just about everything.

Go read the full post at the link.

My own thoughts: The liberal press is trashing the military again; the phrase "like it was going out of style" springs to mind. They're going down, and they know it; the Beauchamp affair stings because it's another nail in the coffin of liberal establishment journalism. And also, at some level, I think the press realize that the public does not have an endless appetite (or even tolerance) for military-bashing and America-bashing. The shtick is getting old. So, they are getting their last licks in while they can.

I'll be sure to update if - err, I mean, when - Scott Horton comes through with the name of this journalistic malpractitioner. But for now, I'll let George Roper have the last word:
Horton obviously wants us to believe, though he doesn't say, that both his experience and the "neo-con" report occurred on the same day, on the same street during the same time frame. That may or may not have been the case for I've heard many stories about peaceful scenes that were later pictures of hell. Mr. Horton, does the difference between 8:00:00 AM and 8:46:41 AM on September 11, 2001 on a certain densly populated island in New York ring a bell? If he is accurate, and the two "images" are the same at the same time on the same day in the same place then certainly the author of the "bucolic" scene deserves condemnation of the worst kind. But, notice that Mr. Horton does not name the day of the so called fictious story or the author of the false scene. Why would that be Mr. Horton? If you know of it, and don't reveal it one has to wonder why. Maybe you just didn't think it important? This could be your chance at immortality Mr. Horton... go on, tell us who, when, and what exactly happened and I'll be one of the very first to condem the scoundrel.