2008-12-09

John Milton turns 400 today.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_milton

Happy birthday John!

2008-12-08

Update: Posting Break and Career Move

I will be taking a break from regular posting, probably through the end of this calendar year (although I may post occasionally if something big comes up).

I'm in the process of gearing up for a career move into IT in 2009. I've been working in the clerical field - mostly Office Services and Litigation Copy - for most of my time in the private sector; that's the last 15 years. And the truth is, I enjoy clerical work ... but it's a job, not a career.

I've been interested in computers since I was a little kid. I attended the Talcott Mountain Science Center in my grade-school years (around 1974, age 11) and studied BASIC programming. I didn't study programming again until this past year when I began learning C and C++. ("What do you mean, there's no GOTO statment? How can you write a program without GOTO?!?")

I also enrolled in LearnIT! for the CompTIA A+ course - that's the entry-level certification for Windows-based computer techs. After I take (and pass) the certification exam, I'll be able to list myself as A+ certified.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the job postings for openings in the computer, technical, and IT fields that match my current skill set. I've got lots of end-user experience on both Windows and Macintosh. I have good customer service and people skills, and I'm comfortable with technology and problem-solving environments; so I am excited about this decision. If you're curious, here's my LinkedIn public profile: Asher Abrams.

I'll continue to post updates to DiL as time permits.

2008-12-03

Mumbai, India Terrorist Attacks

A roundup of articles on the terrorist attacks at Mumbai, India.

Victims remembered. Neocon Express: 'Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivka Holtzberg headed up the Chabad Jewish center in Mumbai. The gunmen walked in and murdered them in front of their child who survived, rescued by an Indian employee. Americans Alan Scherr and his 13 year old daughter, Naomi Scherr, were murdered while eating dinner at the Taj Hotel. A gunman simply walked in and shot them in cold blood in the name of "Islam" for no reason other than their mere existence which was offensive to them. ...'

CNN: Witnesses describe horror. CNN:

Anthony Rose, an Australian visiting Mumbai to produce a travel show, told CNN Thursday that he checked into the Taj hotel just a minute before attackers stormed into the lobby Wednesday night.

"They came in with all guns blazing," Rose said. "It was just chaos." Video Watch Rose's comments on terror attacks »

Rose and others found refuge in a hotel ballroom, where they waited for six hours hoping to be rescued.

Although they could hear explosions and gunfire nearby, there were no sirens or police evident, he said.Video Watch how terror attacks have shaken India. »

Help never arrived and the group were forced to smash a thick glass window and climbed down to the street on curtains.

"As soon as the hotel was on fire, we knew we had to go," Rose said.

Meanwhile Manuela Testolini, founder of the In A Perfect World children's foundation and ex-wife of music icon Prince, described how she saw someone shot in front of her at the Taj before sheltering with 250 other terrified people in the darkened ballroom.

Full article at the link.

Footage of capture. Gateway Pundit: 'Caught in a car with its tires blown out the Mumbai terrorist was told by the police to come out with his hands up. Instead, the terrorist pulled out a pistol and shot 3 policemen dead. That's when the Indian crowd decided to do the job the police were meant to do. They beat his a$$ on the street.' From the video:

The footage, which was captured on a mobile phone, shows a furious crowd beating the alleged terrorist, Ajmal Qasab (Azam Amir Kasav), before he is taken away.

It allegedly shows him with other gunmen on Marine Drive, a few streets away from the train station where the group had just carried out a killing spree.

Fleeing the scene of the carnage, the gunmen were forced to stop because the tyres of their getaway car had blown out.


Hostages were tortured. Even hardened doctors used to violent deaths were shocked at what they saw. Rediff:

"Bombay has a long history of terror. I have seen bodies of riot victims, gang war and previous terror attacks like bomb blasts. But this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing," a doctor said.

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.

Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.

The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.


How an ISI Kashmir operation turned into a massacre at Mumbai. Steve Schippert at The Tank recommends this article in Asia Times Online:

A plan by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that had been in the pipelines for several months - even though official policy was to ditch it - saw what was to be a low-profile attack in Kashmir turn into the massive attacks on Mumbai last week.

The original plan was highjacked by the Laskar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistani militant group that generally focussed on the Kashmir struggle, and al-Qaeda, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200 people in Mumbai as groups of militants sprayed bullets and hand grenades at hotels, restaurants and train stations, as well as a Jewish community center.

The attack has sent shock waves across India and threatens to revive the intense periods of hostility the two countries have endured since their independence from British India in 1947.

There is now the possibility that Pakistan will undergo another about-turn and rethink its support of the "war in terror"; until the end of 2001, it supported the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. It could now back off from its restive tribal areas, leaving the Taliban a free hand to consolidate their Afghan insurgency.

The details of what happened:

Under directives from Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kiani, who was then director general (DG) of the ISI, a low-profile plan was prepared to support Kashmiri militancy. That was normal, even in light of the peace process with India. Although Pakistan had closed down its major operations, it still provided some support to the militants so that the Kashmiri movement would not die down completely.

After Kiani was promoted to chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj was placed as DG of the ISI. The external section under him routinely executed the plan of Kiani and trained a few dozen LET militants near Mangla Dam (near the capital Islamabad). They were sent by sea to Gujrat, from where they had to travel to Kashmir to carry out operations.

Meanwhile, a major reshuffle in the ISI two months ago officially shelved this low-key plan as the country’s whole focus had shifted towards Pakistan’s tribal areas. The director of the external wing was also changed, placing the “game” in the hands of a low-level ISI forward section head (a major) and the LET’s commander-in-chief, Zakiur Rahman.

Zakiur was in Karachi for two months to personally oversee the plan. However, the militant networks in India and Bangladesh comprising the Harkat, which were now in al-Qaeda’s hands, tailored some changes. Instead of Kashmir, they planned to attack Mumbai, using their existent local networks, with Westerners and the Jewish community center as targets.

Read the rest at the link. Schippert adds: 'And keep in mind that the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) was an original signatory to bin Laden's International Islamic Front in 1998, which formally created al-Qaeda as "the base" organization for international Islamic terror groups.' Here, according to Schippert, is the take-away analysis:

1. ISI fingerprints are on the genesis of the attack plan.

2. Upper echelons of ISI delegated seemingly unsupervised to a junior officer, who signed off on the LeT/al-Qaeda alterations from small Kashmir assault to large scale Mumbai killing spree.

3. Upper echelons of ISI & military perhaps unaware of alterations, but not with clean hands. Kashmir or Mumbai, they planned terror attacks.

4. That “major reshuffle in the ISI two months ago,” recall, was when Lt. General Nadeem Taj, a relative of Musharraf, was forced out as Director General of the ISI. It was a Pakistani intelligence shake-up largely by American insistence.
5. While the US had hoped the ‘double dealing’ of Taj would have left with him, it has to be understood that General Kiyani - head of Pakistan’s military and thus effectively its military intelligence (ISI) - while admirably stalwart against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the North West and tribal areas, has always been equally stalwart regarding the Pakistani conflict with India over disputed Kashmir.

General Kiyani may have intended a minor operation for Kashmir and was almost certainly in the dark about the metamorphosis of the operation into a Mumbai massacre, but the law of unintended consequences holds little acquittal when leaders play with the fire of terrorism.


Commentary. I'm absolutely at a loss to write anything fit to read about this atrocity. A small gang of sadistic psychopaths terrorize a city while the police cower and do nothing. A two-year-old boy is beaten while his parents are murdered. The only real heroes, apparently, were the hotel workers:

They were heroes in cummerbunds and overalls. The staff of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel saved hundreds of wealthy guests as heavily armed gunmen roamed the building, firing indiscriminately, leaving a trail of corpses behind them.

Among the workers there were some whose bravery and sense of duty led them to sacrifice their own lives, witnesses said.

Prashant Mangeshikar, a guest, said that a hotel worker, identified only as Mr Rajan, had put himself between one of the gunmen and Mr Mangeshikar, his wife and two daughters.

“The man in front of my wife shielded us,” Mr Mangeshikar said. “He was a maintenance section staff member. He took the bullets.” For the next 12 hours, before Mr Rajan was finally taken out of the hotel, guests battled to stop the bleeding from a gaping bullet wound in his abdomen. It is not known if he lived. ...

The Belmont Club has more.

It's late, and I don't have time to write any more now. I have a fourteen-month old girl who started walking last week, and who's up past her bedtime; elsewhere in this city, my twelve-year-old son is three weeks away from his thirteenth birthday and his bar mitzvah. I don't know what to say about all of this, or even how to think about it.

2008-11-14

Morning Report: 2008-11-14

Unmistakable signs of progress, and a change of focus, in the war on terror.

"The war is over and we won." So says Michael Yon thru Instapundit:

Michael Yon just phoned from Baghdad, and reports that things are much better than he had expected, and he had expected things to be good. "There's nothing going on. I'm with the 10th Mountain Division, and about half of the guys I'm with haven't fired their weapons on this tour and they've been here eight months. And the place we're at, South Baghdad, used to be one of the worst places in Iraq. And now there's nothing going on. I've been walking my feet off and haven't seen anything. I've been asking Iraqis, 'do you think the violence will kick up again,' but even the Iraqi journalists are sounding optimistic now and they're usually dour." There's a little bit of violence here and there, but nothing that's a threat to the general situation. Plus, not only the Iraqi Army, but even the National Police are well thought of by the populace. Training from U.S. toops has paid off, he says, in building a rapport.

He says the big problem everybody is talking about now is corruption. But hey, we have that here, too. He'll be heading to Afghanistan next week. "Afghanistan is a bad situation, but on Iraq I can't believe things have turned out so well."


Voters more optimistic than ever about war on terror, Rasmussen says. Another grim milestone for the MSM: Rasmussen reports:

Voter confidence in the War on Terror has reached its highest level ever, with 60% now saying the United States and its allies are winning, according to the first Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey on the issue since Election Day. ...

Just 15% of voters say the terrorists are winning the War on Terror, which is the lowest level seen in tracking history dating back to April 2004. Another 18% say neither side is winning.

BTW, the paragraph at my ellipsis discusses lower voter confidence in "bringing the troops home from Iraq" during Obama's term, in case you were wondering. But that's a separate issue from winning or losing the WOT; and see Instapundit's comment. Shmuel Rosner at Commentary says: 'With more than two months until inauguration day–if these trends continue–it’s possible that all Obama will have to do by the time he takes the oath is to promise a continuation of Bush’s winning policies in Iraq.'

Britain to send 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan ... per request. The Telegraph:

The Government is considering sending extra reinforcements in order to meet an anticipated request from Barack Obama, the US president-elect, after he takes office in January, according to the BBC.

US strikes in Pakistan to continue. Bill Roggio at The Standard:

The U.S. military has struck yet again inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. U.S. Predators hit an al Qaeda safe house in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Twelve people, including five “foreigners” were killed in the attack.
The strike occurred just one day after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari protested the attacks. “It’s undermining my sovereignty and it’s not helping win the war on the hearts and minds of people,” Zardari said in an interview. On the same day, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry described the attacks as a “violation of international law.”
But the United States is stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue. On one hand, the attacks risk destabilizing Pakistan’s government and turn Pakistanis toward the extremists. On the other, U.S. intelligence strongly believes al Qaeda has regrouped in the tribal areas and is actively plotting strikes against the West, using men with Western passports.

Commentary. Tony Bey recommends Michael Rubin's article at Forbes arguing against the strategy of trying to "pry Syria away from Iran". Rubin:

It is tempting to believe that U.S. diplomacy can flip Syria. The last rejectionist Arab state, Syria is a lynchpin not only in the Arab-Israeli peace process, but also in efforts to resolve Iraqi insurgency and Lebanese instability. Alas, as audacious as Obama's hope might be, Syria cannot be flipped. It may be fashionable to blame Bush for the failure to seize a Damascus olive branch, but the real problem has less to do with any U.S. administration and much more to do with Arab history and political culture.

For more than a millennium, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo have competed for the leadership of the Arab world. ...

Diplomats seeking to flip Assad are asking him to commit political suicide. Syria has less than 20 million citizens to Egypt's 80 million; for Damascus to work in the same coalition as Cairo is to subordinate itself to it. Absent the crisis of resistance, Assad has little reason to justify rule by his Alawite clan, a minority Shiite sect, among a disenfranchised Sunni Arab majority.

Go read it all.

2008-11-13

Morning Report: 2008-11-13

A nervous Iranian regime tests a solid-fuel missile, while a naval blogger quashes speculation on a famous ship.

Straight talk on Iran ship. Information Dissemination clears up the scuttlebutt around that Iranian merchant ship, the MV Iran Deyanat:

Hijacked earlier this year off the coast of Somalia, the ship became the subject of wild speculation and conspiracy theory when a Somalian government minister claimed to Reuters that 16 pirates died attempting to open the cargo hold. A few more strange stories began popping up, including blisters, boils, and hair falling out of those exposed to the cargo of the ship.

At that point, the conspiracy theories became legand. Whether it was a dirty bomb to be used against Israel, nuclear cargo to be offloaded in Africa for Al Qaeda, or a simple case of illegal dumping of toxic materials by China off the coast of Somalia, something about the MV Iran Deyanat became perfect fodder. When the company that owned the Iran Deyanat got listed under sanctions due to ownership by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard 2 days before the rumors broke into the mainstream news, a legand was born.

And now?

Well, the MV Iran Deyanat popped up in the news again today, this time making port in Rotterdam. Not only was the ship deemed unsuspecting of any problems, but it underwent a normal inspection without issue and according to this news report, is tied up to bouy 29 without the necessity of extra security as the ship waits to unload cargo.

Galrahn hopes this will put the rumors to rest.

Iran tests missile, West's resolve. AP:

Barack Obama's first international "test" moved a bit closer to reality today, with Iran's test of a new, solid-fuel missile that can strike targets in Israel--and southeastern Europe--more accurately (and with less warning) than other missiles in Tehran's inventory.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar identified the missile as the Sajjil, which was launched from a test complex western of Tehran. The two-stage system has a reported range of 1,200 miles, allowing it to reach targets as far away as Greece and Israel. Iranian officials claim that the Sajjil is Iran's first medium-range missile to use solid fuel technology, similar to that found in more advanced systems produced by Russia, China and the West.

While the test launch was a major step for Iran's missile program, it also represented another failure. U.S. defense officials report that th Sajjil suffered an engine failure in the early stages of its flight and traveled only 180 miles, less than 20% of its advertised range. Similar failures have also occurred in past launches of extended range versions of the Shahab-3, Tehran's first medium-range ballistic missile.

In From the Cold fills in the details:

Unlike the Sajjil, the Shahab-3 uses liquid fuel to power its engines. While liquid-fuel engines represent proven technology, they also pose operational problems. The missile must be fueled before launch, raising the potential for accidents--or detection by intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems. It can take up to an hour to fuel an older Iranian SCUD or Shahab-3 and in some cases, the missile must be elevated to firing position before the propellant and oxidizer can be loaded.

By comparison, solid fuel is stable and can be stored in the missile for extended periods of time. That decreases the "signature" associated with operations--you don't need oxidizer and propellant trucks following your launcher vehicle around the countryside. With a smaller signature, it becomes more difficult to spot (and interdict) missile operations.

That problem is further compounded by the rapid response time of solid fuel missile systems. With liquid fuel missiles, there is often a lag between the receipt of launch orders and the actual event, increasing the vulnerability of the weapon--and its crew--to enemy interdiction efforts. The problem is particularly acute in Iran's ballistic missile force; many of its Shahab-3 launchers cannot raise a fully-fueled missile, meaning that the airframe must be elevated prior to fueling operations.

Iran regime nervous. The Spirit of Man reports on unusual goings-on in Iran:

There are some weird things going on in Iran these days. And all these weird stuff are like the largest anti-riot drills in Tehran, testing new missiles and the Persian language Radio Farda reports that the Iranian regime has extended a national pardon for all military service deserters. This pardon acts like a recruiting drive for the regime armed forces since the military service in Iran is compulsory and desertion is a huge issue among the youth. Therefore all these stories make me believe that the regime is probably more nervous than ever. Are they expecting something?

More:

I reported yesterday about the Iranian regime's recent anti street riot drills that's taking place in Tehran. The 2nd day of these exercises are going on as I write. Though these drills are very interesting because it's important to ask why the Islamic regime is doing this 29 yrs after it is established. What are they afraid of after all these years?

Go to the link for photos.

Briefly noted. Belmont Club on inherently safe systems.

Commentary. Just in case you missed it, it's official: that thing where Sarah Palin supposedly thought Africa was a country was a hoax. Other than that, no comments for this morning.

2008-11-12

Morning Report: 2008-11-12

More reading of the Obama tea leaves.

A pragmatic President. The Wall Street Journal reveals that 'President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party.' Random Jottings muses on the future President's encounter with reality:

In advance, I spit with utmost contempt on all you leftists and "Democrats" who are going to shrug off Obama's doing the very same things that you howled in fake-outrage over Bush doing...

Gates to stay as Defense Secretary? This Ain't Hell:

The choice gives Obama a scapegoat to blame for every death in the War Against Terror from the first day of his Presidency. He can say that he tried to reach across the aisle and make a non-partisan selection, but that damned Republican screwed him to the wall. Knowing with some measure of certainty that there’ll be an attempt to terrorize us in the next year or so, it gives Obama an out for questions of whether he tried to stop the impending attack.

Meanwhile, anti-war folks want an anti-war defense secretary.

A future for Joe Lieberman? But I Am A Liberal:

If Obama was serious about “fixing” Washington, I have recently argued that he should not only keep Lieberman happy in the Democratic caucus, but let Lieberman hold is chairmanships as well. It looks like he may do just that.

Read the full post at the link.

Briefly noted. Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club looks at buyer's remorse.

Commentary. I've observed before that people who are in power often behave differently than they do when they are out of power. Responsibility can have a sobering effect; accountability concentrates the mind wonderfully. The many far-left entities that helped propel the junior senator from Illinois to the White House may be dismayed to find that President Obama, like Henry the Fifth, suddenly wants to be a grown-up; and that Obama will disinherit them as swiftly as King Henry threw Falstaff under the bus.

The question before us is how a Chicago politician, unaccustomed to executive office but schooled in power and party politics, will take to being the most powerful man in the world.

Something tells me he will rather like it.

2008-11-11

Morning Report: 2008-11-11

This Veterans' Day post offers some tantalizing clues about the future Obama administration.

Obama on torture: "Upon review ...". Ace of Spades cites WSJ:

As a candidate, Mr. Obama said the CIA's interrogation program should adhere to the same rules that apply to the military, which would prohibit the use of techniques such as waterboarding. He has also said the program should be investigated.

Upon review, Mr. Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight.

Advisers caution that few decisions will be made until the team gets a better picture of how the Bush administration actually goes about gathering intelligence, including covert programs, and there could be a greater shift after a full review.

Ace adds: 'I say "appears" to be flopping because this has all the hallmarks of the other situations where he comes along in 8 hours and offers a "clarification".'

Robert Malley is baaack. Fernandez has the latest on the return of Robert Malley to the foreign policy arena.

Today, Arutz Sheva reported that the man who would not “play any role in the future” was dispatched by the President elect to the Middle East to outline Obama’s policy in the Middle East.

According to a report on Middle East Newsline, President-elect Barack Obama has dispatched his “senior foreign policy adviser”, Robert Malley to Egypt and Syria to outline Obama’s policy on the Middle East.

Malley reportedly relayed a promise from Obama that the United States would seek to enhance relations with Cairo and reconcile differences with Damascus.

“The tenor of the messages was that the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests,” an aide to Malley was quoted as saying. The aide said Obama plans to launch a U.S. diplomatic initiative toward Syria. Malley met both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad “to explain Obama’s agenda for the Middle East.”

Nowhere is the United States more deeply hated than Egypt and Syria. The interesting question is whether the “greater account” given to these countries by Malley will come at the expense of one of the few countries in the region in which the US is popular.


Briefly noted. Iran News Round Up by Ali Alfoneh, Ahmad Majidyar, and Michael Rubin; all links in Farsi except as noted.

Commentary. This morning's Commentary section is dedicated to the theme of "ODS watch". First, here's some wisdom from last week's post by ShrinkWrapped:

The idea that Barack Obama's election is going to usher in the long, dark night of fascism in America is troubling. I have no doubt that there are groups and individuals on the far left who would like nothing more than to form the nidus of an American brown shirted militia, but we are a very long way away from such an eventuality.

Now leading the rabid paranoid pack is Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), one of the crowd Charles at LGF aptly calls black helicopter Republicans

“That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did,” Broun said. “When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.” ...

“We can’t be lulled into complacency,” Broun said. “You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I’m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I’m saying is there is the potential.”


There are plenty of reasons to question Obama’s offhanded campaign promise to create a civilian force as powerful and well-funded as the US military, but there’s really no need to Godwin ourselves out before the guy even takes office.

And what would a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory be without its truthers?

AUSTIN — State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

I shouldn't have to say this, but apparently it needs to be said: We can criticize Obama all we want, and I expect to do plenty of it. But there's no need to try to outdo the left-wingnuts with a conservative "Obama derangement syndrome". Heck, the man hasn't even taken office yet. It's too a little too early to declare a national holiday - or an apocalypse.

2008-11-10

Morning Report: 2008-11-10

US Marines celebrate their history, as the next Commander-In-Chief prepares to assume his post.

Obama to visit Oval Office. President-elect Barack Obama will make his first visit to his future place of employment. CNN: 'President-elect Barack Obama will set foot inside the Oval Office for the first time Monday as he meets with President Bush to talk about the problems his incoming administration will face. The meeting between president and president-elect is a historic formality, but it's also a time for serious talks.'

Kadima sets primaries for December 17. Arutz Sheva: 'The Kadima party announced on Monday that it will hold a primary on December 17 to determine the order of Knesset candidates to be determined by the general elections scheduled for February 10.'

Nordlinger on the foreign-policy establishment. "An area of darkness":

Be clear about something, however (and this is me talking, not [George] Shultz): To understand someone is not necessarily to like or approve him. Understanding, in fact, may make you recoil all the more. But understanding is the best friend of anyone who wishes to be alert.

Professors of Middle East studies would be very helpful right about now. But they are, unfortunately, among the worst of the lot: among the worst in the American professoriate. A range of departments, of course, is the province of radicals and ideologues, rather than genuine scholars. But departments of Middle East studies may take the cake. Those wanting to read chapter and verse can turn to Martin Kramer’s book Ivory Towers on Sand.

Read it all at the link.

Briefly noted. Items on the ThreatsWatch daily roundup:

1. A leaked UK intelligence report is said to have identified terrorist enclaves in major British cities planning mass casualty attacks.

2. Three Bali bombers were executed in Indonesia, guilty of killing 202 in night club bombings.

3. London paper source says Usama bin Laden is planning greater attacks on US, saying that training camps across world are in a ‘positive phase’ of operational planning and training for a new wave of attacks on West.

4. New York Times publicizes secret order authorizing special forces operations against al-Qaeda terrorists around the world. Question is why NYT would do so.

5. President-Elect Obama offers double talk on EU missile shield, saying different things to different leaders and the public.

Go to ThreatsWatch for the details.

Commentary. Happy birthday to the United States Marine Corps! Commandant's message:

During the summer of 1982, in the wake of a presidential directive, Marines went ashore at Beirut, Lebanon. Fifteen months later, on 23 October 1983, extremists struck the first major blow against American forces—starting this long war on terrorism. On that Sunday morning, a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden truck into the headquarters of Battalion Landing Team 1/8, destroying the building and killing 241 Marines and corpsmen.

Extremists have attacked our Nation, at home and abroad, numerous times since that fateful day in Beirut. Their aim has always been the same—to kill as many innocent Americans as possible. The attacks of 11 September 2001 changed our Nation forever, and our President has resolved that this Nation will not stand idle while murderous terrorists plan their next strike. Marines will continue to take the fight to the enemy—hitting them on their own turf, crushing them when they show themselves, and finding them where they hide.

Only a few Americans choose the dangerous, but necessary, work of fighting our Nation’s enemies. When our chapter of history is written, it will be a saga of a selfless generation of Marines who were willing to stand up and fight for our Nation; to defend those who could not defend themselves; to thrive on the hardship and sacrifice expected of an elite warrior class; to march to the sound of the guns; and to ably shoulder the legacy of those Marines who have gone before.

On our 233rd birthday, first remember those who have served and those “angels” who have fallen—our reputation was built on their sacrifices. Remember our families; they are the unsung heroes whose support and dedication allow us to answer our Nation’s call. Finally, to all Marines and Sailors, know that I am proud of you and what you do. Your successes on the battlefield have only added to our illustrious history. Lieutenant General Victor H. “Brute” Krulak said it best when he wrote, “… the United States does not need a Marine Corps … the United States wants a Marine Corps.” Your actions, in Iraq and Afghanistan and across the globe, are at the core of why America loves her Marines.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Semper Fidelis,

James T. Conway
General, U.S. Marine Corps

And from me, a big shout out to my old unit, the 1st LAI Bn, 1st MarDiv. Happy birthday, and semper fi.

2008-11-09

Morning Report: 2008-11-09

The 44th President will face challenges from Iran. Here's a preview.

Obama, Bush to meet. AP via JPost: 'Barack Obama heads to the White House for his first postelection meeting with President George W. Bush this week, as Americans await signals of how their new leader will confront the overwhelming array of challenges facing the United States.' You can read the rest of the AP's drivel at the link.

US, EU officials met with Arab leaders on Iran. AP at JPost again: 'US and European representatives on Sunday met with representatives from Arab countries worried about Iran's influence in the Mideast, a senior US official said.' Rice, Solana, and Kouchner were there. YNet says: 'A senior US official says American and European representatives have met with Arab countries worried about Iran's influence in the Mideast, particularly about any potential deal on Iran's nuclear program that would give the Persian country more power in the Mideast.'

Obama's Iran comment irks regime. Debka:

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said Saturday, Nov. 8, forcefully rejected US president-elect Barack Obama’s comment Friday that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons was unacceptable and its support for terrorist organizations cease. “This signifies the same erroneous policy as the past, said Larijani. “If the United States wants to change its standing in the region it should send good signals."
Most of Obama’s first news conference after election was devoted to the economic crisis.

Speaking of economic crises, the goons in Tehran are dealing with one of their own.

On Blair and Shreidan. Tom the Redhunter has an outstanding piece on the dangers and possibilites of the present age.

Commentary. Two pieces in Commentary magazine's Contentions - one by Peter Wehner and the other by David Hazony - focus on the moral and strategic foreign-policy choices confronting the incoming Obama administration. Wehner takes on a piece by paleocon Craig Shirley advocating a return to "realist" foreign policy. Wehner writes:

Perhaps the place to start is by pointing out that the projection of American power during the Bush years was to protect American interests. There were two “projections of American power” during the Bush years. The first involved a military response to the attacks on September 11, 2001. Presumably Mr. Shirley supported the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but perhaps not.

The second instance was the Iraq war. Of course, the reason the majority of the country, the Congress, and conservatives alike supported the Iraq war was because the United States believed, along with the rest of the world, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Beyond that, Saddam was the most ruthless and aggressive dictator in a region that that (a) has its share of awful ones and (b) is of enormous interest to the United States. His invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s was the triggering event for the first Gulf War. The implication that Iraq and what happens in the Middle East has nothing to do with American interests is silly.

As for the notion that “the internal affairs of a sovereign nation were not of concern to conservatives unless that nation threatened America:” Shirley is (again) wrong. Is it his view that conservatives should be utterly indifferent to genocide unless it occurs in a nation that threatens America?

The internal affairs of sovereign nations is our business if that nation is engaging in persecution, oppression, and mass death. ...

Wehner goes on to quote Ronald Regan, whom Shirley had invoked:

While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings…. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy….

And I wholeheartedly agree. So does David Hazony:

On Thursday, former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky assailed Egypt’s treatment of [Abdul Kareem Nabil] Soliman, as rallies were held near Egyptian embassies around the world.

This is a new example of an old problem. On the one hand, the righteousness of the Cold War was based not only on the Soviet threat to the West, but also on grotesque Soviet human rights violations. On the other hand, the insistence that American alliances in the Middle East be connected to human rights has been dismissed, in recent years, as neocon agitation. Egypt is a major recipient of American foreign aid. And there are many who consistently propose going soft on Egypt, in part because of its role as intermediary with Israel, and in part because of the fear that the regime is always at risk of being overrun by powerful Islamist forces.

New names, old problem.

2008-11-07

Morning Report: 2008-11-07

Seeing past Russia's distractions, and more on West Asia. In our commentary, we bemoan the state of liberalism yet again, and find a friend in Korea.

Russia and a "future Ukraine scenario". Information Dissemination:

Russia understands well the art of distraction. Heard about Russian missiles moving around Europe, or perhaps new political maneuvers in Russia? Whatever, background noise all of it, a reminder that in baseball no one stairs at the center fielder unless he is doing the moonwalk when the ball is actually bouncing towards 3rd base.

The missiles are the moonwalk, while 3rd base is in the Ukraine. This looks like early planning for a future Ukraine scenario to me.

Details at the link.

North Waziristan strike. Long War Journal:

After a one-week lull, the US has struck an al Qaeda training camp inside Pakistan's lawless tribal belt.

US unmanned Predator aircraft fired four missiles into a camp in the village of Kumsham in North Waziristan, AFP reported. Up to 14 people have been reported to have been killed.

"The strike successfully destroyed the camp," one source told AFP. "The militants were using the facility for training," another source said.

Seven al Qaeda operatives and one local Taliban commander was killed in the attack, sources told the news agency. But there is no indication that senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were killed in the strike.

The attack occurred in the Wazir tribal areas right along the border with South Waziristan. This is likely an area run by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. He shelters al Qaeda fighters, operates training camps in his tribal areas, and sends his fighters into Afghanistan to fight Coalition forces.

Briefly noted. Small Wars Journal covers the Afghan awakening and more.

Commentary. Liberal American voters have elected Barack Obama, and Winston at The Spirit of Man isn't impressed.

What I have seen in the past few days in my travels across the US is the level of ignorance and illiteracy among the liberal or left leaning voters. Most of them are not aware of world events and act like adolescent people. None know any thing about history. That's a big problem for an America which wishes to remain a superpower. Aside from "affirmative action" who has already got all of us an Obama presidency, ignorance and leftist values have played major roles in damaging this once great country. Uninformed people tend to be liberals. For example, I held long conversations with those who voted for Hussein Obama and none of them knew any thing about the world beyond their county or state borders. Honestly, none of those idiots I talked to did know what G8 is or, what is the name of the Canadian captial city.

Remember, these are the folks who talk long and loud about America's need to be more cosmopolitan and "global". Who elected a leader who complains about Americans who go to France and don't speak the language, but qui ne parle pas Français himself. Who ... oh, don't get me started.

Anyway, the title of this blog pretty well says it for me, and it's always nice to find more kindred minds out there. Here's Roland's comment on Obama and Rahm Emmanuel

The “Electronic Intifada” has posted a piece criticizing Obama for picking Rahm Emanuel, a Jewish supporter of Israel to be his Chief of Staff. That’s a good sign in my opinion. They write:

“In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. "We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror," Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders "was clearly justified as an application of Israel's right to self-defense" ("Pelosi supports Israel's attacks on Hamas group," San Francisco Chronicle, 14 June 2003).”

Update:
The Hufftards hate this pick too. Yet another good sign.

Kuraeyo! I'm pleased to welcome BIAAL to the DiL blogroll.

2008-11-06

Rahm Emmanuel

ProSemite Undercover has reactions to Rahm Emmanuel appointment.

Hamas Borrows Hebollah Designs for Gaza Positions

Debka:

The 44 Grad rockets, Qassam missiles and mortar rounds which blasted Israel from Gaza Wednesday, Nov. 5, were fired from houses close to the border fence which Hamas had turned into fortified firing positions. Borrowing Hizballah’s tricks from the 2006 Lebanon war, the Hamas firing squads remove the roofs and cover the top floors with camouflage netting easily removed for attacks.
To spot these heavily-disguised launching pads, round-the-clock aerial observation is necessary.
DEBKAfile’s military analysts report: Two years after the 34-day Hizballah rocket blitz of northern Israel - and five months into an informal truce with Hamas - the IDF is not coping with this tactic.
Furthermore, Wednesday, the civilian front was again abandoned to a heavy missile bombardment. The Israeli Air Force went into action three times to halt the mortar fire on Israeli troops, wiping out two Hamas mortar squads and killing five of its members. But when the missiles began falling on Ashkelon, Sderot and the Eshkol farm region, the air force stayed on the ground.

Obama: The next Clinton?

Via The Weekly Standard, the New York Times:
For national security adviser, Mr. Obama might pick between James B. Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser, and Gregory B. Craig, a former State Department official. Mr. Danzig and Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East envoy, are also mentioned. Susan E. Rice, a former assistant secretary of state and early Obama adviser, is often described as a possible deputy national security adviser or ambassador to the United Nations.

Democrats said they had heard that Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, who is a doctor, might be a candidate for secretary of health and human services; Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina may be considered for secretary of housing and urban development; and Penny S. Pritzker, a Chicago business tycoon and Mr. Obama’s national finance chairwoman, could be tapped for commerce secretary.

Kurdish Students in Iran Face Tough Times

Shiro-Khorshid Forever:
In the past few days and through different sources we have received very troubling news in regards to the oppression of Kurdish students in Iran. Currently at least one student Mr. Habiblollah Lotfi who is a student at the “Payame Nour” University has been sentenced to death.

Further from “Razi” University in Kermanshah Mr. Sattar Parvizi has been sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment, Mr. Khabat Yousefi to 13 years of imprisonment and Mr. Hosseing Rahmani to 6 years of imprisonment.

In further disturbing news the Revolutionary Court in the City of Sanandaj sentenced Mr. Yaser Goli to 10 years of imprisonment. Mr. Goli is a student at a private university in the City of Sanandaj. Mr. Goli is also a social work Major, the president of The “Democratic Organization of Kurdish Students in Iran.” He is also an editor for a Farsi Kurdish Student newsletter in the University of Sanandaj. ...

Currently there are at least 15 Kurdish students in Islamic Regime Prisons. These individuals are:

1. Habbibollah Lotfi- death sentence
2. Yaser Goli- 10 years imprisonment
3. Sattar Parvizi- 16 years imprisonment
4. Khebat Yousefi- 13 years imprisonment
5. Hossein Rahmani- 6 years imprisonment
6. Sabah Nasri- Originally sentenced to 2 years, court of appeal reduced it to 1.5 years
7. Hedayat Ghazali- Originally sentenced to 2 years, court of appeal reduced it to 1.5 years.
8. Khodro Rasoul Morut- 3 years imprisonment
9. Jamal Rahmani- 6 years imprisonment
10. Amir Reza Ardalan- Originally sentenced to 1 year imprisonment, court of appeal reduced it to 6 months.
11. Rashid Abdollahi- 3 years imprisonment.
12. Ms. Hanna Abdi-Originally sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, it was reduced to 1.5 years.
13. Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh- She is in custody, no conviction or sentencing as of yet.
14. Siyvan Farokhnejad- In custody, no conviction or sentence as of yet
15. Varya Moruti- In custody, no conviction or sentence as of yet.

Balfour at 91

Ashley Perry at Middle East Strategic Information:
On November 2, the Balfour Declaration was 91 years old. Although seemingly irrelevant in today's political scenery, it was the crucial first official recognition of Jewish national aspirations, much disparaged even unto this day.

Although the declaration itself had little legal status, it was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine, adopted unanimously by the League of Nations in the San Remo Resolution of 1920. This lent Zionism an international legitimacy enjoyed by few national movements before or since.

Perhaps most astonishing today, the leader of the Arab movement, King Faisal, supported the declaration when it was referred to in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of 1919.

Although many have since attempted to deny the central nature of the document and its relationship to the Mandate, that's not how its British drafters saw things. In fact, as stated in the 1937 Royal Commission Report, "the primary purpose of the Mandate, as expressed in its preamble and its articles, is to promote the establishment of the Jewish National Home."

The initial drafts of the Balfour Declaration spoke of the desire "that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people." Clearly, Palestine as a whole was intended to become this Jewish national home.

The final draft was altered to contain the proviso, "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

The final declaration was altered at the behest of Edwin Samuel Montagu, an influential anti-Zionist Jew and secretary of state for India, who was concerned that the declaration as it stood could result in increased anti-Semitism. Montagu was also concerned that the declaration would make it harder for him to deal with Indian Muslims. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Morning Report: 2008-11-06

Diplomats prepare for a changing of the guard, while West Asia remains volatile.

Rice to Middle East in probable swan song. Arutz Sheva: 'U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the region on Thursday for her 19th, and perhaps final, visit – part of the American push to extract an agreement for the establishment of a new Arab state within Israel's borders. Rice is expected to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem. Rice will also meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud party chairman and Opposition Leader Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, who are both strong candidates to become the next prime minister, also on Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem. ...' Also from A7, Condi's opposite number in Israel warned Obama against talking to Iran: 'Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed her opposition to United States President-elect Barack Obama's stated willingness to dialogue with Iran in an interview on Voice of Israel government radio Thursday morning. She explained, "We live in a neighborhood in which sometimes dialogue – in a situation where you have brought sanctions, and you then shift to dialogue – is liable to be interpreted as weakness."'

Suicide bomber strikes at tribal meeting in Bajaur, northwest Pakistan. Long War Journal:

A suicide bomber struck at a tribal meeting in the insurgency-wracked agency of Bajaur in Pakistan's northwest. Eight members of the Salarzai tribe were killed and more than 45 were wounded after a suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a tribal meeting.

The Salarzai tribe has organized a militia to oppose the presence of the Taliban in their tribal areas in Bajaur. Tribal leaders claim to have raised more than 10,000 fighters to form a lashkar, or tribal militia. The Salarzai have been burning the homes of Taliban members and providing security for the region.

The Pakistani military has been battling the Taliban in Bajaur since August. The tribal area is a known command and control hub for al Qaeda's operations in northeastern Afghanistan. The military has relied on airstrikes and artillery barrages to dislodge the Taliban from fortified positions.

Pakistani officials claim to have struck a crippling blow to the Taliban. General Tariq Khan, the Inspector General of the paramilitary Frontier Corps claimed more than 1,500 Taliban and foreign fighters have been killed in Bajaur since the operation began. Another 950 "militants," including more than 300 are Uzbek, Tajik, Nuristani, Afghani and Hazara, have been captured. Only 42 paramilitary troops have been killed and 174 wounded, according to the general.

The government has courted the tribes in an effort to gain local support. But the groups that have joined the effort to fight the Taliban are marginal players in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. ...

Read the rest of Bill Roggio's post at the link.

Learning from experience in Afghanistan. Small Wars Journal:

This Slate article is an excellent example of learning from the past about the part of counterinsurgency most of us understand least well: the economic and governance lines of operation.

Both candidates for the U.S. presidency pledged to make Afghanistan a top priority. The war there now tops the news on a daily basis with tales of the devastating hardships of the Afghan people and the deaths of Afghans and NATO soldiers. The untold story is that Afghanistan was well on its way to stability in 2004. It is essential that President Obama understands why the nation slipped into chaos. The challenge now is to win the peace...

Follow the link for the rest of Clare Lockhart's article.

Briefly noted. Byron York comments on the true meaning of "losers".

Commentary. No brilliant insights on this morning's items; I'll just offer my thoughts on the election, and I'll keep 'em brief.

As you know from reading this journal, I was rooting for McCain, and I've had very serious misgivings about Obama for a number of reasons. But the American people have chosen Barack Obama to be their next President, so out of respect for my nation, its people, and the democratic process I will give President Obama a fair chance.

You probably also know that I'm a social liberal. I vote Republican because al-Qaeda and the Taliban and the Iranian regime aren't social liberals, and those SOBs are trying to kill us. One hope that I hold for the incoming Democratic government is that the Democrats, once fully in charge of the reins of power, will appreciate the seriousness of the threat outside our borders, and understand that the threat is at its core a threat to America's finest liberal traditions. I won't bore you here with another long essay on power and responsibility, but I think you get the idea.

I've no plans to quit blogging here at DiL any time soon. Come next January, it'll be my first time blogging under a Democratic administration. Should be interesting.

2008-11-05

Morning Report: 2008-11-05

Americans elect Obama. CNN: 'Sen. John McCain on Tuesday urged all Americans to join him in congratulating Sen. Barack Obama on his projected victory in the presidential election.'

Mosul mayor meets with Iraqi National Police commander to discuss security. MNF-Iraq: 'The Mosul mayor, Ameer Jihad, and Maj. Gen. Mohammed of the 3rd National Police Division met Nov. 3, to discuss common issues about municipal services concerns and joint efforts in the city. During a meeting and visit through the city, the NPs agreed to use engineer assets to assist with traffic flow in the city and also to conduct joint missions with the Iraqi Police.'

Evin hardships. From BameAzadi - English: 'According to the received news on Evin prison, at the night of November 2, there was a conflict and scuffle between prisoners and authorities of prison in various sections of the prison. Although the winter is coming and the weather of Evin which is located in mountainside in northwest of Tehran, is so cold but authorities of Prison took evil advantage of this matter to annoy and torture political prisoners, they turned off all heaters of prison and made a very cold place for prisoners. According to the words of some prisoners; the intensity of cold is such that bodies of some prisoners like Ayatollah Kazemeini Boroujerdi, who was affected by physical weakness because of previous pressures and tortures, have been numbed and are unable to move. That night the prisoners set fire to their blankets because of cold and showed their protest to authorities in this way.' Persian language page for BeA is here.

2008-10-05

Morning Report: 2008-10-05

Bearish on Russia?

Debka: Russian live-fire missile exercise near Alaska. Debka:
Not since 1984, just before the fall of the Soviet Union, has Russia ventured to launch dozens of nuclear bombers for an exercise in which Tu-95 Bear bombers will fire live cruise missiles. Exercise Stability 2008 will take place Oct.-6-12 over sub-Arctic Russia uncomfortably close to the US state of Alaska, and Belarus.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the exercise is part of a month-long war game described by Russian air force spokesman Col. Vladimir Drik as “practicing the strategic deployment of the armed forces including the nuclear triad.”

As part of the exercise, our sources reported exclusively on Oct. 1, that Russian ships armed with nuclear missiles will dock at Syrian ports Oct. 8, on the eve of Yom Kippur, before continuing to the Caribbean for joint maneuvers with Venezuela.

More than 60,000 troops and 1.500 tanks and APCs, as well as land-based and submarine-launched nuclear missiles, were tested in the first phase of the war games.

(“Nuclear triad” refers to three tiers of a national nuclear arsenal, usually strategic bombers armed with bombs or missiles, land-based missiles and ballistic missile submarines. These weapons must have a first- or second-strike capability.)

Col. Drik stressed that the Tu-95 and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers will “carry their maximum combat payload and fire all the cruise missiles on board.” Also taking part in the air force exercise are Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers, air superiority fighters, interceptors and aerial tankers.

The locations of the war games were deliberately chosen to underline three messages from Moscow to Washington:

1. Russian leaders are willing to brandish their nuclear strength in America’s face - to the north (Arctic) and south (Caribbean) – to challenge America’s position as the world’s No. 1 superpower.

2. Russia is powerful and rich enough to rise above the shockwaves rocking the world’s financial markets while carrying on developing its military muscle and expanding its spheres of influence.

3. By docking at the Syrian port of Tartus, the Peter the Great nuclear missile cruiser is Moscow’s marker on the Mediterranean to betoken the end of US Sixth Fleet’s sway. Last week, the Russian Navy united its Black Sea and Mediterranean fleet commands.

The Telegraph:
Over 60,000 troops and 1,500 tanks and armoured personnel carriers have taken part in the first fortnight of exercises. Land-based and submarine launched nuclear missiles have also been tested. Once the bombers have fired their cruise missiles next week, Russia will have carried out its first near-simultaneous test launches of all elements of its nuclear triad since the Cold War.

The has worried military observers critical of the Kremlin, who say the scope and character of the exercises does not gel with official explanations that they are designed to train the country's armed forces in counter-terrorism and military defence.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a respected military analyst, says the geographical reach of the exercises suggests that they are intended to simulate a nuclear war with the United States.

"Russia is preparing for the eventuality of a nuclear war," he said. "These are the most elaborate war games for 20 years and is clear evidence that we are returning to the Cold War."

Stratfor: 'Russia’s armed forces on Sept. 22 began conducting the “Stability-2008” strategic command staff exercises, Itar-Tass reported, citing the Russian Defense Ministry press service. The exercises are taking place under the command of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and will last until Oct. 21. Serdyukov said the exercises will be conducted in various areas of Russia and Belarus, with the cooperation of the Belarusian Defense Ministry.' More in Commentary section, below.

Helga and the cowboy. Bill Whittle has a terrific piece on an interview with an anti-islamist activist in Europe. He turns the America up to eleven, and then they get serious and learn why the hat - and the mask - cannot be taken off. I'm not going to try to explain - just read it.

Commentary. A post at the Small Wars Journal blog cites an article by Murray Feshbach in the Washington Post, which avers:
Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power. Sure, Russia's army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin's military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia's economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it's facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.

The Telegraph article quoted above seems to back up this assessment of Russia's military strength: 'Not everyone is convinced as the Kremlin appears to be that Russia will soon be as militarily competitive as it was in the Cold War. Despite some improvements, the armed forces – and especially the air force and navy – are still in woeful condition and would be incapable of challenging a medium-sized European country in a conventional war, analysts say.'

2008-10-03

Morning Report: 2008-10-03

Morning Report is going to skip the Palin/Biden debate. In other news ...

Debka: US warning to Syria on Lebanon. Debka:
Washington accompanied this warning to Damascus, DEBKAfile has learned, with its first explicit threat of military intervention to aid Lebanon should Syria go through with its planned incursion of the North.

The warning, according to our sources, was delivered on Sept. 28 by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to the Syrian foreign minister Walid Mualem whom she invited for an urgent meeting in New York. The day after they met, Mualem was handed a second warning by undersecretary of state David Welch, who specified precisely which Syrian movements the US government would deem crossing the Lebanese border.
The harsh words from the top two American diplomats left the Syrian minister with little option but to promise there would be no Syrian incursion. However, in a number of subsequent interviews, Mualem claimed his talks with the two American officials focused on Washington’s support for the indirect talks between Jerusalem and Damascus, a tale made of whole cloth.

In the week since Washington warned Damascus off, nothing has changed in the Syrian military deployment on the Lebanese, our military sources confirm.

Debka previously reported that 'Damascus is pressing forward with its plan to occupy Greater Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and port, DEBKAfile's military sources report. To this end, 10,000 Syrian commando troops have massed at Abboudieh on the Lebanese border ready to follow an advance force which occupied seven villages around the northern city earlier [in September] ...'.

Coalition forces nab 18 AQI suspects. MNF-Iraq: 'BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured one wanted man and detained 17 additional suspects during operations to degrade the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network throughout the country Thursday and Friday. Operations in Kirkuk Thursday netted four suspects believed to be associated with a regional AQI “emir.” An operation in the vicinity of Bayji, about 160 km south of Mosul, resulted in the capture of one wanted man assessed to be a local military “emir” for a terrorist organization associated with AQI. Two additional suspected terrorists were also detained during the operation. ...'

The dark hole of Gohardasht. Shir-o Khorshid Forever:
In the Name of Prosperity of Iran

It has been a long time since Mr. Mansour Radpour was taken to Section 1 of the Gohardasht Prison (Room 2), this section is also known as the “dark hole” where the prison is not allowed any time of outside contact including phone privileges or visitation.

I was also held in Section 1 of the Prison close to two months and know very well the types of torture Mr. Radpour is being subjected to. The guards in this section only “speak” to prisoners with their plastic and electrical baton’s. The prison is under 24 hour surveillance through a red camera in his cell. Also the prisoners are held with handcuffs at all times and sometimes their feet are cuffed as well.

In the Common ward of this section there are about 15-20 people who suffer from mental illnesses as well as infectious illnesses. These are prisoners who cannot be controlled and most prisoners prefer solitary cells to being in the same common ward as them.

Isn’t it time for the Iranian people and the human rights activists to force the officials of Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison to close the doors of this “dark hole” forever? The dark hole which is used to break down political prisoners and make them give up? ...

Long Live Iran Always
Behrouz Javid Tehrani
The last remaining political prisoner from July 1999 pro-democracy student demonstrations
Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison

Published by Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran

Translated by: Sayeh Hassan

Go to the link for full details.

A visit to the Rebbe. Van at Kesher Talk pays a Rosh haShanah visit to the last Lubavitcher Rebbe:
To think: who, truly, do I care about and want to mention in a written prayer, in this mystical time and place?

I wrote my letter, wishing for health and happiness, writing names in Hebrew and using mothers' names when I knew them. My son led the list, along with my brother, my late mother (Shirli bat Chava, which sounded close enough to Shirley daughter of Eva), and others who had suggested the visit, and those who I simply wished all good things for.

Afterward, the group from Stamford changed into plastic shoes and walked on a fenced-in path under grey skies to the building that had the tomb of the Rebbe and his father-in-law. Separate entrances for men and women separated people, although there was nothing like a mehitzah. I read Psalms 50, corresponding to my age, and then very quietly read my letter. People stood around a square pit, or tank, about 15 feet on each side, into which they placed their letters. I saw thousands of pieces of paper, mostly in Hebrew, nestled together in front of the headstones.

Go read it all.

Commentary. I never take Debka's reporting too seriously, but I'm encouraged by the claim that Washington is taking a strong stand on Lebanon.

2008-10-02

Morning Report: 2008-10-02

The new Bush Doctrine.

Rice meets Syrian FM. The Standard: 'Two days after George W. Bush criticized Syria as a state sponsor of terror in a speech at the United Nations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem in New York. The meeting was first reported in the Syrian state press which noted that it took place at Rice's request. Mouallen told Al Hayat that the meeting represented a softening of the US position on Syria. It's a fair reading. ...' Continue reading at the link. Key quote: "The new Bush Doctrine: You are either with us or against us. Or both. Whatever." More at Commentary section below.

Debka: Russian nuclear missile cruiser to dock at Syrian port on Erev Yom Kippur. Debka:
Russian Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo disclosed Wednesday, Oct. 1, that a four-ship squadron led by the Peter the Great nuclear missile cruiser will call in at the Libyan port of Tripoli and “other Middle East ports” before heading out to the Caribbean for joint maneuvers with Venezuela.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that one of those ports is Tartus, Syria, where preparations are afoot to receive the visiting Russian flotilla.

Peter the Great , one of the most advanced naval vessels afloat, may in fact anchor at the new facility the Russians are building at Syria’s second major port, Latakia, for its first visit to Syria; the rest of the squadron, the Admiral Chabanenko submarine, a reconnaissance vessel and a fourth ship, will dock at Tartus.

Peter the Great is designed to sink large surface vessels such as aircraft carriers. The ship’s Granit (Nato designated SS-N-19 Shipwreck) anti-ship cruise missiles (20 missile launchers) can destroy vessels up to 500 km distant in ripple-fire mode.

An S-300F defense missile complex is installed on Peter the Great , with 12 launchers and 96 vertical launch air defense missiles.

The Navy spokesman in Moscow said the Russian warships will perform maneuvers in the Mediterranean, without adding details. They will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar Sunday, Oct. 5, visit Tripoli next and on Oct, 8 or 9, put in at a Syrian port.

More at the link.

Pirates who seized Iranian ship show radiation poisoning signs. The Long War Journal, in an article referenced by Fox, notes:
A tense standoff is underway in northeastern Somalia between pirates, Somali authorities, and Iran over a suspicious merchant vessel and its mysterious cargo. Hijacked late last month in the Gulf of Aden, the MV Iran Deyanat remains moored offshore in Somali waters and inaccessible for inspection. Its declared cargo consists of minerals and industrial products, however, Somali and regional officials directly involved in the negotiations over the ship and who spoke to The Long War Journal are convinced that it was heading to Eritrea to deliver small arms and chemical weapons to Somalia's Islamist insurgents.

Fox has this:
As Somali pirates brazenly maintain their standoff with American warships off the coast of Africa, the cargo aboard one Iranian ship they commandeered is raising concerns that it may contain materials that can be used for chemical or biological weapons.

Some local officials suspect that instead of finding riches, the pirates encountered deadly chemical agents aboard the Iranian vessel.

Notice that there's no mention of nuclear material here. A little farther down, though, the article says:
Chemical experts say the reports sound inconsistent with chemical poisoning, but may reflect the effects of exposure to radiation.

"It's baffling," said Jonathan Tucker, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "I'm not aware of any chemical agent that produces loss of hair within a few days. That's more suggestive of high levels of radioactive waste."

The Bald-Headed Geek comments: 'If so, that means that the Iranians are apparently in the business of exporting things that could clearly be used in terrorist attacks (likely against us or our allies). If so, the Iranians have gone way over the line from just being a hostile adversary. They are now bordering on something much more ominous and dangerous, not only for us but for the world at large.'

McCain in the Blade. Via Log Cabin Republicans, the Washington Blade has a Q&A session with Senator John McCain on lesbian and gay issues.

Iraqis clean up Jewish cemetery in Basra. Gateway Pundit:
Iraqi-American and friend Haider Ajina sends this wonderful news from Azzaman news service in Iraq:

Cleaning up of Jewish cemetery in Basra
By Abed Battat
Azzaman, September 28, 2008

Municipal authorities in the southern city of Basra have mounted a campaign to clean up the Jewish cemetery there. The cemetery is seen as one of Basra’s ‘cultural landmarks’ and the authorities want to keep it clean and tidy, said Ahmad al-Yasseri who heads the cleaning-up campaign.

There are no Jews left in the city which used to house a sizeable Jewish community of tens of thousands before the creation of Israel in 1948. They were the finest goldsmiths and the most adventurous traders of Basra, known as the Venice of the Middle East. The lived in one of the city’s smartest (English use means nicest) quarters with spacious villas adorned with palm trees and oranges.

Yasseri said in the tumultuous post-Saddam period, 62 houses were built on the cemetery grounds illegally. “This cemetery is one of the cultural landmarks of Basra and we are determined to remove the illegal dwellings,” he said.

Read the rest at the link.

Commentary. Tony Bey breaks out his decoder ring and deciphers Mouallem's cheery talk of "security cooperation":
Decoder, please. The key term here is "security cooperation." Once you understand what this means, the statement's sinister implications become clear. To understand the reference points, whenever you hear that term, "cooperation," uttered by a Syrian official, always think along the lines of the "Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination" that the Syrian regime forced upon a vassal Lebanon under the boot of Syrian military occupation in 1991. That Treaty essentially codified the complete Syrian domination and dictating of Lebanese affairs. That's Assad's view of "normal" relations with Lebanon. As he put it earlier in the year, and again to recent visitors, the normal state of these relations, in Assad's mind, is "how they were a few years ago" -- i.e., when Syria military occupied Lebanon.

2008-08-31

Russia, Georgia, McCain, Palin

Dreams Into Lightning is back in action, with a roundup on some significant events from the past few weeks.

Russia invaded Georgia on August 8, seizing the province of South Ossetia. And rather than try to wade through tons of commentary and analysis, I'm just going to take you to the one guy I trust, the Portland-based blogger who's got box seats to the 21st-century world. Here's Michael Totten, who, as always, is on the scene:
TBILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Regional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms was recently hired by the Georgian government as a media advisor, and he explained to me exactly what happened when I met him in downtown Tbilisi. You should always be careful with the version of events told by someone on government payroll even when the government is as friendly and democratic as Georgia's. I was lucky, though, that another regional expert, author and academic Thomas Goltz, was present during Worms' briefing to me and signed off on it as completely accurate aside from one tiny quibble.

... “A key tool that the Soviet Union used to keep its empire together,” Worms said to me, “was pitting ethnic groups against one another. They did this extremely skillfully in the sense that they never generated ethnic wars within their own territory. But when the Soviet Union collapsed it became an essential Russian policy to weaken the states on its periphery by activating the ethnic fuses they planted. ...

Read the rest at Michael Totten: The Truth About Russia in Georgia.

And speaking of former Russian territories, Alaska governor Sarah Palin was named as Senator John McCain's running-mate. Via The Corner, here's Blackfive:
Alaska is the first line of defense in our missile interceptor defense system. The 49th Missile Defense Battalion of the Alaska National Guard is the unit that protects the entire nation from ballistic missile attacks. It’s on permanent active duty, unlike other Guard units.

As governor of Alaska, Palin is briefed on highly classified military issues, homeland security, and counterterrorism. Her exposure to classified material may rival even Biden's.

She's also the commander in chief of the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF), a federally recognized militia incorporated into Homeland Security's counterterrorism plans.

Palin is privy to military and intelligence secrets that are vital to the entire country's defense. Given Alaska's proximity to Russia, she may have security clearances we don't even know about.

According to the Washington Post, she first met with McCain in February, but nobody ever found out. This is a woman used to keeping secrets.

PrestoPundit:
In fact, Sarah Palin has more foreign policy executive experience than Joe Biden, John McCain, and Barack Obama combined. Among other things, Palin has negotiated an arrangement where by Alaska natural gas will be piped across the Canadian border and into the United States.

For MSM idiots who haven't looked at a map, Alaska has an international border with Canada, and is next door neighbors with the Russian Empire, and shares a fishing region with Japan and South Korea. A governor of a state the size and location of Alaska necessarily has all sorts of contacts and negotiations with foreign governments. It's part of what a governor of Alaska does.

2008-07-21

Millay: Make Bright the Arrows

Peace was my earliest love, and I presume

Will be my latest; but today, adult,

Arguing not to prove but for result

Opposing concepts in this thoughtful room,

I wonder at whose prompting, schooled by whom

I urged that Peace the Slogan, Peace the Cult,

Could turn the edge of sledge and catapult

And leave us calm to cull the grafted bloom.

In all my life I never knew a thing

So highly prized to be so cheaply had:

Longing to wed with Peace, what did we do?—

Sketched her a fortress on a paper pad;

Under her casement twanged a lovesick string;

Left wide the gate that let her foemen through.

If these lines from Edna St. Vincent Millay don't ring a bell with you, you're not alone. They're from one of her last published collections, Make Bright the Arrows. The mature Millay's work did not go over well with the WWII-era literati and intellectuals. I'll let Answers.com explain:
Carelessly expressed outrage at fascism detracted from Make Bright the Arrows (1940); The Murder of Lidice (1942) was a sincere but somewhat strident response to the Nazis' obliteration of a Czechoslovakian town. She was losing her audience; Collected Sonnets (1941) and Collected Lyrics (1943) did not win it back.

(The same article pronounces Millay's 1921 play Aria da Capo "a delicate but effective satire on war.")

A bit more to-the-point was this 1940 review in Time, which vividly likened the poet to "a lady octopus caught in a whirlpool."

But it was Edna St. Vincent Millay who understood, in 1940, that There Are No Islands Anymore:
And oh, how sweet a thing to be
Safe on an island, not at sea!
(Though someone said, some months ago—
I heard him, and he seemed to know;
Was it the German Chancellor?
"There are no islands any more.")

She also understood the Intelligence Test that confronted her generation:
Q: What, if anything, would you do
To keep your country free?... A: Lay
Down my life! Q: You? You mean you'd die?
A: Certainly. (Chorus: That's a lie.)
Q: For your country's defense, how much would you give,—
If it weren't taxed out of you, I mean. A: All that I have. ...

If, like me, you read and loved "Renascence", you might resonate with the burden of understanding that comes to the "probing sense" of the older poet in these passages.

I'll leave it to you to make your own judgments about Edna St. Vincent Millay's late works. Here's one last selection, a sonnet from Huntsman, What Quarry?
His stalk the dark delphinium

Unthorned into the tending hand

Releases . . . yet that hour will come . . .

And must, in such a spiny land.

The silky powdery mignonette

Before these gathering dews are gone

May pierce me — does the rose regret

The day she did her armor on?

In that the foul supplants the fair,

The coarse defeats the twice-refined,

Is food for thought, but not despair:

All will be easier when the mind

To meet the brutal age has grown

An iron cortex of its own.

2008-06-29

Anti-Obama Blogs

The following is a partial list of blogs against Barack Obama:

McCain Democrats

Blue Lyon

Hillary or Bust

NOBAMA

The Political Lizard Annex

Reflections in Tyme

Dreams Into Lightning

Dreams Into Lightning endorses John McCain for President, 2008.

2008-06-19

2008-04-22

73,380

Total hits to date on DiL - Blogger: 73,380.

Thank you, and keep 'em coming.

2008-04-20

Four Years

Tomorrow, April 21, marks four years of posting at Dreams Into Lightning and four years here on Blogger. The main site for this blog is now Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad, which has been in action for two years.

Since I started posting on TypePad, I've been cross-posting here more or less regularly, to maintain Dreams Into Lightning - Blogger as a backup and archive site.

I'm now going to discontinue my practice of copying identical posts from TypePad to Blogger. This site will remain up, but posting will be less frequent and will consist of summaries of, and links to, my most important posts at DiL - TypePad.

Thanks for visitng, and if you haven't done so yet, please bookmark Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad as the main location for this blog.

2008-04-15

Morning Report: April 15, 2008

Our friends in the Middle East lend a hand; Tehran top cop's friends get him jail time.

Iraqi army rescues British journalist in Basra. Talisman Gate:
Richard Butler, a British journalist working for CBS News, was auspiciously rescued today by an Iraqi Army unit that had been conducting a security sweep through a once-volatile Basra neighborhood—one that was until recently dominated by militants—in which he had been held captive since February 10.

I mean if any event could be seen as a send-up to how western reporters have covered Operation Cavalry Charge in Basra, then this would be it!

Instead of praying for Butler’s safety, instead of taking a stand on right and wrong, the foreign press threw their sympathies behind the outlaws; those western reporters did not hold candle-lit vigils for their kidnapped comrade, since professional solidarity can’t hold a candle to the venality of Bush hatred. It was far more important for these journalists to root for the Sadrist-related criminal cartels that are being targeted by the continuing military operations in Basra and elsewhere than to admit that Iraq may be fixing itself, and may not, after all, turn into the ‘fiasco’ they’ve been heralding with certainty for so long.


Tehran police chief jailed in sex scandal. That Iranian cop who was busted a couple of weeks ago with six naked women is heading to jail. Fox: 'Local media have reported that the police chief, Gen. Reza Zarei, was taken to jail after he was caught last month with six nude women by a police raid on an underground local brothel. He was also forced to resign. Local Web sites have also extensively reported the case in recent weeks.'

IraqPundit on Chalabi. IraqPundit: 'One of McClatchy's reporter wonders what Chalabi is doing at a funeral in Moktada's turf. Chalabi is welcome there for many reasons. He is welcome because he has been the liaison between the Sadrists and the government pretty much all along. And, he is welcome because the Middle East values a member of a prominent family paying respects at a funeral.' Read the full post at the link.

US, Israel link missile defense systems. Debka:
Israel requested the hook-up to the BMEWS for early warning to defend itself against Iranian missile attack. Tuesday, April 15, Iran’s deputy C-in-C Mohammad Reza Ashtiani threatened to eliminate Israel from “the scene of the universe” if it launches a military attack on the Islamic state.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report the system operates from three global centers – the US Thule Air Base in Greenland, where the 12th Space Warning Squadron is located; the Clear Air Force Station in Alaska and the British RAF long-range radar station at Fylingdales, Yorkshire, in England.

This is the third time Israel has been connected to the BMEWS. The first was in 1991 before the first Gulf War and the second in 2003 before the US invasion of Iraq. Then, Israel feared Iraqi missile attack, which indeed materialized in 1991. Now, US military sources interpret the request as signifying Israel’s sense of the need to prepare for an Iranian missile attack in the not-too-distant future.

Such an attack could develop from a US or Israeli strike against Iran, or any war situation involving Israel, Syria or Hizballah. Tehran might also stage a pre-emptive strike if early intelligence was received of an impending US or Israeli attack on Iran, Syria or Hizballah.


Commentary. The Belmont Club links Michael Totten's article on Fallujah, "Iraq's meanest city".
The results of the Anbar Awakening and the surge are plain to see. Since the Fifth Marine Regiment’s Third Battalion rotated into Fallujah in September 2007, not a single American has been wounded there, let alone killed. Hardly anyone even tries to start a fight now. A handful of people have taken potshots at Marines; one man threw a hand grenade in the neighborhood of Dubat; some fool blew himself up when the Iraqi police caught him planting an IED outside their station. Every attack has been ineffective. Of all Iraq’s cities, only nearby Ramadi has experienced so many dramatic changes in so short a time.

Go read it all.