Monday, December 11, 2006

When Iraqi's Don't Count

Sunni and Shiite Insurgents Remain Mystery to U.S., Iraq Report Charges

on one day in July, American officials in Iraq reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence, but the study group's review found that 1,100 violent acts actually occurred that day. "The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said.

For example, the report said that a killing of an Iraqi might not be counted by American officials as an attack, and that sectarian violence was not included in American databases if the source of the attack could not be determined. In addition, it said, "a roadside bomb or a rocket

Published: December 11, 2006
The U.S. still does not understand the enemy that American troops are fighting, according to the Iraq Study Group's report.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 — Nearly four years after the invasion of Iraq, the United States still does not understand the enemy that American troops are fighting, according to last week's report by the Iraq Study Group.

The commission's final report harshly criticized United States intelligence officials for failing to answer basic questions about the nature of the Sunni insurgency or the increasingly powerful Shiite militias, both of which pose grave threats to American forces.

The intelligence community has had some success hunting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the report found, but that terrorist organization is small and is not the main enemy confronting American troops. The far bigger Sunni insurgency and Shiite militias are still largely mysteries to American intelligence, according to the report.

"While the United States has been able to acquire good and sometimes superb tactical intelligence on Al Qaeda in Iraq, our government still does not understand very well either the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias," the report said. It said that American intelligence agencies were "not doing enough to map the insurgency, dissect it, and understand it on a national and provincial level" and that intelligence analysts' "knowledge of the organization, leadership, financing, and operations of militias, as well as their relationship to government security forces, also falls far short of what policy makers need to know."

The study group's findings echo complaints quietly voiced in recent months by a number of current and former American officials, who have warned of the failure by American intelligence officers in Iraq to adequately penetrate the Sunni insurgency. These officials say the level of violence in Baghdad makes it extremely difficult for American intelligence officers to move around the country to gather information, and as a result they rely far too heavily on Iraqis who come to them in the Green Zone or to other major American bases, and on information from the intelligence service of the new Iraqi government.

That leaves the Central Intelligence Agency and American military intelligence vulnerable to manipulation by Iraqis who feed the Americans disinformation because they have an ax to grind or simply as a way to make money by selling information to the United States.

The report quoted an unidentified United States intelligence analyst who told the Iraq Study Group that "we rely too much on others to bring information to us" and "do not understand the context of what we are told."

Bureaucratic obstacles in the American government and a failure by the Bush administration to make the issue a top priority have left the United States with gaping holes in its understanding of the insurgency, the report found.

For example, the report found that the Defense Intelligence Agency rotates its analysts from one posting to another so frequently that few develop any real depth of understanding of the insurgency. "We were told that there are fewer than 10 analysts on the job at the Defense Intelligence Agency who have more than two years' experience in analyzing the insurgency," the report said. "Capable analysts are rotated to new assignments, and on-the-job training begins anew. Agencies must have a better personnel system to keep analytic expertise focused on the insurgency."

An agency spokesman disputed the numbers used by the report and said that the agency had "hundreds of analysts focused on the Iraq situation," adding that a "considerable number of experienced analysts are forward deployed and are directly working the counterterrorism-insurgency issues."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has not sought to significantly improve on-the-ground intelligence about the enemy, the report said. "The Defense Department and the intelligence community have not invested sufficient people and resources to understand the political and military threat to American men and women in the armed forces," the report said. "Congress has appropriated almost $2 billion this year for countermeasures to protect our troops in Iraq against improvised explosive devices, but the administration has not put forward a request to invest comparable resources in trying to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode those devices."

The study group recommended that the director of national intelligence and the defense secretary "devote significantly greater analytic resources to the task of understanding the threats and sources of violence in Iraq."

At the same time, the study group found that United States officials had underreported the level of violence in Iraq, providing misleading information to American leaders and the public about the scale of the problem facing American troops.

The study group determined that on one day in July, American officials in Iraq reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence, but the study group's review found that 1,100 violent acts actually occurred that day. "The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said.

For example, the report said that a killing of an Iraqi might not be counted by American officials as an attack, and that sectarian violence was not included in American databases if the source of the attack could not be determined. In addition, it said, "a roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

"Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals," the report stated.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Wrong Questions

Quizzing Robert Gates - New York Times:

“Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s nominee to succeed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee tomorrow for his confirmation hearing. We asked six defense and foreign-policy experts to tell us what questions the senators should ask.”

In Ursula K. LeGuin's novel ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ a religious group, the Handara had a sying that has stuck with me over the decades, “There is nothing as perfectly useless as the right answer to the wrong question.” As far as I'm concerned, the entire Iraq debacle is the result of asking the wrong questions and often failing to accept the answers to them. Especially, if they conflict with an unquestioned ideology.

Here are their categories:
The Next Attack
Rights vs. Realism
Life With the Chiefs
You and Tehran
An Anti-Rumsfeld

Here are mine:
War on a tactic
Facts and fictions
How to take the hill, or which hill to take
Affected Parties
At what point do you resign

We aren't even asking the right categories of questions.

Lives, American, Iraqi, Coalition are at stake.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We could benefit from looking in a mirror

“ What I thought was the greatest expression of the American character in my lifetime occurred in the immediate aftermath of those catastrophic attacks. The country came together in the kind of resolute unity that I imagined was similar to the feeling most Americans felt after Pearl Harbor. We soon knew who the enemy was, and there was remarkable agreement on what needed to be done. Americans were united and the world was with us.

For a brief moment.

The invasion of Iraq marked the beginning of the change in the American character. During the Cuban missile crisis, when the hawks were hot for bombing — or an invasion — Robert Kennedy counseled against a U.S. first strike. That’s not something the U.S. would do, he said.

Fast-forward 40 years or so and not only does the U.S. launch an unprovoked invasion and occupation of a small nation — Iraq — but it does so in response to an attack inside the U.S. that the small nation had nothing to do with.

Who are we?

Another example: There was a time, I thought, when there was general agreement among Americans that torture was beyond the pale. But when people are frightened enough, nothing is beyond the pale. And we’re in an era in which the highest leaders in the land stoke — rather than attempt to allay — the fears of ordinary citizens. Islamic terrorists are equated with Nazi Germany. We’re told that we’re in a clash of civilizations.If, as President Bush says, we’re engaged in “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,” why isn’t the entire nation mobilizing to meet this dire threat?

Where are we?

The president put us on this path away from the better angels of our nature, and he has shown no inclination to turn back. Lately he has touted legislation to try terror suspects in a way that would make a mockery of the American ideals of justice and fairness. To get a sense of just how far out the administration’s approach has been, consider the comments of Brig. Gen. James Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines. Speaking at a Congressional hearing last week, he said no civilized country denies defendants the right to see the evidence against them. The United States, he said, “should not be the first.”

And Senator Lindsey Graham, a conservative South Carolina Republican who is a former military judge, said, “It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them.”

How weird is it that this possibility could even be considered?

What have we done?

The character of the U.S. has changed. We’re in danger of being completely ruled by fear. Most Americans have not shared the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Very few Americans are aware, as the Center for Constitutional Rights tells us, that of the hundreds of men held by the U.S. in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, many “have never been charged and will never be charged because there is no evidence justifying their detention.”

Even fewer care.

We could benefit from looking in a mirror, and absorbing the shock of not recognizing what we’ve become.

Knowing how we appear might, just might, allow us to see others as people too. For example, lately the media has been playing up the idea that the real problem in Iraq is the actions of Shiite militias. It's time to point out that the Shia have been murdered in wholesale lots but didn't start retaliating until last year. The Sunnis seem to have no problem killing men, women or children, but the Shia retaliation seems to be limited to grown men. That's somehow made them monsters responsible for all of Iraq's instability. Their actions are deplorable, but they don't exist in a vacuum, other than the absence of any sense that the coalition cared about their security, or their lives.

…We made the militias possible, and strengthened them.

Worse, we made them necessary.

For all our talk about democracy, when the majority won we insisted on a place for the losers who had refused to participate in the election. The losers who at that time and still are the primary threat to our men and women who serve.

Unfortunately, even then we were blaming Shiite Iran for the IEDs built from the ammo dumps and sites under UN seal that, unlike the Oil Ministry, we refused to guard after Saddam was toppled.

We broke Iraq, but we seem determined to make the regions Shia pay the price.…

Monday, November 20, 2006

AP Gets Shocking New Report on Gitmo

AP Gets Shocking New Report on Gitmo

The U.S. military called no witnesses, withheld evidence from detainees and usually reached a decision within a day as it determined that hundreds of men detained at Guantanamo Bay were "enemy combatants," according to a new report.

The analysis of transcripts and records by two lawyers for Guantanamo detainees, aided by more than two dozen law students, found that hearings that determined whether a prisoner should remain in custody gave the accused little opportunity to contest allegations against him.

"These were not hearings. These were shams," said Mark Denbeaux, an attorney and Seton Hall University law professor who along with his son, Joshua, is the author of the report. They provided an advance copy of the report to The Associated Press late Thursday and planned to release it Friday on the Internet.

Their report, based on an analysis of records of military hearings of 393 detainees, comes as the U.S. government seeks to severely restrict detainee access to civilian courts, arguing that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals should be their main legal recourse.

According to the report, the representatives said nothing in the hearings 14 percent of the time and made no "substantive" comments in 30 percent. In some cases, the representative appeared to advocate the government's position, the report said.

The report is based on transcripts of tribunals that the government first released earlier this year in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press as well additional records provided by lawyers for 102 Guantanamo detainees.

Among their findings:

--The government did not produce any witnesses in any hearing.

--The military denied all detainee requests to inspect the classified evidence against them.

--The military refused all requests for defense witnesses who were not detained at Guantanamo.

Are we protecting America or are we destroying what America stands for?

You tell me …

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blogger Zeyad A.: Western Media Missing Human Perspective in Iraq

Blogger Zeyad A.: Western Media Missing Human Perspective in Iraq: "By David S. Hirschman

Published: October 07, 2006 3:00 PM ET

The celebrated blog Healing Iraq has chronicled daily life in Baghdad since October of 2003,

Speaking at the Online News Association's annual convention in Washington, Iraqi dentist-turned-blogger Zeyad A. called local blogs a "main source of information" in Iraq, and said that Western media coverage was becoming more and more limited by increasing violence. He said Saturday that the Western media is missing a human perspective in its coverage of his country, and suggested reporters focus less on the government and more on what is being written on blogs by ordinary Iraqis."

"Over the last year [the Western Media have not been] covering how bad it is," he said. "Most of the coverage revolves around attacks against American forces. ... They're missing the sectarian violence that is going on in the country. It's extrememly difficult for the Western media to get those stories because they have to be in the [local] neighborhoods." He said that most Western reporters are "locked up" in certain parts of Baghdad, only able to file stories generated by local stringers (much as New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins described in a recent E&P story).

Western reporters put a disproportionate focus on "irrelevant" news about the Iraqi government. "[The government] doesn't control anything," he said. "It doesn't even control the Green Zone."

Zeyad said the media reports should try to put more focus on the Iraqi people, and, in particular, on the stories they share on blogs and other online forums.

"You get a great insight," he said, referring to blog entries from an 18-year-old Iraqi girl who describes her daily routine of passing through checkpoints simply to get to school.

"You can put a face on it."

Zeyad a Baghdad native, began blogging in 2003 -- for a mostly Western audience -- to give the kind of on-the-ground perspective missing in Western news reports. He collected information from family and friends, read as many local blogs as he could, wrote about demonstrations and events in his neighborhood, take and posted both pictures and commentary.

"I thought I could spare an hour every day and write about what was going on," he said. "[The blog medium] was very appropriate. It's immediate, you can write about things as they happen, you can post photos immediately, and there's no editing."

The early blog entries were, mostly, positive, about his hopes for democracy in Iraq, and, he developed a following of people who shared his views. Until Zeyad wrote about the death of his cousin, caught by American troops violating curfew, who drowned after being pushed into a river by the troops. One soldier received prison time for his part in the incident. The story was picked up by media around the world.

The more critical of the U.S. Zeyad turned in his posts, the more he became the object of criticism. "I realized that some people were supporting me just because I was telling them what they wanted to hear. When I started saying something different, I lost some of that support."

While blogging in Iraq, Zeyad was fearful for his life, and carefully reviewed his posts to make sure he wasn't revealing too much about himself or where he was. A synopsis of Zeyad's blogging is found at the Web site Hearing Zeyad..

About the current situation in Baghdad, Zeyad describes violence both random and fierce, mortar shells shot each night by Sunnis and Shiites into one another's neighborhoods, young people with machine guns spraying bullets in the street. Small gangs kidnap and murder people from rival neighborhoods.

Asked if he called the situation in his country a "civil war," he pointed to what he had described and said the answer depended on whether those conditions could be called a "civil war."

"I think that's a civil war," he said. "I don't know why the media does not use that word."

Zeyad is currently living in New York, where he is studying at the City University of New York's recently founded graduate school of journalism. He said he hopes to develop his reporting and editing skills so that he can later go back to his country (or to Jordan) and teach others.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Federal Case? Federal Property?

Josh Wolf: video blogger at the center of controversy over journalists' rights:
“Wolf’s willingness to go to prison rather than turn over unpublished video of a July, 2005 anti-globalization protest in San Francisco to a federal grand jury has earned him the support of journalists and civil liberties advocates across the United States. Prosecutors say they need the video outtakes to help them determine how a police officer was injured and a police car was damaged. Wolf and his lawyers say the video contains no information about the alleged crimes, and that as a journalist, he should not be compelled to turn them over. Further, they charge, the prosecutors' actions in this case endanger not only the First Amendment rights of journalists, but the civil liberties of ordinary citizens with dissident political views.”

“After a six-month court battle that has gone as for as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Wolf was imprisoned on charges of civil contempt on September 22, 2006 at the Federal Correctional facility in Dublin, California.
Normally, they maintain, such a case would be tried at the state or local level, where California's shield law would apply. That law protects journalists from being required to disclose unpublished
information gathered for a news story. According to news reports, federal prosecutors say the case falls within their jurisdiction because the San Francisco Police Department receives federal funding and thus, the damaged police car is federal property. In an
August, 2006 interview, Wolf asked, "If an S.F. police vehicle is considered federal property, then what isn't federal property?"

"As unconventional and non-traditional as [Josh Wolf's] work in journalism may be in many respects, he is contesting an age-old argument... and that's that journalists never should be arms of law enforcement," says Christine Tatum, president of the Society of Professional Journalists. "Josh has, at great personal cost, taken quite a stand – an admirable stand, and he has said..., 'I am not divulging unpublished, unedited, unaired material...for a grand jury's review. And we stand wholeheartedly behind him."

So much so that the SPJ donated $30,000 for Wolf's legal fees and convinced his lawyers to cap those fees at $60,000. Tatum said the grant is SPJ's largest-ever award from its legal defense fund.

According to an e-mail from Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, "The incident is under investigation so that the [Grand Jury] can determine what, if any, crimes were committed... As we have argued in our court filings, the GJ is therefore entitled as a matter of law to all of the evidence in Wolf's possession related to the demonstration. Six separate judges or panels have now ruled unequivocally that we have lawfully issued a subpoena for a legitimate investigative purposes, and that the material in question should be furnished to the grand jury."

The case law on journalists' efforts to withhold information from grand juries rarely favors reporters. The most frequently cited precedent is Branzburg v. Hayes, a 1972 Supreme Court case in which it was determined that, with rare exceptions, journalists have no greater protection than other citizens when it comes to complying with a grand jury. The exceptions are when the prosecutor's actions can be reasonably considered harassment, or when disclosure would violate the journalists' Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Coincidentally, at the time Branzburg was handed down, the presiding judge in Wolf case, William Alsup, clerked for Justice William O. Douglas, author of a key Branzburg dissent. Douglas wrote:

"Forcing a reporter before a grand jury will have two retarding effects upon the ear and the pen of the press. Fear of exposure will cause dissidents to communicate less openly to trusted reporters. And fear of accountability will cause editors and critics to write with more restrained pens."

However, in a redacted transcript of Wolf's June 15, 2006 hearing before Alsup, the Judge departed from Douglas' view, declaring, "The U.S. Supreme Court said there is no journalist newsman's privilege under the First Amendment."

For Wolf's supporters, one of the major problems with his case is the fact that it's being prosecuted in Federal court. Normally, they maintain, such a case would be tried at the state or local level, where California's shield law would apply. That law protects journalists from being required to disclose unpublished information gathered for a news story. According to news reports, federal prosecutors say the case falls within their jurisdiction because the San Francisco Police Department receives federal funding and thus, the damaged police car is federal property. In an August, 2006 interview, Wolf asked, "If an S.F. police vehicle is considered federal property, then what isn't federal property?" ”

Is this a Republican Administration or Marxist?

It sure isn't American.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A New Strategy on Insurgency - Years Too Late

Military Hones a New Strategy on Insurgency - New York Times:

The doctrine warns against some of the practices used early in the war, when the military operated without an effective counterinsurgency playbook. It cautions against overly aggressive raids and mistreatment of detainees. Instead it emphasizes the importance of safeguarding civilians and restoring essential services, and the rapid development of local security forces.

“The doctrine warns against some of the practices used early in the war, when the military operated without an effective counterinsurgency playbook. It cautions against overly aggressive raids and mistreatment of detainees. Instead it emphasizes the importance of safeguarding civilians and restoring essential services, and the rapid development of local security forces.…

The doctrine is outlined in a new field manual on counterinsurgency that is to be published next month. But recent drafts of the unclassified documents have been made available to The New York Times, and military officials said that the major elements of final version would not change.

The spirit of the document is captured in nine paradoxes that reflect the nimbleness required to win the support of the people and isolate insurgents from their potential base of support — a task so complex that military officers refer to it as the graduate level of war.

Instead of massing firepower to destroy Republican Guard troops and other enemy forces, as was required in the opening weeks of the invasion of Iraq, the draft manual emphasizes the importance of minimizing civilian casualties. “The more force used, the less effective it is,” it notes.

“The more force used, the less effective it is,”

Stressing the need to build up local institutions and encourage economic development, the manual cautions against putting too much weight on purely military solutions. “Tactical success guarantees nothing,” it says.

“Tactical success guarantees nothing,”

Noting the need to interact with the people to gather intelligence and understand the civilians’ needs, the doctrine cautions against hunkering down at large bases. “The more you protect your force, the less secure you are,” it asserts.

“The more you protect your force, the less secure you are,”

The military generally turned its back on counterinsurgency operations after the Vietnam War. The Army concentrated on defending Europe against a Soviet attack. The Marines were focused on expeditionary operations in the third world.

“Basically, after Vietnam, the general attitude of the American military was that we don’t want to fight that kind of war again,” said Conrad C. Crane, the director of the military history institute at the Army War College, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and one of the principal drafters of the new doctrine. “The Army’s idea was to fight the big war against the Russians and ignore these other things.”

A common assumption was that if the military trained for major combat operations, it would be able to easily handle less violent operations like peacekeeping and counterinsurgency. But that assumption proved to be wrong in Iraq; in effect, the military without an up-to-date doctrine. Different units improvised different approaches. The failure by civilian policy makers to prepare for the reconstruction of Iraq compounded the problem.

The limited number of forces was also a constraint. To mass enough troops to storm Falluja, an insurgent stronghold, in 2004, American commanders drew troops from Haditha, another town in western Iraq. Insurgents took advantage of the Americans’ limited numbers to attack the police there. Iraqi policemen were executed, dealing a severe setback to efforts to build a local force.

Frank G. Hoffman, a retired Marine infantry officer who works as a research fellow at an agency at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., said that in 2005, the Marines sometimes lacked sufficient forces to safeguard civilians. As a result, while these forces were often effective ‘in neutralizing an identifiable foe, they could not stay and work with the population the way the classical counterinsurgency would suggest.’”

We've almost lost as many soldiers in Iraq as we lost people on September 11, 2001. When we invaded in 2003 most Americans believed that there were Iraqis on board the planes that attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Center. A large number of the troops on the ground believed it too.

We didn't do the basic preparation. Now we're finding, and paying, the high price of doing over what could have been done right. Thousands, of ours, too late. Tens of thousands, of Iraqis, too late. Maybe too late to accomplish any goal at all.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Emperors Anonymous

The 12 Suggested Steps of Emperors Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over reality -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that the Constitution was greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the faithful execution of our Constitutional duties as we understood them.
  4. Made a searching and fearless legal inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to the public being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, including the detained, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with reality, as we understood it, praying only for knowledge of what the facts are and the power to act justly based on them.
  12. Having awakened to the real world as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other power gluttons, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What Do We Know?

“More than 1,000 Lebanese, most of them civilians, have now been killed in the hostilities, the Lebanese government has said. Some 122 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have also been killed. ”

It may be time to let some facts get in the way of our stated objectives.

We know the ‘terorrists’ are killing mostly soldiers, while our ‘democratic ally’ is killing civilians wholesale.

"Hostage-taking is a war crime,"said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "No domestic legislation can change that."

We know the justification is that we can't allow ‘terorrists’ to hold hostages, but are soldiers captured in a raid, hostages or are they POWs? We also know that the US government has no problems with Israel holding hostages. It seems to have no problems with Israel clling the people they hold hostages, but maybe it's just that they only disagree with Israel behind closed doors, rather than publicly.

let some facts get in the way of our stated objectives

‘terorrists’ are killing mostly soldiers, while our ‘democratic ally’ is killing civilians wholesale

Accountability for War Crimes
Some combatants in the southern Lebanon conflict may be responsible for war crimes or other serious violations of humanitarian law. The Lebanese government has a responsibility to track down, investigate, and prosecute them. So does the Israeli government, and indeed the government of any country that abides by the principles of international humanitarian law.

August 10, 2006

The continuing toll of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is enormous and warrants the attention of this special session of the Human Rights Council: hundreds of civilians, many of them children, have been killed, essential infrastructure has been destroyed, and millions of lives have been disrupted. Serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) have been committed by both Israel and Hezbollah. The victims deserve more than rhetoric, though: they require that this Council take concrete and constructive steps to help end their suffering. To be effective, those steps must address the roles and responsibilities of all parties. If this Council neglects to consider the full conflict, and looks at violations of international law only by Israel while ignoring violations by Hezbollah, its pronouncements will lack credibility and be futile.

Israeli air and artillery strikes

28 people were killed in Qana on July 30, eleven died in the July 16 bombing of a civilian home in Aitaroun; and another eleven were killed when an apartment building was destroyed in Tyre that same day. There is no evidence to suggest in any of these cases that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

Since the beginning of the armed conflict on July 12, Israel has carried out more than 5000 air strikes over Lebanon, and fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon, killing over 600 Lebanese civilians, and wounding thousands. During that same period, Hezbollah has fired over 2500 rockets into Israel, killing 36 Israeli civilians, and wounding hundreds more. Since the start of the hostilities, Human Rights Watch (HRW) researchers have been on the ground documenting the conduct of both warring parties and the impact of their misconduct on civilians.…

By failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. Under IHL, parties to an armed conflict must not make the civilian population the object of attack, or fire indiscriminately into civilian areas. Nor can they launch attacks that they know will cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects that exceeds the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Such attacks constitute war crimes. For example, HRW has found that 28 people were killed in Qana on July 30, eleven died in the July 16 bombing of a civilian home in Aitaroun; and another eleven were killed when an apartment building was destroyed in Tyre that same day. There is no evidence to suggest in any of these cases that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have consistently blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants. Israeli government officials have argued that after Israel ordered civilians to evacuate southern Lebanon, only people associated with Hezbollah remain, and thus are legitimate targets of attack. Under international law, however, only civilians directly participating in hostilities lose their immunity from attack. Many civilians have been unable to flee because they are sick, wounded, do not have the means to leave, are providing essential civil services, or lack a safe route for their departure. HRW has documented 27 deaths that resulted when civilians came under attack as they attempted to flee southern Lebanon, as well as two Israeli air strikes on humanitarian aid vehicles. This week, Israel has warned that any vehicle moving south of the Litani River will be targeted as they may be carrying rockets or other military equipment. Such an approach presents a clear violation of IHL, as it presumes that civilian objects are valid military targets without properly making such a determination.

HRW also documented the IDF’s firing of artillery shells with cluster munitions into civilian areas. Due to their wide dispersal pattern and their high failure rate, HRW believes that cluster munitions should never be used in or near populated areas.

Although our investigations are still ongoing, HRW has collected evidence that Hezbollah has stored weapons in or near civilian homes and that fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers. These are serious violations of IHL because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. If done for the purpose of shielding military assets behind civilians, they are war crimes. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force in other situations where civilians were killed and there was no evidence of a Hezbollah presence at the time of the Israeli attack. HRW researchers documented 153 civilian deaths in the first weeks of the conflict – more than one-third of the total Lebanese civilian deaths during that period – in which we found no evidence of Hezbollah forces or weapons present in or near the area during or just prior to the IDF attack.

Hezbollah rocket attacks

As noted, more than 2,500 rockets have been fired into northern Israel. While Hezbollah claims that some of its attacks are aimed at military targets, most of the rocket attacks appear to have been directed at civilian areas and have hit pedestrians, hospitals, schools, homes and businesses. As the weapons being used by Hezbollah lack a guidance system, they are inherently indiscriminate and should never be directed at civilian areas.

Human Rights Watch has also documented violations of IHL by Hezbollah, including a pattern of deliberate attacks on civilians which amount to war crimes. As noted, more than 2,500 rockets have been fired into northern Israel. While Hezbollah claims that some of its attacks are aimed at military targets, most of the rocket attacks appear to have been directed at civilian areas and have hit pedestrians, hospitals, schools, homes and businesses.
As the weapons being used by Hezbollah lack a guidance system, they are inherently indiscriminate and should never be directed at civilian areas. By firing these rockets at civilian areas, Hezbollah has violated the obligation of IHL that requires attackers to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. For example, HRW documented rocket attacks that damaged Safed and Nahariya hospitals in northern Israel and injured patients in the former. In the absence of armed troops or military assets inside, hospitals must never be attacked, and attacking them deliberately is a war crime.…

Maybe we should say that any war of choice is a crime.

Lebanese Detainees in Khiam Prison and Israel
Some 140 Lebanese men and women are currently being held without charge in Khiam prison in the occupied zone. Some of the detainees have been imprisoned since 1986. This notorious facility, where torture is endemic, is a joint enterprise of Israel and the SLA.

Israeli human rights lawyers have petitioned Israel's Supreme Court for the release of twenty-five Khiam prisoners, arguing that Israel is ultimately responsible for Khiam. Ha'aretz (April 13) has reported the possibility that some of the prisoners will be transferred to Israel, a step which would violate international humanitarian law. In Israel's Supreme Court on April 17, state prosecutor Malchiel Blass indicated that Israel considered the Khiam detainees a responsibility of the SLA.

Since at least 1989, Israel has held Lebanese inside Israel as hostages to gain the return of missing Israeli soldiers. Of the twenty-one Lebanese who were held hostage in Israel, eight had been transferred to Israel from Khiam prison. Many of the hostages have alleged torture in Israeli custody, and in March Israeli courts agreed to hear Mustafa al-Dirani's petition for compensation for torture that included rape. Torture and hostage-taking for any reason are both war crimes.

On April 12 the Supreme Court overturned its 1997 ruling that Israel could hold Lebanese as "bargaining chips," saying that Israeli law did not allow administrative detention of an individual who "does not pose a threat to the security of the State of Israel." Despite this new ruling, Israel continues to hold Mustafa al-Dirani and Sheikh `Abd al-Karim `Obeid hostage, and on April 18 Israel's "security cabinet" unanimously voted to seek new legislation to allow Israel to detain Lebanese it deemed a threat to security. Israeli law already allows the detention of individuals who threaten state security, raising speculation that the new law will be used to hold a new group of Lebanese, possibly from Khiam.

Israel should release immediately all Lebanese it holds as hostages and compensate them for their unlawful detention. Individuals responsible for torture should be prosecuted, and their victims compensated.

Israeli Government Efforts to Sidestep Court Illegal

Human Rights Watch has documented grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions by SLA forces, including torture and expulsion of civilians from the Israeli-occupied zone. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, Gen. Lahd, the SLA commander, can be held responsible for such acts by troops under his command, if he took part in them, ordered them, or tolerated them. Gen. Lahd is widely expected to relocate to France, and may in fact hold a French passport. If indeed he takes up residence there, the French government should undertake an investigation.

Israel, as the Occupying Power in the "security zone," is ultimately responsible for its own actions as well as those of its local Lebanese military auxiliary, including grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Israel directly arms and finances the SLA. In April 1998, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for National Security, in announcing Israel's acceptance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 (1978), referred to the occupied zone as "territories under IDF control." The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Liaison Unit to Lebanon, commanded by an Israeli military officer with the rank of brigadier general, reportedly directs Israeli and SLA military activities in the occupied zone.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday said that he will seek an amendment to Israeli law to allow him, as minister of defense, to order the continued detention of Lebanese hostages. The Israeli cabinet is scheduled to meet today to discuss the matter, and the speaker of the Knesset has already said he would convene an emergency session to vote on any proposed amendments.

"Hostage-taking is a war crime,"said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "No domestic legislation can change that."

Barak's statement came in response to a Supreme Court ruling yesterday dismissing a challenge to the court's April 12 ruling ordering the release of eight of the hostages. The earlier ruling, which is applicable to all of the hostages held in Israel, found that the hostages were not a danger to state security and that their detention as "bargaining chips" was illegal.…

"Israel's highest court has acknowledged that these detainees should be released," Megally said. "The Israeli government should admit its wrongdoing and immediately release them."

The fifteen hostages are part of a larger group of twenty-one hostages kidnapped from Lebanon by Israel and the SLA beginning in the mid-1980s. Israel has conditioned the release of the hostages to information leading to the return of Israeli POWs and MIAs. Five of the twenty-one were released in December 1999, and a sixth hostage, reported to be mentally ill, was released on April 5.

Justice Minister Yossi Beilin has said he will seek to renew the administrative detention of at least two hostages, religious leader Sheikh `Abd al-Karim Obeid and militia leader Mustafa al-Dirani. Under the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law of 1979, Israel can hold administrative detainees indefinitely without charge or trial. Obeid has already spent almost eleven years in administrative detention; al-Dirani will have been held for six years in May. Although Israel alleges that both Obeid and al-Dirani held leadership positions in Lebanese resistance organizations, and that al-Dirani at one time had custody of missing Israeli soldier Ron Arad, neither has ever been charged with a crime.

"From the beginning Israel admitted that it was holding Obeid and al-Dirani hostage," Megally said. "Calling them administrative detainees will not disguise the fact that they remain hostages."

Human Rights Watch also expressed deep concern over the conditions in which Obeid and al-Dirani are held. Despite credible reports that some Lebanese hostages have been tortured in Israeli custody, Israel has refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to monitor their treatment.

In March Zvi Rish, a lawyer for al-Dirani, filed a civil case against the Israeli government asking for an NIS 6,000,000 (US$1,473,900) compensation for torture and ill-treatment al-Dirani suffered while in Israeli custody. The case alleges that during the first month of his interrogation al-Dirani was raped, sodomized with a wooden club, violently shaken, beaten, deprived of sleep, bound in painful positions, and left covered in his own feces for several days as "plain and simple vengeance."

"Israel is legally obligated investigate charges of torture and mistreatment and bring those responsible for any abuses to justice," Megally said. "All the hostages should be compensated for their unlawful and arbitrary detention." …

Monday, July 31, 2006

Threat Assessment 101 - Grades Israel F, USA Absent

At is a new column by Ze'ev Maoz, a professor of political science
at Tel Aviv University. Here are excerpts:

"There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion.

"That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah 'started it' when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.

"Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign state, and occupied its capital in 1982. In the process of this occupation, we dropped several tons of bombs from the air, ground and sea, while wounding and killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000 civilians were killed between June and September of 1982, according to a conservative estimate. The majority of these civilians had nothing to do with the PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war.

"In Operations Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, we caused the mass flight of about 500,000 refugees from southern Lebanon on each occasion. There are no exact data on the number of casualties in these operations, but one can recall that in Operation Grapes of Wrath, we bombed a shelter in the village of Kafr Kana which killed 103 civilians. The bombing may have been accidental, but that did not make the operation any more moral.

"On July 28, 1989, we kidnapped Sheikh Obeid, and on May 12, 1994, we kidnapped Mustafa Dirani, who had captured Ron Arad. Israel held these two people and another 20-odd Lebanese detainees without trial, as 'negotiating chips.' That which is permissible to us is, of course, forbidden to Hezbollah....

"The number of dead in Lebanon, the vast majority comprised of civilians who have nothing to do with Hezbollah, is more than 300.

Worse yet, bombing infrastructure targets such as power stations, bridges and other civil facilities turns the entire Lebanese civilian population into a victim and hostage, even if we are not physically harming civilians. The use of bombings to achieve a diplomatic goal - namely, coercing the Lebanese government into implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1559 - is an attempt at political blackmail, and no less than the kidnapping of IDF soldiers by Hezbollah is the aim of bringing about a prisoner exchange....

"But in terms of our own national soul searching, we owe ourselves to confront the bitter truth -- maybe we will win this conflict on the military field, maybe we will make some diplomatic gains, but on the moral plane, we have no advantage, and we have no special status."

When the weak
choose to stand up
it turns the world
downside up.

The asymmetry in the reported death tolls is marked and growing: some 230 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians, to 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians. In Gaza, one Israel soldier has died from his own army’s fire, and 103 Palestinians have been killed, 70 percent of them militants. — JERUSALEM, July 18

That the weak
should dare have a choices,
Makes those empowered
hate their voices.

The point was strategic and also psychological, he said, to destroy “the symbol for the power of the state-within-the-state of Hezbollah” and attack Sheik Nasrallah’s “image as the defender of Lebanon.”Israel has now “demolished the entire compound, and the residents,
the leaders of Hezbollah, are now living underground or as refugees, and that’s a significant achievement,” the general said.

When they dare
to cross a border
they disrupt
all natural order.

Opinion polls show that Israelis back the Lebanon campaign because they see Hezbollah as a clear threat. They have also become inured to international criticism. Uri Dromi, director of international outreach for the Israel Democracy Institute, said, “Public opinion is not so sensitive, because we feel, generally speaking, the world is against us and we’re a little island in an ocean of enmity.”

Any method
of resistance,
becomes a threat
to all existence.

“Proportionality is not compared to the event, but to the threat, and the threat is bigger and wider than the captured soldiers.”

When access
to truth
is just one
click away.
It's time to
stop pretending
that this war
began today.

The estimated death toll from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon was 18,000, about 0.5 percent of the population. Twenty-four years later, I have yet to hear any sign of remorse emanating from Israeli society. Nor were there any reparations for the carnage wrought by the Israeli Army. When the Israeli press, politicians and intellectuals speak with regret about the “Lebanon War,” it is usually to say the cost to Israel was too high or to point out that the invasion failed to achieve its objectives. The Lebanese fatalities are rarely

A joke went around during the civil war that it was safer to be a
target of the Israeli warplanes than to be exposed to the ineffectual
anti-aircraft fire directed against them. Lebanese bullets seemed certain to hit
you if you fled, whereas if you stayed put, the Israeli missiles would probably
land in your neighbor’s house, not yours.

Since then, air strikes have grown more precise and the Israeli Air Force appears to have expanded its range: planes now target your neighbor’s house and your own. Recent images from Lebanon are chillingly familiar — fathers watching their children die, mothers expiring in children’s laps. Dozens of stories like my grandmother’s are being re-enacted. Dozens of new graves are being dug.

An ancient city and a sovereign nation are being destroyed. The people of Haifa are suffering, too, and Hezbollah unquestionably bears responsibility for its raid on an Israeli military patrol, which began the latest violence. But the scale of suffering is imbalanced, and so is the apportionment of blame. It was the Israeli government, not Hezbollah, let alone the Lebanese government or people, that chose to start this all-out war.

Or that just
one side's actions
came entirely
from the blue.
Truth is that
our ally
holds people
hostage too.

During the closed door session, diplomats said, Mr. Siniora gave a heartrending speech which left many in the room calling for immediate action.

“Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere?” Mr. Siniora asked. “Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?”

Mr. Siniora said Lebanese will begin “legal proceedings” against Israel, and appeared to accuse Israel of war crimes. He said he would “spare no avenue to make Israel compensate the Lebanese people for the barbaric destruction it has inflicted on us.”

He ended his remarks with a quote from the Roman historian Tacitus, which he said describes well what Israel is doing to Lebanon and the region today.

“They created a desolation and call it peace,” Mr. Siniora said.

A number near
ten thousand,
children, men
and many
are in limbo
unduly held.

More is at stake now than the fate of Lebanon. If the West does not persuade Israel to stop its attacks, that failure will add to a creeping sense that, in its fight with Islamic fundamentalism, the West has abandoned its claim to moral superiority based on respect for human rights and international law, and is pursuing instead a war based increasingly on tribal solidarity. What a tragedy this would be, especially for those of us who crave a modern, peaceful Middle East. And what a triumph for the varied strains of bin Ladenism — Muslim, Christian and Jewish alike.

Hezbollah didn't wake up one morning and say let's snatch a couple of soldiers.…

It's important that we stop kidding ourselves. Hezbollah didn't wake up one morning and say let's snatch a couple of soldiers. Nor did history start a couple of ( going on three ) weeks ago.

If you think we should be proud of arming the assault on
Lebanon’s infrastructure and civilian neighborhoods, fine. If you are appalled,
or worried about how others view this, okay. In either case, you might want to
read on, because you won’t see much of this in your local paper.

Probably the most publicity this received lately came just
days ago when the U.S. announced it would be providing $30 million in relief aid
to Lebanon—while at the same time rushing new weapons to Israel. Asked if there
were a contradiction between U.S. arms sales to Israel and aid supplies to
Lebanon, U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said Washington's position was based on
"two pillars to how we need to deal with the conflict. One pillar is
humanitarian assistance. ... The other is to find conditions for a sustainable

Space does not allow a full accounting of U.S. arms
shipments to Israel in the past year, but to cite just one current budget line:
“100 Guided Bomb Units (GBU-28) that include: BLU-113 A/B penetration warhead.”
That only cost $30 million. Another budget line for $319 million cites “5,000
Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits.”

These can be dropped from the air by some of the 102 F-16
aircraft sent to Israel since 2001 (price tag: over $4.5 billion). And those
aircraft will stay in the air, thanks to emergency approval last week by the
U.S. for $210 million in JP-8 jet fuel to go to the Israeli military. Israel
also has from the U.S. over 700 M-60 tanks, 89 F-15 combat aircraft, missiles
and bombs of all kinds and scores of attack helicopters.

One of the more obscure items in that arsenal, however, came
to the fore this week, although it got little notice in the mainstream press.

Human Rights Watch, which has no dog in this fight – it has
storngly condemned the Hamas and Hizbollah rockets attacks, for example – issued
a bulletin on Monday, revealing that Israel has used artillery-fired "cluster"
bombs in populated areas of Lebanon, producing documented civilian casualties.
“Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used
around civilians,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
“They should never be used in populated areas.”

Newsweek online confirmed the report today, with photos,
adding, "Israel, under pressure from the United States, had not used cluster
munitions in Lebanon since 1982.

The cluster shells explode in the air and scatter hundreds
of tiny bomblets in a wide area. Because of the high "dud" rate for the
bomblets, civilians who step on them are killed months later.

Human Rights Watch researchers photographed cluster
munitions among the arsenal of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery teams
stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border on July 23. The photographs show M483A1
Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions which, of course, are U.S.-produced
and -supplied. Human Rights Watch "believes that the use of cluster munitions in
populated areas may violate the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks contained
in international humanitarian law,” it said in a statement, calling on Israel to
cease and desist. The group earlier established that the use of cluster
munitions in Iraq caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the
early U.S.-led military operations in 2003.

But all of this leads to a final, perhaps hopeful, angle
underplayed by the press. That is: The fact that the U.S. is such a strong
patron potentially gives us enormous influence in pressuring Israel to exercise
restraint or accept a ceasefire. Newspaper editorial pages, which with rare
exception, shamefully gave Israel a blank check to bomb at will during the first
two weeks of the air assault, can make up for lost time now.

I wish I was as hopeful. America is stuck on the belief that only states can make war. It's been centuries since we had belifs strong enough to overcome the bonds of nation and home, but when we did, our jihadists, crusaders, gathered from every corner of christendom to free the holy lands. We no longer understand that kind of faith, but once we were the terrorists.

Not all christians joined the crusades, but those that didn't saw the crusaders as heroes willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Until we can give our enemies the same credit, we'll never talk to them. Until we talk, we can't settle grievances, theirs or ours. …

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My Fourth

The fireflies
stream up from the ground
like roman candles.
The bottle rockets
stream up and around
like fireflies.

Mortars lift star shells
over the trees.
And, in every lull
the fireflies flash
like they're desperately,
crazily, trying to
with the fireworks,
make insectoid sense
out of the senseless
love of light
and noise.

On a normal night
they rise,
slowly, stately
toward the trees
sending their signals
to each other
calmly, carefully,
but not tonight.

They are confused
by Independence
and its illegal light.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Prophesying Doom?

'Wash Post' Obtains Shocking Memo from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

By Greg Mitchell

Published: June 19, 2006 6:20 PM ET

-- "More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In
March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."

NEW YORK The Washington Post has obtained a cable, marked "sensitive," that it says shows that just before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, "the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees."

This cable outlines, the Post reported Sunday, "the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government."

-- Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with
constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions. No one takes home their cell phones as this gives them away. One employee said criticism of the U.S. had grown so severe that most of her family believes the U.S. "is punishing populations as Saddam did."

It's actually far worse than that, as the details published below indicate, which include references to abductions, threats to women's rights, and "ethnic cleansing."

A PDF copy of the cable shows that it was sent to the SecState in Washington, D.C. from "AMEmbassy Baghdad" on June 12. 2006. The typed name at the very bottom is Khalilzad -- the name of the U.S. Ambassador, though it is not known if this means he wrote the memo or merely approved it.

-- Since April, the "demeanor" of guards in the Green Zone has changed, becoming more "militia-like," and some are now "taunting" embassy personnel or holding up their credentials and saying loudly that they work in the embassy: "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people." For this reason, some have asked for press instead of embassy credentials.

-- "For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events....We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their 'cover.'"

-- "More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we

The subject of the memo is: "Snapshots from the Office -- Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord."

As a footnote in one of the 23 sections, the embassy relates, "An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militiast are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq."

Among the other troubling reports:

-- "Personal safety depends on good relations with the 'neighborhood' governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors."

-- One embassy employee had a brother-in-law kidnapped. Another received a death threat, and then fled the country with her family.

-- Iraqi staff at the embassy, beginning in March and picking up in May, report "pervasive" harassment from Islamist and/or militia groups. Cuts in power and rising fuel prices "have diminished the quality of life." Conditions vary but even upscale neighborhoods "have visibly deteriorated" and one of them is now described as a "ghost town."

-- Two of the three female Iraqis in the public affairs office reported stepped-up harassment since mid-May...."some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative." One of the women is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.

-- It has also become "dangerous" for men to wear shorts in public and "they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts." People who wear jeans in public have also come under attack. …

-- "More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."

-- The overall environment is one of "frayed social networks," with frequent actual or perceived insults. None of this is helped by lack of electricity. "One colleague told us he feels 'defeated' by circumstances, citing his example of being unable to help his two-year-old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in stifling heat," which is now reaching 115 degrees.

-- "Another employee tell us that life outside the Green Zone has become 'emotionally draining.' He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral 'every evening.'"

-- Fuel lines have grown so long that one staffer spent 12 hours in line on his day off. "Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without. ... One staff member reported that a friend lives in a building that houses a new minister; within 24 hours of his appointment, her building had city power 24 hours a day."

-- The cable concludes that employees' "personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials."

The final line of the Cable is: KHALILZAD

“Iraq is a sinkhole of destruction, and if Americans could see it close up, the way we saw New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, they would be stupefied.

Americans need to understand that Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder of the highest magnitude. It has resulted in mind-boggling levels of bloodshed, chaos and misery in Iraq, and it certainly hasn't made the U.S. any safer.

We've had enough clownish debates on the Senate floor and elsewhere. We've had enough muscle-flexing in the White House and on Capitol Hill by guys who ran and hid when they were young and their country was at war. And it's time to stop using generals and their forces under fire in the field for cheap partisan political purposes.

The question that needs to be answered, honestly and urgently (and without regard to partisan politics), is how best to extricate overstretched American troops — some of them serving their third or fourth tours — from the flaming quicksand of an unwinnable war. ”
Playing Politics With Iraq by Bob Herbert (TimeSelect)

Desert, not jungle. Splintered factions, instead of a unified enemy. This isn't Viet Nam, but the similarities are growing. Fear is growing, among the Iraqis who work for and with us. While the population at large, largely, distrusts us.

Thank God, that by and large, they don't trust the insurgents either.

The Taliban isn't just back. They're back in force. Attacking in company and possibly battalion sized units. They've got new tactics, IEDs and VBEDs ( improvised and vehicle borne explosive devices ), courtesy of the Iraq insurgency.

We're in danger of collapse in both the real (Afghan) and the phony (Iraqi) fronts of the war on terror, because we're enganged in a war on a tactic when we should be concentrating on the enemy who used it.

We've done exactly what the enemy wanted. Destroyed our own reputation and bolstered theirs. Even the capture and death of Zarkawi works in their favor.

Now, they can concentrate on attacks against us, instead of his counterproductive attacks against the Shia.

I suspect if they could have figured out a way to do it, Al Qaeda would have leaked Zarkawi's location to us. Jordanian intelligence made that unnecessary.

So, after wrecking our own stature, weakening our democracy, deprecating the Bill of Rights, what then Mr.(P)resident?…

Thursday, June 22, 2006

No Need To Be Informed When You're Born With The Answers

“In "The One Percent Doctrine," Mr. Suskind discloses that First Data Corporation — one of the world's largest processors of credit card transactions and the parent company of Western Union — began cooperating with the F.B.I. in the wake of 9/11, providing information on financial transactions and wire transfers from around the world. The huge data-gathering operation in some respects complemented the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program (secretly authorized by Mr. Bush months after the Sept. 11 attacks), which monitored specific conversations as well as combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might lead to terrorism suspects.

Despite initial misgivings on the part of Western Union executives, Mr. Suskind reports, the company also worked with the C.I.A. and provided real-time information on financial transactions as they occurred.

Mr. Suskind's book also reveals that Qaeda operatives had designed a delivery system (which they called a "mubtakkar") for a lethal gas, and that the United States government had a Qaeda source who said that plans for a hydrogen cyanide attack on New York City's subway system were well under way in early 2003, but the attack was called off — for reasons that remain unclear — by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The book also reports that Al Qaeda had produced "extremely virulent" anthrax in Afghanistan before 9/11, which "could be easily reproduced to create a quantity that could be readily weaponized."

Just as disturbing as Al Qaeda's plans and capabilities are the descriptions of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and its willful determination to go to war against Iraq. That war, according to the author's sources who attended National Security Council briefings in 2002, was primarily waged "to make an example" of Saddam Hussein, to "create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."

"The One Percent Doctrine" amplifies an emerging portrait of the administration (depicted in a flurry of recent books by authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett and the former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond) as one eager to circumvent traditional processes of policy development and policy review, and determined to use experts (whether in the C.I.A., the Treasury Department or the military) not to help formulate policy, but simply to sell predetermined initiatives to the American public.

Mr. Suskind writes that the war on terror gave the president and vice president "vast, creative prerogatives": "to do what they want, when they want to, for whatever reason they decide" and to "create whatever reality was convenient." The potent wartime authority granted the White House in the wake of 9/11, he says, dovetailed with the administration's pre-9/11 desire to amp up executive power (diminished, Mr. Cheney and others believed, by Watergate) and to impose "message discipline" on government staffers.

"The public, and Congress, acquiesced," Mr. Suskind notes, "with little real resistance, to a 'need to know' status — told only what they needed to know, with that determination made exclusively, and narrowly, by the White House." ”

Most of us didn't want to know.

So all of us got what most of us wanted.

That's a real problem when most of us amounts to the 50.01 percent of the minority of our electorate that atually bothers to vote. When the executive declares that bare minority majority to be a mandate, a constitutional crisis is all but unavoidable.

In "The One Percent Doctrine," he writes that Mr. Cheney's nickname inside the C.I.A. was Edgar (as in Edgar Bergen), casting Mr. Bush in the puppet role of Charlie McCarthy, and cites one instance after another in which the president was not fully briefed (or had failed to read the basic paperwork) about a
crucial situation.

During a November 2001 session with the president, Mr. Suskind recounts, a C.I.A. briefer realized that the Pentagon had not told Mr. Bush of the C.I.A.'s urgent concern that Osama bin Laden might escape from the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan (as he indeed later did) if United States reinforcements were not promptly sent in. And several months later, he says, attendees at a meeting between Mr. Bush and the Saudis discovered after the fact that an important packet laying out the Saudis' views about the Israeli-Palestinian situation had been diverted to the vice president's office and never reached the president.

Keeping information away from the president, Mr. Suskind argues, was a calculated White House strategy that gave Mr. Bush "plausible deniability" from Mr. Cheney's point of view, and that perfectly meshed with the commander in chief's own impatience with policy details. Suggesting that Mr. Bush
deliberately did not read the full National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was delivered to the White House in the fall of 2002, Mr. Suskind writes: "Keeping certain knowledge from Bush — much of it shrouded, as well, by classification — meant that the president, whose each word circles the globe,
could advance various strategies by saying whatever was needed. He could essentially be 'deniable' about his own statements."

Deniability metastisized

Need to use water torture on a suspect, but don't want to be a torturer?

Just redefine torture to exclude the coercive measures you've decided to apply.

How can anyone accuse you of breaking the law?

Don't they know the law is whatever the (p)resident says is law?

The recently retired war correspondent Joe Galloway describes the consequences of arrogance this way in his column last week on Haditha.

While he argued that any troops who committed crimes there must pay the price, much of the blame rests instead with officers who allowed it to happen and "political leaders" who have never "experienced the stress and insanity of combat, who took this nation to war in Iraq on a whim and a grudge."

Those who started the war, he added, have "managed it with the greatest accumulation of arrogance and ignorance and incompetence seen in wartime since World War I, or perhaps the Charge of the Light Brigade."

Then, this week, he observed that amid the current focus on Iraq, "no one appears to be noticing that heading south at an alarming pace."

He noted that "Mullah Omar's Taliban are on the comeback trail with a vengeance, operating in well-armed and disciplined battalion-size units in the south. Drawing on the experience of the Iraqi insurgents, the Taliban forces are employing more sophisticated improvised explosive devices as well as mines and ambushes against Afghan government forces and foreign military and aid officials.

"This is happening just a month before U.S. forces are scheduled to begin turning over responsibility for that volatile region to some of our NATO allies."

He then chronicled the errors in efforts to secure the situation after overthrowing the Taliban, caused by a White House "hell-bent on jumping off into a much higher-profile war in Iraq ....Before 2001 even ended, the administration began siphoning off some of the resources needed to finish Job One in Afghanistan to prepare for the invasion of Iraq.... Afghanistan would languish as a backwater, an afterthought, a 'victory' in the global war on terror to be trotted out occasionally to take people's minds off Iraq.

"If there was one place where we should have maintained full focus, it was Afghanistan. If there is one place where you never take your eye off the ball, it is Afghanistan. That's a lesson learned the hard way by invading armies from Alexander to the British Empire to the Soviet Union."

From Editor and Publisher

Monday, June 19, 2006

Gee, I Feel Safer Now, Don't You?

If they (a pair of treacherous bills ) had been in effect during the deadly spree of the Washington, D.C., snipers, the dealer who peddled the murder rifle and scores of other crime guns could never have been shut down under federal law.
“It is a ghastly fact of public safety that for the past three years the most basic information about illegal gun trafficking in America has been hermetically classified as a state secret — kept off limits to the public and the news media. The nation used to be told, for example, that 57 percent of crime guns came from just 1 percent of gun dealers, and something should be done about that. But — shhh — not any more: not since a malleable Congress and administration buttoned up reams of vital information by putting the privacy of unscrupulous gun dealers over the safety of the public.

And now the Republican-led House is preparing to make the secrecy restrictions even more lunatic by actually leaving police officers subject to felony conviction if they dare to share interesting data on illicit dealers with colleagues in other departments.

The criminalizing of peace officers for swapping federal data beyond their narrow jurisdictions is only one of the provisions in a pair of treacherous bills quietly on the move, in another sweeping triumph for the gun lobby. The bills would gut what is left of initiative in the hamstrung bureau that's supposed to control firearms. They would roll back laws for stopping illicit gun traffickers, water down criminal definitions and penalties, and snuff out the current notification to concerned police officials about the virtual fire sales of multiple guns to single buyers by dealers arming the underworld.”

Isn't it funny that the only amendment a republican congress won't attack in the name of counter-terrorism is the second amendment.

Soon, we won't have first, fourth or fifth amendmendt rights. We won't be able to speak out, protect our persons, property or posessions, be protected against self-incrimination or be free from coercion, but criminal gun sales will go on unimpeded by any consideration of risk, terrorism, common sense or right and wrong.

Feel safer now?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No Early Warning

Published: June 13, 2006

Cambridge, Mass.

“DEALING with the reported massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, last fall may actually turn out to be an easy case for the military. After all, American troops don't need refresher training to know that killing children at point-blank range is wrong.

The hard cases are the ones that happen nearly every day: these are the grindingly routine judgment calls, the snap decisions soldiers have to make when their foes (like suicide bombers) refuse to wear uniforms.

In the spiraling violence of Iraq, American troops are constantly learning on the job. Their actions must be closely monitored, especially the bellwether of civilian harm. Yet the military consistently denied the value of tracking civilian casualties. It therefore had no early warning system.

What's more, the military's institutional procedures helped keep the reality of abuses at a distance. The mechanism to make war more humane — the law of war — paradoxically limited understanding of war's impact.

Such a legalistic lens can create a blind spot. Investigations are not routine; they occur when the system suspects a problem. With civilian casualties invisible, it's harder to find a problem to suspect.

This spring, though, the military began investigating civilian deaths not simply to assess culpability but to enhance effectiveness. This groundbreaking approach builds on efforts, begun last year, to track incidents involving civilian harm at checkpoints and during convoys. Commanders were told to investigate the most serious of these incidents.

Why? To minimize civilian harm. The effort appears to have succeeded. Since January, Iraqi civilian deaths in these situations have been reduced from four to one per week. American forces have finally begun using meaningful metrics to improve their tactics and guard their professionalism.

If Haditha spurs outrage, it should be directed in the right place. Determining culpability is the best we can do after the fact. But prevention is a far better goal. The military didn't start analyzing checkpoint shootings until well into the war. Had it acted sooner, arithmetic suggests we could have spared hundreds of Iraqi lives.…

To learn from Haditha is to learn to notice not just the alleged massacres but the steady stream of civilian deaths that for too much of this war have remained invisible.

Sarah Sewall, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, was deputy assistant secretary of defense from 1993 to 1996.”

Maybe, just maybe, we've stopped recruiting for the insurgency.…

Unfortunately, our problem hasn't been blindness, but an outright refusal to look.

Nor did the problem start in Haditha, but with the first massacre of Falluja. Where our troops may have honestly believed they were shot at, but the physical evidence established nothing but rock throwing.

Refusal to look led to the second massacre in Falluja and the third which was a massacre of Iraqi policemen, some at pointblank range and the phisical evidence as well as the survivors tales established that not one of them fired at our troops.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how that lead to the ambush and lynching of the contractors, and the first and second battles of Falluja.

Maybe, finally, we've stopped ignoring reality.

Maybe, just maybe, we've stopped recruiting for the insurgency.…
con·cept: 2006