Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dreliction of Duty

This kind of stuff, giving a possible sense of what people knew and when they knew it, is just hard, very hard, to read, without tears.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sheiks Cycle Past Al-Qaeda, at last

One sign, in a sea that otherwise looks like chaos, that the struggle within Islam is benefiting from the, "journey" that is OIF. From Taji, that massive logistical depot that the U.S. has built for the ISF:

TAJI, Iraq — Mirroring a nationwide trend, tribes near Baghdad are on the verge of banding together against alalaQaidand have met with U.S. military officials seeking aid and guidance in fighting the terrorist network.
Despite an ongoing campaign of murder and intimidation, Fallujah continues to make rebuilding and economic progress. Ar-Ramdi and some places in vicinity are reported to have the tide turned decisively in favor of basic security. Iraq-the-Model blog covers a report that at least two Anbar sheiks have indicated that the post al-qeada political landscape looks geared toward a competent, civil government, not just clan-based justice.

Despite ongoing casualty rates that ought to be considered high, the military continues to pressure the insurgency, with considerable effectiveness in some areas:

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2007 – Operation Harris Ba’sil sil wrapped up after helping knock enemy forces in Iraq’s western Anbar Anbarnce off balance, officials involved in the operation reported today.


The operation, dubbed “Valiant Guardian,” involved nearly 4,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors covering most of the 30,000 square miles of RCT RCT operating area.

“We uncovered over 250 caches, arrested over 250 suspected insurgents and discovered over 100 improvised explosive devices,” said Lt. Col. Michael Manning, RCT RCT operations officer. “We clearly surprised them. The number of caches and detainees attest to that, but more importantly, we let the enemy know that they can’t hide from us.”
Meanwhile, it appears that models of cooperation between the "occupiers" and the citizenry appear to be having some pull. Petreaus is making tip-toes into the power-base of Sadr-city, in what will hopefully become a virtuous circle.

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military is engaged in delicate negotiations inside Sadr City to clear the way for a gradual push in coming weeks by more American and Iraqi forces into the volatile Shiite enclave of more than 2 million people, one of the most daunting challenges of the campaign to stabilize Baghdad.
Lacking sufficient troops so far to move deeper into Sadr City, the military has cautiously edged into the southern part, conducting searches and patrols, handing out supplies and using offers of economic aid to try to overcome resistance. Meanwhile, U.S. Special Operations forces and other U.S. and Iraqi troops have detained militia leaders in an effort to weaken their organization.
In the South, a $3-billion (yes, billion) dollar project for a new airport at Karbala has reached final approval and financing stages.

Economic "revitalization" - a nifty euphemism - appears to be slow, but not without spot successes. Buy Iraqi at a mall this fall:

Yesterday [5/17/07], Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Force Iraq, visited a large textile factory in Najaf where 1,800 Iraqis have returned to work, Brinkley said. The clothing made in that factory is being reviewed by Western retail outlets

The Temptation to fight Terror with Terror

Not surprisingly, this killing of bearded guys has prompted a race to the barbershops in Gaza. One Gaza friend, who defiantly refuses to shave off his designer stubble, told me: “Even the Israelis would be ashamed of doing this.”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Open attack on Lebanese Military Posts, Fatah al-Islam

Reuters offer up dramatic footage of military assualt against Fatah al-Islam.

The backstory looks like more of the same in the on-going political crisis in Lebanon:

The army sent in reinforcements to the outskirts of the camp where
smoke could be seen rising into the air. The army is not allowed into
Palestinian camps under a 1969 Arab agreement.

An army statement said the clashes began when Fatah al-Islam attacked army posts around the camp and in northern Tripoli.

Security forces had also been trying to arrest Fatah al-Islam
members suspected of robbing a bank on Saturday, security sources said.
A group of suspected Fatah al-Islam members had been detained, the
sources said.

Security forces clashed with gunmen in Tripoli itself while trying
to arrest Fatah al-Islam members holed up in a building in the
predominantly Sunni Muslim city, which is Lebanon’s second largest.

Fatah al-Islam was formed last year by fighters who broke off from the Syria-backed Fatah Uprising group.

Its leader, Shaker al-Abssi, told Reuters in March his group’s main
mission was to reform the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon
according to Islamic sharia law before confronting Israel.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More than managing the 'Secret War', the 'Outsourced War'

Writing in The Nation, Jeremy Scahill dishes up some perspective on the changing shape of the military-industrial complex: it's not just machines for the men, it's the men in the machines, now:

Many Americans are under the impression that the US currently has about 145,000 active duty troops on the ground in Iraq. What is seldom mentioned is the fact that there are at least 126,000 private personnel deployed alongside the official armed forces. These private forces effectively double the size of the occupation force, largely without the knowledge of the US taxpayers that foot the bill.

The second reaction is that the active-duty soldiers see the "rock star" private contractors and they want to be like them. So we have a phenomenon of soldiers leaving active duty to join the private sector.

Just as there is a double standard in pay, there is a double standard in the application of the law. Soldiers who commit crimes or acts of misconduct are prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There have been some 64 courts martial on murder-related charges in Iraq alone. Compare that to the lack of prosecution of contractors. Despite the fact that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, have streamed in and out of Iraq since March of 2003, only two private contractors have faced any criminal prosecution.
That either means we have tens of thousands of Boy Scouts working as armed contractors or something is fundamentally wrong with the system.

For State Actors, Financial Sanctions Bite

Perhaps it is nothing new. It has long been realized that "finance" is a potent weapon, when "financial power" is consolidated politically.

One of the architects of the US Treasury's efforts to use 'financial sanctions' as policy instruments pens a positive post-mortem:

The results have been promising. Many non-US financial institutions and companies reduced or terminated commercial ties with Iran and early last year the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development raised its risk-rating for Iran. Months later the Iranian oil minister had to acknowledge that Iran was having trouble financing oil projects.

Of these financial measures, the action against the Banco Delta Asia had the most dramatic impact. Macau's subsequent freezing of nearly €19 million in BDA accounts clearly rattled the North Koreans. It became a major sticking point in the six-party talks, with North Korea refusing to return to the table until the money was returned.