Training Special Ops to Handle Civilian Contrators In “Persistent Conflict”

Class is in session

Photo credit Sgt. Tony Hawkins

Lt. Col. Dennis McGowan, commander, 905th Contingency Contracting Battalion, speaks to U.S. Army Special Operations Command Soldiers in the Operational Contracting Support Course at Fort Bragg, N.C. The training was sponsored by the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service) — More than 50 U.S. Army Special Operations Command Soldiers finished up a new two-week contracting support course designed to enlighten them on procedures for establishing and managing contracts in a deployed environment.

The Operational Contracting Support Course, normally designed to train brigade staff officers in contracting support planning and management, was taught to psychological operations, civil affairs and special forces Soldiers in two classes over a two-week period.

Retired Lt. Col. Robert Gould, a former contracting officer and the instructor of the course, came from the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Va., at the request of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) to present the information to the USASOC Soldiers.

“This course is not for contracting officers, but instead for the brigade-level staff officers of operational units, or any other individuals who may handle contracts,” Gould said. “Of course, we had to tailor it somewhat to the USASOC audience, to gear it for smaller four or five-man teams.”

Many of the students in the course, which was the first of its kind taught to USASOC Soldiers, were part of military information support teams. These teams, which usually consist of four Soldiers or less, deploy independently to foreign nations and work alongside the U.S. State Department in embassies around the world.

“These Soldiers are taught how to integrate contracting into their military decision-making process,” he said. “So at the end of the day, the need for contracting isn’t a surprise and will be an integrated effort which was planned for, not a last minute idea.”

Gould said the course is gaining momentum. So far he has instructed nine classes graduating around 150 people from the course. Week one consists of classroom instruction, and during week two, students participate in a hands-on practical training exercise.

“This course was created in response to the Gansler Commission back in 2007,” Gould said. “Once these Soldiers graduate, they are capable of doing everything from writing a statement of work and filling out funding documents, to managing contracts and contracting officer representatives.”

Once these Soldiers graduate the course and head overseas, they should not feel alone when it comes to contracting support, said Lt. Col. Dennis McGowan, the commander of the 905th Contingency Contracting Battalion.

Contingency contracting teams of the 905th are aligned to USASOC for the purpose of providing operational contracting support and training. The unit is increasing in capability and has been gaining visibility throughout USASOC since it stood up in October 2009.

The 905th is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command.

“Every single day we’re answering the phone with an issue here or there,” McGowan said. “The Army makes contracted support available to units, but we’ve never taught them the specifics of how to use it.”

That’s where the importance of OCSC comes in.

“This would be good training for any USASOC Soldier directly involved in contracts, whether they’re Special Forces, Civil Affairs or PSYOP,” he said. “Much of the time the end result of civil affairs and PSYOP missions is brought to bear through contracting. For example, television or radio airtime, or hard copy products for the PSYOP guys, or some sort of construction project for civil affairs.”

“Our Soldiers and teams often deploy to austere environments where the support structure is extremely limited, and contracting is a vital means in assisting with our development and distribution of PSYOP products to support the mission,” said Col. Carl Phillips, the 4th Psychological Operations Group commander.

With such new information being presented to the Soldiers, who often rely on specific U.S. embassy procedures to establish contracts, there were bound to be questions.

“The biggest question I get is, ‘How do I get contracting support?” McGowan said.

His advice was to try and solve the problem locally first, as nothing happens in a country without the U.S. ambassador’s approval. However, he assured all of the students he is just a phone call or an email away.

“The 905th is USASOC’s operational contracting support provider and advocate,” he said. “We may not always be the ones to provide your support, but we will find the right contracting office to support you. We will make sure USASOC receives the operation contracting support they need.”

As McGowan and Gould begin to receive positive feedback from the students and others within the PSYOP community, there is interest in incorporating some of the contracting support training into the psychological operations advanced individual training at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

“The lessons in this course are incredibly valuable and given the nature of our mission, should at least be introduced in the pipeline,” said Capt. Sherri Fazzio, a tactical PSYOP team leader from 9th Psychological Operating Battalion and one of the students in the course.

With word spreading about the importance of the course, McGowan said it is likely OCSC will become an annual or even bi-annual training opportunity for USASOC Soldiers.

BHRC (Canada) Strongly condemns the Pakistani Paramilitary attack on Baloch families in Quetta, Balochistan

BHRC (Canada) Strongly condemns the Pakistani Paramilitary attack on Baloch families in Quetta, Balochistan

on 2010/4/21 0:00:00 (84 reads)
RGENT PRESS RELEASE

Toronto, April 20, 2010 – Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada) condemns in the strongest words the brutal and cowardly pre-dawn paramilitary attack on Baloch families in Quetta, Balochistan. In an urgent press statement released today, BHRC expressed deepest sorrow over the loss of life of a brave Baloch woman, Ms. Mehnaz Mengal and arbitrary arrests of more than 250 men in a raid by the Pakistani security forces.

According to sources in Balochistan and the Baloch media, this unprovoked paramilitary operation began between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on April 20, 2010.

Sources stated that the whole area, comprising of hundreds of houses was completely surrounded by the heavily armed Frontier Constabulary (paramilitary organization) and cordoned off from the rest of the city. None of the media personnel of local TV networks, photographers, and reporters were allowed to enter the area where a house to house search was underway for Baloch political activists.

Baloch media states that during the search operation women and children were harassed, manhandled, and humiliated at gunpoint by the security forces. Any kind of resistance by the families to the unlawful invasion of their privacy was dealt with excessive use of brutal force that resulted in the death of Ms. Mehnaz Mengal when she intervened to save her son from the soldiers. According to sources, more than 250 men and youth of the families were beaten, handcuffed, and whisked away to a military camp for interrogation.

BHRC (Canada) questioned the legitimacy of this barbaric act of the security forces and strongly criticized the Pakistani lawmakers in the Senate, National Assembly, and Balochistan Assembly in relation to the recently approved Balochistan Package and the 18th Amendment Bill of Pakistan Constitution that was supposedly meant to provide guarantees to the safety of life and welfare of the people of Balochistan. This is yet another proof that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment sees Balochistan as an occupied territory where the only response to the political and economic demands is a military solution.

BHRC (Canada) believes that this recent operation is part of a larger plan to ethnically cleanse Quetta of the Baloch people. Sources in Balochistan indicate that this was a test case for the original plan of attack in future on New Kahan, a Marri tribal settlement in Quetta. New Kahan is a new urban settlement where the families of displaced Marri Baloch tribesmen have sought refuge in the aftermath of Pakistan Air Force’s aerial bombings and the complete destruction of their ancestral villages.

BHRC (Canada) appeals to the international humanitarian organizations and leaders of the western democracies to take urgent action and save innocent Baloch men, women and children from the atrocities committed by the Pakistani state and its security forces.

Source: Baluch Sarmachaar

Baloch Woman killed, 200+ activists detained in massive search operation in Quetta

The Baloch Hal News

QUETTA: Security forces unleashed a massive search operation in Baloch-populated localities of Quetta city throughout Tuesday, killing the mother of a Baloch political activist and rounding up around two hundred people hailing from assorted domains of life.

The crack down has opened floodgates of criticism of Baloch nationalist parties which have called for widespread protest rallies to condemn the door-to-door search operation at Baloch households.

According to the details, security forces arrested around three hundred Balochs in search operations in Qili Ismail, Kechi Baig,Qili Qambarani, Sariab, and Kili Sarday, Wali Jet localities of Quetta city. Eyewitnesses said personnel of police, Anti-Terrorist Force (ATF) and the Frontier Corps (FC) entered into the houses and beat up different people before taking them into custody. The search operation, according to the officials, was intended to arrest suspects involved in Friday’s suicide bomb blast, kidnappings, target killings and other violent cases that are taking place in Quetta.

The whole day witnessed clashes between the government functionaries and the civilians who were beaten up, blindfolded and taken to unknown locations by the government. In one similar search operation, the mother of an activist from the Balochistan National Party (BNP), Sanaullah Mengal, was killed by the forces allegedly by applying violent means.

Habib Jalib Baloch, the central secretary general of the BNP, told Baloch Hal that the forces tortured the old lady which caused her death. The mother of the BNP activist was identified as Shahnaz Bibi.

The Baloch National Front (BNF) has strongly condemned the search operation and pledged to avenge the killing of Shahnaz Bibi saying that the Baloch traditions encouraged taking revenge for the killing of one person.

The BNF, led by professor Saba Dashthayari and Shahzaib Baloch, took out a protest rally in front of Quetta Press Club in the afternoon to protest against the arrest of hundreds of political workers and common civilians in the freshly launched search operation against the Baloch population.

The BNF announced to observe a complete strike throughout Balochistan on April 26 against the killing of Shahnaz Bibi and the arrests, saying that protest rallies would be taken outside press clubs in Turbat on April 22, Noshki (24 April) and Panjgur (25 April) to lodge a democratic protest against the grave violation of human rights in Balochistan by the security forces under the pretext of maintaining law and order.

Speaking in the protest rally, the BNF leaders said the Balochistan Package and the recent 18th Amendment Bill did not mean anything for Balochs, nor would it deter the Baloch national struggle in any form. The Baloch people do have a history of taking revenge for its martyrs rather than shedding tears over such instances when its brave sons are killed, they said.

“We will not tolerate people like Mushahid Hussain Syed to step on the Baloch land,” said one of the speakers. Balochs have become very conscious about their national rights and the exploitation they have come under over the past many years.

The BNF leaders severely castigated the media for taking the government’s side and not reporting the widespread arrest of Balochs in the search operation.

Chief of the Balochistan National Party and former chief minister of Balochistan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal has also strongly condemned the crack down on the Baloch people in Quetta by terming it as a continuity of the previous government’s policies against the Baloch people. He described the arrests as the harbinger of a new military operation being launched in Balochistan.

He said the current governments in Islamabad and Balochistan were totally powerless and the real power still rested with the establishment which did not intentionally want the improvement of the situation in Balochistan. The establishment is working on a policy of genocide against the Baloch people while the Sariab Road operation has violated and disfigured the Baloch code of honor as the forces entered people’s homes and humiliated women and children.

The Mengal Sardar said the 18th amendment was totally meaningless for the Baloch people as no change had taken place in Balochistan even after the signing of the 18th amendment bill by the president of Pakistan. “There is no let-up in repression of the Baloch people. The democratic rulers are powerless. The military establishment wants to keep the Balochs as slaves in Pakistan but history clearly shows that we have never bowed on gunpoint and we will no surrender this time too,” he said.

A spokesman for the National Party (NP) also strongly condemned the operation against the Baloch people on Tuesday saying that the deployment of the FC was not meant to eliminate lawlessness but to eliminate the Baloch nation.

The Baloch National Front (BNF) is going to protest against the operation in Karachi today (Wednesday) while Baloch students studying in Islamabad have also decided to take up the issue and demonstrate in the federal capital against the latest developments in Balochistan

US Blowing the Whole Crapshoot By Pushing Turkey to Abandon Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani presidential administration envoy: By pushing Turkey to abandon Azerbaijan, U.S. risks alienating one of its most important and reliable partners in region

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 21 /Trend, M.Aliyev/

By pushing Turkey to abandon Azerbaijan, the United States risks alienating one of its most important and reliable partners in a critical region of the world, Novruz Mammadov, the Head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, told English version of Radio Liberty in his commentary on the current situation in U.S.-Azerbaijan relations.

“Azerbaijan and Turkey are strategic allies with deep historical ties. Turkey has played an important role in Azerbaijan’s partnership with the West on key security and energy projects. Azerbaijan spearheaded the opening of Caspian energy resources to the West and insisted that major oil and gas pipelines be routed through Georgia and Turkey. Baku has also wholeheartedly supported U.S. security initiatives by sending troops to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Azerbaijan also provides supply-transit support for the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Those who know the region understand the significant risks Azerbaijan took and the pressure it overcame in order to pursue close cooperation with the West on energy and security issues,” Mammadov said.

According to Mammadov, long-term peace and normalization of relations in the South Caucasus cannot be achieved by rewarding aggression and by excluding the region’s strategically most important country.

Mammadov said that Armenia’s closed borders are the main form of leverage that might compel Yerevan to engage seriously in the resolution of the conflict.

“Washington believes that a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement could kill two birds with one stone. First, it might smooth over — at least temporarily — one of the major trouble spots in U.S.-Turkish relations: the issue of Armenian genocide claims. Second, some U.S. officials argue that improving ties between Armenia and Turkey will ultimately contribute to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They appear to believe improved relations will lead to a moderation of Armenian policies and open the way to new initiatives on Karabakh. However, we must disagree. Armenia continues to occupy almost 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory. It is ironic that while claiming to be the first victim of genocide in the 20th century, Armenia itself carried out one of the century’s major ethnic-cleansing campaigns in Europe — a campaign that resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of nearly 1 million Azerbaijanis. There is no reason to believe that opening the borders will make Armenia more willing to compromise; on the contrary, removing this sole punishment will only increase Armenia’s interest in further entrenching the status quo,” Mammadov said.

According to representative of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, many members of the Armenian political elite — including President Serge Sarkisian — rose through the ranks because of their personal involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. “They have used the war as a pretext for strengthening their own hold over Armenian politics, so it is not surprising that they have not been constructive in settlement talks,” said Mammadov.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at trend@trend.az

World Trade Center–Classic Controlled Demolition

World Trade Center–Classic Controlled Demolition

As seen in this revealing photo, the Twin Towers’ destruction exhibited all of the characteristics of destruction by explosives:

  1. Destruction proceeds through the path of greatest resistance at nearly free-fall acceleration
  2. Improbable symmetry of debris distribution
  3. Extremely rapid onset of destruction
  4. Over 100 first responders reportedexplosions and flashes
  5. Multi-ton steel sections ejected laterally
  6. Mid-air pulverization of 90,000 tons of concrete & metal decking
  7. Massive volume of expandingpyroclastic-like clouds
  8. 1200-foot-dia. debris field: no “pancaked” floors found
  9. Isolated explosive ejections 20 – 40 stories below demolition front
  10. Total building destruction: dismemberment of steel frame
  11. Several tons of molten metal found under all 3 high-rises
  12. Evidence of thermite incendiariesfound by FEMA in steel samples
  13. Evidence of explosives found in dust samples
  14. No precedent for steel-framed high-rise collapse due to fire

And exhibited none of the characteristics of destruction by fire, i.e.

  1. Slow onset with large visible deformations
  2. Asymmetrical collapse which follows the path of least resistance (laws of conservation of momentum would cause a falling, intact, from the point of plane impact, to the side most damaged by the fires)
  3. Evidence of fire temperatures capable of softening steel
  4. High-rise buildings with much larger, hotter, and longer lasting fires have never “collapsed”

/

WTC Building #7, a 47-story high-rise not hit by an airplane, exhibited all the characteristics of classic controlled demolition with explosives:

1.   Rapid onset of “collapse”
2.   Sounds of explosions at ground floor – a second before the building’s destruction
3.   Symmetrical “structural failure” — through the path of greatest resistance –at free-fall acceleration
4.   Imploded, collapsing completely, and landed in its own footprint
5.   Massive volume of expandingpyroclastic dust clouds
6.   Several tons of molten metal reported by numerous highly-qualified witnesses
7.   Chemical signature of thermite (high tech incendiary) found in solidified molten metal, and dust samples
8.   FEMA finds rapid oxidation andintergranular melting on structural steel samples
9.   Expert corroboration from the top European Controlled Demolition professional
10.   Fore-knowledge of “collapse” by media, NYPD, FDNY

And exhibited none of the characteristics of destruction by fire, i.e.

1.   Slow onset with large visible deformations
2.   Asymmetrical collapse which follows the path of least resistance (laws of conservation of momentum would cause a falling, to the side most damaged by the fires)
3.   Evidence of fire temperatures capable of softening steel
4.   High-rise buildings with much larger, hotter, and longer lasting fires have never “collapsed”.

The Pentagon’s Fantasy Numbers on Afghan Civilian Deaths

The Pentagon’s Fantasy Numbers on Afghan Civilian Deaths

by Marc W. Herold

19afghanistan-1.jpg

Global Research, April 19, 2010

The American public is conditionally tolerant of [military] casualties and consistently indifferent to collateral damage” Dr. Karl P. Mueller, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base

The Politics of Counting Dead Afghan Civilians: Responses by the Libertarian Right and Obama Liberals to McChrystal’s Numbers

The ever-so-faithful stenographer of Pentagon truths, USA Today, printed numbers put forth by General McChrystal on Afghan civilians who perished at the hands of NATO.[1]The article headlined “NATO Strikes Killing More Afghan Civilians,” noted that such deaths rose from 29 during the first three months of 2009, to 72 during 2010. But, figures for just the first three weeks of 2009 under the Bush clock, reveal 63-77 Afghans killed by US/NATO forces:

date time male female children undet. village province
Jan 2 day 1 Deh Sabz Kabul
Jan 5 day 2 7 2 Qala-Naw Uruzgan
Jan 5/6 night 7 1 5 6 Kaferkoh Helmand
Jan 6/7 night 2 3 12-16 Masamut Laghman
Jan 19 2 A.M 5 4 6-16 Inzeri Kapisa
Totals 9 15 15 24-38

Source: Afghan Victim Memorial Project data base
Aside from McChrystal’s fantasy numbers which demonstrate the utter incapacity (or unwillingness) of the U.S and NATO militaries to compile accurate civilian casualty figures, the responses from the Right and Obama cultists are revealing.

The following Table presents two sets of comparable data on civilians killed by US/NATO action in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2010. I have omitted the widely cited (by Obama cultists) and flawed data of the United Nations’ UNAMA which is criticized elsewhere.[2]

Afghan Civilians Killed by US/NATO Actions, January-March

source 2009 2010
NATO/ISAF 29 72
Herold 193-201, midpoint @ 197 175-196, midpoint @ 186

The figures cited by McChrystal suggest a large increase (though very small absolute numbers) of civilians killed by NATO actions, when in fact the level of deaths has remained stable. Secondly, the NATO figures are gross, “fantasy” undercounts, e.g., during the first three months of 2010 they captured at most 39% of the actual deaths. My own data represents a minimum count insofar as no doubt many incidents have gone unreported, especially those carried out by the JSOC Special Forces which are unaccountable to anyone other than General McChrystal.[3]  Interestingly, the NATO figures for 2010 and the UNAMA ones for the year 2009 reveal the same magnitude (@ 60%) of undercounting. As I wrote,

In 2008, the UNAMA captured about 70% of Afghans killed by foreign forces, but in 2009 the figure was under 40%, justifiably earning UNAMA’s performance as being faith-based (or ideologically-inspired) counting.[4]

The right-wing blogoshere commentary on the USA Today report (highlighting the 250% rise in civilian casualties caused by NATO action from 2009 to 2010) notes that if George Bush was president, the level of antiwar protest and left media attention would be palpable. But since Obama is president, no protests, no outrage in left media outlets, only silence. The U.S antiwar movement had quickly fallen in line behind its Dear Leader in early 2009.[5] Exceptions do exist, e.g. Glenn Greenwald, William R. Polk, and Cindy Sheahan.[6]

Under the Obama clock, the efforts expended to manage the news coming out from Afghanistan – or to spin the war – have soared as compared to during the administration of his predecessor.[7] Most of the press is content to simply parrot the releases and statements made by US military spokespersons.[8] A long history exists of mainstream U.S media being megaphones for the Pentagon, e.g., Laura King of the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times being a case in point.[9] The McChrystal dogma of “protecting Afghan civilians” as a central component of counter-insurgency tolerates no blemish. When an intrepid, independent reporter such as Jerome Starkey of the London Times (not the New York Times) reveals damaging accounts of civilians murdered by U.S forces, no effort is spared to attack and discredit him.[10] The independent Italian medical charity, Emergency, offices in Helmand were raided on April 10, 2010, by foreign and Afghan forces who allegedly found weapons there  and uncovered a plan to kill the governor of Helmand. The raid was swift pay-back for Emergency staffers reporting upon the true civilian toll of the U.S-led Marja offensive.[11] The Obama cultists remain silent about the revenge meted out upon Italy’s Emergency.
The liberal and ex-radical supporters of Obama have been mesmerized by the Obama-McChrystal news management effort. McChrystal proclaims reducing civilian casualties is critical to the US/NATO counterinsurgency war effort and at the same time greatly increases the use of secretive US Special Operations troops. These forces are linked with deadly night-time, out-of-sight killer raids, the results of which go largely unreported.[12] The media parroted the U.S/NATO fiction that the Marja assault in February 2010 was a military success, when in fact it was a successful information battle.[13]

Some on the libertarian right, on the other hand, decry how Obama liberals smear those who reveal the U.S military’s depredations abroad such as Wikileaks.[14] Other libertarians for example at the Lew Rockwell website, the CATO Institute or The Independent Institute provide trenchant critiques of the nation-building chimera (so dear to left liberals) in America’s Afghan War.[15] But with Obama in office, liberals have learned to love the “good” war.[16] Much of the left-liberal community in the United States had initially supported the U.S bombing of Afghanistan in 2001.[17] A glaring case in point was Christopher Hitchens, frequent contributor to The Nation magazine.[18] Most of the liberal Obama cultists and U.S antiwar left today remain comfortable citing the serious underestimates of Afghans killed by US/NATO action put forth by UNAMA.[19] All the more so if Afghan casualties are light and the level of U.S military casualties remain politically tolerable. Thus, the UNAMA falsehoods indicating that “civilian deaths at the hands of U.S-led troops dropped 28% in 2009 to 596,”[20]are incessantly repeated as implicit evidence that things are getting better under Obama. All research and work demonstrating exactly the contrary was ignored in the liberal, U.S antiwar media during 2009, in marked contrast to its wholesale embrace of the dubious half million plus Iraqi civilian casualties proclamation put out by John Hopkins researcher Les Roberts some years ago, casualties meted out by Team Bush.[21] For too many, the lens of a preferred politics determines the numbers of a casualty count or estimate.[22]

On the other hand, the benchmark reached in early 2010 of 1,000 US dead soldiers in America’s Afghan war drew attention in the U.S mainstream media and the antiwar movement.[23] National Public Radio, the various Indymedia outlets, UnitedforPeace headlined the “milestone” and Catholics for the Common Good lamented “no end in sight.” Historically, the U.S public has been far more swayed by U.S military deaths than of those on the other side (whether civilian or military).[24] Early in America’s Afghan war this was clearly demonstrated with the Bush Administration making great effort to hide the visibility of U.S soldier deaths by banning reports from Dover Air Force Base and the U.S. general public simply ignoring the approximately 3,000 Afghan civilians who perished in the U.S bombing war of October – December 2001.[25]  Other means employed by the United States to hide and minimize U.S military casualties include relying upon military contractors (whose numbers now far exceed those of U.S soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan[26]), failing to include in the death count those soldiers who die from wounds when getting treatment outside the Afghan war theater, and most tellingly since 2004 having NATO forces (many being part of the “coalition of the bribed and bullied”[27]) participating in the fighting. As old NATO allies withdraw from Afghanistan, Obama plans to rent support from a gaggle of small states such as Croatia and Mongolia.[28] Finally it is worth remembering that U.S. efforts to develop precision-guided munitions had nothing to do with sparing innocent civilians but rather with sparing U.S pilots.[29] As I wrote on 9/11, 2002,
The absolute imperative to avoid U.S. military casualties meant flying high up in the sky, increasing the probability of killing civilians:

…better stand clear and fire away. Given this implicit decision, the slaughter of innocent people, as a statistical eventuality is not an accident but a priority — in which Afghan civilian casualties are substituted for American military casualties.

The documented Afghan civilians killed were not participating in war-making activities [e.g., working in munitions factories, etc] and, therefore, had not forfeited their right to immunity from attack. In effect, as an astute scholar has noted, I am turning Michael Walzer’s notion of ‘due care’ upside down: that is, far from acknowledging a positive responsibility to protect innocent Afghans from the misery of war, U.S. military strategists chose to impose levels of harm upon innocent Afghan civilians to reduce present and possible future dangers faced by U.S. forces.[30]

Though sometimes swayed by military casualties, the American public has been consistently indifferent to collateral damage, in effect mirroring the U.S military stance.[31] But at least the U.S military recognized in 2009 that high levels of “collateral damage” in Afghanistan fuelled the resistance and consequently did reduce the number of airstrikes. These were simply replaced by escalating numbers of deadly ground raids.[32] The U.S military has justified such night-time raids as being necessary to better protect the attacking U.S. forces. For an Afghan family, it matters little whether execution of relatives comes from the skies or Special Operations Forces breaking down doors at midnight.

Conclusion

General McChrystal’s data provided an opportunity to reveal Pentagon lying (or incompetence) to all, but only the libertarians rose to the occasion. The mainstream U.S media, Obama cultists, and much of the U.S antiwar movement persist in blithely quoting UNAMA and consuming Pentagon and embedded “patriotic” U.S reporters’ characterizations of America’s War in Afghanistan. Where is the American like Jerome Starkey (of the Times of London) or Chris Sands (of the UAE’s The National) or the intrepid reporters of Pajhwok Afghan News presenting the uncomfortable, un-embedded truths from on-the-ground in Afghanistan?
Notes

[1] Paul Wiseman, “NATO Strikes Killing More Afghan Civilians,” USA Today (April 15, 2010) at http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-04-15-afghan-shooting_N.htm?csp=34

[2] Marc W. Herold, “One Month of the Obama Killing Machine in Afghanistan: Data and a Lesson for the UNAMA and its Groupies,” RAWA News (March 10, 2010) athttp://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2010/03/10/one-month-of-the-obama-killing-machine-in-afghanistan-data-and-a-lesson-for-the-unama-and-its-groupies.html

[3] Gareth Porter, “McChrystal’s Support for Afghan Raids Belies New Image,” Inter Press Service (March 31, 2010) at http://www.truthout.org/mcchrystals-support-afghan-raids-belies-new-image58181

[4] Herold, op. cit.

[5] Justin Raimundo, “The Silence of the Liberals,” Antiwar.com (February 27, 2009) athttp://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/02/27/the-silence-of-the-liberals%C2%A0/

[6] John V. Walsh, “The Silence of the Antiwar Movement is Deafening. Cindy Sheahan’s Lonely Vigil in Obamaland,” Information Clearing House (August 28, 2009) athttp://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article23379.htm . See the excellent analysis of William R. Polk, “Legitimation Crisis in Afghanistan,” The Nation (April 19, 2010) athttp://www.thenation.com/doc/20100419/polk

[7] Discussed for example in Matthew Nasuti, “America’s Happy War in Afghanistan: American Government Sugar-Coating Afghan War News for Sweet-Toothed U.S. Media,” The Atlantic Free Press (December 25, 2009) athttp://www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/12512-americas-happy-war-in-afghanistan-american-government-sugar-coating-afghan-war-news-for-sweet-toothed-us-media.html

[8] Glenn Greenwald, “The Joys of Airstrikes and Anonymity. No matter how many times government claims about attacks turn out to be false, the American media repeats them,” Salon.com (December 26, 2009) athttp://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/12/26/airstrikes

[9] See her “Afghan Civilian Deaths Decline under New U.S. Tactics,” Los Angeles Times (August 28, 2009).

[10] See “NATO Smears a Truth-Teller in Afghanistan,” Rainbowwarrior.com (March 25, 2010) at http://rainbowwarrior2005.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/nato-smears-a-truth-teller-in-afghanistan/

[11] Tom Mellen, “Still No News from Italian Medics in Afghanistan,” Morning Star (April 16, 2010) athttp://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/89269 and Massimiliano Di Giorgio, “Italian Charity Sees UK Behind Afghan Medic Arrests,” Reuters India (April 17, 2010) at http://in.reuters.com/article/southAsiaNews/idINIndia-47766720100416. For an example of the kind of independent reporting by Emergency, see Enrico Piovesana, “Bambini di Marjah,” Peace Reporter (March 3, 2010) athttp://it.peacereporter.net/articolo/20520/Bambini+di+Marjah

[12] Eric Schmitt, “Elite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan,” New York Times (December 27, 2009) and James Cogan, “US/NATO Death Squads Killing Indiscriminately in Afghanistan,” WSWS.org (March 18, 2010) athttp://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18194

[13] Details in Gareth Porter, “The Fiction of Marja as a City Was U.S Information War,” Inter Press Service (March 8, 2010) at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50581

[14] Justin Raimundo, “Liberals Smear Wikileaks, ” Antiwar.com (April 13, 2010) athttp://original.antiwar.com/justin/2010/04/13/liberals-smear-wikileaks/

[15] as for example see “Obama is wrong – It’s Time to Leave Afghanistan,” The Patriot’s Mind (December 3, 2009) at http://www.patriotsmind.com/2009/12/03/obama-wrong-time-leave-afghanistan/

[16] Justin Raimundo, “With Obama in Office, Liberals Learn to Love War,” The American Conservative (April 20, 2009) athttp://www.amconmag.com/article/2009/apr/20/00020/ and especially Justin Raimundo, ” ‘Progressive’ Warmongers,” Antiwar.com (April 7, 2009) athttp://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/04/07/progressive-warmongers/print/

[17] One might recall that The Nation was a supporter of the initial U.S. bombing of Afghanistan in late 2001 as, for example, expressed in an editorial by Massing (see Michael Massing, “Grief Without Portraits,” The Nation (January 17, 2001) and the rebuttal by Abu Spinoza, “The (In)Humanity of a Progressive Intellectual,” Press Action (September 12, 2003) at http://www.pressaction.com/news/weblog/full_article/spinoza09122003/ ).

[18] See Edward Herman, “Christopher Hitchens and the Uses of Demagoguery,” ZNet (September 22, 2002) at http://www.zcommunications.org/christopher-hitchens-and-the-uses-of-demagoguery-by-edward-herman

[19] A case in point being Tom Engelhardt writing often for  The Nation magazine, see his “Questions to Ask in the Dead of Night,” Mother Jones (April 23, 2009) athttp://motherjones.com/politics/2009/04/questions-ask-dead-night

[20] Quote is from Wiseman, op. cit.

[21] For example, my article “The Real World vs Obama’s Imagery,” Frontline. India’s National Magazine 26, 09 (April  25 – May  8, 2009) athttp://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2609/stories/20090508260904400.htm . See also Engelhardt, op. cit. who ignores my research.

[22] A topic I examined in 2002 in  “Counting Dead Afghan Civilians: the Counters Disrobed,” The Guardian (August  8, 2002) at:http://www.cursor.org/stories/noncounters.htm .

[23] As for example in Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, “With 1000 US Soldiers Dead in Afghanistan, Time to Revive the Anti-War Agenda,” CommonDreams.org (February 23, 2010) at http://www.commondreams.org/print/53117

[24] Edward Herman, “Mere Arabs,” Z Magazine 4, 2 (February 1991): 72-73

[25] On the Dover ban, see Brian Gran, “The Dover Ban: Wartime Control over Images of Public and Private Deaths” (Berkeley: paper presented at Unblinking: New Perspectives on Visual Privacy in the 21st Century. A Cross-Disciplinary Symposium, University of California, Berkeley, November 3-4, 2006) athttp://www.law.berkeley.edu/institutes/bclt/events/unblinking/unblinking/Gran.pdf

[26] “Report: Contractor Deaths Up in Afghanistan,” Stars and Stripes (April 16, 2010) at http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=69397

[27] Lolita C. Baldor, “Pentagon Pays to Train, Equip Afghan Partners,” Air Force Times (April 1, 2010) athttp://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2010/04/ap_afghanistan_partners_040110/

[28] Doug Bandow, “Bad Investments,” The National Interest online (April 15, 2010) athttp://www.nationalinterest.org/PrinterFriendly.aspx?id=23236

[29] As I argue in ” ‘Unworthy’ Afghan Bodies ‘Smarter’ U.S. Weapons Kill More Innocents,” in Stephen J. Rockel and Rick Halpern (eds), Inventing Collateral Damage. Civilian Casualties, War, and Empire (Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2009): 303-327, as well as seven years earlier in “

[30] “The Bombing of Afghanistan as Reflection of 9/11 and Different Valuations of Life,” Cursor.org (September 11, 2002) at http://cursor.org/stories/heroldon911.htm#28

[31] See for example, the article by a staff member in comparative military studies at the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Dr. Karl P. Mueller, “Politics, Death, and Morality in US Foreign Policy,” Aerospace Power Journal (Summer 2000) athttp://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/sum00/mueller.htm where the author wrote, “the American public is conditionally tolerant of casualties and consistently indifferent to collateral damage.”

[32] This is analyzed in my “Afghan Tragedy. Obama’s Afghan War, the U.S Media, and the United Nations: the New Metric of Civilian Casualties,” Frontline. India’s National Magazine 26, 13 (June 20 – July 3, 2009): 4-16 athttp://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2613/stories/20090703261300400.htm

:: Article nr. 65233 sent on 20-apr-2010 04:46 ECT
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Bush Insider Reveals Guantanamo Deception: Hundreds Of Innocents Jailed

Bush Insider Reveals Guantanamo Deception: Hundreds Of Innocents Jailed

By Bill Quigley

20 April, 2010 Countercurrents.org

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided shocking new testimony from inside the Bush Administration that hundreds of the men jailed at Guantanamo were innocent, the top people in the Bush Administration knew full well they were innocent, and that information was kept from the public.

Wilkerson said President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld “indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons” and many in the administration knew it. The wrongfully held prisoners were not released because of political maneuverings aimed in part to cover up the mistakes of the administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who served in the U.S. Army for over thirty years, signed a sworn declaration for an Oregon federal court case stating that he found out in August 2002 that the US knew that many of the prisoners at Guantanamo were not enemy combatants. Wilkerson also discussed this in a revealing and critical article on Guantanamo for the Washington Note.

How did Colonel Wilkerson first learn about the innocents in Guantanamo? In August 2002, Wilkerson, who had been working closely with Colin Powell for years, was appointed Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State. In that position, Wilkerson started attending daily classified briefings involving 50 or more senior State Department officials where Guantanamo was often discussed.

It soon became clear to him and other State Department personnel “that many of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all.”

How was it possible that hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners were innocent? Wilkerson said it all started at the beginning, mostly because U.S. forces did not capture most of the people who were sent to Guantanamo. The people who ended up in Guantanamo, said Wilkerson, were mostly turned over to the US by Afghan warlords and others who received bounties of up to $5000 per head for each person they turned in. The majority of the 742 detainees “had never seen a U.S. soldier in the process of their initial detention.”

Military officers told Wilkerson that “many detainees were turned over for the wrong reasons, particularly for bounties and other incentives.” The U.S. knew “that the likelihood was high that some of the Guantanamo detainees had been turned in to U.S. forces in order to settle local scores, for tribal reasons, or just as a method of making money.”

As a consequence, said Wilkerson “there was no real method of knowing why the prisoner had been detained in the first place.”

Wilkerson wrote that the American people have no idea of the “utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the initial stages…Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.”

Why was there utter incompetence in the battlefield vetting? “This was a factor of having too few troops in the combat zone, the troops and civilians who were there having too few people trained and skilled in such vetting, and the incredible pressure coming down from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others to ‘just get the bastards to the interrogators.’” As a result, Wilkerson’s statement continues, “there was no meaningful way to determine whether they were terrorists, Taliban, or simply innocent civilians picked up on a very confused battlefield or in the territory of another state such as Pakistan.”

In addition, the statement points out “a separate but related problem was that often absolutely no evidence relating to the detainee was turned over, so there was no real method of knowing why the prisoner had been detained in the first place.”

“The initial group of 742 detainees had not been detained under the processes I was used to as a military officer,” Wilkerson said. “It was becoming more and more clear that many of the men were innocent, or at a minimum their guilt was impossible to determine let alone prove in any court of law, civilian or military. If there was any evidence, the chain of protecting it had been completely ignored.”

Several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this early on and knew “of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released,” wrote Wilkerson.

So why did the Bush Administration not release the men from prison once it was discovered that they were not guilty? Why continue to keep innocent men in prison?

“To have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers,” wrote Wilkerson.

“They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released,” according to Wilkerson. “I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.”

The refusal to let the detainees go, even those who were likely innocent, was based on several political factors. If the US released them to another country and that country found them innocent, it would make the US look bad, said Wilkerson. “Another concern was that the detention efforts at Guantanamo would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were. Such results were not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at the Department of Defense.”

At the Department of Defense, Secretary Rumsfeld, “just refused to let detainees go” said Wilkerson.

“Another part of the political dilemma originated in the Office of Vice President Richard B. Cheney,” according to Wilkerson, “whose position could be summed up as ‘the end justifies the means’, and who had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent, or that there was a lack of useable evidence for the great majority of them. If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

President Bush was involved in all of the decisions about the men in Guantanamo according to reports from Secretary Powell to Wilkerson. “My own view,” said Wilkerson “is that it was easy for Vice President Cheney to run circles around President Bush bureaucratically because Cheney had the network within the government to do so. Moreover, by exploiting what Secretary Powell called the President’s ‘cowboy instincts,’ Vice President Cheney could more often than not gain the President’s acquiescence.”

Despite the widespread knowledge inside the Bush administration that the US continued to indefinitely detain the innocent at Guantanamo, for years the US government continued to publicly say the opposite – that people at Guantanamo were terrorists.

After these disclosures from deep within the Bush Administration, the newest issue now before the people of the U.S. is not just whether the Bush Administration was wrong about Guantanamo but whether it was also consistently deceitful in holding hundreds of innocent men in prison to cover up their own mistakes.

Why is Colonel Wilkerson disclosing this now? He provided a sworn statement to assist the International Human Rights Clinic at Willamette University College of Law in Oregon and the Federal Public Defender who are suing US officials for the wrongful detention and torture of Adel Hassan Hamad. Hamad was a humanitarian aid worker from Sudan working in Pakistan when he was kidnapped from his apartment, tortured and shipped to Guantanamo where he was held for five years before being released.

At the end of his nine page sworn statement, Wilkerson explains his personal reasons for disclosing this damning information. “I have made a personal choice to come forward and discuss the abuses that occurred because knowledge that I served an Administration that tortured and abused those it detained at the facilities at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere and indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons has marked a low point in my professional career and I wish to make the record clear on what occurred. I am also extremely concerned that the Armed Forces of the United States, where I spent 31 years of my professional life, were deeply involved in these tragic mistakes.”

Wilkerson concluded his article on Guantanamo by issuing a challenge. “When – and if – the truths about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be revealed in the way they should be, or Congress will step up and shoulder some of the blame, or the new Obama administration will have the courage to follow through substantially on its campaign promises with respect to GITMO, torture and the like, remains indeed to be seen.”

The U.S. rightly criticizes Iran and China for wrongfully imprisoning people. So what are we as a nation going to do now that an insider from the Bush Administration has courageously revealed the truth and the cover up about U.S. politicians wrongfully imprisoning hundreds and not releasing them even when they knew they were innocent? Our response will tell much about our national commitment to justice for all.

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill can be contacted
at quigley77@gmail.com

:: Article nr. 65256 sent on 20-apr-2010 19:56 ECT
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Officials: NATO forces kill four Afghan school students

Officials: NATO forces kill four Afghan school students

The Education Ministry said in a statement that the four dead were students, aged 11 to 17.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

20killed_by_nato_khost_apr20_10.jpg
The body of a child lies in a coffin decorated with flowers in Khost province on April 20, 2010. Four children were killed April 19 in crossfire between foreign soldiers and insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, the education ministry said on April 20. (Photo: Getty Images)

April 20, 2010 – DPA

Kabul – Afghan officials said Tuesday that NATO forces shot dead four Afghan school students, but NATO said those killed were Taliban militants and their associates.

The incident happened around three kilometres south of Khost city, the capital of the south-eastern province of Khost, on Monday night, Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told the German Press Agency dpa.

He said all the deceased were civilians who were driving in a vehicle that failed to stop at military checkpoint. ‘We condemn the attack,’ he said.

The Education Ministry said in a statement that the four dead were students, aged 11 to 17. The ministry condemned the attack.

However, NATO said in a statement that two of the dead people were ‘known insurgents’ and the other two were their associates.

Killed by NATO in Khost
Afghan mourners gather to pray by the flower-decorated coffins of four children in Khost province on April 20, 2010. Four students were killed April 19 in crossfire between foreign soldiers and insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, the education ministry said. (Photo: Getty Images)

A vehicle approached a military convoy and did not stop despite warning shots, it said, adding, ‘Several rounds were fired in an attempt to disable the vehicle, and finally shots were fired into the vehicle itself.’

‘All four died of wounds at the scene,’ it said.

Civilian casualties at the hands of international troops have become a delicate issue in Afghanistan. Such deaths have become the main source of tension between the Afghan government and foreign troops.

‘We have a simple objective when it comes to civilian casualties,’ Mark Sedwill, the senior NATO civilian representative in Afghanistan, said at a press conference on Tuesday in Kabul. ‘And that is one civilian casualty is one too many. We will make all efforts to avoid them.’

Separately, a bomb strapped to a bicycle was detonated in the centre of Khost city close to the main police headquarters on Tuesday, causing no death or damage, Zadran said.

Meanwhile, unknown gunmen shot dead a deputy mayor in the southern province of Kandahar in what the Interior Ministry on Tuesday called a ‘terrorist attack.’

Azizullah Zeyarmal was en route Monday night to a mosque in the provincial capital, also called Kandahar, when unknown gunmen opened fire on him, the ministry said in statement.

Zeyarmal died on his way to hospital, Mohammad Shah Farouqi, deputy provincial police chief, said.

No group took responsibility for the attack. However, the ministry said the attack was carried out ‘by enemies of Afghanistan,’ a term often used by Afghan officials to describe Taliban militants.

The shooting came hours after three children were killed and four other people were injured when a bomb hidden in a donkey-drawn cart exploded in front of the residence of influential tribal chief Haji Fazelluddin in the centre of Kandahar city.

Fazelluddin, a former district governor for Spin Boldak, was unhurt in the attack, but three of his nephews were killed.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber carried out an attack in the centre of Kandahar city, killing three Afghans and wounding around two dozen people, including foreign contractors.

Attacks that bear the hallmark of Taliban militants are on the rise in Kandahar, the spiritual home and birthplace of the Taliban, ahead of a much-publicized military operation in the province in the coming months.

Afghan and NATO officials have said their offensive was under way in the province, but it is to get a push in summer when thousands of additional US troops arrive in the region.

The total number of foreign troops in Afghanistan is set to rise to 150,000 from more than 125,000 currently stationed in the war-torn country.

Afghans carry bodies of four people killed by NATO
Afghans carry bodies of four people killed when they ignored warnings to stop by one of NATO’s convoys in Khost province late Monday, southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, April 20, 2010. NATO said two of those killed in the incident were later identified as “known insurgents,” although the provincial chief of police said the dead were all civilians, and included a 12-year-old child. (Photo: AP)

:: Article nr. 65257 sent on 20-apr-2010 20:02 ECT
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Afghan Surge, Plan for Failure

Army Researchers: Why the Kandahar Offensive Could Backfire

Nathan Hodge

afghan_protest_against_us.jpg
Afghan protest against US occupation

Wired

The southern Afghan province of Kandahar trusts the Taliban more than the government. And that’s according to a survey commissioned by the U.S. Army.

Kandahar is expected to be the focal point of operations for U.S. and NATO troops this summer, but a poll recently conducted by the Army’s controversial social science program, the Human Terrain System (HTS), is warning that rampant local corruption, and a lack of security, could undermine coalition efforts to win the support of the local population.

Among other things, the survey’s authors warned that a lack of confidence in the Afghan government “sets conditions for a disenfranchised population to respond either by not supporting the government due to its inability to deliver improvements in the quality of life or, worse yet, by supporting the Taliban.”

The unclassified report (.pdf) is worth examining for several reasons. For starters, it addresses many of the questions raised by Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan. In an assessment made public earlier this year, Flynn complained that the coalition lacked a real understanding of the cultural context of the insurgency, and said troops needed richer information about the communities they were trying to engage.

That’s where HTS is supposed to come in. Originally, the program was focused on embedding social scientists and anthropologists within brigades. But as several people close to the program tell Danger Room, there is now an emphasis on larger-scale polls run by local contractors as a way to obtain a larger picture of the situation.

Both polling and embedding researchers have their risks, and their shortcomings: Two HTS social scientists have been killed in Afghanistan, but conducting surveys, even through local companies, can also be perilous. The survey draws on a total of 1,994 interviews covering nine of Kandahar Province’s 16 districts. But it leaves out seven crucial districts: As the survey’s authors note, there are “inherent dangers associated with conducting surveys in a conflict zone” like Kandahar Province, and interviewers stayed out of areas with active violence.

In other words, the survey leaves out the populations that most need to be understood, at least from the coalition’s perspective. Still, the results are telling. Interviewers queried residents of Kandahar on everything from quality of services like clean water, electricity to the availability of primary schooling for girls and boys and medical care. They also asked local residents about security government effectiveness.

Among the findings: Security on the roads is a major issue for residents of Kandahar. “When respondents are asked if they feel unsafe traveling within their district or around the province, in eight out of ten districts, at least half say they are unsafe,” the study says. And the biggest threat to security while traveling in the province, respondents said: Army and police checkpoints.

Likewise, attitudes in the south are generally sympathetic to the Taliban. Reconciliation with the insurgency is a popular concept in the province, and a significant majority of respondents viewed Taliban as “our Afghan brothers.” Some 84 percent cited “corruption” as the main reason for the conflict. But most of that corruption in on the government side: 53 percent said the Taliban cannot be corrupted.

Finally, there’s a significant amount of skepticism about the local police and security forces. “The primary reason respondents in Kandahar consider joining the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] is the desire for a job and a paycheck,” the study says. “Respondents are deterred from considering a career in the ANSF because of the dangers. Across all districts, the ANP [Afghan National Police] is viewed as a more dangerous profession than the ANA [Afghan National Army].”

:: Article nr. 65264 sent on 21-apr-2010 03:44 ECT
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NATO: Pentagon’s Gateway into Former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Nations

by Rick Rozoff

“In the post-Cold War period the Pentagon through bilateral agreements, but even more so through NATO partnerships, has ensconced itself in former Warsaw Pact and Soviet nations from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea to Central Asia. From the Balkans to the Chinese border.”


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in April of 1949 by a country not on the European continent, the United States, and eleven subordinates which had fought on both sides of the World War that had ended four years earlier: Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. Greece and Turkey were added in 1952 after their service in the Korean War and West Germany joined in 1955.

Five days after the inclusion of the Federal Republic of Germany on May 9, in contravention of the 1945 Potsdam Agreement between Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union which explicitly demanded and meticulously detailed plans for the demilitarization of Germany, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) in response. Fellow members were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland and Romania. Albania formally withdrew in 1968, though it had not been a participating member since the early 1960s, and Romania had been a member in name only for at least twenty years before the pact’s formal disbandment.

With the accession of Spain into the “military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America” in 1982 the U.S.-led military bloc grew from its original 12 to 16 members. By that time the Warsaw Pact had shrunk from eight to seven members and some of the remaining ones were only selectively involved.

NATO had regularly conducted large-scale military exercises in alleged defense of Norway, Denmark and other members, but never deployed forces or conducted operations outside member states’ territories, counting on the thousands of American nuclear warheads in European NATO states to respond to the Warsaw Pact’s conventional military superiority in the event of armed confrontation. [1]

Military forces from the Warsaw Pact intervened in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in the early 1980s it appeared they might do so again in Poland, and the Soviet Union sent troops to Hungary in 1956 after Prime Minister Imre Nagy withdrew his nation from the Warsaw Pact.

The Soviet Union’s justification for those actions was that nations in Eastern Europe gravitating toward the West could be transformed into sites from which NATO, and especially its dominant member the U.S., would present a military threat on or near its borders.

In 1999, eight years after the formal dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the fragmentation of the Soviet Union itself, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were brought into NATO as full members during the bloc’s fiftieth anniversary summit in Washington, DC, while NATO was conducting its first large-scale military operation outside the territory of its member states and its first major armed conflict: The almost three-month Operation Allied Force air war against Yugoslavia, which had not been a member of either Cold War military alliance.

The accession of three former Warsaw Pact nations in 1999 was the largest one-time expansion in NATO’s history. Five years later at the Istanbul summit seven new members were inducted, six former Warsaw Pact countries, including three ex-Soviet republics, and a former federal republic of Yugoslavia: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

With the earlier absorption of East Germany into NATO with German reunification in 1990, by 2004 every member of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact outside the Soviet Union except short-term member Albania had been brought into the Western military alliance. Albania was incorporated into NATO at the Strasbourg-Kehl summit last year.

The worst suspicions harbored east of the Cold War divide had been confirmed. Not only have all of the Soviet Union’s previous allies in Eastern Europe been recruited into a Washington-dominated military bloc that for eleven years has been actively waging wars in Europe and beyond Europe in Asia, but territory of what had been the Soviet Union itself now contains a NATO air base (Lithuania) and a cyber warfare center (Estonia).

Once Soviet Republics like Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are being actively pursued by NATO, which has held military exercises in those countries.

In 2007 NATO selected the Papa Air Base in Hungary for its first Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) operation in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (for the present). In the same year the Alliance announced it would open its first training center in a former Warsaw Pact country, in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz.

Starting the year after they were admitted as full NATO members, Bulgaria and Romania were approached by the U.S. to offer the Pentagon access to several major military bases. [2] Both countries had turned their air bases over to Washington in late 2002 and early 2003 for the invasion of Iraq, but in 2005 and 2006 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed formal agreements for the acquisition of military bases with Romania and Bulgaria, respectively. The Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base and training and firing grounds in Babadag, Cincu and Smardan in Romania, and the Bezmer Air Base, the Graf Ignatievo Air Base and the Novo Selo Training Range in Bulgaria were locked into initial ten-year agreements. The Pentagon is not planning to leave, surely not after spending billions of dollars to modernize the facilities.

The deployment of between 5,000-10,000 U.S. troops to the bases at any one time is the first Pentagon presence in former Warsaw Pact nations. And the seven Bulgarian and Romanian installations are the first American military bases in any of those countries. Neither the troops nor the bases were the last.

The U.S. has moved its Joint Task Force-East, whose name alone indicates its purpose, to the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, and in the words of the unit’s deputy commander in 2008, “We are building a permanent forward operating station here….” [3]

The worst fear of the Soviet Union during the Cold War years was not just of NATO in general but of the U.S. in particular moving its military personnel and hardware toward its borders. Anyone who experienced a nightmare of that occurring twenty years ago and only woke up decades later would have difficulty realizing it was no longer just a dream.

NATO is, simply put, the major mechanism for moving the U.S. military into the territory of what had been the Warsaw Pact. And the Soviet Union. Permanently and aggressively.

By 2006 the advance of the Pentagon into Eastern Europe under the banner of NATO had become apparent enough – inescapably so – that quite far from the continent a Chinese military analyst, Lin Zhiyuan, deputy office director of the World Military Affairs Research Department of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, wrote that “new military bases, airports and training bases will be built in Hungary, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and other nations to ensure ‘gangways’ to some areas in the Middle East, Africa and Asia [for] possible military actions in the years ahead.” [4]

As a major American news agency described the plans in 2007, “The bases are part of an ambitious plan to shift EUCOM’s [European Command's] fighting brigades from western Europe – mostly Germany – to forward bases closer to the Caucasus, the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, for a quicker strike capability.” [5] [6]

The Bezmer, Graf Ignatievo and Mihail Kogalniceanu air bases in Bulgaria and Romania are being upgraded to serve as part of a series of new American strategic air bases outside the U.S. Aimed toward the east and the south.

In Poland, the activation of an Advanced Patriot Capability-3 interceptor missile battery manned by at least 100 U.S. military personnel has been scheduled for later this month. The troops will be deployed only 35 miles from Russia’s isolated enclave of Kaliningrad and will be the first foreign forces stationed in that nation since the end of the Warsaw Pact.

They will not be the last. After U.S. President Barack Obama met with the leaders of eleven new Eastern European NATO states – Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia – in Prague on April 8 following the signing of a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II agreement with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Polish President Donald Tusk told reporters “From the perspective of [President Obama] and the U.S. the signing of the START 2 treaty has no influence on the work on the SM3 anti-missile shield.” [7]

Tusk was not speaking of the short- to medium-range Patriots missiles that may arrive in his country any day, but of Standard Missile-3 longer-range anti-missile and anti-satellite interceptors that will be adapted from sea-based to land-based use. In Pentagonese, the Aegis Ashore component of the Phased Adaptive Approach for progressively longer-range missiles in Eastern Europe, ones which in the third phase could cripple Russia’s ability to launch a retaliatory response to a first strike.

This February 27 the now late Polish President Lech Kaczynski ratified a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the U.S. for the stationing of the latter’s troops on his nation’s soil.

On March 5 the Polish armed forces launched combat training exercises with the participation of “scores of U.S. Army soldiers.” [8]

Going backward in time, in August of 2008 the U.S. signed an agreement with Poland which includes a “commitment for both states to come to each other’s assistance in case of military threats.” [9] What certainly appears to be a mutual defense pact.

In 2002 Poland signed the largest military purchase agreement in its history: 48 F-16 multirole jet fighters, the first of which were delivered in 2006. They were the first U.S. fighters provided to a former Eastern Bloc nation.

In 2005 Poland became the first former Warsaw Pact state to assume control of the NATO Baltic air patrol established immediately after Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the bloc in 2004. Polish warplanes took over from U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons. Poland will again take control of the mission next month with four warplanes operating out of and 100 troops stationed at the Lithuanian Air Force base at Siauliai.

In 2007 the Pentagon announced plans to sell Romania 48 F-16s as well, 24 new and 24 refurbished older jet fighters, for $4.5 billion, without doubt the most expensive military purchase in that nation’s history also. Late last month the Romanian government confirmed its decision to buy the 24 second-hand F-16s, beating out competition from France’s Dassault (Rafale), Sweden’s SAAB (Grippen) and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (Eurofighter).

Early this month U.S. arms manufacturer Textron disclosed it would jointly produce armored vehicles with a Romanian counterpart, as “Romania is planning to buy about 800 armored vehicles.” [10] Romania’s NATO accession has proven invaluable for the Pentagon’s plans to expand deployments and operations from Europe to the east and the south and has been correspondingly lucrative for U.S. arms firms.

In March the Czech press revealed that “the Czech Republic is in discussions with the Obama administration to host a command center for the United States’ altered missile-defense plan.” [11]

During the recently-concluded Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC where a number of decidedly unrelated agreements were reached including one with which the U.S. secured the right for military overflights from Kazakhstan [12], Czech Defense Minister Martin Bartak disclosed that his meetings in the American capital included one with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher, the latter a long-time advocate for and organizer of U.S. missile shield projects in Eastern Europe.

In addition to being pressured by his American interlocutors to provide more troops for the Afghan war, Bartak said the three talked about Washington’s interceptor missile system, specifically that “The Czech Republic may be a part of a new warning system against possible enemy missile attacks,” personally adding that “the Czech Republic is prepared to participate in the system.” To demonstrate that the deliberations were not of an abstract nature, the Czech defense chief also mentioned the “sharing of data from commanding and observing elements placed in two locations in the Czech Republic.” [13]

Both the missile shield command center and the surveillance sites would include, in fact would be run by, American military personnel.

As will the (presumably) Standard Missile-3 interceptor missile sites offered to the U.S. in February by the Romanian and Bulgarian governments.

In Hungary, the world’s first multi-national strategic airlift operation was activated last July at the Papa Air Base. Although established under the auspices of NATO and jointly operated by twelve NATO and all-but-acknowledged NATO members – the U.S., Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania and Slovenia and Finland and Sweden – it is not under NATO command. It is an American project for the expanding war in Afghanistan with, as one U.S. officer assigned to the command put it, a “24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week” operation which “recently moved 2.1 million pounds of equipment essential to surge operations supporting the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.” [14]

U.S. Air Force personnel are deployed there for the indefinite future, as their fellow service members are in Bulgaria and Romania and soon will be in Poland.

In former Soviet space, in addition to the participation of American warplanes over the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the regular participation of troops in NATO Partnership for Peace and other war games in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Pentagon has established a permanent presence in Georgia since 2002, first with a Train and Equip Program and since then with U.S. Marines there on an ongoing basis and a steady parade of Marine commanders in and out of the capital of Tbilisi. Most recently Lieutenant General Richard F. Natonski, Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, and Brigadier General Paul W. Brier, Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe (and of U.S. Marine Forces Africa) earlier this month. [14]

U.S. troops and equipment were in that nation during the five-day war with Russia in August of 2008 and are there now.

The U.S. guided missile frigate USS John L. Hall arrived at the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti on April 14 for a week of joint exercises.

In turbulent Kyrgyzstan the U.S. runs one of the largest transit operations for the war in Afghanistan. In March U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke stated that 35,000 American troops pass through the air base at Manas each month on their way to and from Afghanistan, and U.S. Central Command has acknowledged that the number reached 50,000 last month.

In neighboring Kazakhstan, the U.S. gained military flyover rights with the government on April 11 which include for the first time the transit of combat troops and lethal military equipment.

A Kyrgyz news source revealed that in discussions between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, U.S. President Obama and his main Russian and Eurasian hand Michael McFaul, the last-named proposed the establishment of an American military base in Kazakhstan to either supplement or replace if need be the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan. [15]

Retired Russian general Leonid Ivashov has stated that new U.S.-Kazakh military cooperation plans “threaten the interests of Russia and other countries, notably China and especially Iran against which the United States is preparing a military operation,” particularly if as seems increasingly likely the U.S. opens “a military base in Kazakhstan similar in size to the Kyrgyz facility.” [16]

In the post-Cold War period the Pentagon through bilateral agreements, but even more so through NATO partnerships, has ensconced itself in former Warsaw Pact and Soviet nations from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea to Central Asia. From the Balkans to the Chinese border.

Notes:

[1]. NATO’s Sixty Year Legacy: Threat Of Nuclear War In Europe, Stop Nato, March 31, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/y6ojonu

NATO’s Secret Transatlantic Bond: Nuclear Weapons In Europe, December 3, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/yypvvqc

[2]. Bulgaria, Romania: U.S., NATO Bases For War In The East, Stop NATO, October 24, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/yf5f3zj

Black Sea: Pentagon’s Gateway To Three Continents And The Middle East, Stop NATO, February 21, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/y7ws32m

[3]. United States Army, July 24, 2008

[4]. People’s Daily, December 5, 2006

[5]. United Press International, May 18, 2007

[6]. Bulgaria, Romania: U.S., NATO Bases For War In The East, Stop NATO, October 24, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/yf5f3zj

[7]. Polish Radio, April 9, 2010

[8]. U.S., NATO Intensify War Games Around Russia’s Perimeter, Stop NATO, March 6, 2010

http://tinyurl.com/yyqusva

[9]. Bloomberg News, August 15, 2008

[10]. Agence France-Presse, April 9, 2010

[11]. Prague Post, February 10, 2010

[12]. Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China, Stop NATO, April 13, 2010

http://tinyurl.com/y7epp7g

[13]. Czech News Agency, April 14, 2010

[14]. United States Air Forces in Europe, April 2, 2010

[15]. U.S. Marines In The Caucasus As West Widens Afghan War, Stop NATO, September 3, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/ycxbgdy

[16]. 24.kg, April 12, 2010

[17]. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 14, 2010

Source:

by courtesy & © 2010 Rick Rozoff

Are ‘tea party’ rallies given preferential treatment by police?

Are ‘tea party’ rallies given preferential treatment by police?

The constitutionality of protest rules was called into question after a tea party rally was allowed full-size flag poles and signs on wooden sticks, which antiwar protesters are often barred from using.

People gather for a Tea Party protest on the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday.

Robert Willett/AP

By Patrik Jonsson

“Tea party” activists successfully lobbied security officials in Raleigh, N.C., last Thursday toreverse a ban on carrying full-sized flagpoles and signs at a tax day rally. Antiwar protesters, however, argue that they’re often not afforded such luxuries.

Do tea party activists get preferential treatment from law enforcement officials? They have been able to carry guns to anti-Obama rallies, critics note, suggesting that there is a double standard.

Parade permitting rules vary widely from town to town and city to city, with the Supreme Court giving law enforcement broad authority to uphold public safety.

To be sure, permitting rules and police preparedness are often developed based on past behavior at various kinds of protests. Many go back to the 1960s and 1970s when violent rallies erupted over the Vietnam War. Such protests sprung up again during the presidency of George W. Bush, when protesters clashed with police in New York City and elsewhere during large-scale demonstrations against the Middle East wars. With tea party rallies so far proving more orderly, police have given them more latitude.

For the most part, application of those rules doesn’t infringe on the constitutional right to free speech, says Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh, who has organized both antiwar protests and tea party protests and is now running for Congress in New Mexico’s Third district.

That doesn’t mean the complaint about different treatment for different ralliers is off-base, however. The more loosely such permitting restrictions are written, the more bias can – and does – seep into the approval process, says Mr. Kokesh.

“Certainly antiwar protests are on the whole more rambunctious than tea party rallies, so there is an appropriate role for law enforcement to exercise a certain amount of discretion in how they approach protesters,” says Kokesh. “But there are times when regulation or individual action by law enforcement crosses the line and there’s a blatant show of favoritism.”

Robert Richards, a First Amendment scholar at Penn State University, agrees. “Municipalities cannot engage in viewpoint-based discrimination,” he says. “There is some latitude that’s given police in order to protect public safety, but if it gets down to a determination based on the message, it’s a huge issue as far as the First Amendment is concerned.”

Alarm around tea party protests cropped up last year when tea partiers began showing up armed. One much-publicized incident involved a man who carried a high-powered rifle to an anti-Obama rally close to where the president was speaking in Phoenix. The man was not breaking any laws, and the Secret Service said Obama was never in danger.

“If a gun is legal, you can’t raise a First Amendment issue if someone is using a gun for symbolic expression,” says Mr. Richards. “But if somebody can point to a specific municipality where police and municipal officials allowed somebody from one group to carry a weapon and not somebody from another group, that would raise a constitutional issue.”

Kokesh says local rules and even customs decide most of what is allowed and what isn’t at a political protest. There was no evidence, for example, that any tea partiers who rallied on the Mall last Thursday were carrying weapons, given Washington’s strict gun policies. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be unusual to see someone open-carrying a gun at a rally in Farmington, N.M., where they are commonplace in public places.

In Raleigh, public safety officials, who had created the “no-flagpole” rule last September, dropped the rule after the rally drew national attention. Whether that courtesy will ultimately be extended to antiwar or immigration protesters remains to be seen.

Though free speech usually prevails, the question of bias in how protesters are treated by elected officials and police is still an important one, insists Kokesh.

“To say that ‘you can have signs with wooden poles, but you we’re afraid of so you can’t have them‘ is not acceptable to me,” he says. “The fact is, law enforcement’s attitudes toward protesters generally reflect the the political inclination [of police], which tends to be pro-government and a little more conservative. So the more uniform the regulations are and the more clearly expressed the standards are, the more fair and equitable [the protests are],” he says.

Fighting Intensifies In North Afghanistan

At least 29 militants, including two commanders, have been killed over four days of intense fighting aimed at protecting supply routes through northern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

Elsewhere, a foreign soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, NATO said, the third foreign death that day following an earlier announcement of the loss of two Dutch marines in the southern province of Uruzgan. The third soldier’s nationality and other details of the incident were being withheld pending family notification, it said.

So far this month, 24 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan, where foreign troop levels are climbing toward 130,000 in a push to cripple the resurgent Taliban insurgency. An Afghan policeman was also killed during mine clearance operations in the southern province of Kandahar, the Interior Ministry said.

Afghan and international forces launched an offensive last week in the northern province of Baghlan to push the Taliban out of a number of districts, including the outskirts of the provincial capital, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of Kabul. Insurgents had stepped up attacks in the formerly calm province as part of efforts to disrupt a key northern overland supply route for international forces.

NATO air strikes bombarded insurgent positions, killing 29 and wounding 52, said Zemeri Bashary, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Afghan police force.

At least three Afghan police and four German soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Bashary said the operation was continuing on Sunday.

Among the Taliban killed were two important commanders, Bashary said, without giving their names or other details. He said he had no information on deaths or injuries among civilians.

“The goal of the operation in Baghlan is to bring peace and stability where it was under the threat of the militants,” Bashary said.

Maj. Marcin Walczak, a spokesman for international forces, said Afghan troops were leading the fighting with foreign militaries providing reconnaissance, air support and medical assistance.

The Interior Ministry’s Bashary also said authorities were working to free five Afghan workers for the U.N. Office of Project Services who were taken hostage Thursday in Baghlan. The U.N. has said it is working with the Afghan Ministry of Interior to seek their release.

Separately, the Afghan authorities released three Italian medical workers Sunday who had been detained in southern Afghanistan for a week on suspicion of collaborating with insurgents, Italian and Afghan officials said.

The three employees of Italian non-governmental organization Emergency hadn’t been heard from since being taken into custody April 10 in Helmand after explosives and handguns were found in a raid by Afghan police and British troops on an Emergency hospital.

Officials in Helmand have alleged to the media the three were bribed by insurgents to smuggle weapons into the hospital in preparation for an assassination attempt on the provincial governor. Emergency strongly denied the accusation and the Afghan intelligence service said in a statement that the three had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Five Afghan workers for Emergency detained with them were also released, while a sixth Afghan employee continued to be held.

Also Sunday in the northern province of Faryab, one person was killed and 14 wounded when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in a busy market in the town of Dawlatabad, according to Ahmad Jawed Bedar, spokesman for the provincial governor. It wasn’t clear who set the bomb or what its intended target was. While Faryab has been relatively quiet, it shares a border with volatile Baghdis province.

Joint Afghan and NATO patrols also discovered weapons and drug caches in Kandahar and neighboring Helmand province, including more than 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of raw opium, 1,875 pounds (851 kilograms) of processed opium, and 615 pounds (279 kilograms) of hashish. The occupants of the trucks were held and the drugs were to be destroyed, NATO said.

Afghanistan produces the raw material for 90 percent of the world’s heroin, much of it drawn from the opium fields of Kandahar and Helmand. Profits from the drug trade fill the Taliban’s coffers.

Violence in the north has proved an increasing distraction from NATO’s main focus on Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan, where Afghan and international forces are conducting operations in preparation for a major push against the Taliban in the group’s spiritual heartland.

The operation’s aim is to reassert central government control in the region ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Afghanistan’s Western backers have insisted that the military offensive must be complemented by efforts to reform the flawed electoral system, in order to regain Afghans’ trust in their leaders.

President Hamid Karzai on Saturday named a respected former judge to head the Independent Electoral Commission, an organizing body, and ended his bid to exclude international representatives from a separate independent fraud-monitoring group.

The moves meet long-standing international demands that the electoral process be cleaned up after massive fraud in last year’s presidential balloting.

___

Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report.

Chechnya: Monster in the Mountains

Chechnya: Monster in the Mountains

John Russell, May 2010

The World Today, Volume 66, Number 5

Chechnya has returned to haunt Russia. Forty deaths by suicide bombs on the Moscow subway confirm that outsourcing rule in the restive republic is a failed policy. But no other plan is in sight; these are not likely to be the last innocent lives lost.

The ease with which terrorists detonated their bombs in the heart of the Russian capital – under the very headquarters of the Federal Security Service at the Lubyanka station and near the world famous Gorky Park – raised serious questions, not just about the ability of Russian security forces to defend citizens, but more fundamentally over the entire Russian policy towards the North Caucasus, begun under Vladimir Putin and carried on by his successor as Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev.

Insofar as Putin’s reputation and popularity were built on his aggressive Chechen policy, the latest spike in attacks from the North Caucasus calls into question his frequent assertions that the ‘war’ against terror in Russia’s southern republics has been won.

For Medvedev, who has been much more proactive in addressing the root problems of the region: corruption, unemployment, low levels of development, a question mark hangs over the future of his hand-picked plenipotentiary to the North Caucasus – Aleksandr Khloponin – who was appointed, one assumes, to tackle these issues.

For all his undoubted financial skills and business acumen, the fresh-faced newcomer from Krasnoyarsk appears as vulnerable as a sacrificial lamb in a political landscape increasingly dominated by factions that have a tendency to behave more like wolves than sheep.

CAUCASIAN CAULDRON

In attempting to crush separatism and extremism, the Kremlin twice tried and failed to implement the strategy employed by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils: to impose a military solution by force, ignoring international condemnation of disproportionate civilian suffering.

By 2000, then President, now Prime Minister, Putin turned to Chechenisation, in effect delegating responsibility for countering the insurgency in Chechnya to pro-Moscow Chechens, led by the Kadyrovs: first the father Akhmad until his assassination in 2004, and then his son Ramzan, now the young and controversial Chechen president. Never popular with some of Putin’s presidential advisers, let alone Russian military leaders, the policy appeared to have paid dividends by 2007 when fighting in Chechnya largely subsided.

The Faustian pact between Putin and the Kadyrovs promised, in return for offering the latter virtually a free hand in running their fiefdom, not only Russian territorial integrity, but also a guarantee that ordinary Russians would no longer be subject to such bloody terrorist spectaculars as the 2002 Dubrovka theatre siege and the Beslan hostage-taking two years later. The Moscow subway bombings effectively demonstrate that the deal now appears incapable of fulfilling this important last condition and that Russians must brace themselves for further assaults.

FUNDAMENTALIST TRAJECTORY

Although surprise is necessary for any successful terror operation, the warning signs have been there for some time. Despite the success of Kadyrov in suppressing armed opposition in Chechnya, much of the violence had merely shifted to the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan. Last year there was a significant increase in the number of insurgent attacks in the three republics as a whole.

As pressure on the resistance increased, the tactic of suicide bombings reappeared after a considerable lull. In November the fight was once again taken to Russia, with the bombing of the Nevsky Express train between Moscow and St Petersburg.

In February, Doku Umarov, leader of the self-proclaimed Emirate of the North Caucasus, warned after the loss of several key rebel commanders – including the alleged perpetrator of the train bombing, Said Buryatsky – that attacks deep in Russia were being planned. Umarov took responsibility for the Moscow bombings in a video posted on YouTube two days later – subsequently withdrawn – claiming they were in response to the February killing and mutilation by Russian forces of four local civilians.

Umarov, the only field commander who has been fighting federal forces since the outbreak of the first Chechen war in 1994, has gradually evolved from a relatively moderate, nationalist and secular fighter into a radical Islamist pledged to spread the writ of Shari’a law beyond even the North Caucasus to the Muslim republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan on the Volga.

The evolution of thisMoscow-based graduate engineer to Russia’s ‘terrorist number one’ appears to have imitated that of his former comrade-in-arms, Shamil Basayev, who went from defending the capital’s White House during the communist putsch of August 1991, to masterminding a string of ‘terrorist spectaculars’, culminating in the Beslan school siege. In fact, Umarov roundly criticised the tactics employed by Basayev at Beslan, vowing henceforth to target government and security personnel rather than civilians.

However, just as Basayev’s demeanour changed radically after Russian forces killed eleven of his relatives in 1995, the savage treatment of Umarov’s family by pro-Russian Chechen forces – it is rumoured that his septuagenarian father had his eyes plucked out by one of Kadyrov’s henchmen – appears to have similarly altered the tactics of the current insurgent leader.

Like Basayev before him, Umarov gave up on any prospect of peace talks with the Russians, especially after the assassination in March 2005 of Aslan Maskhadov – the one Chechen resistance leader who had held out to the last the prospect of negotiations with Putin.

In his frequent webcasts, Umarov has complained repeatedly of both the hypocrisy of the west and the indifference of the Russian public in effectively ignoring what he termed the ‘Chechen genocide’ and has followed Basayev’s trajectory towards a more fundamentalist brand of Islam than the Sufism traditionally followed by Chechens and energetically promoted since Ramzan Kadyrov came to power.

Thus, a man who admitted that, at the start of the conflict with Russia, he barely knew how to pray, has become leader of one of the most active and dangerous Islamic armed groups in the world. Clearly, this conversion has been opportunistic, albeit in part, not least because the bulk of funding for his forces comes from Salafist factions in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the considerable north Caucasian diaspora in the Middle East and Europe.

Western and Russian diplomats tend to agree that there is presently no alternative to Kadyrov’s one-man rule, so there appears to be no place for opposition of any hue, let alone Umarov’s militants. Indeed, the bitter reality of the situation appeared to reach even the remnants of the Chechen independence movement, led from exile in London by Akhmed Zakayev. He broke with Umarov after the latter established the Emirate in 2007 and at times seemed to be on the brink of an historic reconciliation with Kadyrov.

WHO IS TO BLAME? WHO IS TO GAIN?

Basayev was finally tracked down and killed in July 2006, a fate that, sooner or later, surely awaits Umarov. Inevitably, however, a successor will be found and the conflict will drag on until and unless a satisfactory political resolution is achieved.

While it is understandable that the Russian leadership is keen to stress the international nature of the common threat posed by such terror groups, and even point the finger at ‘foreign intelligence services’ in organising the Moscow blasts, the reality is that Russian domestic policy must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for the North Caucasus tragedy.

Having effectively chosen, under Putin, to follow the Eurasianist ‘great power’ path of development, territorial integrity and a highly-centralised political ‘vertical’ became essential for Russia’s survival. This inhibited movement towards genuine federalism and democracy and enhanced the necessity for prerogative power to be exercised by those factions which were, in fact rather than constitutionally, running the country. Although Medvedev has recognised the obstacles that such policies place in the modernisation path, he seems incapable of shifting his country away from the course Putin has set.

BENEVOLENT DESPOTISM

The bizarre outcome of these policies was the emergence of Kadyrov’s medieval style of benevolent despotism. In effect duplicating Putin’s ‘vertical of power’, Kadyrov has emerged virtually unchallenged as the arbiter of Chechnya’s fate, eliminating all in his way, whether loyal to Moscow or not.

Heavily dependent on both Putin’s personal support and generous subsidies from the Russian treasury, Kadyrov, to his credit, has devoted much time and energy to rebuilding the shattered infrastructure and giving his people, at least those who do not openly oppose him, relative peace, prosperity and elements of cultural renaissance, embodied in the massive new mosque in the capital Grozny.

Here lies the rub. By actively promoting the Sufi brand of Islam, Kadyrov is not only marginalising the militant Salafis under Umarov, but also turning Chechnya into a cultural, national and religious enclave in Russia.

While this has brought some fame and popularity among his own people and Islamic leaders around the world, his eccentricities clearly remain somewhat of an embarrassment to the current Russian president and make him an unwelcome guest in any western capital.

The Russian leadership’s patent misunderstanding of the Caucasian mentality has led separatists and radicals to be lumped together with terrorists in cracking down heavily on any form of opposition. Deprived of any legitimate outlet and subject to repression at every turn, it is hardly surprising that young Muslim men and, as evidenced by the Moscow bombings, increasingly women, are being drawn to the fundamentalist Islamic resistance.

To be fair, even under the intense pressure of the suicide bombings, Medvedev has balanced the tough-talking military approach of his predecessor with a continuing commitment to socio-economic improvement throughout the North Caucasus. Here, Russian interests will undoubtedly at times continue to clash with those of Kadyrov.

Some Russian commentators have even gone so far as to claim that the bombings worked to Kadyrov’s advantage by weakening the position of Medvedev’s envoy Khloponin. Certainly, irrespective of whether he was involved in any way, following the murders of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, and the assassinations of pro-Russian Chechen commanders Movladi Baisarov and Sulim Yamadayev, it would appear that Kadyrov might yet again be the immediate beneficiary of acts of political terror.

BLOOD FEUDS

However, neither Caucasian nor Russian politics are ever that simple or transparent. It might equally be argued that, by outperforming his predecessor in firmness and reason in dealing with the attacks, Dmitry Medvedev may well have consolidated his position as a frontrunner for the Russian presidency in 2012. His security forces will go after Umarov and his supporters with renewed vigour, while measures aimed at improving the welfare of citizens in the North Caucasus will continue.

Yet time is not on Medvedev’s side. The ability of the Russian economy to continue to bankroll the north Caucasian republics, the growing resentment of ordinary Russians against such generosity and the absence of the flexibility and understanding to reach a genuine political resolution, not to mention the unpredictability surrounding the likely longevity of Kadyrov’s rule, all point to the fact that Moscow has produced something of a monster in the North Caucasus mountains.

Insofar as that monster was born amidst, and has been bred on the blood of literally hundreds of thousands of victims, over the past two decades in a region in which the blood feud still holds sway, it would, regrettably, be foolhardy to predict that more will not be shed – be it in Makhachkala or Moscow.

John Russell, Professor of Russian and Security Studies, University of Bradford, author of Chechnya – Russia’s ‘War on Terror’ (Routledge, 2007)

Polish elections set for June 20

Polish elections set for June 20

Acting Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski
1/2

© AFP/Janek Skarzynski

WARSAW, April 21 (RIA Novosti) – Acting Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski has set the date for early presidential elections in Poland for Sunday June 20, the official Polish Parliament website said.

The order was signed at 05:40 local time (03:40 GMT).

Under the Polish constitution, elections must take place within two months after the election date is announced. A second round may be held on July 4.

Komorowski is the presidential candidate of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s governing centrist Civic Platform party (PO).

He was thrust into the role of acting president after the death of President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and a delegation of senior Polish officials in a plane crash near the western Russian city of Smolensk on April 10. The delegation was on its way to pay tribute to some 20,000 Polish officers executed by Soviet secret police in 1940.

The late president and first lady were laid to rest in Krakow on Sunday.

A recent survey by TNS OBOP polling center showed that Komorowski stands a good chance of winning the presidential elections.

In January 2010, Tusk officially declared he would not participate in the presidential elections.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin brother, who leads Poland’s main opposition, right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), has so far not declared his candidacy in the coming elections, despite Polish media reports that he is supported by many members of his party.

Power Crisis Recking Havoc Across Pakistan, Balochistan In the Dark

["Load-sharing" a bad idea which could end the social experiment known as "Pakistan."]

Power crisis peaks; Balochistan plunges into darkness

Power crisis peaks; Balochistan plunges into darkness

The onslaught of the raging power crisis has washed away all the barriers coming in its way and still retaining all of its ferocity kept hitting the routine life and the economy unleashing unemployment, Geo News reported Wednesday.

There is no letup in the power crisis with unshakable volition of the power providing companies not to spare a moment of respite to the people of Pakistan in seething weather and scorching heat of summer.

The meeting held in the federal capital proved nothing other than ‘coming, sitting and leaving’ and capped it all with a miserable dark night without electricity in 13 districts of Balochistan.

Administration termed it a ‘technical glitch’ in contrast with the people who insist that it was inefficiency and maladministration.

There is no single city and village of Sindh which is not hit by the crisis. Ten-hour of load shedding is being carried out in urban areas; while, the span of power outages—announced and unannounced– mounted to 14-16 hours in rural areas.

Karachi is suffering from four to five-hour unannounced load shedding. The life has been wracked by protracted power outages in some areas thanks to prolonged breakdown and cable faults.

Situation in Punjab is not quite different with 16-18-hour of load shedding in trade and industrial cities including Faisalabad and Multan. The industrial areas are also being afflicted with six-hour of load shedding.

Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw is also adversely hit by the power crisis, where outages have posed problems to the domestic consumers and the laborers. Load shedding duration also rose to 16 hours in Malakand division.

The situation in Balochistan is the severest where at least 13 districts remained plunged in darkness the whole last night.

District Noshki is witnessing the longest power breakdown. At least 18 to 20-hour of load shedding is inflicting the lives in the cities and villages of northern Balochistan.

The largest ship-breaking yard situated in Gadani receives electricity for only some hours.

Kazakhstan Arrests Bakiev’s Banker, Eugene Gourevitch

[SEE: The Story That Is Shutting-Down the Independent Media In Kyrgyzstan]

In Almaty detained former CEO MGN Group and a banker Bakiyev Eugene Gurevich

09:33 21.04.2010

In Almaty detained former director general Yevgeny Gurevich MGN Group
Summary – The former general director of MGN Group Yevgeny Gurevich arrested at the end of last week in Almaty (Kazakhstan). Reported in its issue of April 21 newspaper Delo number …”, referring to sources in the Kyrgyz Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the newspaper, is now solved the issue of extradition of U.S. citizen E. Gurevich in Kyrgyzstan, which has already given the sanction for his arrest.

According to member of the Provisional Government of Azimbek Beknazarov, E. Gurevich implicated in financial fraud in Kyrgyzstan.

Someone Wants a Nuclear Gunfight In S. Korea

Seoul rejects redeployment of US nuclear weapons

SEOUL — South Korea on Wednesday ruled out redeploying US atomic weapons on its territory in response to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

“It can never be our option,” Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan said at a lecture.

“Redeployment of nuclear deterrence must be dealt with within the framework of a global security and in that regard, a policy coordination with the United States as part of its global nuclear strategy is crucial,” he said.

US tactical nuclear weapons were reportedly pulled out of South Korea in the early 1990s, although US military maintains a policy of “neither confirm nor deny” on the existence of nuclear weapons in certain regions.

US President Barack Obama has pledged to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons, and earlier this month hosted a 47-nation summit in Washington on stopping atomic materials falling into the hands of extremists.

South Korea will host the next major nuclear summit in 2012, and Yu said he hoped the occasion would be used to pressure Pyongyang.

“The summit will serve as the last message or warning to North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. This will be the last chance for the North to do so,” he said.

North Korea has “between one and six nuclear weapons,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this month.

The North last year stormed out of six-nation talks in which it had agreed to end its nuclear programme in return for security guarantees and aid.

On Tuesday, Yu warned that the stalled six-party talks would not resume if Seoul finds the communist state was involved in the sinking of one of its warships.

The downing of a 1,200-tonne corvette in the Yellow Sea last month after a mystery blast has heightened cross-border tensions, with suspicions hanging over North Korea, although Seoul has not directly accused Pyongyang.