Aug 31, 2010

We Owe the Troops an Exit

We Owe the Troops an Exit
New York Times
31 Aug 2010

At least 14 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan over the past few days.

We learned on Saturday that our so-called partner in this forlorn war, Hamid Karzai, fired a top prosecutor who had insisted on, gasp, fighting the corruption that runs like a crippling disease through his country.

Time magazine tells us that stressed-out, depressed and despondent soldiers are seeking help for their mental difficulties at a rate that is overwhelming the capacity of available professionals. What we are doing to these troops who have been serving tour after tour in Afghanistan and Iraq is unconscionable.

Time described the mental-health issue as “the U.S. Army’s third front,” with the reporter, Mark Thompson, writing: “While its combat troops fight two wars, its mental-health professionals are waging a battle to save soldiers’ sanity when they come back, one that will cost billions long after combat ends in Baghdad and Kabul.”

In addition to the terrible physical toll, the ultimate economic costs of these two wars, as the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and his colleague Linda Bilmes have pointed out, will run to more than $3 trillion.

I get a headache when I hear supporters of this endless warfare complaining about the federal budget deficits. They’re like arsonists complaining about the smell of smoke in the neighborhood.

There is no silver lining to this nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan. Poll after poll has shown that it no longer has the support of most Americans. And yet we fight on, feeding troops into the meat-grinder year after tragic year — to what end?

“Clearly, the final chapters of this particular endeavor are very much yet to be written,” said Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, during a BBC interview over the weekend. He sounded as if those chapters would not be written any time soon.

In a reference to President Obama’s assertion that U.S. troops would begin to withdraw from Afghanistan next July, General Petraeus told the interviewer: “That’s a date when a process begins, nothing more, nothing less. It’s not the date when the American forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and the light to turn off on the way out of the room.”

A lot of Americans who had listened to the president thought it was, in fact, a date when the American forces would begin an exodus. The general seems to have heard something quite different.

In truth, it’s not at all clear how President Obama really feels about the awesome responsibilities involved in waging war, and that’s a problem. The Times’s Peter Baker wrote a compelling and in many ways troubling article recently about the steep learning curve that Mr. Obama, with no previous military background, has had to negotiate as a wartime commander in chief.

Quoting an unnamed adviser to the president, Mr. Baker wrote that Mr. Obama sees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as “problems that need managing” while he pursues his mission of transforming the nation. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking on the record, said, “He’s got a very full plate of very big issues, and I think he does not want to create the impression that he’s so preoccupied with these two wars that he’s not addressing the domestic issues that are uppermost in people’s minds.”

Wars are not problems that need managing, which suggests that they will always be with us. They are catastrophes that need to be brought to an end as quickly as possible. Wars consume lives by the thousands (in Iraq, by the scores of thousands) and sometimes, as in World War II, by the millions. The goal when fighting any war should be peace, not a permanent simmer of nonstop maiming and killing. Wars are meant to be won — if they have to be fought at all — not endlessly looked after.

One of the reasons we’re in this state of nonstop warfare is the fact that so few Americans have had any personal stake in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no draft and no direct financial hardship resulting from the wars. So we keep shipping other people’s children off to combat as if they were some sort of commodity, like coal or wheat, with no real regard for the terrible price so many have to pay, physically and psychologically.

Not only is this tragic, it is profoundly disrespectful. These are real men and women, courageous and mostly uncomplaining human beings, that we are sending into the war zones, and we owe them our most careful attention.
Above all, we owe them an end to two wars that have gone on much too long.

Aug 29, 2010

COIN - How Not To vs. How To

The photo above shows why the war in Afghanistan is not going well for the United States.

It came from Laura King’s article of 17 Aug “'Three cups of tea' a byword for U.S. effort to win Afghan hearts and minds.” As Ms. King so aptly explains, the phrase “three cups of tea” has been adapted from the Greg Mortenson best-seller of the same name by the American military as the basis of how to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign.

The concept is a good one: win the trust of the people and they’ll tell you who are the bad guys, as well as what’s needed in their village to make it a semi-viable place to live – building local governments that can minister to its own people is incredibly important in a country whose central government is known worldwide for corruption and incompetence. “Counterinsurgency is easy,” Col Dale Alford (USMC) said at the National Press Club "COIN Symposium", “you want to make the locals choose us.” It worked with the Marines and Sunni’s in Ramadi and Anbar; it should work in Afghanistan where the choices are either us or the Taliban.

But any plan is only as good as it’s implementation…and that bring us back to the photograph : two soldiers sitting at their desk in an office looking down at Afghans who are sitting on the floor on the other side of the room. This is hardly how Gen James Mattis (USMC) and Gen David Petraeus (Army), co-authors of the 2006 Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Manual, envisioned building relations with the locals.

Mattis knew how to deal with a wary population. “Take off your sunglasses,” he ordered his Marines back in 2003 Iraq, “and let them get to know you. Play soccer with the kids, and don’t worry if you lose. Shake a lot of hands and chat them up.” Sound, effective advice until Paul Bremer’s ill-planned CPA took charge and Iraq exploded with I.E.D.’s.

What the Army fails to understand is that it’s not how many cups of tea one drinks that’s important, but that the act of drinking tea or sharing a melon is how strangers sit down peacefully and begin to know one another. Afghanistan is an incredibly poor country; perhaps the 5th poorest in the world, and sharing food is the ultimate in hospitality. It’s also worth noting that relationships are not built in a day, neither here, or in Afghanistan. Similar to most courting rituals worldwide, it takes more than one cup of tea and more than one meeting to build a relationship sufficiently deep to talk honestly about schooling, IED’s, and Taliban presence.

Bureaucracy and counterinsurgency are incompatible. Living on a FOB and patrolling by vehicle ensures you meet no locals. Eating at the DFAC means you’re not eating with the locals, and it’s worth noting that ten months after President Obama ordered more troops into Afghanistan, the Army has yet to deploy their final thousands of troops. Air conditioned bunks, Playstations and Wii, fast-food joints, an MWR shop…while such creature comforts are certainly attractive, they also keep the soldiers tied to their FOB’s.

In comparison, the Marine forces in Helmand and Nimroz Provinces live in, or in close proximity to the towns. They have limited internet access, very little a/c, and no Wii. In Musa Qual’ah, they live in the village center. In Marjah, they live on some ten different little patrol bases. In Nawa and Garmsir, considered the success stories of COIN in Afghanistan, they live in-and -around the towns. Relationships and trust are built by constant exposure to each other, and the Marines patrol 3x daily 7 days/ week. Yet Ms. King’s article quotes the ranking elder of a village as mentioning that American soldiers visited him ‘last month’, and how he doubted that “an occasional visit by the American forces could keep the insurgents at bay.”

It’s been written that the Marines out-patrol the Army by a factor of perhaps 20-1; hot, tiring work in a country jaded by nine years of broken Western promises. Yet done properly, as Mortenson’s book and Marine efforts in Helmand Province evidence, personal relationships can bring two disparate cultures together for mutual success. With American assistance, they’ll build enough functioning local governments that will enable our troops to come home.

But to “choose us” the locals need to get to know us, and to “know us” we need to get off the FOB’s and drink chai daily with that village elder.

Aug 28, 2010

Insurgents Attack 2 Bases - wearing US Army uniforms

Afghan Insurgents Attack 2 Bases
Filed at 10:35 a.m. ET

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Insurgents wearing U.S. Army uniforms launched pre-dawn attacks Saturday on a major NATO base in eastern Afghanistan and a nearby camp where seven CIA employees were killed last year in a suicide bombing. NATO said there were no coalition casualties and the attacks were repelled.

NATO said at least 21 insurgents were killed -- including four who were wearing suicide vests -- and five captured in Saturday's coordinated attacks.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry put the insurgent death toll in the attacks at 24, with five captured and no casualties on the police side. The Defense Ministry said two Afghan soldiers were killed and three wounded in the fighting.

The assaults on the sprawling Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and nearby Camp Chapman came around 3 a.m., just as area residents were rising for early morning prayers.

The area, about 60 miles southeast of Kabul near the border with Pakistan, is a hotbed of activity by the Taliban and other insurgent groups, including the December attack on Chapman that killed four CIA officers and three contracted security guards.

In recent months similar attacks have been launched against U.S. bases at Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.

Afghan police said about 50 insurgents attacked using rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, but had been repelled.

After being driven away from the bases, the insurgents approached the nearby offices of the governor and provincial police headquarters but were driven off, said Khost provincial police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.

"Given the size of the enemy's force, this could have been a major catastrophe for Khost. Luckily we prevented it" he said.

Small arms fire continued through the morning, while NATO helicopters patrolled overhead.

NATO said two insurgents had managed to breach Salerno's perimeter, but were observed cutting the fence and killed immediately.

Dead insurgents were seen wearing camouflage jackets and pants seemingly identical to those warn by U.S. Army soldiers.

Police captured a pickup truck laden with ammunition along with a light truck packed with explosives that had become stuck in deep mud, according to Maj. Wazir Pacha of the provincial police headquarters. Bomb specialists later destroyed the truck and its cargo, according to the Interior Ministry.

NATO said the dead insurgents were members of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-affiliated group with deep ties to al-Qaida that is accused of launching frequent raids across the border from neighboring Pakistan.

Aug 26, 2010

TAPS Program - Support for families of fallen soldiers

Mentors support families of fallen soldiersBy Renee Chou
August 21, 2010

Coping with a soldier's death can be a lonesome and difficult journey. But survivors of fallen soldiers don't have to go through it alone.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) offers peer mentor training to help survivors grieving a military loss.

Randy and Betsy Beard learned about TAPS after their 22-year-old son was killed in 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq.“He took shrapnel in the head and died about three hours later,” Randy Beard said.

Brad Beard was an Army mechanic who worked on howitzers. He was stationed in Korea for two years and volunteered to go to Iraq when he heard the Army needed mechanics.
“When someone really close to you dies, it just shatters your whole world,” Betsy Beard said.

“My heart was ripped apart,” Randy Beard said. “You are helpless. You can't help your wife. You can't help your family. There is nothing you can do to make it better.”

Overwhelmed with grief, the Beards contacted TAPS for help. A program mentor reached out to Betsy Beard by telephone.“She was a mom like me who lost a son in the military. She lived in Vermont,” Betsy Beard said. “I knew if she could survive, I could survive as well.”

The Beards are taking part this weekend in a TAPS camp in Pinehurst where about 150 people are learning how to survive military loss.“We are here to reach out our hand to those walking behind us,” Randy Beard said. “What that does for grief is that it helps us feel not so isolated,” Betsy Beard said.

The support is crucial because the Beards say they have learned that time does not heal the pain.“Time just moves on. What we do with our time can help or hinder us I think,” Randy Beard said.

The Beards, who live in Louisburg, travel to Fort Hood, Fort Campbell and Fort Lewis to provide peer mentoring. They also run a monthly support group for military families dealing with loss in Raleigh.

Aug 25, 2010

Al Qaeda shifting to Pakistan’s urban areas

Al Qaeda shifting to Pakistan’s urban areas

By Ali K Chishti
Daily Times (Karachi)
Aug 24, 2010

Al Qaeda is gradually shifting its base from the unsafe and spy-infested tribal belt of Pakistan – which is under the radars of virtually all intelligence agencies – to more secure, urban areas of the country, which according to a Western diplomat, are “immune to drones”, Daily Times has learned.

The drones had been so central to the current administration’s strategy that Obama has doubled the frequency of drone attacks in Pakistan, inflicting maximum damage to al Qaeda in the last two years.

Al Qaeda, who recently lost its No 3 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid to drones, got so heated by the “predators” that it had to sacrifice its prime asset – working as a double agent for both the Jordanian intelligence agency and the CIA – by hitting back at a CIA base in Afghanistan in December 30, 2009, killing seven officers and contractors, who were operating at the heart of the covert programme overseeing US drone strikes in Pakistan. A senior Pakistani intelligence official said, “Some 60 to 70 percent of the core al Qaeda leadership has been eliminated, dealing a serious blow to the network’s capacity to launch any major attacks on the West.”

Many older al Qaeda leaders have been replaced by younger ones in FATA. The influence of older sheikhs on the younger generation of al Qaeda is “only ideological. The operational guidance comes from younger elements, who now dominate the network”, the CIA chief confirmed.

At least from 2001 to 2008, al Qaeda had been operating in FATA with near impunity, Daily Times confirmed, “but they are on the move, communicating via couriers and moving stealthily in small groups to urban areas”, a former Western intelligence official confirmed. When asked about which urban areas is al Qaeda migrating to, the unanimous response from all quarters was, “Karachi”.

In-depth investigations by Daily Times also confirm the presence of senior Qaeda members and the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban – Quetta shura members – at various safe houses located in the outskirts of Karachi.

Jandullah, another name and faction of the Laskhkar-e-Jhangvi and which has struck a strong relationship with al Qaeda and the TTP, is responsible for the security of al Qaeda members.

A former Western spy-master commented, “We understand that the Quetta shura is actually the ‘Karachi shura’ and is given safe houses by Pakistanis, but there’s no doubt in DC that the Pakistanis will go after al Qaeda, common enemies you see.”

Aug 24, 2010

Marines will be 'hammering' Afghanistan next year - CMC

Marines will still be 'hammering' Afghanistan next year
By Jim Miklaszewski
NBC News’ Pentagon Correspondent
Aug 24, 2010

As U.S. combat troops complete their withdrawal from Iraq, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway addressed Afghanistan’s deadline for its similar pullout next summer during a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday.

Conway predicted that a significant number of U.S. Marines and combat forces will still be in Afghanistan “hammering” militants well past the July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawal of American forces.

Conway claimed that President Barack Obama’s timeline to begin withdrawal is "giving the enemy sustenance," telling the insurgent forces all they have to do is wait for the Americans to leave to take over control of Afghanistan.

But Conway said in some respect the deadline could work in favor of U.S. forces. Conway explained the Marines will be there well after July 2011 and implied that it could come as somewhat of a surprise to the insurgents. He asked, what the enemy leadership will say "when we're still there hammering them?"

Conway also appeared to hint that Obama's deadline to begin the withdrawal of Afghanistan was in part a political move because "President Obama was speaking to several audiences at the same time."

He also acknowledged that Americans are "growing tired of the war" in Afghanistan. Pointing out that 60 percent of Americans polled recently are against the war, Conway said America's "leadership has to do a better job of explaining the last chapter" of the war and the consequences should the U.S. abruptly pull out of Afghanistan.

Don’t ask, don’t tell
On a different, but related subject, Conway suggested that if the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law is repealed, the Marines may consider allowing Marines not to share quarters with homosexuals.

Conway said the Marines may make such housing arrangements "voluntary" to accommodate any "moral concerns." He said many Marines are "very religious" and because of their moral concerns "don’t want to room" with homosexuals.

But Conway stressed that if the law is repealed, the Marines would take the lead in implementing it. "We cannot be seen as dragging our feet. We've got two wars to fight. We'll implement it and move on," said Conway.

Good Grief Camp; For Children of our KIA's

Camp allows youngest victims of war to express their loss

Fayetteville News & Observer
Sun Aug 22, 2010

PINEHURST- The small children of fallen soldiers and Marines covered James Gobble, laughing as he pushed his way off the floor and gently tossed them off his back.

Gobble was among the adult volunteers at Good Grief Camp, an event held at a Pinehurst resort hotel Saturday aimed at helping families cope with the loss of loved ones who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who committed suicide after returning from combat.

"Most of these guys lost their dad, and it's the dad that usually does the wrestling," Gobble, a former Marine who lives in Wilmington, said after the kids eventually let him up off the carpet. "With some of them, you can really tell there's a deficit, so I'm a jungle gym for a day."

Among those seeking piggyback rides were brothers Ethan and Tristan Hotchkin. Their father, Army Pfc. Gunnar R. Hotchkin, died in Afghanistan on June 16. A paratrooper based at Fort Bragg, he was 31 years old.

"He was in a vehicle, and there was a bomb underneath," explained Ethan, 8. "I'm sad about it every day."

On his T-shirt, the boy wore a large button embossed with a photo of his father, a square-jawed man wearing glasses and the scarlet beret of the Airborne Corps. If his dad could be alive for one day, Ethan said, they would go fishing. Tristan, 4, rarely ventured more than a few feet from his big brother.

While the nation celebrates the end of combat operations in Iraq this month, images of happy soldiers and Marines returning home can be difficult for the families of those whose spouse, parent or sibling returned in a flag-draped steel coffin.

In another part of the hotel, mothers and other adult family members were receiving encouragement, advice and counseling from volunteers, most of whom had also lost loved ones. The "Survivor Seminar" was organized by the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, known as TAPS.

Play, therapy
For the children, who varied in age from toddlers to teens, the day was a mix of play and therapy.

Vanessa Gabrielson, 27, lost her father, Army 1st Sgt. Dan H. Gabrielson, when his convoy in Iraq was attacked on July 9, 2003. A former third-grade teacher, she traveled from Fort Hood, Texas, to help lead a group of kids on Saturday.

"Survivors are their own best experts," Gabrielson said, quoting a key TAPS tenet. "I draw a lot of strength from being here, seeing how brave some of these kids can be. When you're with them, it can't be about you. If it were, you'd sit in the corner and cry."

Among the activities, the youngsters were asked to write messages to their lost fathers.

With a marker, Ethan carefully scrawled: "Dad, I love you so much." He signed his name and drew two angels with haloes on the thin paper.

Later, the Hotchkin brothers and the other children gathered on the lawn of the landmark Carolina Hotel. Their messages were tied to balloons, and they released them into a brilliant blue sky.

They squinted to see as the balloons rose into the wind and drifted out of sight.

"Dad is an angel, and he's in the clouds with God," Ethan said with certainty. "He's in heaven."

Aug 23, 2010

Code Stink Rally

Code Stink
by Kanani Fong

I wore pink because it's always been my fucking color. The fact that this crew of rich harridans hijacking my color for their own political means has always grated my sensibilities. And so it was that I spent an interesting afternoon at the Jerry Brown gubernatorial fundraiser sponsored by wealthy Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans. As expected, none of the people coming to the fundraiser understood this was a Code Pink event, and many denied it. However, Code Pink had a big pink anti-war sign with their name on the fence, hence --giving it the appearance of it being a Code Pink sanctioned event.

While many of Brown's elderly supporters weren't aware of Code Pink, Jerry Brown's staff had to have been aware of their anti-war tactics which include trying to kick the Marines out of Berkeley, telling Gold Star Mom Debbie Lee that her son deserved to die, and calling Marines war criminals. After all, their work in Berkeley happened in his backyard (he lives in Oakland). This was a "You scratched my back, I'll scratch yours" event. None of his staffers went out of their way to tear the Code Pink signs down, which makes me think his campaign's ideals are in step with Code Pink.

Code Pink is an annoying as hell organization --or rather, a triad of organizations, founded by Medea Benjamin. To Code Pink, there are no heroes. There are only apologies to be made and troops to cast as victims, pawns, and accuse most as guilty of war crimes. Their maxim of "Bring our troops home," "Books not Bombs," are sentiments we all have to an extent, however, they are dangerous ones to base military strategy on, ineffective of getting rid of bad guys with, and casts all wars as unnecessary inconveniences. Without military interventions, as well as diplomatic ones, the Serbs would have continued their assault on Kosovo, Liberia's war would have claimed more than the 200,000 it did, and the fragile DRC would fall back into deadly chaos. Truth be told, the Taliban would have continued with their unbearable repression of women, as well as their stadium killings. But maybe Code Pink is too busy running to Gaza, or stalking Blackwater founder Eric Prince's wife in North Carolina, or targeting children at Halloween waiting to visit the Obamas (which included many military kids) to notice.

What Code Pink does is cut off any discussion about war by leaning on sentiment and tugging on emotions. This leads to more confusion about war, and politics not only here, but worldwide. What we risk by letting groups like Code Pink rule by sentiment is becoming more isolated from world events. While they say bring the troops back home, shore up our own borders, in no time there would be protests along the same border the National Guard is posted, with many slathered with empty rhetoric accusing them of being war criminals. Given their anti-military stance, it is not unreasonable to think they would use their considerable political clout to lean on Democrats to reduce military budgets, but not necessarily increasing the funding for programs that benefit the long term needs of veterans.

Anyway, we gave Code Pink a taste of their own tactics. Danny and Melanie laid down on the sidewalk, mimicking their own tactics. We made a few people uncomfortable, Brown avoided us, Andrew Breitbart entertained all on his skates asking attendees to "Smile for the camera and say Hamas!" We were accused by a past head of the California Democratic Party of being a Meg Whitman plant --the same Meg Whitman described by me as having all the desirability of a cold brussel sprout. Former candidate for California State Senator Mickey Kaus discovered what was going on when he heard us yelling --he lives across the street. While he spent time with us he didn't join the protest. However, it's always good having a rational Democrat around when you need it. Roller skates, flags, cops, valets, character actors, and old time liberals --this was a classic Venice Beach event.

Aug 22, 2010

Somalia resembling Afghanistan under Taliban

Somalia resembling Afghanistan under Taliban
Some experts say the similarities are no accident

Associated Press

updated 8/22/2010 12:00:09 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Men are forced to grow beards. Women can't leave home without a male relative. Music, movies and watching sports on TV are banned. Limbs are chopped off as punishment, and executions by stoning have become a public spectacle.

Somalia is looking more and more like Afghanistan under the Taliban — two rugged countries 2,000 miles apart, each lacking a central government, each with a hard-line Islamist militia that cows the public into submission.

Al-Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan — their tactics increasingly mirror each other. Those tactics worked for the Taliban until the U.S. invasion overthrew it in 2001, and now they are making a comeback. Meanwhile, al-Shabab has gained control over large swaths of this arid Horn of Africa country.

In the latest adoption of tactics long used by the Afghan militants, al-Shabab is ordering households in southern Somalia to contribute a boy to the militants' ranks. Childless families have to pay al-Shabab $50 a month. That's Somalia's per capita income.

An al-Shabab commander attributed the shared tactics and ideology to the fact that both groups follow a strict form of Islam.

"One more thing we deeply share is the hatred of infidels," the commander, Abu Dayib, told The Associated Press.

Some experts say the similarities are no accident.

"Al-Shabab is copying exactly whatever the Taliban was doing in the late 1990s, because they think the strategies the Taliban employed in Afghanistan were successful," said Vahid Mujdeh, the Afghan author of a book on the Taliban. "There is no doubt that the Taliban are like heroes for al-Shabab."

U.S. and other security officials worry about another common thread: Both the Taliban and al-Shabab have links to al-Qaida.

'Unrelenting oppression'
Until their overthrow, the Taliban gave Osama bin Laden and his group safe haven in Afghanistan. Many analysts believe al-Shabab is now controlled by al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters who honed their skills in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last month Al-Shabab claimed its first international attack — twin bombings in Uganda that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final on TV. Uganda said at least one of the confessed participants belonged to al-Qaida. Simultaneous attacks are an al-Qaida hallmark.

Both the Taliban and al-Shabab moved into a power vacuum left by inconclusive civil war, and were initially welcomed by publics desperate for some form of law and order. What they got was an extremely harsh penal code.

Now the Taliban is gaining ground despite NATO forces' efforts to push them back, and brazenly advertised its clout this month by stoning a young couple stoned to death in front of a crowd, allegedly for committing adultery.

In Somalia, two months ago, al-Shabab accused Ahmed Ali Shuke, a 27-year-old laborer, of being a government spy and slashed his tongue.

"Both groups derive support from followers of their strict interpretations of Shariah (Muslim law). Both groups also derive support by terrorizing the population," said Letta Tayler, a counterterrorism specialist at Human Rights Watch. "The people of Somalia, as in Afghanistan, have learned the hard way that if they speak out against these groups' practices, they will get killed."

Both the Taliban and al-Shabab win some sympathy by positioning themselves as defenders against invading infidels. Foreign forces — African Union troops in Somalia, U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan — feed into that narrative when they kill civilians during raids, Tayler said.

"Even many Somalis who don't like the Shabab's ideology are immensely thankful for the drop in crime in many areas under the group's control. Their daughters are not raped. Their crops are not stolen en route to market," she said.

But Human Rights Watch said in an April report that the stability was achieved by "unrelenting repression and brutality."

Several women told Human Rights Watch that they had been flogged or jailed for selling tea to support their families because the work brought them into contact with men.

Losing the hearts and minds'
Somalia has had no functioning government since 1991, and militants with guns have been filling the void ever since. Al-Shabab, which the U.S. branded a terror group in 2008, is believed to have several thousand members.

Hundreds of its fighters have died in battle, forcing al-Shabab to increase recruiting among young men and boys, said Ali Mohammed, a retired Somali colonel.

They are "losing the hearts and minds of the ordinary people," he said.

In turn, families in militant-controlled areas of Somalia who can afford it to send their sons away, several parents told the AP.

"I have lost one of my sons in a battle he was forced to join in central Somalia three months ago. He was only 15," said Asha Mohamed Amin, who lives in a rebel-controlled area of Mogadishu, the capital. "Again they say contribute the other son to a senseless death. Is that acceptable?"

Amin said she sent her other son to Hargeisa in northern Somalia to live with friends.

Innocent victims
A 26-year-old woman named Ubah felt al-Shabab's brutality firsthand.

She was visiting a moneychanger in the southern town of Kismayo with a male cousin when two young militants accused them of engaging in an illicit relationship after they couldn't show proof they were related. Hours later the militants whipped Ubah and her cousin — 80 lashes for the man and 50 for Ubah.

"I was crying and I thought they would never release me," Ubah told AP, asking that her last name not be used for fear of militant reprisals. "I couldn't move because there were men with guns."

She said the militants warned that if the two were seen together again they would be stoned to death.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Aug 21, 2010

U.S. anti-Islam protest seen as lift for extremists

U.S. anti-Islam protest seen as lift for extremists

Rhetoric over planned Islamic center near ground zero feeds anti-U.S. sentiment

New York Times
By Scott Shane
updated 8/21/2010 3:58:25 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.

Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaeda’s claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.

“I know people in this debate don’t intend it, but there are consequences for these kinds of remarks,” said Brian Fishman, who studies terrorism for the New America Foundation here.

He said that Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric hiding in Yemen who has been linked to several terrorist plots, has been arguing for months in Web speeches and in a new Qaeda magazine that American Muslims face a dark future of ever-worsening discrimination and vilification.

“When the rhetoric is so inflammatory that it serves the interests of a jihadi recruiter like Awlaki, politicians need to be called on it,” Mr. Fishman said.

Feeding into anti-American sentiment Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant Web sites at the security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, said supporters of Al Qaeda have seized on the controversy “with glee.” On radical Web forums, he said, the dispute over the Islamic center, which would include space for worship, is lumped together with fringe developments like a Florida pastor’s call for making Sept. 11 “Burn a Koran Day.”

“It’s seen as proof of what Awlaki and others have been saying, that the U.S. is hypocritical and that most Americans are enemies of Islam,” Mr. Kohlmann said. He called the anti-Islam statements spawned by the dispute “disturbing and sad” and said they were feeding anti-American sentiment that could provoke violence.

While some critics of the Islamic center have carefully limited their objection to its proximity to the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, and have rejected any suggestion that they are anti-Muslim, the issue has tapped into a well of suspicion and hostility to Islam across the country.

Many Republican politicians, including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, have said that the proposed location of the center showed insensitivity to the victims of 9/11.

Others political leaders, including President Obama, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Gov. Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey, have defended the right of Muslims to build the center or warned against anti-Muslim hysteria.

Strong emotions

The dispute has tapped strong emotions in the wake of a series of terrorist plots and attacks over the last year aimed at American targets, several of them inspired or encouraged by Mr. Awlaki. The events included the killing of 13 people in November at Fort Hood, Tex., by an Army psychiatrist, Nidal Malik Hasan; the failed attack on a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25 by a young Nigerian man; and the attempted bombing of Times Square in May by Faisal Shahzad, a financial analyst who had worked for a Connecticut cosmetics company.

Mr. Awlaki, whose Web diatribes calling for attacks on the United States have turned up repeatedly in terrorism investigations, has sought to counter the notion that American tolerance extends to Muslims.

In a March posting, Mr. Awlaki, who lived in the United States for nearly 20 years, predicted that America would become “a land of religious discrimination and concentration camps.”

“Don’t be deceived by the promises of preserving your rights from a government that is right now killing your own brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Today, with the war between Muslims and the West escalating, you cannot count on the message of solidarity you may get from a civic group or a political party, or the word of support you hear from a kind neighbor or a nice co-worker. The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens!”

Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies said the outcry over the proposed center “plays into Awlaki’s arguments and Osama bin Laden’s arguments” by suggesting that Islam has no place in the United States.

She said that extreme anti-Muslim views in the United States ironically mirror a central tenet of extreme Islamists: “That the world is divided into two camps, and they’re irreconcilable, and Muslims have to choose which side they’re on.”

Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said in a Fox News interview that “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington,” a comment that drew criticism for appearing to equate those proposing the Islamic center with Nazis.

Asked about the view that such remarks could fuel radicalism, Mr. Gingrich sent an e-mail response on Friday that did not directly address his critics but said that “Americans must learn to tell the truth about radical Islamists while being supportive of and inclusive of moderate Muslims who live in the modern world, respect women’s rights, reject medieval punishment and defend American laws and the American Constitution.” He added that he believed “it is possible to be a deeply religious Muslim and a patriotic American.”

Muqtedar Khan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Delaware, said he was not sure the Islamic center dispute alone would radicalize anyone. But he said it was “demoralizing” for Muslims like him who defend the United States as an open and tolerant society.

“For the first time, anti-Islamic rhetoric has gone mainstream,” he said. “What this really does is weaken the moderates and undermine their credibility.”

Aug 20, 2010

OIF-OEF Class Action PTSD Lawsuit Extension

NVLSP calls on friends and families of OEF/OIF vets to encourage class members to “opt-in”


WASHINGTON— Veterans discharged from military service due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008 and shortchanged on their military benefits have three additional months to join a class action lawsuit, thanks to a critical deadline extension.

Last Thursday, Judge George W. Miller of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims signed an order giving eligible veterans – almost all of whom served in Iraq or Afghanistan -- until November 10, 2010 to join (or “opt-in to”) Sabo v. United States, a class action lawsuit brought in December 2008 by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and pro-bono counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

As a result of an agreement reached with the military services, veterans who join the lawsuit are guaranteed a disability rating upgrade and expedited records review, which can potentially lead to additional financial benefits and improved healthcare for veterans and their families.

Approximately, 42 percent, or 1,835 veterans, signed and sent in “Opt-in Forms” before the original July 24, 2010 deadline, making them class members in the lawsuit. At least 2,623 other veterans are eligible to join the lawsuit and become class members.

Class notices were mailed to 4,400 Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans in January 2010. However, many notices were returned as undeliverable by the post office.

Using government sources and public records research, NVLSP staff attorneys called more than 600 eligible veterans as the July 24 deadline approached. They found that many veterans did not understand the legal notice they received in the mail, or never received it.

“More than a third of the eligible veterans are severely disabled, with VA disability ratings for PTSD of 70 to 100 percent,” said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of the NVLSP. “It’s not easy for them to understand the legal notice and what are the advantages of joining the lawsuit, even though they stand to potentially gain significant lifetime financial and healthcare benefits for themselves and their families.”

Stichman says NVLSP plans to continue calling eligible veterans over the next three months, but is also asking families and friends of eligible veterans to get involved and talk with the veterans.

“Anyone who knows an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran discharged between December 17, 2002and October 14, 2008 because of PTSD should ask if he or she has received a legal notice and opted into this lawsuit,” said Stichman. “These veterans and their families were treated unjustly and denied the benefits to which they were entitled. This is about getting them the lifetime military benefits that they have earned and deserve. More information is available at”

Eligible veterans who join the lawsuit are entitled to review of their PTSD disability rating by the military on a priority basis, a guaranteed correction of military records to show a higher military disability rating for PTSD for the six-month period following the date of release from military service, as well as a determination of whether the new rating should be permanently increased, decreased, or remain the same after the six-month period.

The correction of military records will not change the disability ratings that the veteran may have from the VA and no eligible veteran who opts into the lawsuit will risk losing any other military or VA benefits that he or she is already receiving. Nearly all class members who have already gone through the prioritized review with the military have received higher disability ratings and better benefits.

As a result of an increase in their military rating for PTSD, class members may receive back pay of disability benefits, reimbursement for healthcare expenses the military should have covered, as well as a higher amount of future benefits to which they and their families are entitled—potentially millions of dollars in benefits over time.

One hundred volunteer lawyers stand ready to offer free counseling to all class members. The lawyers for the veterans from NVLSP and Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP are donating their services for free. The lawyers involved say their payment is knowing an injustice is being righted for those who have served our country.

The disability ratings which are the subject of the lawsuit are critically important to ensuring veterans receive the benefits which they have earned and deserve. For years, the law has required the military to assign a disability rating of at least 50 percent to all veterans discharged for PTSD. A permanent disability rating of 30 percent or more entitles a veteran to monthly disability benefits for the rest of the veteran’s life, to free lifetime health care for the veteran and his or her spouse, and to free health care for their minor children.

All of the veterans who qualify as class members for this lawsuit were illegally discharged from the military with military disability ratings for PTSD of less than 50 percent. After they were discharged, many of them obtained a higher disability rating for PTSD from the VA, but the lawsuit is aimed at getting these veterans a higher military disability rating and with enhanced military disability benefits that accompany a higher military disability rating.

(a) served on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force,
(b) were found by a Physical Evaluation Board to be unfit for continued service due, at least in part, to the individual’s PTSD,
(c) were assigned a disability rating for PTSD of less than 50 percent, and, as a result,
(d) were released, separated, retired, or discharged from active duty after December 17, 2002, and prior to October 14, 2008 (regardless of whether such release, separation, retirement, or discharge resulted in the individual’s placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List).


Veterans who have not received the legal notice, but who believe they may qualify as a class member, should go to or call 877-345-8387 for more information.
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veteran service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1980. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 25 million veterans and active duty personnel by providing them the federal benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVSLP offers training for attorneys and other advocates, connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help, publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veterans’ benefits, and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies, and federal courts. For more information go to


Morgan Lewis provides comprehensive transactional, litigation, labor and employment, and intellectual property legal services to clients of all sizes—from global Fortune 100 companies to just-conceived startups—across all major industries. Its international team of attorneys, patent agents, employee benefits advisors, regulatory scientists, and other specialists—nearly 3,000 professionals total—serves clients from 23 offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia. For more information about Morgan Lewis or its practices, please visit:


Aug 19, 2010

Efforts in Philadelphia to Save Showpiece Ships

Efforts in Philadelphia to Save Showpiece Ships

New York Times, 8/19/2010

PHILADELPHIA — They made an impressive display of America’s seafaring might, the aging maritime stars moored along both sides of the Delaware River.

There is the 1892 cruiser Olympia, the oldest steel warship afloat, whose guns and those of the ships it led blasted away a Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, announcing America’s arrival as a naval power. The ocean liner United States still holds the record for fastest westbound trans-Atlantic crossing. And the nation’s most decorated battleship, the World War II-era New Jersey, repelled swarms of enemy aircraft.

But to their devoted keepers, the state of the historic trio is a depressing comedown from past glories. The ships are struggling in a world of threadbare private support and unpredictable government grants. Two of the three have barely avoided closing, or worse, with cash infusions that buy time but fall far short of saving them.

The most endangered, the Olympia, a National Historic Landmark, needs $10 million for hull repairs or it could go to a watery grave within three years, inspectors say. The owner, the Independence Seaport Museum, may close the ship this fall and dump it at sea to make an artificial reef. The museum and its ships have drawn about 90,000 visitors annually.

The hollowed-out United States has been rusting downriver since 1996, awaiting its last voyage to the scrapyard. A Philadelphia philanthropist, H. F. Lenfest, donated $5.8 million in June to buy the ship for a conservancy, which is pursuing development schemes, but the effort faces long odds.

The battleship New Jersey, docked in Camden, is in good shape physically, but it was nearly forced to close this summer after the State of New Jersey threatened to cut off $1.7 million in financing, about half its budget. Its paid staff was cut to 11, from 58 people four years ago, who oversee 250,000 visitors yearly.

Creative fund-raising is a priority. Jim Schuck, the ship’s president and chief executive, said that a line of Battleship New Jersey wines — a “battleship red” and “battleship white” — had sold 1,500 bottles in its first two months. A battleship beer is coming.

Many of the 100-plus historic Navy ships in American ports are in need of money. The Olympia may be the most important of those, said Jeffrey S. Nilsson, the executive director of the Historic Naval Ships Association.

The cruiser is a bridge between the great sailing ships and the advent of steam power. It is the last American warship to have both masts for sails and smokestacks to vent its muscular steam engines, which could burn through 20 tons of coal an hour.

Fixing the Olympia amounts to a roof and basement job. Leaks in decks have been patched in 1,200 places. About 70 tons of concrete poured over the original Douglas fir deck to seal it must go; then all of the wood must be replaced. Floating steel museum ships should be dry-docked every 20 years for maintenance; the Olympia has been marinating in the Delaware without ever drying out, since 1945.

It is loaded with original features in good condition. Its innovative engines, with their triple-piston steam loop, look ready to roar anew. The Olympia was the first American warship equipped with refrigeration, which put an end to rampant food poisoning of sailors. The admiral’s richly appointed rooms are intact and polished.

“The aesthetic they were going for was a gentleman’s smoking room in London — overstuffed chairs, very dark wood — that feeling of empire,” said Jesse Lebovics, the Olympia’s chief caretaker.

James W. McLane, a member of the museum’s board, said several groups were interested in restoring the ship but might not have the needed money. “We’re open to other people coming forward, but we’re running out of time,” Mr. McLane said.

Downriver, a conservancy dedicated to restoring the ocean liner United States is negotiating to buy the hulk from the Norwegian Cruise Line with $3 million from Mr. Lenfest, a former cable television mogul. Another $2.8 million should cover about 20 months of maintenance while the conservancy tries to find someone to develop the ship, perhaps as a floating hotel or casino.

Mr. Lenfest has a personal tie to the 990-foot ship, which was launched in 1952. Some of its watertight doors may have been built by his father, a naval architect, at his machine shop. Conservancy staff members are looking for those doors; the ship was stripped down to its structure by its various owners. Some saw its potential as merely scrap, and lots of it: at 990 feet, it is longer than any building in New York is tall, save the Empire State and a few spires.

The New Jersey has about a year to operate before it will require a cash infusion from its namesake. The United States has about two years to get a plan financed. The Olympia is not as lucky. Its owner says it will close to the public by Nov. 22. There is no viable plan to save it.

Aug 10, 2010

The Media - GTMO - The Pentagon

Did the Pentagon 'Cave' On Four Banned Reporters at Gitmo Trial?
By J.D. Gordon
August 09, 2010

Four previously banned reporters will attend the military commission trial at Gitmo on Tuesday. Did the Pentagon do the right thing?

Tomorrow, on Tuesday, August 10, the first military commission trial under the Obama administration will begin at Guantanamo.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen charged with the death of Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer in Afghanistan by tossing a hand grenade in a July 2002 fire fight, has been controversial since his capture. That's due in part to his age at the time, nationality, and also because his infamous father Ahmed Said Khadr was a top aide to Usama bin Laden.

Though Khadr was first brought before a military commission hearing five years ago, complex legal hurdles have delayed his trial countless times.

Since he was 15 years old at the time of the attack (he's now 23), NGOs and many in the press have made him the poster child for everything they see wrong with Guantanamo.

The drama is sure to continue during the trial as four reporters who were banned by the Pentagon several months ago for offenses in covering his pre-trial hearings will be in attendance.

In a move that evokes memories of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s ouster following his ill-advised Rolling Stone exposé last month, the Pentagon has suffered yet another defeat by the media through the forced re-instatement of these four reporters. In this case, Obama political appointees overruled career civilian and military officials who had issued the ban.

This was despite the Pentagon’s charge that the reporters – The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg and 3 Canadians… The Toronto Star’s Michelle Shephard, The Globe & Mail’s Paul Koring, and CanWest News Service’s Steven Edwards defied a military court order by revealing the name of a protected witness at hearing on May 5.

Still in a state of shock after lawyers affiliated with the John Adams Project who were representing detainees allegedly stalked and photographed CIA operatives last year -- then showed their pictures to 9/11 co-defendants in an attempt to build a torture lawsuit -- the Pentagon could not tolerate another breach of protected identity disclosure.

The witness in the Khadr case, a former Army Sergeant who served as an interrogator in Afghanistan and was later court-martialed and sentenced to 5 months in prison for detainee abuse, only agreed to testify in court if his identity would be protected. Judges typically grant protection requests to witnesses who are at high risk from those seeking retribution… in this case, from Al Qaeda.

Ignoring the judge’s written order and verbal reminder, the four reporters revealed his name anyway, arguing that since he had given one “on-the-record” interview last year (coincidentally with Ms. Shephard), the judge had no authority to protect his identity. The handful of other reporters also in attendance at Guantanamo stuck by the rules simply labeling the protected witness “Interrogator #1,” in their reports. Yet, as a result, they were scooped by their competition.

Miami Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal chalked it all up to a “misunderstanding,” noting the witness's name was already in the public domain and in any case, the newspaper published it before the judge’s reminder in court on the afternoon of May 5.

The Pentagon disputes that claim, noting the four media outlets continued to publish the name between the evening of May 5 and into May 6, well after the judge’s admonishment instructing all courtroom observers to follow the written protective order. The four reporters were promptly banned on May 6.

Meanwhile, one of the reporters who was banned is no stranger to controversy, including a previous experience with banishment from the military while covering the 1st Marine Division during Gulf War I. The Miami Herald's Ms. Rosenberg has been notorious for clashes. In fact, as the Pentagon spokesman for the Western Hemisphere including Guantanamo from 2005-2009, I personally filed two complaints with The Miami Herald executive leadership in an attempt to stop her outrageous comments and use of profanity that would make even Helen Thomas blush.

Pentagon officials simply became weary of such a prolonged, contentious relationship with one reporter, and decided the ground rule violation was the last straw before enacting a ban.

In seeking to overturn the Pentagon’s decision, lawyers representing The Miami Herald and Canadian media found powerful allies, and according to Mr. Gyllenhaal “naturally” joined forces with legal teams from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.

Though these 3 media giants were not involved in the banning episode, they all shared long-standing -- and often legitimate concerns -- over the difficulties associated with news reporting on Guantanamo. This included numerous lawsuits over the lack of access to detainee case files, combined with a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding chronic instances of photo deletions and even video seizure by overzealous security minders exercising absolute authority over imagery release.

Ironically, most media and NGOs now complain that Guantanamo is actually less transparent under the Obama administration than it was under President Bush.

Once the “big media” were brought in to the legal picture on the banning issue, it was all but over for the Pentagon.

In retrospect, since this administration includes nine attorneys who represented Al Qaeda-linked detainees, it is amazing that the ban lasted this long.

While no consolation to the former Army Sergeant and his family who are now at higher risk of reprisal from Al Qaeda, it should be no surprise that the Obama administration lacked the will for a prolonged legal fight in the Pentagon’s name. Looks like they simply said, "nah, it's easier to quit…" just like their other hollow Guantanamo promises.


J.D Gordon, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy, is a retired Navy Commander who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2009 as the Pentagon spokesman for the Western Hemisphere.

Pakistan Passport Fraud Promotes Terror

Fake Passports
By Ali K Chisti
10 Aug 2010

Imagine if al Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) train a team of suicide bombers in FATA and send them to the US and all the European capitals to carry out a series of suicide bombings and 26/11-style fidai attacks?

A logical question countering the argument would be: who will provide the logistics and visas? Well, there is no need for one, now: thanks to dozens of fake and stolen European passports readily available in Pakistan.

A European passport not only insures you visa free entry to the EU countries but a visa on arrival for the US and Canada – countries which are at the forefront of the war against terrorism.

And there had been precedents. In 1993 a top al Qaeda member later turned FBI informant, Ali Muhammad helped al Qaeda’s number two, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri enter the United States with a “fake passport” and tour San Francisco Bay area mosques to raise money to fund al Qaeda. Later, Sheikh Muhammad Atta of Al Qaeda’s Hamburg Cell and one of the hijackers who carried out 9/11: flied to Karachi, Pakistan some time between 1999-2001 on a fraudulent Belgian passport to eventually move to Kabul, and just before 9/11 two al Qaeda assassins posing as French journalists with stolen French passports exploded themselves and killed Ahmed Shah Masood – the leader of the Northern Alliance.

The Daily Times could now confirm that fake passports are widely available in Pakistan, which could be used by terrorists and money launderers to carry out terrorist activity flying out of country from Pakistan. A foreign diplomatic who was shown these passports claimed that, “they are the best, I have seen” adding that, “another Kasab or Faisal Shahzad from Pakistan result in diplomatic ties with Pakistan”. The counterfeits are cheap, realistic and available if you know the right people. We only got to know about the availability of such passports via someone who has recently applied for political asylum from Pakistan in the UK (thanks to the lax asylum system of Britain which allows a foreign national to apply for political asylum on the port of entry). The hub of such counterfeit and stolen passports apparently is none other than Bangkok from where Eastern European and Pakistani gangs operate. During our investigation; we approached one of the agents named Mehmood in Karachi who assured us that he would provide us a European passport and would ensure that we go through the Pakistani immigration and take a flight to any European destination.

On enquiry Mehmood (the agent) assured that if you are caught in Europe there’s always a way to “apply for political asylum”. “Would this get me on board to the US?” “You can try – it has worked before...,” comes the reply.

These passports costing from Rs 1,50,000 to Rs 350,000 ($1,765-$4,117) are available in Pakistani markets but “there’s a difference” one of the agents told us. One is a “forged” one and another, a “stolen” one. A stolen EU passport costs somewhere around Rs 500,000 to 700,000 in Pakistan and is mainly used by human smugglers although there are precedents that such passports had been used by high-profile al Qaeda and Taliban operatives to conceal their identity and travel abroad.

There is another way an agent told us. “You can go to Dubai on a regular Pakistani passports and from there you can use these passports to go to any of the European cities.”

Upon enquiry with the Dubai authorities and with the Ministry of the Interior, Abu Dhabi, they confirmed such incidents occur and that, only recently, a Mossad hit-squad in Dubai used similar European passports. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) whose primary responsibility is to put a cap on such forgery mission statement is, “to achieve excellence in FIA by promoting culture of merit, providing continuous professional training, ensuring effective internal accountability, encouraging use of technology and having a meaningful mechanism”.

As it turn out from our investigation that, not a single such case had been detected at any of the major airports recently although, the FIA is aware of such passports. When asked as to the detection mechanism used by Immigration authorities and law enforcement authorities at ports? The answer we get is, “from experience and human intelligence” - apparently, there is no database of stolen passports, no Interpol records nor any coordination from foreign embassies and vice versa whatsoever. A security analyst who had been on the top slot at the FIA confirmed, “that there are black sheep around” but, “with Rehman Malik as the interior minister, serious funds had come to FIA and the level of professionalism has increased”.

During the course of investigations, Daily Times could confirm that, these passports do go through to the scanners and machines without a “red-flag” being raised at least two airports in Pakistan: Quaid-e-Azam International Airport in Karachi and Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad, while Alama Iqbal Airport turned out to be easiest where officials would take bribes to get people on board.

Remember, as per Civil Aviation and country laws which varies if an illegal passenger boards an airplane and is caught, the airline in our case, the PIA, is fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. On contacting PIA – an official from PIA confirmed that, due to illegal passengers only last year – PIA had been fined over one hundred thousand dollars.

The British Home Office and Border Controls gave out an official statement on our story. “Everyone entering and leaving the UK is required to produce a valid document, establishing their identity, nationality and citizenship.” All documents are checked against the UK and Interpol watch lists and a Border Force officer will also undertake checks to establish that the document is valid and belongs to the rightful holder” while, “As well as electronic checks, the UK Border Agency has specially trained forgery officers, whose role is to check documents and provide advice to colleagues.”

In response to our claim that stolen and forged UK passports can be bought - An Identity and Passport Service spokesperson said: “We remain confident that through its combination of physical and electronic security features the British passport remains a highly secure document, meeting rigorous international standards. “The Identity and Passport Service utilise encryption technology that ensures the encoded data on the chip contained within the British passport cannot be changed or modified. If an attempt is made to alter the data in the passport, through its combination of physical and electronic security features, this will be picked up at Border Control.

“Any passport which has been reported as lost of stolen is cancelled by IPS and rendered invalid for travel.” The good officer, Mr Carlos Vázquez, Counsellor of Interior, Embassy of Spain, Islamabad, when contacted gave out a statement that, “investigations are currently on”. The whole point of this story is not to undermine Pakistan’s security or enforcement forces as the fake passports are widely available from the United Kingdom to Spain to the US, but to blow a whistle and point out that such documents could be used by none other than the TTP or any other terrorist organisation to carry out terrorist activity inside the United States or any European country, the last thing we want is another, Ajmal Kasab or Shehzad Tanweer.

Aug 9, 2010

Doctors Murdered by the Taliban

Monday, August 9, 2010

Three Seasoned Professionals Senselessly Murdered
By Kanani Fong

"Let him grieve undistracted, without having to worry about how he looked in mine or anyone else’s eyes. Death is a strange and complete entity. In plain sight of death we contemplate our own mortality and that sensation of loss that is so fucking unfair." --The late British surgeon Karen Woo, writing on her blog about her fiance's need to grieve after losing two friends in a plane crash in Afghanistan. Now, he grieves for her.

Still reeling over the bad news of the volunteer medical team of ten doctors, nurses and other workers who were executed point blank in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan. In a conversation with a friend on the ground after it happened, many think this wasn't exclusively a Taliban hit, rather the work of Jihadi tourists, who come over with no ties to these remote regions to kill infidels. In the Irish Times, Michael Semple gives us a clearer picture, a veritable definition of lawlessness:

"Outsiders have no brothers or cousins to act as a deterrent against violence.
Killers of outsiders, even if they are really bandits, can claim moral
authority and enhance their reputation as purveyors of violence. Political
groups with limited control on the ground can claim responsibility for such
extreme acts of violence as a way of trying to project themselves beyond
their real limits of influence."

While many have jumped to the conclusion that this was a Christian group carrying bibles translated into Dari, it's been rebuffed by a variety of sources that humanitarian aid groups like this use their faith not to proselytize as has been accused, but as a source of inner strength to carry out good works. Faith in the broadest sense pulls everyone through tough times. Furthermore, groups like the International Assistance Mission accept help from a variety of health care professionals, and they don't make anyone take a Jesus test before signing on.

Killers do not distinguish between non-Christian or Christian groups. In 2004, five workers with Doctors Without Borders were ambushed and killed. This lead to the withdrawal of services from the organization in Afghanistan until 2009.

Those killed weren't novices when it came to the area. Tom Little, an eye surgeon, had given much of his professional career to one of the world's poorest regions. He oversaw three 40-bed hospitals in three larger cities, as well as three 10-bed clinics in remote outposts, under the NOOR (National Organization For Opthmalic Rehabilitation), a project of the International Assistance Mission (IAM). Little's wife also worked with him, however was back in upstate NY at the time of the murders. Their daughter was in a different region of Afghanistan, carrying out humanitarian work as well.

In addition, another of the murdered was Dan Terry. Terry had also given his entire life's work to the region. As the son of the man who founded the International Assistance Mission, Terry lived in the area for 30 years, raising his children there. He was described by Tim Lynch as:

"The Godfather of Free Range International – the man who pioneered the techniques, tactics and procedures we use to travel in remote districts was executed last week in Badakhshan Province. Dan Terry was a good man. He was humble, self-effacing, and competent. He lived in Afghanistan with his family and spoke fluent Dari and Pashto."
Another of those murdered was Dr. Karen Woo, a British physician who had forsaken her practice in the UK to bring medicine to Afghanistan. She was running services for women and children --urgently needed since women there never go to a male physician.

One can't help but be captivated by her voice. She was spirited, soulful, intelligent, a humanitarian, a seasoned surgeon, and fun. She has what we call the "X-Factor" times ten. She was capable funny and irreverent. This is from her last post, where she also does a hilarious knock down of politicians:

"Most of the time I listen to politicians on the TV with an autistic head on, you know the kind of head where you can instantly tell when someone is lying through their teeth or is simply delivering a foil of bullshit, liberally peppered with terms designed to disguise that there is absolutely nothing inside the hot air that they are spouting."

The politicians are sickening, as unlike the three people described here, they do very little in terms of hands-on work. They are given too much time and consideration.

I wish I had known all of them. Karen Woo was to have been married in two weeks time. Her gown was being made. Her fiancee, also in Afghanistan, had the terrible burden of having to identify his beloved's remains.

In all of this, the biggest losers are the Afghan people. As it was with those murdered at Ft. Hood, health care professionals willing to carry out their work in these kinds of condition are a rare breed. It is estimated that 250,000 Afghans were helped by the efforts of Dr. Tom Little. Now, another 250,000 will have to go without.

"In Memoriam
(From the IAM site)

Name Nationality Status

Mahram Ali Afghan Confirmed dead
Cheryl Beckett USA Confirmed dead
Daniela Beyer German Confirmed dead
Brian Carderelli USA Confirmed dead
Jawed Afghan Confirmed dead
Dr Tom Grams USA Confirmed dead
Glen Lapp USA Confirmed dead
Dr Tom Little USA Confirmed dead
Dan Terry USA Confirmed dead
Dr Karen Woo UK Confirmed dead

Thankfully, two of our Afghan eye camp team members survived, Mr. Said Yasin and Safiullah."

Aug 8, 2010

Mischief in Manhattan - The NY Mosque

Mischief in Manhattan
We Muslims know the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation. It's an act of "fitna"Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah
The Ottawa Citizen
August 7, 2010

Last week, a journalist who writes for the North Country Times, a small newspaper in Southern California, sent us an e-mail titled "Help." He couldn't understand why an Islamic Centre in an area where Adam Gadahn, Osama bin Laden's American spokesman came from, and that was home to three of the 911 terrorists, was looking to expand.

The man has a very valid point, which leads to the ongoing debate about building a Mosque at Ground Zero in New York. When we try to understand the reasoning behind building a mosque at the epicentre of the worst-ever attack on the U.S., we wonder why its proponents don't build a monument to those who died in the attack?

New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it's not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact is we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the "infidel." The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as "Fitna," meaning "mischief-making" that is clearly forbidden in the Koran.

The Koran commands Muslims to, "Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book" -- i.e., Jews and Christians. Building an exclusive place of worship for Muslims at the place where Muslims killed thousands of New Yorkers is not being considerate or sensitive, it is undoubtedly an act of "fitna"

So what gives Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the "Cordoba Initiative" and his cohorts the misplaced idea that they will increase tolerance for Muslims by brazenly displaying their own intolerance in this case?

Do they not understand that building a mosque at Ground Zero is equivalent to permitting a Serbian Orthodox church near the killing fields of Srebrenica where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered?

There are many questions that we would like to ask. Questions about where the funding is coming from? If this mosque is being funded by Saudi sources, then it is an even bigger slap in the face of Americans, as nine of the jihadis in the Twin Tower calamity were Saudis.

If Rauf is serious about building bridges, then he could have dedicated space in this so-called community centre to a church and synagogue, but he did not. We passed on this message to him through a mutual Saudi friend, but received no answer. He could have proposed a memorial to the 9/11 dead with a denouncement of the doctrine of armed jihad, but he chose not to.

It's a repugnant thought that $100 million would be brought into the United States rather than be directed at dying and needy Muslims in Darfur or Pakistan.

Let's not forget that a mosque is an exclusive place of worship for Muslims and not an inviting community centre. Most Americans are wary of mosques due to the hard core rhetoric that is used in pulpits. And rightly so. As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.

The Koran implores Muslims to speak the truth, even if it hurts the one who utters the truth. Today we speak the truth, knowing very well Muslims have forgotten this crucial injunction from Allah.

If this mosque does get built, it will forever be a lightning rod for those who have little room for Muslims or Islam in the U.S. We simply cannot understand why on Earth the traditional leadership of America's Muslims would not realize their folly and back out in an act of goodwill.

As for those teary-eyed, bleeding-heart liberals such as New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and much of the media, who are blind to the Islamist agenda in North America, we understand their goodwill.

Unfortunately for us, their stand is based on ignorance and guilt, and they will never in their lives have to face the tyranny of Islamism that targets, kills and maims Muslims worldwide, and is using liberalism itself to destroy liberal secular democratic societies from within.
Raheel Raza is author of Their Jihad ... Not my Jihad, and Tarek Fatah is author of The Jew is Not My Enemy (McClelland & Stewart), to be launched in October. Both sit on the board of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Aug 2, 2010

Pappy Boyington Field Fly-in!!

“Pappy Boyington Field” Newsletter
The EAA AirVenture Oshkosh airshow has just concluded, and featured a Salute to Veterans events. It was an honor to have the film “Pappy Boyington Field” included in the events.

Later this month, the Coeur d’Alene Airport Association will be welcoming pilots for a Fly-in at Pappy Boyington Field on August 28th. If you fly in you’ll be able to learn more about the plans for the 8-ft. bronze Pappy statue project and the (Boyington Memorial Fund). So plan your trip, and add Pappy Boyington Field (COE) into your log book.

Pappy's August history:
During August 1943, Pappy formed up and began training pilots for his VMF-214, and legend of the Black Sheep Squadron was soon to begin.

The Japanese agreed to surrender terms on August 15th. By the end of the month Pappy was liberated from Omori Prison Camp near Tokyo. He was held as a prisoner for 20 months, after being shot down in a dogfight and subsequently captured by a Japanese submarine.

After WWII, one of his assignments sent him around the country on a Victory Bond Tour, and eventually he retired from the Marine Corps on August 1, 1947.

In August 2007, the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners passed the resolution for “Coeur d’Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field”.

Marine Corps League National Conventions:
The 87th Marine Corps League National Convention will be held this month in Greensboro, NC, and will be a tribute to LtGen John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The location of the 88th Marine Corps League National Convention in 2011 will be Boise, Idaho. The convention theme will be a tribute to LtCol Gregory Pappy Boyington, a legendary Marine Corps Aviator and recipient of the Medal of Honor.

The National Convention draws thousands of Marines from across the country, and it’s an excellent tourism opportunity for the host city. Mark your calendars early for Boise in 2011.

If you’d like to learn more about Pappy Boyington, the leading Marine "Ace" of WW2, visit the website: