Sunday, August 31, 2008

David Axe: Sleeping Through the World’s Wars

War is Boring

It took me a minuet to understand...

Tefilat HaDerech

"I did not smoke while writing this.

You know how people say that when you talk to G-d it’s called praying, but when G-d talks to you, it’s called schizophrenia?

What happens when it’s Moshe Dayan?

I was a staff officer once, you know,” he says with his one eye upon me.

“It’s different, sir.” I say as I look up from the Power Point on my laptop.

“How is it different?” he leans on the top bunk of my bed. “We have so much in common, you know. We are both Jews. We are both infantry. We are both responsible for the lives of people. We both like to fuck.”

“I don’t know, sir. I didn’t do anything on my first deployment, and now I’m not doing anything on this one either. Say, how come you are speaking to me in English?”"
Big Tabacco

This Seemingly Never Ending Struggle

"As I write this post I find myself overcome by depression and anxiety due to fear of what the future holds for my family and myself. I'm diagnosed with PTSD with sleep disturbance (which I believe to be Sleep Terror Disorder), Bipolar, and Anxiety Disorder (NOS). I'm taking Klonopin, Quetiapine, and Lamictal and I still don't feel much better, with the exception that my anger outbursts seem to be more controllable. I've been unemployed for over a year and don't see how I'd be able to hold any type of job. I'd tell the boss to fuck himself the first time he gives me attitude or even looks at me funny. It's a scary and degrading feeling knowing that I can no longer provide for my family on my own. My only hope is getting 100% permanent and total disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I've been fighting for my benefits for 3 years now.

As I've been granted service connection (SC) for PTSD by the VA, I'm hoping that getting SC for Bipolar and Anxiety Disorder won't be a problem. If I'm denied, I fear that I may kill myself. I often have thoughts of suicide and its benefits. Sometimes as I'm driving the Autobahn at 120 mph, I get the urge to jerk the steering wheel in either direction. It'd be a quick, painless death at least.

My wife and kids are the only part of life that I have left to hold on to"
Sand Box Vet

Introduction-Where is Iraq going?

"As an Iraqi who have watched the developing process of "Democracy" in Iraq, I have always seen the unexpected. Optimism was for a long time the tool that I used to stop from grieving over my destructed land. Now, I am not optimistic anymore, I am just hopeful.

I have always asked myself if I do believe in the news, if I should trust what my prime minister is saying, if I should forget the fact that my people are dying everyday and look at the bigger picture. But whenever I try to look at the bigger picture, it gets smaller and smaller. "
The Iraqi Future

A new Iraqi blog, from an old Iraq blogger. The old 24 Steps to Liberty

"It was very dissatisfying to see the way people voted."

I have to admit I never understood why you people felt that way. People needed to believe that their vote counted. As a matter of fact some prominent Iraqi Americans were against the election because they were sure they were fixed. Can you imagine the war we would have had had we rigged the election, or in some way prevented the people from voting who they wanted?

The fact that they voted for who they wanted and that the results matched their wish is the only reason that we in the end were able to achieve what we have. Now it's most likely a different story. Now people don't know or are not sure what they want, and so the next election will be the most dangerous one. Because no one will be able to assure the results

Iraq changes team negotiating on US withdrawal: report

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has reshuffled a negotiating team working on an agreement on withdrawal of US troops from Iraq amid worries the move may sabotage the deal, The Los Angeles Times reported on its website.

The newspaper said the reshuffle was disclosed to it by a senior Iraqi official close to Maliki, who also suggested that the two sides remained deadlocked on key issues.

According to the report, Maliki dismissed the delegation headed by the Foreign Ministry and picked his national security advisor Mowaffak Rubaie, chief of staff Tariq Najim and political advisor Sadiq Rikabi to conduct the negotiations in their final stage.

The three report directly to the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Haj Hamoud, who led the original negotiations, has been removed, the paper said.

Some Iraqis said the reshuffle could undermine the deal, according to the report.

"These are diversionary tactics to avoid a decision. It's not a question of negotiating teams. It's a matter of, do you want it or don't you?" the paper quoted an unnamed Iraqi official as commenting on the prospective accord. "They are avoiding the issue. They don't want a status of forces agreement. They don't want a security agreement."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the impression recently that an agreement between the two sides was imminent. But Iraq and the United States remain far apart on the matter of immunity for US forces in Iraqi courts, The Times said.

"People gave the impression we were close when Rice was here, but it's not over," the paper quoted the official as saying. "We would have a serious problem if we took it to parliament right now."

The official said that if US troops retain immunity, the deal would never be approve by the Iraqi parliament.

The sides are also still negotiating a withdrawal date, the official said.

The latest version of the agreement, which was read to The Times by the Maliki confidant, said all US forces will leave Iraq by the end of 2011, unless Iraq requests otherwise, the paper said.

It also said US troops will withdraw from cities in June 2009, unless the Iraqis ask them to stay.

Under the new language, Iraq will also decide when the US military will leave.


Doctor describes rape by dog in jail

PARIS: A Palestinian-born doctor imprisoned in Libya on charges of infecting children with AIDS has offered new and harrowing details of his incarceration, according to judicial testimony.

In his account to French judges, Doctor Ashraf al-Hajuj describes being raped by a German Shepherd, having his nails ripped off and being given electric shocks.

He was held for more than eight years along with five Bulgarian nurses in a Libyan jail -- mostly on death row -- on charges of infecting 438 children with AIDS-tainted blood.

"I admitted under torture that I had contaminated the children that I had collaborated with the CIA and the Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency). I was ready to admit everything. That was after the episode with the dog," al-Hajuj said, according to an account of his April hearing before Paris judges Philippe Jourdan et Yves Madre.

The plight of the six medics sparked international outcry, forcing Libya to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment.

Frantic last-minute negotiations, led by former French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy and European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, secured their final transfer home in July 2007.

Al-Hajuj told the judges he was blindfolded during the torture sessions, which mostly took place during the beginning of his imprisonment. He was also present when the other medics were being tortured.

All six returned to Bulgaria after being released -- al-Hajuj had been given a Bulgarian passport to secure his freedom.

Times of India

Some new ideas for our own supporters of torture, bring in the dogs.

Deputy says Russian police kill Web site owner

MOSCOW (AP) - The owner of an independent Web site critical of authorities was shot and killed Sunday by police in a volatile province in southern Russia, his colleague said.

Police arrested owner Magomed Yevloyev on Sunday, taking him off a plane that had just landed in Ingushetia province near Chechnya, said the site's deputy editor, Ruslan Khautiyev.

Police whisked Yevloyev away in a car and later dumped him on the road with a gunshot wound in the head, Khautiyev said. He said Yevloyev died in a hospital shortly afterward.

In Moscow, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement that Yevloyev was detained by police and died in an "incident" while being taken to police headquarters for an interrogation. Markin did not elaborate, saying that a check to clarify the circumstances of Yevloyev's death had begun. The committee is under the Prosecutor General's office.

Yevloyev has angered regional authorities with bold criticism of police treatment of civilians in the region. A court in June ordered him to shut his site on charges of spreading "extremist" statements, but it reappeared under a different name.

Khautiyev said that Yevloyev arrived in Ingushetia from Moscow on Sunday on the same plane with regional President Murat Zyazikov. Police blocked the jet on the runway after it landed in Ingushetia's provincial capital, Magas, entered the plane and took Yevloyev out.

Yevloyev's death is likely to further stir up passions in Ingushetia, which has been plagued by frequent raids and ambushes against federal forces and local authorities. Government critics attribute the attacks to anger fueled by abductions, beatings, unlawful arrests and killings of suspects by government forces and local allied paramilitaries.

Many in Ingushetia are intensely unhappy with Zyazikov, a former KGB officer and a close ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Immediately after Yevloyev's detention, his Web site urged Ingushetia's residents to gather outside the headquarters of a leading opposition group.


Accidentally shot in the head and dumped his body on the side of the road. Don't you hate when that happens.

EU leaders to assess fraying relations with Russia

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union leaders seeking to punish Russia for invading Georgia face limited options and are likely to choose diplomatic pressure to isolate Moscow at their summit Monday.

Sanctions appear remote - not least because western Europe depends on Russia's energy supplies. But the 27 European leaders are expected to offer more humanitarian, economic and moral support for Georgia and signal that normal relations with Moscow are impossible with Russian troops violating a cease-fire agreement.

French and Belgian officials also have said that EU leaders may name a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that the cease-fire is observed. They said the EU might send a high official - perhaps French President Nicolas Sarkozy - on a shuttle mission to the region.

"Russia's commitment to a relationship of understanding and cooperation with the rest of Europe is in doubt," Sarkozy, who is chairing the summit, wrote in a pre-summit letter to the EU leaders.

"It's up to Russia today to make a fundamental choice" and to engage neighbors and partners in settling disputes peacefully, Sarkozy wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Sarkozy, whose country now holds the EU presidency, wrote that the leaders must "seriously examine relations between the European Union and Russia," adding that he counted on a "clear and united message."

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the EU summit was a sign of a strong global support for Georgia. "Russia today has found itself more isolated than the Soviet Union ever was," he said in a televised statement.

On Sunday, Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze asked the EU and the U.S. to impose sanctions on companies and individuals doing business in its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without its permission.

"What we are calling for is ... sanctions addressing those individuals, business and officials who by their actions, current or future, seek to somehow continue to violate our territorial integrity," he said in an interview with the AP.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking to Russian television Sunday, cautioned European nations against sharing the tough U.S. policy on Russia and "serving someone else's political interests." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia may consider economic sanctions against unfriendly nations, but would like to avoid it.

Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia on Aug. 7, hoping to retake the province that has had de-facto independence since the early 1990s. Russian forces repelled the offensive and pushed into Georgia. Sarkozy crafted a cease-fire deal in mid-August, but Russia has ignored its requirement for all forces to return to prewar positions.

Russia claims the cease-fire accord lets it run checkpoints in security zones of up to 4 miles in Georgian territory.

Sarkozy said that the EU must insist Russian troops leave Georgia and be ready "to assume a presence on the ground in support of all efforts toward a peaceful and lasting solution to conflicts in Georgia." He did not elaborate.

Russia has faced isolation over its offensive in Georgia and stands alone in its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The U.S. and Europe have closed ranks in condemning Russia's actions but are struggling to find an effective response.

Possible EU actions against Russia include a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, holding off on talks for a broader economic partnership with Moscow, adding to the $18 million in humanitarian aid to repair Georgia's infrastructure, and contributing to the peace monitoring mission the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe operates there.

Sanctions, though, appear unlikely. France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said as much on Friday.

Russia supplies the EU with a third of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas - a dependence the European Commission says will rise significantly in the future.

The European Commission has argued that while the EU needs Russia for oil and gas, Moscow also needs EU capital and expertise to develop new energy fields. Russia has vast gas and oil deposits, but output is not growing much because of aging pipelines and monopolistic policies.

Russia's economy has already been affected. After the war, investors began leaving Russia and stock markets plunged. Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said last week that more than $7 billion was pulled out of the country in just two days, exposing the fragility of Russia's nine-year economic boom.

Meanwhile, there have been divisions within the EU about how the bloc should respond.

Germany relies on Russia for 34 percent of its oil imports and 36 percent of its natural gas consumption. Slovakia, Finland and Bulgaria depend on Russia for over 90 percent of the gas that heats homes, cooks meals and powers factories.

Poland and other eastern EU members are among the most dependent on Russian energy but with fresh memories of Soviet domination, their leaders have been pushing for a tough European stance.

They are joined by Britain, whose own oil and gas reserves make it less reliant on Russia. Britain has suggested Russia be expelled from the Group of Eight nations.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote in an article in The Observer newspaper on Sunday that European countries must adopt a united energy policy to avoid becoming too dependent on Russia.

Putin said Sunday that Russia will diversify its energy exports and expand sales to booming Asian markets. He said, however, that Russia's plans to expand energy exports to Asia doesn't mean that it would cut supplies to European markets.

On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to tone down Polish anger at Moscow. Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Merkel agreed on the need for a humanitarian mission to Georgia.

Poland wants the EU to signal support for Ukraine to offset Russian ambitions to restore its influence there, too. Ukraine wants to join the EU - a prospect EU governments have rejected to date - and hopes for free-trade and visa-free travel deals with the bloc soon.


You can forget anything from the EU governments, the only hope we have is for more individual investors to continue to pull their money out of the Russian markets.

I think the best we could hope for would be for a few fund managers to rethink their positions. An educational campaign to that end might be helpful.

Russia promises military aid to South Ossetia

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's president said Sunday his country will give military aid to the two separatist regions at the center of the war with Georgia - signaling Moscow has no intention of backing down in the face of Western pressure.

Dmitry Medvedev also warned that American domination of world affairs is unacceptable, though he insisted that Russia did not want hostile relations with the United States and other Western nations.

Medvedev's decision Tuesday to recognize the Georgian breakaway provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent drew condemnation from the West. Though no other countries have followed Russia's lead, Medvedev reaffirmed the decision on Sunday.

"We have made our decision, and it's irreversible," he said in a speech broadcast on Russian television.

The war began Aug. 7 when Georgian forces began heavy shelling of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, hoping to retake control of the province. Russian forces poured in, pushed the Georgians out in a matter of days and then drove deep into Georgia proper.

European Union leaders planned an emergency meeting Monday to discuss how to deal with an increasingly assertive Russia, but they are not expected to impose sanctions. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has angrily warned Europe not to do America's bidding and said Moscow does not fear Western sanctions.

Medvedev said Sunday the world would be more stable if the U.S. was less dominant.

"The world must be multi-polar; domination is unacceptable," he said. "We can't accept the world order where all decisions are made by one nation, even by such serious and authoritative nation as the United States. Such a world would be unstable and prone to conflicts."

Still he insisted Russia does not want to distance itself too much from the West.

"Russia doesn't want to isolate itself," he said.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the EU summit was a sign of a strong global support for Georgia.

"Russia today has found itself more isolated than the Soviet Union ever was," he said in a televised statement.

Georgia asked the EU and the U.S. to impose sanctions on companies and individuals that do business in Abkhazia and South Ossetia without its permission.

Medvedev said Russia was preparing to sign deals with the two provinces that will detail Moscow's obligations on economic, military and other assistance to them. He said the agreements will lay the foundation for "allied" relations.

"We will provide all kinds of assistance to these republics," Medvedev said. "These international agreements will spell out our obligations on providing support and assistance: economic, social, humanitarian and military."

Medvedev also said Russia will protect what he called its "privileged" interests in the former Soviet nations and defend its citizens and the interests of its businessmen abroad.

He said Russia may consider economic sanctions against unfriendly nations, but would like to avoid it.

Medvedev's predecessor and mentor Putin cautioned European nations against adopting the tough U.S. stance on Russia and "serving someone else's political interests." Speaking to Russian television Sunday, Putin voiced hope that the Europeans will "look out for their own skins."

Putin, who was speaking during a visit to Russia's far eastern region, said Russia will diversify its energy exports and expand sales to booming Asian markets. His comments appeared to be a response to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call in an article published Sunday for Europe to adopt a united energy policy and avoid dependence on Russia.

Russia supplies the EU with about a third of its oil and about two-fifths of its natural gas, and can turn off the tap if it chooses.

Putin said, however, that Russia's plans to expand energy exports to Asia doesn't mean that it would cut supplies to European markets.

"We aren't going to impose any restrictions. We will fulfill our contract obligations," Putin said. "But we will expand and diversify our opportunities in exporting hydrocarbons. The global economy, and, particularly, the rapidly growing Pacific region, need that."

Georgia has severed diplomatic ties with Moscow to protest the presence of Russian troops on its territory. It claims, as does the West, that Russia is violating an EU-brokered cease-fire mandating that both sides return their forces to prewar positions. Russia has interpreted one of the agreement's clauses as allowing them to remain in security zones, now marked by Russian checkpoints.

Georgia appears likely to be hosting tens of thousands of refugees for a grindingly long and expensive time. How much aid the small and struggling country will need to support them is to be among the top issues of the EU summit on Monday.

The United States has sent substantial aid to Georgia following the war, using naval ships and military aircraft. Russian officials speculated that the United States was trying to restore Georgia's armed forces, which had received massive military aid from Washington in recent years.


Oh Great, now the Russians are arming terrorist.

AP Exclusive: Incremental Anbar drawdown expected

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The drawdown of Marines from the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar will take time because there is still much work to be done, a top U.S. commander said Sunday on the eve of the once violent province's transfer to Iraqi security control.

Monday's handover of Anbar, scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war, marks a major milestone in America's strategy of turning security responsibility over to the Iraqis so that U.S. troops can eventually go home.

"The Marine force will be smaller soon," Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly told The Associated Press in an exclusive telephone interview Sunday from Iraq. "I don't think it will be overnight. I think it will happen incrementally."

Kelly said he has already made his recommendation for troop cuts in the province to the top-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and Petraeus' No. 2, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin. Petraeus is widely expected to conclude in the coming weeks that the outlook in Iraq has improved enough to merit more troop reductions this fall.

Kelly's comments come after the top Marine Corps general, Gen. James Conway, said last week that fewer Marines were needed in Iraq and could be shifted to other places, such as Afghanistan.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is said to have also told Petraeus some U.S. forces should be pulled out of Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan when the two met in July in Baghdad.

Since he took command of U.S. forces in western Iraq in February, Kelly said he has seen his troop level drop 40 percent from 37,000 troops to 25,000 today. He has also has seen a 60 percent drop in Iraqi troops in the region after several battalions were sent to fight Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra and Baghdad's Sadr City.

Kelly would not divulge the specifics of his troop cut recommendation. But he made clear that the U.S. military mission in Anbar was not finished.

"Our job until we leave, whenever that is, is to continue training the Iraqi police, training the Iraqi army, giving them advice... and continuing to be a force for stability," he said.

In recent months, Kelly said he has sent eight helicopters, including four CH-53 Sea Stallions and four Cobras, as well as several Marine detachments to Afghanistan to help with military operations there.

"There are things here that I can do without for sure. Things that we brought here in the bad old days that I simply don't need anymore," he said.

But Kelly said he disputes the view that "Marines in Iraq are bored."

"Everyone here is working 15 to 20 hours a day," he said. "This is still a dangerous place."

He says he tells Marines in Iraq who express interest in going to Afghanistan that there is still work to be done.

"That is in the Marine DNA to be in a real fight. But this is the toughest part of what we have been doing here, putting the plug in the insurgency. It's very intellectual and requires a tremendous amount of patience," he said.

Kelly said he also has spent months trying to quell fears among Iraqis that once the handover was complete U.S. troops would leave Anbar.

"It's taken a long time to get to this point, and certainly mistakes were made on the ground in Anbar," he said. "Things were done that perhaps in retrospect alienated people and caused them to move against us."

Anbar, the largest Iraqi province that stretches from the western gates of Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, was once the centerstage in the Sunni insurgency, which broke out soon after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.

Anbar's fiercely independent Sunni tribes resented the presence of thousands of non-Muslim foreign soldiers. Many Sunnis turned to al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups.

In late 2006, however, many of those groups turned against al-Qaida because of the movement's attempt to dominate the insurgency. Many Sunni tribal leaders opposed al-Qaida's brutal tactics, including mass killings of Shiite civilians and its attempt to impose strict Islamic rule.

Disaffected tribesmen organized awakening councils that joined forces with the Americans to push al-Qaida out of the province. That enabled U.S. forces to gain control of the provincial capital of Ramadi and other cities long considered killing zones for Americans.

Now Anbar is considered one of the quieter parts of the country, though Kelly said there are about 8 to 10 incidents a week, ranging from IED explosions to arrests. With the transfer of Anbar, Iraqis will control security in 11 of the country's 18 provinces.

Monday's handover comes after several aborted attempts. Initially scheduled for March, the transfer was pushed back to June.

U.S. officials blamed two delays in June on weather and then delays in July on a last-minute disagreement between the province's governor and the Iraqi government in Baghdad over control of security forces.

Security concerns also caused delays after a suicide bomber in a police uniform killed more than 20 people, including three Marines, in the town of Karmah, 20 miles west of Baghdad.

Kelly said there would be no further delays despite security concerns and the start of the holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.


Report says China offered widespread help on nukes

China gave Pakistan the blueprint for an atomic bomb, testing the finished product in 1990, and unveiled a sophisticated nuclear weapons complex to visiting U.S. scientists in the last decade, report former weapons lab officials.
Former Air Force secretary Thomas Reed, a former weapons lab scientist, paints a portrait of China as a reckless distributor of nuclear weapons know-how in a report released Thursday in PhysicsToday magazine. He charges the Chinese with giving extensive weapons support to Pakistan in detail far beyond a 2001 Defense Department report that acknowledged such links.

"The Chinese nuclear weapons program is incredibly sophisticated," Reed says. "The scary part is how much Pakistan has learned from them." The Chinese and Pakistani embassies in Washington did not reply to requests for comment on the report.

Reed is the co-author with Danny Stillman, former Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory technical intelligence director, of a book coming out in January on the Chinese nuclear weapons program.

Stillman sued the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense after they classified 23 of the book's pages, preventing their publication. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan upheld the classification last year.

By interviewing Stillman on his 1990 trips to China and doing his own reporting, Reed says Physics Today avoided a similar classification review. Among his points:

• China detonated a neutron bomb on December 19, 1984.

• China gave Pakistan blueprints for a simple uranium atomic bomb in 1982 and later tested a Pakistani version of the weapon in China on May 26, 1990.

• France conducted underground nuclear weapons experiments, though not full-scale explosions, with China at the Lop Nur testing ground. Stephane Charreau, a press officer at the French Embassy in Washington, called the suggestion "very strange," and denied it.

Some experts expressed similar skepticism. "I simply don't believe the French need the Chinese to do non-explosive testing. They have a very strong program and I can't see them exposing it to the prying eyes of the Chinese," says Peter Zimmerman, former chief scientist of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I think it is extremely unlikely that China tested a Pakistani bomb," he added.

Harold Agnew, a former director of Los Alamos, confirmed that he and lab officials, including Stillman, had visited Chinese weapons facilities as early as 1981. "I believed they just wanted to show that they were competent. They were very open to me," he says in an e-mail.

A spokesman for Los Alamos, Kevin Roark, called Stillman's 28-year role at the lab "minor."

The report "is old news since it largely pertains to historical developments," says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. "On the other hand, it has important implications for our current understanding of China's nuclear program


In and Out

"I have made it to Qatar and processed in to my new unit, and have already processed out for my transition leave. I am in transit hoping to get home soon. The process has been interesting, with some unexpected twists.

I got up at 0430 on Friday and made the 0600 bus to Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. I was hoping to get on the early flight to Qatar, but it was full so I had to wait until later in the day. I sat around the terminal area all day long while they made announcements for flights to all the familiar places in theater – Balad, Bagram, Kirkuk, Tal Afar, etc. Picture the opening scenes of the movie “The Best Years of Our Lives”, when the servicemen are all waiting around the Air Transport Command terminal trying to catch space-available seats on flights home. It is just like that, with some updated technology."
Brad's Excellent Adventure

Another day at the office-

"The trauma team waiting for the patient to come from the gate. Don't ask me what Lucio's doing. It looks like he's swallowing Stulls hand. Next is Haymer, LTC Glorski, Tuma, Rush and Bartl. All waiting...

...A little dilated intestine. Turns out he had a messed up kidney. Off he went to Baghdad"
Another Adventure

More time lost…

"Well once again I’ve missed time with family, this time it was Cameron’s birthday on the 10th. To my surprise when I called to say happy birthday I found out that I was the first family member to actually call. If nothing else this deployment has taught me to better appreciate home and family. As depressing as it is to think about how much I’m missing back home it’s that same thing that keeps me going. To think about where we would be if brave men and women hadn’t served before me.

On that back tat idea for my brother, just incase you hadn’t checked my myspace pictures here it is:"
Notes from Tommie

Black and white in a grey land

"I am often amazed at how we like to see the world in black and white here in the United States. There is good and evil, sweet and sour, right and wrong. We tend to too easily categorize people and we do it in short sighted ways. You see much of the world is grey and Iraq is a place of many shades of grey. Often the bad guys are really bad and the good guys aren’t perfectly good. We have to figure out those distinctions to do business the right way there but often those distinctions are much blurrier than our American minds can see.

I started seeing this difference early in my first tour. After 35 years or so of various forms of dictatorial rule Iraq has become a place where simple answers don’t exist."
Armed and Curious

What do I miss?

"Well, it is time to see what I can bore you to death with this week. Mom asked us what we have to eat, what we miss, and other things about in this part of the world. Well, I am not sure where to begin. I can really go on forever with the list of things I miss, have, and don't have. But first.....

First of all you will see a list on left side down the side bar. There are few links to sites that a direct link to our page here. We are returning the courtesy to them by linking to their pages. I encourage you to please take at them as well as ours.

It is getting to the time of the deployment where there are several people going on leave and that is leaving gaps in our schedule in my section guessed it, I am changing shifts again. One of the Specialists is leaving on Tuesday to head home on R&R to get that well deserved rest, we have a our new Yeoman (Navy personnel that are in administrative like I am) is in and the old one is out. I am not going to elaborate on that, but those of you that know, know it is...well...uh...we are glad to see a new face. When one leaves that means are closer to home. So we are happy to see them go. Back to the schedule...I am going to work 1300-0100 (1pm-1am), which is 430am-430pm est. I am pretty excited because it will be easier to talk to Tessa (aka Freedom), Courtney and family. Plus I can do physical training on my own more and make more improvements. Speaking of which..."
Two Brothers

And So It Begins...Again...

" now that I have gotten that bullshit 3 day pass out the way, we can actually get down to business. Which consists of something like an entire company of soldiers sitting on a drill floor made for a group of soldiers no where near a company size and sweating my entirely too small balls off for the better part of the evening waiting for the ridiculously early wake up call that will inevitably come and then we can actually get this show on the road.

I had to do the whole tearful goodbye thing again. Needless to say that sucked major monkey nuts. (Sorry mom, I am back to talking like a soldier) My mother brought forth the water works in the driveway today when I got picked up. Suffice it to say I needed to rehydrate myself after I had left. Then I proceeded to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes inside of 3 hours. My lungs are screaming for mercy as I write this."
Embrace the Suck

Another new blog.

I have just discovered several new blogs, but they will have to wait till morning

Weird Day

Okay, we had a long convoy today. We went up a mountain to see a couple of antennas we pay for. We were in armored vehicles and other armored vehicles have gone up there before, but......

Up went fine. We did our 3 point turn to come down the mountain and suddenly we couldn't turn right. Took a look under the Toyota Land Cruiser and the right wheel tire rod was bent, bent a WHOLE lot.

We called for help (we were just above a special forces camp) and they sent a mechanic. He took the hydraulics loose from the tire rod. Then he and I (yay! I got to help) used the jack to try and straighten the tire rod. It sorta worked."
Love the Suck

New blog from Afghanistan

Military BlogFather Colby Buzzell Not Headed Back to Iraq (Update)

Earlier this month, Colby Buzzell who wrote one of the most notable military blogs on the internet with the codename CBFTW (Colby Buzzell Fuck The War), linked to his September Esquire story that talks about not going back to Iraq, after receiving orders several weeks ago. Thanks to my good friend Mary Ellen, I was able to view an electronic copy of the story.

Here’s an excerpt:

“In times of crisis I called Todd Vance. He was in my platoon, and the two of us got out of the Army around the same time and we’ve been BFF ever since. He strongly encouraged me to find a way out and said, “Look at how fucked-up we are now. Imagine how fucked-up you’re going to be when you get back the second time!”

I then called my brother. “I’ve got news,” I said.


“I’m gay.”

“You’re gay? [Pause]. That’s not news.”

“No, I’m serious, I’m gay. I got my orders in the mail today saying that I have to report to Fort Benning, Georgia, in five weeks!”

I was now in the market for some high heels, because my goal was to not go back to Iraq by any means necessary, and I was just going to show up and tell them that I’m gay and ask them if I can go home now. If they didn’t buy it, I’d tell them about my scooter and that I live in San Francisco and there’s a very good reason I live there.”

To read the rest of the story, you’ll have to go pick up a copy of Esquire. The article is a great read. Raw and funny. I mean it's filled with lots of bad words which always make me laugh.

I’d write more like Colby, but I'm pretty sure my Mom would speed over to my house, drive up on the curb without even bothering to turn the car off, roundhouse kick down my front door...then pull me by my ear and ground me from blogging.

Thanks again to my pal Mary Ellen for the information.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

PM minutes from death

TERRORISTS tried to KILL Gordon Brown during his visit to Afghanistan last week, the News of the World can reveal.

Taliban fanatics were in position . . . and ready to SHOOT down his helicopter as he flew over the capital Kabul.

But the assassination bid was foiled with just MINUTES to spare when the two gunmen were spotted on a rooftop directly beneath the chopper’s flight path.

The drama unfolded in the early afternoon as Mr Brown was about to board the Chinook military helicopter at the British Embassy in Kabul after talks with officials at the end of his one-day trip. The PM, his closest aides, and a police and army protection team were just about to walk up the rear ramp of the Chinook when the alarm was sounded.

A security source said: “The Prime Minister was told two hostiles had been spotted with guns on a nearby roof. He was rushed back to the compound and local forces dealt with the situation.”

But as Afghan police rushed to the rooftop scene the two gunmen are understood to have realised they had been spotted—and escaped.

The PM spent another 45 minutes sheltering inside the embassy in the Kabul “Green Zone” until a massive security operation swung into action for the 10-minute flight to the city’s international airport.


American Black Hawk helicopters were brought in to provide extra protection during the flight from the centre of Kabul—from where he went on to Beijing for Sunday’s Olympic Games closing ceremony.

Mr Brown was in Afghanistan for just a few hours and first addressed British troops at their Camp Bastion base in Helmand province.

He then flew in a Hercules transport plane to the capital for talks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

An official news blackout was imposed on any advance coverage of the trip—and it was only when he landed in Kabul that the media ban was lifted. But terrorists then had a three or four hour “window of opportunity” to put their assassination plan into action before Mr Brown left the country.

They would have suspected he would be flying out of the airport. And, as helicopters heading there are forced to use the same “air corridor” every day, it was easy for them to put gunmen on a convenient rooftop.

A Number 10 source said: “We never comment on security matters. But the PM always takes the advice of the security forces.”

News of the assassination bid comes days after Ishaq Kanmi, 22, of Blackburn, Lancs was charged with threatening to kill Mr Brown and Tony Blair.

Brothers Abbas Iqbal, 23 and Ilyas Iqbal, 21, also from Blackburn, were charged with other terror offences.

News of the World

Hero's welcome for Afghanistan's first Olympic medallist

KABUL (AFP) — Afghanistan's first Olympic medallist received a hero's welcome Thursday from hundreds of beaming fans and dignitaries who hailed him as the "pride of the nation".

Rohullah Nikpai, who won a bronze in taekwondo, was greeted along with his three teammates at Kabul airport by scores of officials, who escorted him through the streets of the capital to a ceremony in the city's stadium.

Fans and dignitaries chanted "Nikpai, the pride of the nation" and "Long Live Afghanistan" as the Olympian's flower- and ribbon-bedecked cavalcade arrived at the venue.

"Nikpai brought pride to Afghanistan," Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili told the gathering of around 4,000 people, as the 21-year-old athlete -- wearing his white taekwondo uniform and his medal -- looked on.

A string of speakers praised Nikpai's abilities and presented him with prizes, including 20,000 dollars from a leading mobile phone company.

Khalili said the government would pay for all four Olympians to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey that each Muslim is expected to undertake at least once in a lifetime.

Nikpai also received a 10,000-dollar cheque from the national Olympic Committee. President Hamid Karzai has already awarded him a house, and an Afghan trading firm based in Dubai has offered a car.

Several TV channels broadcast the event live from the stadium, which was used by the 1996-2001 Taliban regime for public executions, including stoning, for people deemed to have offended its conservative Islamic rules.

Taekwondo is the most practised combat sport in Afghanistan.

The country's previous best Olympic finish was a fifth place in wrestling in 1964.


Attack may start world war: Iranian general

A top Iranian general on Saturday warned that a military attack by the West against his country would lead to another world war, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"The extremist and expansionist policies of Washington and Tel Aviv which have been manifested in Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and recently in the Caucasus, have endangered the entire world," Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces for Cultural Affairs, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri said.

"The greed of the US leadership is gradually leading the world toward the brink of ruin," the general said, adding that an attack against Iran would start another world war.

Jazayeri, however, said Tehran was against war and escalation of tension which he blamed on Israel and the US and added that his country would work for securing global peace.

Tehran has been bitterly critical of what it calls the US interference in the Caucasus crisis in the wake of the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in one of his recent speeches said he had proofs of Israeli involvement in the crisis.

The Islamic republic's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki had earlier this week warned the US over interfering in the Caucasus crisis, saying that powers outside the Caucasus region should not seek excuses for further tensions and instability in the area.


Look they admit openly that their defeat in Iraq has lead to the war in Georgia, and could grow beyond.

Collateral Killing

THE DUELING accounts of a U.S. raid in western Afghanistan on Aug. 21 that may -- or may not -- have killed up to 90 Afghan civilians have a woeful familiarity. Both Afghan and United Nations officials say that their investigators corroborated the deaths and that U.S. special forces were misled into attacking a compound where a wake was taking place. American officials angrily -- if anonymously -- insist that no physical evidence backs accounts from villagers who may have been coerced by the Taliban. U.S. commanders still believe the raid succeeded in killing a Taliban commander and some 25 militants, along with five civilians.

What's sure is that this sort of controversy -- as well as many undisputed episodes of civilian deaths -- have dogged U.S. forces in Afghanistan ever since the war began nearly seven years ago. More often than not, the wrongful killings are attributed to airstrikes. In the latest case, a compound was reportedly attacked with an AC-130 gunship, a weapon capable of massive and indiscriminate fire that has been implicated in shootings of civilians in the past.

The Pentagon has, at least, become more sensitive to Afghan casualties in recent years, partly at the insistence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Procedures for authorizing air attacks have been tightened more than once, and officials can readily cite instances in which senior Taliban commanders have been located and then spared from airstrikes because of concern over nearby civilians. The United States proposed a joint commission with the Afghan government to investigate the Aug. 21 incident and also has promised investigations into three other U.S. airstrikes in July that Afghan reports said killed as many as 78 civilians.

Notably, the proportion of Afghan civilian deaths caused by U.S. and coalition forces is down this year. But that toll -- 255 in the first half of 2008 -- is still tragically high. As Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged last week, any collateral damage or loss of life "really does set us back." Civilian deaths are helping to strengthen Afghan resentment of foreign forces, and a U.N. study showed they motivate many of the suicide bombings. Adm. Mullen also seems to understand that one of the best ways to reduce civilian deaths is to rely more on counterinsurgency operations by ground forces and less on airstrikes. He says that there is "an urgent requirement" to send additional troops to Afghanistan -- and he's right


Taliban ambushes threaten Nato's vital logistics route into Afghanistan

Using age-old guerrilla tactics, they hijack or destroy the ponderous lorries creeping up the narrow road and sell the contents in local bazaars to finance new raids.

A prominent, independent tribesman from the Khyber region, who cannot be named for his own safety, told The Sunday Telegraph that the Pakistani army was close to losing control of the pass.

"You see vehicles destroyed by rockets on the side of the road," he said. "The wreckage isn't there for long, the army soon removes it to make it look as if they are still in control of the road. But they are on the verge of losing it."

The number of attacks on supply convoys is a military secret, but the tribesman claimed they were occurring almost daily. Earlier this year 42 oil tankers were destroyed in one attack.

Drivers are paid high wages to risk their lives. One driver, Momin Khan Darwish, said: "If there is a more dangerous job in Pakistan, I would like to know what it is." Others describe finding threatening letters from the Taliban pinned to their lorries.

About 70 per cent of the fuel, clothes and food needed by Nato's mission is transported in civilian Pakistani trucks through the Khyber Pass, a vulnerable point in a long route to Kabul which begins in the Pakistani port of Karachi.

The route is too risky to transport weapons and munitions, and most British supplies travel on the southern route from Quetta to Helmand.

There were hopes that Russia would ease Nato's difficulties by granting access through its territory later this year, but that is now in doubt after the war in Georgia.

"If Nato lost control of the pass, there is no doubt that other routes would be found," said Matthew Clements, the Eurasia analyst for Jane's Country Risk. "But they are more difficult and expensive. It would interfere with the smooth running of the operation."

Brigadier-General Richard Blanchett, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, acknowledged the raids, but denied they were affecting the mission. "There is certainly some enemy action on this supply route," he said. "But it has no impact on our mission in Afghanistan."

However, the tribesman said things were much worse now than in the past. "You used to see a lot of oil tankers that were damaged but the chassis and the engine were fine," he said. "Now it's different."

The lorries' cargoes are then sold in Peshawar's thieves' bazaars, where looted US Army and Marines Corps uniforms and equipment are openly displayed for sale.

Before being shooed away by an angry stallholder, The Sunday Telegraph saw a uniform with the surname "Franklin" emblazoned on the right breast and a book called "On Killing" with a photo of a soldier in Iraq on the cover.

Maps, entrenching tools, US military rations packs and even US medals turn up in stalls set up in a labyrinthine warren where the road heads out of Peshawar city and into a tribal area. US Army helmets are popular with motorcyclists and cricketers.

Farzana Raja, a spokeswoman for Pakistan's interior ministry, insisted that security forces will hold the Khyber Pass. She said: "The government is aware of these attacks on convoys in the Khyber region and it is one of the reasons why we have had a major military operation there in the past few weeks."

The Taliban's tactics are similar to those used by Mujahideen guerrillas in the 1980s who crippled the Soviet Army by attacking supply convoys.

The militants carrying out the attacks are a rag-tag bunch of heavily-armed warlords waiting outside Peshawar's city gates. Most have only recently begun calling themselves Taliban.

Pakistani journalists in Peshawar say the private armies are well-financed and armed, and will receive a fresh infusion of money next month when donations rise during Ramadan.

The Pakistan Army meanwhile is suffering from low morale and high desertion rates, especially because after years of being indoctrinated to fight Hindu Indian soldiers they are now being sent against fellow Muslims in a bloody war that looks unwinnable to many Pakistanis.


Report: Obama gave Petraeus Afghanistan advice

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama reportedly told the top military commander in Iraq that some U.S. forces should be pulled out of Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan when the two met in July in Baghdad.

At the July meeting, Petraeus did not disclose his opinion on moving troops from one war to the other, according to an article in the Sept. 8 edition of The New Yorker magazine. The Taliban-led insurgency has dramatically increased attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in recent months.

But Iraq war commander Gen. David Petraeus will soon be in a position to oversee such a move if President Bush decides to shift some forces.

Petraeus takes over U.S. Central Command in September where he will have responsibility for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Middle East. In the meantime, he is expected to recommend a modest cut in troop levels in Iraq to the president in the next few weeks, a reflection of the improved security situation.

There are currently 15 combat brigades in Iraq and a total of 146,000 troops, including tens of thousands that perform support, rather than direct combat, functions.

Obama has made bolstering the war effort in Afghanistan a central campaign point and has criticized the Bush administration for diverting troops and attention to Iraq.

"I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan," Obama said in his nomination acceptance speech in Denver on Thursday.

Petraeus told Obama his goal is to get U.S. forces out of the daily Iraq fight as soon as possible and said military commanders needed politicians to give them the flexibility to manage the pace of the drawdown, the magazine reported.

The magazine describes the meeting based on interviews with Petraeus and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel was also there.

Obama has called for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops along a 16-month timetable. He favors leaving a force of undetermined size behind to help counter terrorists, protect U.S. personnel and facilities and to train Iraqis.

The Illinois senator opposed the war as well as the addition of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops last year, a strategy now credited with helping bring down the level of violence in Iraq.

Boston Herald

Hurricane Gustav

I just found a neat hurricane tracking map on the net. It's a new one to me.


The link takes you to the current storm Gustav, which some say is further proof god exist, and may be evidence god hates Republicans.

Axe on Post-Occupation Iraq: “We Need to Be Prepared for It to Be Ugly.”

I HATE ****

"Hello everybody,
this post is totally diffrent from other posts..
this one im writing it and im full with anger..i just wanna say I HATE IRAQ, I HATE MOST OF THE IRAQIS which they r my fellow citizens..
i hate to be iraqi, sometimes i wished i born somewhere else not in this damn place iraq, but i stop wishin that cuz i might not find Amy somewhere else..
tonight something happened to me from a damn iraqis they call themselves Muslims, Arabs and a fuckin Iraqis and they in fact they r scum and trash..
i hate iraq and most of the iraqis cuz most of my ppl they r hypocrites, they r a damn double face, and fuckin liars.."
Interps Life

Nothing witty to put here

"...The other day we had to go up to the battalion TOC to re-submit our application for an absentee ballot because S1 lost the first roster we did about 3 months ago. There was a line of about 300 guys waiting. I took the obvious sham way out and went to the front of the line and opted out of a ballot. It's too late for my state now, plus my state does not allow first-time voters to vote by mail. Oh well, who wants to vote anyways right?"
Fobbits need Ice Cream

Pakistan jets kill 40 Taliban in new fighting

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Fighter jets bombed Taliban hide-outs in Pakistan's troubled northwest while troops pushed into militant territory on the ground, killing at least 40 insurgents in a 24-hour siege, the army said Saturday.

Separately, five others died when an explosion ripped through a house near the Afghan border, local officials said. Claims that it was a missile strike could not immediately be confirmed.

Pakistan's five-month-old civilian government has been plagued by violence and political instability since Pervez Musharraf was forced to resign as president two weeks ago, adding to the many challenges ahead in the Muslim nation of 160 million people.

The economy is sinking, power outages are common, there are food shortages, and many drivers cannot afford to fill up their tanks.

But with a string of suicide bombings, including one that left 67 dead near the capital, Islamabad, tackling extremism is a priority.

Leaders initially offered to hold peace talks with insurgents - something Musharraf also briefly tried before his ouster - but have since resorted to what some are calling all-out war.

Army spokesman Maj. Nasir Ali said at least 40 Taliban were killed Friday when fighter jets pounded militants in Swat Valley, which was a popular tourist destination not long ago.

A cache of ammunition exploded when it was hit in one of the strikes, he said, adding that ground troops were advancing into the region Saturday to root out other militant fighters.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said eight of his men, including a local commander, were killed.

The violence followed news that Asif Ali Zardari, who seems poised to be voted Pakistan's next president in a Sept. 6 election by lawmakers, had moved into a tightly guarded government compound because of security fears.

His late wife, Benazir Bhutto, a two-time former prime minister and an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism, was assassinated in a Dec. 27 gun-and-bomb attack during a campaign rally.

Officials say that fighting in Swat and Bajur, a rumored hide-out of Osama bin Laden, have left nearly 500 militants dead in August alone. There are no separate statistics for civilians, but witnesses say dozens have died.

More than 200,000 others have been forced to flee their homes, most of them women and children, and are now living in desperate conditions in sweltering, mosquito-infested relief camps.

Human rights groups expressed concern Saturday about the rising violence.

Locals "insist there is no targeted operation against militants, rather it is a haphazard armed invasion on the people of Swat," Asma Jahangir, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, wrote in a letter to the prime minister.

"They have given numerous examples where militants could have been apprehended or attacks on civilians could have been averted had the security forces acted with diligence," she wrote.

In other violence Saturday, a blast ripped through a home in Wana, a main town in the South Wazirtistan tribal region, killing at least five militants, said Afzal Khan, a local official, who had no further details.

Army spokesman Major Murad Khan was also aware of the explosion, but could not confirm claims by two local intelligence officials that it was caused by a missile. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The Taliban, meanwhile, have threatened to intensify a campaign of suicide bombings unless military operations in the northwest cease. They have carried out three strikes in recent days, the deadliest on one of the country's largest weapons factories.

At least 67 people were killed in those twin suicide bombings and more than 100 others wounded, almost all civilians.


Kremlin announces that South Ossetia will join 'one united Russian state'

The Kremlin moved swiftly to tighten its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions yesterday as South Ossetia announced that it would soon become part of Russia, which will open military bases in the province under an agreement to be signed on Tuesday.

Tarzan Kokoity, the province’s Deputy Speaker of parliament, announced that South Ossetia would be absorbed into Russia soon so that its people could live in “one united Russian state” with their ethnic kin in North Ossetia.

The declaration came only three days after Russia defied international criticism and recognised South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region of Abkhazia as independent states. Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia’s leader, agreed that it would form part of Russia within “several years” during talks with Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian President, in Moscow.

The disclosure will expose Russia to accusations that it is annexing land regarded internationally as part of Georgia. Until now, the Kremlin has insisted that its troops intervened solely to protect South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgian “aggression”.

Interfax news quoted an unidentified Russian official as saying that Moscow also planned to establish two bases in Abkhazia. Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister, said that an agreement on military co-operation would be signed within a month.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that agreements on “peace, co-operation and mutual assistance with Abkhazia and South Ossetia” were being prepared on the orders of President Medvedev. Abkhazia said that it would ask Russia to represent its interests abroad.

Georgia announced that it was recalling all diplomatic staff from its embassy in Moscow in protest at the continued Russian occupation of its land in defiance of a ceasefire agreement brokered by President Sarkozy of France. The parliament in Tbilisi declared Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be under Russian occupation.

Gigi Tsereteli, the Vice-Speaker, dismissed the threat of South Ossetia becoming part of Russia, saying: “The world has already become different and Russia will not long be able to occupy sovereign Georgian territory.

“The regimes of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should think about the fact that if they become part of Russia, they will be assimilated, and in this way they will disappear.”

Lado Gurgenidze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, scrapped agreements that had permitted Russian peacekeepers to operate in the two regions after wars in the early 1990s. He called for their replacement by international troops.

Vyacheslav Kovalenko, Moscow’s Ambassador to Georgia, described Tbilisi’s decision to sever relations as “a step towards further escalation of tensions with Russia and the desire to drive the situation into an even worse deadlock”.

Russia attacked the G7 after the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan condemned its “excessive use of military force in Georgia”. In a joint statement, they had called on Russia to “implement in full” the French ceasefire agreement.

The Foreign Ministry said that the G7 was “justifying Georgian acts of aggression” and insisted that Moscow had met its obligations under the six-point agreement.

Having been rebuffed on Thursday by China and four Central Asian states, Russia will seek support next week from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) for its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The CSTO comprises Russia and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The signing of the military agreement with South Ossetia will take place the day after an emergency summit of European Union leaders to discuss the crisis. The French presidency of the EU said that sanctions against Russia were not being considered, contradicting an earlier statement by Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Minister.

Russia told the EU that any sanctions would be damaging to both sides. Andrei Nesterenko, a Foreign Ministry official, said: “We hope that common sense will prevail over emotions and that EU leaders will find the strength to reject a one-sided assessment of the conflict . . . Neither party needs the confrontation towards which some countries are being energetically pushed by the EU.”

Russia also lashed out at Nato, saying that it had “no moral right” to pass judgment on the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Foreign Ministry said: “Further sliding to confrontation with Russia and attempts to put pressure on us are unacceptable, as they can entail irreversible consequences in the military-political climate and in stability on the continent.”

The US confirmed that the flagship of its Sixth Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney, would deliver aid to Georgia next week. Two other warships are moored off Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi, and Russia has ordered its fleet to take “precautionary measures”.

Mr Medvedev has accused the US of shipping weapons to Georgia along with aid, a claim dismissed as “ridiculous” by the White House.


Well there you have it. Czar Putin will put the Imperial Russian State on a path to destabilize Europe.

Europe is under Russian invasion, where will it stop? In Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, where?

Friday, August 29, 2008

How British forces took Garmsir from the Taliban

"Annabel", as the British had codenamed the tiny biblical Helmand village of mud compounds, was no more. The shattered wreck of crumbling walls and a giant crater left by a 2,000lb aerial bomb bore testament to the ferocity of the fighting that had taken place.

This was the front line between British forces and the Taliban pouring over the border from Pakistan. Until a few weeks ago, it was prime enemy territory, an unforgiving warren of trenches that British troops entered at their own peril.

Looking out over the deceptive calm of the newly planted corn fields, Captain George Aitken said: "We uncovered 37 bunkers. We found their sleeping bags. It was First World War trench warfare around here."

Just 100km (60 miles) north of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, these small compounds in Garmsir were deserted by farmers long ago to be replaced by the invaders from the south. Garmsir – it means "too much heat" – proved a thorn in the British side for a long time. The impenetrable front line was 100 metres from a lookout where the British soldiers and insurgents could eyeball each other.

Nearby, 180 soldiers in the small outpost of FOB (Forward Operating Base) Delhi – the most southern point of the British area of operations – battled to stem the tide of insurgents coming up from the border to be "blooded" on their way north.

But this week there were signs of a return to normality. Small groups of families, the first intrepid pilgrims to return to their former homes, stood staring as a patrol from 5th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) trod carefully through the compounds. The farmers' expressions were neither hostile, nor welcoming, simply guarded.

Everything changed with the arrival of 1,000 US Marines from 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit. As A Company, 5 Scots battled and cleared south of the district centre, the Americans moved east and then further south down through the "Snake's Head", a tangle of small irrigation canals, destroying the enemy in their path. Now the new frontline is 10km to the south. The key question remains whether the Taliban will remain at bay when the American show of strength departs next month.

Capt Aitken, an Irish Guard attached to the Scots, led a patrol through the compounds, all named after soldiers' girlfriends and wives. The Taliban may have been routed from their old home ground but pockets of resistance evidently remained somewhere.

"They keep us on our toes," said the guardsman, explaining that, a fortnight ago, two of their number were injured here by a roadside bomb. Another recent patrol was ambushed as they tried to extract a heat casualty.

Moving tactically through the maze of compounds, vegetation and irrigation ditches, they scaled mud walls to surprise any enemy, maintained a watch from one compound as another was cleared and swept for mines.

"Annabel" was destroyed and "Emily" deserted while two lone men stood suspiciously watching from the roof at "Debbie". But in "Charlotte" – or the village of Abdull Ghani – there were signs of hope. Two months ago British troops were fighting, bayonets fixed, through the compound. Now they are back with a civil military aid team of Royal Engineers to talk to the locals, to see what work needs to be done and help them claim compensation for battle damage.

Mohammed Ali, an elderly farmer with shattered spectacles and a cane, said he would try to rebuild his home and "garden" before bringing his six children back. Left-over military ordnance has proved a huge problem. Two weeks ago, four children died after disturbing some, and yesterday the troops were handing out picture leaflets as a warning as they destroyed a number of left-over rocket-propelled grenades.

The Taliban no longer controls Garmsir. The once-deserted bazaar in Darvishan is booming, fruit shops jostling next to motorbike vendors, barbers and tailors.

A couple of months ago, one doctor – Maula Khan Ahmadzai returned to the shattered remains of the district hospital. Now he has a team of three nurses, a pharmacist and a midwife trying to the cope with the needs of the town and 20 villages. Among the most common problems, he has to contend with the are malaria, TB and depression.

Pointing over the wall, he said: "I had a problem before because the front line was just there but things are much better."

Colonel Gulli Khan, the local police chief, expressed happiness at the calm but reflected the fears of the locals. "They are worried the situation will get worse, the enemy will come back," he said.


Rooskies test Topol missile

RUSSIA last night provoked fresh fears of a Cold War by boasting it has tested a new long-range nuclear missile. Moscow's military chiefs revealed their Topol intercontinental stealth rocket had been fired successfully.

The chilling declaration was aimed at sparking international alarm about the conflict in the Caucasus, diplomats claimed. Foreign Secretary David Miliband tried to calm the crisis by saying no country wants "all-out war" with Russia. But he admitted the invasion of Georgia has brought an end to peace in Europe.

Russia's Interfax agency said: "The experimental warhead section of the rocket hit its pre-determined target with high accuracy at the firing range."

The RS-12M Topol, designed to dodge defence systems, has a range of 6,125 miles -- enough to reach Britain -- with a 550-kiloton warhead capable of devastating a 14-mile wide area. It was launched from the spaceport at Plesetsk to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East.

Submarine delivered to U.S. Navy

GROTON, Conn. — It is one in a class of the most technologically advanced submarines of the United States — or any other — Navy, it was built ahead of schedule and under budget, and as was evidenced in full measure Thursday, it is the pride of both General Dynamics Electric Boat and its crew.

The submarine SSN-778, to officially be dubbed the USS New Hampshire, was officially handed over to the Navy during a ceremony at the dock of Electric Boat on Thursday morning after several weeks of sea trials in which it performed impeccably. Until the ceremony, the sub was still officially owned by Electric Boat.

After the ceremony, officers and crew proudly conducted a tour of the sub's state-of-the-art control room, as well as its mess and torpedo rooms.

"This is a great day for the United States Navy and for the men and women of Electric Boat," said John Casey, company president. "We had high hopes for the New Hampshire, and I'm happy to say it's exceeded all expectations."

The submarine, the fifth in the Virginia Class, was completed eight months early and $60 million under budget, he said. The estimated total cost was $2.4 billion.

And there's reason for that, said Navy Capt. Chris Pietras, who oversees construction of all subs at the Electric Boat yard. It took 1½ million fewer man hours to build the SSN-778 than it did the fourth in the Virginia Class, the USS Hawaii, and 3½ million man hours less than it took to build the first in the class, the USS Virginia.

"That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment. This is the most complete Virginia Class ship at delivery of any in the class," he said.

Both the crew and officials from Electric Boat were happy to show off the vessel and explain why it is so remarkable. It is roomy by submarine standards, officials said, but while crewmembers can pass, probably sideways, in the corridors, the stairs are strictly one-way.

"You'll hear people say, 'Upstairs,' 'Downstairs,'" said Glen Kline, chief of the sub, with a chuckle.

On the way to the control room are the bunk rooms of the more senior crew, six bunks to a room with a four-inch space below the mattresses for stowing belongings.

"Not a lot of room," said a crewmember.

The control room is dimly lighted, perhaps 25 by 18 feet, full of computer screens. Here, in a fairly confined space, 16 crewmembers are on duty at any one time, up to 25 during combat mode.

"It's the heart and soul of the ship," said Will Lennon, vice president of Electric Boat.

The pilot and copilot sit at a console that Lennon said almost mirrors that of an airplane, "but without the windshield."

Unlike older subs, there are no chart tables. Like the rest of this technologically advanced submarine, charts are digitalized. A series of antennas throughout the ship allows the crew to speak to each other via two-way radio, a new innovation with the Viriginia Class.

And there is no periscope, either. Instead, a photonics mast transmits a live image of the surface onto a computer screen. Crewmembers are able to see 360 degrees around the sub.

"It's very user friendly," said Lt. Cmdr. John Thompson, the ship's executive officer. "This stuff is intuitive for the younger guys."

It was nearing noon as the tour proceeded to the mess. On the menu was American chop suey, roast beef and white cake with chocolate frosting.

"I can tell you personally they eat well here," said Lennon, who went on the sea trials. "The cooking is fantastic."

The crew eats in long booths, four to a side. On the wall is a pencil sketch of the Old Man of the Mountain, a gift from a friend of the master chief cook.

Lennon was arguably most proud of the torpedo room, which can be retrofitted to include a rack of bunkbeds for visiting personnel, such as special operations forces.

Lennon explained that because Virginia Class submarines are so quiet, they can move into an enemy's sea space where a surface vessel would be denied access.

"Say the mission is to gather information about weapons of mass destruction," he said. "The special ops can go ashore, gather information and come back totally undetected."

The torpedo room can also be retrofitted to fill with torpedos. A track system allows them to be moved into position to one of four torpedo tubes.

The New Hampshire will take part in additional sea trials, now that it's fully owned by the Navy, before it heads to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in October for commissioning as part of the Virginia Class fleet.

"This is a fantastic ship," said Kline, "the best."

Seacoast Online

500 Afghans attend service for slain NGO worker

KABUL--More than 500 local residents prayed for Kazuya Ito at a service held Thursday for the nongovernmental organization worker whose bullet-ridden body was found Wednesday after being abducted by an armed group in Afghanistan.

"I'm sorry that this [his death] was how his kindness was repaid," said one Afghan mourner at the ceremony to commemorate the 31-year-old Peshawar-kai worker.

Kazuya's father Masayuki, 60, had been awaiting his son's return and put on a brave face at a press conference in Japan.

"I want people to know that our family is proud of Kazuya," he said.

Mitsuji Fukumoto, 60, secretary general of the Peshawar-kai group, held a press conference Thursday evening at the group's headquarters in Chuo Ward, Fukuoka.

He relayed information passed on by Tetsu Nakamura, a medical doctor who represents the group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, about the ceremony and other related matters.

Nakamura reportedly traveled to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday morning and saw Ito's body.

He said the local governor and elders joined group staffers in tendering their condolences at the service that began at 8:30 a.m at the NGO's office in Jalalabad.

Prominent local people expressed gratitude for Ito's work in the area, and directed anger at the criminal group that abducted him.

"For Afghans, this is shameful," one local figure said.

However, Nakamura played down any concerns that Ito's death would reflect badly on all Afghans.

"We should never say all Afghans are bad," Nakamura reportedly said at the service.

"We'll make sure we continue our activities in Afghanistan. It's what Ito would have wanted," he said.

Nakamura accompanied Ito's body in an Afghan Army helicopter that arrived in Kabul on Thursday evening.

Nakamura also spoke of his feelings on seeing Ito's body.

"As the person in charge, I felt truly sorry for his parents," he said. "It's unbearable to lose such a precious person."

Nakamura was scheduled to leave Afghanistan with Ito's body on Friday and deliver it to the family at Chubu Airport in Aichi Prefecture on Saturday evening.

On Thursday, Peshawar-kai Chairman Tetsuya Goto visited the Ito family home in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, and explained to Ito's parents about the circumstances of the incident.

Speaking at the press conference, Ito's father said he was grateful to the people of Afghanistan for helping his son grow as a person.

Earlier in the day, Goto presented Ito's father with a rubab, a traditional lutelike instrument.

"It's something that Kazuya asked a local musician to make for him," Ito's father said. "[He received it] because his activities and work were appreciated."

Regarding the group's future activities, Goto said: "We'll temporarily pull Japanese staff out, but continue our work with local staff, as Ito would have wanted."

Ito's father said: "As a parent, I'd like someone to take over [his activities], but safety is the first priority. This [continuation of activities] should only happen once it's been properly established that the area is safe."

"I want Kazuya's body returned to his family as soon as possible," the bereaved father said after the press conference. "I hope the government and related organizations will cooperate to make this happen. This is what we really hope for."


The Global War on Pubic Hair

"I did not smoke while writing this.

“Who are you voting for?”

I pick at my mashed potatoes and look at Sergeant Speakerphone. He sits across from me, staring at me intently.

“You know I can’t answer that,” I say.

“Oh, come on!” He says. “Why not? I’m voting for Obama.”

“It’s because I am in a leadership role and I will not subject my privates to undue influence.”

“That’s fuckin’ stupid, sarn’t.”

“It’s not stupid. It’s the right thing to do.” I find myself pointing a plastic fork at Sergeant Speakerphone.

“But if everybody in the platoon is voting for Obama anyway, and you are voting for Obama, then how can you exert undue influence?”

“I never said I was voting for Obama!”

“So you are voting for McCain!”"
Big Tabacco

Ghost of Babylon, part Wahed

"The story of how I hurt my shoulder, the reason for my still being on active duty, starts with an attempt on an Iraqi General's life. The commander of our Iraqi partner force had been putting pressure on JAM (aka Mahdi Militia, Mahdi Army) and other militias in the Province we operated in, and doing it in a very public way. This commander was very conscious of his public profile and was often able to get his unit featured on the local Iraqi media. Of course, being a General means having a large ego, and so the media coverage often centered on him. This earned him the respect of our PA people, but the disdain of some of his officers, but it particularly made him a symbolic target of JAM. The General, our Commander called him “Omar Sharif”, had been the target of several assassination attempts, including one EFP attack against his convoy blamed on shithead “A”, who live in a small, isolated, hard to access village south of the city."
Sergeant Grumpy

No Victory Dances

"I hope to land in Afghanistan tomorrow, but as for tonight, I'm stuck in a hotel reading everything I can devour on Iraq and Afghanistan. An interesting interview with General Petraeus surfaced. General Petraeus has always been objective in his communications with me. I see in this Newsweek exclusive, that General Petraeus is again dampening expectations. I've seen him do it over and over. Now isn't that amazing? An American General who actually makes it a point to dampen press enthusiasm. But while delivering the raw truth, General Petraeus gains enormous credibility with journalists, who then reach untold millions of people. I remember stepping off his helicopter one night before he roared away into the Iraqi night. Just before I took off the headset and unbuckled my seat belt, General Petraeus said something like, "No Victory Dances." I stepped out and his darkened helicopter disappeared into the night, nearly knocking me over with the rotor wash. General Petraeus has enormous press credibility because he delivers the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now for General Petraeus:"
Michael Yon

Hurricane Afghanistan

"...If we thought the reporting from Iraq was atrocious, please look at what is (not) coming out of Afghanistan. At the current rate, reporting to the American public will be almost completely secondhand, regurgitated from email and phone interviews, and most embeds will be like the war tourism we so often saw in Iraq. There are British and Canadians doing more firsthand reporting, but the Americans seem to be leaving it mostly to the winds.

And so this is not a tropical storm warning. This is not a warning about high seas ahead. We are talking about Hurricane Afghanistan, without weather reporters. But if there are no cameras there to record the damage, will it really have happened? We have a military that is now very experienced in counterinsurgency. The military knows what it’s doing from the NCOs up the 4-star generals. These are among the few people I trust to know what we need in Afghanistan. They are our best, and we cannot allow them to be fed into some political meat-grinder.

As I wrote in 2006, Afghanistan is the new hot war. We are on a collision course with heavy fighting in the near future. Victory is crucial. We have our best people fighting. But we also need our best journalists and writers here. Our political process cannot be trusted. We must have public auditing in the media, or many politicians will not support our commanders, and those politicians will mangle Afghanistan like they did Iraq. Without top-notch journalism, Afghanistan could become America’s forgotten war. After we lose it."
Michael Yon

Thursday, August 28, 2008

EGYPT: One Olympic medal, an angry president

You will not hear the chimes of Olympic medals in Egypt’s trophy cases.
The country won only one in the Beijing Games. That embarrassment has riled President Hosni Mubarak, who has ordered an investigation into why his athletes fared so poorly.

The state press agency has reported that Mubarak has ordered a fact-finding committee to find out “who is responsible for the Egyptian mission’s bad performance and calling them into account.”

Yikes. Someone’s in trouble. But it most likely won't be Mounir Thabet, the head of the country's Olympic Committee and the president's brother-in-law. It also won't be Hesham Mesbah, the only one of Egypt’s 177 Olympic athletes to win a medal –- a bronze in judo.
Babylon & Beyond

Small GPS devices help prosecutors win convictions

Like millions of motorists, Eric Hanson used a GPS unit in his Chevrolet TrailBlazer to find his way around. He probably didn't expect that prosecutors would eventually use it too - to help convict him of killing four family members.

Prosecutors in suburban Chicago analyzed data from the Garmin GPS device to pinpoint where Hanson had been on the morning after his parents were fatally shot and his sister and brother-in-law bludgeoned to death in 2005. He was convicted of the killings earlier this year and sentenced to death.

Hanson's trial was among recent criminal cases around the country in which authorities used GPS navigation devices to help establish a defendant's whereabouts. Experts say such evidence will almost certainly become more common in court as GPS systems become more affordable and show up in more vehicles.

"There's no real doubt," said Alan Brill, a Minnesota-based computer forensics expert who has worked with the FBI and Secret Service. "This follows every other technology that turns out to have information of forensic value. I think what we're seeing is evolutionary."

Using technology to track a person's location is nothing new. For years, police have been able to trace cell phone signals and use other dashboard devices such as automatic toll-collection systems to confirm a driver's whereabouts.

But the growing popularity of GPS systems - in cars, cell phones and other handheld devices - gives authorities another powerful tool to track suspects.

Among recent cases:

- In September, a man in Butte, Mont., pleaded guilty to rape shortly after a judge ruled that evidence from the GPS unit in his car could be used against him at trial. Prosecutors planned to use it to show that Brian D. Adolf "prowled" through town looking for a victim.

- In New Brighton, Pa., a trucker's GPS system led police to charge him with setting his own home on fire. GPS records showed his rig was parked about 100 yards from his house at the time of the fire.

- In the case of a missing Chicago-area woman named Stacy Peterson, investigators sought GPS records from the SUV owned by her husband, former police officer Drew Peterson. She still hasn't been found, and no one has been charged.

Developed for the military, GPS navigation systems started showing up in cars in the 1990s. Prices have dropped sharply in the past few years, and many units are now available for less than $150.

The Consumer Electronics Association estimates 20 percent of American households own a portable GPS system and 9 percent have vehicles equipped with in-dash systems.

A GPS unit receives signals from satellites to determine its position on the ground. That data can be used by mapping software to display the device's location to within a few yards.

Detectives are often able to extract map searches and desired destinations that have been entered into a GPS unit by the user. Some devices are equipped with a "track back" feature that can show where the unit was at a particular time.

"What we're dealing with here is a use of the technology that I don't think the good people at Magellan or Garmin or TomTom really thought about when they were developing it," said Brill, referring to manufacturers of GPS devices.

Law enforcement sometimes uses secretly planted GPS devices to monitor suspects. The practice, often done without a warrant or court order, has been criticized by privacy advocates who argue that it is unconstitutional.

The GPS feature on a cell phone has already helped solve at least one crime. In 2006, police in Virginia Beach, Va., used the GPS on a homicide victim's cell phone to find the phone and her purse in a garbage can behind a home. The home was linked to the man who was eventually charged with killing her.

Jon Price, a trainer at Garmin Ltd. (GRMN), the leading maker of commercial GPS units in the U.S., started getting calls five years ago to work with law enforcement in cases involving GPS data from the company's units was being used as evidence.

Price estimates he's helped with about 25 criminal cases, some of them involving GPS-equipped boats running drugs out of South America. He's testified as an expert witness in a half-dozen cases, including the Hanson murder trial.

"Typically the GPS data being used is for the purpose of contradicting (defendants') alibis," Price said.

GPS data is usually just one part of the criminal case because attorneys also have to prove the defendant possessed the unit and entered the information into it.

But Renee Hutchins, a University of Maryland law professor and former defense attorney, recently wrote an article suggesting GPS data is protected under the Fourth Amendment. She said police should only be allowed to acquire it by showing probable cause and getting a warrant signed by a judge.

"I think that in the last couple of years, people are starting to be aware that if they have these units in their car, people can keep track of you," Hutchins said. "I think it's a growing public awareness. The problem is ... that most people feel like, 'I'm not doing anything wrong, so who cares?' But I think that's the wrong way of looking at it."


Big Brother. How do you turn all that off, if you just want to go fuck off at the beach?

Space station dodges controversial junk

For the first time in five years, the international space station changed course on Wednesday to avoid a piece of space junk — in this case, satellite debris that the Russians have insisted wasn't there.
The five-minute maneuver made use of the engines aboard the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV, which is docked at the Russian end of the station. As a result of the thruster firing, the space station's 18,000-mph progress around Earth was slowed by about 2 mph, lowering the average height of its orbit by about a mile.

The ATV was already being prepared to separate early next month after a highly successful resupply and reboost mission over the past six months. Controllers had planned to put the craft through a variety of tests during three weeks of solo flight before safely plunging it into the atmosphere over the south Pacific.

Because of Wednesday's maneuver, the ATV used up some of the propellant previously reserved for its post-separation test program.

In a status report, NASA said the course change was required because the space debris was predicted to come within about a mile (1.627 kilometers) of the station — bringing the risk of a collision above the threshold for a "debris avoidance maneuver."

Normally, such maneuvers involve raising the station's altitude, to compensate for the orbit's inexorable decay from air drag. Such decay lowers the orbit by 100 to 300 feet per day, and requires periodic engine firings by docked spacecraft or rockets installed on the station itself.

But because the station is now operating near the upper end of its allowable altitude range, any further increase could have exceeded the lifting performance of planned docking missions over the next few months. Hence NASA had to make the unavoidable and wasteful choice to go in the opposite direction.

NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said the station's most recent previous maneuver to dodge space junk came on May 30, 2003, and the last time the orbit-lowering strategy had to be used was for the remote-controlled linkup of two station modules in 2000, before the first crew came on board.

Russian news reports said Wednesday's maneuver was required to dodge "pieces of space debris" of unspecified national origin. ESA's news release stated merely that the debris came "from an old satellite." NASA's main station news page identified the threatening object as "a spent Russian rocket," but the more detailed daily report called it "part of the Kosmos-2421 satellite" (part of the payload, not part of the booster).

Launched in June 2006, the Cosmos-2421 was a naval surveillance satellite, designed for electronic eavesdropping to keep track of Western military vessels. According to U.S. tracking data, the satellite disintegrated on March 14 into hundreds of pieces — with further fragmentation on April 28 and June 9. More than 500 objects resulted, creating one of the largest debris clouds in space history.

In recent weeks, the station has been cycling through the thickest region of the debris cloud. "It's been giving us fits," said one analyst, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Although the peak concentration has passed, further avoidance maneuvers may yet prove to be necessary, another source told on condition of anonymity.

This type of Russian satellite has been observed to do this before, satellite watcher Jonathan McDowell told NPR in July. Because the initial breakup usually occurs within range of Russian space tracking stations, experts suspect that the Russians issue some sort of self-destruct command after the satellite's orbital mission ends.

Russian space officials have repeatedly denied that any explosion occurred.

In May, Alexei Zolotukhin, chief of the Russian Space Forces' information service, said the satellite had ended its mission but had not broken up, despite "unverified media reports" to the contrary. And in July, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia's deputy space agency chief, Vitaly Davydov, as saying he saw "no evidence for media reports that claimed, citing NASA, that a Russian military satellite had exploded in orbit and that its fragments threatened the international space station."

Davydov admitted that "there have been vehicles of this type in the past that exploded," but not this time. He blamed the rumors on Western spies: "For some reason, questions of this kind didn't arise in the years when this was happening. ... These days there are such questions all of a sudden. Our interpretation is very simple: there is certain interest in vehicles of this class that are used in the interests of our Defense Ministry."

But as Wednesday's rocket firing showed, Western interest in the satellite's debris cloud was entirely prudent.


These people make Baghdad Bob look credible