Monday, November 30, 2009

100 Faces Of War Experience

Rick Yarosh
Active Duty
From From Windsor, NY

Army, Sergeant
Cavalry Scout, Bradley Gunner
Baghdad, Iraq 12/05-09/06

On September 1, 2006, Rick's vehicle was hit by an IED. As a result he has burns on 60% of his body, has limited use of his hands, and a has a below the knee amputation of his right leg

The project is a series of portraits of people who have gone on this journey. Each portrait is accompanied by words chosen by the person pictured. Posthumous portraits are included in this group and for these portraits the families have chosen the words which accompany the painting.

"Portraits of courage, in oil and words - Artist seeks connection, understanding of wars"

AMHERST - Chris McGurk is number 31.

He sits motionless in a chair, his back straight. A thin afternoon light from the north pours through the windows to his right, illuminating his shaved head and strong face. He carries on a conversation as Matthew Mitchell paints his portrait - the latest in a series on war veterans that will grow to 100 when the artist is done.

McGurk, 34, was an Army squad leader in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is all warrior, a hard-body with a no-nonsense glint in his pale blue eyes and a landscape of tattoos that cover most of his arms.

“We triggered an ambush,’’ he says, staring straight ahead as Mitchell touches up a part of his face on the canvas.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

War Rugs of The Middle East

US to deploy 9,000 Marines to Helmand: report

[Dawn] The US military will deploy up to 9,000 Marines to Afghanistan's Helmand province, doubling US presence there, in the days after President Barack Obama's war strategy announcement this week, the Washington Post said Saturday.

Citing senior US officials, the daily said the extra Marines won't move to the restive southern province until after Obama's address to the nation Tuesday from the prestigious West Point military academy in New York state.

The aim is to regain a footing in the region that has been a base for a fierce Taliban insurgency in recent months.

Some 1,000 army trainers will follow the Marine's deployment, perhaps by February next year, the Post said.

'The first troops out of the door are going to be Marines,' General James Conway, the top Marine officer, was quoted as telling soldiers in Afghanistan on Saturday.

'We've been leaning forward in anticipation of a decision. And we've got some pretty stiff fighting coming,' he said, according to the Post.

Obama has been weighing requests from his Afghan war commander, General Stanley McChrystal, to send up to 40,000 more troops to join 68,000 US troops already in Afghanistan.

Last week the president, accused of dithering on his decision, said he would make it clear 'the Afghan people ultimately are going to have to provide for their own security,' and would call on allies in Europe and beyond to help.


Victory or martyrdom: King

MINA – Victory or martyrdom are the only two options for Saudi Arabia when it defends itself against incursions, said King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, addressing the armed forces at an Eid reception in Mina Friday.

“Those who think that the sovereignty of the Kingdom is a fertile source for their sick thoughts are under an illusion,” the King said, citing the Holy Qur’an “And those who do wrong will come to know by what overturning they will be overturned.” (Surah 26, verse 227)

“Empowered by your strong faith in Allah, your loyalty to your country comes as a natural and historical extension of your forefathers’ [loyalty] to their leader King Abdul Aziz,” the King said.

“You have put your trust in Allah to fight those who have betrayed themselves into doing evil,” the King said. “Knowledge brings victory and ignorance brings defeat,” the King said.

The King described the sacrifice of the armed forces in defending the country as “its shield after Allah’s protection.”

“We have the great honor of serving the pilgrims and what you have done to secure this year’s Haj is highly appreciated,” the King said. “May Allah bless you, faithful men and loyal sons,” the King said, asking Allah to keep the Kingdom “victorious, safe, and secure.”

“The armed forces have responded to Your Majesty’s order to clean out the land of the armed infiltration of a deviant and hired group,” said Gen. Saeed Al-Qahtani, Chief of General Security and Chairman of the Haj Security Committee, in his speech before the King

Saudi Gazette

"Bizarre calf mutilations found on Colorado ranch"

Don't blame me, it's your American
government at work - Cr:

As an Anomalist and Fortean, this story is not surprising. Colorado and New Mexico, especially the San Luis Valley -- See The mysterious San Luis Valley, Parts I, II -- have been a hot spot of cattle and animal mutilations. As to whom is doing the mutilating? Most likely, the majority is done by the government and military, covertly testing and testing for chemical, biological and radioactive elements. However, there are some cases, that suggest a stranger, para-physical, paranormal origin...

SAN LUIS, Colo. (AP) - A creepy string of calf mutilations in southern Colorado has a rancher and sheriff's officials mystified.

Four calves were found dead in a pasture just north of the New Mexico state line in recent weeks. The dead calves had their skins peeled back and organs cleared from the rib cage. One calf had its tongue removed.

But rancher Manuel Sanchez has found no signs of human attackers, such as footprints or ATV tracks. And there are no signs of an animal attack by a coyote or mountain lion. Usually predators leave pools of blood or drag marks from carrying away the livestock.

Two officers from the Costilla County Sheriff's Office have investigated the mutilations but say they don't know what's killing the calves.

"There's nothing really to go by," said Sanchez, who's ranched for nearly 50 years. "I can't figure it out."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office told The Pueblo Chieftain that investigators doubt a person butchered the calves because there is no blood at the scene.

"I've butchered a cow before and I know what kind of a mess it leaves," Sgt. James Chavez said.

Some in the area believe the mutilations are the work of aliens. An area UFO chaser, Chuck Zukowski of Colorado Springs, has been to the Costilla County pasture to investigate.

He told the paper there have been other unexplained calf mutilations in the area, including three in March. One of the other calves, found dead on a ranch near Trinidad, had its ears removed, Zukowski said.

"We're trying as much as we can to find a pattern," said Zukowski, who runs a UFO Web site called

Sanchez said he has sold off his 32 remaining calves out of fear more would be mutilated. He hasn't decided how he'll manage the remaining 40 animals in his herd.

"It's a big loss for a small rancher," he said.

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DCat Says: "Ideologies of Islam and socialistic communism are what we are fighting in the USA!"

DCat, who asked me to propagate this, says: You need to watch all of the parts that I have posted here!

Thanks to Atlas Shrugs Pamela Geller for this! Pray for Rifqa.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

Part six

Part seven

Part eight

Part nine

Part ten

Iraq gets a YouTube channel

Are you having a hard time finding something on the television? Are you having to revert to your computer or iPhone to find online programming? Well, YouTube can always provide some good entertainment, especially through some of the channels now offered. The latest one is probably not one you would expect. So, grab some popcorn and relax as you watch video from the Iraqi Government.
You read that correct. The Iraqi Government is now offering videos through its very own YouTube channel. The first video is of the country’s Prime Minister who states the goal of the channel is to use technology to communicate better with the Iraqi people and others abroad. Content includes government proceedings, policies, and events.

I must admit when I first saw this I was drawn back to the invasion of Iraq by the United States. The face of Iraq at that time was Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf who served as the Iraqi Information Minister under Saddam Hussein. His statements during the invasion have created an almost cult-like following online including a website called We Love The Iraqi Information Minister. This being said, Iraq has some damage control to do in order to ensure there is a new face that is recognized as the voice of the new country of Iraq.

View more at the Iraqi YouTube Channel


Iraq's postmen put their lives in God's hands

BAGHDAD — At 10:20 am on October 25, postman Mussa Sallus delivered letters to a bank at the ministry of justice in Baghdad. Five minutes after leaving the building, a shock wave blew him off his feet.

"I thank God for saving my life," says Sallus, who was less than 300 metres (yards) from the building when a suicide truck bomber detonated his payload, killing dozens, many of them children at a nursery for ministry workers.

A minute later, a second bomber drove an explosives-laden minibus into the entrance of Baghdad's municipal headquarters, located only 800 metres away, triggering a blast that raised the death toll to 153.

The attacks were the worst to hit Iraq in more than two years, wounding hundreds of people and causing major damage to dozens of nearby buildings.

When Sallus, who has been walking the Iraqi capital's streets for 27 years, reappeared at the post office his colleagues thought he was a ghost.

"They told me to stay at home," the 56-year-old bachelor recalls. "But the next day I was at my station. In Iraq we are used to this kind of situation. It is no reason to stop work."

Unlike in most countries and during the regime of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq's postal delivery workers do not wear a distinctive uniform, although a proposal for standard attire is being considered.

The post office in Salhiyah district, in central Baghdad, has 46 employees, among them six postmen, one of whom was almost killed in similar coordinated attacks on August 19.

"I had just finished a delivery of registered letters to the ministry of foreign affairs, when it arrived," says Abdul Hussein Tuma, describing the suicide truck bomb that left dozens of ministry employees and locals dead.

Tuma, also aged 56, was about to enter the Green Zone, seen as the safest area of Baghdad and home to diplomats and international workers, which is part of his sector, but ran in shock toward the capital's Republican Bridge.

"People were horrified when they looked at me and so I stopped and saw that I was covered in blood," says the 30-year postal veteran.

The August attacks at the finance and foreign ministries killed 95 people and left about 600 wounded. It frightened Tuma, but did not deter him from doing his rounds the following day.

"Of course I returned to work," he says. "What else can one do? It's routine. It is up to God to decide when I die. I survived because he wanted me to."

Violence has fallen markedly in the past 18 months. Even so, insurgents loyal to Saddam and to Al-Qaeda -- blamed by the government for the ministry attacks -- clearly retain a potent capability.

Despite security improvements and a better business environment, the postal service is not thriving.

The number of letters and parcels delivered nationwide has halved -- from 10 million to five million between 2002 and 2008, the latest available statistics show.

Revenues have slipped from 2.5 billion dollars (1.7 billion euros) to 1.7 billion dollars.

Paradoxically, though, the number of postal workers has risen from 1,600 to 2,864. That is a trend repeated throughout Iraq's dominant public sector, which is used, amid international criticism, to minimise heavy unemployment.

There are 330 postmen nationwide -- compared to 150 seven years ago -- post office planning and administration director Hannah Ali told AFP. Of them, 130 work in Baghdad.

Three postmen have been killed in explosions since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam six years ago. Three others died in sectarian attacks, Ali said, and one was shot dead in a crime for which the motive remains unclear.

Abdul Razak Talib, 43, the chief postman in Salhiyah, recalls an incident on Haifa Street, the capital's most dangerous at the height of the insurgency in 2006.

"I was riding on a moped with my colleague to hand over telephone bills when insurgents told us to turn back as they were about to start fighting," he says.

"They knew our faces but, for them, we were not part of the conflict."

The ministry attacks have shown that the postmen still face a precarious working environment and memories of the daily explosions that pulverised the city in the years after the invasion are still raw.

An attack on Shawaf Street, a busy thoroughfare full of restaurants, remains vivid in Talib's mind.

"I feared for my life," he says. "I crossed the street and the suicide bomber wearing an explosives-filled belt exploded a few seconds later."

The attack on June 19, 2005, killed 23 people, including six policemen, close to the Green Zone.

"It is a miracle that so many explosions did not kill more members of my profession," Talib says, with a smile on his face.

"God must think we are on a humanitarian mission."


U.S. and Iraq become partners in education

London, England (CNN) -- A collaboration between a U.S. business school and an Iraqi university could help put Tikrit at the forefront of efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Tikrit University is struggling with a shortage of books, teaching materials and outdated communication tools.

Located about 100 miles north of Baghdad, the University of Tikrit, has 15,000 students but is struggling with a shortage of books, teaching materials and outdated communication tools.

But a partnership between Tikrit's College of Business, Administration and Economics and the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business is changing all that.

The collaboration was set up by Brett Bruen, of the U.S. embassy's Salah ad Din Provincial Reconstruction Team.

"What's unique about this is that we're trying to base it on mutual interest," he told CNN. "The University of Tikrit has a great deal it can offer the world in terms of knowledge of the economic climate, opportunities and risks in Iraq.

"By partnering with the University of Southern Carolina we hope they can establish a business research center that will produce some of the most well-informed and useful market research studies as Iraq emerges from the crisis and establishes itself as an attractive investment opportunity for international companies."

He said Tikrit is working on partnerships with other U.S. universities that would see it benefit from modern training and technology, in return for access to tens of thousands of documents and research papers that have never been seen outside Iraq.

University of Tikrit professor Ahmed Salih was one of those who met up with the Moore professors. He told CNN he hoped the meeting would lead to study and exchange programs between the two universities.

"The current problems [at the University of Tikrit] are represented by the lack of laboratories for computers, net service and the new technology used in teaching," Ahmed told CNN

"As our institutions are government-controlled and the budget is limited, we do not have enough classrooms and facilities for the students."

Roth said they hope to establish a telepresence between the two universities that would allow students from both universities to remotely view each other's lectures, as well as providing opportunities for joint research projects and discussion forums.

But Tikrit doesn't currently have the Internet bandwidth to support this kind of technology. Bruen told CNN that universities throughout Iraq suffer from limited Internet access, but the reconstruction team and military have plans to make Tikrit the first Iraqi university to be connected with a fiber optic network.

"It would allow them full access to scientific journals and really accelerate the information exchange process," Roth told CNN. "If they're relying on people traveling back and forth it would take decades to become up to date with the scientific community."

There are inevitably differences between the way business is taught at Tikrit and Moore. Ahmed told CNN that Tikrit's model is based around the teacher, whereas Moore's has more of a student focus, and Bruen said Iraqi business schools are still teaching a largely socialist curriculum, with a heavy influence of the old regime's economic philosophies.

But Roth says they have been careful not to assume that a U.S.-style business education is the right model for Iraq. Instead, he hopes to help Tikrit define the kind of course content and structure that will suit Iraq's cultural and economic needs.

Two Moore professors, Scott Koerwer and Kendall Roth, have just returned from Tikrit, and Roth was impressed with the Iraqi university's ambition.

He told CNN, "As a faculty group they seem to be really motivated to play a role in being another point of stability within the nation. They recognize that education has a role in that process and they would like to be able to offer a world-class education."

Roth also saw first hand some of the enormous challenges facing universities in Iraq. "It's a real struggle," he said. "There's a great shortage of books and cultural materials -- they're a decade behind in terms of access.

"They have a substantial segment of students coming into the university that are not particularly well prepared because of disruption in their education system, so they're struggling to find ways to get the students ready for the college experience."

University of Tikrit professor Ahmed Salih was one of those who met up with the Moore professors. He told CNN he hoped the meeting would lead to study and exchange programs between the two universities.

"The current problems [at the University of Tikrit] are represented by the lack of laboratories for computers, net service and the new technology used in teaching," Ahmed told CNN

"As our institutions are government-controlled and the budget is limited, we do not have enough classrooms and facilities for the students."

Members of the Tikrit faculty will travel to Moore next January in the next phase of what Roth hopes will be a long-term relationship between the two universities, involving joint research partnerships and student exchange programs.

Roth told CNN, "There are a lot of misunderstandings between our societies and it's only when we begin building bridges that understanding begins to really develop."


US soldiers: Afghan war more challenging than Iraq

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHANK, Afghanistan — Veterans of Iraq recall rolling to war along asphalted highways, sweltering in flat scrublands and chatting with city-wise university graduates connected to the wider world.

Now fighting in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers invariably encounter illiterate farmers who may never have talked to an American as they slog into remote villages on dirt tracks through bitterly cold, snow-streaked mountains.

"Before deploying here we were given training on language, culture, everything. I thought that since I was an Iraq combat veteran, I didn't need any of that stuff. I was wrong. Both countries may be Muslim but this is a totally different place," says Sgt. Michael McCann, returning from a patrol in the east-central province of Logar.

While their experiences in the two war zones vary, for many soldiers in the field — if not policy makers — the conflict in Afghanistan is one they think may prove harder and longer to win.

Soldiers and officers involved in combat operations all cite the more punishing geography and climate, those focused on development the bare-bones infrastructure, and intelligence specialists the even greater difficulties in identifying the insurgents as among the many sharp contrasts between Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The sheer terrain of Afghanistan is much more challenging: the mountains, the altitudes, severity of weather, the distances. That wears on an army," says Maj. Joseph Matthews, a battalion operations officer in the 10th Mountain Division. "You can flood Baghdad with soldiers but if you want to flood the mountains you are going to need huge numbers and logistics."

McCann, a military policeman from Enterprise, Ala., says that the highest he ever got during his Iraq tour was a five-story building. In Afghanistan, troops routinely cross passes 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) and higher, descending into valleys where they say villagers "hibernate like bears" for up to five winter months, cut off from the outside world by the snows.

This almost medieval isolation makes it far more difficult for the Afghan government and coalition forces to spread the aid and information needed to counter the Taliban push while the villagers — mostly illiterate and with little access to radios, never mind television — rely on religious leaders at Friday mosque prayers, or the insurgents, to shape their world view.

"When you have a society that can't read for itself and religious leaders are trusted, they can say whatever they like and people will believe them. It's hard for the U.S. to penetrate and influence this. In Iraq there are other ways to get the message across," says Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Weiermann, Jr., an intelligence specialist.

The U.S. effort in Logar has stressed bridging the chasms between villages, districts, the provincial capital and a central government in Kabul which has had little control over the country for the past 30 years of warfare. It hasn't been easy.

"This is not an interconnected society. There is a complete separation of ideas from Pul-i-Alam and Kharwar," notes Matthews, of Vero Beach, Fla., of the provincial capital and a district just 23 miles (37 kilometers) away. "The difference between a village and a city in this country is about 200 years," says the officer, who served for more than three years in Iraq and is on his second Afghanistan tour.

Although tribalism plays a major role in Iraq, U.S. troops find it even stronger in the predominantly rural Afghan society, making the forging of vital bonds between people and government harder. Loyalty is given first and foremost to the tribe, the government coming at best a distant second.

While counterinsurgency in Iraq had its unique complexities, Weiermann said that in Iraq — about 70 percent urbanized as opposed to 25 percent in Afghanistan — "you can meet and hopefully influence a lot of people in one day. In Afghanistan with its great distances, sparsely populated areas and rugged terrain you can do far less in the same amount of time." Hence, one reason for the prognosis that Afghanistan will be a longer haul.

Development — which absorbs the U.S. military more than combat and is regarded as key to victory — is also far tougher than in Iraq, which already possessed a solid infrastructure and once almost produced the atomic bomb. In Afghanistan at best a quarter of the population can read, compared to more than 75 percent in Iraq, which had functioning banking, medical and other systems, however imperfect, through which aid could be channeled.

"Iraq already had the foundation. They just needed the governance piece that would support not just the elite few. In Afghanistan, you are starting at the very beginning. It's like trying to take the American Indians in their purest form and put them into today's New York City. It's not going to happen," says Weiermann, of Ft. Hood, Texas.

"I worked with folks who had been to Oxford and been on projects in multiple other countries. There were homegrown NGOs and highly qualified women — all lacking in Afghanistan," says Les Garrison, a retired U.S. Marine officer from Arlington, Va., who serves as Logar's U.S. State Department adviser.

Col. David B. Haight, commander of U.S. forces in Logar and neighboring Wardak province, half jokes that some frustrated Afghans come to him and say: "'You can put a man on the moon so can't we get a road here?' and I have to tell them, `You know, it's a lot harder to build a road in Afghanistan than put a man on the moon. That skill is not in abundance here.'"

Pinpointing the insurgents has been devilishly difficult in both countries, the U.S. military says.

"Osama bin Laden could walk right up to me and I wouldn't have a clue to who he was. The enemy cannot be identified at first sight. The enemy blends in easily with the population. That is the same for both places but drastically harder in Afghanistan," Weiermann says.

The Baghdad government has managed polls and censuses, compiling a data base on the populace which includes fingerprints and domiciles down to apartment numbers. In Afghanistan, such information often exists only at the tribal level, tracking the movement of individuals and entire communities like the migratory Kuchi next to impossible, Weiermann says.

Militarily, veterans of both conflicts see both disparities and a mirroring.

Thus far, the level of intense combat and violence has proved lower in Afghanistan. In Iraq, soldiers say it was a 24/7, 365-day war while most insurgents in Afghanistan take a break during the winters and are so far less skilled in mounting complex operations against U.S. and coalition troops.

Roadside bombs are the insurgents' weapons of choice in both countries, and ominously are proving more sophisticated and deadlier in Afghanistan as they did over time in Iraq. U.S. forces in Iraq largely pursued a war of mechanized movement. Afghanistan is a foot soldier's war.

Haight, who served three Iraq tours in Special Forces-type operations, says the core counterinsurgency creed — boiled down to "Going into a village and making friends" — applies squarely to both countries. The devil is in the details.

"We as leaders here have to realize that we cannot simply superimpose some of the things that may have worked in Iraq on Afghanistan," Matthews cautions.


Will O be the One to best Alexander, or just another fool in a long line. Stay tuned.

Afghans Detail Detention in ‘Black Jail’ at U.S. Base

KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his stated desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

Military officials said as recently as this summer that the Afghanistan jail and another like it at the Balad Air Base in Iraq were being used to interrogate high-value detainees. And officials said recently that there were no plans to close the jails.

In August, the administration restricted the time that detainees could be held at the military jails to two weeks, changing previous Pentagon policy. In the past, the military could obtain extensions.

The interviewed detainees had been held longer, but before the new policy went into effect. Mr. Hamidullah, who, like some Afghans, uses only one name, was released in October after five and half months in detention, five to six weeks of it in the black jail, he said.

Although his and other detainees’ accounts could not be independently corroborated, each was interviewed separately and described similar conditions. Their descriptions also matched those obtained by two human rights workers who had interviewed other former detainees at the site.

While two of the detainees were captured before the Obama administration took office, one was captured in June of this year.

All three detainees were later released without charges. None said they had been tortured, though they said they heard sounds of abuse going on and certainly felt humiliated and roughly used. “They beat up other people in the black jail, but not me,” Hamidullah said. “But the problem was that they didn’t let me sleep. There was shouting noise so you couldn’t sleep."

Others, however, have given accounts of abuse at the site, including two Afghan teenagers who told The Washington Post that they had been subjected to beatings and humiliation by American guards.

A Defense Department spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said Saturday that the military routinely sought to verify allegations of detainee abuse, and that it was looking into whether the two Afghan teenagers who spoke to The Post had been detained.

Without commenting specifically on the site at Bagram, which is still considered classified, Mr. Whitman said that the Pentagon’s policy required that all detainees in American custody in Afghanistan be treated humanely and according to United States and international law.

All three former detainees interviewed by The New York Times complained of being held for months after the intensive interrogations were over without being told why. One detainee said he remained at the Bagram prison complex for two years and four months; another was held for 10 months total.

Human rights officials said the existence of a jail where prisoners were denied contact with the Red Cross or their families contradicted the Obama administration’s drive to improve detention conditions.

“Holding people in what appears to be incommunicado detention runs against the grain of the administration’s commitment to greater transparency, accountability, and respect for the dignity of Afghans,” said Jonathan Horowitz, a human rights researcher with the Open Society Institute.

Mr. Horowitz said he understood that “the necessities of war requires the U.S. to detain people, but there are limits to how to detain.”

The black jail is separate from the larger Bagram detention center, which now holds about 700 detainees, mostly in cages accommodating about 20 men apiece, and which had become notorious to the Afghan public as a symbol of abuse. That center will be closed by early next year and the detainees moved to a new larger detention site as part of the administration’s effort to improve conditions at Bagram.

The former detainees interviewed by The Times said they were held at the site for 35 to 40 days. All three were sent there upon arriving at Bagram and eventually transferred to the larger detention center on the base, which allows access to the Red Cross. The three were hooded and handcuffed when they were taken for questioning at the black jail so they did not know where they were or anything about other detainees, they said.

Mr. Horowitz said he had heard similar descriptions of the jail from former detainees, as had Sahr MuhammedAlly, a lawyer with Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization that has tracked detention issues in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The International Committee of the Red Cross does not discuss its findings publicly and would not say whether its officials had visited the black jail. But, in early 2008, military officials acknowledged receiving a confidential complaint from the I.C.R.C. that the military was holding some detainees incommunicado.

In August, the military said that it had begun to give the Red Cross the names of everyone detained, including those held in the Special Operations camps, within two weeks of capture. But it still does not allow the group face-to-face access to the detainees.

All three detainees said the hardest part of their detention was that their families did not know whether they were alive.

“For my whole family it was disastrous,” said Hayatullah, a Kandahar resident who said he was working in his pharmacy when he was arrested. “Because they knew the Americans were sometimes killing people, and they thought they had killed me because for two to three months they didn’t know where I was.”

The three detainees said the military had mistaken them for Taliban fighters.

“They kept saying to me, ‘Are you Qari Idris?’ ” said Gulham Khan, 25, an impoverished, illiterate sheep trader, who mostly delivers sheep and goats for people who buy the animals in the livestock market in Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name. He was captured in late October 2008 and released in early September this year, he said.

“I said, ‘I’m not Qari Idris.’ But they kept asking me over and over, and I kept saying, ‘I’m Gulham. This is my name, that is my father’s name, you can ask the elders.’ ”

Ten months after his initial detention, American soldiers went to the group cell where he was then being held and told him he had been mistakenly picked up under the wrong name, he said.

“They said, ‘Please accept our apology, and we are sorry that we kept you here for this time.’ And that was it. They kept me for more than 10 months and gave me nothing back.”

In their search for him, Mr. Khan’s family members spent the equivalent of $6,000, a fortune for a sheep dealer, who often makes just a dollar a day. Some of the money was spent on bribes to local Afghan soldiers to get information on where he was being held; they said soldiers took the money and never came back with the information.

In Mr. Hamidullah’s case, interrogators at the black jail insisted that he was a Taliban fighter named Faida Muhammad. “I said, ‘That’s not me,’ ” he recalled.

“They blamed me and said, ‘You are making bombs and are a facilitator of bomb making and helping militants,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘I have a shop. I sell spare parts for vehicles, for trucks and cars.’ ”

Human rights researchers say they worry that the jail remains in the shadows and largely inaccessible both to the Red Cross and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which has responsibility for ensuring humane treatment of detainees under the Afghan Constitution. Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, said that the site fell into something of a legal limbo but that the Red Cross should still have access to all detainees.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

'Yemeni top brass dragged Saudis into conflict'

Beirut : A Shiite rebellion in the northern province of Sa'ada is raging and a southern secession movement, of late, has gained momentum.

Gulf News spoke to Ali Salem Al Beidh, leader of the former South Yemen republic and also former vice-president, about the conflicts in the north and south of the country and possible solutions. Following are the excerpts from the interview:

Gulf News: How do you see the current conflict in Sa'ada? Do you see an end soon?

Ali Salem Al Beidh: The situation in Sa'ada has gone out of control. But the war, which has been going on for five months, is not being given due attention, especially at the humanitarian level which is catastrophic. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, villages destroyed, crops and fields burned down in addition of course to the thousands of innocent people who lost their lives from all sides of the conflict.

The economic losses are significant; we lost several billions of dollars which would have been used instead to develop the country. Anyway, the situation should not have been like this, but it is the responsibility of the party that started the fight [the government]. The government in Sana'a didn't know where the conflict was heading to. And instead of reconsidering its position and trying to solve the conflict, it went ahead with the impossible task, a military solution. Now the government is stuck in the mud and will try to drag the region and the entire world into it.

If this war has proven anything it is that military solution for political problems are not possible, especially when both parties seem to be able to fight it out endlessly. Here, I would like to warn the Arabs and the rest of the world that the Sana'a regime, through its repeated adventurism, is causing serious crises in this vital and resourcefully rich region, will explode if it goes unchecked.

Do you think there is an Iranian hand in the war as many suggest?

This point has been first raised by the regime in Sana'a. It tried to play it up in the hope it would win it some points in the public opinion and incite the Yemeni street against Al Houthi group by connecting it to Iran on the one hand and extracting financial assistance from some Arab and international parties.

The regime has been trumpeting up this Iranian card in a strange way, but it can no longer sustain the trick because the outside world has figured it out. The world now understands that Sana'a plays up this card whenever it feels powerless militarily and secondly, until today, the regime has not offered any evidence on the alleged Iranian role in the war nor has it accused Tehran officially of interfering in the war.

The regime says it has captured many Al Houthis and seized weapons, the question is then; why Sana'a is not able to offer one shred of evidence of this alleged Iranian support to Al Houthis? I believe the accusations are fabricated, just like the arms ship which Yemen said it had captured recently and accused Iran of sending arms to Al Houthi group. We don't hear anything anymore about this ship, do we?

The Saudis have entered the war recently to defend their territory as announced by Riyadh. What is your take on that?

Saudi Arabia says it has entered the war after its territory was attacked and infiltrated by Al Houthi fighters. I don't have enough information about this. But I believe that some sort of cross-border exchange happened since the early days of the war due to some factors, especially the complicated nature of the geography in that area. For example, one part of Jebel Dukhan is in the Yemeni territory and the other is in Saudi Arabia, so it is possible that shells would fall here and there.

I have information that the Yemeni team which is leading the war effort had planned to drag the Saudis into the war. This plan started when the regime realised it cannot crush Al Houthi group militarily. Informed sources in Sana'a tell me the government is quite happy today that it managed to turn the war into a regional one after the involvement of Saudi Arabia. I regret that we have reached this point, and it saddens me to see our brothers on both sides fighting. On the short and long terms, this war is not in the interests of anybody. Saudi Arabia is a key state in the region and it is unfortunate it got involved.

Is there a realistic and practical solution to the conflict?

The only way out of this conflict is political. We said this from the beginning. I think the Arab League can and should play a leading role in extinguishing the fire before it rages in other areas. It is not the interest of anybody to create a chronic tension spot in this vital and sensitive area. I call upon the Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Mousa to launch a peace initiative that would put an end to the war and lead to a comprehensive settlement.

I would also like to tell the Arab brothers to beware of the attempts of the Sana'a regime to stir a sectarian sedition by portraying his aggression on our brothers in Sa'ada as a sectarian conflict.

You are leading a separatist movement that wants to divide Yemen again. Isn't that against the aspiration of the Yemeni people?

The southern movement is in a good condition and growing. It is going on the right track defined from the start, which is a peaceful struggle to realise the goal of the people of the south of self-determination, and to regain their independent state with its capital in Aden. As you see, the people have been demonstrating regularly to express their objection to the status quo which was based on the results of the 1994 war, launched by the Sana'a regime against the south. This status quo ruined the unification project and turned the south into a spoil of war and excluded its people from the power and wealth.

Where are you going from here?

The goal is to allow the southerners decide their fate by themselves without pressure or coercion. There are ongoing contacts to get a resolution from the United Nations Security Council to conduct a referendum in the south on this issue, based on resolutions 924 and 931 which were issued during the 1994 war and said clearly that the unification is a contractual matter between two parties and cannot be imposed by force.

Recently, you organised meetings with southern leaders to "unify the leadership." What are the results and is the southern movement united?

I deliberate in all matters with all southern national leaders, inside and outside the country. We discuss all issue concerning the future of our people and our cause. We work together to reach an understanding that takes into account the common denominations, aimed at realising our ultimate goal: to restore the southern state.

I want to stop here at the recent meeting with former prime minister Haidar Abu Bakr Al Attas and former minister Mohammad Ali Ahmad and Saleh Obaid. It was a good chance to go over the situation in the south from all aspects since the declaration of separation I announced on May 21, 2009. We also discussed the current developments and future plans and the strategies we have to follow to confront the regime's plan to crush the peaceful struggle of the south.

We also went over the overall Arab and international conditions which we hope will support the southerners to restore their state and pay attention to the dangers of the regime's plans to resort to force, which we believe will only lead to another explosive conflict in the region and become a catalyst for foreign intervention.

As for within the south, I am proud of the ability of the movement to self organise despite the limited resources. In a short period of time, the inside movement has matured politically enough to formulate and implement a political vision. The message of the south has been delivered to all those concerned through the movement's determination to escalate its peaceful struggle to realise the second independence.

Some reports spoke of an increasing presence of Al Qaida in the south? How do you see this dangerous trend?

I have already spoken about this issue and said that the Sana'a regime will play this card too to distort the image of the peaceful movement in the south, which has nothing to do with Al Qaida whatsoever. I hereby stress that the south has never been a land that would tolerate an ideology such as Al Qaida's. On the contrary, this terror network has built a strong alliance with the regime in Sana'a, engineered and supervised by a leading member of the ruling regime. This is known by regional states, Egypt and the United States. I don't exaggerate when I say that some leaders of Al Qaida are in fact officers in the Republican Guard.

Our movement is a peaceful one; it is an independence struggle that has denounced violence since its inception. We refused to follow the path of violence despite the attempts of the regime to provoke us. But I also want to stress that even the attacks blamed by the Sana'a regime on Al Qaida are fabricated by the regime itself, hoping it will succeed in portraying the southern movement as a terrorist movement. This will not succeed.

Biography: Living in exile

Ali Salem Al Beidh was the leader of the former south Yemen republic. He was also former vice-president under president Ali Abdullah Saleh from 1990-1994 after they signed the unity agreement on May 22, 1990.

Al Beidh left the country after he declared secession of south from north in 1994, the main reason behind the 1994 war between south and north. But Al Beidh was defeated and got asylum in Oman.

After 15 years of living in exile, Al Beidh resumed his political career on May 21, 2009.

Following his announcement to return to the political activity, Oman announced withdrawal of the Omani citizenship from Al Beidh.


Saudis claim key mountain win over Yemeni rebels

MECCA, Saudi Arabia, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it had taken control of a strategic mountain on the Saudi side of the border with Yemen, clearing the area of Yemeni Shi'ite rebels.

"The (Saudi) forces have taken control of Jabal (Mount) al-Dood ... These men have cleared this area," Defense and Aviation Assistant Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan told al-Ekhbariya Television, describing the peak as strategically important.

He was shown speaking at what appeared to be an area near the frontline, and sounds of artillery fire could be heard.

"Where we are now is less than 3 km (2 miles) away from the border (with Yemen) ... We are within our borders .. The (Saudi) forces are destroying all infiltrators," Prince Khaled said. "We try to keep losses at a minimum ... and not be drawn into a war in the mountains."

Saudi Arabia started fighting Yemeni Shi'ite rebels -- known as Houthis -- earlier this month after it announced that they had killed two border guards in a cross-border incursion.

A Yemeni military official told Reuters that Yemeni forces and Houthi rebels waged pitched battles on the outskirts of the northern city of Saada on Saturday after regular troops thwarted an attempt by the insurgents to enter the city. [nGEE5AR05Y]

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, fears growing instability in Yemen could turn into a major security threat by allowing al Qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in the poverty-stricken country.

The Houthis belong to the Zaidi sect of minority Shi'ite Islam, and complain of social, economic and religious marginalisation by the government. Both sides deny their aims are sectarian.

Saudi media frequently mention an al Qaeda presence among the Houthis and Yemen sees Iran's hand behind the rebels. Iran denies involvement and has called for Yemen's government to end the fighting through negotiations.

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally which sees itself as the guardian of Sunni Islam, has been at odds with Shi'ite Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.


Riyadh Bob

10,000 E. African albinos in hiding after killings

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers has driven thousands of Africa's albinos into hiding, fearful of losing their lives and limbs to unscrupulous dealers who can make up to $75,000 selling a complete dismembered set.

Mary Owido, who lacks pigment that gives color to skin, eyes and hair, says she is only comfortable when at work or at home with her husband and children.

"Wherever I go people start talking about me, saying that my legs and hands can fetch a fortune in Tanzania," said Owido, 36, a mother of six. "This kind of talk scares me. I am afraid of going out alone."

Since 2007, 44 albinos have been killed in Tanzania and 14 others have been slain in Burundi, sparking widespread fear among albinos in East Africa.

At least 10,000 have been displaced or gone into hiding since the killings began, according to a report released this week by the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies.

East Africa's latest albino murder happened in Tanzania's Mwanza region in late October, when albino hunters beheaded 10-year-old Gasper Elikana and chopped off his leg, the report said. The killing left Elikana's father, who tried to defend his son, seriously injured.

Albinism is a hereditary condition, but occurs only when both parents have albinism genes. All six of Owido's children have normal skin color.

African albinos endure insults, discrimination and segregation throughout their lives. They also have a high risk of contracting skin cancer in a region where many jobs are outdoors.

Owido, a high school teacher in the western Kenyan town of Ahero, says she was forced to transfer from a better teaching job on the Kenya-Tanzania border town of Isebania in 2008 after an albino girl she knew was murdered and her body parts chopped off.

The surge in the use of albino body parts as good luck charms is a result of "a kind of marketing exercise by witch doctors," the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies said.

The report says the market for albino parts exists mainly in Tanzania, where a complete set of body parts - including all limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose - can sell for $75,000. Wealthy buyers use the parts as talismans to bring them wealth and good fortune.

"Albinism is one of the most unfortunate vulnerabilities," said International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies Secretary General Bekele Geleta. "And it needs to be addressed immediately at an international level."

The chairman of the Albino Association of Kenya, Isaac Mwaura, called the murders deplorable but said the killings have given albinos a platform to raise awareness.

Almost 90 percent of albinos living in the region were raised by single mothers, Mwaura said, because the fathers believed their wives were having affairs with white men.

"When I was born my father said his family tree doesn't have such children and left us," Mwaura said.

Some African communities believe that albinos are harbingers of disaster, while others mistakenly think albinos are mentally retarded and discourage their parents from taking them to school, saying it's a waste of money, he said.

Due to a lack of education, many albinos are illiterate and are forced into menial jobs, exposing them to the sun and skin cancer, he said. Those who manage to finish school face discrimination in the work place and are never considered for promotions.

"People are very blind to albinism but it is very visible. Now that we have this issue in Tanzania is when people have started to talk about albinism," Mwaura said. "Before there was a studious silence."


Pakistani president turns over nuclear authority

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan's president relinquished command of its nuclear arsenal to the prime minister, a political ally, and signaled he was ready to shed more power as he faces growing pressure to resign.
The move came as an amnesty protecting President Asif Ali Zardari and thousands of others from graft charges expired Saturday, risking political turmoil that could distract the U.S.-allied nation from its fight against the Taliban and other militants near the Afghan border.

The political opposition called on Zardari to step down. He enjoys general immunity from prosecution as president, but the Supreme Court could choose to challenge his eligibility for the post since the amnesty decree by ex-military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf was never passed into law.

Zardari, 54, is languishing in opinion polls. He has long been haunted by corruption allegations, dating back to the governments of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto. He denies the allegations that he took kickbacks, saddling him with the nickname, "Mr. 10 Percent."

He also has found himself locked in a power struggle with the military, which has objected to his overtures toward rival nuclear neighbor India and acceptance of a multibillion dollar U.S. aid bill that came with conditions some fear impose controls over the army.

Zardari's office said the decision to transfer control of the National Command Authority to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was a step toward ceding sweeping presidential powers that had been adopted by Zardari's predecessor, Musharraf. The authority comprises a group of top military and political leaders who would make any decision to deploy nuclear weapons.

Gilani is a veteran lawmaker and member of Zardari's own party. He spent five years in prison under Musharraf's regime, accused of cronyism and abusing his authority when serving as parliament speaker, despite a reputation for even-handedness in his treatment of opposing lawmakers. A higher court eventually overturned his conviction.

"He (Zardari) has taken the correct and democratic step and we will see many more steps taken by the president along these lines to empower the prime minister and to empower the parliament," spokeswoman Farahnaz Ispahani said. "He is giving up the dictatorial powers that Gen. Musharraf - as an unelected leader - needed to keep himself in power."

Zardari also reissued 27 other Musharraf-era ordinances concerning the competition commission, defense housing and other matters ahead of a midnight Saturday deadline set by the Supreme Court.

In an interview Friday with Express News TV, Zardari said he was also likely to give away authority he inherited from Musharraf to dissolve parliament and appoint services chiefs by the end of this year as the opposition has long demanded. Doing that would weaken him politically and reduce the president to a more ceremonial role, but could reduce some of the pressures on him to step down.

A spokesman for the opposition party headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on Zardari to resign despite his immunity.

"Asif Ali Zardari should take high moral ground and resign so that his credibility will increase," said Sadiqul Farooq, spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

Analysts said the transfer of authority signaled Zardari's willingness to divest powers as part of a compromise that would enable him to keep his job.

"It appears to be a self-defense and survival strategy," said Rasool Bakhsh Rais, a political science professor at Lahore University of Management Science.

A military coup to oust Zardari appears unlikely, as does impeachment, since he heads the largest party in parliament. But the amnesty's expiration and his dispute with the powerful military leave him vulnerable as he struggles to maintain his hold on the presidency at a time when Pakistan's foreign allies would prefer political stability.

Pakistan is embroiled in a bloody war on Islamist militants and has endured dozens of bombings this year that have left hundreds dead.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Saturday that 73 suspected militants, including 11 would-be suicide bombers and one suspected in the beheading of a Polish engineer, had been arrested in recent weeks. He alleged some of those interrogated had confessed to planning attacks on the presidency, Parliament and the prime minister's house.

Speculation over Zardari's future has escalated after he was forced to abandon an effort to get parliament to approve the amnesty passed by Musharraf that granted more than 8,000 government bureaucrats and politicians, including the president and many others from his Pakistan People's Party, immunity from a host of corruption and criminal charges.

The amnesty list was part of a U.S.-backed deal to allow Zardari's late wife, former Prime Minister Bhutto, to return from exile in 2007 and run for office safe in the knowledge she would not be dogged by corruption allegations. The U.S. and other Western nations supported the bid by Bhutto, who was seen as a secular and pro-Western politician.

But Bhutto, who was forced from her post twice in the 1990s because of alleged misrule and corruption, was killed by a suicide bomber shortly after she returned to Pakistan. Zardari took over as co-chairman of her party and was elected president in September 2008 by federal and regional lawmakers.

Last weekend, the government released the list of some of those who had been protected by the decree, including the interior and defense ministers. Those listed have protested their innocence against what they deem politically motivated charges filed between 1986 to 1999. Many have expressed a willingness to fight in court.

Zardari already has endured about 11 years in two jail terms. But he was never convicted at home or in corruption and money-laundering investigations in Britain, Spain and Switzerland.

"They were politically motivated cases not just against the president but many other political leaders," his spokeswoman said.


I cant decide if this is good or bad, but scary none the less

Lenin statue vandalized in Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukrainian nationalists hurled red paint at a restored monument to Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin moments after it was unveiled Friday, sparking a street brawl and revealing the bitter divisions over the legacy of communism in Ukraine.

The nationalist group, Freedom, said the protest was inspired by persistent debate over the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, a major irritant in Kiev's relationship with its former Soviet overlord, Moscow.

It was the second time this year that vandals have targeted the more than 11-foot-tall (3.5-meter) granite statue of the Russian revolutionary on Kiev's central Shevchenko boulevard. In July, it was taken down for restoration after nationalists smashed its face with a hammer and tore off an arm.

A Communist rally was held Friday to welcome back the restored monument, first erected in 1946, but supporters of the nationalist group flung red paint at its base just as the Communists cheered its unveiling.

Riot police stepped in to break up the ensuing fight, which left several people dazed and bloodied. Several others were detained, including a man who was beaten by members of the crowd for throwing the paint.

"I don't regret it," he told reporters as he was led away. "They'll take this thing down eventually anyway. If we don't act, it'll just take a lot longer," he said, giving only his first name, Hryhoriy.

Statues of Lenin are common across the former Soviet Union, but they often stir emotions in Ukraine, particularly since the 2004 Orange Revolution street protests ushered pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, to power.

Yushchenko has pressed for international recognition of the 1930s famine, which killed millions of people, as genocide against Ukraine by the Soviet government of Josef Stalin, Lenin's successor. Russian leaders adamantly deny the famine was genocide, stressing that it killed many people in Russia and Kazakhstan, and asserting Ukrainians were not singled out.

In a statement on its Web site, Freedom said Lenin, who died in 1924, was responsible for the famine and urged politicians to remove all monuments honoring him and the Soviet system.

"History cannot be turned back. Lenin monuments across Ukraine will be destroyed, and communist ideology prohibited," Andriy Mokhnik, head of the group's Kiev branch, said in the statement.

The Communist Party is still a significant force in Ukrainian politics, winning roughly 1.3 million votes and 27 of the 450 parliament seats in 2007 elections. Its main support base is in the largely Russian-speaking east.

Yushchenko, who is more popular in the predominantly Ukrainian-speaking west, has stoked the famine debate ahead of a Jan. 17 vote in which he is seeking re-election. He has ordered investigators to gather evidence that the famine was planned in Moscow, and this week opened an exhibit about the famine.

The presidential front-runners - Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, both bitter foes of Yushchenko - have been far less vocal on the issue, and have focused on rebuilding damaged ties with Russia.

On Friday, state security service chief Valentin Nalivaychenko said Ukraine was not seeking to blame Russia for the famine.

"As regards third countries, be it Russia or anyone else, no one is talking about any accusations toward them from our side," Nalivaychenko said in televised comments.


Iraqis spent $80m on ADE651 bomb detectors described as useless

The Iraqi parliament is looking into the sale by a British company of “bomb detectors” costing millions of pounds amid claims that they do not work.

In the past two years Iraq’s security forces have spent more than $80 million (£47 million) on the detectors made by ATSC Ltd, based in Yeovil, Somerset.

The devices, which consist of little more than a telescopic radio aerial on a black plastic handle, were each sold for the price of a new car and are in use at army and police checkpoints across the bomb-ravaged country.

On October 25 suicide bombers drove through checkpoints that were equipped with the detectors and blew up three government ministries, killing 155 people.

The Iraqi parliament is scrutinising the purchase after an article appeared in The New York Times in which the American Major-General Richard J. Rowe Jr, who oversees Iraqi police training for the US, said: “I have no confidence that these work.”

Nadeem al-Jabiri, an Iraqi MP, said: “There is no official investigation going on but the security and defence committee in the parliament, headed by Hadi al-Amiri, is following up this matter as part of the parliament’s duty as a monitoring entity.”

It comes after it was confirmed that the Iraqi Government had spent $85 million (£50 million) on the devices, despite the manufacturer’s admission that they work on the same principle as a dowsing rod. Each detector bought by the Iraqi Government cost up to $60,000 (£35,000).

The American magician James Randi has condemned the device as a “blatant fraud” and offered $1 million if the manufacturer can prove that it works. It has declined. ATSC promotional material claims that its Advanced Detecting Equipment can find anything from explosives to human remains, including narcotics, ivory and truffles, at distances of up to 1km. Its current model, the ADE651, consists of a flimsy antenna fitted to a swivelling handgrip. When the antenna detects an explosive it supposedly rotates to point in its direction.

The devices have become an object of frustration and derision at Baghdad checkpoints where long queues grow even longer when a vehicle is stopped.

Ahmed al-Jemmali, a 26-year-old food merchant, said: “They are a failure because they react to things like perfume, medicine and metal. People in Iraq have shrapnel in their bodies because of explosions. We should have a device that detects only explosives and nothing else.”

Jim McCormick, the managing director of ATSC Ltd, a former Merseyside police officer, developed the device ten years ago despite having no scientific or technical background.

He insists that ATSC “only” received $12 million, and the price paid was inflated by commissions and training courses for the operators. He said: “We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.” Another reason for the doubts is that apart from the aerial the device contains no working parts at all.

The handheld unit is connected by coaxial cable to a plastic holder into which a plastic card is slotted.

The cards are supposedly pre- programmed with the electromagnetic “resonance” of the substance being detected. He says that the process involves a “proximity” device similar to the security tags used in shops.

In a direct challenge to “manufacturers, distributers and retailers”, Randi states: “ADE651 is a useless quack device which cannot perform any other function than separating naive persons from their money.

“It’s a fake, a scam, a swindle, and a blatant fraud. Prove me wrong and take the million dollars.”

No Western military unit has bought the ADE651. Mr McCormick says that he has sold them to “the Saudis, Indian police, a Belgian drug squad, a Hong Kong correctional facility and the Chittagong navy”.

He said: “The Saudis told us they used it to find the body of an American who had been beheaded and dumped in the desert. We asked for details but they said the information was classified.” The US Government says that during tests on a similar device it failed to detect a truck carrying a tonne of TNT when it drove up behind the operator.

Not everyone disputes that they work. Abu Murtetha, a Baghdad taxi driver, said, “In one case I saw they stopped a car. The detector showed something and when they looked under the car they spotted a bomb.”


Russia 'will' deliver S-300 to Iran in 2 months

Russia has ensured that it will honor a deal providing Iran with the S-300 sophisticated anti-aircraft system, Tehran's envoy to Moscow says.

Mohammad-Reza Sajjadi on Friday rejected reports that Russia had pulled out of the deal due to a delay in the delivery of the system to Iran.

"We had heard reports that Russia would not deliver these systems to Iran, but we asked the Russian side and they denied it," he told reporters in Moscow.

"The delivery deadline has already passed, but the Russian side has cited technical problems which it said it was working on to fix," Sajjadi added. "We feel that this question will be resolved within one to two months."

He said neither Iran nor Russia planed to "go back" on the contract, which he said was "profitable" for both sides.

Russia's procrastination over the delivery of the advanced system to Iran has drawn harsh criticism from officials in Tehran.

Earlier this month, Chief of Staff of Iran's Joint Armed Forces Hassan Firouzabadi questioned Moscow's motivation for the delay. He said under a contract signed between the two countries, the Russian government was expected to supply Iran with the system aimed at boosting the country's defensive capabilities.

"The delivery is more than six months overdue," the top official said, urging Russia to expedite the process of delivery.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi also said that Russia had a "contractual obligation" to provide Iran with the system.

"We have made a deal with the Kremlin to buy S-300 defense missiles," he said, referring to a contract signed between Tehran and Moscow in 2007.

"We don't think Russian officials would want to be seen in the world as contract violators," he added.

Iran has been trying to obtain the sophisticated defense system to improve its deterrence power in reaction to Israeli war rhetoric.

According to Western experts, the S-300 missile defense system would shield Iranian nuclear sites against any Israeli airstrike.

The S-300 system, which can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away, features high jamming immunity and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets.

200 drones, or reflections.

Second bomb blast at Russian train site

The head of the Russian Federal Security Service has told a Russian news agency 14 pounds of explosives were used in the terror attack. And later another official suggested the explosive may have been inside one of the cars but that has not officially been confirmed.

And a second bomb detonated at the scene some 17 hours later during the cleanup operation say Russian sources. No one was injured in that blast.

The derailment occurred in a remote area hampering rescue efforts. Some of the 100 injured passengers were driven to St. Petersburg. Others were moved to Moscow by air and by road.

Initially Russian authorities said 26 were killed and 18 others were missing.

A similar attack occurred on a Russian train on the same line in 2009 but details of that attack and its motives have remained murky. Two Russians were arrested after that bombing and one is still being sought. No one died in that incident.

The Russian Prosecutor in charge of investigating this attack says bomb residue has been taken from the scene and that the blast created a five foot deep crater.

There have been numerous attacks in Russia in recent years carried out by Chechen separatists and also a growing number of violent incidents involving Ultra Nationalists.

But so far Russian authorities are not certain who carried out this bombing on the Nevsky Express.


Iran's way of asking Russia, Where are my S-300 missiles bitch

Ladybird: Saudi Arabia unable to defeat the Houthis

Lecho de Muerte by Victoria Frances

Ladybird has all the details from the media in the Middle East on the Saudis lack of progress in defeating/driving out the Houthis.

First, here is a video clip shows Turks (Houthis sympathizers) strike with their shoes and set fire photos of the Saudi King Abdullah.

Israeli websites circulated rumors that Jordanian commandos are participating in the Saudi Arabia war against the Houthis, no evidence yet but sources told Al-Quds Al-Arabi today that Saudi Arabia asked enforcement from Bahrain, Qatar, Pakistan and Jordan (with one condition, no Yemeni dissidents solders).

At the same time Houthis released a video clip shows the weapons and arms Saudi forces left behind in the last attack on AL-Rumaih area.

A six parts video released by the only Saudi opposition satellite TV “Islamic Reform Movement” TV, in which witnesses from Jizan important revealed for the first time on air that the Saudi regime allowed the Yemeni army to enter the Saudi territory and maneuver the Houthis from behind, which is the reason that made the Houthis to enter the Saudi Arabia.

The witnesses also revealed that there dozens of Saudi soldiers between dead and wounded, at least sixty dead Saudi soldiers been seen in the refrigerators of Riyadh hospital.

Videos [Arabic]

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

For the South Yemen, the situation is not much better. Former South-Yemen president Ali Salim Al-Baidh released a statement denies any connections between AL-Hirak Al-Janubi and Al-Qaeda as the Yemeni trying to link between the two.

Al-Baidh also said that the South resistance will move from peaceful resistance to civil disobedience soon.

Stabilizing Afghanistan may take at least four years, McChrystal says

WASHINGTON — The week before a major presidential speech on Afghanistan strategy, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told lawmakers touring the combat zone that it could take at least four years to stabilize the country and allow the drawdown of U.S. forces.

The top coalition commander in Afghanistan gave the estimate to a delegation of six lawmakers during a private assessment in Kabul of military conditions in the country.

It foreshadows some of the difficulties of the case that President Barack Obama will have to make to the American public from West Point on Tuesday, when he is expected to call for a significant new troop commitment and outline an exit strategy in the 8-year-old war.

By 2013, the United States military will have been in Afghanistan for as long as American soldiers fought in Vietnam.

"I asked [McChrystal], where’s the tipping point here? If you get the troops that you’re asking for here, at what point will we begin to phase down that presence?" said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who was part of the delegation. "He said sometime before 2013."

McChrystal’s estimate is likely to prove unpopular with lawmakers already bristling at the idea of upping the ante in Afghanistan at the cost of urgent priorities at home.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the White House that there is little support among many Democrats for a troop increase and the tens of billions it would cost.

Traveling with a group of Democrats and Republicans, among them Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., Coffman said he left the country feeling less confident than when he arrived in the strategy that McChrystal has outlined over the last two months.

An expert in counterinsurgency, McChrystal has requested a new blanket of troops to protect Afghan civilians and win their support from the Taliban while shoring up efforts to train a larger Afghan military that can eventually take control.

Progress on that training is lagging, the lawmakers were told by U.S. military officials, partly because of the difficulty of imposing a modern military structure on the country’s traditional tribal culture.

Coffman said he pressed McChrystal and others on the possibility of more aggressively arming local militias who could fight the Taliban, especially in rural areas.

"They said the Karzai government isn’t excited about us giving weapons to some of these tribal militias," said Coffman, who noted that such a strategy proved a turning point in Iraq. "But I said the Maliki government [in Iraq] wasn’t excited when [U.S. Gen. David] Petraeus did that to the Sunni Arab insurgents."

Coffman said that he and other Republicans are eventually likely to support a troop increase but that the GOP support is less wholehearted than many analysts have speculated.

"I think it’s going to be a tough fight in the Congress," he said.

Star Telegram

Pakistan kills 30 militants in tribal belt

KHAR, Pakistan — Pakistani troops killed 30 militants in the country's lawless tribal region where a key anti-Taliban leader was assassinated in a bomb attack on Friday, officials said.

The deadly clashes were reported by the military as part of offensives against Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan and militants in Khyber, two districts in the belt dubbed the most dangerous place on Earth by US officials.

Pakistan launched an air and ground offensive in South Waziristan on October 17, deploying 30,000 troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships in the most ambitious operation to date in the mountains near the Afghan border.

"Security forces cleared Narakai after stiff resistance.... Fifteen terrorists were killed and one soldier was injured," said a statement issued by the army.

Earlier a paramilitary Frontier Corps statement said troops backed by helicopter gunships had killed 15 militants in a new operation in Khyber, which lies on the main NATO supply route to Afghanistan outside Peshawar.

Soldiers from the Pakistani army and paramilitary Frontier Corps mounted the operation three days ago to crack down on militants, some of whom have attacked convoys supplying foreign troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Military spokesman Major Fazlur Rehman told AFP that three helicopter gunships pounded rebel positions and 200 soldiers took part.

The details could not be confirmed independently due to a lack of independent access to the battlefields by journalists.

Further north, Shahpoor Khan, a key anti-Taliban leader and an ally of Pakistan's embattled authorities in the district of Bajaur was killed Friday as he returned home after saying prayers for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

The roadside bomb in the town of Badan, also in Pakistan's tribal belt and part of the mountainous area that US officials call a headquarters for Al-Qaeda, killed Khan and wounded three others.

"The tribal leader was killed on the spot and his colleagues were seriously wounded in the blast," said local administration chief Jamil Khan.

Eid officially begins in Pakistan on Saturday but began in Afghanistan on Friday and some people in Bajaur celebrated the start of the Muslim festival of sacrifice on Friday.

Khan's predecessor, Malik Rehmatullah, was killed in a suicide attack last year in Bajaur.

Officials say the Islamists aim to distract the army from the US-endorsed air and ground assault against home grown Taliban in their heartlands.

Security has drastically deteriorated in Pakistan since Islamabad joined the US-led "War on Terror" and hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants fled into the tribal belt after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has fought repeated offensives in the area and around 2,000 troops have died in battle against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants since 2002.

Although there has been resistance in South Waziristan, many officials and analysts believe most of the estimated 10,000 Taliban guerrillas in the district have escaped into neighbouring Orakzai and North Waziristan.

The South Waziristan offensive has also seen a surge in suicide attacks targeting civilians and security officials in Peshawar, a sprawling city of 2.5 million on the edge of the tribal belt.

The United States has welcomed Pakistan's military efforts but is reportedly pressuring the civilian government to also counter militants on Pakistani soil who attack NATO and US troops across the border in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama, who has put Pakistan on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda, is expected to order more than 30,000 additional American troops into battle in Afghanistan when he unveils a new strategy next week.

Pakistan has warned that the decision could destabilise its southwestern province of Baluchistan, where the Taliban have a presence and separatist insurgents rose up in 2004


Afghanistan Using Persuasion and Jobs to Disarm Taliban

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — The American-backed campaign to persuade legions of Taliban gunmen to stop fighting got under way here recently, in an ornate palace filled with Afghan tribal leaders and one very large former warlord leading the way.

“O.K., I want you guys to go out there and persuade the Taliban to sit down and talk,” Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Jalalabad, told a group of 25 tribal leaders from four eastern provinces. In a previous incarnation, Mr. Shirzai was the American-picked governor of Kandahar Province after the Taliban fell in 2001.

“Do whatever you have to do,” the rotund Mr. Shirzai told the assembled elders. “I’ll back you up.”

After about two hours of talking, Mr. Shirzai and the tribal elders rose, left for their respective provinces and promised to start turning the enemy.

The meeting is part of a battlefield push to lure local fighters and commanders away from the Taliban by offering them jobs in development projects that Afghan tribal leaders help select, paid by the American military and the Afghan government.

By enlisting the tribal leaders to help choose the development projects, the Americans also hope to help strengthen both the Afghan government and the Pashtun tribal networks.

These efforts are focusing on rank-and-file Taliban; while there are some efforts under way to negotiate with the leaders of the main insurgent groups, neither American nor Afghan officials have much faith that those talks will succeed soon.

Afghanistan has a long history of fighters switching sides — sometimes more than once. Still, efforts so far to persuade large numbers of Taliban fighters to give up have been less than a complete success. To date, about 9,000 insurgents have turned in their weapons and agreed to abide by the Afghan Constitution, said Muhammad Akram Khapalwak, the chief administrator for the Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Kabul.

But in an impoverished country ruined by 30 years of war, tribal leaders said that many more insurgents would happily put down their guns if there was something more worthwhile to do.

“Most of the Taliban in my area are young men who need jobs,” said Hajji Fazul Rahim, a leader of the Abdulrahimzai tribe, which spans three eastern provinces. “We just need to make them busy. If we give them work, we can weaken the Taliban.”

In the Jalalabad program, tribal elders would reach out to Taliban commanders to press them to change sides. The commanders and their fighters then would be offered jobs created by local development programs.

The Pashtuns, who form the core of the Taliban, make up a largely tribal society, with families connected to one another by kinship and led by groups of elders. Over the years, the Pashtun tribes have been substantially weakened, with elders singled out by three groups: Taliban fighters, the rebels who fought the former Soviet Union and the soldiers of the former Soviet Union itself. The decimation of the tribes has left Afghan society largely atomized.

Afghan and American officials hope that the plan to make peace with groups of Taliban fighters will complement an American-led effort to set up anti-Taliban militias in many parts of the country: the Pashtun tribes will help fight the Taliban, and they will make deals with the Taliban. And, by so doing, Afghan tribal society can be reinvigorated.

“We’re trying to put pressure on the leaders, and at the same time peel away their young fighters,” said an American military official in Kabul involved in the reconciliation effort. “This is not about handing bags of money to an insurgent.”

The Afghan reconciliation plan is intended to duplicate the Awakening movement in Iraq, where Sunni tribal leaders, many of them insurgents, agreed to stop fighting and in many cases were paid to do so. The Awakening contributed to the remarkable decline in violence in Iraq.

In the autumn of 2001, during the opening phase of the American-led war in Afghanistan, dozens of warlords fighting for the Taliban agreed to defect to the American-backed rebels. As in Iraq, the defectors were often enticed by cash, sometimes handed out by American Army Special Forces officers.

At a ceremony earlier this month in Kabul, about 70 insurgents laid down their guns before the commissioners and agreed to accept the Afghan Constitution. Some of the men had fought for the Taliban, some for Hezb-i-Islami, another insurgent group. The fighters’ motives ranged from disillusion to exhaustion.

“How long should we fight the government? How many more years?” said Molawi Fazullah, a Taliban lieutenant who surrendered with nine others. “Our leaders misled us, and we destroyed our country.”

Like many fighters who gave up at the ceremony, he shrouded his face with a scarf and sunglasses, for fear of being identified by his erstwhile comrades.

The Americans say they have no plans to give cash to local Taliban commanders. They say they would rather give them jobs.

In a defense appropriations bill recently approved by Congress, lawmakers set aside $1.3 billion for a program known by its acronym, CERP, a discretionary fund for American officers. Ordinarily, CERP money is used for development projects, but the language in the bill says officers can use the money to support the “reintegration into Afghan society” of those who have given up fighting.

For all the efforts under way to entice Taliban fighters to change sides, there will always be the old-fashioned approach: deadly force. American commanders also want to squeeze them; such is the rationale behind Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for tens of thousands of additional American troops.

Indeed, sometimes force alone does the trick. On Oct. 9, American Special Forces soldiers killed Ghulam Yahia, an insurgent commander believed responsible for, among other things, sending several suicide bombers into the western city of Herat. Mr. Yahia had changed sides himself in the past: earlier in the decade, he was Herat’s mayor.

When the Americans killed Mr. Yahia, in a mountain village called Bedak, 120 of his fighters defected to the Afghan government. Others went into hiding. Abdul Wahab, a former lieutenant of Mr. Yahia’s who led the defectors, said that the Afghan government had so far done nothing to protect them or offer them jobs. But he said he was glad he had made the jump anyway.

“We are tired of war,” he said. “We don’t want it anymore.”


Dubai is worse than you think; batten down hatches

I didn’t realize how bad the meltdown in Dubai was until I read this morning’s Heard on the Street column in the Wall Street Journal, “Dubai Panic is Overdone.” Have you ever known Wall Street to say anything else when disaster occurs? Can you remember the headlines two years ago saying “Financial Panic Overdone?” That was before the sector cratered 80%.

The financial damage to the developed as well as the emerging world from the possible bankruptcy of Dubai World is much worse than you think. “We find it fascinating how little coverage here has been in the major news media here in the US of the situation in Dubai. It is as if nothing has happened, when indeed something truly major has,” says Dennis Gartman, editor of the eponymous financial newsletter.

Gartman reports that the United Arab Emirates had $123 billion of cross-border banking lines as of the end of June. UK banks owned 41% of this debt. When continental Europe is added, the exposure is 72%. The United States and Japan–whose currencies have soared yesterday and today–own just 9% and 7%, respectively, of this debt.

So: Gold plunged 4% in the immediate aftermath of U.S. markets reopening after the Thanksgiving close. That’s because of the dollar’s sudden strength. Gold immediately began to rebound as the not-as-bad-as-you-think chorus began to be sung, but it will fall again.

It’s worse than you think because retail investors, who react most slowly to news of this sort, are the most apt to react to it violently. Emerging markets are up 80% this year. Suddenly it’s obvious that emerging markets aren’t actually safer than the U.S.; they are just as wild as they have always been. The symbol of Dubai’s excess is quite vivid: Garish artificial islands in the shape of palm trees holding up fantastically expensive real estate that is suddenly worth 40% less.

Meanwhile, across not too many miles of sand, Saudi Arabia is locked in combat with rebel forces in Yemen. This is part of a holy war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. To a considerable extent, the Yemen rebels are a proxy for Iran, a particularly unstable country in a stretch from Iraq to Pakistan of unstable countries spoiling for a really big fight.

So I would expect that investments in the Middle East will be dead money for years, not months. A lot of air could come out of emerging markets. The dollar could have an extended rally, eroding profits from bonds as well as stocks in Europe. That would deflate the rally in gold, which is up 35% this year.

So while I’m a long-term dollar bear, I’m a bull for at least the weeks immediately ahead. A strong dollar also means zero concern about inflation, which is strictly a currency condition. In short, the fallout from Dubai could create an opportunity to buy gold for the long term at a much better price than you can get now, and make other inflation hedges, like other commodities, more affordable as well. To raise the cash for these future purchases, I’d take some profits in emerging markets.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Interview with Freelance Videojournalist David Axe

"David Axe was embedded with U.S. Troops in Afghanistan in October and November. This was his second trip to Afghanistan. He talks with us about U.S. training of the Afghan Air Force and Army, the unmanned Predator drones, government corruption, and what he thinks about sending additional troops to Afghanistan.
Washington, DC : 39 min."

Marines receive B-52 support in the Stan (Warning: Colorful Language)

*Stoned* Afghan Soldiers (Warning: Colorful Language)

Fuck the pot, what's up with the Brits water and ammo?