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War Blog By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 21, 2006


The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Israelis have found sensitive night-vision goggles on Hezbollah fighters that originated in the UK. The tactical equipment appears to come from a shipment sent from the British government to Iran in 2003, intended to help interdict narcotics. Instead, the Iranians put them to another use entirely (via The Asylum):

Israeli intelligence officials have complained to Britain and the United States that sensitive night-vision equipment recovered from Hezbollah fighters during the war in Lebanon had been exported by Britain to Iran. British officials said the equipment had been intended for use in a U.N. anti-narcotics campaign.

Israeli officials say they believe the state-of-the-art equipment, found in Hezbollah command-and-control headquarters in southern Lebanon during the just-concluded war, was part of a British government-approved shipment of 250 pieces of night-vision equipment sent to Iran in 2003.

Israeli military intelligence confirmed that one of the pieces of equipment is a Thermo-vision 1000 LR tactical night-vision system, serial No. 155010, part No. 193960, manufactured by Agema, a high-tech equipment company with branches in Bedfordshire, England, and San Diego. A spokesman for Agema in San Diego denied all knowledge of the system.

The equipment, which needed special export-license approval from the British government, was passed to the Iranians through a program run and administered by the U.N. Drug Control Program. The equipment uses infrared imaging to provide nighttime surveillance that allows the user to detect people and vehicles moving in the dark at a range of several miles.

The UN-brokered program has allowed the UK to sell military equipment to the Iranians despite the standoff over the nuclear program in Teheran. The Iranians were supposed to use the goggles to track nocturnal movements of drugrunners trying to get heroin and opium over the Afghanistan-Iran border. Instead of stopping the flow of drugs, however, the goggles allowed Hezbollah guerillas to track the nighttime manuevers of the IDF, making it possible for them to kill more IDF soldiers.

The British have requested the serial numbers and model types involved to track the shipments to specific buyers, but the IDF isn't playing dumb. They have stated that the only way Hezbollah could have obtained these goggles would have been through the Iranian government, which seems a lot more likely than the British selling them directly to Hassan Nasrallah. It should not come as much of a shock in any case, since the Iranians supply Hezbollah with rockets and missiles as well as the goggles.

However, it does show the problem of engagement with terror-supporting states, even on issues like drug interdiction or other cooperative ventures. The Iranians care much less about the drug trade than they do about destroying Israel, and the British showed remarkable naivete in their dealings with Teheran. One suspects that they will not make this same mistake again soon.  Sunday, August 20, 2006


After Bashar Assad called Arab leaders "half men" for failing to rally to Hezbollah's support, state-sponsored media in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have castigated Assad in terms usually reserved for infidels. His critics have called him a coward and a dead rosebud, among other epithets:

Syria's president sparked a wave of anger after he knocked Mideast leaders as "half men" in a televised speech, underlining the divisions as Arab nations try to form a unified front in the wake of the Lebanon crisis.

The bitterness over Bashar Assad's speech last week will likely stir up a gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday. The meeting is supposed to pave the way for a summit of heads of state later in the month that will draw up plans to help rebuild Lebanon - and try to launch a new Arab peace initiative with Israel.

So far governments have not commented on Assad's jibes - instead, the task has been left to newspapers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - some of which are state-guided - which have been sizzling with personal and direct attacks on Assad the like of which the region has not seen directed against an Arab leader in years.

One paper described the Syrian president as a rose that has failed to bloom. Another berated him for remaining silent throughout Israel's offensive on Lebanon. And a third mocked all his talk about resistance when not a single bullet has been fired from Syria toward the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Assad had been silent throughout the 34 days of fighting in Lebanon between Israel and Hizbullah, a Syrian ally. But the day after a cease-fire set in, he gave his speech.

One might expect the man who went into hiding after the Israeli Air Force buzzed his house after the Gilad Shalit kidnapping -- and didn't emerge for over a month -- would take care in tossing out accusations of insufficient masculinity. The accidental dictator apparently didn't think before berating other Arabs for a lack of testicular fortitude.

He's making a big mistake. As the Jerusalem Post notes, Assad has made his alignment with Teheran even more explicit with this speech, which will cut him off from the mainly Sunni Arab governments in the region. Even apart from the sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites (Assad himself is a Shi'ite), the Arabs do not want Persian rule. They have a deeper mistrust of Teheran than they do of the Israelis and the Americans, whom they know to act rationally. None of them want to take their cues from a panel of mullahs from Qom, nor from their latest nutcase mouthpiece.

It's not the first mistake that the myopic opthalmologist has made, even this month. Earlier, Assad stated that he will apparently mothball the Syrian armed forces in exchange for setting up Hezbollah-like guerilla groups in an attempt to wrest the Golan Heights from Israel. What Assad apparently doesn't understand is that Hezbollah enjoyed an advantage in Lebanon only because the world considered the terror group separate from the nation itself. Any guerilla warfare in the Golan region will result in the destruction of the Syrian air force, their armored units, and most of their infrastructure within the first few hours of the engagement -- because Syria will have responsibility for this militia just the same as it does for the actions of its traditional armed forces.

Assad does not appear very stable. One has to wonder whether the pressures of the job has affected his mind. Other Arab leaders must be asking themselves the same questions.  Saturday, August 19, 2006




They’re all backing out.

None of the European countries who were so loudly calling for a cease-fire in Lebanon are willing to commit troops. They’re afraid of being sitting ducks, human shields for Hizballah. And they should be: Europeans Delay Decision on Role Inside Lebanon. (Hat tip: Ron.)

PARIS, Aug. 20 — The shaky, United Nations-brokered cease-fire in Lebanon suffered another blow on Sunday when the European countries that had been called upon to provide the backbone of a peacekeeping force delayed a decision on committing troops until the mission is more clearly defined.

Their reservations postponed any action on the force at least until Wednesday, when the European Union will take up the issue.

Haunted by their experiences in Bosnia in the 1990’s, when their forces were unable to stop widespread ethnic killing, European governments are insisting upon clarifying the chain of command and rules of engagement before plunging into the even greater complexities of the Middle East.

“In the past, when peacekeeping missions were not properly defined, we’ve seen major failures,’’ a spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Agnès Romatet-Espagne, said Sunday. “There are the bad memories of Bosnia. This time we want the answers beforehand, so we don’t come to the problems when they have happened.’’

In addition, a senior French official said, “Italy, Spain and Finland have raised the same questions as France has.” Following the usual diplomatic practice, the official asked not to be identified. A spokesman for the Spanish Foreign Ministry said Spain was willing to send troops, “but the rules have to be clarified and agreed on.”

Some countries, like Australia, which has placed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, have flatly refused to commit troops. “We have no intention of making any significant contribution,” said a senior Australian government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “We don’t have any confidence in it. It is not going to have the mandate to disarm Hezbollah.”

Good for Australia.

The only purpose of this cynical charade was to enable France to improve their image in the Islamic world, at Israel’s expense. They never intended to follow through.  Sunday, August 20, 2006





From AFP: European press warns French troop offer weakens UN force in Lebanon. (LGF)

France faced criticism in the European press for not offering more troops for southern Lebanon, which was seen as jeopardizing the UN force's difficult task of imposing peace. ...

Despite expectations that France would provide the bulk of a planned 15,000 strong UN force, Paris said Thursday it would send 200 troops to reinforce the UN mission in Lebanon.

While it said France was prepared to command the enlarged force, it also called for safety guarantees for its soliders before making further commitments.

From FoxNews: French Soldiers Among First Peacekeepers to Land in Lebanon.

French soldiers landed in Lebanon on Saturday, the first reinforcements for an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force tasked with keeping the truce in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

About 50 French troops — military engineers — were to prepare for the arrival of 200 more soldiers expected next week, said Cmdr. Bertrand Bonneau, a spokesman for the French contingent. ...

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to U.N. member states to provide peacekeepers, assuring them the U.N. force would not be tasked with fighting Israel, Lebanon, or Hezbollah militants.

A key concern of many countries is whether the U.N. force will be called on to disarm Hezbollah fighters, as called for in a September 2004 U.N. resolution.

From the Boston Herald: With doublespeaking France, honor gets lost in translation. (via InstaPundit)

In recent weeks, France stepped forward to act as a broker of peace in Lebanon. “Act” is the key verb in that last sentence, as it now would seem that the only other verifiable part of the sentence is “in recent weeks.”

To correctly parse that sentence, one must understand that when France suggested it wanted to broker peace in Lebanon, it did not necessarily mean “broker” or “peace” or “Lebanon” in the way we might understand those words. The same is true when France further suggested it wanted to “lead” a “strong” “multinational” “force” there.

I don’t speak French, so I have no idea what the actual French words are for those concepts or what possible nuances there may be. I’ve been relying on news reports in English, which now inform me that the French do not intend to send any significant number of troops to what is supposed to be a force of 15,000 in Lebanon, like everyone thought they said they would.

The heady moment of peace brokering having passed, uponsober reflection, the French now say they already have a general and some staff in south Lebanon ordering about UNIFIL, the U.N. monitoring entity there. That’s plenty of leadership, the French suggested: All France needs to contribute now is another 200 combat engineers.

In tactical terms, when it comes to securing a Middle East conflict zone, that can be referred to as “squat.”  Sunday, August 20, 2006




So what good, then, is the ceasefire? None at all, of course. Peace In Our Time Update from the UN, with thanks to IMRA:

Unofficial transcript of press encounter with Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown at UN Headquarters

18 August 2006 - Deputy Secretary-General: I just want to say a few remarks first, and then open to take any questions you have....

Deputy Secretary-General:... The core thing that capitals have to get over the hump on, is the character and purpose of the force which is consistent with the resolution, which is that it is not an offensive force, it's not going to go in there and attempt large scale disarmament. Rather it is going to police the political agreement which triggers disarmament, called for under the resolution and therefore it will make a prudent use of force. It calls very clearly in the rules of engagement, as it did in the resolution itself, that where combatants forcefully resist a demand from UNIFIL or from the Lebanese army to disarm, UNIFIL will then exercise use of force, if it has to, to force that disarmament. I think we have been very clear on that, this is not going to be a force which can be characterized as a force of occupation, or a force of offensive effort to disarm Hezbullah, but is going to provide Israel with that security guarantee that this political agreement which will ultimately call for disarmament, [it] does already in the resolution, will be enforceable....

How's that again? This force will not affect disarmament of Hizballah, but will call for the disarmament of Hizballah? Great. But you don't need a UN force for that. I can save you billions of dollars: I'll call for the disarmament of Hizballah for you right now, from right here in my offices on the 113th floor of the Jihad Watch Towers in Secure Undisclosed Locationville. No, don't thank me. I know what I have just done is completely ineffective -- just like this UN force.

Seriously, this is just not strong enough. They'll use force if Hizballah resists, and yet they will not make an offensive effort to disarm Hizballah. It's very easy to see how this will become a recipe for inaction and impotence.  Sunday, August 20, 2006




Our friends the Saudis are demanding an apology from President Bush: Shoura Chief Wants Bush Apology.

JEDDAH, 21 August 2006 — Shoura Council Chairman Dr. Saleh Bin-Humaid yesterday called for a public apology from US President George W. Bush for linking Islam and Muslims with fascism and terrorism.

The chairman was referring to a recent statement by Bush branding Muslim extremists “Islamic fascists.” He also warned against deliberate smear campaigns targeting Islam, saying they would have dangerous consequences.

Ah, what would an Islamic fascist rant be without the veiled threats?

Notice the close coordination with the Council on American Islamic Relations:

Bush’s use of the term “Islamic fascists” was also criticized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim advocacy group. “We believe that this is an ill-advised term and we believe that it is counterproductive to associate Islamic Muslims with fascism,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

And here’s another “Muslim activist,” last seen at LGF attending a conference glorifying the Ayatollah Khomeini:

Mohamed Elibiary, a Texas-based Muslim activist, said he was upset by the president’s comment. “We’ve got Osama Bin Laden hijacking the religion in order to define it one way. We feel the president and anyone who’s using these kinds of terminologies is hijacking it too from a different side.”


At the ExpoIslamia convention in Manchester today, billed as “A Call to Humanity,” featured speaker Azzam Tamimi expressed support for Hizballah and Hamas, and extolled the virtues of death: Firebrand Islamic academic: ‘dying for your beliefs is just’.

A British-based Muslim radical appeared to back suicide bombing yesterday when he claimed that dying for your beliefs was ‘just’.

Dr Azzam Tamimi told an 8,000-strong crowd that standing up for your principles was the ‘greatest act of martyrdom’. The 51-year-old was speaking at the ExpoIslamia convention in Manchester. The Palestinian-born academic - who previously boasted he would carry out a suicide bombing in Israel - also repeated his public backing for Hamas, which remains banned in the UK.

He said: “The greatest act of martyrdom is standing up for what is true and just. Martyrs are those who stand up and stand up in defiance of George Bush and Tony Blair. You stand up to them and you say desist. Stop this injustice. Stop this oppression.”

Dr Tamimi claimed the war on terrorism was a war on Islam. “We are Muslims in Europe, not European Muslims,” he added.

“Being fair and just means finding the middle path. The middle path is not rubbing shoulders with Tony Blair and George Bush.”

The crowd erupted with cheering and applause when he said that Israel had been defeated by Hezbollah.

He continued: “Hamas is making sacrifices for you. We tell this government Hamas is not a terrorist group. It is elected by the people of Palestine. We are not terrorists. We are defenders of the truth. Fighting those who invade Muslims is a just cause. The government is trying to turn the war on terror into the war on Islam.”  Sunday, August 20, 2006


At Moonbat Media, scenes from radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir’s march to the US embassy: Hizb ut-Tahrir protest against America, London, 19 August 2006.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


By Chris Muir






John Kerry pontifcated about Joe Lieberman on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous, claiming that Lieberman doesn't represent mainstream Connecticut:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., blasted a fellow Democrat, Sen. Joe Lieberman, for continuing his bid in the Connecticut Senate race despite a narrow loss to newcomer Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary earlier this month.

"I'm concerned that [Lieberman] is making a Republican case," Kerry told ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" in an exclusive appearance.

Kerry accused the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate of "adopting the rhetoric of Dick Cheney," on the issue of Iraq.

"Joe Lieberman is out of step with the people of Connecticut," Kerry added, insisting Lieberman's stance on Iraq, "shows you just why he got in trouble with the Democrats there."

Kerry called Lieberman's independent bid a "huge mistake" and applauded businessman-turned-politician Lamont as "courageous" for challenging Lieberman on the war.

Democrats seem intent on painting Joe Lieberman as a pariah these days. The ever-ridiculous Kerry has to push it even farther with a ludicrous comparison to conservative Dick Cheney. I doubt that Cheney ever garnered a 75 rating with NARAL (identical to Chris Dodd), nor did the VP's legislative voting record land him square in the middle of the Democratic caucus, as does Lieberman's.

Voters in Connecticut, who may have a better idea of the mainstream in the Nutmeg State than Kerry, obviously consider Lieberman a part of it. Rasmussen's first post-primary poll in Connecticut put Lieberman ahead of Ned Lamont by five points on August 9th. A week later, Quinnipiac's poll puts Lieberman ahead of Lamont by 11 points, and Lieberman has 53% of all likely voters -- in a three-way race.

In case Kerry doesn't recognize it, and there's no particular reason why he would considering his own legislative track record, that's the mainstream in Connecticut. And unless the state has suddenly turned into Texas, Connecticut voters see little resemblance between Lieberman and Cheney. Maybe Kerry needs to reconsider his own relationship to the mainstream instead.


When the Democrats adopted the "culture of corruption" meme as their campaign theme earlier this year, we noted that the culture hardly respected party lines. The leader of the Senate Democratic caucus, Harry Reid, took contributions from clients of Jack Abramoff and intervened on their behalf at least four times, and Abramoff hired one of Reid's staffers and started holding fundraisers for the Senate Minority Leader in Abramoff's offices.

Now COGirl at Hang Right Politics points us towards a Los Angeles Times report on the "culture of corruption" surrounding Harry Reid and a new real-estate development outside of Las Vegas. Reid has intervened on behalf of a powerful developer to gain government concessions while the developer puts money into Reid's campaigns -- and pays Reid's sons' salaries:

One of the most inhospitable places in the country, Coyote Springs Valley is so barren that, until recently, its best use was thought to be as a weapons test range.

Yet the valley — an hour northeast of Las Vegas — is on its way to becoming a real estate development of historic proportions, with as many as 159,000 homes, 16 golf courses and a full complement of stores and service facilities. At nearly 43,000 acres, Coyote Springs covers almost twice as much space as the next-largest development in a state famous for outsized building projects. ...

Over the last four years, Reid has used his influence in Washington to help the developer, Nevada super-lobbyist [Harvey] Whittemore, clear obstacles from Coyote Springs' path.

At one point, Reid proposed opening the way for Whittemore to develop part of the site for free — something for which the developer later agreed to pay the government $10 million.

As the project advanced, Reid received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Whittemore. The contributions not only went to Reid's Senate campaigns, but also to his leadership fund, which he used to help bankroll the campaigns of Democratic colleagues.

Whittemore also helped advance the legal careers of two of Reid's four sons. One of the two, Leif Reid, who is Whittemore's personal lawyer, has represented the developer throughout the Coyote Springs project, including in negotiations with federal officials.

The story of Coyote Springs sounds like a Horatio Alger story. The land Whittemore bought in 1998 from a defense contractor who intended on using it for target practice had a number of restrictions on its use. A quarter of it was subject to a federal power-line right of way. Another quarter had federal protection for the desert tortoise, an endangered species that also is Nevada's official state reptile. The land had a fragile series of streams and washes that required special permission on which to build without ruining the desert's ecosystem.

None of these obstacles proved too difficult for Whittemore, at least not while he had his friend Harry Reid running interference in Congress. Interior refused to relocate the tortoises for over five years, until the Bureau of Land Management agreed to swap the land for another parcel abutting a federal preserve elsewhere. No one ever did an analysis to determine whether the deal was fair to either party, nor did the BLM go to Congress for approval on the changes to a project that Congress had explicitly legislated.

In 2002, Reid worked on the power corridor. He inserted obscure provisions into a land management bill that relocated the power corridor, freeing Whittemore to build on the 10,500 acres that Congress had previously held -- which means that someone else now had to lose property value for Whittemore's benefit, and for no cost whatsoever. That bald move caused raised eyebrows at the BLM and the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Reid backed away -- for the moment. Less than two years later, Reid tried again to give Whittemore the land for a song ($160,000), but Congress balked again. He finally settled for freeing the land for development and allowing Whittemore to buy it at a fair market rate, and forcing the government to relocate the power corridor.

In 2005, Reid and fellow Nevada Senator John Ensign conducted a series of interventions with the EPA to eliminate the final obstacle -- the environmental impact on the fragile ecosystem in Coyote Springs Valley. When the agency blocked Whittemore's efforts, Reid and Ensign held several meetings with EPA officials to pressure them into submission. Whittemore used another Reid son, Lief, to lobby his father's office for assistance. In the end, the pressure paid off, as the EPA backed down from its opposition after winning a few concessions on the development plan.

What did Reid get in exchange for all of this support? According to the Times, Whittemore contributed $45,000 to Reid and his PACs since 2000. He also gave the DSCC $20,000 in 2000, when it pushed Reid as a leader for the party in the Senate. Reid's son Josh got $5,000 for his unsuccessful campaign for a city council seat; his other sone Rory got $5,000 for his successful effort to win a spot on the Clark County Board of Commissioners.

Money talks. And Harry Reid walks. If you wondered why the Democrats have abandoned the corruption theme for these midterm elections, now you know.


For those who wonder why British passengers lacked so much confidence in airport security that they boycotted a flight out of Malaga, this report on counterterrorism research here in the US provides an explanation. Spencer Hsu writes about the bureaucratic disaster behind the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, and it sounds like the first chapter in a future bipartisan report on the next catastrophic terrorist attack:

The federal research agency in charge of countering emerging terrorist threats such as liquid explosives is so hobbled by poor leadership, weak financial management and inadequate technology that Congress is on the verge of cutting its budget in half.

The Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate has struggled with turnover, reorganizations and raids on its budget since it was established in 2003, according to independent scientists, department officials and senior members of Congress.

At the same time, the Bush administration's overriding focus on nuclear and biological threats has delayed research on weapons aimed at aviation, a controversial choice that was questioned anew after a plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners from London was made public Aug. 10. ...

In a 2007 spending bill awaiting a vote after the August congressional recess, the Republican-led House would cut spending by the Science and Technology Directorate from $1.3 billion to $668 million. Congress noted about $250 million in unspent agency funds.

Republican and Democratic senators are offering the agency $712 million, but in a budget report cited the agency's lack of goals, mystifying accounting and unspent money, and called it a "rudderless ship."

Our technology should give us a significant advantage over the terrorists, as well as our native production capacity to implement it. In previous wars, this industrial potential proved the difference between victory and defeat, especially for our allies, who would have starved of the necessary materiel with which to fight the enemy. This report tells us that we are squandering perhaps our largest defensive advanatge, and we're losing it because no one can provide the necessary leadership to set priorities and then plan to meet them.

This failure gets spread between Congress and the Bush administration equally. Congress has played games with the budget and provided little oversight on this program, and the White House -- especially Michael Chertoff -- seems uninterested in pursuing technological solutions. In the meantime, billions of dollars have been wasted in an effort no one wants to own and no one seems interested in investigating.

I have argued that technological solutions alone will not stop terrorists, and the explosives detectors mentioned in this article would not have stopped the British conspiracy in any case. We need to focus on the terrorists, and not exclusively on the materiel they use in their fevered plans to commit mass murder on ghastly scales. The Israelis have had decades of success in this strategy. We need to perfect the methods for ourselves in the small-scale pilot programs currently in place and put them into wide use, and start catching terrorists instead of nail clippers.

However, that does not mean that we cannot pursue technological solutions in parallel to such efforts. Since Congress and the White House continues to spend money on these R&D efforts, they both have the responsibility to see that the funds get used efficiently and in some sort of strategic manner, rather than the chaotic and unproductive manner which Hsu describes here. When the situation deteriorates to the point where Congress feels it necessary to spend less, then we know that action must be taken to correct the breakdowns.

UPDATE: The first commenters on this story point out that criticizing a government agency for not spending money seems rather ... counterproductive to fiscal discipline. I'd agree if the Directorate had produced results and implemented them efficiently, providing better security for American travelers. That certainly does not appear to be the case, and the continuously shifting priorities and strategies that have stymied the Directorate shows a problem in mission definition and execution.  Sunday, August 20, 2006


The Daily Mail reports on a flight in Britain that remained on the ground due to the demands of its passengers that two Arabic passengers get ejected. The incident shows that citizens will start imposing their own solutions to flight safety in the absence of demonstrably intelligent security while attempts at attacks continue:

British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed.

The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic.

Passengers told cabin crew they feared for their safety and demanded police action. Some stormed off the Monarch Airlines Airbus A320 minutes before it was due to leave the Costa del Sol at 3am. Others waiting for Flight ZB 613 in the departure lounge refused to board it.

The incident fuels the row over airport security following the arrest of more than 20 people allegedly planning the suicide-bombing of transatlantic jets from the UK to America. It comes amid growing demands for passenger-profiling and selective security checks.

It also raised fears that more travellers will take the law into their own hands - effectively conducting their own 'passenger profiles'.

These incidents have started to spike in the wake of the successful exposure of a massive plot in the UK against the airlines. British travelers have decided, ironically, that the government has not done enough to screen for terrorists and have lost confidence in air service as a result. This will lead to dramatic market reactions; either people will stop flying, or they will take security into their own hands. The perceived lack of security will make it harder for Muslims to travel (the British reference to "Asians" usually means Pakistanis or Arabs).

After 9/11, every flyer understands that they are targeted by terrorists and have to remain vigilant. This message has been reinforced over and over again by the governments themselves. Common sense dictates that people will act in their perceived self-interest in any case, and that means people will remain highly suspicious of Arabic men traveling together -- and more so when they act strangely. In Malanga, the two wore heavy clothing despite the heat and kept checking their watches. That was enough to make them unwilling to risk a flight with the two men, and they applied the pressure necessary for the airline to eject the two.

Is that fair? Hardly. However, the unwillingness of the governments in both the UK and the US to provide systems of screening that instill confidence in the flying public has led to these incidents. They will continue and increase while screening systems insist on playing political correctness games instead of focusing on real threats as the Israelis have done for decades. As I wrote earlier this week, the US has an experimental program attempting to create a similar system; it should get expedited and expanded as soon as possible.  Saturday, August 19, 2006




More American troops have now been deployed to Baghdad to help suppress the violence there, which is generally seen as unacceptably high. Today's news includes the usual body count, mostly from Baghdad. In July, there were around 1,500 violent deaths in Baghdad and 3,500 nationwide. The latter number is consistent with the often-heard statement that around 100 people a day are murdered in Iraq, most in sectarian violence.

Out of curiosity, I did a little research to get some perspective on these numbers. Based on a population of 6,000,000, an annualized murder rate of 1,500 per month in Baghdad yields 300 per 100,000 population, the usual measure by which murder rates are expressed. This is a high number of course, since it assumes that the record level of violence in July is sustained for 12 months.

For purposes of comparison, I looked up historic murder rates for some American cities. Washington, D.C. has historically had one of the highest murder rates among American cities. It peaked at 80 per 100,000 in 1991. So in July, Baghdad experienced a murder rate close to four times what we had in the nation's capital fifteen years ago. At 140 per 100,000, Iraq's murder rate in July is a little under twice Washington, D.C.'s 1991 rate. Another interesting comparison: Baghdad's July rate is a little lower than the 350 per 100,000 murder rate at which Medellin, Colombia peaked, also in 1991.

Some say that what is going on in Iraq is a civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. So I compared current violent death totals in Iraq with two civil wars that took place in countries that had about the same population that Iraq has now--the American and Spanish Civil Wars.

These comparisons are crude, of course, for many reasons. The most obvious is that in Spain and the U.S., most casualties involved armies in the field, not civilians. In the American Civil War, in fact, civilian casualties were de minimis. In Iraq, the contending parties, while heavily armed and in some instances organized into militias, do not have armies in the field. This is one reason why I don't call what is going on there a civil war. But the comparisons are interesting nevertheless.

The American Civil War lasted for around four years, and approximately 600,000 soldiers died, roughly 150,000 per year. That compares with a current rate in Iraq of 36,500 (at 100 per day). The Spanish Civil War went on for approximately 33 months, and is generally believed to have caused approximately 350,000 deaths of soldiers and civilians. That's about 127,000 per year.

Many similar comparisons could be drawn, and one could argue endlessly about such statistics. But I think that in broad terms, these comparisons confirm what I would intuitively judge about the current situation in Iraq: the violent death rate there is significantly higher than a "normal" murder rate, even a relatively high one such as Washington, D.C.'s. At the same time, it is a fraction (perhaps one-quarter) of the death rates that have typified actual civil wars. Thus, Iraq is currently suspended in a kind of middle ground; if American and Iraqi troops succeed in imposing relative calm on Baghdad, the violent death rate will likely recede to a high but "normal" level. On the other hand, if the rate of violence continues to climb as it has over the last several months, it conceivably could reach a level that would represent a real civil war.

For another set of comparisons relating to violence in Iraq, see this post.


Ralph Peters is provocative as always, as he assesses the future of the Middle East in the wake of Israel's defeat in Lebanon. The future, as Peters sees it, is troubled but ultimately hopeful. Here are a few excerpts, but you really should read it all:

Within the forces of terror, the balance of power has shifted. Sunni fanatics, such as al Qaeda's supporters, have suffered severe losses in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. Still capable of doing serious damage, they're nonetheless being eclipsed in importance by state-backed Shia terrorists, with Hezbollah in the lead and Iran providing arms, money, training and strategic depth

* A postmodern terrorist army - Hezbollah's - just achieved the first terrorist defeat of a powerful state on a conventional battlefield. The strategic echoes will embolden extremists throughout the Middle East and beyond.

* Iraq could fail - if the Iraqis fail themselves. It's still too early to pack up and leave, but if the people of Iraq will not seize the opportunity we gave them to build the region's first Arab-majority rule-of-law democracy, it won't be an American defeat, but another self-inflicted Arab disaster. Iraq is the Arab world's last chance - and the odds are now 50-50 they'll throw it away.

* The region's Sunni- Arab autocracies - on which we have relied, to our great shame - are terrified and unstable. Egypt, the Gulf city-states and even Saudi Arabia expected Israel to make short work of the Shia-Hezbollah problem. Instead, Hezbollah won - and the subjects of those sheiks and kings and eternal presidents have been cheering.

* The "unity of Muslims" confronting the West is history (it was always a bogus, ramshackle affair). Sunni-Arab leaders increasingly grasp that the real threat isn't from the United States or Israel, but from the explosion of Shia ambitions, prowess, wealth and desire for vengeance. The future of the Middle East could go a number of ways, but we may find ourselves as bemused spectators, while our sworn enemies and phony friends kill each other. Afterward, we'll pick up the pieces.

* Iraq still could muddle through - but even if it doesn't, our stock in the region is headed up, not down. The paradox is that a future civil war between Iraq's Sunnis and Shias makes our military protection more essential than ever to the effete Gulf emirates and the cowardly Saudis. Avoid linear analysis and reflexive predictions of doom for American interests: The Middle East will always do more harm to its natives than it does to foreign powers. Human beings may hate a distant enemy in theory, but they generally prefer to kill their neighbors.

Peters thinks, finally, that the terrorists have finally woken up the West, and revived the West's "thirst for blood." "We're going to win," Peters writes. I think we'll win, too, but I'm not so confident that most Westerners have even begun to comprehend the threat from Islamic imperialism, or that they have the moral resources to respond.

UPDATE: For a different and less optimistic take, see Mark Steyn, who worries that we have reverted to a September 10 world in terms of America's perceived (and real) willingness to defend its interests. Again, you really need to read it all, but I can't resist this teaser:

But, if you can't question their patriotism when they want to lose a war, when can you?  Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hugh Hewitt notes that not a single prominent Democrat has dissented from the ridiculous decision by partisan judge Anna Diggs Taylor, which held the NSA's interception of international terrorist communications unconstitutional, for reasons no reader of her opinion has been able to discern. Consequently, Hugh concludes, "Any vote for any Democrat is a vote against victory and a vote for vulnerability." It's hard to argue with that conclusion.  Saturday, August 19, 2006




President Bush answering questions on U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor decision finding the NSA eavesdropping unconstitutional.

Q Mr. President, the federal ruling yesterday that declared your terrorist surveillance program unconstitutional -- the judge wrote that it was never the intent of the framers to give the President such unfettered control. How do you respond, sir, to opponents who say that this ruling is really the first nail in the coffin of your administration's legal strategy in the war on terror?

THE PRESIDENT: I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live. You might remember last week working with the -- with people in Great Britain, we disrupted a plot. People were trying to come and kill people.

This country of ours is at war, and we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war. The judge's decision was a -- I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree. That's why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld.

I made my position clear about this war on terror. And by the way, the enemy made their position clear yet again when we were able to stop them. And I -- the American people expect us to protect them, and therefore I put this program in place. We believe -- strongly believe it's constitutional.

And if al Qaeda is calling in to the United States, we want to know why they're calling. And so I made my position clear. It would be interesting to see what other policymakers -- how other policymakers react.  August 18, 2006 




The jihad takes many forms. From AP:

A former grocery store owner already facing three years in prison for aiding a terrorist group got 14 months tacked onto his sentence Friday for swindling a government social welfare program out of $1.4 million (€1.1 million).

Hatem Fariz, 33, must serve a total of 51 months in federal prison under the sentence handed down by US District Judge Milton I. Shadur.

Fariz, who now lives in Spring Hill, Florida, also was ordered to repay the money he siphoned off by swapping cash for government food stamp vouchers.

At the same time, Fariz pleaded guilty in a federal court in Tampa to conspiring to provide financial aid to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has been designated by the US government as a terrorist organization.  Saturday, August 19, 2006




Europe has become the focal point for recruitment and expansion for several strands of Islamist thought and activity, from the Muslim Brotherhood to salafists fighting in Iraq and recruiting for Afghanistan. There is some tension between and among these groups, but what these groups have in common is a clear sense of what they are doing and why.

Perhaps the most interesting move, and one with long-term implications, is the (largely successful) efforts by these groups to buy large amounts of real estate, territory that effectively becomes “Muslim” land once it is in the hands of Islamist groups. Some groups are signing agreements to guarantee that they will only sell the land to other Muslims.

The Brotherhood, particularly, is active in investments in properties and businesses across Europe, laying the groundwork for the future network that will be able to react rapidly and with great flexibility in case of another attempted crackdown on the group’s financial structure.

The newly-developed structures are largely designed to allow different groups within the international Brotherhood to become financially self-sufficient, perhaps in anticipation of future law enforcement activities against the Ikwan. It will also help insure that their presence is permanent, given the property ownership that is expanding.

Most of the money for the Ikwan and other groups comes from the usual sources-Saudi Arabia, and increasingly, Kuwait. The main financial houses of the Gulf region are channeling tens of millions of dollars to Brotherhood institutions and companies as part of their legitimate business activities.

The purchase of property is a strategy the Ikwan are replicating in the United States, where Brotherhood-affiliated groups have recently bought up tens of millions of dollars of U.S. real estate, often with offshore companies acting as fronts and creating layers of holding groups and shell entities that filter the money through multiple layers that make it almost impossible to trace.

This only underscores the fact that these groups, while having sharp disagreements among themselves, have a long-term plan of penetration and action in the non-Muslim world. These groups have strategies looking at 10 year to 50 year horizons.

In response, the governments of Europe and the United States continue to allow these groups to flourish and seek for the “moderate” elements that can be embraced as a counter-balance to the “radical” elements. (See my previous post on the embrace of CAIR).

Britain’s “ExpoIslamia” circuses, used to incite Muslims to support suicide bombings and attack the West are tolerated because “moderates” are also allowed to speak.

Britain, for internal political reasons, has refused to say al Qaeda was responsible for the 7/7 attacks, despite clear evidence of the tie, and is reluctant to even acknowledge a possible al Qaeda link to the most recent airline plot.

We do not have a plan. They do. History shows that those that plan, anticipate and have a coherent strategy usually win. We are not winning.  Monday, August 21, 2006




By Bill Roggio

jill-carroll.jpgJill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq last January and released 82 days later, has begun to tell the story of the long days she spent in captivity following her kidnapping. In a series called Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story, Jill provides a first person account of her kidnapping, the murder of her partner, and her initial days in captivity (the first few installments of the series are currently online). This is a fascinating look at the thoughts and feeling of a victim of a kidnapping plot, and the mindset and operational methods of her captors.

Jill describes the odd events on the day of her kidnapping, where a meeting with Sunni politician Adnan Dulaimi was delayed, then canceled, an event far to suspicious to be coincidence (Dulaimi's party was instrumental in her release and she was dropped off at his office after her time as a hostage ended.) The murder of her professional partner weighed heavily on Jill's conscience. Her treatment during capture juxtaposed with his brutal murder was perplexing. Jill was allowed to channel surf, played with the children of the family at the safe house, and asked what kind of food she preferred.

While embedded in Iraq, I met Jill at Battle Position Hue City, one of three Coalition outposts in the city of Husaybah, which sits directly on the Syrian border. Jill had been in Husaybah for some time, and I knew of her from her writings on Iraq. She was one of the few embeds who in my opinion did a respectable job at covering the war in Anbar province. I had sourced some of her reports in my analysis of the 'Anbar Campaign.' We met on November 30th, during a transfer of command ceremony. The ceremony was attended by General Casey and then-Defense Minster Dulaimi.

I began to introduce myself to Jill, but she already knew who I was. She said her editor told her to keep an eye out for me. Not too many bloggers willing to cover the war pass through Anbar province, and the community of journalists in Iraq is small to begin with. We discussed the situation in Iraq and other issues. I was interested in Jill's experiences as an independent journalist. Jill was excited about her planned vacation in the southwestern Pacific. I asked about Jill's future plans in Iraq, and if she was going to remain embedded with the U.S. military.

Jill explained she was going to return to Baghdad and operate outside of the U.S. military’s protection. She said she spoke fluent Arabic and took precautions to blend in with the local population, such as wearing the local dress and remaining in the company of an Iraqi stringer.

Jill is a quadruple threat: young, pretty, a journalist and American. I warned Jill about that, and that disembedding was very dangerous. Journalists have been the intentional target of the insurgency in the past, and the brutal case of Margaret Hassan came to mind (Jill mentions Hassan's death in her own account of her capture). A captured western journalist was sure to receive an inordinate amount of airtime, particularly one with Jill's “credentials.”

My suggestion was put aside by Jill; she felt she needed to cover the war from all angles, and needed to leave the protection of the military to tell the Iraqis’ side of the story. I didn't press the issue, as my advice was falling on deaf ears. Jill knew the risks, and felt she could overcome the odds.

After her capture in January, I felt a strong sense of remorse for not pressing the issue harder with Jill. But I was merely an acquaintance, a novice with but a week in country, while Jill was an experienced reporter with years under her belt in Iraq. No amount of pleading would change her mind.

After her capture and subsequent release three months later, the blogosphere was ripe with accusations and assaults on Jill's character. She was described as an insurgent, terrorist sympathizer, "anti-war" and anti-American. She was savaged for the video taken at Dulaimi's headquarters on the day of her release, because she wore the hijab and said those who imprisoned her treated her kindly. Those who wrongly criticized Jill fail to realize that she was still in fear for her safety when she made the tape.

During my short time with Jill, nothing she said or did gave the slightest impression that she deserved the slanders attributed to her. Jill was honest, brave and respected by the Marines who met her. I had the honor of joining the Marines of the 4th Mobile Assault Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines and the Iraqi Army on a raid on a small weapons cache on the Euphrates River. Jill joined us. She dismounted and walked the site with us, viewed the weapons cache (which can be dangerous as the rounds can be 'hot' or rigged to detonate) and even returned from the raid with the Iraqi troops on the back of an unarmored Iraqi transport, something quite dangerous with the high roadside bomb threat in Western Iraq. I insisted on traveling in an armored vehicle.

Captain Patrick Kerr, a Public Affairs Officer from the 2nd Marine Division and a friend of mine, sums up his experiences with Jill Carroll in a letter of support during her capture:

I was a public affairs officer with the Marines in Iraq last year and had the privilege of working with Jill on several occasions. Her professionalism and objectivity were unparalleled within the media community. I saw her in Husaybah, on the Syrian border, in early December shortly before I returned to the States. Aside from being very personable and down-to-earth, what really struck me was Jill's bravery. She seemed to fit right in with the Marines and Iraqi security forces. It is this attribute, I believe, that will see her through her current ordeal. My family and I will continue to keep Jill in our prayers. I am hopeful for her eventual release.

There is much to criticize of the media's coverage of the war, and even individual reporters. Jill Carroll is not deserving of this criticism. Read the story of Jill's capture and captivity, and decide for yourself.  Saturday, August 19, 2006



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