Victor Davis Hanson observes:
In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents.
For elite rich liberals [read more]
Around 100 insurgents attacked an important security checkpoint near Peshawar early Wednesday, sparking a three-hour clash that killed two police officers and 15 militants besides wounding five others, police said.
The attack on the Sangu Mera checkpoint comes amid Taliban threats to avenge the May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden elsewhere in Pakistan’s volatile northwest.
Two constables Liaq Khan and Zahid Shah were killed when terrorists armed with automatic weapons attacked a police checkpost on Wednesday, SSP Operation Ejaz Khan said.
Senior police official Liaquat Ali Khan said the terrorists bore rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons when they attacked the security forces overnight. But eventually the insurgents were pushed back.
Gunmen armed with rockets and explosives stormed a major Pakistani naval air base, triggering gunbattles that killed five military personnel, three weeks after the US killing of Osama bin Laden.
Around 10 people were wounded and towering flames rose over PNS Mehran in the centre of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, where the military and government confirmed that the base was under “terrorist attack”.
An AFP reporter saw swarms of soldiers and navy commando reinforcements pile into the base as smoke rose into the night sky. Over a period of several hours, an AFP photographer heard nine blasts and periodic bursts of gunfire.
A spokesman for the Pakistan Navy said fighting was still continuing more than five hours after the attack began at around 10:45 pm (1745 GMT) on Sunday.
“Fighting is still going on. Four navy and one paramilitary personnel were martyred during the exchange of fire,” navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali told AFP.
“They have destroyed two P-3c Orion aircraft,” he added.
Last June, the United States delivered two P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft to PNS Mehran.
There was no claim of responsibility but Pakistan’s military has long been on the frontline of attacks blamed on the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups that have killed more than 4,350 people in four years.
The Taliban have recently stepped up threats against Western and Pakistani government targets to avenge the killing of bin Laden by US Navy SEALs in the garrison city of Abbottabad near the capital Islamabad on May 2.
Officials estimated that up to 15 militants crept up to the base on three sides, using the cover of night to approach seemingly undetected through neighbouring civilian residential areas and through trees and foliage.
“The attackers first fired rockets,” Ali earlier told the ARY television station, denying any staff had been taken hostage but conceding that a long-range Orion aircraft had been destroyed.
“The terrorists also used small bombs and now they are firing with sophisticated weapons. They are inside and still resisting,” he added.
But in this last instance, massing of forces? Hmmm … not so much. Up to 15 militants. And several hours later they were still fighting to keep “commando reinforcements” at bay. Perhaps this last report is more about Pakistani military incompetence than about Taliban massing of forces.
Paul, in an appearance on Wednesday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, voiced his frustration over the particular incident involving bin Laden’s death. However he blamed the entire U.S.-Pakistani relations as a whole for the way it had to be handled. He explained there had been some successes during the Bush administration and questioned why the Obama administration had abandoned that policy.
However, he made a bombshell prediction and said the United States will ultimately occupy Pakistan.
“I see the whole thing as a mess,” he said. “And I think that we are going to be in Pakistan. I think that’s the next occupation, and I fear it. I think it’s ridiculous, and I think our foreign policy is such we don’t need to be doing this. So when I talk about doing it differently, I talk about in the context of our foreign policy and not in the fact of whether or not we should have gotten him.
He later predicted that it would be an unsuccessful occupation. Oh, to be sure, it would be unsuccessful. Any attempt to occupy cities as large as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad all at the same time would result in 100,000 – 200,000 U.S. casualties, and we would have to kill one to two million people (given the customary kill ratio of 10:1 we have seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan), some of whom would be a uniformed army. Of course, it isn’t going to happen in this universe (perhaps Paul is living in an alternate one?).
But there’s more. If we are going to occupy Pakistan, then we’ll have to invade.
Later in the segment, “Morning Joe” co-host Willie Geist asked if Paul had any information an actual invasion was in the work. Paul said he didn’t but based it on the past four decades of American foreign policy.
So there you have it. Because this is so jaw-dropping we should cover this ground again just so you’re clear on it. Ron Paul forecasts a U.S. invasion and occupation of’ Pakistan.
The AP reported that the Americans found “barriers” at each stair landing of the three-storey building, encountered fire once and killed three men and one woman. The account did not specify how many of the dead were armed.
After 15 minutes the Seals, passing huddles of frightened children, reached the top floor where they found Bin Laden at the end of the hallway. They said they recognised him “immediately”. Bin Laden ducked into a room, followed quickly by three Seals.
The first soldier pushed aside two women who tried to protect Bin Laden, apparently fearing they were wearing suicide vests, while the second opened fire on the al-Qaida leader, hitting him in the head and chest.
Moments later, as the Americans photographed his body, they found an AK-47 rifle and a Makarov pistol on a shelf beside the door they had just entered. Bin Laden had not touched the weapons, according to the AP account.
That settles it. Their mission was to kill OBL. I’m okay with that. Actually, there is a little more to the story than that. The CJCS Standing ROE and the Iraq- and Afghanistan-specific allows specific targeting of designated terrorist groups and declared enemy combatants. But this gets muddled, and a prime example of this is when Moqtada al-Sadr was removed from that list. Members of the Mahdi militia in Iraq could then no longer be targeted, and had to be treated as insurgents in the balance of Iraq, and captured if possible.
Members of the Taliban are like that. But more to the point, because of the detailed intelligence surrounding the killing of OBL, the executive order and the fact that OBL was previously designated as a target, it was an easy decision for the SEALs.
Fast forward to the Helmand Province today. In Marjah, 71% of the interviewees in one recent poll said that OBL’s death was a bad thing. And regarding OBL’s death, the Marines are saying the following.
“We’re still here in Afghanistan, Sangin is still very hostile, especially where we’re at here, the enemy is still going to fight us, and we have to maintain our composure — not get complacent. Just because we took out the head honcho doesn’t mean these guys are gonna throw up their arms and be done with it.”
“There’s still a lot of work that needs to get done here. It’s a huge step in the right direction … but we still need to finish our mission. …”
“There’s always gonna be insurgency, it’s never gonna end. … This fight’s definitely gonna be a hard one to win, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”
“What happens tomorrow? We’re gonna just do the same thing. We’re gonna wake up and keep doing what we’re doing every single day until we’re out of here. Because we’ve got a job here. We’ve got a mission to complete. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”
“I think that everyone’s gonna be real happy about the fact that it’s one bad man that can’t hurt anybody else, but … It’s one more day. … It didn’t end the war for us. … I think everybody’s just gotta stay focused on what they’re doing.”
The war continues. And there continues to be a double standard concerning rules of engagement.
“I want you to send a message to people of conscience,” he said.
“Ask them to answer the question. Why is it that all we hear on the news is how drugs are smuggled through Mexico to the United States?
“‘And we don’t hear about all the automatic weapons that are being smuggled into Mexico from the United States. Nine thousand registered arms dealers on the other side of the border. Nine thousand.
“Most of the murders committed here are from weapons sold in the United States of America,” he said.
‘We sing this for the innocents who have lost their lives in the violence here,’ he said, before continuing the song with an alternate lyric:
Late in the evening, April 15
Automatic round takes a mother and child.
Free at last, they took your life
A lioness and her pride In the name of love….’
That’s special and everything, but I guess Bono has never heard of the BATFE gunrunner scandal. Either way, he is propagating the myth that 90% of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels comes from the United States. But STRATFOR, whom I customarily do not reference (for reasons too complicated to explain here – perhaps I will explain later), has done a magnificent take-down of this myth.
For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels, and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.
In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.
Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.
As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).
According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.
This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.
Oh well. I never liked U2′s music anyway, and I guess you don’t have to be a genius to be in a rock band.
The German paper Die Welt reported on May 13th that construction teams associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have made at least an initial survey for what is believed to be an intermediate-range missile base on the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela.
Note that Venezuela is about 2000 km from Florida. And according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran is making “robust strides” in its attempts to manufacture longer-range ballistic missiles “with the apparent aim of being able to deliver nuclear warheads.”
Citing “Western security insiders,” Die Weltclaims that Iran is building the launching pads on the Paraguaná Peninsula, which is on the coast of Venezuela about 75 miles from Colombia. This would appear to be the first stage of a larger project to establish a military base that will eventually be manned by Iranian missile officers and soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as Venezuelan missile officers who are to receive intensive training from the Iranians.
It is completely unacceptable, under the Monroe Doctrine, for Iran to be placing any sort of strategic missiles in Venezuela, regardless of whether or not the U.S. can be directly threatened at this point.
The intentions of this base are neither benign nor without severe ramifications:
The missile base, when armed, will constitute a multi-level threat. Chavez agreed at the 2010 meeting in Teheran to fire on Iran’s Western enemies if Iran is itself attacked, and Iran agreed to allow Venezuela to use its missiles for “national needs” — a phrase that should cause some sleep to be lost in Bogotá and elsewhere in the region.
The base will also, as the Hudson Institute notes, represent a means by which Iran and its suppliers can sidestep UN sanctions. After the latest round of sanctions, “Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran,” the Institute wrote in December 2010. “These weapons, along with a number of other weapons, were part of a deal, signed in 2007, worth $800 million. Now that these weapons cannot be delivered to Iran, Russia is looking for new customers; according to the Russian press agency Novosti, it found one: Venezuela.”
Given the prospect of sophisticated Russian AA defenses being introduced in the region, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and quickly. Even more worrisome: if the U.S. allows the construction of the missile silos to go forward to anything like completion it could prove far more difficult to detect the substitution of long-range missiles for the intermediate range missiles. Moreover, the precedent set by allowing Venezuela a strategic missile capacity could set off a chain reaction in the region. Colombia, for one, would feel compelled to have its own missile capacity. Brazil and Argentina as well. Even smaller regimes like Ortega’s in Nicaragua might be tempted if the Iranians offered some inducements.
In short, the U.S. cannot afford to allow this project to get off the ground. All Latin American eyes are on Obama at this point. Will there be any sort of reaction from the Obama Administration on this provocation? Given the repeated timidity of the Administration to recognize American interests abroad, don’t hold your breath.
UPDATE: here is an article from Hot Air Green Room that provides additional details and indicates that the situation may be far more serious than it first appeared.
If one had, for two and a half years, made it clear to the world that the Middle East’s problems were attributable not to the rising Hamas-Syria-Iran nexus, not to the corruption and intransigence of the Palestinian Authority, and not to the general misery that accrues from tribalism, fundamentalism, gender apartheid, lack of constitutional government, and statist economic practices, but to democratic Israel’s building apartments in Jerusalem and general unwillingness to trust its assorted neighbors — then one might have anticipated the current aggression against Israel. The more the Obama administration talked up the Israel “problem” in the midst of Middle East unrest that had nothing to do with Israel, and promised to lean on it, the more it became a self-fulfilling prophecy that an Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, or Hamas would try to deflect popular dissatisfaction with their own ruthless autocracy onto the constitutional state of Israel. If we are not careful, we will soon return to pre-1973 Middle East landscape with hostile states on all sides of Israel, the only difference being that instead of secular authoritarian dictatorships the front-liners will be Hamas-like Islamic totalitarians. Still waiting for one brave soul in the administration to suggest that the problem in the Arab Islamic world is not in the stars over Tel Aviv but in themselves.
I agree with Hanson that the administration’s narrative on the Middle East became a self-fulfilling prophesy, but the lack of vision in the administration has nothing to do with bravery. It has everything to do with a confused world view.
Israel has been kidding itself if it had imagined itself immune from the non-violent, peaceful protests that have been sweeping the Arabic-speaking world. You can dismiss today’s events in northern Israel as a plot engineered by the Syrians, Iranians and their proxies. But the Palestinian cause is a real and enduring one. What happens when the Palestinians in the West Bank start demanding statehood not through violence but through peaceful protests? How will Israel respond? One option they do not have is to bury their heads in the sand and pretend like the call for Palestinian statehood will go away. And good luck whenever some clever Palestinian leader starts organizing peaceful marches on some crazy hilltop settlements in the West Bank, counting on provoking the kind of response that the media in Israel and abroad will eat up.
Except it’s not really that way. When Palestinians talk about the “occupation,” they aren’t referring to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, or the borders that currently exist. They are referring to the Israeli occupation of, well, Israel. The Palestinians are increasingly rejecting the idea of the so-called two state solution. Andrew misses the point. The Palestinians already have a state. They want another one, one that currently belongs to someone else, and that’s the crux of the problem.
The protests in the Middle East directed at Israel have nothing to do with democracy movements, any more than what eventually obtained in Egypt has to do with students or freedom. The Muslim Brotherhood will eventually rule in Egypt, and to fail to view things through eschatological eyes (from the perspective of Islamic eschatology) is to fail to understand the root of things in the Middle East.
I have previously commented on the absurd isolationism of Rep. Ron Paul and his fellow travelers, but this recent interview by WHODSM (Iowa) radio host, Simon Conway, is one of those watershed moments when anyone with a minimally-functioning brain has to reconsider whatever support they may have had for Paul.
Consider this 6+ minute clip from the interview (part 4 of a 5-part video series) in which host, Simon Conway, asks Rep. Paul a series of foreign policy questions:
To recap, the host takes Ron Paul through several topics. The one that has gotten the most press has been the one that occurs at 3:58 in the clip.
SC: …Are you asking us to believe that a President Ron Paul could have ordered the kill of Bin Laden by entering another sovereign nation?
RP: [No, things would be done differently, per the model of the arrest of the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested by Pakistani agents and turned over to the U.S. for trial. Also similar to the arrest and prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers].
They were all captured and brought and tried in a civilian court and they’ve all been punished, so, no, what’s wrong with that? Why can’t we… work with the government [of Pakistan]?
SC: I just want to be clear. A President Ron Paul would therefore not have ordered the kill of Bin Laden which… could only have taken place by entering a sovereign nation?
RP: I don’t think it was necessary, no… It was absolutely not necessary and I think respect for the rule of law and world law, international law. What if he’d been in a hotel in London? I mean…you know, if we wanted to keep it secret? So, would we have sent the airplane, the… helicopter into London? Because they were afraid the information might get out? No, you don’t want to do that.
First, the underlying premise behind Paul’s statements is that the capture, civilian trial and imprisonment of Osama Bin Laden would be preferable to: (a) death or, in the alternative; (b) indefinite detention as an illegal combatant or prosecution in a military tribunal with a conviction carrying the death penalty. There have been plenty of others who have commented on the folly of according terrorists the full rights of American citizens to an Article III, civilian court trial. The total debacle in the Ghalani trial was proof enough of that. Ron Paul apparently still subscribes to the ridiculous notion that the war against Islamofascism can be fought as a criminal investigation. Where has Ron Paul been living for the past 10 years? Has he paid any attention to the War or is he simply playing the ostrich and ignoring world events altogether?
Notice, too, Ron Paul’s touching faith in the government of Pakistan? “Why can’t we…work with the government” of Pakistan? Gosh, that is an incisive question Dr. Paul. You really cut to the heart of the matter.
Afterall, as he points out, the Pakistanis did such a bang-up job of scouring the country for Bin Laden in the first place, hiding right next to their premier military academy, a police station and a breezy drive from their own capital! And let’s remember that the Pakistani government has done such a good job cooperating with our war efforts in Afghanistan that they only allow one, vast swath of their tribal border area to be a safe-haven, staging area and training ground for the enemy attacking our forces in Afghanistan, instead of two or three. Now that’s progress! And no doubt Dr. Paul would point out that he would have no problems working with the Pakistani government that just disclosed the identity of our CIA station chief in Pakistan, or the one that is contemplating turning over our ultra-advanced, stealth helicopter wreckage to China for inspection and reverse engineering (something at which the Chinese have found they do quite well based on the number and variety of pirated products flooding the U.S. market). And, it is not like the Pakistani government has ever ratted to the Islamofascists about pending U.S. drone strikes, military raids or strategic moves. Yes, Dr. Paul, I can see why you would want to work with that Pakistani government.
Second, Ron Paul— the Ron Paul who wants to disengage from all manner of international institutions— points to “respect for… international law” as a basis for not taking the kill shot on Bin Laden. The interview does not bring out Paul’s precise meaning here, but he seems to be alluding to the international legal maxim that one nation should not violate the sovereignty of another nation in the absence of declared war. As applied to the war against Islamofascism, however, this is nonsense. The Islamists derive their primary strength, like a virus, by illegally inhabiting the territory of nation states too weak (or too irresolute) to remove them. Thus it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for the U.S. to directly attack the Islamists without either declaring war on each and every infected country or violating infected country’s sovereignty. Indeed, the very notion of “sovereignty” is called into question when a nation (such as Pakistan) fails or refuses to exercise the degree of control over its own territory to prevent it from becoming a haven for illegal wars by the likes of Al Qaeda. In my view, Pakistan has no more right to claim a violation of sovereignty over the tribal areas infested with terrorists than Mexico had when it allowed Pancho Villa to operate freely in the border areas with Texas. In this ever-shrinking world where death can be dealt out to thousands in New York and Washington, D.C. from relatively unsophisticated, third-world terrorists hosted halfway across the globe, the notion of sovereign territory is in flux, to say the least.
Third, and most damning of all, this interview reveals either a grave intellectual deficit or a type of lunacy to Ron Paul that must cause all, previous supporters to push him to the side. When Ron Paul poses a hypothetical about Bin Laden living in a hotel in London as a proof against the raid to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan, it is breathtaking. It is one of those moments when you must ask yourself, “Did he really just say that?” It is as telling a remark as we are likely to get. Just the multiple levels of absurdity of the comparison of Bin Laden in a hotel in London to a compound outside the capital of Pakistan is astounding: (a) imagine a scenario where Bin Laden, lives in a London hotel– a London hotel for God’s sake! (b) the British government is equally negligent in either not discovering Bin Laden in the hotel (Sorry, I just cannot keep from laughing over this hotel bit…) or intentionally overlooking it vis a vis Pakistan; (c) assuming all of the above, once discovered by the intrepid U.S. intelligence services who have been monitoring Bin Laden’s room service orders and porn film choices for months, the British government cannot be trusted to send Agent 007 over to take care of the matter which (d) forces the U.S. to send in the same SOF helicopter assault team (from one of their bases in England no less), to the London hotel, rather than simply send, say, Jason Bourne, and; (e) whisk Bin Laden’s body away to a waiting destroyer in the Atlantic for proper, Islamic burial at sea.
That a declared presidential candidate in the U.S. would attempt to illustrate the illegality of the Bin Laden raid by posing a hypothetical of a similar raid on a London hotel has got to be the greatest farce of the 21st century (thus far). This is absolutely disqualifying stuff. To reiterate, it shows either gross intellectual incompetence or a mental instability of some kind. (Charles Krauthamer, call your office, please). The fact that there are many people in conservative circles who ardently support Ron Paul is shocking.
I am not, by the way, making the point that Ron Paul’s mere opposition to the Bin Laden raid is, by itself, disqualifying. I think it is at least possible that reasonable minds can differ on the manner of killing Bin Laden. Afterall, I believe it would have been quite reasonable and proper to have used drones or precision-guided munitions to obliterate Bin Laden’s compound. While civilian casualties should be minimized whenever possible, there is equal responsibility on the Pakistani government, for example, for allowing terrorists to infest civilian areas similar to that of the German and Japanese military facilities intentionally located in civilian areas during World War II. The criticism here is the manner in which Ron Paul defends his positions. Even someone inclined to support him for president would have to concede that, based on the crack-pot thinking in this interview, he would be torn to shreds in any debate with Obama. And here lies the greatest danger: if for whatever reason, Ron Paul supporters decide to sit out the 2012 election (or, God forbid, Paul runs a Ross Perot-like campaign), that may be all that Obama needs for re-election.
It is one thing to re-elect a Bill Clinton. He was a lecherous fool re-elected at a unique period in history that afforded us the luxury of blind leadership. We do not live in such a time now and, based on the first two and one-half years, we cannot survive the re-election of Obama. Where Clinton was the prototypical finger-to-the-wind politician who cared more than anything for his legacy and female attentions, Obama has shown a frightening determination to radically alter the economic foundations of the U.S. in order to effect radical, political change (all of which is masterfully outlined in detailed research by Stanley Kurtz in his book, Radical In Chief–Barack Obama And The Untold Story of American Socialism).
There is, however, something more going on here. It is more than just an occasional nonsensical statement from a Congressman. Paul’s remarks reflect the ravings of someone who has bought into a doctrine that makes no sense and, therefore, results in comments that can make no sense. That doctrine is isolationism. It is very much like a sickness that increasingly causes its adherents to say and do the most absurd things. Besides the nuttiness of Ron Paul’s comments on killing Bin Laden– an avowed terror mastermind and lawless combatant fully deserving of death– Ron Paul is driven, by the isolationist madness I believe, to say all manner of things disconnected with reality. Driven because isolationism simply does not comport with the world in which we live. In order to make the connection, isolationists must routinely resort to conspiracy theories and wishful thinking and crackpot analogies. As evidence of this, listen to the full interview (in all 5 parts) between Simon Conway and Ron Paul. Rep. Paul actually makes good points about taxation and spending and the nature of government, but as soon as Conway veers onto foreign policy, the isolationist fever takes over.
When asked about Iraq, Ron Paul firmly takes hold of the “Bush Lied, Kids Died” meme of the Left, saying that “we got into [the Iraq war] not being told the truth. We were told there were weapons of mass destruction aimed at us, that Al Qaeda was there, that wasn’t true.” When asked by the host to clarify whether he thought that President Bush intentionally misled the nation or was given faulty intelligence, Paul essentially said that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if there had been a conspiracy from the “Vice President” on down to lower-level advisers to manipulate and falsify the intelligence.
This is looney tunes land. And it would be funny if not for the potential to disaffect enough voters to throw the 2012 election to Obama. So here is a call to all Ron Paul-bots out there: get a real candidate. Ron Paul has made himself ridiculous with his isolationist pretensions. We cannot beat back Obama without you. And for anyone else indulging in isolationist thinking, it is time to take a strong dose of reality and come back to full health.
Kate Clark at Foreign Policy treats us to the confusion that is intelligence in Afghanistan.
On September 2, 2010, ten men in northern Afghanistan were killed in an air attack that was a targeted killing, part of the U.S. Special Forces ‘kill or capture’ strategy. The U.S. military said it had killed the Taliban deputy shadow governor of Takhar, who was also a ‘senior member’ of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU): one Muhammad Amin, as well as “eight or nine other insurgents.”
Many Afghans, including senior government officials, were incredulous. Many knew the man who had actually been targeted — who was not Muhammad Amin, but Zabet Amanullah. He had not fought for the Taliban since 2001 and had been out campaigning for his nephew in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections with more than a dozen other men, mainly extended family members. That very morning, as per usual, he had called in to the district police chief to check on security before the election campaign convoy set off. The strike was an “obvious mistake,” said the provincial governor, Abdul-Jabar Taqwa. “He was an ordinary person and lived among normal people,” said the Takhar Chief of Police, Shah Jahaan Nuri. “I could have captured him with one phone call.”
U.S. Special Forces got the wrong man, but despite overwhelming evidence, they have remained adamant that they were correct. Senior Special Forces officers’ gave me lengthy accounts of the attack, including the intelligence behind it. That has allowed a piecing together of what went wrong.
Intelligence analysts were monitoring the calls of Muhammad Amin in early 2010 — and confirmed that he really was the Taliban deputy governor of Takhar. They came to believe that one number he had called in Kabul was passed on to him. They believed he began to use this phone and to ‘self-identify’ as Zabet Amanullah. In other words, they believed Muhammad Amin was using the name ‘Zabet Amanullah’ as an alias.
Friends and family have confirmed that Zabet Amanullah, who was living in Kabul, was in occasional telephone contact with active members of the Taliban, but this is not unusual in a country where fortunes change and it is prudent to stay in touch with all sides. Zabet Amanullah also kept in touch with senior members in the government. What may have looked like a suspicious cluster of calls and contacts, in reality, proved nothing about the actual conduct of the caller. Zabet Amanullah’s life, lived quietly and openly at home in Kabul, has been documented in detail. I met him in 2008 when he had just fled Pakistan where he had been working on a human rights project. He had been detained and severely tortured by the Pakistani intelligence agency, he believed, because he was a former Taliban commander who was not fighting.
The Special Forces unit denied that the identities of two different men, Muhammad Amin and Zabet Amanullah, could have been conflated. They insisted the technical evidence that they were one person was irrefutable. When pressed about the existence — and death — of an actual Zabet Amanullah, one officer said, “We were not tracking the names, we were targeting the telephones.”
Yet in the complex political landscape of Afghanistan, it is not enough to track phones. It is certainly not enough to base a targeted killing on. The analysts had not built up a biography of their target, Muhammad Amin —where he was from, what his jihadi background was, and so on. They had not been aware of the existence of a well-known person by the name of Zabet Amanullah. They had not had access to the sort of common, everyday information available to Afghans watching election coverage on television. They had not made even the most basic background checks about a target they had been tracking for months. Instead, they relied on signals intelligence and network analysis (which attempts to map insurgent networks by monitoring phone calls), without cross-checking with any human intelligence.
There are a whole host of problems here, including (a) Ms. Clark concluding with certainty that the target was a case of mistaken identity, (b) it being commonplace to stay in contact with insurgents (that they haven’t been marginalized by now is testimony to the state of the campaign), (c) the supposed need to have absolute certainty in intel before reacting, and (d) the lack of local atmospherics. But let’s assume the accuracy of Ms. Clark’s report for the sake of argument. It is this last item I want to discuss for a moment.
The American patrol set out from a base in Yahya Khel district center at 6 p.m. Tuesday, planning to provoke a fight with a team of Taliban sharpshooters suspected to be operating around the village of Palau. The troops, from Angel Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, dropped off a team at a small Afghan army outpost and then moved by foot toward the village.
Just before dusk, the patrol was ambushed, not by the expected long-range marksmen, but by a team of gunmen who attacked with rifles and grenades from as close as 50 feet away. Two American soldiers were wounded. Half an hour later, at the outpost, Angel Company’s commander, Capt. Joshua Powers, received permission over the radio from Col. David Fivecoat, the battalion commander, to call in fire from attack helicopters. The pilots had watched a group of fighters move from the area of the gun battle to a courtyard in a small village north of Palau. They told Captain Powers that they could make out a machine gun and several rifles. At 8:38 p.m., one of the helicopters fired a Hellfire missile into the cluster, then shot another man who was on the roof of the building abutting the courtyard. Over the next half hour the helicopters attacked two more groups of suspected fighters in the area with cannon fire.
In the dark, Angel Company walked north from the outpost to assess the damage. In the courtyard, the corpses of two men were illuminated by burning weapons and motorcycles. While his medic tended to a third man, severely wounded and clad in camouflage, Captain Powers radioed his battalion with bad news: The building by the courtyard was a mosque. The pilots had not known, since no loudspeakers were visible and identifying writing was visible only from the ground. There was shrapnel damage to the walls, and the roof had a hole in it from cannon rounds.
The patrol, along with a group of Afghan soldiers and their commander, Lt. Col. Mir Wais, stayed the night outside the mosque. The Taliban would undoubtedly claim that civilians had been killed, Captain Powers explained, and he wanted to be there when the villagers woke up to show them the weapons and combat gear. “If we hold this ground, we can show them the evidence right away,” he said. “The first story is usually the one that sticks.”
The pilots thought they had killed half a dozen fighters at a second site the helicopters had attacked, but the bodies were already gone when the patrol arrived. Captain Powers acknowledged that this meant there was no way to know for sure whether civilians had been killed, but thought it unlikely: the site was secluded, and among charred motorcycles there were rocket-propelled grenades and camouflage vests with rifle magazines. At the first site, all four bodies — the two in the courtyard, the one on the roof, and the wounded man, who later died — wore camouflage fatigues and similar vests, containing grenades, ammunition, makeshift handcuffs and a manual on making homemade explosives.
Around 5 a.m., the men of the village started to congregate by the mosque. Captain Powers and Colonel Mir Wais addressed them, telling their story of what had happened. The men complained that the strike had frightened their wives and children and damaged the mosque, and that they were trapped between the pressures of the Americans and the Taliban. But they did not suggest that any residents of the village had been wounded or killed, and did not claim the bodies. Later in the morning, the district subgovernor, Ali Muhammad, described the night’s events to citizens gathered in the Yahya Khel bazaar. He also signed, along with Captain Powers, a letter about the attack that would be distributed in the area after dark: a counterpoint to the Taliban’s infamous “night letters.”
And as I previously observed, the same people who ordered the strike were there to explain it in the morning, just as I suggested should happen. The same people who fight by night are there for the locals to look at in the morning. And look into their eyes. If they see cut and run, they will side with the insurgents, or someone else, whomever that may be. If they see victory and determination, they will side with the stronger horse. We need to be the stronger horse.
Once again this explains why a small, SOF-driven, raid-based hunt for high value targets can never work as a strategy in Afghanistan, in spite of how much we might like to withdraw and let dark operations take over. In addition to the lack of logistical support (where do you think the SOF troopers get their supplies?), the most significant problem with a small footprint in Afghanistan is that the intel will be worthless. Unless we have boots on the ground, patrolling every day, living amongst the population, looking into their eyes, we will never know who should be courted and who should be killed.
Recently introduced federal gun legislation would codify and greatly expand the definition of those barred from owning a gun because they suffer from broad, umbrella-like definitions of mental health problems. Mental health advocates, however, say legislators reacting to “deranged” people going on shooting sprees are “completely missing the point.”
Last week, New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy introduced the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011, a nearly-identical resolution to that introduced in the Senate in March by her New York colleague, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. Both bills include a section dedicated to further codifying in federal law what it means to be “adjudicated as a mental defective.” The proposed change would label any person a “mental health defective” who appears to “lack the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs,” or is “compelled” to receive counseling or medication.
Other, seemingly more obvious, definitions of a “mental health defective” include anyone who has been found criminally insane, found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of mental deficiencies.
According to the legislation, decisions of whether someone is of subnormal intelligence, competency and/or mental illness are to be decided by a “court, board, commission, or other lawful authority.” No medical qualifications or background in psychological sciences are specified as necessary for such lawful authorities.
A court, board, commission or lawful authority. Right. And as for people who have been on anxiety medication? Or perhaps people who were diagnosed as ADHD who had been on ritalin at one time? How about people who went to their pastor for marriage counseling?
I’ve said it before. It’s ironic how illiberal some liberals can be. There is actually nothing about so-called liberals that is liberal. They are all statists and control freaks. I have never met one who doubts that the state doesn’t have an answer for everything. It can right every wrong, compensate every injustice, and prevent every evil. A new law is apparently the answer for crimes with weapons, administered, adjudicated, supervised and applied, of course, by the man. You know, that man that liberals say they hate so much?
Serious intelligence failures meant British commanders were unprepared for the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan as soldiers “turned up a hornets’ nest”, three of the country’s most senior military officers have said.
General Sir David Richards, the chief of the defence staff, told MPs the British had got involved in a very serious situation, adding: “War is a bummer.”
A failure of intelligence, notably about tribal loyalties and aggressive US operations, and ill-thought out attempts to eradicate the opium poppy harvest, combined to exacerbate an already dangerous situation facing the 3,000 British troops sent to Helmand by the Blair government in 2006, the officers said.
[ ... ]
Houghton, a widely respected general who, along with Richards, was interviewed by Cameron for the top military post, listed a number of problems that came together.
Britain’s military commitment to Iraq was higher than it was anticipated it would still be in 2006, and British troops arrived in May, “the natural start of the fighting season”.
The Taliban, at the time, encouraged the belief that foreign troops were out to eradicate the poppy harvest, a valuable source of income for local farmers. Some 200,000 labourers migrated from Pakistan to help with the poppy harvest, and some were happy to stay as “guns for hire”.
Houghton added that US troops had just engaged in “particularly kinetic” [aggressive] military operations at the time.
Moreover, at the behest of President Hamid Karzai, British troops were deployed to forward “platoon houses” in northern Helmand areas such as Sangin and Musa Qala. The soldiers turned out to be dangerously exposed and too few in number.
Assessing the list for a moment, the Brits did indeed deploy to hard area, the same areas that know a U.S. Marine presence right now. There have not been enough troops, and the Brits certainly had a hard time of things in Helmand. They didn’t have the necessary troops to cover the Province, and Taliban fighters had taken over Now Zad as an R&R area. When the U.S. Marines arrived in Now Zad they brought two trauma physicians with them due to the severe injuries they sustained. They routinely slept forward deployed in groups of two or three Marines in what they would later term as “Hobbit Holes” dug into the earth and other structures. Now Zad was almost entirely outside the wire.
Yet the British Generals are hedging. It wasn’t the lack of troops that lost Musa Qala. It was the ill-conceived alliance with one Mullah Abdul Salaam. But the most significant observation concerns U.S. operations, and the British regarded them as “particularly kinetic.” A clearer statement is given to us by The Independent.
These included the Taliban’s portrayal of moves to eradicate opium plants as evidence that the UK forces wanted to destroy local farmers’ livelihoods, the appointment of a new provincial governor which destabilised the tribal balance, and previous intensive American military operations which “whipped up” the situation.
American military operations whipped up the situation. This is an absolutely remarkable comment. Just remarkable. In Getting the Narrative Right on Southern Afghanistan I strongly criticized a strategic assessment conducted by Professor Theo Farrell of Kings College in London. Being a classy fellow, Theo offered a clinical and unemotional response in the comments.
In my visits to Helmand, I have found differences of opinion – some expressed in strong terms – betw Brit and USMC officers. But I consider this entirely natural (indeed there are considerable differences of opinion w/in the Brit Army, as I expect they are w/in the US Army and USMC). So I don’t want to overplay these. The one general difference that I would draw out is over the pace of progress. Basically Marine commanders push the pace beyond that which the British consider sustainable and indeed desirable. Fast progress on the military line of ops is not sustainable in COIN if it outpaces too much the governance and development lines of ops.
I don’t think there is a ‘gov in a box’ theory of COIN. Basically, this term came from somewhere in ISAF command as part of a media spin which ultimately backfired. I believe that M4 was referring to the District Delivery Program, which was a GIRoA program to rapidly develop governance in 80 key terrain districts. 6 were selected for trial, 4 in Helmand. Nad-e-Ali was one of these, and it may be that Marjah was part of this package (as before Op MOSHTARAK, Marjah was actually part of Nad-e-Ali; it became a full fledged district afterwards). DDP has some promise. And the latest word I hear is that Marjah is looking pretty good. But the main point of my analysis, which I refer to in this interview, is that COIN takes time. The CLEAR can be done fairly quickly, as indeed the Marines demonstrated in Marjah. But the HOLD requires the slow building up, consolidation and/or improvement of governance, infrastructure and basic services. That stuff just can’t be rushed. You can’t fedex it in.
Let me also emphasise that I’m not saying for a moment that the Brits have all the answers or that they are somehow better at COIN than the US Marines. British Army officers are the first to admit now that they’ve much to learn from their American brothers in arms. And indeed, 52 Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade have only praise for the MEU (I think it was the 24 MEU) which provided critical support to Task Force Helmand in 2007-08. I spent some time with the 2/8 Marines in Garmsir in late 2009. As I emphasise in my report on Op MOSHTARAK for British Land Warfare Command, armies aren’t good or bad at COIN, commanders and units are. Anyway, my report can be downloaded from here.
I appreciate the professor’s good natured comments. But I still think we’re missing each other’s point. If Theo cares to elaborate further I welcome the correction or clarification. As to the issue of “government in a box,” I simply cannot account for General McChrystal’s remark that Marjah was a “bleeding ulcer” just months (or weeks) after arrival of the Marines. Only someone with a childlike belief in magic could possibly believe that the Marines could waltz into Marjah with a governor and make things okay. Michael Yon also tells me that to a man, the British officers believe in the “government in a box” view of counterinsurgency.
But more to the point, I am not implying, nor would I imply, that the U.S. Marines are better at counterinsurgency than the British. The U.S. Marines claim that they the greatest at everything, and cheaper and faster than anyone else, but that’s just propaganda and they say it all the time about everything. Tactics are just that, and any army can be trained for tactics as long as they have high quality NCOs, and the British and Americans do have high quality NCOs. Additionally, I know first hand that the U.S. Marines (whom I know) have the utmost respect for the Royal Marines, more so in fact than they do for themselves. But who is better at tactics is irrelevant. The aggregation of tactics does not make a strategy.
Speaking of the U.S. Marine presence in Garmsir (24th MEU), they did more than support a British operations. They killed some 400 Taliban fighters, and in spite of complaints over the heavy kinetics by the British, turned over an AO back to the British that was relatively stable and free of Taliban violence. When the Marines took Garmsir, the local elders were even courting the Marines and told them “if you protect us, we will be able to protect you.”
The point has never gone to tactics and the ability to implement them. There is a school of counterinsurgency that believes that until heavy kinetics has the insurgency on the run and effectively defeated, legitimate governance cannot exist. The opposite school sees a more symbiotic relationship between actors and root causes in counterinsurgency.
It isn’t my intent to argue this disagreement in this article. My point is that while the British may be the best and most staunch allies of the U.S., the perspectives concerning counterinsurgency, stability operations and irregular warfare couldn’t be more dissimilar. I say again, for General Sir David Richards to remark that U.S. kinetic operations “whipped up” the situation is truly remarkable itself. Just remarkable.