Monthly Archives: September 2007

Bill Roggio: Counterinsurgency in al Qaeda’s last bastion in Baghdad

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[Hat tip to The Long War Journal]

By Bill Roggio

Camp Striker, Baghdad Province: Nine months after the announcement of the Baghdad Security Plan and the subsequent “surge” of US forces, the battle for Baghdad remains engaged. With the effort to secure Baghdad from al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army alike, the southwestern security district of Doura has proven difficult to tame. The soldiers of the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment are currently engaged in a heated battle against al Qaeda in Iraq in a corner of Doura.

The area of operations

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Shurta, Asiya, and Mechanics make up much of the areas in numbers 76 and 88 on map. Click to view

Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rod Coffey, the Wolfpack of the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment arrived in Baghdad in August and assumed control of the battlespace in a dangerous segment of Doura on September 7. The Wolfpack’s area of operation consists of the neighborhoods of Shurta, Asiya, and Mechanics, which are nestled in the far eastern corner of the Rashid district. (Rashid was split into Bayaa and Doura for the purpose of the Baghdad Security Plan.)

The three neighborhoods are divided by long strips of open space, each several hundred meters across and run north to south. Shurta and Asiya are described as relatively safe after the Wolfpack cleared the two neighborhoods upon arrival. Residents “are supportive and provide tips,” Coffey said while on patrol in the neighborhoods

U.S. forces believe the Mechanics neighborhood is one of the last bastions of al Qaeda in Iraq inside Baghdad. “Al Qaeda coerces the population in Mechanics,” said Coffey. The Iraqi Army and Coalition forces left the Shurta, Asiya, and Mechanics neighborhoods three months ago, and security deteriorated. US forces were moved into the Doura neighborhoods to the north to clear al Qaeda cells after the terrorist group declared Doura to be the capital of Islamic State of Iraq inside Baghdad.

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Israeli Air Force dispatches jets in response to Syrian helicopter activity

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[From Haaretz]

By Amos Harel

The Israel Air Force dispatched several fighter planes toward Syria on Thursday in response to suspicious military helicopter activity beyond the border.

This was the third time that IAF jets were sent to the Syrian border over the last two weeks.

The jets returned to the base shortly after the operation began once the Syrian helicopters had landed in Syrian territory.

Both the Syrian Army and the Israel Defense Forces are reportedly on a heightened state of alert, following reports of an IAF aerial strike on Syrian soil early this month.

An IDF spokeswoman said it was standing policy not to comment on reports of air force operations but a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said planes had been sent in a standard response to investigate aerial activity in the border region.

On Saturday, a Syrian airplane disappeared from the Israeli radar screens, prompting the IAF to dispatch warplanes toward the Syrian border, army sources said.

The incident – which occurred amid record-high tension between Jerusalem and Damascus – ended with the Israel Air Force pilots returning to their base within minutes of being dispatched, after it transpired that the plane had crashed on Syrian soil due to an accident.

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Shabbat Shalom

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But I am a Liberal and Martin in the Margins added me to their blogrolls. I am glad to reciprocate.

Discovered MountainRunner‘s blog via Small Wars Journal. The emphases include, “public diplomacy, unrestricted warfare, privatization of force, and civil-military relations.” Definitely worth a look if you are interested in these sorts of things.

Welcome to new readers coming from Jackson Heights, NYC (neighborhood news) and The Wall Street Journal.

Shabbat shalom.

Academic boycott campaign is finally defeated – morally, politically, legally

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[Hat tip and congratulations to Engage]

The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel has ended today in an absolute and final political, legal and moral defeat.

The University and College Union’s (UCU) own lawyers advised it that a policy to exclude academics who work in Israel from the global academic community – and to exclude nobody else on the planet – would have been a violation of equal opportunities legislation in Britain.

Given this legal advice, the leadership of the UCU had no choice but decisively to end the union’s flirtation with a boycott of Israeli academia. To persist in a ‘discussion’ of an illegal and discriminatory policy would have opened the union up to potentially fatal lawsuits on the grounds of unfair discrimination. Union members could have been held personally liable if they had ignored clear legal advice. The Opinion was given to UCU by a widely respected barrister.

UCU’s Strategy and Finance Committee voted unanimously today to end all consideration of the boycott proposal. The Opinion said:

“It would be beyond the Union’s powers and unlawful for the Union, directly or indirectly to call for or to implement a boycott by the Union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions; and that the use of Union funds directly or indirectly to further such a boycott would also be unlawful.”

The Opinion also said:

“…to ensure that the Union acts lawfully meetings should not be used to ascertain the level of support for such a boycott.”

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Buddhist Monks Challenge Authoritarian Rule in Myanmar

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Here are various reports on the escalating tensions between Buddhist monks and the authoritarian regime of Myanmar.

Associated Press

Q: What do the demonstrators want?

A: The original demands were for the fuel price to be dropped again and other measures to ease people’s economic burdens in one of Asia’s poorest nations. But they also include apologies for mistreating monks during a demonstration. More importantly, they have broadened to include the release of all political prisoners including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. There is no official leadership of the protest movement, however, so the demands are not universally recognized.

Detroit Free Press

Confronted by a military junta willing to pull the trigger, Buddhist monks and democracy activists in Myanmar face long odds in trying to uproot an institution that has wielded power for 45 years.

Every sign of dissent over the decades has been crushed, including an uprising in 1988 that ended when troops gunned down thousands of peaceful demonstrators and imprisoned the survivors.

But the Iron Curtain fell a year later, showing that freedom can emerge if authoritarian regimes aren’t ruthless. Globalization brought increasing economic integration to Asia, including investment in Myanmar and other poor areas. The Internet has made it increasingly difficult for governments to control information and dissent.

In Myanmar, though, there are no outward signs of change in the generals’ cardinal principle: Retain power, even in the face of international pressure and condemnation.

The Economist

Defying the corrupt, inept, brutal generals who rule them, they took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to demand democracy. They knew they were risking a bloody crackdown, like the one that put down a huge popular revolt in 1988, killing 3,000 people or more. In 1988 Burma’s people were betrayed not just by the ruthlessness of their rulers, but also by the squabbling and opportunism of the outside world, which failed to produce a co-ordinated response and let the murderous regime get away with it. This time, soldiers are once again shooting and killing unarmed protesters (see article). Can the world avoid making the same mistake twice?

The Hindu

In a politically significant intervention, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who chairs the Association of South East Asian Nations that includes Myanmar, described the unfolding situation there as “very grave” indeed. Mr. Lee began consulting other ASEAN leaders, as the forum “could not credibly remain silent or uninvolved in this matter.”

The Independent

The threats have failed. Tens of thousands of monks, students, democracy activists and ordinary civilians joined anti-government protests across Burma yesterday, despite the warning from the ruling junta that it is ready to “take action” to silence dissent. There were demonstrations in all the major cities. The crowds in the old capital, Rangoon, swelled to 100,000. What some are calling the “Saffron revolution”, after the colour of the robes of the Buddhist monks, seems to have acquired an impressive momentum.

NYT

President Bush today chided nations to live up to the rights and freedoms the United Nations promised six decades ago, announced new sanctions on Myanmar and denounced the governments of Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe as “brutal regimes.”

Appearing at the opening of the 62nd session of the General Assembly, Mr. Bush called on members of the United Nations to do more to support nascent democracies and to oppose autocratic and tyrannical governments.

Reuters

The maroon-robed monks at the heart of Myanmar’s biggest pro-democracy demonstrations in 20 years are no strangers to political struggle in the mostly Buddhist nation, under military rule the past four decades.

At least 10 monasteries were raided and sacked this week and hundreds of monks arrested on apparent suspicion of spearheading marches that drew as many as 100,000 people in Yangon.

Small protests started last month against shock rises in fuel prices, a huge blow to Myanmar’s 56 million people — already some of the poorest in Asia.

But the real turning point came when soldiers fired warning shots and then roughed up monks and civilians marching in the town of Pokokku, 600 km (370 miles) north of Yangon, on September 5.

Cinematic Orchestra at Webster Hall

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My wife and I finally had a chance to catch J. Swinscoe’s jazz/electronic outfit, the Cinematic Orchestra. We are very busy people and rarely go out during the workweek. But this was a show we did not want to miss, especially after missing them on more than one occasion.

This evening’s performance was at Webster Hall in the East Village, a large open space regularly used for dance parties. There were no seats and the crowd was a bit young. I generally don’t like general admission shows. Especially 18 and over events. I’m of the age where being smashed while listening to loud music lacks the appeal it once held. But this was a 4.8 out of five. Great sound, nice ambiance and all the rest. The band was seriously on point, playing a diverse selection of material from complex jazzy numbers to more soulful tunes. Check them out if they play in your neck of the woods. U.K. readers, the next show is at Royal Albert Hall on November 2.

Here is a video of “The Man with the Movie Camera,” a song from their second recording:

In late 1999, Swinscoe was asked by the organisers of the Porto European City of Culture 2000 if the band wanted to score a soundtrack to a silent movie to open the celebrations. It seemed a perfect opportunity to expand the ideas of TCO into the world which had given them their name. But the difference was this was for a one off live performance. The film was Dziga Vertov’s ‘Man With A Movie Camera,’ a 1929 early documentary cinema film from the Soviet Union. The performance in a old theatre space in Porto ended with a standing ovation of 3,500 people. Since that evening TCO have performed the score live at film festivals from Turkey to Scotland.

You can find more audio and video files here.

Bollinger Stuns Ahmadinejad With Blunt Rebuke

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[from The New York Sun]

By Annie Karni

President Lee Bollinger of Columbia, in a dramatic speech broadcast around the globe yesterday from Morningside Heights, delivered an oratorical haymaker to President Ahmadinejad, attacking his record on human rights, Israel, and terrorism in remarks that will likely overshadow anything the Iranian might say during his diplomatic rounds in America.

In systematic fashion, Mr. Bollinger, who was being closely watched in New York and beyond because of criticism that he had blundered by inviting Mr. Ahmadinejad in the first place, rebuked the Iranian president for calling for the destruction of Israel, for funding terrorism, for fighting a proxy war against America within the borders of Iraq, for persecuting women and homosexuals, and for flaunting the international community in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Bollinger called Mr. Ahmadinejad’s stated denial of the Holocaust “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.” His remarks were made all the more dramatic by the fact that the Iranian leader was seated only yards away, in a corner of the stage where he listened as an interpreter translated Mr. Bollinger’s words.

“Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” Mr. Bollinger said, after challenging the Iranian to admit a delegation from Columbia to speak at an Iranian University.

Mr. Bollinger’s remarks were met with a rant from Mr. Ahmadinejad, who called his remarks “an insult to the knowledge of the audience here” and a “vaccination” of the event.

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IDF Raid in Syria Yields North Korean Nuclear Materials

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Early reports were extremely sketchy. Syria reported a violation of their airspace by Israeli military aircraft. Aerial munitions were used but no damage was reported. Syrian officials delayed on reporting the attack to the United Nations. What was the reason for their delay? Then, shortly after Syria reported the attack to the UN, the North Korean regime condemned Israel. Why did North Korea, a country that generally shuns the UN, voice their support for Syria?

Newspapers and blogs speculated the flights were conducted to gain information about Syria’s anti-aircraft systems or gather evidence that Syria was rearming Hezbollah. As Israeli officials maintained their silence, rumors circulated that an attack on a nuclear facility had occurred. North Korea was supplying Syria with nuclear technology. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Soldiers from an elite Israeli unit seized North Korean nuclear material from a secret Syrian military installation before it was bombed by IAF jets, a report by Britain’s Sunday Times wrote Saturday night, quoting “informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.”

According to the sources, the alleged IAF attack was sanctioned by the US on September 6, after the Americans were given proof that the material was indeed nuclear-related.

The sources confirmed that the materials were tested after they were taken from Syria and were found to be of North Korean origin, which raised concerns that Syria may have been trying to come into the possession of nuclear arms.

The commandos, who, according to the report, belonged to the legendary General Staff’s Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), may have been disguised in Syrian army uniforms. It was also stated that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who used to head the unit, personally oversaw the operation.

Israeli sources admitted that special forces had been accruing intelligence in Syria for several months, the report said, adding that evidence of North Korean activity at the installation was presented to President George Bush during the summer.

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The Times of London notes:

Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.

News of the secret ground raid is the latest piece of the jigsaw to emerge about the mysterious Israeli airstrike. Israel has imposed a news blackout, but has not disguised its satisfaction with the mission. The incident also reveals the extent of the cooperation between America and Israel over nuclear-related security issues in the Middle East. The attack on what Israeli defence sources now call the “North Korean project” appears to be part of a wider, secret war against the nonconventional weapons ambitions of Syria and North Korea which, along with Iran, appears to have been forging a new “axis of evil”.

See also, “Israel, U.S., Shared Intelligence Before Raid.”

However, Syrian Information Minister Muhsin Bilal says there was no raid. Bilal

denied the reports that an elite IDF commando unit seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before the reported IAF overflight this month.

“These reports are not true. This is a baseless fabrication like the ones that have been spread against Iraq,” Bilal said in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat published Monday.

9/11 “Truth” March in San Francisco, Anti-War Protest in Washington D.C., Anti-War “Soldier” Busted in Seattle

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As a former resident of San Francisco I know the city attracts a lot of kooks and misfits. And the kookiest of kooks these days are the truthers. Zombietime has some nice photographs of their recent march and demonstration in S.F. If any city would be friendly to these nuts, it is S.F. However, as you can tell by the photos, besides a few smelly hippies, a couple of superheroes and a gaggle of Paulistas, the gathering was pretty slim.

The truthers marched down Haight Street to the Power to the Peaceful demonstration, which was quite large and well attended. Then again, any gathering in Golden Gate Park is bound to attract the remnants of the summer of love and the leftover left. As far as these folks being peaceful, I don’t buy it and neither should you. In fact, many of the groups that sponsored the rally—a smattering of Maoists, Leninists, and Stalinists—support the overthrow of the government of the United States.

Similar groups of miscreants marched in Washington, D.C. last weekend at The World Can’t Wait demonstration. Too bad Zombie doesn’t have contacts on the East Coast. I’d like to see some photos that give a clear indication of who these people are. Zombie’s photos do an excellent job of that. One look at his pics and the lunacy of these individuals is made patently clear.

Meanwhile the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a man pretending to be an army veteran, who took credit for “crimes” in Iraq that never actually occurred, has been sentenced to five months in prison:

Jesse MacBeth never was an Army Ranger, much less a corporal, never received a Purple Heart for wounds inflicted by a foreign foe, and neither saw nor participated in war crimes with fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, claims for which he became a poster boy for the anti-war movement…

MacBeth’s is the latest case to be sentenced under “Operation Stolen Valor,” which uses the new Stolen Valor Act to go after people posing as veterans, who often festoon themselves with awards and invent tales of long-term injuries, often to fraudulently acquire veterans benefits…

A thin man who sat quietly looking down through most of the hearing, MacBeth apologized for snookering anti-war groups with his claims of killing unarmed, helpless civilians in Iraq — which were translated into Arabic and posted on the Internet — and also to U.S. soldiers whom he defamed.

MacBeth said he felt bad for what he did.

“I’m sorry not only for lying about everything and discrediting anti-war groups, but also for defaming the real heroes, the soldiers out there sacrificing for their country,” MacBeth said. “I was trying to pull a fast one, to make money to get off the streets.”

MacBeth fooled peace groups and alternative media to become something of an anti-war star over the past four years.

He claimed he witnessed and participated in war crimes in Iraq with other Rangers, slaughtering hundreds of unarmed men, women and children.

In a widely distributed Internet video translated into Arabic, Macbeth said. “We would burn their bodies … hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque.”

Brother No. 2, Nuon Chea, Arrested in Kampuchea

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[from the Bangkok Post]

Phnom Penh (dpa) – Former top Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea will stay in jail for at least a year facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the court set up to bring justice to the victims of the regime said Friday.

In a lengthy press statement explaining the charges and the decision, co-investigating judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde issued a provisional detention order against the 82-year-old former Khmer Rouge security chief who is also known as Brother Number 2.

The statement said Nuon Chea was being charged with crimes against humanity which encompasses murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and “other inhumane acts.”

War crimes was a charge based on the Geneva Convention and included wilful killing and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury and wilful deprivation of rights to a fair trial, the statement said.

Co-investigators said they had decided to remand Nuon Chea because he posed a potential threat to witnesses.

“He is alleged to have, throughout Cambodia during the period April 17, 1975 to January 6, 1979 … planned, instigated, ordered, directed or otherwise aided and abetted in the commission of the aforementioned crimes, by exercising authority and effective control over the internal security apparatus of Democratic Kampuchea,” the statement said.

The only other man yet to be charged by the ECCC, former commandant of the notorious S-21 torture centre Duch, or Kang Keng Iev, alleged in 1999 that Nuon Chea instigated much of the killing during the Khmer Rouge’s Democratic Kampuchea regime.

Up to 2 million Cambodians died during the reign of the ultra-Maoists.

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More reports: AFP, AP, BBC, Reuters, World Politics Review.