Monday, August 21, 2006

The Big Switch....

Many of you may have noticed that there are not as many posts here as there were previously. I will be switching to a paid blog version with another blog-host, and this will happen over the next week or so, with all of the features you see here hosted at the other site.

This site will remain open as archives. Please feel free to visit the site below, and revisit, as the features and links from this site are added there.

thank you,
Evilgrin :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Israel defiant on Lebanon raid, prepares for 'next round'

Israel defiant on Lebanon raid, prepares for 'next round'
by Yana Dlugy

Israel warned that it would keep up raids against Hezbollah to prevent the Shiite militia from getting weapons from abroad and said it would prepare for the "next round" of war.

Israel also said that it would not allow the Lebanese army to fully deploy along the volatile Israeli-Lebanese border until the arrival of an international force in the area.

"We need to thwart any attempt to pass weapons from Syria to Hezbollah," Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai said before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday.

"Any such activity needs a counter measure," he said, referring to a Saturday commando raid by Israeli troops in eastern Lebanon, which Israel said was aimed at preventing alleged arms smuggling to Hezbollah from Syria.

Lebanon and the United Nations slammed the raid as a violation of the UN-brokered ceasefire which took effect last Monday to end 34 days of warfare, but Israeli officials remained defiant.

"We have not violated UN resolution 1701," said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, a member of the security cabinet.

"The resolution has very clear directives on limiting the transfer of weapons from Syria and Iran into Lebanon. The directives speak of a full embargo. As long as it is not enforced, we have the full right to act against it."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the Jewish state would examine mistakes that it made during the Lebanon war in preparation for the "next round" of war.

"We will examine the issues that have been pointed out as failures," he told the cabinet meeting. "We will put everything on the table. Our duty is to prepare for the next round," he said without elaborating.

The Israeli raid near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek was the first major operation since the UN ceasefire took hold on the ground. An Israeli officer was killed in the raid.

"It is the Lebanese who are to be blamed for allowing the weapons transfer... The one responsible is (Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad) Siniora. We should give him an ultimatum -- either he stops the weapons transfer or we target his infrastructure," Yishai said.

Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, a hardliner who like Herzog and Yishai is a member of Israel's security cabinet, echoed the statements.

"The Lebanese are yet to carry out the resolution and are saying that Hezbollah will not be disarmed and that it can hide weapons. What are we supposed to do? Sit idly and wait for Hezbollah to rearm?"

UN Resolution 1701 calls, among other demands, for Hezbollah to disarm, something that the Shiite militant group has so far refused to do, maintaining its right to fight as long as Israeli troops are in Lebanon.

Israeli intelligence estimates that Hezbollah had up to 13,000 rockets before the start of the Lebanon war, with more than 4,000 fired by the Shiite militia into Israel during the offensive.

Israel accuses Syria and Iran of providing Hezbollah with weapons, a charge denied by both countries which say they offer moral support only.

Israel has said that many of the weapons, including the anti-tank missiles that proved devastating to the Jewish state's military during the offensive, had come from Russia, a charge that the Kremlin has denied.

A report in Israel's second-largest Maariv daily on Sunday said that during a recent visit to Moscow, Israeli officials showed Russians documents that allegedly prove that Russian arms exports destined for the Syrian army were ending up in Hezbollah's hands.

An Israeli foreign ministry official meanwhile urged France to reconsider its decision to limit its participation in a UN force in Lebanon to 200 soldiers, which sparked "astonishment and confusion" in the Jewish state.

"We hope that France has not said its last word," the official said on condition of anonymity. "If not, its decision cannot but contribute to bring us a step back, with the rearming of Hezbollah, which will wait for an opportune moment to restart its hostilities."

France had joined the United States in crafting the UN resolution and as Lebanon's former colonial power was expected to take the lead in putting together a robust international force of up to 15,000 to boost the current UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Bush's final gamble: giving Iraq a dictator?

Andrew Sullivan

The news was buried in a New York Times story last week but it confirmed what others in the Washington chattering classes have been observing lately.

The context is that the White House has been inviting outsiders in to the Oval Office to discuss strategy in Iraq. The new chief of staff Josh Bolten has apparently been trying to pierce the intellectual cocoon in which the president comfortably resides. Bush family consigliere James Baker has already been asked to rescue the president’s failed Iraq policy.

But last week the new nugget: an anonymous “military affairs expert” attended a White House briefing and reported: “Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy. Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect, but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

Indeed. The number of civilian casualties in what can now only be called Iraq’s civil war grows with each month. The thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in the past month dwarfs the civilian losses in Lebanon and Israel. The attempt by Nouri al-Maliki’s government to put down sectarian warfare in Baghdad has failed, requiring more US troops in the capital and thus abandoning the heartland of the insurgency, Anbar, to the enemy. General John Abizaid, head of American forces in the Middle East, told the Senate earlier this month that violence in Iraq is “probably as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular”.

Last Wednesday more grim statistics emerged. The number of roadside bomb attacks are at an all-time high. In July 1,666 “improvised explosive devices” exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January 1,454 bombs exploded or were found. That’s the wrong direction, and it’s after an elected unity government has been installed.

A Pentagon official anonymously told the press last week: “The insurgency has got worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels. The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.”

Remember Dick Cheney’s comments about the insurgency being in its “last throes”? Those words have become as credible as the president’s denial of torture as an interrogation policy authorised by the White House.

There comes a point at which even Bush’s platinum-strength levels of denial have to bow to reality. That point may be now. Why else would he be reading Albert Camus’s existentialist masterpiece, The Stranger, in Texas?

Recently Bush has been wondering why the Shi’ites in southern Iraq have displayed such ingratitude to the man who liberated them from Saddam. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that a populace terrorised by sectarian murder, nonexistent government and near anarchy might feel angry at the man who rid them of dictatorship but then refused to provide a minimal level of security for the aftermath. And so, the frustrated born-again neocon in Bush may be ceding to the caucus of those dubbed the “to-hell-with-them” hawks.

This conservative caucus never liked the neocon argument for removing Saddam. They didn’t like nation building and didn’t believe that Iraqis were capable of democracy. They wanted to remove a WMD threat but, most of all, they wanted to strike terror into the heart of the enemy by showing what US military might could do.

Depose Saddam, remove the weapons, install a client dictator and leave as much rubble behind: that was the game plan. It would deter the Iranians and leave a light military footprint. It had Donald Rumsfeld written all over it and it helps explain a lot about the Bush administration’s dogged refusal to add more troops in the first few months after the invasion.

Rumsfeld and Cheney may well be the key proponents of this argument. It is, of course, stupid. When you are dealing with a generational struggle to defang Islamist extremism, your central weapon is winning over moderate Muslims and Arabs. You do the reverse by bombing a country into chaos and then leaving.

When one of the biggest threats in a terrorised world are failed states in the Middle East, why create another one in Iraq? When western unity and intelligence sharing is essential, why pursue a strategy that is almost guaranteed to divide allies and unite all Muslims under the extremist banner?

What’s done is done, however. But the Bush administration knows that its Iraq debacle is central to its legacy and future. What’s interesting in the latest polls — in the middle of the Israel-Lebanon war and the foiled terror plot that shut Heathrow — is how Iraq is still more important to Americans than the more general issue of terrorism.

Pollster John Zogby opined: “President Bush’s numbers mainly reflect the country’s thinking on the war in Iraq, and most people have made up their minds that the war overall has not been worth the loss of American lives. Terrorism is an important issue to Americans, but when it comes to judging Bush’s presidency, their decision is based largely on Iraq.”

Pessimism about Iraq has deepened on every front since the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Last week’s Pew poll found that 63% believed that the US was “losing ground” in preventing a civil war in Iraq. Among Republicans, the numbers have dropped 16% on this question in the past two months alone. More worryingly, a clear majority now believes that Bush is not a “strong leader” and “not trustworthy”, two key qualities Bush once had commanding support on.

And anti-incumbent feeling is stronger than at any time since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. One poll last week had Bush’s ratings at a new low of 34%. Crunch time approaches.

If the Republicans are to recover by November 2008, let alone November 2006, they have to get Iraq behind them. They have to show progress or provide some credible strategy for victory that is not simply more of the gruelling same. Bush doesn’t have one.

The to-hell-with-them hawks do. And they’re gaining traction. Before too long a compliant US-backed dictator may not seem like such a bad option in Mesopotamia. And I feel Rumsfeld will be telling himself he knew it all along.

Women assaulted, raped by military recruiters

Women assaulted, raped by military recruiters
Aug 20, 2006, 04:26

More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.

A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.

"This should never be allowed to happen," said one 18-year-old victim. "The recruiter had all the power. He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him."

At least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005, according to records obtained by the AP under dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests. That's significantly more than the handful of cases disclosed in the past decade.

The AP also found:

* The Army, which accounts for almost half of the military, has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.
* Across all services, one out of 200 frontline recruiters � the ones who deal directly with young people � was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year.
* Some cases of improper behavior involved romantic relationships, and sometimes those relationships were initiated by the women.
* Most recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian prosecutions are rare.
* The increase in sexual misconduct incidents is consistent with overall recruiter wrongdoing, which has increased from just over 400 cases in 2004 to 630 cases in 2005, according to a General Accounting Office report released this week.

The Pentagon has committed more than $1.5 billion to recruiting efforts this year. Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke insisted that each of the services takes the issue of sexual misconduct by recruiters "very seriously and has processes in place to identify and deal with those members who act inappropriately."

In the Army, 53 recruiters were charged with misconduct last year. Recruiting spokesman S. Douglas Smith said the Army has put much energy into training its staff to avoid these problems.

"To have 53 allegations in a year, while it is 53 more than we would want, is not indicative of the entire command of 8,000 recruiters," he said. "We take this very seriously and we take appropriate action as necessary to discipline these people."


The Associated Press generally does not name victims in sexual assault cases. For this story, the AP interviewed victims in their homes and perpetrators in jail, read police and court accounts of assaults and in one case portions of a victim's journal.

A pattern emerged. The sexual misconduct almost always takes place in recruiting stations, recruiters apartments or government vehicles. The victims are typically between 16 and 18 years old, and they usually are thinking about enlisting. They usually meet the recruiters at their high schools, but sometimes at malls or recruiting offices.

"We had been drinking, yes. And we went to the recruiting station at about midnight," begins one girl's story.

Tall and slim, her long hair sweeping down her back, this 18-year-old from Ukiah, Calif., hides her face in her hands as she describes the night when Marine Corps recruiter Sgt. Brian Fukushima climbed into her sleeping bag on the floor of the station and took off her pants. Two other recruiters were having sex with two of her friends in the same room.

"I don't like to talk about it. I don't like to think about it," she says, her voice muffled and breaking. "He got into my sleeping bag, unbuttoned my pants, and he started, well ..."

Her voice trails off, and she is quiet for a moment. "I had a freak-out session and just passed out. When I woke up I was sick and ashamed. My clothes were all over the floor."

Fukushima was convicted of misconduct in a military court after other young women reported similar assaults. He left the service with a less than honorable discharge last fall.

His military attorney, Capt. James Weirick, said Fukushima is "sorry that he let his family down and the Marine Corps down. It was a lapse in judgment."

Shedrick Hamilton uses the same phrase to describe his own actions that landed him in Oneida Correctional Facility in upstate New York for 15 months for having sex with a 16-year-old high school student he met while working as a Marine Corps recruiter.

Hamilton said the victim had dropped her pants in his office as a prank a few weeks earlier, and that on this day she reached over and caressed his groin while he was driving her to a recruiting event.

"I pulled over and asked her to climb into the back seat," he said. "I should have pushed her away. I was the adult in the situation. I should have put my foot down, called her parents."

As a result, he was convicted of third-degree rape, and left the service with an other-than-honorable discharge. He wipes the collar of his prison jumpsuit across his cheek, smearing tears that won't stop.

"I literally kick myself ... every day. It hurts. It hurts a lot. As much as I pray, as much as I work on it in counseling, I still can't repair the pain that I caused a girl, her family, my family, my kids. It's very hard to deal with," he says, dropping his head. "It's very, very hard to deal with."

In Gainesville, Fla., a 20-year-old woman told this story: Walking into an Army recruiting station last summer, she was greeted by Sgt. George Kirkman, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound soldier. Kirkman is 41.

He was friendly and encouraging, but told her she might be a bit too heavy. He asked if she wanted to go to the gym with him. She agreed, and he drove her to his apartment complex.

There, he walked her to his apartment, pulled out a laptop, and suggested she take a basic recruiting aptitude test. Afterward, Kirkman said he needed to measure her. Twice. He said she had to take her pants off. And he attacked her.

Kirkman, who did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, pleaded no contest to sexual battery in January and is on probation and a registered sexual offender. He's still in the military, working now as a clerk in the Jacksonville, Fla., Army recruiting office.

Not all of the victims are young women. Former Navy recruiter Joseph Sampy, 27, of Jeanerette, La., is serving a 12-year sentence for molesting three male recruits.

"He did something wrong, something terrible to people who were the most vulnerable," State District Judge Lori Landry said before handing down the sentence in July, 2005. "He took advantage of his authority."

One of Sampy's victims is suing him and the Navy for $1.25 million. The trial is scheduled for next spring.


Sometimes these incidents are indisputable, forcible rapes.

"He did whatever he pleased," said one victim who was 17 at the time. "... People in uniform used to make me feel safe. Now they make me feel nervous."

Other sexual misconduct is more nuanced. Recruiters insist the victims were interested in them, and sometimes the victims agree. Sometimes they even dated.

"I was persuaded into doing something that I didn't necessarily want to do, but I did it willingly," said Kelly Chase, now a Marine Corps combat photographer, whose testimony helped convict a recruiter of sexual misconduct last year.

Former Navy recruiter Paul Sistrunk, a plant supervisor in Conehatta, Miss., who had an affair with a potential recruit in 1995, says their relationship was entirely consensual.

She was 18, an adult; he was 26 and married.

"Things happen, you know?" says Sistrunk, who opted for an other-than-honorable discharge rather than face court-martial. "Morally, what I did was wrong, but legally, I don't think so."

A nine-year veteran of the Navy, Sistrunk lost his pension and health benefits. His victim, who discovered during a medical exam at boot camp that she had contracted herpes, unsuccessfully tried to sue the federal government.

"In my case," said Sistrunk, "I was flirted with, and flirting, well, that's something I hadn't seen a lot of until I became a recruiter. I had no power over her. I really didn't."

Kimberly Lonsway, an expert in sexual assault and workplace discrimination in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said "even if there isn't overt violence, the reality is that these recruiters really do hold the keys to the future for these women, and a 17-year-old girl often has a very different understanding of the situation than a 23-year-old recruiter."

"There's a power dynamic here that's obviously very sensitive," agreed Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a group that studies military policy.

"Let's face it, these guys are handsome in their uniform, they're mature, they give a lot of attention to these girls, and as recruiters they do a lot of the same things that guys do when they want to appeal to girls. There's a very fine line there, and it can be very hard to maintain a professional approach."

Weirick, the Marine Corps defense attorney who has represented several recruiters on rape and sexual misconduct charges, said it's a problem that will probably never entirely go away.

"It's difficult because of the nature of nature," he said. "It's hard to put it in another way, you know? It's usually a consensual relationship or dating type of thing."

When asked if victims feel this way, he said, "It's really a victimless crime other than the institution of the Marine Corps. It's institutional integrity we're protecting, by not allowing this to happen."

Anita Sanchez, director of communications at the Miles Foundation, a national advocacy group for victims of violence in the military, bristles at the idea that the enlistees, even if they flirt or ask to date recruiters, are willingly having sex with them.

"You have a recruiter who can enable you to join the service or not join the service. That has life-changing implications for you as a high school student or college student," she said. "If she does not do this her life will be seriously impacted. Instead of getting training and an education, she might end up a dishwasher."

Ethan Walker, who spent eight years in the Marine Corps including a stint as a recruiter from 1998 to 2000, said he was warned.

"They told us at recruiter school that girls, 15, 16, are going to come up to you, they're going to flirt with you, they're going to do everything in their power to get you in bed. But if you do it you're breaking the law," he said.

Even so, he said he was initially taken aback when he set up a table at a high school and had girls telling him he looked sexy and handing him their telephone numbers.

"All that is, you have to remind yourself, is that there's jail bait, a quick way to get in trouble, a quick way to dishonor the service," he said.

All of the recruiters the AP spoke with, including Walker, said they were routinely alone in their offices and cars with girls. Walker said he heard about sleepovers at other recruiting stations, and there was no rule against it. There didn't need to be a rule, he said. The lines were clear: Recruiters do not sleep with enlistees.

"Any recruiter that would try to claim that, 'Oh, it's consensual,' they are lying, they are lying through their teeth," he said. "The recruiter has all the power in these situations."


Although the Uniform Code of Military Justice bars recruiters from having sex with potential recruits, it also states that age 16 is the legal age of consent. This means that if a recruiter is caught having sex with a 16-year-old, and he can prove it was consensual, he will likely only face an administrative reprimand.

But not under new rules set by the Indiana Army National Guard.

There, a much stricter policy, apparently the first of its kind in the country, was instituted last year after seven victims came forward to charge National Guard recruiter Sgt. Eric Vetesy with rape and assault.

"We didn't just sit on our hands and say, 'Well, these things happen, they're wrong, and we'll try to prevent it.' That's a bunch of bull," said Lt. Col. Ivan Denton, commander of the Indiana Guard's recruiting battalion.

Now, the 164 Army National Guard recruiters in Indiana follow a "No One Alone" policy. Male recruiters cannot be alone in offices, cars, or anywhere else with a female enlistee. If they are, they risk immediate disciplinary action. Recruiters also face discipline if they hear of another recruiter's misconduct and don't report it.

At their first meeting, National Guard applicants, their parents and school officials are given wallet-sized "Guard Cards" advising them of the rules. It includes a telephone number to call if they experience anything unsafe or improper.

Denton said the policy does more than protect enlistees.

"It's protecting our recruiters as well," he said.

The result?

"We've had a lot fewer problems," said Denton. "It's almost like we're changing the culture in our recruiting."

IDF plans an assassination-- Israel is committed to blocking arms and killing Nasrallah

Israel is committed to blocking arms and killing Nasrallah
By Steven Erlanger The New York Times

Published: August 20, 2006

JERUSALEM Despite a cease-fire agreement, Israel intends to do its best to keep Iran and Syria from rearming Hezbollah and to kill the militia's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, says a senior Israeli commander.

International commitments to exclude the Hezbollah militia from southern Lebanon and to disarm it already seem hollow, said the commander, who had a well-placed view of the war and its planning and has extensive experience in Lebanon.

The officer would only speak on the condition of anonymity in an interview on Friday. But, speaking one day before commandos carried out a raid that Israeli officials said was to disrupt arms shipments for Hezbollah from Syria and Iran, he was explicit that Israel would continue to seek out and block any such attempts. He also emphasized that, despite criticism from the Israeli public and even troops of the performance of the Army and government, he considered the threat and the fighting ability of Hezbollah to have been severely diminished.

Furthermore, he made it clear that Sheik Nasrallah remained a target as the leader of a group that Israel and the United States have labeled terrorist. "There's only one solution for him," he said. At another point, he said simply, "This man must die."

Mr. Nasrallah is regarded as a hero in much of the Muslim world. The pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, Émile Lahoud, praised him and Hezbollah this week for what he called their victory over Israel.

Israel and the United States, however, view Hezbollah as a tool of non-Arab Iran, which created it, and of Syria, which supports and helps to supply it, rather than being loyal to Lebanon and its multireligious government.

Israel, the officer said, views Hezbollah as "Iran's western front" and, regardless of how poorly the new United Nations forces may perform, he argued, Israel will benefit from new international support for the extension of Lebanese sovereignty to the Israeli border, made most visible in the deployment of the Lebanese Army.

"I don't care about the capability of the Lebanese Army," he said. "What is more important, and here I'm not speaking for the Israeli government, is the understanding that the Lebanese government took control of southern Lebanon. Now we can deal with them as a country and a government, and speak and compromise. This is the huge change this operation created."

Hezbollah, he said, is no longer just Israel's problem, and "the world understands that we are helping to stop the influence of Iran," at least in the longer term.

The army was planning on 15 days of air war before any ground forces were considered, he said. "We didn't want to do any ground assault and thought we could create the conditions for a cease-fire without a major ground assault."

But the army miscalculated, and Hezbollah did not break. The air force failed to kill Sheik Nasrallah or to destroy the Hezbollah leadership. The army was also surprised, he said, by the sheer numbers of the advanced antitank missiles Hezbollah possessed, including Russian Metis-M and Kornet missiles that were sold to Syria and passed on to Hezbollah, he said, and which caused most of Israel's military casualties.

The United Nations was also "too soft and too late" in negotiating a cease-fire, and Israel then felt it had to act to stop the short-range Katyusha rockets that the army and the government knew, he insisted, could not be stopped with air power alone. "We tried to postpone it until we had no other choice," the officer said.

The army asked the government for a five-day ground operation to reach the Litani River and was ready on Monday, Aug. 7, the commander said. "The government asked us to wait because of the negotiations, and we waited Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and most of Friday," he said. Only then, when the negotiations at the United Nations were going against Israel, did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz order the expanded ground operation, which had only been approved by the cabinet on Aug. 9.

In the end, the army had two days of fighting, not five, before the cease-fire took effect last Monday at 8 a.m.

Israelis have been extremely critical of Mr. Olmert, Mr. Peretz and, to some degree, the army leadership. Israelis overwhelmingly supported the decision to go to war against Hezbollah after its cross-border raid on July 12, when it captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight people.

But the war dragged on, the government seemed indecisive and Hezbollah was fighting well. Israelis felt there was too much reliance on air power, the ground war was too long delayed and then too modest, and the cease-fire agreement did not even secure the soldiers' release or guarantee the disarming of Hezbollah.

The lifeline of the three-month-old government appears shortened, and the future of the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, is uncertain.

Still, the Israeli Army feels it fought well within the limits set for it, and the commander insisted that the Israelis won every battle with Hezbollah, despite its good training and equipment and the underground tunnels, barracks and command posts it constructed with Iranian help.

"We believe it was important to stop the war with Hezbollah understanding that we can beat them anywhere, any time, and we did that," he said. "I believe it will change the situation for a long time."

Israelis are spoiled by the 1967 and 1973 wars, he said, but there is no decisive victory against terrorism. In Washington, too, he said, "I believe the military and security professionals understand what we did, and they are not disappointed."

The Israeli Army scored two important achievements, he confirmed. First, good intelligence allowed it to knock out up to 80 percent of Hezbollah's medium- and long-range missile launchers in the first two days of the air war, preventing Sheik Nasrallah from firing a longer-range Iranian Zelzal missile on Tel Aviv.

More important, Israel was able to destroy launchers within 45 seconds to a minute after they were used, which no other army in the world can do with regularity, he said. Employing drones, radar, precision weapons and artillery, Israel could track a launching and bomb it.

But it could not do that with the thousands of short-range Katyusha rockets. They are small and easily portable, can be fired from buildings or simple metal tripods or even fired with a simple timer.

There are other tactical lessons, the commander said: more armor plating underneath tanks, better supplies, more money to be spent on reserves and training.

"But in the long run, if we see Hezbollah rearming itself and running southern Lebanon, I believe the next round is coming."

After all, "this is the Middle East," the officer said. "One war ends, and the next one is already at the door."

In the occupied West Bank on Saturday, Israel arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister, Nasser al-Shaer of Hamas, at his home. Israeli has arrested more than two dozen Hamas cabinet ministers and legislators in the West Bank, including the parliament's speaker, Aziz Dweik, since late June, when Hamas took part in the capture of an Israeli soldier.

Also on Saturday, an Israeli soldier was killed at a checkpoint east of Nablus by an armed Palestinian, who was killed in turn by other soldiers, the Israeli Army said.

IDF DRESSED AS LEBANESE SOLDIERS--Israel raid violates cease-fire, UN says

International Herald Tribune

Israel raid violates cease-fire, UN says
Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, The New York Times

Published: August 20, 2006

BOUDAI, Lebanon Israel's weekend commando raid on a Hezbollah stronghold deep in Lebanon has put the fragile Middle East truce to its biggest test so far, with Lebanon threatening to halt the deployment of its army to the south and the United Nations chief, Kofi Annan, labeling the operation a breach of the cease-fire.

Helicopter-borne Israeli commandos landed near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek on Saturday and engaged in a lengthy firefight. The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, called the incursion a "flagrant violation" of the week- old, UN-brokered cease-fire.

The office of the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, issued a statement late Saturday saying the action violated the hard-won agreement.

"The secretary general is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities," said the statement, issued by a UN spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric.

"All such violations of Security Council Resolution 1701 endanger the fragile calm that was reached after much negotiation."

In Washington, the White House declined to criticize the raid, noting that Israel said it had acted in reaction to arms smuggling into Lebanon and that the UN resolution calls for the prevention of resupplying Hezbollah with weapons.

"The incident underscores the importance of quickly deploying the enhanced Unifil," a White House spokeswoman, Jeanie Mamo, said, referring to a force of 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops called for by the cease-fire agreement to police the truce.

The Israelis said that "the aim of the operation had been to disrupt terrorist activities against Israel and to prevent arms from being transported to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria." Any such resupply effort would itself violate the cease-fire resolution passed last Monday by the UN Security Council.

The raid took place overnight under the cover of sonic booms from Israeli jets flying overhead, which occur often over Lebanon. But this time they provided cover to mask the sound of helicopters bringing in the commando unit and two Humvee vehicles. Villagers said the soldiers were dressed in Lebanese Army uniforms.

The success of the effort was a matter of dispute.

One Israeli special operations officer was killed and two commandos were wounded, one seriously, but an Israeli Army spokesman in Jerusalem said the mission's "objectives had been attained in full."

Villagers said otherwise.

"They failed completely," said Sadiq Hamdi, 36, a scrap-iron dealer. "They were still on the road when the Hezbollah came upon them. They did not take 1 percent of what they were trying to do."

The Israeli Army said it would continue such raids until "proper monitoring bodies are established on the Lebanese borders," another task for the UN forces in Lebanon. On Friday, a top Israeli commander warned that Israel would interdict any resupply efforts and vowed to kill the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Lebanon's defense minister, Elias Murr, said that if Israel carried out any more raids, he would ask the cabinet to halt the Lebanese Army's deployment in the south.

That deployment - now being bolstered by UN peacekeeping forces - is the cornerstone of the cease-fire, and ending it could end the fragile truce between Israel and Hezbollah that has held since Monday.

"We have put the matter forward in a serious manner and the UN delegation was understanding of the seriousness of the situation," Murr said. "We are awaiting an answer."

Suleiman Chamas, 38, the mayor of this village, surrounded by tobacco fields about 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, west of Baalbek, gave the following account: Disguised commandos landed in the eastern foothills of the Mount Lebanon range, loaded into Humvees and drove east on a road called Ayoun Semman, where they encountered a roadblock manned by local Hezbollah fighters.

The commandos shouted in Arabic, "Peace be with you, we're one of yours," and tried to drive past the roadblock without stopping.

The fighters started shooting and gave chase. The commandos turned off onto a dirt road, and a gun battle broke out, drawing more villagers.

"The whole village came down, both those who could shoot and those who cannot," Chamas said.

About 40 minutes later, fighter jets and helicopters fired rockets and evacuated the commandos, leaving two fresh craters in the rich red Bekaa Valley soil.

Left behind were large bloodstains, syringes and surgical masks, indicating casualties, and what the villagers believed was some kind of device to guide the helicopters in. Villagers said there were no casualties on the Lebanese side.

Yahya Ali, 30, wearing a red shirt and carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, was one of a number of villagers who said the Israeli commandos were dressed like Lebanese soldiers.

He said they were wearing the mostly green woodland camouflage uniforms that are standard issue for the Lebanese Army, similar to what was used until recently by the U.S. Army, along with olive-green flak jackets and green helmets, also standard issue here.

Israeli soldiers wear a brownish uniform in a single color along with brown body armor and helmets.

Ali said he could see the uniforms clearly because in the rescue the helicopters and Humvees had bright lights turned on.

The boldness of the raid in the midst of the cease-fire suggested that the Israelis might have had some major objective in mind, perhaps the rescue of their two abducted comrades or the capture of a major Hezbollah figure.

Boudai is the home village of Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah leader in the Bekaa Valley and a member of the group's Shura Council. But the mayor and others say he is rarely here these days.

The village had been the scene Friday of a big funeral for a Hezbollah guerrilla, Mahmoud Ahmed Asef, who was killed fighting in Bint Jbail. Such funerals sometimes draw leaders.

In Israel, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, said, "If the Syrians and the Iranians continue to arm Hezbollah in violation of the resolution, Israel is entitled to act to defend the principle of the arms embargo."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

US names spy operations 'manager' for Cuba, Venezuela

by Maxim KniazkovSat Aug 19, 6:33 AM ET

The United States has named a special "manager" for its intelligence operations against Cuba and Venezuela, in effect putting the two Latin American nations on a par with "axis of evil" states confronted on multiple levels by the administration of President George W. Bush.

North Korea and Iran are the only other countries that have been assigned so-called "mission managers," who supervise intelligence operations against them on what the office of national intelligence director called "a strategic level."

In a statement released Friday, the office of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said the manager would be responsible "for integrating collection and analysis on Cuba and Venezuela across the intelligence community" and "ensuring the implementation of strategies" that have not been disclosed.

"Such efforts are critical today, as policymakers have increasingly focused on the challenges that Cuba and Venezuela pose to American foreign policy," the statement said.

The director's office said the manager would also be asked to ensure "that policymakers have a full range of timely and accurate intelligence on which to base their decisions."

The document did not say what kind of decisions US officials could be making with regard to either of the targeted countries.

For the moment, the task of handling the Havana-Caracas axis fell to 32-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran J. Patrick Maher, whose previous job was deputy director of the CIA's Office of Policy Support.

His biographical sketch supplied in the announcement indicates he was one of the architects of the CIA's current counterterrorism strategy in violence-torn Colombia and managed the agency's operations in the Caribbean basin.

It was not immediately known whether he was directly involved in planning the 1983 US invasion of Grenada in response of a feared Cuban-backed leftist takeover of the island nation.

The statement made it clear, however, that Maher would be only an "acting" manager while search for a permanent candidate for the job was under way.

The decision to name an interim mission manager appeared to betray a sense of urgency in the Bush administration now that Cuba has entered a period of political uncertainty due to an illness of its longtime communist leader, Fidel Castro.

Castro stunned the world on July 31, when he announced he had temporary ceded his presidential powers and the Communist Party leadership to brother Raul Castro, the defense minister, following his gastrointestinal surgery.

Earlier Friday, Raul Castro announced the mobilization of tens of thousands of troops in response to activities by those he called US "war hawks."

The Bush administration has bolstered its propaganda broadcasts to the island in the wake of Castro's illness. Earlier, it announced a plan to spend 80 million dollars in new money to bring about a pro-Western government in Cuba.

On Friday, it rejected the Cuban transition plan, with State Department spokesman Tom Casey insisting that "some kind of dynastic succession on the island are certainly things that are not only not acceptable to us but we think in the long run aren't going to be acceptable to the Cuban people either."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a key ally of Castro and the chief supplier of oil to Cuba, said he believed Maher's appointment was also linked to presidential elections that are scheduled in Venezuela for December and that Chavez is widely expected to win.

"This shows us that the empire does not rest, that it is hatching a plan for December or a period before December," the Venezuelan leader told reporters. "But whatever it is, we will thwart it."

on the lighter side of things.....Man trapped waist-deep in chocolate

Sat Aug 19, 9:36 AM ET

It might sound like a chocoholic's dream, but stepping into a vat of viscous chocolate became a two-hour nightmare for a 21-year-old man Friday morning. Darmin Garcia, an employee of a company that supplies chocolate ingredients, said he was pushing the chocolate down into the vat at Debelis Corp. because it was stuck. But it became loose and he slid into the hopper.

"It was in my hair, in my ears, my mouth, everywhere," said Garcia, who has worked at the company for two years. "I felt like I weighed 900 pounds. I couldn't move."

The chocolate was 110 degrees, hotter than a hot tub, said Capt. Greg Sinnen of the Kenosha Fire Department.

Co-workers, police and firefighters tried to free the man but couldn't get him loose until the chocolate was thinned out with cocoa butter.

"It was pretty thick. It was virtually like quicksand," said police Capt. Randy Berner.

Garcia was treated for minor injuries and released.

After more than two hours in the chocolate, does he still have a taste for it?

"Not so much anymore," Garcia said.

A Shaken Landscape

A Shaken Landscape

With a cease-fire in place between Israel and Hezbollah, it's in neither party's interest to resume the fight. The reasons why amount to a dangerous new reality for Israel.
By Robert Padavick, Hot Zone senior producer, Thu Aug 17, 2:15 PM ET

Editor's Note: To better understand what's next for the Mideast in the aftermath of the recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, Hot Zone Senior Producer Robert Padavick spoke with Yahoo! News consultant Milt Bearden. In a career spanning three decades, Bearden headed the
CIA's Soviet and Eastern Europe Division and served as station chief in places like Pakistan and Sudan. He also ran the CIA's covert war in Afghanistan from 1986-1989.

With a cease-fire taking hold after over a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, parties loyal to both sides are claiming victory. For former senior CIA official Milt Bearden, the winners and losers are clear.

"Where it counts, Hezbollah is clearly the winner," Bearden says. "For Israel ... not winning is losing. And for an irregular force like Hezbollah, not losing is winning."

Now retired, Bearden serves on the board of directors of Conflicts Forum, a U.K.-based nongovernmental organization that works to foster dialogue between Islamist groups and the West. That role has included talks with Hezbollah officials about the group's transition to a more political focus.

Bearden stresses that with fighting over it is in neither Hezbollah's nor Israel's interest to restart it — but for very different reasons. Those differences could partially guide the relative strategies for Israel and Hezbollah as the dust settles in the Middle East.

Hezbollah, Bearden says, now is in prime position for further political gain in Lebanon. The group already has a strong presence in the Lebanese parliament through an alliance with another Shiite group, the Amal Party.

"[Hezbollah] executed their side of the war to the extent that they are national heroes right now," Bearden says. "I think you're going to see that Hezbollah will be a big winner politically."

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is already taking steps to seize the momentum, announcing that Hezbollah will immediately begin repairing homes in southern Lebanon and even pay a year's rent to owners of damaged homes. The move underscores the extent to which Hezbollah is ingrained religiously and culturally in Lebanon, especially in the Shiite-dominated south, where the group runs an array of social services, including hospitals and schools.

Bearden says it's also possible that Hezbollah, even after sustaining a fierce Israeli barrage, actually could emerge with an expanded military presence in Lebanon — albeit in a different form.

"It seems to me that what we'd better be on the lookout for is the absorption by the Lebanese army of the military wing of Hezbollah," he says.

After a couple false starts the Lebanese cabinet approved a plan Wednesday to deploy 15,000 Lebanese troops in the south to bolster a United Nations force. Those troops began deploying Thursday. But neither Lebanon nor the U.N. seem to be concretely addressing the issue of disarming Hezbollah, even though a previous U.N. resolution calls for it. Bearden says it's a fallacy to consider that a possibility.

"The very concept of destroying Hezbollah or dismantling it is based on a faulty belief that it is somehow external to the fiber of Lebanon. It is not," he says. "There's nobody tough enough to disarm Hezbollah, or willing to do it if they are tough enough."

The scenario of a politically empowered Hezbollah, with militia remnants integrated in the Lebanese army, would present a dangerous new reality for Israel, which Bearden says is not in a position to restart hostilities against a foe that proved able to withstand its superior military might.

Hezbollah's stand against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), long regarded as a military superpower in the region, amounts to what Bearden calls the "demystification of the IDF." The implications for Israel are serious, in that Hezbollah's success could embolden other groups in the region, particularly the Palestinians, to overcome internal differences and unite against Israel.

"Israeli rule has just taken a huge hit," Bearden says. "I would imagine right now we're going to see serious discussions among Palestinians who say, 'Why not us?'."

Israel, it seems, has few options at the moment. However, there are reports in the Israeli press that Defense Minister Amir Peretz this week hinted at one of them: renewed dialogue with Lebanon, the Palestinians, and even Syria.

Bearden, a staunch advocate for dialogue, even sees the possibility for Israeli dialogue with Iran — although the country is a prime backer of Hezbollah and its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel.

Still, those on the more "realist side" in Israeli politics, Bearden says, "are going to start saying, 'We need to talk with Iran; we need to talk with Syria.' But also, I can guarantee you, sooner or later they're going to want to talk with Hezbollah and Hamas." Hamas has already proven its political prowess, winning the Palestinian Authority general election in January.

The extent to which the landscape in the Middle East has been shaken is just beginning to emerge. But Israel's fight against Hezbollah, the intent of which was greater security, may have left the country even more on the defensive.

Friday Wingnut Roundup (Saturday Edition)

Friday Wingnut Roundup (Saturday Edition)


Gee, do you suppose the wingnuts have anything to say about Judge Diggs Taylor's ruling on the Dear Leader's Terrorist Surveillance Program™? You know, the program that had absolutely nothing to do with the capture of the British terrorists? Count on it (bonus - which one is a quote?):

Ace of Spades - it's all Jimmy Carter's fault.
Ann Althouse - my goodness Judge Taylor was mean to poor President Bush! Do you think the judge is dumb?
Atlas Shrugs - there's a wiretap case? Who knew? I'm busy planning jihad against the U.N. and Kofi Enema and ... GAAAAHHHH!!!
Blue Crab Boulevard
- I don't know enough to comment on Judge Taylor's decision, so I'll link to other blogs that have reached my predetermined conclusion that it's bad.
Captain's Quarters - Judge Taylor's decision is bad for Bush, so he'd better come up with evidence of another terror plot pretty quick.
Confederate Yankee - Judge Taylor is a Detroit liberal, so what did you expect? Duh!
Debbie Schlussel - it's all the ACLU's fault - well, them and their raft of Islamist, America-hating plaintiffs.
Flopping Aces - liberals made sure Judge Taylor got the wiretap case even though federal cases are assigned using a blind draw.
Free Republic - we're all gonna die!!!
GOP Bloggers - how dare Judge Taylor actually decide the wiretap case - it's not like she's a judge or anything!
Hot Air (Allahpundit) - I don't know enough to comment on Judge Taylor's decision, so I'll link to other blogs that have reached my predetermined conclusion that it's bad. YAHTZEE!
Hugh Hewitt - I still blame the fucking New York Times for this whole thing.
Instapundit - do you think that, just maybe, this could be good for the administration? Oh please oh please oh please ...
Jawa Report - you have a consitutionally-protected right to chat with Ayman al Zawahiri about the weather in Waziristan but so what - we're all gonna die!
JunkyardBlog - many of these plaintiffs who don’t deal with al Qaeda actually lack standing to bring this suit because there is no way they could have suffered any damage if they weren’t talking to someone affiliated with al Qaeda.
Little Green Footballs - we blame Muslims for this decision ... of course, we blame Muslims for everything.
Macsmind - of course al Qaeda had no idea we were trying to listen to their phone calls! Retard!
NRO - (J-Pod) - as usual I have nothing useful to add, so let me take this opportunity to attack Andrew Sullivan for going a tiny bit off-message.
NRO (K-Lo) - as usual I have nothing useful to add, so I'll just link to this DOJ statement that uses the words "Terrorist Surveillance Program" a lot.
Patterico's Pontifications - I told you this would happen ... fucking Carter-appointed moonbat lefty rule-bending idealogue judge. Geeze - I am so smart for predicting this!
Powerline - Hugh Hewitt says that any vote for any Democrat is a vote against victory and a vote for vulnerability - who am I to argue?
Protein Wisdom - even though I didn't read Greenwald's post about the decision, I hereby pronounce it really really stupid.
Real Clear Politics - Mort Kondracke says liberals think a journalist's right to talk to a terrorist trumps Bush's right to listen to terrorist phone calls - who are we to argue?
Red State - we're all gonna die!!!
Sister Toldjah - it is a tale told by an idiot left-leaning Bush-hating Democrat-loving liberal moonbat America-hating judge. Oh yeah, and it signifies nothing! Nyah!
Wizbang! - this is terrible, because the Terrorist Surveillance Program™ was instrumental in capturing those British terrorists and ... what? It wasn't? Oh.

hat tips: Liberal Catnip for some of the links; Comandante Agi - graphic.

Personal data thefts continue unabated.

Aug, 19/20, 2006 -- Personal data thefts continue unabated. The most recent thefts of personal data have been from the medical community. A regional office of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the firm in which Tennessee GOP Senator Bill First has a major financial interest, has reported the theft of 10 computers containing "thousands of files" on Medicare and Medicaid patients and their doctors. The time frame of the data is 1996 to 2006 and the files contain Social Security Numbers and dates of birth on individuals in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The California Department of Mental Health reports the theft of a computer tape containing the Social Security Numbers and dates of birth of 9,468 employees.

Additional clues point to U.S. attack on Iran.

Aug. 19/20, 2006 -- Additional clues point to U.S. attack on Iran. State Department sources report that State's Iran Desk Officer Henry Wooster has suddenly been transferred to another position. Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney's office is assembling a group of neo-cons from the Pentagon, State Department, and the National Security Council to cook up intelligence and talking points that will show Iran to be an imminent nuclear threat.

ABC featured only conservatives defending "necessity" of warrantless surveillance program

Summary: An ABC World News report on a federal district judge's ruling that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program is unconstitutional featured only Bush administration officials and a senior research fellow from the conservative Heritage Foundation defending the "necessity" of the program. The report did not note that the program's effectiveness has been called into question.

An August 17 ABC World News with Charles Gibson report on District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's ruling that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program is unconstitutional featured only Bush administration officials and a senior research fellow from the conservative Heritage Foundation defending the "necessity" of the program. While ABC did excerpt Taylor's ruling and air footage of author and journalist James Bamford, a plaintiff in the case, challenging the program's legality, they offered no challenge to the program's effectiveness, which has been called into question.

As Media Matters for America has noted, a January 17 New York Times article cited "current and former officials" in reporting that "virtually all" of the leads generated by the program "led to dead ends or innocent Americans." Rather than noting this, however, ABC aired footage of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez defending the "importance" of the "necessary" and "essential" program, and reported that "many national security experts ... agree that the program is essential" -- airing a clip of Heritage Foundation senior research fellow James Carafano saying: "You cannot argue that programs like this don't help."

From the August 17 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

CHARLES GIBSON (anchor): The Bush administration suffered a major legal defeat today. A federal judge declared its surveillance program of overseas phone calls from this country conducted without warrants to be unconstitutional. The president has called the program a crucial tool in the war on terror. We turn to ABC's chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz.

RADDATZ: The wiretap ruling came with stinging criticism from U.S. District Court Judge Anne Diggs Taylor. "It was never the intent of the Framers to give the president such unfettered control," said the judge, "particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights." Judge Taylor said the administration's failure to obtain warrants for the eavesdropping program violated both the right to privacy and free speech.

BAMFORD: What it says is the president of the United States isn't a king. He's just like every other citizen when it comes to a law.

RADDATZ: The White House response to the ruling: "We couldn't disagree more." And the Justice Department immediately appealed the decision.

GONZALES: And we have confidence in the lawfulness of this program. And that's -- and that's why the appeal has been lodged. This is an important program.

RADDATZ: This is a significant blow to the Bush administration, which has strongly defended the legality and the necessity of the program since its disclosure last December.

BUSH: I believe what I'm doing is constitutional, and I know it's necessary.

CHENEY: I can tell you the terrorist surveillance program has been absolutely essential.

RADDATZ: And there are many national security experts who agree that the program is essential.

CARAFANO: We just saw a plot broken up. People planned to kill thousands of people. You cannot argue that there's not a serious problem out there. You cannot argue that programs like this don't help.

RADDATZ: Despite the ruling, the spying program will continue, Charlie, until the appeal has been heard. But that could take some time.

Israeli raid in Lebanon tests truce

Israeli raid in Lebanon tests truce
Sat Aug 19, 2006 11:49 AM ET

By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Helicopter-borne Israeli commandos raided a Hizbollah bastion on Saturday in what Lebanon called a "naked violation" of the U.N.-backed truce that halted Israel's 34-day war with the Shi'ite Muslim group.

Israel said the operation in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley aimed to disrupt weapons supplies to Hizbollah from Syria and Iran. Both countries deny arming the group.

Lebanon's defense minister urged the United Nations to give "clear answers" in response to the raid and warned that if it failed to do so, he might seek to halt the deployment of Lebanese troops to the south of the country.

Lebanese security sources said three Hizbollah guerrillas were killed in a firefight with the Israelis, although Hizbollah said none of its fighters were killed or hurt.

Israel said it had suffered one dead and two wounded.

"It is a naked violation of the cessation of hostilities declared by the Security Council," Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told reporters, referring to an August 11 resolution. He said he had protested to visiting U.N. envoys.

The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon UNIFIL said it could not comment on the incident because its 2,000-force was based in the south of the country rather than the Bekaa Valley.

However, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias al-Murr said that was not good enough.

"If I don't receive clear answers today at 5:30 pm (1430 GMT) from the United Nations, I may have to ask the cabinet at the beginning of next week to halt the army deployment in the south," he told reporters before meeting the visiting envoys.

The Lebanese security sources said Israeli helicopters unloaded two vehicles carrying commandos who headed toward an office of a Hizbollah leader, Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek, in the village of Bodai. They were intercepted and withdrew under cover of air strikes, they said.

Israel's army said: "Special forces carried out an operation to disrupt terror actions against Israel with an emphasis on the transfer of munitions from Syria and Iran to Hizbollah."

Bodai is 15 km (9 miles) northwest of the ancient city of Baalbek and 26 km (16 miles) from the Syrian border.

The raid coincided with a Lebanese army drive to tighten its grip on the border with Syria. Thousands of troops deployed to block smuggling routes on Saturday, security sources said.

Nevertheless, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said continued Hizbollah arms shipments and the absence of Lebanese and international troops on the border had made the raid necessary.

"Israel reserves the right to act in order to enforce the spirit of the (U.N.) resolution," said spokesman Mark Regev. Other Israeli government officials described it as "a defensive operation" which did not breach the ceasefire.

Resolution 1701 ordered Israel to end "all offensive military actions" and Hizbollah to end all attacks. It also called for an embargo on unauthorized arms supplies to Lebanon.


At least 1,183 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed in the war. Israel said it had killed more than 530 Hizbollah fighters -- at least five times more than the group has acknowledged. Hizbollah buried 54 guerrillas across Lebanon on Saturday, the largest total on a single day.

The U.N. resolution also called for a strengthened U.N. force to support a Lebanese army deployment in the south.

Fifty French military engineers disembarked at UNIFIL's base in Naqoura in the south, the first reinforcements since the war.

The engineers were among 200 pledged by France, which has disappointed U.N. and U.S. hopes that it would form the backbone of the expanded force to supervise the truce, support the Lebanese army and monitor the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Bush said the U.N. force would help the Beirut government restore sovereignty and "stop Hizbollah from acting as a state within a state."

The United Nations wants to field an advance force of 3,500 troops by September 2 and the entire complement of 13,000 extra troops by November 4, as authorized by the U.N. resolution.

The Lebanese army began deploying in the south on Thursday. Hizbollah fighters have lain low, without relinquishing their weapons, including the rockets they rained on Israel in the war.

The conflict began after Hizbollah snatched two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, saying it wanted to trade them for Lebanese and Arab prisoners held in Israel.

The Jewish state is also trying to free another soldier captured in the Gaza Strip on June 25.

Israel seized Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer, a top official of the Hamas militant group, at his home in the occupied West Bank on Saturday.

Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli soldier near the West Bank city of Nablus and was then shot dead by troops, the army and medics said.

(Additional reporting by Jerusalem, Paris and U.N. bureaux)


It's a uExpress postcard!
From: Charles Everett
Subject: UComics Postcard
Message: Hezbollah to rebuild New Orleans? That would be cool!
Ted Rall
Why America Needs Hezbollah

NEW YORK--Surrender, already. For America's sake, let the terrorists win!

Hours after a ceasefire halted a five-week war between Israel and Iranian-backed Islamic militias in Lebanon, reported the New York Times, "hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a ceasefire began, fully passable." Who cares if Hezbollah is a State Department-designated terrorist organization? Unlike our worthless government, it gets things done!

The citizens of New Orleans desperately need Hezbollah's can-do terrorist spirit. Outside the French Quarter tourist zone, writes Jed Horne in The New Republic, what was until 2005 our nation's most charming city and cultural center remains "a disaster zone, an area five times the size of Manhattan."

One year after the routine matter of a Gulf Coast hurricane, half the city's population remains refugees--screwed over by a government that hasn't lifted a finger to pretend that it cares. Horne describes "Vast swaths of a city emptied as if by a neutron bomb, with only the fecal brown floodline up under the eaves to suggest what went so very wrong--that, and the ghostly dried brine still coating the dead lawns and landscaping."

New Orleans is a dead city. Incredibly, the politicians don't give a damn. "Now most of the water has gone," the British Daily Mirror newspaper informed readers on the storm's anniversary, "but little else has changed. Driving through the streets, it is shocking to see how much devastation remains and how little rebuilding has taken place."

Americans watched incredulously as their government responded to the desperate pleas of sick and starving Katrina victims by herding them into internment camps, and then issued them $2000 debit cards--an insulting pittance--to compensate them for losing everything they owned. Anyone could see that the federal government had failed its obligation to protect its citizens. Not only had officials refused to shore up crumbling levies, they didn't even try to send in relief after the long-predicted flood. The United States of America, however, is led by men who see things very differently from, well, everyone else. They actually think that Hurricane Katrina victims received too much.

"If you put $2,000 in someone's hands, that's a lot of money," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison explained during a July 23 announcement. Due to Bush Administration budget cuts, the victims of future disasters will have to make do with a mere $500.

You know the U.S. has gone Third World when bombed-out Lebanese get a better deal than we do. Remember how hurricane victims couldn't get through to FEMA's perpetually busy hotline? Promising that Hezbollah personnel "in the towns and villages will turn to those whose homes are badly damaged and help rebuild them," Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah ordered Hezbollah militants to canvass damaged neighborhoods and begin repairs at once. Hezbollah gives out "decent and suitable furniture" and a year's free rent to all Lebanese who lost their homes. Unlike the racist government officials who managed the botched response along the Gulf Coast last year, where whites were rescued while blacks were shot, the Shiite terrorist group's offer also applies to Sunnis, Christians and even Jews.

"Hezbollah's reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network," reported the Times, "was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage. Hezbollah men also traveled door to door checking on residents and asking them what help they needed." With terrorists like that, who needs FEMA?

A year after Katrina, officials are still pulling bodies out of the rubble. Dozens of corpses remain unidentified; the president, governor and mayor continue to pass the blame for their willful inaction. George W. Bush still refuses to accept responsibility. Just one day after the Lebanese ceasefire, however, Sheikh Nasrallah had already delivered a thorough accounting of the damage caused by Israel's bombing campaign and launched a comprehensive rebuilding program. "So far," said the Hezbollah leader, "the initial count available to us on completely demolished houses exceeds 15,000 residential units. We cannot of course wait for the government and its heavy vehicles and machinery because they could be a while."

As often occurs during emergencies in the U.S., price gouging for housing, water, gasoline and other essentials was rampant during and after Katrina. Bush did nothing. Nasrallah, by contrast, warned businesses not to exploit the situation: "No one should raise prices due to a surge in demand."

Never argue with a man who buys AK-47s by the boxcar.

"Hezbollah's strength," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University in Beirut and an expert on the organization, in large part derives from "the gross vacuum left by the state."

Sound familiar? It does to the people of Ladysmith, Wisconsin. The rural town, destroyed by a tornado in 2002, has been abandoned by the government to whom its people paid taxes all their lives.

Maybe we can commission Hezbollah to rebuild the World Trade Center.

(Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)


Capitol Hill Blue: Israelis raid Lebanon in cease-fire violation

Capitol Hill Blue

Israelis raid Lebanon in cease-fire violation
Aug 19, 2006, 06:09

Hezbollah fighters battled Israeli commandos who landed near the militants' stronghold deep inside Lebanon early Saturday, killing one soldier, in the first large-scale violation of the U.N.-brokered cease-fire between the sides.

Hezbollah said its guerrillas foiled the raid after a gunbattle, and the Israeli army said one soldier was killed and two were wounded, one seriously.

Witnesses said Israeli missiles destroyed a bridge during the raid — the first major violation of the U.N.-imposed cease-fire that took effect Monday following 34 days of fighting.

The Israeli army said the special forces operation aimed "to prevent and interfere with terror activity against Israel, especially the smuggling of arms from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah." It said the commando team completed its mission.

The army said such operations would be carried out until "an effective monitoring unit" of Lebanese or multinational troops was in place.

"If the Syrians and Iran continue to arm Hezbollah in violation of the (U.N. cease-fire) resolution, Israel is entitled to act to defend the principle of the arms embargo," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

Hezbollah TV and Lebanese security officials said Israeli helicopters dropped off a commando team outside the village of Boudai west of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release information to the media, said the Israelis apparently were seeking a guerrilla target in a nearby school but had no other details. The officials also reported heavy overflights of Israeli jets.

Lebanon's foreign minister said he immediately informed a visiting U.N. delegation of Israel's violation.

Such a bold operation risked scuttling the fragile cease-fire and suggested Israel was going after a major target near Baalbek — perhaps to rescue two Israeli soldiers snatched by Hezbollah on July 12, or to try to capture a senior guerrilla official to trade for the soldiers.

Hezbollah has said it wants to exchange the two soldiers for Arab prisoners, but the U.N. cease-fire resolution demands Hezbollah unconditionally release the soldiers.

Local media said Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah official in the Bekaa and a member of the Shura council of the group, may have been the target. Yazbeck is a native of Boudai.

Israeli troops have killed several guerrillas who Israel said threatened its troops in south Lebanon since the cease-fire, and warplanes have flown over the country. But the cease-fire allows military action in self-defense, and the commando raid was by far the most serious incident since Monday.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Lebanese authorities found blood at the scene of the raid, indicating Israeli casualties. Salloukh, speaking to reporters after meeting with U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in Beirut, said he informed the U.N. team of the Israeli action in Baalbek and said the U.N. team would raise the issue with Israeli authorities.

"If Israel continues its violations, it is the responsibility of the (U.N.) Security Council to take action and ask Israel to stop these violations," he said.

A provincial government official, Bekaa Valley Gov. Antoine Suleiman, confirmed the Israeli troop landing. He told the privately owned Voice of Lebanon radio station that the landing party brought with it two vehicles that were later withdrawn after clashes.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said the Israeli commando force landed before dawn and was driving into Boudai when it was intercepted by guerrillas who forced it to retreat under the cover of warplanes, which staged mock raids.

Hezbollah officials on the scene said overflights from Israeli jet fighters drowned the clatter of helicopters as they flew into the foothills of the central Lebanese mountains, dropping commandos and two vehicles they used to drive into the village when the Hezbollah fighters intercepted them in a field.

The commandos identified themselves as the Lebanese army, but the guerrillas grew suspicious and gunfire erupted, the officials said.

Israeli helicopters fired missiles as the commandos withdrew and flew out of the area an hour later, they said.

Witnesses saw bandages and syringes at the site. The also saw a destroyed bridge about 500 yards from the area where the landing took place, after missiles were fired by Israeli aircraft.

Overflights were reported Friday night in the same area.

Israel said late Friday its warplanes have not attacked Lebanon since the cease-fire took effect.

Baalbek is the birthplace of the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah. The area in the eastern Bekaa Valley, 60 miles north of the Israeli border, is a major guerrilla stronghold.

The U.N. Security Council cease-fire resolution calls for an immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.

In letters to Lebanese and Israeli leaders, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned the two countries against occupying additional territory and told them to refrain from responding to any attacks "except where clearly required in immediate self-defense."

Annan also told Israel and Lebanon that once the cessation of hostilities took effect there must be no firing from the ground, sea or air into the other side's territory or at its forces.

NY Times , CNN, Fox News uncritically reported GOP suggestion that unwarranted surveillance helped foil U.K. terror p

NY Times, CNN, Fox News uncritically reported GOP suggestion that unwarranted surveillance helped foil U.K. terror plot

In an August 18 article on a federal judge's ruling striking down as unconstitutional the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, New York Times reporters Adam Liptak and Eric Lichtblau uncritically quoted House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) claim that the program "saved the day by foiling the London terror plot." Liptak and Lichtblau reported that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has not said "whether the program played any role in foiling" the British terror plot, but then reported Hastert's assertion. The report went on to note that Hastert's office "declined to elaborate" on the claim, but, as Media Matters for America has noted, media reports cast considerable doubt on his assertion that intelligence gathered through the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and legal residents helped thwart the attack. Indeed, Lichtblau himself reported on August 15 that U.S. law-enforcement agencies found "no links" and "no direct connection" between the London plotters and anyone within the United States. In their reports on the news, CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena and Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier similarly linked the warrantless domestic surveillance program to the recently foiled plot.

On August 17, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the U.S. District Court in Detroit rejected the Bush administration's legal defense of the program -- which since 2001 has authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on the international communications of U.S. persons without court orders required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). Taylor ruled that the program violates FISA, as well as the First and Fourth Amendments, and ordered that the program be halted.

In their August 18 article on the ruling, Liptak and Lichtblau reported:

Mr. Gonzales would not say whether the program played any role in foiling a plot last week to set off bombs in airliners bound for the United States from Britain. But Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, suggested that it did play a role in the investigation.

In a written statement criticizing Judge Taylor's ruling, Mr. Hastert defended the wiretapping operation and said that "our terrorist surveillance programs are critical to fighting the war on terror and saved the day by foiling the London terror plot."

His office declined to elaborate.

But Liptak and Lichtblau failed to note that the Bush administration and various news outlets -- including the Times -- have asserted that there is no evidence of any U.S. connection to the London plotters -- a fact that would seem to undermine Hastert's claim that the domestic surveillance program "saved the day." For instance, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated in an August 11 press conference that "we do not have evidence ... that the plotting [for the attack] was done in the United States." He later added that "we did not see any U.S. internal activity in this plot." Washington Post staff writers Dan Eggen and Spencer S. Hsu reported on August 13 that U.S. law enforcement agencies found "no links" between the plotters and anyone inside the United States. And Lichtblau himself reported in an August 15 article that, according to law enforcement officials, "no links to any Americans have surfaced."

Furthermore, while it has been confirmed that U.S. authorities, once alerted to the London plot, conducted extensive surveillance of suspects within the United States, news reports indicate that the eavesdropping occurred in accordance with FISA, as Media Matters for America noted. Indeed, Lichtblau reported on August 15 that "the Justice Department sought double or triple the usual rate of court-approved wiretaps to monitor the communications of American suspects" in the plot (while, again, Lichtblau reported that U.S. officials found no direct connection to anyone in this country). Eggen and Hsu, in their August 13 article, reported that hundreds of law enforcement officials undertook "dozens of clandestine surveillance and search operations on individuals with possible links to the London plotters," including "people who had been called or e-mailed by suspects or their relatives and acquaintances." But Eggen and Hsu further noted that this surveillance "produced a noticeable surge in applications for clandestine warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."

Despite the above evidence that the warrantless domestic surveillance program had little -- if anything -- to do with uncovering the London terror plot, CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena uncritically reported on the August 17 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight an argument attributed to unnamed "[g]overnment officials" that the incident is "a primary example of why the U.S. government sometimes needs to listen in on international communications without a warrant." Similarly, Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier noted on the August 17 edition of Special Report that Taylor's ruling "comes one week to the day after the British terror plot to blow up jetliners was thwarted." He then reported that Gonzales "called the terrorist surveillance program a critical tool to stop more terrorist plots."

From the August 17 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

ARENA: Government officials point to the alleged plot to blow up jetliners over the Atlantic as a primary example of why the U.S. government sometimes needs to listen in on international communications without a warrant. But a federal judge in Detroit says the National Security Agency's controversial wiretapping program violates free speech and privacy rights.

From the August 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: The ruling comes one week to the day after the British terror plot to blow up jetliners was thwarted. In a late-afternoon news conference, the attorney general called the terrorist surveillance program a critical tool to stop more terrorist plots.

GONZALES: I believe very strongly that the president does have the authority to authorize this kind of conduct and particularly in a time of war.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Raw Story | Intelligence officials doubt Iran uranium claims, say Cheney receiving suspect briefings

The Raw Story

Larisa Alexandrovna
Published:Friday August 18, 2006

The Bush administration continues to bypass standard intelligence channels and use what some believe to be propaganda tactics to create a compelling case for war with Iran, US foreign policy experts and former US intelligence officials tell

One former senior intelligence official is particularly concerned by private briefings that Vice President Dick Cheney is getting from former Office of Special Plans (OSP) Director, Abram Shulsky.

"Vice President Cheney is relying on personal briefings from Shulsky for current intelligence on Iran," said this intelligence official.

Shulsky, a leading Neoconservative and member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), headed the shadowy and secretive Department of Defense's OSP in the lead-up to the Iraq war -- helping to locate intelligence that would support the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq.

In an earlier report by Raw Story on an OSP spin-off dubbed the Iranian Directorate (ID), Lt. Col. Barry E. Venable -- a spokesman for the Pentagon -- confirmed that Shulsky was consulting for this new initiative as well.

"Mr. Shulsky continues in his position as Senior Advisor to the USD, focusing on Mid-East regional issues and the [global war on terror]," stated Venable.

Several foreign policy experts, who wish to remain anonymous, have expressed serious concern that much like the OSP, the ID is manipulating, cherry picking, and perhaps even -- as some suspect -- cooking intelligence to lead the U.S. into another conflict, this time with Iran.

"Cheney distrusts the information being disseminated by CIA on Iran," said one former senior intelligence official. "The reports assembled by the Iranian Directorate at the Pentagon differ significantly from the analysis produced by the Intelligence Community. The Pentagon Iranian Directorate relies on thin and unsupported reporting from foreign sources."

In the build-up to the Iraq war, Cheney relied on intelligence almost exclusively from the OSP, which leveled allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This was later debunked, but no OSP or DOD officials were held accountable for what many believe was a "deliberate effort" to mislead the nation into war.

New Uranium Allegations:

Adding to the similarities between the pre-war build up to Iraq, new allegations of Uranium transactions began aggressively circulating earlier this month. For example, in an August 6th Sunday Times of London article entitled "Iran's plot to mine uranium in Africa," Iran is alleged to have purchased Uranium from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was 'no doubt' that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo.
"Tanzanian customs officials told The Sunday Times it was destined for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and was stopped on October 22 last year during a routine check."

The UN report, however, does not mention Iran. It is only the Tanzanian official who does.

The article also quotes the Tanzanian official on his description of the uranium amounts found in each container and how it was located.

"This one was very radioactive. When we opened the container it was full of drums of coltan. Each drum contains about 50kg of ore. When the first and second rows were removed, the ones after that were found to be drums of uranium."

Experts familiar with both African mining and atomic energy have expressed serious concern about these allegations, which have been circulating for some time.

According to a source close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the story is "highly unlikely" and "not well researched."

This source, who wished to remain anonymous given the nature of the subject, explained that the main concern in the Congolese mines is environmental waste and how it affects workers and villages near the areas where the mining is done.

A former senior US official with experience in the region also finds the story improbable, in this case regarding the Tanzanian interception of a Congo- to- Iran based shipment and the amount transferred.

"My understanding is that the Congolese mines were closed years ago and that any mining now is purely artisanal," said this official.

"[It] would take a lot of labor to produce the volume of uranium they are talking about. The reduction ratio of rock to ore is roughly one hundred to one in the Niger mines. I can't imagine the vein is any richer in the Congo."

Still other experts took issue with the description of the uranium and its suggested purpose, including the sentiment that u-238 is "highly radioactive."

Steven Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), an organization that was formed in 1945 by atomic scientists from the Manhattan Project, is doubtful. "U-238 is one of the isotopic forms of uranium. Another isotopic form, [for example], U-235, is used in fission bombs," explained Aftergood.

"U-238 is not highly radioactive. On the contrary, it decays very slowly. It has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. That means that a given quantity of u-238 would radioactively decay by 50% in 4.5 billion years. So you could hold it in your hand without any adverse effect. On the other hand, it is a toxic metal, and you wouldn't want to inhale or ingest uranium dust if you could avoid it."

But the stories of Iran attempting to purchase uranium from abroad leave many experts highly concerned.

One official close to the United Nations Security Council explained that Iran has its own mines, making any allegations of imported uranium from abroad highly questionable.

"Why would Iran import U-238 when it mines it itself?" The official asked Raw. "This makes no sense whatsoever."

Several sources suggested that the Iranian Directorate, as did its predecessor -- the OSP, may be cherry picking, manipulating, and even planting intelligence abroad that would support a case against Iran in the minds of the public.

Expressing great frustration, one former high ranking intelligence officer said "it is all the Neocons." Asked about the allegations of the uranium transaction from Congo-to-Iran, this source remarked: "Total bullshit."

Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman Jay Rockefeller, would not confirm or deny that the committee had received any information regarding the Iran uranium purchase. "We can't comment on what briefings the committee has received," Morigi stated in an email response.

Morigi did, however, explain that as with any sensitive information, "Generally speaking, it's safe to assume that the committee closely follows everything related to Iran's nuclear program."


Related Raw Story articles:

US military, intelligence officials raise concern about possible preparations for Iran strike

Spurious attempt to tie Iran, Iraq to nuclear arms plot bypassed U.S. intelligence channels

Cheney has tapped Iranian expatriate, arms dealer to surveil discussions with Iran, officials say

Larisa Alexandrovna is managing investigative news editor for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories.