How the US Stumbled into the Drone Era [WSJ] As ubiquitous as Predators, Reapers, Global Hawks and their ilk may now seem, the U.S. actually stumbled into the drone era. Washington got into the business of using drones for counterterrorism well before 9/11—not out of any steely strategic design or master plan but out of bureaucratic frustration, bickering and a series of only half-intentional decisions.
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
"Women get flustered under fire. They're too fragile, too emotional. They lack the ferocity required to take a life. They can't handle pain. They're a distraction, a threat to cohesion, a provocative tease to close-quartered men. These are the sort of myths you hear from people who oppose the U.S. military's evolving new rules about women in combat. But for women who have already been in combat, who have earned medals fighting alongside men, the war stories they tell don't sound a thing like myths" [more inside]
"The Ideology of Hatred": An interview with Niza Yanay - "Once we understand how hatred operates as an apparatus of power relations, and particularly how the discourse of hatred is motivated and mobilised in national conflicts, serious questions about misrecognition, veiled desires and symptomatic expressions arise. These questions have, to a large extent, been left unaddressed in studies of hatred between groups in conflict." [more inside]
'While they never met, they had some things in common. Both were Army captains, engaged in important work for the nation, their costly educations paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Ian Morrison, 26, returned to Fort Hood, Texas, last December after nine months flying 70 combat missions over Iraq. Dr. Michael McCaddon, 37, was an ob-gyn resident at Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center. The pilot and the doctor shared one other thing: they found themselves in a darkening, soul-sucking funnel that has trapped some 2,500 military personnel since 9/11. Like them, each died, at his own hand, on March 21, nearly 4,000 miles apart.' [more inside]
100 Firefights, Three Weeks: Inside Afghanistan's Most Insane Fight
"In its first three weeks in Afghanistan’s Sangin district, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines got into more than 100 firefights and sustained 62 casualties. The insurgents managed to negate the Marines’ night-vision gear, and rendered their traditional close-combat tactics useless. Things got so bad, the 3/5’s superior officers even suggested pulling their troops back. That didn’t happen. Instead, the 3/5 went after the militants, hard. When the 3/5 came home, they told counterinsurgency historian Mark Moyar all about their deeply unconventional approach to what was already an unconventional war."This is an excerpt in Wired of Moyar’s 74-page after action report. (pdf) [more inside]
The U.S.'s military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly staffed by Third Country Nationals (TCN), who are often victims of human trafficking. [more inside]
While not being an outright example of a clash of civilizations in the Huntingtonian sense, elements of cultural misunderstanding and fears about the system-challenging tendencies of Iran do aﬀect Western perceptions and inﬂuence Western behavior toward Iran. Furthermore, these kinds of reciprocal identity-based fears and projections of the other side’s presumed malevolent intentions tend to be mutually reinforcing. The risk is that they eventually become self-fulﬁlling prophecies.Iran and the West - Regional Interests and Global Controversies [PDF]. [more inside]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldiers involved in the "Collateral Murder" video have come forward to tell their story. [more inside]
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
Don't Bomb Us. In response to credible reports that Bush wanted to bomb al-Jazeera's HQ in allied Qatar (discussed here and here on MeFi), Al Jazeera staffers start their own English-language blog. Their site contains remembrances of their fallen colleagues, firsthand accounts of US attacks on their offices, links to relevant reports on the controversy, Flickr photosets of protests calling for an official investigation, and al Jazeera's code of ethics. Also, a quick note to Tony Blair: " P.S. Thanks for talking Mr. Bush out of bombing our offices!" Not surprisingly, their blog is generating some comments.
In 2001 America destroyed the Kabul offices of al-Jazeera with two smartbombs; officials said it was an accident. In 2003 America destroyed the Baghdad offices of al-Jazeera with missiles; officials said it was an accident. Now, two British civil servants are on trial for leaking a memo revealing that Bush intended to bomb al-Jazeera... at their headquarters in allied Qatar.
While the proverbial road to hell is paved with good intentions, the internal government memos collected in this publication demonstrate that the path to the purgatory that is Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib, has been paved with decidedly bad intentions. The policies that resulted in rampant abuse of detainees first in Afghanistan, then at Guantanamo Bay, and later in Iraq, were product of three pernicious purposes designed to facilitate the unilateral and unfettered detention, interrogation, abuse, judgment, and punishment of prisoners: (1) the desire to place the detainees beyond the reach of any court or law; (2) the desire to abrogate the Geneva Convention with respect to the treatment of persons seized in the context of armed hostilities; and (3) the desire to absolve those implementing the policies of any liability for war crimes under U.S. and international law.Regarding the Torture Papers, which detail Torture's Paper Trail, and, then there's Hungry for Air: Learning The Language Of Torture, and, of course, there's ( more inside)
Virgins talk about sex. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, marines gotta kill the enemy. I think 'Flippant' is an accurate term from the Vice Adm. But most of the flak this monk is catching is from folks who say how killing the enemy "should" be. He's been called a psychopath, but it seems to me his emotional investment belies that. So do we then want robots? The civilian issue of why or where or when to fight aside - do we have the right to derogate how a soldier feels about doing his duty?
The anonymous author of Imperial Hubris has been revealed.
Eight women and children killed by US bombing in Afghanistan. Nothing on CNN or BBC so far. An MSNBC/AP report describes the victims as "tribesmen", others described them only as "gypsies".
Does America Torture? "The men's death certificates, made public earlier this week, showed that one captive...died from 'blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease' while another ...from [a] blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a 'blunt force injury'." What steps are we taking in our "war on terror"? What if other countries decide to treat our civilians as "enemy combatants"? Is the Pax Americana so important that we must resort to torture, or, as is most often the case, giving up prisoners to countries that are known torturers?
Can Mercenaries Protect Hamid Karzai? The US govt is hiring private mercenaries to do it's dirty work overseas. In short, by hiring private military contractors such as DynCorp, the U.S. government has found an effective way to conduct foreign policy by proxy and in secret. These proxies cannot be monitored, are effectively immune from all criminal sanctions, and are dangerously hard to control since they answer to corporate bosses, not military brass. (easy registration required)
Is the US targeting al-Jazeera? In defense of al-Jazeera, they have interviewed Israeli officials and members of the Bush administration. They have also been critical of Arab dictatorships. In October of last year, Colin Powell tried to gag Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera's response? They did a story on the attempted censorship. Six weeks later, the al-Jazeera office in Kabul was demolished by a pair of 500 lb. bombs. Sami al-Haj, a cameraman for al-Jazeera, has been illegally imprisoned without charges by the US for nine months. His wife -- the mother of Sami's three-year old son -- assumed that he had been killed until she received a letter from him in April. Can we really say that their approach to journalism is biased and disrepectful, but ours is not?
Shaving for Uncle Sam. Stories like this just heat my blood. I swear that some people cannot see past their stars at what is really going on. Is this becoming a Gentleman's War? Next thing you know Special Forces won't be able to carry bullets in their guns.
U.S. aircraft attack local Afghan wedding... several were injured and killed, such as Haji Mohammed Anwar, a friend of President Hamid Karzai. But, we've seen this before.
Four Canadian soldiers killed, 8 injured in friendly fire accident. The first Canadian soldiers killed in a combat zone since the Korean War 50 years ago were hit by laser guided bombs from a U.S. national guard F-16 fighter-bomber. Damn it...
Britain is now at War - US request the support of 1,700 Marines "These troops are being deployed to Afghanistan to take part in warfighting operations. We will be asking them to risk their lives. Their mission will be conducted in unforgiving and hostile terrain against a dangerous enemy. They may suffer casualties." A lot of people, including the media, were stunned by this announcement. Speculation is starting to become rife as to why the US need our troops? SAS, fair enough, but why our Marines? This is the largest deployment of British troops since the Gulf War, and arguable in far more dangerous circumstances. Most thought we were just going to lend a hand, now it appear that we will be playing a very serious part. Has there been much comment on this over in the US? Specifically on why these troop have been requested?
How the U.S. Killed the Wrong Soldiers I read the original report of this attack and discounted the possiblity that it was a major screw up but it looks like it was. The same story from Knight Ridder
Attack U.S. and win aid. Is Afghanistan the 'Mouse that Roared'? Why is Afghanistan rewarded with an outpouring of aid? The reason is simple: U.S. forces defeated Afghanistan's regime and Americans now feel responsible for fixing the country. This reflects the "mouse that roared" syndrome, named after the 1959 movie starring Peter Sellers in no less than three roles. It told the story of a tiny Europe duchy, Grand Fenwick, which finds itself on the verge of bankruptcy and decides to declare war on America in order to lose, then profit from the resulting aid.
This propaganda leaflet is apparently being dropped in afghanistan by the American Military (taken from this msnbc story about the first american soldier to die from hostile fire). Regardless of your opinion about propaganda, this seems rather sloppy. If the purpose of propaganda is to convince people of something, wouldn't you want to say it in a language they understand? Is the American military getting lazy / sloppy / over-confident? It looks like the propaganda leaflets from Desert storm (1991), Desert Fox (1998), and the bombing of Kosovo were at least in the local languages. (Who knew there was a quarterly magazine dedicated to aerial leaflet propaganda?)
"It's not propaganda, it's the truth" Rumsfeld declared. OK, but leaflets with radio broadcasts, and Information Programs, is this the best we can do? How about some Daffy Goes to War, even some inspirational Soviet and Cuban communist posters, as we do battle on the psyops war front?
How to lure US bombers and scrapped shells by using a light and a dog. Afghans in Kandahar are attracting bombs for their resale value. Go rogue economists go! Just don't ask about the dog.
Guess what, the bombing worked like a charm. Chris Hitchens weighs in with "I told you so" in 1000 words or less. Now if only we had a Chomsky response.
Saudis in the worst squeeze play yet. SA is in a triangulation of criticism from Afghanistan, from within the country, and from Washington. The fall of this Muslim regime, a US ally, with a horrible human rights record and repressive culture, the largest supplier of oil in the world, and huge supplier of contract business for the US, is not something to take lightly. Catch-22.
Top 10 contradictions regarding the US bombing of Afghanistan.
US Special Forces now operating in southern Afghanistan Let's pray a repeat of Mogadishu doesn't happen and any innocents on the ground aren't harmed...
Should the United States embark on a nation building exercise in Afghanistan a’la post-WWII Germany & Japan? (more questions inside)
Chomsky on MSNBC talks about recent events! That would be news all by itself. I know that a lot of people on the right disagree with him, but who can argue with what he says here? Also from left field an incisive Q&A about Afghanistan history and the current situation by Tariq Ali.
Biden to propose reconstruction if Afghanistan attacked. Sounds good to me.
Infinite Justice is out, Enduring Freedom is in. "The change was made after the initial name -- 'Operation Infinite Justice' -- last week ran into objections from some Islamic scholars on grounds that only God, or Allah, could mete out infinite justice in their view."
'AMERICA and Britain are producing secret plans to launch a ten-year “war on terrorism”..' declares this (otherwise fairly generic) article without citing its sources. Be prepared for the possible oxymoron of a line that is 'the whole focus of the long-term American approach was being driven by Richard Cheney..' Oh yeah -- hate to promote Murdoch media but also noteworthy in this mornings edition of the London Times are the revelations that whilst 200 British 'are certain to have perished', a further 800 are missing following the disaster and a piece warning of a 'nightmare scenario' in which Pakistan could lose control of its nuclear weapons to none other than THE TALIBAN.
$70mil in US aid to Afghanistan in 1997 Per the CIA's very informative world factbook web site, in 1997 the USA provided "about $70 million in humanitarian assistance in 1997". I have a feeling that $70mil is a drop in the ocean to what may be spent on Afghanistan in the near future, though perhaps not in a manner to their liking.
"The last effort of a uniquely extreme group sheltered by a uniquely obtuse and backward government"
"The last effort of a uniquely extreme group sheltered by a uniquely obtuse and backward government" Not a new era of international terrorism but the last, spectacular gasp of an old one, says The Guardian.
Bush Gave $43 Million to Taliban Last May - "The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban..." - pulled out of a thread, originally posted by mrgrimm.
A former CIA operative explains why the terrorist Usama bin Ladin has little to fear from American intelligence.
A former CIA operative explains why the terrorist Usama bin Ladin has little to fear from American intelligence. From the Atlantic an inside look at the non-existence of US intelligence in the Afghanistan region: Unless one of bin Ladin's foot soldiers walks through the door of a U.S. consulate or embassy, the odds that a CIA counterterrorist officer will ever see one are extremely poor.
Taliban say they underminded the US economy by halting opium production. ``It's known in select circles.. that opium is more influential than oil in terms of its economic role in America in particular and the West as a whole,''