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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Far Enemy, Near Enemy

February 28th, 2013 - 5:06 pm

The Obama administration has no qualms about getting tough on domestic opponents. In the case of foreign opponents the story is quite different. Lee Smith reports that after much soul searching the United States has decided to directly give the Syrian rebels nonlethal aid.

That assistance, according to Kerry, “will strengthen the organizational capacity of the Syrian Opposition Coalition. It will help war torn communities be able to survive devastating situations with respect to sanitation, food delivery, medical care. It will speed the delivery of basic goods and services including security and education. It will help to initiate discussions with those who are providing for public order and for justice as the transition itself unfolds. And we will help the SNC, Free Syrian Army, and the civilian opposition to feed those in need and tend to the sick and the wounded.”

Perhaps not knowing whether he had wandered into the press conference of Oxfam instead of the United States Secretary of State a reporter asked “can you commit to providing more substantial assistance in the future, such as communications equipment, armored cars, bulletproof vests, night vision goggles, the things of that nature?,” the secretary of state fudged, evading the question. “We are providing some $60 million, the most significant portion of which is going directly to the Syrian opposition to enable it to be able to organize more effectively.”


Just a Friendly Call

February 28th, 2013 - 12:52 pm

Jay Rosen of NYU poo-poohs reports that the Obama White House could be intimidating journalist.  Rosen tweets that “Woodward’s “threat” fantasia has become even more absurd; now we have the actual emails http://politi.co/12e9TOC He thought he could play us.”

Meaning Woodward could “play us”.

That’s probably because Woodward got exactly the same treatment as the National Journal’s Ron Fournier. “As editor-in-chief of National Journal, I received several e-mails and telephone calls from this White House official filled with vulgarity, abusive language, and virtually the same phrase that Politico characterized as a veiled threat. “You will regret staking out that claim.”

What is interesting — though Jay Rosen doesn’t notice this — is that both incidents followed the same pattern. Bad cop. Good cop. Veiled warning. The similarities are uncanny. The emails between Sperling and Woodward have the White House staffer apologizing for raising his voice in past converations:


You’ll be sorreeee ….

February 27th, 2013 - 5:54 pm

Forget about the Second Amendment. Forget about the First too. Bob Woodward tells Wolf Blitzer about a love letter he got from the White House.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: You’re used to this kind of stuff, but share with our viewers what’s going on between you and the White House.

BOB WOODWARD: Well, they’re not happy at all and some people kind of, you know, said, look, ‘we don’t see eye to eye on this.’ They never really said, though, afterwards, they’ve said that this is factually wrong, and they — and it was said to me in an e-mail by a top –

BLITZER: What was said?

WOODWARD: It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this.

BLITZER: Who sent that e-mail to you?

WOODWARD: Well, I’m not going to say.

BLITZER: Was it a senior person at the White House?

WOODWARD: A very senior person. And just as a matter — I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, ‘you’re going to regret doing something that you believe in, and even though we don’t look at it that way, you do look at it that way.’ I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communication’s strategy, let’s hope it’s not a strategy, that it’s a tactic that somebody’s employed, and said, ‘Look, we don’t go around trying to say to reporters, if you, in an honest way, present something we don’t like, that, you know, you’re going to regret this.’ It’s Mickey Mouse. (The Situation Room, February 27, 2013)


Sleepwalking Through History

February 27th, 2013 - 2:41 pm

In the Obama administration things just happen. For example, “the Associated Press has learned that the Homeland Security Department official in charge of the agency’s immigration enforcement and removal operations [Gary Mead] has resigned after hundreds of illegal immigrants were released from jails because of government spending cuts.”

But the resignation is just routine according to administration officials. Quoting an ICE spokesperson, the Huffington Post said “there was no connection between the retirement of Enforcement and Removal Operations Director Gary Mead and the release earlier this week of hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention”.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Mead had announced his plans to retire “several weeks ago” to senior leadership at the agency. Mead will retire at the end of April, she said in a statement.

“The Associated Press’ report is inaccurate and misleading,” she said.



February 26th, 2013 - 12:50 pm

There’s a scene in the Zero Dark Thirty movie when the actor playing the CIA director descends to the regular staff cafeteria and deigns to talk at a table with ‘Maya’ — Jessica Chastain — the analyst  pursuing Osama Bin Laden. The audience understands this act of abasement shows Maya’s importance. Wow the gods are descending from Olympus. Look the director is actually sitting in the cafeteria! The question is why that should be so astounding.

Three hundred years ago people seemed more modern. In the early days of the United States, the president’s neighbors, as in the guys who lived next door, would sometimes stop by and have coffee with the incumbent. The British ambassador once found Thomas Jefferson in his gardening outfit when he came for dinner.

But now we’ve regressed to the medieval and to before that: all the way back to the world of classical Greece. To the age of spears and shields and gods descending from Olympus. Gods? Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to understand the concept. Asked if she would take a pay cut due to the budget crisis she said: “I don’t think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do. I think it’s necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded.”

If Pelosi doesn’t take home a lot of government money you might think she hasn’t earned it.

Pelosi has “rewarded the job” in the same way that the CIA director graced the cafeteria in the movie. Ennobled it by their presence. Lent it a dignity it otherwise would not have. I once stayed at a hotel in Canberra with a plaque in front of one of the rooms proclaiming that ‘Lyndon Johnson slept here.’ I would like to sleep in that room, wouldn’t you?


The Instant Before

February 26th, 2013 - 3:42 am

Some of the most detailed combat footage in history was taken not by professional journalists but by soldiers whose job was to carry a camera.  Perhaps one of the most famous examples from the Second World War was footage taken by Jim Bates in  Cologne, Germany showing an M-26 Pershing smash a Panther tank.

Anonymous Syrian rebels have captured remarkable HD footage of the civil war.  This link shows a 32 minute video of Syrian tank raids into Darya depicting various instances of reactive-armored Syrian tanks making forays into the city ruins. There is little evident infantry support for the tanks, nor any apparent purpose to the forays — a fact which the rebels exploit by infiltrating the buildings around the armor to occasionally fire RPGs down on the Syrian tanks. They have little apparent effect. The main guns of the T-72s swivel and smash the buildings in retaliation.

Eventually the video producer tacks on footage of rebels bringing up a big RPG-29 which they cannily use against tanks unprotected by reactive armor. The shooter waits for a signal perhaps from spotters to tell him when the tanks vision devices are looking away before he cooly stands and lets fly.


What Truman Knew

February 25th, 2013 - 6:26 pm

A Washington Post article suggests that the administration may have finally decided to “lead from front” in Syria.  An influx of heavy weapons from ‘abroad’ is reportedly tipping the balance against Assad. The WaPo article strongly hints that the source of the weapons — through cutouts of course — is ultimately Washington.

The officials declined to identify the source of the newly provided weapons, but they noted that the countries most closely involved in supporting the rebels’ campaign to oust Assad have grown increasingly alarmed at the soaring influence of Islamists over the fragmented rebel movement. They include the United States and its major European allies, along with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar …

“The idea was to get heavier stuff, intensify supply and make sure it goes to the good guys,” said an Arab official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation. “If you want to weaken al-Nusra, you do it not by withholding [weapons] but by boosting the other groups.”

Of course, mentioning “Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar” in the same article as making sure weapons go “to the good guys” is bound to make Israel nervous. And indeed the Jerusalem Post says the Israelis are watching warily to see what eventually happens to the “heavy weapons”. Washington is arming men not far from their borders. Where will those weapons go when Assad is gone?

“On the one hand, there is a great deal of pressure on the Western world to bolster arms to moderate – what we call ‘friendly’ – rebel groups so that they are on a level playing field with the groups that might be getting support from Islamist movements,” this official told McClatchy.

“On the other hand, once you send a weapon somewhere, you can’t control where it goes. The fear is that the same gun used to shoot a Syrian soldier will one day be used to shoot an Israeli soldier.”

The best way to control the weapons after Assad falls is to determine who gets hired into the new army or national militia. This is a time tested method. The day after Assad shuffles off his mortal coil or decamps for foreign exile all the miltiamen and rebels will be faced with the same darned question: what now.  They will be looking for a job.


Never Answer the Phone

February 24th, 2013 - 4:41 pm

Long before Barack Obama made the phrase “a false choice” one of his empty cliches, Winston Churchill memorably illustrated what it meant. Referring to Chamberlain after he returned from meeting with Hitler in Munich, Churchill said: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

A false choice is thinking there’s a difference. But not everyone is confused. President Karzai of Afghanistan has probably figured out whose side he has to come down on. Bill Roggio and Bill Ardolino report:

President Hamid Karzai has ordered the Ministry of Defense to eject all “US Special Forces” from the key eastern province of Wardak after accusing the American troops or their local Afghan security partners of committing war crimes. Karzai’s order is an ominous development for future US and NATO plans, which are expected to rely heavily on special operations forces to take on a greater role as the bulk of conventional forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

For him it’s no false choice. Just a choice that’s now easy to make. One commenter at the Long War Journal site wrote: “There are times when I wonder if Karzai is either actively trying to lose or hoping that his outspoken criticisms of American policy will allow him to escape Najibullah’s fate in the event of a Taliban victory.”


Lapida .338

February 24th, 2013 - 1:36 pm

Stoning is an ancient mode of execution that survives to this day in Iranian law. Like most modes of execution there is a prescribed form, as shown here. It shows how the condemned should be bound, secured in a pit and what how big the allowed rocks used to pelt should be: “around the size of a tangerine”. Anything else is an assault rock.

Should not be stored in high powered bags exceeding five rocks in capacity

Although it is commonly thought that stoning, or lapidation, is a punishment reserved for adultery, it was historically applied to a wide variety of offenses, of which adultery was simply one. However, the connection between stoning and adultery in popular culture is a strong one, and what people dominantly think of to this day. About all they know about lapidation and its history is that it is vaguely connected with a 100 year old book called the Bible, a circumstance that leads to such vexing questions as: “did Jesus contradict the Bible by saving a woman from being stoned for adultery”?

Hard to know which side of that to come down on. After all, it’s never PC to come down on the side of Jesus … but on the other hand it does go up against the Bible. Some people may have to think about that one.


A Fistful of Dollars

February 22nd, 2013 - 9:38 pm

Herschel Smith sent a link to his post on the gun manufacturer boycott of states that are considering various bans on weapons. Smith describes the recommended strategy:

In Gun Companies Holding The States Accountable we discussed a two pronged approach to addressing the anti-gun legislation that is brewing in certain states, New York, Illinois and Colorado being three key locations. The first of the two prongs involves a refusal to sell to law enforcement when the weapons being sought are prohibited to non-law enforcement. At the time, LaRue Tactical, Olympic Arms, Templar Custom and Extreme Firepower had enacted policies against selling to law enforcement in New York.

The companies who’ve showed a willingness to join the boycott are mostly medium sized. Everyone is still waiting to see how the big manufacturers jump. If Smith and Wesson, Glock, Ruger, or Remington join the boycott it will have a dramatic effect. But by the same token if the government can convince the major companies openly declare against the rebels the hand of the gun-ban states will be strengthened.