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Wednesday, October 31

URGENT If you're following Benghazi, WATCH FIRST 20 MINUTES WED. GRETA VAN SUSTEREN SHOW ONLINE - WILL BE REBROADCAST 1 AM EDT

no time to explain but you'll see why

Update :  I forgot to add url for watching online. here it is

http://watch.foxnews.com/





Sandy's impact state by state and Canada

CNN's report, last updated 1:11 PM EDT today.


Helping Sandy's victims in the USA




You can donate to the American Red Cross at their national website.  Ten U.S. dollars is the minimum amount that can be donated, and donations can be made in "honor of" or "memory of" the person of your choice.

To date, according to the website, the Red Cross response to Sandy has already:
 If you live inside the USA, in addition to donating money you can also donate your time to helping Sandy's victims via your local Red Cross chapter:
Dave Bobel, 68, of Fort Myers [Florida] said he’s going north with the Red Cross because it’s time to give back.

“I’ve had a good life,” he said, “and I’m retired now and I now have the time; I can help people.”

He’s not nervous because the Red Cross doesn’t put volunteers in harm’s way, Bobel said. Still, deployment conditions are rugged. Bobel said he may have to sleep in his Red Cross truck and probably won’t have hot water or electricity.

“You work long days,” he said, “sometimes 16 hours.”
I know I'm going to anger some readers by not mentioning a favorite charity of theirs. But at this time I'm recommending that anyone who wants to help, either with a cash donation or by volunteering to go to the worst affected areas, should focus on the American Red Cross or Salvation Army.  They are reputable organizations that already have a  presence on the ground in the most affected areas. And their sheer size means they're quickly mustering highly efficient logistical operations.  (See this report from a New Jersey website for some of the organizations' work for Sandy victims in New Jersey.)

From an ABC News report on helping Sandy victims:
One way to help is by donating to the Red Cross. All donations will provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by the storm. To donate, visit www.redcross.org,  call 800-Red-Cross or text the word "Redcross" to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Nearly 100 Red Cross blood drives were canceled because of Sandy, so blood supplies are low in the areas affected the most. The Red Cross asks that those who can donate to schedule an appointment to give blood. The New York Blood Center is urging people to donate blood for those in the New York/New Jersey area. To donate, call 800-933-2566 or visit www.nybloodcenter.org.

 The Salvation Army has dozens of mobile feeding units and shelters along the East Coast that are working to serve thousands in the most heavily hit areas. Visit www.salvationarmyusa.org to donate.
The report mentions additional well-established organizations that are mounting relief efforts for Sandy victims and provides contact information.


Sandy heads for Canada

I'm sure I don't need to tell this to anyone in Canada who is following Sandy's track but in the spirit of a PSA, Pundita wants to remind Canadian readers that Sandy is a very tricky storm. Last night, at around 7 PM EDT, a meteorologist said on the Larry Kudlow Show that the storm had stalled but it was also gaining strength and heading for Nova Scotia.  By the time the following report for USA Today was filed, at 3:47 AM  today, the track seemed to have shifted and the storm was headed for Ontario.

Wherever it's headed in Canada, everyone still in the track of the storm needs to take any evacuation order very seriously.  The tragedy of Breezy Point, in Queens, New York, which I'll discuss at length in another post, is a cautionary tale.  As awful as it was, there were no deaths because 85 percent of the residents obeyed Mayor Bloomberg's evacuation order ahead of Sandy.  Even so, firefighters had to risk their lives under the most terrible conditions -- 79 mph winds, lashing rain, flooding -- to rescue some people who didn't evacuate then got trapped by the fires that engulfed row after row of houses.

[snapping her fingers] Yet it happened just like that.  One minute it was flooding and rain that residents thought they could ride out; the next minute there was a conflagration. 

Same for some New Jersey towns where residents didn't obey the evacuation order ahead of Sandy. One minute the streets were dry; the next minute they were trapped by flooding.

Pundita is very sensitive to this issue because of what happened in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I will never forget an ABC reporter coming out of the hotel with his crew early the next morning -- confusion, then shock, then a dawning horror passing over his features as he stepped into water rushing down the street. The water wasn't even ankle-deep at that point but the street outside the hotel had been dry when the crew had turned in for the night.

Where was the water coming from? Everyone thought the city had escaped a nightmare. The nightmare was just beginning. The water, it turned out, was coming from a massive breach in a levee in the city's Lower Ninth Ward.....

All right, end the PSA. Here's the USA Today report
Superstorm Sandy moves northward, still packs punchElizabeth Weise [with contributing reports from Associated Press and Asbury Park Press
USA Today

3:47AM EDT October 31, 2012 - Superstorm Sandy continues its relentless path across the United States Wednesday, even as millions begin the task of putting their lives, homes and towns back together after one of the worst storms in the nation's history.

The storm remains enormous, reaching from the Great Lakes to New England. Its center just after midnight was 40 to 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. It is expected to turn north across western New York and into the Canadian province of Ontario on Wednesday.

As it courses north, the threat of heavy rains, snow and flooding could linger over a huge swath of the Northeast and Midwest for several days.

Sandy has caused at least 50 U.S. deaths so far — 25 in New York, including 18 in flood- and wind-ravaged New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he expected rescue workers to find more as they combed through the wreckage.

Wednesday marks the first day back at work for many in the hardest-hit areas, with days and weeks of cleanup ahead. Two of the nation's busiest airports, New York's Kennedy Airport and New Jersey's Newark Airport, are scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. for limited service. LaGuardia Airport will stay closed because of extensive damage caused by runway flooding. This should begin to relieve the backlog of the more than 18,100 flights cancelled since Sunday.

Tuesday night in New Jersey, the state hardest hit by the storm, Gov. Chris Christie said "Tomorrow recovery begins. Today was a day of sorrow." He went on: "There's nothing wrong with that. So long as sorrow doesn't replace resilience, we'll be just fine."

President Obama is expected to survey damage in hard-hit areas of New Jersey Wednesday. "We're going to do everything to help you get back on your feet," he said.

Millions of people faced a second day without power Wednesday as temperatures stayed in the 30s and 40s. At its peak more than 8.5 million people were without power Tuesday.

Looting in some areas has been a problem, with reports of robbers posing as electric workers to gain entrance to closed off areas.

In New York City, officials warned that power might not be back until the weekend. While some bus service resumed and bridges reopened Tuesday, transit officials said they couldn't predict when the subway would run again.

Bloomberg promised "a very heavy police presence" in darkened neighborhoods, including much of Manhattan south of the Empire State Building, from the East River to the Hudson River. Police brought in banks of lights and boosted patrols to deter crime. Some businesses hired private security.

But despite the problems, the New York Stock Exchange will reopen at 9:30 a.m., with Bloomberg ringing the opening bell.

At least 17 states suffered intense effects from the storm. Estimated property losses are put at $20 billion and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

Flood watches remain over parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states.The combination of the storm surge and high tide could result in flooding of one to three feet in the Chesapeake Bay, and the tidal Potomac river. Coastal flooding along the Great Lakes was possible due to strong and persistent northerly winds.

The mountains of West Virginia could get a dumping of up to ten inches of more snow, bringing totals to between two and three feet in places. Surf conditions along the Atlantic, from Florida through New England, are expected to remain dangerous through Friday.

Along the storm's path, many communities are postponing Halloween celebrations until streets are once again safe. In New Jersey, Christie vowed to reschedule Halloween if it was too dangerous for children to go trick-or-treating Wednesday night. In a tweet, he pledged to sign an Executive Order rescheduling the holiday.

Contributing: The Associated Press, Asbury Park Press.


Tuesday, October 30

Sandy the Perfect Storm and America's antiquated form of government



We dodged the bullet in Washington, DC although the flooding is expected to get worse here over the next couple days. Next to what happened in New York City, Sandy let Washington off easy.

High tide came in with a full moon during the height of the storm's strike on New York City.  So as one weatherperson said, the sun, moon and gravitational pull all aligned to bring in a historically high tide during the worst of Sandy's onslaught on New York.  No one was prepared, or could have been prepared, for the consequences, which are running in so many directions that the Washington  Post weather blog I link to above termed it "ridiculous."

The New York Times interactive blog on the storm is overwhelming to read. Accompanying photos also help to bring home the variety and severity of the disasters that struck New York during the storm.   Yet while New York is the biggest urban victim of Sandy the radius of the storm, which is still traveling -- and meeting with snow fronts -- is mind-blowing.  It's even extended as far as Chicago.  So in terms of the number of American lives disrupted in a short period by a natural disaster, I don't think there's a precedent for this in U.S. history.

The most unsettling part is that this historic superstorm could happen all over again in a year or so. This point was brought home by a meteorologist who spoke with two anchors at Fox News, which tends to be on the skeptical side of the global warming issue.  He said that he'd been tracking weather for more than 20 years and that the pattern in the last few years was that the big storms were getting more frequent and getting worse.

So he wasn't saying this was global warming. He was just saying 'This is what's happening.'

The harbinger was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then there has been one natural disaster after another (including the swine flu outbreak) in the USA.   Taken together the disasters expose how many American cities have been riding on the fumes of luck.

At last count 14 state governments including the District of Columbia declared an official emergency to deal with Sandy's aftermath so they could get federal assistance. But as the meteorologist's observation underscores, it's gotten to be one emergency after another.

When states of emergency become the norm, that's a sign America's system for dealing with natural disasters is inadequate.

The State's response to its shortfalls is to ask for more money so it can expand departments and add more employees. But this is an outdated approach given the sheer number and frequency of emergencies.

New York City's first responders were overwhelmed by Sandy because our society has to a great extent walled off its government employees from the rest of the citizens. This meant excluding many able-bodied New Yorkers who with a little advance preparation could have helped the responders deal with the storm.

The walling off between the State and civilians is an outgrowth of a bureaucratic style of governing that's rooted in monarchism, which can work in a genuine democracy only when it doesn't meet severe tests and new challenges.  So let's all put on our powdered wigs and dance a minuet, as our answer to the challenges of this era.

I think a lot of Americans already have an intuitive understanding of what I'm saying.  Recently a news anchor mentioned in passing a survey that found some 60 percent of voters thought the federal government was too big.  Those surveyed included Democrats as well as Independents and Republicans. 

If the survey is accurate, that means a solid majority of Americans know what century this is.  It's just that the only alternative offered to big government is more capitalism, and more reliance on the business sector.  That doesn't sit right with a lot of people.

They should be leery. The company that irresponsibly left an unsecured crane on a high-rise under construction in New York ahead of Sandy's approach is a good illustration of the limitations of the business and finance sectors when it comes to fixing government. The perfect metaphor is the thing dangling above 57th Street like the Sword of Damocles in hurricane-force gusts.

In the American democracy the government is supposed to be the people.  When the people are only allowed to participate in their governing by voting and writing checks to support bureaucracies, that's not democracy and it's not even representative democracy. That's a system of patronage. 

Hello, it's the 21st century in these united states of America.  Time to upgrade our way of governing ourselves.


Monday, October 29

Human Nature vs Wrath of Nature

The "Let's Wait and See How Bad It'll Get Before We Prepare" types
3:45 PM EDT: Tropical-storm force winds and rain coming down in buckets in Frederick, Maryland Local Channel 4 (WRC) reporter checking in from outside a Lowe's in Frederick, Maryland.  There wasn't a mob in the store but there were still shoppers trying to pick up sump pumps, generators, batteries, etc.  Lowe's is trying to bring in more convoys from Georgia to restock.

A WRC weather anchor pleads: Remember, 90 percent of deaths from flooding are from people walking or driving in a flooded area.

But by gum there isn't a line at the check-out at the last minute and you have your pick of parking spaces. 

The "Ignore It and It'll Stop Acting like a Brat" types
The Associated Press reports at 1:45 PM EDT:
In the morning, water was already splashing over the seawalls at the southern tip of Manhattan and had matched the levels seen during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Still, people were out jogging, walking their dogs and even taking children out in strollers amid gusts of wind.

Latest on secret negotiations between White House, Iran's mullacrats



Who needs Mexican soaps with stuff like this?
Secret U.S., Iranian meetings to continue: Obama said to need diplomatic victory badly after Benghazi
by Reza Kahlili
World Net Daily
October 28, 2012

The United States and Iran are moving forward with secret negotiations, despite denying earlier meetings took place, according to a source highly placed in the Islamic government.

The source, who remains anonymous for security reasons, added that teams from both sides will resume the talks in the coming days with the hope of reaching agreement to announce a breakthrough before the U.S. elections.

The source said the Obama administration seems to need a diplomatic victory before the elections in the wake of the attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans because the administration failed to adequately protect the Benghazi consulate.

If President Obama is not reelected, however, the source contends any agreement reached after the elections will be announced and enforced while he is still in office, once Iran’s supreme leader receives written guarantees from Obama.

The source adds, on a related note, that President Obama chose not to destroy the American, sensitive-technology RQ-170 stealth drone, which was captured by the Iranian forces after it crashed in Iran in December of 2011, because he feared jeopardizing the ongoing secret negotiations.

The negotiations to date have reportedly gone beyond the Iranian nuclear program to include such issues as South America, the Persian Gulf and Syria. On the latter issue, the U.S. has already stepped back from its demand that President Bashar Assad be removed.

The source added that both parties have agreed on a broad range of incentives that have been offered to the Islamic regime and which will be revealed in time.

The source said the revelation of the secret meetings has caused internal rifts between Iranian factions. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has already alerted the Americans that he might remove President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and establish an emergency government. He has already seized authority over much of the affairs of the country, including international matters.

Khamenei has decided to push for Ali Akbar Velayati, the former foreign minister and the current close adviser to the supreme leader on international affairs, as the new president in the upcoming Iranian presidential elections next June, the source added. The American negotiators have already signed off on that.

Velayati is wanted by Argentina for the Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people.
[...]


Sunday, October 28

A group of retired American military men take the Assassin-in-Chief to task



It's beside the point that the above video, which John Batchelor features in his latest post (Benghazi and the Swing States) is a political ad. The ex-special forces men who speak are describing the debacle that is today's America's military and civilian command -- an issue that goes far beyond the U.S, presidential election and any one political party.

Read Belmont Club's October 27 Paranormal to understand how the Obama administration has been replacing the role of Commander-in-Chief with Assassin-in-Chief. Building on Greg Miller's extremely unsettling October 23 investigative report for the Washington Post (Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists), BC's Richard Fernandez takes the reader by the hand and gently explains that the Star Chamber approach to dealing with America's enemies has pretty much replaced the concept of war, which places the burden of defending Americans on the President and various unelected White House officials.

As to how the Star Chamber approach has been working out, this October 26 report from the Washington Post about the reign of terror militant Islamists have established in eastern Libya will get you in the ballpark fast. But moving along, the U.S. Department of Defense has been philosophical about learning that war is obsolete, as witness SecDef Leon Panetta's answer when asked during his October 25 press briefing about why there wasn't a military response during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi:
We -- we quickly responded, as General Dempsey said, in terms of deploying forces to the region. We had FAST platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya. And we were prepared to respond to any contingency and certainly had forces in place to do that.

But -- but the basic principle here -- basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place. And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.
Perhaps unfortunately for General Ham he said something that flatly contradicted Mr Panetta's statement. He told a U.S. Member of Congress, Jason Chaffetz, about two weeks before Mr Panetta presser that he hadn't been consulted. Rep. Chaffetz said on Fox News Sean Hannity show on Friday night that Gen. Ham told him that "nobody asked him to deploy military forces to Benghazi."



In other words Gen. Ham, the head of AFRICOM, who is also the military's top expert on the situation in Libya, was not consulted about whether forces should be placed "at risk" in that situation. Or rather he was the head of AFRICOM; on October 18 President Obama nominated Army Gen. David Rodriguez, who "was the key architect of the successful campaign plan that we are now implementing [in Afghanistan]” as Mr Panetta explained, to replace him.

Actually the basic principle of war is that you throw everything you can into a fight when the lives of those you're sworn to protect are on the line. By adhering to the principle, former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Chris Doherty were the crucial factor in saving almost 40 Americans from being massacred during the Benghazi attack -- even though they had to disobey repeated commands from the CIA to stand down.

Woods and Doherty were killed while defending those Americans but they didn't go down without fighting until their very last breaths, as eyewitnesses and sources who spoke with the witnesses told Jennifer Griffin. In her latest investigative report for Fox on the Benghazi attack (to be rebroadcast tonight at 10 PM EDT), she said the witnesses told her:

The machine gun that Woods and Doherty shared on the roof of the annex was caked with their blood while they kept firing, even after they were hit.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey sharing a light moment during their October 25 press briefing. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.


Friday, October 26

CIA command denies CIA protection team's pleas for assistance during attack on Benghazi annex

UPDATE September 28 10:50 PM
The CIA told Fox News that Jennifer Griffin's sources were wrong:
“We can say with confidence that the agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi,” CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood told Fox News. “Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night—and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades.”
Griffin's response (given to Fox in an interview on the day of the CIA denial) was that she was standing by her sources, which she said are "as good as it gets; they were on the ground [during the attack]."
************** 
Watch "Special Report Investigates: Benghazi -- New Revelations" on Fox News at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, 3 p.m. on Sunday and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours -- enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.
EXCLUSIVE: CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack, sources say

By Jennifer Griffin, FoxNews Pentagon Correspondent
FoxNews.com
Published October 26, 2012

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to "stand down."

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters.

In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.

The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours -- enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

Watch "Special Report Investigates: Benghazi -- New Revelations" on Fox News at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, 3 p.m. on Sunday and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they were never told to deploy. In fact, a Pentagon official says there were never any requests to deploy assets from outside the country. A second force that specializes in counterterrorism rescues was on hand at Sigonella, according to senior military and intelligence sources. According to those sources, they could have flown to Benghazi in less than two hours. They were the same distance to Benghazi as those that were sent from Tripoli. Spectre gunships are commonly used by the Special Operations community to provide close air support.

According to sources on the ground during the attack, the special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that there was not a clear enough picture of what was occurring on the ground in Benghazi to send help.

"There's a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here," Panetta said Thursday. "But the basic principle here ... is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on."

U.S. officials argue that there was a period of several hours when the fighting stopped before the mortars were fired at the annex, leading officials to believe the attack was over.

Fox News has learned that there were two military surveillance drones redirected to Benghazi shortly after the attack on the consulate began. They were already in the vicinity.

The second surveillance craft was sent to relieve the first drone, perhaps due to fuel issues. Both were capable of sending real time visuals back to U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. Any U.S. official or agency with the proper clearance, including the White House Situation Room, State Department, CIA, Pentagon and others, could call up that video in real time on their computers.

Tyrone Woods was later joined at the scene by fellow former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, who was sent in from Tripoli as part of a Global Response Staff or GRS that provides security to CIA case officers and provides countersurveillance and surveillance protection.

They were killed by a mortar shell at 4 a.m. Libyan time, nearly seven hours after the attack on the consulate began -- a window that represented more than enough time for the U.S. military to send back-up from nearby bases in Europe, according to sources familiar with Special Operations. Four mortars were fired at the annex. The first one struck outside the annex. Three more hit the annex.

A motorcade of dozens of Libyan vehicles, some mounted with 50 caliber machine guns, belonging to the February 17th Brigades, a Libyan militia which is friendly to the U.S., finally showed up at the CIA annex at approximately 3 a.m. An American Quick Reaction Force sent from Tripoli had arrived at the Benghazi airport at 2 a.m. (four hours after the initial attack on the consulate) and was delayed for 45 minutes at the airport because they could not at first get transportation, allegedly due to confusion among Libyan militias who were supposed to escort them to the annex, according to Benghazi sources.

The American special operators, Woods, Doherty and at least two others were part of the Global Response Staff, a CIA element, based at the CIA annex and were protecting CIA operators who were part of a mission to track and repurchase arms in Benghazi that had proliferated in the wake of Muammar Qaddafi's fall.

Part of their mission was to find the more than 20,000 missing MANPADS, or shoulder-held missiles capable of bringing down a commercial aircraft. According to a source on the ground at the time of the attack, the team inside the CIA annex had captured three Libyan attackers and was forced to hand them over to the Libyans. U.S. officials do not know what happened to those three attackers and whether they were released by the Libyan forces.

Fox News has also learned that Stevens was in Benghazi that day to be present at the opening of an English-language school being started by the Libyan farmer who helped save an American pilot who had been shot down by pro-Qaddafi forces during the initial war to overthrow the regime. That farmer saved the life of the American pilot and the ambassador wanted to be present to launch the Libyan rescuer's new school.

Latest: Frankenstorm 90 percent certain to hit East Coast: "This is a beyond-strange situation. It's unprecedented and bizarre."

Translation for Washingtonians: If you haven't stocked up on storm supplies by now prepare to drive to Kansas City to pick up generators and flashlight batteries.

I assume -- I hope -- local stores have supply convoys descending on the region tonight to replenish depleted stocks. But then will come the nightmare on Saturday of millions of late shoppers crowding into about 100 stores in the region.

Tip: Tucked away in odd aisles, CVS has long-lasting dinner table 12" white taper candles; they can be bought singly. PLEASE don't be a supply hog: leave a few in the box for the next desperate person.

Second tip: REMEMBER don't run the generator inside, not even inside a detached garage. If you don't have a special structure built outside to house the generator make do with candles, battery lanterns, etc. until the storm passes. As to when it will pass -- that's the question, now isn't it?
Washington area braces for collision of Hurricane Sandy, nor’easter
By Debbi Wilgoren and William Branigin,
Oct 26, 2012 07:37 PM EDT [the time stamp is a little off, as you can see, but I'd estimate the report was posted within the past hour]
The Washington Post

Schools and government agencies in the Washington area began bracing Friday for Hurricane Sandy, as forecasters predicted that the potential collision of a hurricane and a nor’easter could pummel the region with relentless rains, winds and flooding for several days, starting as early as Sunday.

Meteorologists said the confluence of two such storm systems along a heavily populated corridor like the mid-Atlantic was extremely rare, if not unique.

“This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre,” the Weather Channel’s Brian Norcross posted on his Facebook page.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang warned that “this storm may be unlike anything the region has ever experienced.”

Even as the East Coast braced for Sandy’s arrival, the storm began to affect the U.S. presidential race Friday. The campaign of Republican candidate Mitt Romney announced the cancellation of a planned Sunday night rally in Virginia Beach because of the hurricane.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) declared a state of emergency [I think Virginia has also declared the same] and warned that the onslaught could have an impact on early voting ahead of the Nov. 6 elections.
[...]
There's more, lots more, in the report. And here's a report about the storm currently 90 percent on track to hit northeast. Have a nice day.


Now I really am taking off until next week

Larry Johnson's talk with Batchelor (see next post) brought me back to the blogosphere but now it's all Frankenstorm prep. Good luck to everyone in the storm's projected path.....


"They stood and they watched and our people died." More on the controversy about whether U.S. should have deployed reinforcements while Benghazi attack was ongoing.

Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counterterrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.

"You find a way to make this happen," Berntsen says. "There isn't a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died."

-- From October 20 CBS News report Could U.S. military have helped during Libya attack?

I touched on the controversy in a post yesterday and updated it with links to the following reports and the one above.

October 25, CBS News TV: Military response to Benghazi attack questioned
October 25, The New York Times: Panetta Says Risk Impeded Deployment to Benghazi

During his conversation last night with John Batchelor, former CIA analyst and State Department counterterrorism officer Larry C. Johnson backed up Gary Berntsen's observations and provided details about the kind of military help the Pentagon could have directed to the Americans under attack at the annex -- help that could have saved the lives of Tyrone Woods and Chris Doherty, who were reportedly killed around 4:00 AM Libya time.

Here is the flash player replay of the conversation.


Thursday, October 25

Another member of the research team goes AWOL


The excuse this time is, "I need to get in some play before PEPCO saws down the rest of the trees in our neighborhood."

I hope they're keeping track of all this down time so there won't be any long faces when it's Christmas bonus time.

But all right, although I think the electric company that serves the District of Columbia sawed down all the trees it could after the last storm here -- although I grant there were some neighborhoods it couldn't enter on account of lynch mobs made of people who hadn't had electricity for a week.. 

Meanwhile I should join all those other cockeyed optimists and start preparing for Frankenstorm; this on the hope the weather gods dislike us so much here in the nation's capital they'll spare us, just because everybody went to so much trouble to get prepared for the storm.

I'll see you sometime next week, provided the District hasn't floated off down the Potomac River by then.

Best regards to all,
Pundita


John Batchelor drops da bomb: Was Iran involved in Benghazi massacre? Plus Reza Kahlili and NYT reports on secret Obama-Tehran negotiations start uproar in Washington, Tehran and half the Arab world. Plus Benghazi Leak-a-Palooza. (UPDATED)

UPDATE 10:40 PM EDT
For more on the mushrooming controversy about whether the U.S. military should have deployed reinforcements while the attack on the Benghazi annex was ongoing, which I touch on in the following writing, see these three reports:

October 20, 2012, CBS News: Could U.S. military have helped during Libya attack?
October 25, CBS News TV: Military response to Benghazi attack questioned
October 25, The New York Times: Panetta Says Risk Impeded Deployment to Benghazi

All three reports, among several published in the past few days, are important but the October 20 one is particularly interesting, given that Chris Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed around 4:00 AM Libya time at the Benghazi annex.

UPDATE October 26
Also, listen to former CIA and State Department officer Larry C. Johnson on John Batchelor's Thursday night show regarding the military response. Here is the flash player replay of the conversation.
*************************
I stayed up until 3 AM hoping that John Batchelor would do a write-up for his blog on the interview last night with Reza Khalili and Larry Johnson about the latest twists in the Secret Iran Negotiations soap opera -- and on Batchelor's mention that he has information that Iran had some sort of hand in the Benghazi massacre. That last could mean that Ansar al-Shariah flags seen at the Benghazi site during the attack were stage business to throw suspicion on the group and AQ. 

An Iranian hand in the attack is more plausible than it might sound at first listen, considering rumors of help that Ambassador Christopher Stevens was arranging for the rebels in Syria. That would give Al Qaeda and linked groups, which are also trying to topple Assad's regime, a strong reason not to murder him and disrupt his Benghazi operation at that time. 

That's as much write-up as I'm doing on the interview because I'm still hoping Batchelor will have a write-up posted at his blog later tonight.

In the meantime you can always listen to the podcast or flash player recording of the interview, which starts around the half-hour mark for the 10 PM hour. And there are his raw notes on the interview, which are pretty raw. (See the schedule at his website for his notes.)

Also, WND, which seems to have a publishing exclusive with Reza right now, has a report from him, published a couple hours before he appeared on Batchelor's show, on the soap opera: Clandestine Obama-Iran meetings stir denial.  It's a long, data-rich report but to get you started [emphasis in red is mine]:
Qatar’s prime minister issued a statement today denying that a clandestine meeting between Iranian and American officials took place in Qatar, according to Fars News Agency, Iran’s media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards, which cited the Al Jazeera news agency.

Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al Thani, who is also Qatar’s foreign minister, was reacting to reports by Al Arabiya news agency reflecting what WND had reported on Oct. 4 that a secret meeting indeed occurred in Qatar but also that similar meetings between the two countries’ officials had taken place in several European capitals.

Almost all Iranian media are now covering the news, with some trying to divert attention by blaming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his efforts to engage the Americans.

Yet to be determined is whether the Ahmadinejad faction will try to reveal documents of the meeting between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representatives, Ali Akbar Velayati and Asghar Hejazi, and their American counterparts in Qatar as the conflict between the two factions heats up before the Iranian presidential elections next June.

Qatar, a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also will have the chore of explaining to other Arab member states its collaboration with the Islamic regime in facilitating a meeting with America. The other council nations have pushed for tougher U.S. actions to stop Iran from acquiring the nuclear bomb.

Further, in a report today on Iran’s media outlet, Tabnak, titled “What countries worry of U.S.-Iran direct negotiations?” the outlet criticized France, England and Russia for their reaction to the news of negotiations – without denying those direct contacts existed. It said those countries are worried that a deal between Iran and America could derail other international discussions.
[...]
Again, there's lots more to the report. The Guardian has also jumped into covering the story, and Batchelor mentioned that the New York Times is sticking to its report on the secret negotiations despite White House denial of the report. (See the Times report for news on the denial.)

According to Reza's report, Iran's top mullacrat is pretty ticked off that news of the secret negotiations was leaked. But the really interesting news is that part I emphasized because if Maddy does release documents, that would signal a showdown between Maddy and his crew, which includes the IRGC and their business cronies, and the mullacrats and their business cronies.

Also, last night WND published a report on the melee; it includes mention of Batchelor's interview with Larry Johnson and Reza last night: Iran nuke exposé seen 'derailing' Obama campaign

I find it doubtful the soap opera will derail the campaign but when combined with yesterday's Leak-a-Palooza, it's certainly causing a lot of mess for the Obama administration. I think the leaks actually started on Monday night, late, or very early Tuesday.

Anyhow, someone or maybe more than one person who had access to emails sent from the Benghazi main compound and annex to the White House, State and other key agencies while the attacks were going on leaked some of them. The uproar caused by the leaks was because the person(s) sending the emails was summarizing what was happening during the attacks. This was further indication that the White House knew right away that the attacks weren't a spontaneous mob action in response to an anti-Islam video.

The emails were leaked to Reuters, Fox News (I can't find the Fox link at the moment), and CNN. Hillary Clinton tried to downplay the leaks yesterday.

(I can't find that link either but just Google "Clinton leaked emails" to pull up the story.)

I don't think Clinton's ploy worked because with the leaked emails the press sees blood in the water.

Meanwhile, the Beeb reported today that a 'Benghazi attack suspect' dies in Cairo shootout :
 A man suspected of involvement in an attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi last month has been killed in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, officials say. The man was killed after an exchange of fire with security services in the Cairo suburb of Madinet Nasr. Authorities named the man only as Hazem.
[...]
According to the Egyptian officials the suspect was cornered in a flat in Madinet Nasr early on Wednesday morning. He threw a bomb at the security forces, but it bounced back into the flat.

An exchange of fire with the security services then began and went on for several hours, local media reports say.  The suspect's burnt body was found in the property, along with weapons and explosive materials, officials say.

The area was sealed off by police while emergency services dealt with a blaze caused by the exchange of fire.
[...]
One possibility is that the suspect was trying to make his way to the Sinai peninsula, which has become a magnet for militants from across the region, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo reports.
As to whether I buy into the theory that Iran was involved in the attack, or masterminded it --  I always look first to see if there was a profit motive in such situations. There could have been many millions of dollars riding on the outcome of Ambassador Stevens's planned September 12 meeting with Agoco executives.

So I still like my little theory that the perps were intent on derailing the meeting and sending a strong message to Agoco and Washington. But it was still early days when that particular motive occurred to me.(1)  A lot of information has come out since. So I'll concede that there were other strong motives for murdering the ambassador and messing up the U.S. mission in Benghazi:

> It turned out the 'safe house' in Benghazi was actually a CIA operation.

> Then there's the revenge theory: Al Qaeda getting revenge for the U.S. killing of al-Libi or whatever his nom de guerre was -- he was a top al Qaeda figure.

> There were threats from Islamists to Stevens that Washington had to stop supporting the current regime in Libya.

> There was Washington arranging help for the Syrian rebels, which seems to have involved the CIA operation in Benghazi and probably also Stevens. But there's still a lot of mystery to this angle and it could be that very little about it will ever get into public sphere.

> Last but not necessarily least there was the 9/11 anniversary date.

And I'll concede that if Stevens scheduled the Agoco meeting after returning to Libya from his trip to Europe, this wouldn't have given the perpetrators much time to arrange such a complex attack. The animation in Greg Palkot's reconstruction of the strike showed attackers were stationed along the route, in wait for the armored car as it headed from the main compound to the annex. It seems the perps had it all planned out very carefully. I don't think something like that is put together in only a couple days.

So. Given the number of motives for killing him around that time, Chris Stevens was a walking dead man without a heavy-duty security detail. And given the number of motives it'll be hard to come up with a viable prime suspect unless somebody starts singing.

But Tunisia's government isn't allowing the U.S. as yet to question the suspect they have in custody. And another suspect is dead. So the U.S. government really needs a "Kasab" -- the one terrorist in the Mumbai attack who was taken alive. He sang like a bird. But there is no Kasab to emerge from the Benghazi attack because President Obama sat on his hands during the 7-8 hours of the attack.

General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) told Larry Kudlow last night on The Kudlow Report that there was no way to muster a rescue in time to save Stevens and Sean Smith and maybe even the other two Americans were killed -- Chris Doherty and Tyrone Woods. I don't think everyone would agree with McCaffrey but even assuming he's right, there was enough time to send in U.S. troops from Italy and try to capture some of the attackers.

Of course there's nothing like hindsight. Maybe the White House and State (which was surely advising Obama as the attack unfolded) didn't assume the attack would go on as long as it did.  However comma you should read Shahshank Bengali's October 24 report for the Los Times, Libya militia tensions hampered post-attack U.S. rescue effort: A team trying to reach survivors of the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador was held up by poor communications among the militias providing security

The report is a heart-breaker because it makes clear that if the team hadn't been held up, Doherty and Woods might have survived. And if the team had arrived quickly there was always the possibility it could could have captured at  least one of the attackers.

1)  Pundita's Pet Theory
It's actually a long story but here's the short version:

Agoco has a lot of power in Libya's government not only because it's a big state-run oil company but also because it was a major financier of the revolution.

The foreign oil companies doing business in eastern Libya were ready to throw in the towel because of the crummy security situation there.

Plus the government-arranged militias that were hired to guard all the foreign oil operations had taken to nding payment in cash, would you believe. The report I saw that mentioned this didn't indicate whether they were demanding the cash in hard currencies but they probably were.

Something had to be done right away because Shell had already pulled out of the country -- or announced it was doing so -- although it cited reasons in addition to the bad security situation.

So Amb. Stevens needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat after he got an earful from oil executives in Europe who were doing business in Libya. Libya's government couldn't afford to have the foreign companies race for the exit or even suspend their operations for several months.

What was the quick fix? Well, what you do in that situation? I would have told Agoco that it had to tell the government in Tripoli to bring back the army to guard the foreign installations and institute some law and order in eastern Libya. No one wanted to bring back the army, but what was the alternative? Losing all that foreign exchange and seeing large numbers of Libyans out of a job when the foreign oil companies closed their doors?

But taking this route would mean the militias guarding the oil installations, and the people in the provincial government in Benghazi who were probably getting kickbacks from the militias, would lose a lot of money.

Right there would be a strong motive for killing Stevens, if word had gotten out about his scheduled meeting with Agoco. He had a unique position in Libyan society because he'd been an integral and even pivotal part of the revolution. He had garnered a lot of trust because of this -- even Libyans who didn't like the USA knew he was genuinely trying to help them. So while he could be replaced, his replacement wouldn't have his ability to get things done quickly or jawbone over the touchy issue of bringing back the army.

Just guesswork, but when it comes to the murder of an ambassador, any ambassador, I don't like seeing any stone left unturned.  Murdering an envoy is like murdering people who're carrying a white flag to bring a message to an enemy camp during a battle. It's really bad form. 


Frankenstorm: "A storm likely to go down in the history books"

(From NOAA)

Great just great, just hunky dory, this is just what we need right now. [shaking her fist at the weather gods] What am I doing? Don't insult them, you fool.
'Frankenstorm' Predicted to Slam East Coast
A hurricane and winter storm hybrid will likely pound the region early next week
Associated Press
October 25, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) - An unusual nasty mix of a hurricane and a winter storm that forecasters are now calling "Frankenstorm" is likely to blast most of the East Coast next week, focusing the worst of its weather mayhem around New York City and New Jersey.

Government forecasters on Thursday upped the odds of a major weather mess, now saying there's a 90 percent chance that the East will get steady gale-force winds, heavy rain, flooding and maybe snow starting Sunday and stretching past Halloween on Wednesday.

Meteorologists say it is likely to cause $1 billion in damages.

The storm is a combination of Hurricane Sandy, now in the Caribbean, an early winter storm in the West, and a blast of arctic air from the North. They're predicted to collide and park over the country's most populous coastal corridor and reach as far inland as Ohio.

The hurricane part of the storm is likely to come ashore somewhere in New Jersey on Tuesday morning, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco. But this is a storm that will affect a far wider area, so people all along the East have to be wary, Cisco said.

Coastal areas from Florida to Maine will feel some effects, mostly from the hurricane part, he said, and the other parts of the storm will reach inland from North Carolina northward.

Once the hurricane part of the storm hits, "it will get broader. It won't be as intense, but its effects will be spread over a very large area," the National Hurricane Center's chief hurricane specialist, James Franklin, said Thursday.

One of the more messy aspects of the expected storm is that it just won't leave. The worst of it should peak early Tuesday, but it will stretch into midweek, forecasters say. Weather may start clearing in the mid-Atlantic the day after Halloween and Nov. 2 in the Northeast, Cisco said.

"It's almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event," Cisco said Thursday from NOAA's northern storm forecast center in College Park, Md. "It's going to be a widespread serious storm."

With every hour, meteorologists are getting more confident that this storm is going to be bad and they're able to focus their forecasts more.

The New York area could see around 5 inches of rain during the storm, while there could be snow southwest of where it comes inland, Cisco said. That could mean snow in eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and the Shenandoah Mountains, he said.

Both private and federal meteorologists are calling this a storm that will likely go down in the history books.

"We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting," Cisco said.

It is likely to hit during a full moon when tides are near their highest, increasing coastal flooding potential, NOAA forecasts warn. And with some trees still leafy and the potential for snow, power outages could last to Election Day, some meteorologists fear.
[...]
Sigh. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 24

On the perversion of nonviolence and religious tolerance in service of politics and war

Let my people go or I'll pour kerosene on myself and light a match


Two recently published essays, one by Belmont Club's Richard Fernandez, one by Zenpundit's Mark Safranski, when taken together reveal a portrait of human evil so horrific that young people and the severely depressed should not be allowed to see it. The rest of us need to contemplate what we have wrought by looking the other way as NATO military commands ordered soldiers in Afghanistan to act like saints in the face of ruthless armed militias and democratic governments promoted the lie that nonviolent resistance could topple dictators. 

In The Limits of Myth, Richard Fernandez amplifies on the theme I presented in On the Taliban shooting of Malala Yousafza: Pakistani human rights activists need to step believing in American fairy tales:
Pundita argues the notion of bloodless resistance has been oversold by the advocates of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It was a convenient alternative narrative to that perennial problem-solving algorithm, war.  By skipping over the War of Independence and the Civil War and emphasizing the Salt March and Selma, Alabama they gave the mistaken impression that resistance was all about speeches and heroic poses.
[...]
But nonviolence is a useful myth she argues, because it gives diplomats an excuse not to act. It makes a virtue of doing nothing by characterizing it as actively breaking the cycle of violence and counseling that eventually the tyrant will die of shame. But not before you die of a bullet.
[...]
The truth is that every resistance movement — even largely nonviolent ones — carries with it the implicit threat of force. The police and army of the regime often switch sides when they see that the cost of dealing with impending storm of popular violence exceeds the cost of turning on the tyrant. They fear force and therefore decline to exercise it.

The idea of consequences was once deeply rooted in the public consciousness. Yahweh thundered. And even Christ came to save us from the fires of hell. But hell there was. The opportunity for nonviolent change was always understood to be the ‘last chance’ prelude to violent consequences.  ...  This kind of reasoning is now out of fashion.
[...]

I agree with Richard. The reasoning is so out of fashion that the implicit threat of force in mass nonviolent resistance is often missing from modern nonviolent protest movements, as witness Burma's 2008 Saffron Revolution and Iran's 2009 Green Revolution -- both of which resulted in mass arrests and the torture and summary execution of citizens who'd been lulled into believing that dictators will share power when confronted with martyrs and sufficient international media attention.



In A Light at the End of the Tunnell Mark Safranski writes about a memorandum (PDF) composed by Army Colonel Harry Tunnell, IV (now retired) and sent to the Secretary of the Army, and which veteran war reporter Michael Yon brought to public light at his blog on October 10 with the opening words:

"This is the most stunning and forceful letter I have read from the Afghanistan war. It was written in 2010 from Afghanistan by Colonel Harry Tunnell, the Brigade Commander of 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

"After this letter, Colonel Tunnell was investigated and the normal smear campaign unfolded. Having been embedded with his Brigade in 2010, it became obvious [to me] that they were put into a no-win situation, with troops spread over several provinces in Afghanistan."

Badly deployed troops was only the tip of the iceberg, as Tunnell's memo conveys.

In the second paragraph he summarizes his reason for taking the extraordinary step of writing the Secretary:
"We have developed a cadre of senior leaders so informed by the historically inaccurate idea that population can be a center of gravity that we are unwilling to conduct operations that reflect sound military art and science. Consequently, American troops are needlessly exposed to increased enemy attack, suffer unnecessary casualties, cannot secure or control the indigenous population, and are not allowed to deny freedom of movement or maneuver to the Taliban. ..."
Then, in 21 closely reasoned and eloquently written paragraphs he provides detail that backs up and expands on his opening observations. Yet for an outsider to the U.S. military -- and for a reader who isn't steeped in theories of counterinsurgency and counterguerrilla warfare and isn't well informed on how these theories impact military operations in Afghanistan -- some of the colonel's points, or at least their full import, aren't easy to follow. So to make things perfectly clear for the lay reader, I turn to the colonel's words during an interview he gave to the Army Times in December 2009:
When the brigade deployed to Afghanistan, Tunnell announced his intention to pursue a “counterguerrilla” [CG] campaign. Most observers perceived a conflict between Tunnell’s approach and [then-ISAF/U.S. commander Stanley McChrystal's] population-centric counterinsurgency campaign [POPCOIN].

But Tunnell said that his approach was drawn straight from Army Field Manual 90-8, Counterguerrilla Operations (last updated in 1986), and that it was complementary to, not competitive with counterinsurgency [COIN]. However, he added, the “counterguerrilla” concept “is misunderstood. ... That’s why we don’t use the term anymore.”

Brenda Donnell, spokeswoman for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., said FM 90-8 had been superseded by FM 3-24.2, Tactics in Counterinsurgency. “It’s not supposed to be used anymore,” she said of the counterguerrilla manual.

Tunnell, who was badly wounded as a battalion commander in Iraq in 2003, was adamant that the situation in the Arghandab lent itself to the counterguerrilla approach.

“Here in the green zone ... they’re hard-core guerrillas,” Tunnell said. “They form and they operate in teams and squads, and they mass into platoons very quickly. So I think you can’t ignore that. We haven’t seen any $10-a-day Taliban here.”
The term "$10-day Taliban" gained coin, if you'll pardon the expression, at the time the British government was leaning hard on Washington to negotiate a settlement to the war with the Taliban. This on the argument that many Afghan Taliban were not committed fighters for any cause; they simply fought for a few bucks a day because they had no other employment available. They didn't want war, so the argument went; they just wanted reintegration in Afghan society, job training, jobs, a little money to tide them over, understanding, and a small say in Afghan politics.

As to who was paying these misunderstood Talibs the ten bucks a day to blow up and shoot at NATO troops was a question that at the time nobody making the argument for settling with the Taliban liked to address in any depth -- at least, not in public.  But the point is that the entire POPCOIN approach, as conceived by General David Petraeus and his advisers and implemented by Gen. McChrystal, was geared toward winning the hearts and minds of these miscreants, as the Pakistani military termed them.

However, the miscreants Col. Tunnell was dealing with were highly-trained guerrilla warriors who showed no sign of wanting crumbs from the NATO table.

Keep in mind the year this debate arose. Britain's Ministry of Defense had announced their view as early as 2006 that the miscreants were actually being directed by Pakistan's military/ISI -- a view that Tony Blair's government immediately forced them to backpedal on ('Whoops, sorry, it was just our research notes!'). Yet it wasn't until June 2010 that Matt Waldman's ice-breaking research paper fingering the ISI as the orchestrator of the Afghan Taliban insurgency was published.

And it wasn't until late 2010, after a flood of reports followed Waldman's paper (with U.S. military leaders denying everything at every juncture) that the American public began to feel its way toward the realization that the insurgency in Afghanistan was a kind of optical illusion. There was no insurgency to speak of in Afghanistan; there was a hard-core proxy war being fought against ISAF by Pakistan's military with the help of the ISI. It was an illusion that had been carefully fostered by NATO governments with the complicity of NATO military leaders, including American ones.

A fly in the ointment was the pesky Colonel Tunnell, who kept acting on the uncooperative notion that he was fighting an actual war against real soldiers, not misguided civilians who moonlighted as miscreants.

But if the colonel thought Taliban guerrillas and the junior officers who complained vociferously that he wasn't following McChrystal's POPCOIN playbook were making his life miserable, he didn't know what misery was until British Major General Nick Carter took over command of RC-South.  Which brings me to Mark Safranski's observations, which he made initially in an email to Michael Yon and which were subsequently published at Yon's blog and at Zenpundit:
Interesting, this part in particular:

"'A gross lack of concern for subordinates,” Tunnell wrote, “manifests itself in guidance that ‘zero’ civilian casualties are acceptable and coalition soldiers may have to be killed rather than defend themselves against a potential threat and risk being wrong and possibly resulting in injury or death of a civilian.”

Tunnell’s memo exhibits particular disdain for British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, commander of NATO forces in Regional Command South, which includes the Arghandab District where Sitton was killed.

It was Carter, Tunnell wrote, whose verbal order led commanders to risk their own troops rather than Afghan civilians –- something Sitton complained about two years later in an email to his wife.”

Very helpful. I finally get it now.

I was always curious, reading threads [on private listserv] here on Afghanistan, how Colonel Tunnell was able to openly pursue counterguerrilla operations in Afghanistan when pop-centric COIN was the heavy-handed, top-down and rigidly enforced tactical paradigm.

Harry [Tunnell], IMHO, could do this because the verbal orders being issued went far beyond FM 3-24 theory into an unauthorized and unofficial but politically desired British policing model used in Northern Ireland. A kind of tactical guidance that could not be put in writing and enforced through the UCMJ because the American people would have found that guidance to be politically intolerable and morally outrageous -– and rightly so.

Unlike Catholics in Ulster who are subjects of the Crown, Afghans are not American citizens and American soldiers and Marines are not cops in a bad neighborhood. Nor is the Taliban the IRA. Minimizing civilian casualties is a good and worthy goal; valuing political atmospherics over American lives is a sign of gross incompetence, at best.

Hence the anonymous leaks and smears about Harry to politically connected Beltway scribes instead. Tunnell’s superiors were afraid to air their real dispute…"
Paragraph 22 of Col. Tunnell's memorandum reads in part:
The willingness to fight an enemy cannot be turned on and off like a light switch. Leaders are willing to conduct operations at the tactical and operational levels of war to decisively defeat the enemy or not.
The moral of the story is that it's playing with fire to fashion religious tolerance and nonviolent means of conflict resolution into political and military stratagems. As to where this kind of perversion leads -- it leads to the idiocy of Buddhist monks and nuns immolating themselves to protest injustice. It leads to the idea that religious ideals and the spiritual life can be politicized and weaponized. That's not a path to enlightenment. That's a ticket to Hell.


Tuesday, October 23

Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

The headline given to this Associated Press report is a little odd:  Al-Qaida in Afghanistan is attempting a comeback.  Odd because the report, filed by veteran war journalists Deb Riechmann and Robert Burns, makes it very explicit that al Qaeda has been entrenched in Afghanistan for years. 

Ah, well, we take our data where we find it, and there's a lot of interesting data in the report.  Here are just the opening paragraphs (I've linked to the report at e-Ariana  -- datelined there October 23 although it was first published Oct. 20 -- which archives news reports longer than Google News):
KABUL, Afghanistan — A diminished but resilient al-Qaida, whose 9/11 attacks drew America into its longest war, is attempting a comeback in Afghanistan's mountainous east even as U.S. and allied forces wind down their combat mission and concede a small but steady toehold to the terrorist group.

That concerns U.S. commanders, who have intensified strikes against al-Qaida cells in recent months. It also undercuts an Obama administration narrative portraying al-Qaida as battered to the point of being a nonissue in Afghanistan as Western troops start leaving.

When he visited Afghanistan in May to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama said his administration had turned the tide of war. "The goal that I set -– to defeat al-Qaida, and deny it a chance to rebuild -– is within reach," he said.

As things stand, however, an unquestionably weakened al-Qaida appears to have preserved at least limited means of regenerating inside Afghanistan as U.S. influence in the country wanes. The last U.S. combat troops are scheduled to be gone by Dec. 31, 2014, and security matters turned over to the Afghan government.

"They are trying to increase their numbers and take advantage of the Americans leaving," the police chief of Paktika province, Gen. Dawlat Khan Zadran, said through a translator in an interview this month in the governor's compound. He mentioned no numbers, but said al-Qaida has moved more weapons across the border from Pakistan.

For years the main target of U.S.-led forces has been the Taliban, rulers of Afghanistan and protectors of al-Qaida before the U.S. invasion 11 years ago. But the strategic goal is to prevent al-Qaida from again finding haven in Afghanistan from which to launch attacks on the U.S.

Al-Qaida's leadership fled in late 2001 to neighboring Pakistan, where it remains.  [Pundita note:  To be precise, the leadership was airlifted to Pakistan, with permission from Vice President Dick Cheney, just before the fall of Kunduz.]

The group remains active inside Afghanistan, fighting U.S. troops, spreading extremist messages, raising money, recruiting young Afghans and providing military expertise to the Taliban and other radical groups.

U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has said al-Qaida has re-emerged, and although its numbers are small, he says the group doesn't need a large presence to be influential.
[...]
Oh heck, as long as I'm trying to ruin your day I might as well add this other oddly headlined report, which I also found at e-Ariana -- odd because the topic is treated as if it's news.  The only real news here is that this particular American Member of Congress is just learning the ISI is directing the insurgency in Afghanistan. Did he spend years sleeping through the intelligence briefings?
ISI directing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan: US lawmaker
Times of India
10/23/2012

WASHINGTON - Pakistan's spy agency ISI is directing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, a US lawmaker has alleged, saying his view is based on his meetings with the people and officials in the war-torn country.

"US military commanders at several levels of the chain of command indicated that they believe Pakistan and its intelligence agency specifically, the ISI, is directing the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan," California's Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter told the UTSanDiego.Com.

"The fact that they (Pakistanis) are controlling them was pretty astounding to me. It's bad, but it bodes well I think for long-term stability. That means it's an external threat. It's not an internal Taliban takeover like it was in the '90s," said Hunter, who visited Afghanistan as part of a Congressional delegation - the first to visit the country after the recent withdrawal of surge forces from there.

Hunter hinted that the Pakistani establishment might also be involved in the insiders attack.

"Everybody is taking the insider threat thing seriously on both sides, especially the Afghans. They are really getting to the bottom of it in every way they can. Now that the army is at its strength, they can kind of re-vet and check everybody," he said.

Summary of third presidential debate: Romney presidential, Obama snippy


Photo:  Farm crop circle visible from Interstate 80 eastbound near Atlantic, Iowa

NPR has the transcript and audio of the debate.

Remark I think will resonate most with Independent voters:  Romney: "Attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country."

Winner of the debate: The Taliban. Arif Rafik and Long War Journal's Bill Roggio pounded home this point during their analysis of the Pakistan-Afghanistan part of the debate for John Batchelor -- as if anyone who closely follows the Afghan War needed any more pounding.

(The Rafik-Roggio discussion starts at the 10 minute mark on the flash player.)

Best wrap-up: ABC TV's Rick Klein (Mitt Romney keeps command and looks to the future) with these remarks, which I think are the consensus among seasoned political campaign analysts:
Both candidates seemed more intent on redoing the first debate, on domestic policy -- Romney surely because he was strong then, Obama because he wasn’t.

There’s no going back, though, to a point where a single debate could change the trajectory of a campaign. Nothing happened tonight to change the race’s direction -- and Romney walks away strong after playing on Obama’s turf, competing for his job.
Yes. It's really hard to run on hope and change the second time around when many Americans can't find work and many with a job are barely living from paycheck to paycheck.

Romney has a proven record of turning around large and complex organizations that are flailing, and he has a proven record of breaking through political deadlocks to get the business of government done. That's what Americans need right now. What the debates did was assure voters that Romney knows how to act like a President and Commander-in-Chief and that he has a manner they can live with four years.

This just in: John Batchelor's take on the debate, from his blog:
Romney Peacenik

Spoke Mona Charen, Mary Kissel, Salena Zito, Lara Brown, David Drucker, Brett Arends, Bill Roggio, Arif Rafiq, John Fund, Gordon Chang, Reza Kahlili, Kori Schake, Gene Countrymen in re the final presidential debate and learned that the general opinion was the Mr. Romney presented a careful, measured, quiet, pacific demeanor in comparison to Mr. Obama's strident, accusatory, argumentative, sometimes slashing style.

Why did Mr. Obama choose to go on the offensive? An answer that is repeated elsewhere of weight is that Mr. Obama knows he is trailing in the polls and sinking in the Electoral College, and he knows to make up ground he must rock his opponent.

Neither candidate said anything new tonight; both repeated campaign lines and criticisms they had made of each other before. And yet Mr. Obama aimed at Mr. Romney as if he could knock him from the field with barbs and disdain.

Mr. Romney arrived with a strategy of passive aggression: he aimed to present himself as plausible and peaceable. The mistake he aimed to avoid was to appear or sound warlike in any fashion that would allow Mr. Obama to connect Romney to the Bush administration, 2001-2009. Romney not only achieved his modest aim -- Mitt Romney Peacenik -- but also he presented pieces of the economic vision for his candidacy -- twelve million jobs, reducing deficits to avoid becoming like Greece --that the president has not yet answered with the Obama second term vision.

Foreign policy does not change votes unless you make a foreign policy mistake that undermines credibility or suggests instability. Mr. Romney avoided mistakes and overstatements. Cleverly, Mr. Romney moved some of the conversation back to the domestic economy where he believes Mr. Obama is losing his mandate; however Mr. Romney chattered about the disappointment of the last four years in a sober, pensive, resigned way, not ever sounding accusatory to the president.

The evening displayed the magic of role reversal. I asked all my guests, "Who is the challenger?" and routinely they answered, "The president."

World turned upside down.

Monday, October 22

Typo and Signs

Crop Circle

The presidential campaign debate is at 9 PM EDT not 7 as I typed in the previous post. See John Batchelor's Signs, Signs, Signs for how the Romney campaign is going, the latest in the Secret Iran Negotiations soap opera, etc.

About that crop circle, from Batchelor's post:
Photo: More crop artists have been at work in Iowa. This declaration of presidential preference is on Jim and Nancy Pellett’s land and is visible from Interstate 80 eastbound near Atlantic. Mitt Romney supporter Jim Kurtenbach of Nevada went up in a small plane with photographer Charlie Lloyd, another Romney backer, to snap photos. The word “Romney” in the top left corner of the photo can be seen from eastbound lanes on I-80.

Sunday, October 21

Reza Kahlili's discussion with John Batchelor re Obama's attempt at Grand Bargain with Iran: more a "Grand Illusion"

The conversation, aired Thursday, October 18, is good background to Reza's October 20 report for World Net Daily, Obama cuts deal with Iran over nukes. Here is the link to the podcast of the interview; it starts around the 30:02 minute mark.

I'd start there if you're trying to orient to the issue, then move to Reza's October 20 report. Then to the one published yesterday evening by the New York Times. Reza's Oct. 4 report for WND October Surprise? Obama secret Iran deal cut may have given the New York Times journalists clues to follow in preparing their October 20 report, U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks.

All that will prepare you for the discussions about Iran during Monday's presidential campaign debate on foreign policy (to be aired starting 7:00 PM EDT)  (Update -- it's 9 PM not 7) and for the political uproar later today about the Times report, which wasn't released until yesterday evening.

To return to Reza's October 20 report -- note the large role which, according to Reza's sources, Valerie Jarrett played in Obama's attempt to craft a bargain with the mullacrats. If it's news to you that Jarrett is so deeply involved in foreign policy, an involvement generally reserved for the U.S. Department of State -- ah, the things we learn thanks to a presidential election campaign. Note Jarrett's reported joke about her next job (see the report at WND for links provided in the text):
[...] As reported exclusively by WND Oct. 4, a three-person delegation led by a woman on behalf of the Obama administration traveled to Qatar about Oct. 1 and met with Iranian counterparts, including Ali Akbar Velayati, the former foreign minister of the Islamic regime and a close adviser to Khamenei on international matters.

In the meeting, according to the source, the U.S. delegation urged an announcement, even if only on a temporary nuclear deal, before the U.S. elections to help Obama get re-elected. A Romney presidency, the delegation said, would surely move more toward Israel, and the Iranians were reminded that Obama has stood up to Israel against any plans to attack Iran. The regime’s delegate was urged to understand that if Iran does not stand by Obama, Israel will attack Iran.

Days after the WND report, Ali Akbar Salehi, the regime’s foreign minister, in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, stated, “If our right to enrichment is guaranteed, we are prepared to offer an exchange.”

The same message was relayed by several other officials of the regime.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently in Kazakhstan that the sanctions can be lifted immediately if Tehran worked with world powers to address questions about its nuclear program.

In the Qatar meeting, according to the Iranian source, the American woman delegate, who has had several meetings with Velayati during the past several years, jokingly told Velayati that she will be the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a second Obama administration and that it would be wise for Iranians to invest in U.S. real estate.

In the past five months, four meetings were held in the U.S. with the Islamic regime’s surrogates to hash out what was to be discussed at the Doha meeting. The source identified Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, as the head of the U.S. effort to engage Iran. Also identified was Cyrus Amir Mokri, assistant secretary of the Treasury Department for financial institutions, as another member advising the president on the issue.

Jarrett’s family has known the Velayati family since their stay in Iran in the 1950s, the source added. Jarrett’s father worked at the Namazi hospital in Shiraz, owned by an Iranian family that has been influential with the regime after the Islamic Revolution.

WND contacted both the U.S. State Department and the White House, asking about the Doha negotiations, who led the delegation from the U.S., whether Obama will provide the written guarantee, what negotiations the U.S. has pursued on its own and what is known about Amano’s plan to travel to Iran for the announcement. The State Department declined to respond to multiple calls as well as email inquiries. A spokeswoman said the White House would not comment.
[...]
So little time, so many pussyfooters.

Benghazi fallout becoming a blizzard: SecDef Leon Panetta stonewalls House Armed Services Committee

"It is nearly unprecedented that the office of the secretary of defense would prohibit a member of the uniformed military from answering direct questions posed by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee."
[...]
The questions reveal that there may be information within the military revealing warnings about terrorist threats and the need to increase security that were ignored by the State Department or other civilians within the Obama administration.
[...]
The House leaders said it appears the administration has reverted to a past policy of treating terrorism as a criminal matter “rather than also prioritizing the gathering of intelligence to prevent future attacks.”

Incommunicado: House Armed Services chairman blocked from getting answers from senior military about threat warnings prior to Benghazi consulate attack
by Bill Gertz
The Washington Free Beacon
October 19, 2012 - 7:15 PM EDT

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is demanding answers from four senior United States military officers about whether there was advance warning of terrorist threats and the need for greater security prior to last month’s terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

However, an aide to the chairman, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, (R., Calif.), said the office of secretary of defense Leon Panetta blocked the senior officers from providing the answers last night.

“The chairman is disappointed that the administration won’t respond to this basic request for information,” the aide said.

“It is nearly unprecedented that the office of the secretary of defense would prohibit a member of the uniformed military from answering direct questions posed by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.”

Pentagon spokesman George Little told the Free Beacon: “We received the letters last night and are working expeditiously to provide a response.”

The chairman’s letters are dated Thursday. They were sent to Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, which is responsible for military activities in Africa; Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command; Vice Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, director for operations at the Pentagon’s Joint Staff; and Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

McKeon asked the officers to provide answers to questions about security threats by the close of business Friday.

The questions reveal that there may be information within the military revealing warnings about terrorist threats and the need to increase security that were ignored by the State Department or other civilians within the Obama administration.

McKeon asked each of the four officers in separate letters whether prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi anyone under their command had notified the State Department or other agencies about growing dangers in Libya.

“Given the steadily deteriorating threat environment in Libya prior to Sept. 11, 2012, did you or anyone in your command advise, formally or informally, that the Department of State or any other agency take action to increase security for U.S. personnel in Libya?” McKeon asked.

He also wants to know if there were any requests to increase security in Libya for U.S. personnel.

Also, the letters to the four officers asked whether any military officers under their command had recommended “deployment of additional U.S. military forces to Libya due to the threat environment.”

Other questions focused on determining if the officers were aware that officers under their command recommended increasing security in Libya prior to the deadly attack on the consulate that killed Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“To your knowledge, has the Department of State or any other federal agency requested additional U.S. military forces to augment security for U.S. personnel in Libya?” McKeon asked.

Since the attack took place five weeks ago, McKeon said he wanted answers by the close of business Friday.

The committee aide said the chairman also had asked for a briefing on events leading up to the attack, and so far the Pentagon has failed to provide the briefing.

McKeon, according to the aide, does not believe any failures related to the deadly terrorist attack can be traced to the U.S. military, which has a limited presence in the region, including special operations engaged in counterterrorism operations.

“He believes it is important [to know] whether or not the State Department and the administration were using all the information available at the time” on the terrorist threat and the dangers to U.S. diplomats and intelligence personnel.

The House leaders said in that Sept. 25 letter that administration statements attributing the attack to protests spawned by an anti-Muslim film disturbed them. They emphasized that the consulate murders were “a terrorist attack.”

“Decades after al Qaeda attacked our embassies in East Africa, which catalyzed a series of events that led to the attacks of 9/11, it appears they executed a highly coordinated and well-planned attack against us again,” the Sept. 25 letter states.

“Clearly the threat from al Qaeda and affiliated groups has metastasized; yet we do not appear to be learning from the past.”

The House leaders said it appears the administration has reverted to a past policy of treating terrorism as a criminal matter “rather than also prioritizing the gathering of intelligence to prevent future attacks.”

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