Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pentagon Censors Milbloggers, Media and Self but Still Loses to Media, Blogger

“There are plenty of good reasons for the military to be concerned about inadvertent release of "intel". But the fact is the US military as a whole is as guilty of providing such "intel" to a far greater degree than any single military blogger, or indeed of all of them.”

I’m quoting myself here from a post entitled Entire Army Shoots Self In Foot , in which I took the DoD’s arguments and suppositions (as reported in NewYork Newsday ) behind their ‘crackdown’ on "security-risk” milblogs (and their authors) to task.

That was written back in January 2006. Now in August 2007 comes this from

"For years, the military has been warning that soldiers' blogs could pose a security threat by leaking sensitive wartime information. But a series of online audits, conducted by the Army, suggests that official Defense Department websites post material far more potentially harmful than anything found on a individual's blog.

The audits, performed by the Army Web Risk Assesment Cell (AWRAC) between January 2006 and January 2007, found at least 1,813 violations of operational security policy on 878 official military websites. In contrast, the 10-man, Manassas, Virginia, unit discovered 28 breaches, at most, on 594 individual blogs during the same period.

It took a FOIA request to get this information, which is also mighty interesting because I concluded my January 2006 post with this:

It's hard to draw any other conclusion than that the gagging of milblogs is nothing more than an exercise in political propaganda which does nothing to serve the soldier, the mission or the nation. The Pentagon itself has done far more to provide the "enemy" with the Intel it seeks, and to undermine morale in theater and at home though its incapacity to provide the troops with supplies and listen to their real-time field experience, than any milblog ever has.”

Note that the DoD was all too willing to publicly argue its case at the outset, and the fact that it took a FOIA request to publicly reveal the subsequent research that refutes their suppositions.

Now as gratified as I am at this validation of my arguments and conclusions, this doesn’t suddenly make me an expert, nor provide me with another opportunity to criticize the traditional media (which I and many other have often done and still do).

What it does show, is that an ordinary citizen with no “officially recognized” expertise and limited resources can, with a little thought thrown-in, determine actual reality on their own rather than relying solely on being spoon-fed the versions of self-perpetuating “experts” and “authorities”.

Score another one for the hate-filled, loony, lefty hippie bloggers!

(P.S. On the subject of US military meddling in the truth, here’s an old satirical post about Rumsfeld that might amuse; The Iraqi Free Press (a $100-million value!),
with the bonus of some actual Arabic phrases you can learn!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bush Baby?

Not my usual type of subject, but Jenna “The Wild One” Bush just got engaged to one Henry Hager who, as an aide to recently expunged Bush-brain Karl Rove, would now seem to be unemployed (just like Jenna herself) and thus eligible for government handouts.

Wedding plans have yet to be announced. Also yet to be announced is why she’s gained so much weight over the past few months when “the other one” is still quite trim, as are her parents. (pictorial timeline of Jenna’s form here at the egregiously gossipy but entertaining Wonkette).

But I should stop right there.
Who am I to pry and poke at the adult First Daughter’s appearance? Why, such a thing would surely breach the bounds of decency!

And to insinuate that she, the daughter of a firm advocate of abstinence before marriage, might be pregnant out of wedlock would be quite beyond the pale. No doubt the proof that Jenna has simply been overindulging in Hamburgers and potato salad whilst vacationing with Sarkozy will be made evident in the next few months.

Indeed on the day of her wedding we should all be able to look forward to Jenna looking radiant and at her very best, as every bride and every groom and every witness desires.

I wonder when the wedding will be. October? I'm just guessing.

True Detective Stories! Cult of the Unremarkable Islamists!

(h/t to Red Tory for bringing this to my attention. He casts a wide net and always has lively comments, so pay a visit.)

We are well into summer, and you know what that means: Major League Soccer, barbecues, brush-clearing and of course, TERRAH!

“…the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have begun focusing on what they say is a greater threat -- small, anonymous groups of disaffected men who radicalize one another and turn to violence.”

Apparently the FBI is totally on the case, having identified these would-be terrorists with the totally awesome and highly scientific descriptors ‘BOGs, for "bunch of guys," or ‘GOGs’, for "group of guys”---and thanks to the FBI’s mad skillz “the cells may offer greater opportunities for detection and infiltration than the lone-wolf threat because they are more numerous and most members are amateurs.”

So have no fear citizens! The ‘G-men’ have got the ‘B-men’s number!

Well almost, anyway...

Though the FBI has now detected this new and significant threat to our mothers and their apple-pies, it seems that “they are difficult to detect because most lack formal structure or prominent leaders and have little or no contact with Al Qaeda or other known terrorist organizations.”

Because if they'd only have the decency to call themselves Al Qaeda in Oklahoma or something it would really help!! But if that weren’t alarming enough consider this:

"There is no useful profile to assist law enforcement or intelligence to predict who will follow this trajectory of radicalization. Rather, the individuals who take this course begin as 'unremarkable' from various walks of life," the NYPD said in a report released Wednesday.

So have fear, citizens! The ‘G-men’ haven’t got the ‘B-men’s' number!!!

And it gets worse! Apparently a “BOG” can “plan multiple attacks, use varied weapons and tactics, and draw on a wider range of resources than an individual could, officials say.”

Holy Mary Mother of God!
Never would I have imagined that a group of people could draw upon a wider range of resources than an individual could! Do you realize what this MEANS?!!

Why they might organize themselves, establish hierarchies, assign responsibilities, meet regularly, coordinate activities, canvas for support, seek out alliances, develop strategies and who knows, one day they might create a geo-political entity based on common interests, establish a collective identity and possibly even dominate the world!

Thank-God we have officials who are prepared to say things!

Law enforcement officials say BOGs present unique challenges."If we don't bump into them directly or have someone involved in some form of interaction with them, we'll have a difficult time finding them," said Arthur M. Cummings II, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counter-terrorism.

Well there’s only one thing for it then! A mass deployment of FBI agents to round up every single group of disaffected men! It’s the only way to save America!

I’ve written at length and seriously about many of the previous US terror plots and warnings (Idiots Thwart Other Idiots , DHS and the Three F's , Politics, Plots and Paranoia ) and found them to be lacking in credibility and undeserving of the dramatic coverage they were given.

But the article excerpted here (there’s plenty more to it) is the most ludicrous twaddle I have ever seen, in its own contradictions, hyperbole and the absolutely moronic utterances of the featured officials.

It’s been said that “it takes a thief to catch a thief”. It might follow then that it would take delusional incompetents to catch delusional incompetents. In which case, have no fear citizens; the FBI is clearly up to the task!

But just in case, stay terrified (or 'terrorfied'),--it's your duty as an American!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Polling the Surge: Mass-Debating, O’Handjob and Bollocks

Note: this post is a 'three-pager'

A CBS News poll released on Monday this week shows that 29 percent of respondents now believe that the surge is having a positive impact, an increase of 10 percentage points from last month” (emphasis added).

Hmmm! What’s happened that has prompted this pretty significant shift in opinion?

Has sectarian violence dropped-off significantly? No.
Are any parts of Baghdad now safe for correspondents to walk around without body armor and massive military escort? No.
Is electricity now available from the grid for more than 1-hour a day? No.
Has the Iraqi “government” finally been able to accomplish something, anything? No.

These were the goals of the “surge” that began in February and that was supposed to show a positive impact almost immediately, but soon thereafter the White House claimed that results wouldn’t be forthcoming until after June when the full “surge” force would be wholly deployed.

It seems sectarian violence has dropped off a bit in Baghdad (which is supposed to be a major aim of the surge) but some of that has to be attributed to the established summertime cycle of such activity.
Of all its intended goals, the “surge” has had only a marginal impact on just this one aspect of the situation, which clearly illustrates that it is in fact a tactic and not a strategy as Bush and his mouthpieces try to claim.

So, why the significant increase in the perception amongst some that “the surge is having a positive impact”?

Well, Bush’s clueless mass-media echo-machine might have something to do with it:

(Time Cover Dec. 11, 2006)

The usual suspects have all been trotting-out to Iraq on carefully orchestrated DoD junkets and returning with boilerplate reports of progress without providing anything more than anonymous anecdotal “evidence” from “the troops” and “the commanders”.

But what may have driven this change in perception more than anything else has been the significant promotion of the Brookings Institute’s “scholars” Michael O’Hanlon/Ken Pollack recent (July 30) New York Times Op-Ed entitled: “A War We Might Just Win.”

From Media Matters:

“On July 30, Pollack appeared live during the 9 a.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom and the 5 p.m. ET hour of CNN's The Situation Room, as well as MSNBC's Tucker and National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. O'Hanlon appeared on the July 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball and the July 31 edition of CBS' Early Show.”

In almost every appearance in this media blitz O’Hanlon (and Pollack) were introduced by the presenters/interviewers as “skeptics of the war”, without any evidence--because there is none.

The only skepticism these two have ever expressed has been with regards to the “management” of the war, not the war itself. (A summary of their public record that refutes their “skeptic" status is available here).

Over the next two weeks the usual suspects have done the media rounds, trumpeting the same “skeptic” reference without challenge except perhaps from John Stewart (a comedian it should be noted, NOT a journalist or ‘expert’) in an interview with Bill Kristol who was particular in referencing O’Hanlon/Pollack and the invented “skeptic” qualification as proof of their veracity and thus proof that the “surge” was making progress.

The key to this media blitz of course is the combination of claiming that O’Hanlon/Pollack are “critics” of the war, and the publication of their optimistic Op-Ed in the supposedly “liberal” New York Times---thus the implication of an impartial view (one has to disregard the fact that the NYT gave full uncritical reign to Judith Miller’s White House-directed WMD propaganda and the fact that O’Hanlon/Pollack “criticisms” have been limited to complaints that the occupation force could have used more troops and more bombs should have been dropped for Bush’s “strategy” to have succeeded—which would have stopped all the liberal-Democrat whining).

(Interestingly after all the media appearances, Glenn Greenwald asked O’Hanlon directly about his “war skeptic” credentials, which O’Hanlon directly refuted:

“As you rightly (emph.) reported -- I was not a critic of this war. In the final analysis, I was a supporter.”

O’Hanlon has since countered this confession on NPR’s On Point by saying “I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time rebutting Mr. Greenwald because he’s had frankly more time and more readership than he deserves” which of course is a rebuttal that might sway a six-year old desperate to pee in the middle of an argument about cooties, but surely wouldn't convince an adult--excepting adult journalists, of course!.)

In contrast there has been no significant coverage of Anthony Cordesman’s assessment of the surge--try "cordesman surge" on Google(Web) and on the first page there' are no hits from any major media outlets, nor on the second page either (or the third).

Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic Studies and International Studies was on the exact same trip as O’Hanlon/Pollack, yet arrived at an entirely different conclusion! There has been no consequent invitation of other “talking heads” appearing in the mass media expressing analyses that run contrary-to, or even being partially questioning-of, the rosy views of those being so heavily promoted (all two of them).

It is small wonder then that the “surge” has enjoyed its own surge in the perception of its success. But this improvement seems to have occurred amongst the apparently perennial ‘29-per-centers.’

If Bush’s surge ishaving a positive impact” why then hasn’t Bush’s overall performance figures or his “handling of the campaign against terrorismincreased? After all, hasn’t Bush constantly connected each to the other?

On the subject of the surge, it seems clear to me that a carefully orchestrated media campaign specific to the “surge” has had a positive domestic effect on the GOP’s hardcore base in terms of this singular issue, but not enough to persuade the overall majority in this or other related issues.

This ‘bump’ on a singular issue speaks volumes about media manipulation and media compliance with the administration’s message, and also about the desperation of the GOP and their most ardent supporters in trying to find some positive amongst all the negatives.

With one day left in the month, American casualties in July are the lowest since the troop surge began in February", reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, "and civilian casualties are down by a third.”

I would remind David Martin that a reduction in American casualties was not supposed to be a measure for “progress” in the surge—in fact the DoD cautioned that they were expected to rise somewhat--but God-forbid that the CBS National Security Correspondent would actually remember that (and in this report he cites no figures, military OR civilian presumably because he's been told they don’t really matter-- "we don't 'do' body counts"--official!).

U.S. officials attribute that to the dismantling of networks which make roadside bombs and to American soldiers protecting the local population. It would only take a few spectacular attacks to reverse those trends, but even critics of the war strategy are encouraged.”

So although ‘networks” make and use IEDs they have been apparently “dismantled”, BUT if they show up again well then… ummmm…I guess the ‘networks’ won’t have been dismantled, would they?

Still, the important thing is that “critics of the war strategy are encouraged”—based in the fact that they proclaim themselves “encouraged”. And who are these “war critics”? Why none other than O’Handjob and Bollocks!

"For me, gut instinct, just piecing all of the information together subjectively, I thought we should give it a few more months into 2008," O'Hanlon says.”

How telling! “Gut instinct” and “subjective” analysis from a longtime proponent and supporter of the disastrous and illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq has been dutifully given pride of place in the CBS article entitled U.S. Observers Note Progress in Iraq”—and it is but one of many simlilar by other serious news organizations.

Quite accidentally, David Martin partially gives the game away when he finishes with:

That is exactly what the American commander Gen. David Petraeus wants — continue the surge into next spring and then start a gradual withdrawal back to the pre-surge troop level of 130,000 by the end of 2008”.

What Petraeus wants is to become a four-star general with all the benefits. He serves “at the pleasure” of the President and does what Bush wants.

What the GOP Administration wants is to stall and then use the inevitable policy change that will come from the 2008 elections—no matter how slight those changes might actually be---to claim that “progress” was undermined and their certain “victory “ thwarted, if only those meddling kids hadn’t interfered!.

So it is small wonder then that the CBS poll has shown its own surge in the perception of the “surge’s” supposedly “positive impact.” Certainly CBS has done nothing to provide any counterpoint or context, nor have any of the other major media outlets done anything to impartially inform the public before asking their opinions.

This is yet another very clear example of why media matters, and how by not just re-iterating but actually building from the party propaganda, mass media influences public opinion in a way that serves private political agendas and polices.

Fortunately in this case only the most intransigent one-third has been persuaded to reverse their perceptions—not with facts, mind you, but through a campaign of propaganda. But it certainly substantiates the methods of Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, whose only purpose and justification is to manipulate whoever they can for their own and their paymasters’ benefit.

This one-third may once again change their opinion as time drags on, but in this latest propaganda initiative abetted by the mass media there must be reasonable hope in GOP circles that all is not lost and that they can still shape “reality”—at least enough to mitigate their current losses and who knows, perhaps even turn the tide that currently runs against them.

Although the majority of the public has certainly changed and acquired a healthy skepticism, it is evident that the mass-media is still as blatantly partisan or as willfully blind as ever. They are still providing hand-jobs to a corrupt administration, and still presenting complete bollocks to the public.

Note: “Bollocks” is an Old English term (from around the 15th Century) that originally referred to the irrelevant bloviating of priests from the pulpit.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dun Rovin'

It is an old British pun and play on words, that for instance when a fisherman retires he might name his abode “Dunfishin” (as in “I’m done fishing”). The use of “Dun” implies rest or comfortable retirement; from the Danish/Swedish/Norwegian word “dun” for feather “down”, as used in pillows.

Anyway, the BIG news of course is that Karl Rove is quitting at the end of August and much chewing of the fat is now ensuing.

“…he wouldn't be going if he wasn't sure this was the right time to be giving more to his family, his wife Darby and their son" said Dana Perino, undoubtedly the cutest liar I ever did see. His 18-year old son is of course is in college, not in Iraq, but at least he’s getting a college education (unlike his dad) and doesn’t have to dodge the draft as his father did (at least twice, despite never being a full–time student).

But never mind all that, what does Karl Rove’s departure mean?

Well, he delays the subpoena already against him, probably forcing a re-issue for him to appear as a private citizen, but ‘sadly’ then minus personal access to government records. And of course with “Bush’s brain” now “disconnected”, everyone left in the Whitehouse will claim mass confusion and memory-loss, as will Rove of course should he have to testify. That’s basically it.
As a newly private citizen I think he’s in a much more powerful position, personally, than if he completes Bush’s term. That in turn helps Bush and Gonzalez. And if Rove still intends to stay involved in GOP politics, he can keep a low profile as a less public figure.

I’m sure some pundit will express the startlingly insight that Rove’s departure reinforces Bush;s “lame-duck” status (in fact ABC7 News reporter just said that). Duh!

I’m not saying my brief analysis is brilliant, and it may well be totally wrong and others might have keener and more informed and better substantiated opinions. But I’m not counting on the usual MSM suspects to illuminate the consequences of Rove’s departure.

And I'm certainly not cheering his official departure--the sob deserves trial and jail.

Guns And Money

NOTE: This post is is rather ad-hoc as the subject sources are still quite confusing.

(All following emphases added)

According to the AP this week

The U.S. training command had already reported it would arm all Interior Ministry police by the end of 2006 through its own three-year-old program, which as of July 26 has bought 701,000 weapons for the Iraqi army and police with $237 million in U.S. government funds.”

According to the Washington Post last week

“The GAO reached the estimate of 190,000 missing arms -- 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols -- by comparing the property records of the Multi-National Security Transition Command for Iraq [MNSCT-I] against records Petraeus maintained of the arms and equipment he had ordered. Petraeus's figures were compared with classified data and other records to ensure that they were accurate enough to compare against the property books.

Petraeus reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 pieces of body armor and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces from June 2004 through September 2005.
But the property books contained records for 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 pieces of body armor and 25,000 helmets.”

Add the rifles and pistols together and we get 350,000 weapons “issued” over 15 months, according to Petraeus. That leaves another 351,000 weapons purchased over the last 22 months to reach 701,000.
According to the US DoD the Iraqi Army will in the end state be an approximately 137,500-person force based around an Army with 9 infantry divisions and 1 mechanized infantry division consisting of 36 brigades and 112 battalions.

Battalions consist of approximately 800 soldiers; 112 battalions would equal 89,600 troops. Now let’s assume spare weaponry at 50% and another 50% for possible reserve units. That gives us 179,200 assorted AK-47s and pistols.

According to Global Security there are intended to be 65,000 police.
It seems up to 91,000 have applied and received some training, possibly uniforms and pay, but its functional size appears to be anyone’s guess—perhaps 10,000 of inconsistent quality and allegiance.
Even so given the intended gross figures for police (65,000) and army (137,500) we arrive at a total of 202,000 requiring weapons.

Assuming all are armed with either AK-47 or pistol and doubling the figure for spares, attrition and contingencies we arrive at 404,000---still 297,000 weapons short of the 701,000 the US has supposedly bought and distributed: If we subtract the 190,000 “missing weapons” that still leaves 107,000 presumably unnecessary weapons unaccounted-for (a $36 million value!).

But wait...there’s more!

Italian officials are now pursuing arms dealers who apparently had illegally struck a ‘back-channel’ deal with the Iraqi Interior Ministry:

“Investigators say the prospect of an Iraq deal was raised last November[2006], when an Iraqi-owned trading firm e-mailed Massimo Bettinotti, 39, owner of the Malta-based MIR Ltd., about whether MIR could supply 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 machine guns “ to the Iraqi Interior Ministry,'' adding that "this deal is approved by America and Iraq.''

“… 'most' of the 105,000 weapons were meant for police in Iraq's western province of Anbar. That statement raised questions, however, since Pentagon reports list only 161,000 trained police across all 18 of Iraq's provinces, and say the ministry has been issued 169,280 AK-47s, 167,789 pistols and 16,398 machine guns for them and 28,000 border police.”

161,000 police now? These figures are getting crazy. There are supposed to be as many trained police in Iraq as there are US troops? And they are all supposed to be armed? None of this makes any sense. Well, anyway…

The Iraqis had already (supposedly) been provided with at least 350,000 weapons in addition to whatever the ex-army and ex-police already personally held (which the US never bothered, and was incapable of, accounting-for.

“Iraqi officials did not make MNSTC-I aware that they were making purchases,'' Lt. Col. Daniel Williams of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), which oversees arming and training of the Iraqi police and army, told the AP.

That’s a very circumspect choice of words. Anywhoo, we still aren’t done yet:

“In a report last year, Amnesty International said that in 2004 and 2005 more than 350,000 AK-47 rifles and similar weapons were taken out of Bosnia and Serbia, for use in Iraq, by private contractors working for the Pentagon and with the approval of NATO and European security forces in Bosnia.”

Now that would match Petraeus’s reported “issuing” of arms for Iraqi forces between 2004 and 2005. But there are just a few teeny multi-million dollar problems here:

At best, by my rough calculations, assuming an army of 137,000 and a police force of 160,000, all armed, we arrive at 297,000 personnel and 297,000 guns. Doubling that figure for contingencies, wear and tear etc we get 594,000 guns needed in total.

That still leaves 105,000 guns “missing”—and the GAO reports 190,000 “missing” which makes sense because there is no way the Iraq police or the Army are at their supposed full strengths, and they obviously haven’t all been issued all the guns apparently purchased.
Interestingly though the figures for the police are greater now by close to 100,000 compared to my previous calculation we still end up with a kind of magic number297,000 (or 295,000), with an estimated value of $103 million.

Oh and one other thing; the Bosnian-sourced weapons “were taken out of Bosnia and Serbia, for use in Iraq, by private contractors working for the Pentagon”.

Does that mean that contractors simply supervised the process, or does it mean that contractors were the recipients, or both? Why would they be subsidized by US taxpayer money? And would they then also be additionally billing for this “service” and then keeping the weapons?

It appears to me then that either far too-many weapons have been bought (suggesting unnecessary profits for the suppliers and the possibility of kickbacks to the purchaser), or that far fewer weapons were actually bought than were paid-for (providing a $36- to $100-million bonus to the purchaser), or that anywhere from 105,000 to 297,000 weapons are now available on the black market, perhaps at more than $338 per gun (thus providing even greater potential profit), or finally, that anywhere from 105,000 to 297,000 weapons have simply been stolen and/or distributed.

All of these guns would require bullets, of course. I’ve seen nothing yet to indicate whether these arms deals included bullets or not, but 100 million rounds at 18-cents each would cost $18 million and equip 300,000 guns with over 300 bullets each (or 900-plus bullets each for 100,000 guns) and from a $36 million profit that still leaves $18-million to fool around with.

What the precise figures are and who exactly is profiting in money or equipment is as yet unclear, but US citizens at least are obviously getting rooked, US troops are obviously being endangered for profit and/or twisted policy, ordinary Iraqis certainly aren’t benefiting and certain Iraqi and US officials and their friends are benefiting from a collective conspiracy or at least a larger collective incompetence.

Bear in mind this is all US taxpayer money being spent and siphoned here. Note also that during the Bosnian conflict, the United States provided about $100 million in defense equipment to the Bosnian Federation Army, and the GAO found no problems in accounting for those weapons.

I intend to revisit this subject and hopefully make more explcit sense of it. But meantime, even though Bremer "lost" over $8-billion in just one year and a possible $100-million having been mislaid seems small by comparison, this isn't just about mere graft, but lethal corruption and what's more it is just a fraction of the larger Iraqi arms bazaar and boom.