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December 2008

Another failure to bring them to justice

Long ago I grew sick of W constantly saying he was going "bring them to justice". He used it too much and he has damn sure failed to follow through. Near as I can tell he brought them to Gitmo and then has proceeded to royally screw the pooch as far as running any marginally competent system of tribunals to deal with them. Now we have another major opportunity missed and I'm pissed.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three of five Guantanamo Bay detainees who said they wanted to confess to charges relating to the September 11 terrorist attacks rescinded the offer after a judge required two to undergo competency hearings, according to a military spokesman.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- the confessed architect of the attacks who was captured two years later in Pakistan -- and four other alleged co-conspirators asked a military judge Monday whether they could withdraw all pending motions and plead guilty to conspiracy and murder charges, Maj. Gail Crawford said in an e-mail.

The military judge initially accepted the requests from Mohammed, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash but ruled that competency hearings are first needed for Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, because "questions exist as to their competency to stand trial," Crawford said.

   After the judge made that ruling, Mohammed, Ali and Attash rescinded their offer to plead guilty.

I would love to have had the tribunal run it's course and validate the concept, creating a legal precedent, but 5 guilty pleas and 5 executions would have been fitting. But over the years they have held these bastards they couldn't find time to do competency hearings on all of them. And now, their cases will pass into the capable hands of an administration staffed with many who question the entire concept of enemy combatants.

So congrats Bush administration for failing to do your job and set the precedent for dealing with these animals. Your glaring incompetence has made this country fundamentally less safe.

Iranian troops and missiles in Eritrea

H/T Mr. Faster Please This is exceptionally bad news as a quick look at the map will show. Eritrea stretches to the very tip where the Red Sea meets the Aden Sea.

Iranian ships and submarines have deployed an undisclosed number of Iranian troops and weapons at the Eritrean port town of Assab, according to opposition groups, foreign diplomats, and NGOs in the area.

The city of Assab sits at the Horn of Africa in the Arabian Sea. As such, Assab offers a strategic position as the world nervously eyes the precarious routes through which a seaborne oil traverses daily.

Local sources have reported that Iran recently sent soldiers and a large number of long-range and ballistic missiles. The military basing came after Iran signed an accord with Eritrea to revamp the Russian-built refinery used by the Eritrean Oil Company, also known as Assab Oil Company. As the world’s second largest import of gasoline, Iran is sensitive to a Western plan to obstruct its access to refined product as a part of broad sanctions provoked by Teheran’s nuclear activities. Iran needs nearby oil refining ability. Using protection of the Eritrean refinery as a pretext, Iran has set up its military operation there, and has been patrolling with unmanned surveillance drones.

In the menatime, the Iranian navy has test-fired a sea-to-sea missile during a six-day naval maneuver in the Sea of Oman. Teheran radio announced, "The surface-to-surface Nasr-2 missile was tested in the (Sea of) Oman operational region,” adding that its new, medium-range missile “was fired from a warship and hit its target at a distance of 30 km (19 miles) and destroyed it."


The Iranians have obviously decided that they will do the right thing and deploy forces to the region to combat the ongoing piracy problems, right? I kinda doubt it, and I don't think this can be seen as anything other than a threat to shut down shipping. While the Iranians can cause all kinds of trouble, shutting shipping lanes around their A/O was always the scariest. Well the doubled down and now threaten two of the largest shipping lanes on Earth. And they are working on their problem of not having a solid source for refined petrol.

Like I said this is exceptionally bad news, and greatly complicates things for us. Welcome to the big leagues Mr. Obama.

Blackfive Arrested With Governor?

Associated with terrorists Press, 9Dec08, CHICAGO: There are conflicting accounts today that the Governor and his Chief of Staff were not the only arrests made this morning. In a shocking development, the AwtP has unconfirmed reports that we regard as being as true as any of our Middle East reporting and photos that well-known milblogger Blackfive was also arrested this morning, or is missing following the corruption arrests.

According to the 3rd floor mens room janitor at the Dirksen Federal Building, er, a confidential source known as BH, the party-hardy blogger was arrested or was being sought for offering up the Blackfive booze fund in an effort to secure the senate seat up for bid. BH further notes that the blogger was turned in by one of his own team who discovered the missing funds.

"It was Uncle Jimbo who turned him in," notes Federal Marshall BH, another confidential source. "Jimbo went ballistic when he discovered the funds missing, screaming about 'what the *&%$ am I gonna do for booze' and something about being cut off from ribs as well. We promised him he could be a confidential informant, but he's already put out a video talking about how he broke the whole story, tricked everyone into confessing, and otherwise carrying on. We didn't realize that we didn't need to promise confidentiality since the readers all know you can't shut him up."

In a twist reported by yet another confidential source named BH, this one with the Federal Attorneys' Office, Blackfive had actually made the purchase for none other than Uncle Jimbo. "It was to be a surprise for him a real job with great hours and lots of perks, sex, and kickbacks. Blackfive was negotiating television deals with several cable outlets to provide both shows focusing on Jimbo and coverage of the Senate once Jimbo was in there. The deal was worth millions for the comedy alone, and would have more than repaid the booze fund."

Federal authorities deny that Blackfive has been arrested, and expressed concern for his safety noting that several of the Blackfive team members suddenly couldn't be found after making comments about "bad things and accidents" happening if the booze fund was missing. There were unconfirmed report that a small experimental submarine was spotted in the Chicago river today, possibly with weapons carrying advanced seeker heads for its missiles and torpedos. Confusion was evident in the stories of the alleged witnesses, who were arguing if it submerged or not, with one stating categorically "the sub sank." One team member who commented anonymously to AP writer BH simply said "If the booze fund is missing, he sleeps with the wolves" before hanging up.

NOTE: AwtP Supervisory Editor BH and AwtP Photography Editor BH also contributed to this story. Any similarity to the photo of Blackfive looking like the late commedian Marty Feldman with missiles firing out of his head towards a giant kitten is purely coincidental.

USAF Tech Sgt Israel Del Toro - Someone You Should Know

    "I'm still an NCO in the Air Force. I've still got a job to do.  Just because I got hurt, if I use that as an excuse not to go my job, I think that's a cop-out." - Tech. Sgt Israel Del Toro

Photographer: Samantha Quigley, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs

In the photo above, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro works out at the Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, fitness center.  Del Toro was injured in combat in Afghanistan.  Despite 80% 3rd degree burns on his body, blood loss, severe trauma, and the loss of his left hand and most of his right hand, Tech Sgt Del Toro, a JTAC, helped continue to defend his team by relaying instructions to the Army radio operator until he was overwhelmed by his injuries.  This is not the first time that Del Toro was in combat.  He was awarded the Bronze Star by the US Army for his valor during the battle of Fallujah in 2004. 

Tech Sergeant Israel Del Toro is one helluva NCO and is Someone You Should Know:

Face of Defense: Wounded Airman Lives for Son, Hopes to Stay on Active Duty
Story by Samantha Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro has made remarkable strides in his recovery in the three years and 102 surgeries since he and his team were ambushed by the Taliban in the mountains near Qalat, Afghanistan.

His fight to survive started on that mountain, where he refused to leave his 3-year-old son fatherless. He'd lost his father early in life and vowed his son wouldn't know what that was like.

The fight intensified when he woke up in the intensive care unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

"They told me I was going to be in the hospital for another year, that I may or may not walk again, [and] that I was going to be stuck on a respirator for the rest of my life," Del Toro said. "I sat there for a few seconds and came back with, 'You can kiss my ass,'" he said.

Del Toro was part of Tactical Air Command and Control, Detachment 1, 4th Air Support Operation Squadron, when he was deployed in December 2005 to Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan, in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was part of a scout team sent to investigate intelligence that the Taliban, including a high-value target, was using a supply route in the mountains near the southeastern city of Qalat.

A couple of days into the mission, an interpreter picked up chatter indicating that the Taliban were observing the unit's every move.

"The Taliban were talking about ... that they could see us when we leave out of the compound, that they see us when we come back in," Del Toro said. "They saw us if we left with the motorcycles, if we were leaving with the trucks."

Del Toro's lieutenant decided to take half a scout team and try to catch the Taliban at their own game. Five members of the 10-man team would head up the mountain after dark and try to catch the Taliban members as they returned the following morning. The rest, including Del Toro and the lieutenant, would provide overwatch from another vantage point.

When a couple of days passed with no action, the lieutenant decided his team would head into the town at the foot of the mountain. There wasn't much in the town, but a suspicious man going up the mountain drew their attention and the five-man team began to follow.

Del Toro told his lieutenant that he could take the shot, but the officer wanted to capture the suspect.

"I told him, 'Sir, these guys are like goats here in Afghanistan. They can be in flip-flops. They can be barefoot. [But] they run up these mountains like gods.'"

The lieutenant still wanted to capture the man, however, but as Del Toro had predicted, the man escaped, leaving the team to traverse the one road that led up and down the mountain.

Del Toro's group was on its way to pick the rest of their team on top of the mountain when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb just after passing a creek.

"They always say your life flashes in front of you. I never believed it, but it's kind of true," he said. "I just thought of my family, my son; what we were supposed to do. We were living in Italy at the time. We were going to Greece. I was going to teach my boy how to play ball."

When Del Toro got out of the vehicle, he was on fire from head to toe.

"I knew that creek was behind me," he said. "But the flames overtook me, and I collapsed. I did think I was going to die there."

His comrades weren't about to let that happen, though. The lieutenant helped him up, and they both jumped in the creek.

Both the primary and secondary radios had been destroyed in the blast, making it impossible to call in air support for the team on top of the mountain that was caught in crossfire.

An Army private with a radio became Del Toro's mouthpiece.

"He's repeating everything I'm telling him," said Del Toro, who, as a joint terminal attack controller, normally would have made the call. "He eventually gets a hold of Lagman, and they say, 'Hey, tell Gunslinger [Del Toro's call sign] he has A-10s and British airs coming in."

That was the last action Del Toro took that day. After the trauma of the blast, the third-degree burns covering 80 percent of his body, and the frigid dip in the creek, his body began to shut down. His brothers in arms knew how to keep him going, though.

"They knew that I had lost my dad when I was young, and how I said I would never let that happen to my son," he said. "They used that to keep me [awake]."

Del Toro remembers being loaded onto the helicopter that arrived after about 20 minutes. He remembers getting to the field hospital, where the doctor cut off his watch and told him he'd be OK. And that's all he remembers about that day.

That was December 2005. He woke up in March 2006. Losing four months of his life was surreal, he said.

"Sometimes I'll try and concentrate and see if I can remember anything," he said. "But I'm not even sure if they're memories, or hallucinations or dreams."

Del Toro did not get much time to dwell on his lost time. He had bigger demons to slay in recovering.

First, there was the news that he may not walk again and that he'd be on a respirator the rest of his life. In an act of defiance, Del Toro left the Intensive Care Unit at the end of April. A month later, he walked out of the hospital, breathing on his own.

Despite all he'd gone through, Del Toro said, he never once wished that he'd died. Still, his biggest personal fear later made that thought race through his mind in what he described as a "real dark hour."

"When you're as badly burned as I was, they ease you into seeing your face," he said. "There was one day where my wife and my therapist - he was my guardian angel – were helping me to the bathroom.

"I don't know if it was my wife or my therapist ... [who] slipped and fell and pulled the towel off the mirror, [but] I saw my face in there and I broke down," he said. "I just wished I died at that point."

It had nothing to do with being vain, and everything to do with his son and how he would react to his father's appearance, he said.

"I was like, 'My God, if I think I'm a monster, what's my 3-year-old son going to think?'" he said.

Just as his therapist had assured him, however, Israel Del Toro Jr., after a brief hesitation, gave his dad a big hug when he heard his voice.

Del Toro, who hopes to remain on active duty, has had several speaking engagements since becoming an outpatient.

"I'm still an NCO in the Air Force. I've still got a job to do," he said. "Just because I got hurt, if I use that as an excuse not to go my job, I think that's a copout."

Del Toro has accepted that when he's finished with his recovery - he estimates he's got another 10 to 15 surgeries remaining - he won't be able to return to the field as an operator. Instead, he said, he would like to become an instructor.

It's the attitude one would expect from someone who, until questioned about their whereabouts, didn't know where his medals were. His Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal, which he received in a June 24, 2006, ceremony, along with the Bronze Star he received for actions in Iraq, were in a box in a closet.

"For me, my medals aren't a big thing," the 12-year Air Force veteran said. "I went there to do my job. I saved some guys. I came back. I didn't expect to be rewarded for it."

Del Toro, a Chicago native, and his wife, Carmen, live near Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

And there is a really great article about Israel Del Toro at SW Texas Live.  MUST READ.  It is very well done.

And you can see and hear TSgt Del Toro talk about his experiences at the Military Times.

TSgt Del Toro is a Jumpmaster and Master Parachutist.


German Soldiers in the 'Stan: too drunk to....

The Daily Mail Online has a story about German soldiers having weight problems in Afghanistan...why?  Check this out:

They drink too much and they're too fat to fight, that's the damning conclusion of German parliamentary reports into the country's 3,500 troops stationed in Afghanistan.

While British and U.S. troops in the country face a strict ban on alcohol, their German comrades are allowed two pints a day.

The stunning statistics reveal that in 2007 German forces in northern Afghanistan drank 1.7million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine.

The troops also downed 896,000 pints of beer in the first six months of this year, the Times reported...

Our guys get nothing and they drank 1.7 million pints?!  In Afghanistan?!

There's more.  The Commissioner of the military considers their mission a failure.

More Iranian-Backed Terrorists Captured Yesterday

Troops Capture Iranian-backed Terrorists in Iraq
Courtesy Story From the American Forces Press Service
Posted on 12.08.2008 at 12:05PM

WASHINGTON - Coalition forces apprehended three alleged Kataib Hezbollah terrorists in two operations early today in Baghdad's Rusafa district, military officials reported.

Kataib Hezbollah is believed to be a surrogate group operating in Iraq on behalf of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, coalition officials said.

During the first operation, coalition forces acted on intelligence information to captured three suspected Kataib Hezbollah members believed to be responsible for recent attacks against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi and coalition forces. In a separate operation in Rusafa today, forces targeted a suspected militant believed to be responsible for collecting intelligence information on Iraqi and coalition forces. The wanted man also is believed to be involved in attacks against coalition forces. He identified himself to forces and was apprehended without incident...

You can learn more about the Iranian Quds Force at the Long War Journal.

mcCain in Afghanistan


U.S. Senator John McCain talks with U.S. Marine Lt. Col. David L. Odom, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Afghanistan, on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Dec. 7. U.S. Military service members and British Royal Army personnel briefed U.S. Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham on the progress and status of their area of operations in Afghanistan.  Photographer: Cpl. Pete Thibodeau, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan.


U.S. Senator John McCain speaks with members of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Afghanistan's ground combat element Dec. 7 on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. U.S. Military service members with SPMAGTF-A and British Royal Army personnel briefed the senator on the progress and status of their areas of operations in Afghanistan.  Photographer: Cpl. Pete Thibodeau,  Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan.


U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman shakes hands with U.S. Marine Maj. Brian Mulvihill, the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Afghanistan, on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Dec. 7. U.S. Military service members and British Royal Army personnel briefed U.S. Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham on the progress and status of their area of operations in Afghanistan.  Photographer: Cpl. Pete Thibodeau, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham shakes hands with U.S. Marine Lt. Col. David L. Odom, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Afghanistan, on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Dec. 7. U.S. Military service members and British Royal Army personnel briefed U.S. Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham on the progress and status of their area of operations in Afghanistan.  Photographer: Cpl. Pete Thibodeau, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan.

Airborne Devil Dogs

1st Recon Bn conducts airborne ops over al Asad airbase in Iraq. Excellent footage from the plane and the ground, congrats to CPL Daniel Angel. I left the first stick with the ambient sound so you could hear the jump commands, then added one of my favorite songs for the next sticks. Well done Marines, Celer, Silens, Mortis. Oh and dynamic PLF there first landing we see.

Blackwater guard's statement at Smoking Gun

The proffer signed by Blackwater employee Jeremy Ridgeway, the 6th guard, is up at Smoking Gun. It is written with all kinds of inflammatory language that the prosecutors are going to use to say there were no reasons for weapons to have been fired. I read the whole thing and it really isn't much of a smoking gun.

The biggest problem for the other defendants is that their Bravo Falcon said he heard no incoming fire before hearing another convoy member open up on a white KIA that was coming close and moving slow. He saw the guy hitting the car and began to do so himself. The proffer offers a ridiculous explanation then saying he should have known there were other options available than simply joining in suppressing a perceived threat. They state that a "reasonable" person would have attempted to see if the vehicle showed any of the classic signs of a VBIED i.e. Guy driving with a scarf on chanting to himself. That is foolish given that the vehicle is already being engaged. Somebody perceived a threat and anyone interested in staying alive at that point has better things to do than try to read the driver's freakin' lips.

Other than the initial admission that he heard no incoming fire before the other guard opened up, there is nothing damaging in the statement. It made me wonder why the guy copped to it. Once bullets start flying nobody really knows what is going on, and this document pretends like that isn't true. Urban combat is inherently confused and chaotic, and while it is absolutely correct to require that responses be proportional and proper, it's folly to state that someone in the middle of a gunfight can tell who and where everybody is.

I have yet to hear if there is any physical evidence of incoming fire, or if the entire rationale for the shooting is the slow and close approach of the white KIA. If there is, everything changes, if not then the question is whether the guard who first shot at the white KIA honestly and reasonably believed the car was a bomb. If he did, then the initial shooting is justified. The rest of the actions as they sought, in their minds, to break contact were a continuation of that same belief bolstered by the sound of automatic gunfire (even if it was only theirs).

The case has many procedural difficulties, the primary being the law they are charged under does not apply to them, only to DoD contractors and military personnel and they are clearly State Department contractors. That alone should torpedo this, and regardless of the guilt or innocence of these men, using this law is a travesty.

TSO points out something I missed the first time through.

Did you read the second and third lines of page 2?  What the shit is this?

“were employed by the Armed Forces outside the US as defined by 18 USC 3267(1)”…

What a complete crock of shit.  When did DoS become the Armed Forces?

He adds the relevant Code

(1) The term “employed by the Armed Forces outside the United States” means—

(A) employed as—

(ii) a contractor (including a subcontractor at any tier) of—

(I) the Department of Defense (including a nonappropriated fund instrumentality of the Department); or

(II) any other Federal agency, or any provisional authority, to the extent such employment relates to supporting the mission of the Department of Defense overseas;

So unless the State Department is a subordinate unit of DoD, or they have subordinated their mission to DoD's then Blackwater employees definitely do not fall under this description. This is a case of the prosecutors attempting to steal a march by making their own incorrect finding that they were members of the Armed Forces. If say a Department of Energy contractor was sent along with a military team to help recover a nuke and he has a shoot out, that might fit this definition, but BW's guys absolutely not. The prosecutors also claim that since the military would have to guard the diplomats if BW didn't then they are performing a military function. BS again, State does not want military guards specifically to avoid being dependent on DoD. If it wasn't BW it would be GS civilians not soldiers.