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December 2009

Charges against Blackwater guards dropped

About freakin' time, but a Happy New Year for five guys who never should have been facing charges in the first place.

WASHINGTON – A federal judge dismissed all charges Thursday against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians in a crowded Baghdad intersection in 2007.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said Justice Department prosecutors improperly built their case on sworn statements that had been given under a promise of immunity. Urbina said the government's explanations were "contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility."

The decision throws out a case steeped in international politics. The September 2007 shooting in busy Nisoor Square left 17 Iraqis dead and inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad. The Iraqi government wanted the guards to face trial in Iraq and officials there said they would closely watch how the U.S. judicial system handled the case.

This was a political case from the get go, and I firmly believe the only reason these guys faced charges is the we made a deal w/ the Iraqis because they demanded we prosecute before they would sign the security agreement. There were claims that this was a massacre and that there were no shots fired at the convoy. That was always BS and I covered it extensively.

Exclusive- Source confirms convoy was fired on

"Contact, Contact, Contact"- Radio logs from Blackwater shooting

Hey how do you think that one ass clown who pleaded guilty and tried to rat the other guys out is feeling? Buddy is only half a word, jackass.

One Year in Office - Political Rhetoric's effect on combat

Must read link of the day:  Greyhawk takes a look a political rhetoric and its effects on the combat teams.

   February, 2009: the newly-sworn in President of the United States - who had run on a pledge to "immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq" by removing "one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months" - got a much needed headline: "Barack Obama diverts 17,000 soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan". It was big news at the time, and - perhaps in part because it made good on campaign rhetoric regarding Afghanistan, too - was wildly popular with Americans. (Sixty-three percent approved.) But it was also a fraud, one of the first of many successful frauds the new administration was able to perpetrate on the American public...

Go check it out.  And there's a follow up as well.

Matt Armstrong on PSYOP for Afghanistan

Our friend Matt Armstrong ("Mountainrunner") has a solid piece on the importance of good works to the mission in Afghanistan.  It's about what some of us might call good and evil, really, and letting each one have its honest wages.

It is time to stop accepting the propaganda of our enemies. This is about them not us. But exposing the Taliban and Al Qaeda for what they are – a threat to all societies, rapists of men and women, killers of children, drug users and traffickers, violent criminals, and religious hypocrites – is just part of the solution. Denying ideological and physical sanctuary to our enemy requires military and police operations as well as conscious yet subtle efforts to bolster the morale and hope of the people to foster the development of the physical and functional institutions of society. The people must believe that they, not the Taliban or Al Qaeda (or Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai), own and can shape their own future. This creates the incentive to construct schools, expand commerce, and build on their own culture of lawfulness.

We must understand and undermine the real mechanisms that empower the enemy and take “aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception,” as General Stanley McChrystal wrote in his August assessment. US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke called it an information war. “We are losing that war… We can’t succeed, however you define success, if we cede to people who present themselves as false messengers of a prophet, which is what they do. We need to combat it.” Besides the challenges on the ground, the Taliban’s global propaganda campaign clearly works: according to the CIA the Taliban pulled in $100 million this year in outside donations.

A successful strategy in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, requires assistance directed “against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos” to “permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist” without which “there can be no political stability and no assured peace.” Success is not derived on the dollars spent or the contracts let but how whether locals feel self-empowered, hopeful, and secure.

This is why we questioned COL Roper and BG Cardon closely on the ability of the interagency (and our allies) to follow-through on the "reconstruction" issue -- whether you call it aid or development or Civil Affairs or Civil Military Operations, it's the keystone to American COIN.

We can provide short-term security for the Afghans to try to build that rapport, but we can't build it for them.  They have to do it.  They're going to need a lot of help, and only some of it can be military help.  They will need a lot of technical assistance, which our civil affairs and civil-military operations units can offer; but it can't be just the military.  State's Provincial Reconstruction Teams are important, but it can't be just the State Department.  We're also going to need a lot of money, a very great deal of money, for capital improvements like rail lines and new roads.  Tying the rural Afghan regions to the prosperity that comes from trade is the long-term solution because it gives the people a stake in the peace that they can't afford not to defend. 

Do the right thing.  Our enemy does much that is wicked.  Other than that, the main thing we have to do is develop allies who are good at telling the story.  They will be more credible than we are, because they will have the credibility of a village leader, an elder known to the people.  These are the people we should focus on helping, so that our efforts boost their own, and enhance the reach of their voice.

Juicebox Mafia call to Kill the Filibuster

Well off topic for here, but a fun scrap underway. The Juicebox Mafia is a bunch of young, liberal pundits so-named by Eli Lake of the Wash Times including Ezra Klein, Spencer Ackerman, Matthew Why-Glesias and today's target Tim Fernholz. I know a couple of them now and have proffered a challenge to debate a number of issues i.e. The Socialization of the America. I have received an acceptance of the gauntlet, and will advise as to a time and place for the inaugural debate between the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy & the Juicebox Mafia.

For the time being here is my opening salvo answering their calls to abolish the filibuster and impose the tyranny of the majority. I have been told to expect a response, Game on.

Yemen lousy with al Qaeda

I interviewed Eric Coulson who used to write the Badgers Forward blog when he was deployed. His unit was not from Wisconsin, but in a pre-deployment training, I think in Utah, he mentioned that the area was lousy with badgers. This cracked me up as badgers are notoriously anti-social so it was hard to imagine an area being lousy with them. Anyhow.

It appears that Yemen is lousy with AQ and many running around with the full knowledge of the "government". Mr. Roggio illuminates the infestation.

But for years Yemen has refused to keep wanted al Qaeda operatives behind bars or transfer them to the US for trial. Two wanted al Qaeda operatives, Jamal Ahmed Mohammed Ali al Badawi and Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al Quso, have operated openly in Yemen despite being wanted for their roles in the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 US sailors.

Another wanted al Qaeda operative, Jaber A. Elbaneh, was a member of the Buffalo Six, an al Qaeda cell based in Lackawanna, New York.

The US government has a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrests of Badawi, Elbaneh, and Quso, yet the Yemeni government has rebuffed efforts by the US to have them extradited to the US.

Two radical clerics known to support al Qaeda have also operated freely in Yemen. Abdulmajid al Zindani manages a radical Islamic university despite being designated a terrorist by both the US and UN. Ansar al Awlaki, a radical cleric who provided spiritual support to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers as well as to a Muslim US Army major who murdered 13 US soldiers in a shooting spree, has delivered sermons via teleconference across the globe while running a jihadi website.

Time to expand Gitmo in the Hindu Kush

The detention facilities at Bagram AB in Afghanistan have already come under attack as the eastern equivalent of Gitmo, and they are in some respects. We do have a number of bad guys there under ongoing detention, but we and our allies in country are handcuffed by some rules about prisoners and how long we can keep them. Most US and NATO forces must release prisoners after 96 hours or turn them over to the Afghans. Max Boot explains this and offers a solution in today's Wash Post.

Most U.S. troops are bound by the same 96-hour restriction as the rest of the NATO command. The major exceptions are Special Operations Forces and Task Force Paladin, which works to combat improvised explosive devices. They operate under a separate U.S. mandate as part of Operation Enduring Freedom that allows them to detain suspects indefinitely. But they tend to take only top-tier offenders. Ordinary Taliban foot soldiers, or even mid-level facilitators, are either cut loose or turned over to the Afghans -- which often amounts to the same thing.....

As more U.S. troops roll into Afghanistan, they will conduct offensive operations that result in the capture of more Taliban over the next 18 months. That is not enough time to build Afghan courts and prisons and to train guards, judges and lawyers. Even in Iraq, the legal system has had trouble coping with all of the terrorists U.S. authorities have turned over during the past year. Some have been released and have gone on to commit fresh atrocities.

Such a situation, which exists on a much bigger scale in Afghanistan, is profoundly demoralizing to troops. If service members see a "catch and release" policy in effect, they are likely to either pull back or pull the trigger prematurely. Both possibilities are worrisome.....

The Bagram facility has been expanded to handle more than 1,200 detainees. Further expansion is necessary. Even more important, the United States and other nations should opt out of the 96-hour restriction. This is easy to do by designating all our troops as participating in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as the NATO mission.

There are many problems with the Afghan justice system that will take years to fix and we need a way to deal with the insurgents we take off the battlefield now. Regardless of the howls and whines of the human rights community, our treatment of detainees is plenty good, and given the alternatives the only real solution. Last time I checked this was still a war and we ought to act like it.

Insight on Afghanistan, past and present

Mudville Gazette has the CBS 60 Minutes report on an former CIA guy involved with our efforts to topple the Taliban. I have been wondering about this report and I think it sheds some light on what went before, but the web exclusive he posts has some well-deserved harsh words about the failure of Af/Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke. The administration made a concerted effort to weaken or push aside Hamid Karzai and also to pressure Pakistan. Both have caused considerable hard feelings and weakened Holbrooke and Amb. Eikenberry. They both need to be replaced for us to make any significant progress.

Marching to his own drummer

I just got a note about a former troopie doing a pretty cool thing to raise money to help military families and vets. He and his hound are walking across the country to support those who have served.

When SPC Troy Yocum came home from Iraq, he had just one thing on his mind: hike 7000 miles across America while drumming to raise $5 million for Military Families

President Barack Obama has urged Americans to come together in service. One United States soldier is answering his call by rallying Americans to help veterans. Starting April 17th, 2010, Iraq war veteran Specialist Troy Yocum will hike day after day for 15 months to spread the word that help is needed. With a great team backing him, he plans on drumming up support in more ways than one.

All of you dog lovers should go check out his companion, she is adorable.