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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Maritime Security Gears Up

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'S PLAN TO INCREASE ITS awareness of activities on the world's waterways is starting close to home, as many federal agencies turn their attention to ports.

While the U.S. Northern Command has been steadily bolstering its harbor security posture, the Department of Homeland Security is heightening efforts to detect and interdict waterborne threats to ports. The Navy and Coast Guard may expand joint command centers to prevent and respond to calamities near domestic hubs of commercial maritime traffic.

But officials from the Navy and DHS said the task of securing the maritime domain is a global problem-a strike in a vital choke point in the Malacca straights could mean economic upheaval in the continental United States. Officials also often note that by the time the threat is at a port, it may be too late to avert a disaster.

Pushing the security line away from the United States requires often-thorny new developments, such as international agreements, yet- to-be developed sensor technologies and intelligence sharing with myriad players through a common operating picture.

Ports, on the other hand, have a more focused task, with well known sea lanes, established protocols for inbound traffic, known domestic law enforcement partners and leverage with private sector shippers to cooperate to ensure quick access.

One Navy official said that compared to aviation, the overall awareness of the ocean's traffic would receive a failing grade. He quietly added that the United States has "good spotlight awareness at some harbors."

In an attempt to increase the range of automated ship identification, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys like this one may be fitted with transmitter/receivers.

Emblematic of the current state of maritime security is the use of an automatic identification system that is the cornerstone to knowing locations and identities of ships. By separating potential risks from the clutter of harmless ship traffic, threats can be found. Installing an AIS transponder is voluntary for commercial ships, and there are hopes that their use will expand beyond littoral areas.

In a map used by Navy officials at a recent industry conference, the gaps in AIS coverage were clearly visible. Arcs drawn on the map, bowing from major ports in the country, indicated zones where AIS signals could be received. Large segments of the U.S. coastline, including small ports and inland waterways, as well as the enormity of the oceans themselves, are not included. Seven of the 15 AIS zones were noted to be in development.
Lots of good stuff -read it all.

Related West African maritime security article:
“It’s not all about oil,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Trott, Gulf of Guinea strategy and policy desk officer for U.S. Naval Forces Europe Sixth Fleet. “It comes down to, there are a lot of resources in the region, and when you get to the nexus of an area with a lot of resources and not a lot of security, then you have the opportunity for the bad actors.”

U.S. Naval Forces Europe has embarked on a 10-year push to help 10 West African nations either develop or improve maritime security, and in turn, boost economic development.
Hey, it's a global system.

Terror supect captured in Italy traces may have East African (Somali) ties

Set out here:
It has been possible to identify a dense network of people belonging to the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Italy who are believed to have helped the fugitive cover his tracks,” Giuseppe Pisanu, Italy's interior minister, told parliament on Saturday, referring to Mr Hussain.

Eritrea and part of Somalia are former Italian colonies that were brought together in a brief-lived east African federation with Ethiopia by Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, when his armies occupied the country in 1936. According to official data, 5,700 Eritreans, 4,600 Ethiopians and 4,900 Somalis were living in Italy in 2003.

Mr Pisanu said Italian investigators were probing Mr Hussain's east African contacts in Milan and Brescia. “He came into contact with people originating from the Horn of Africa who are resident in the provinces of Milan and Brescia, the city where the Ethiopian father of Hussain's fiancée lives,” Mr Pisanu said.

Mr Hussain was initially identified last Friday as a Somali-born naturalised Briton but Italian authorities now suspect that documents purporting to show his Somali origins were forged. Mr Pisanu said Italy had been keeping the Horn of Africa under close watch because it believed al-Qaeda terrorists were using it as a base for operations.

“We are attentively following the evolution of the situation in the area where, in places where the state is absent, al-Qaeda has arrived, has taken root and is using various means to send out its followers into Europe and the rest of the world,” Mr Pisanu said.

Somalia is of particular concern because it has been mired in violence and lawlessness since 1991. An Italian naval vessel is patrolling waters off the Horn of Africa, where pirates last month hijacked a United Nations World Food Programme-chartered ship carrying food aid for survivors of last December's Indian Ocean tsunamis.

Companions to Pirates: Wreckers

J.M.W. Turner: "The Shipwreck"
Book review on "Wreckers".

A Story of Killing Seas and Plundered
Shipwrecks, From the Eighteenth Century
to the Present Day.
By Bella Bathurst.
Illustrated. 326 pp.
Houghton Mifflin Company (NY Times review here)
Gathering flotsam and jetsam* is perfectly okay.

Luring ships to their doom to generate flotsam is akin to piracy and perhaps is worse since the crew and passengers may have little or no chance of survival.

Looks like an interesting book for maritime junkies.

*Flotsam in maritime law applies to wreckage or cargo left floating on the sea after a shipwreck. Jetsam applies to cargo or equipment thrown overboard (jettisoned) from a ship in distress and either sunk or washed ashore. The common phrase flotsam and jetsam is now used loosely to describe any objects found floating or washed ashore.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Private Ship Escorts for Malacca

In what may be most dramatically written article I have read on the pirates of Malacca Strait, the news is old: Companies turn to private navies to combat pirates of the Malacca Strait - [Sunday Herald]
Running the gauntlet of the pirate-infested Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia has long been among the riskiest voyages in the world for a ship’s master.
Gangs in fast launches armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, some backed by sophisticated criminal syndicates, have murdered mariners, kidnapped crew, and even hijacked ships and steered them to ports run by corrupt officials where they have their cargoes unloaded. Afterwards, the vessels are repainted, ready for sale on a shady international market.

But now the level of violence has escalated to the point where Lloyd’s Market Association has designated the Malacca Strait a warzone, classifying the waters as a high-risk area for war and terrorism on a par with Iraq for insurance purposes.

In an attempt to control the alarming rise of piracy, shipping companies are being forced to turn to a radical new solution – private navies.

As many as five companies have set up in the last year, including three British firms and an American security company. Other security firms are now trying to get into the lucrative new market, where the price of missions to protect cargo ships starts at US$50,000.
By the way, private navies aren't really a new idea, either, but harken back to the really olden days.

Update: A variation on the theme.
Note that the goal is not to "eradicate" the pirates (probably bad for business to eliminate the problem for which you exist...)

How to create outlaws: make stupid legal decisions

A New Jersey state court of appeals reverses a lower court and holds Tour boat captains can't carry guns.
Tour boat captains voyaging on New Jersey waters cannot carry a weapon, even if they fear terrorists may try to commandeer the vessel and deploy it as a bomb like 9/11 hijackers did with jetliners in 2001, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

The decision involved a Hackettstown, Warren County, tour boat captain who skippers vessels for a company operating party boats off the coasts of New Jersey and the rest of the East Coast.

The man, Salvatore Atanasio, failed to show what the appellate division said was the legal "justifiable need" to carry a handgun, even though he said an attacker could storm his vessel.

The decision marked a reversal. When Atanasio first applied for the gun permit, Warren County prosecutors objected but lost in court. The state Office of the Attorney General appealed.
The reversal on appeal was based on this classic legal reasoning:
The court said that if Atanasio had the right to carry a gun, then other workers, "would be legally entitled to carry concealed firearms."
There is probably already a New Jersey law forbidding the take-over of tour boats by terrorists and using them as bombs, which I am certain will deter terrorists about as effectively as this decision will prevent concerned skippers from simply carrying weapons without the benefit of bothering the State of New Jersey for a permit. Not that any prospective terrorists might take note of this decsion and decide to test the waters to see if Captain Atanasio's concern over the use of his boat might, in fact, be a viable method of attack.

Note to tour boat operators: Better step up the passenger screening process, but make sure you don't pick on only young men of Middle Eastern might violate the law.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Kosovo is still a mess

Excellent piece from The American Spectator:
The fact that Kosovo remains an issue demonstrates the Clinton administration's hubris and surreal view of the Balkan combatants in 1999. The belief that it could impose a mutually acceptable arrangement, one that enshrined minority rights within a multi-ethnic framework, always was a fantasy.

The hatreds on the ground were too strong. America's intervention -- taking the world's greatest military alliance into war against a destitute state suffering through a series of civil wars -- irrevocably changed the geopolitical environment.

Stopping the bitter guerrilla conflict was an obvious benefit, but little good has occurred since the bloodletting ended. America's allies, the Albanian majority, conducted ethnic cleansing on a grand scale, kicking out most Serbs, Jews, Roma, and non-Albanian Muslims.

U.N. rule has done little to prevent endemic violence, crime, and instability, including brutal anti-Serb riots last year. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) says simply: "the human rights situation in Kosovo is still not a good one, particularly for minority communities who live in enclaves and for the displaced."
Oh, and by the way there is no economy except for the money poured in by "aid" organizations.

Update: More here
At the forefront of this push to resolve Kosovo’s status are representatives of two U.S. presidential administrations.

During a July trip to Kosovo as the head of the Washington D.C.-based (and CIA funded) National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright commented, “I know Kosovans have a dream and people are entitled to have their dreams fulfilled.”

This sentiment is backed by Venhar Nushi, a spokesperson for the Pristina-based political think-tank, Kosovo Action for Civic Initiatives, KACI, who said, “We all know what the United States actually did for Kosovo. From my point of view, I think the U.S. came here for a task, and that’s to make Kosovo independent. Definitely.”
Few ethnic Albanians question the presence of the U.S. military. The U.S. support of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the same group branded by the U.S. State Department in 1998 as a "terrorist organization," showed clearly to all ethnic groups in the disputed region that the U.S. favors the Albanians.

Political commentator, Dukagjin Gorani, Senior Editor of the Kosovo daily paper, the Express, admits, “Kosovars are not very prompt to understand the geopolitics of conspiracies. To Kosovars the existence of Bondsteel, which is now the biggest U.S. military base in Europe, is and will probably remain a sign of political stability for Albanians. In fact to most of us it is a sign that Kosovo will never again go back under the umbrella of Serbia and Montenegro.”

Gorani also suggests that the average Kosovo Albanian sees "allowing" the U.S. military presence on Kosovo soil as their contribution to the U.S. “war on terror.’

But ordinary Kosovo Serbs see the United States and the international community suggesting the province move towards independence, as stealing, by military force, the cradle of Serbian civilization.

This was predictable: "Extremists rip off tsunami charity cash"

Reported here:
CHARITABLE donations to help people affected by the Asian tsunami disaster are falling into the hands of radical Islamic groups linked to terrorists in Indonesia, a leading expert on the global al-Qaeda network warned yesterday.
Surprise...not. Anybody checked on the funding in Kosovo and the other Balkans?

Latest Office of Naval Intelligence World Wide Threat to Shipping Report (to 27 July 2005)

Go here and click on the date. Highlights (mostly Somalia):

2. SOMALIA: Tanker (CIELO DI MILANO) was fired upon 26 Jul
while underway approximately 85 miles off the east coast. Two
small boats attacked the vessel but the master increased speed and
evaded boarding (Italian Navy).
3. SOMALIA: An unidentified bulk carrier was fired upon 21
Jul at 1745 local time while underway in position 03:38N, 049:30E,
east coast of Somalia. Pirates, armed with guns, approached the
vessel in a blue and white-hulled speedboat that was approximately
8 to 10 meters in length. Master raised the alarm, crew mustered,
activated fire hoses, and fired one rocket flare. Pirates opened
fire with automatic weapons. Master increased speed, took evasive
maneuvers, and moved away from the Somali coast. Pirates abandoned
boarding due to rough weather (IMB).
4. SOMALIA: RORO vessel (JOLLY MARRONE) was fired upon
21 Jul at 1100 local time while underway in position 03:30N,
049:20E, east coast of Somalia. Six pirates, armed with guns,
opened fire from two boats in an attempt to board. Crew mustered
and ship increased speed. Pirates aborted boarding (IMB, Italian Navy).
5. SOMALIA: M/V (HANSEDUO) was fired upon 16 Jul at 1325
local time while underway in position 03:05N, 048:05E, east coast of
Somalia. Four pirates, armed with guns, fired upon the vessel from
a speedboat and tried to board at the starboard quarter. Ship
increased speed and took evasive maneuvers. Crew activated fire
hoses and fired rocket flares. After 15 minutes, pirates aborted
boarding attempt (IMB).
6. SOMALIA: M/V (PARANA) was fired upon 16 Jul at 1600
local time while underway in position 04:37.4N, 048:25.9E, east
coast of Somalia. Four pirates, wearing military fatigues and armed
with shoulder fired rockets and machine guns, opened fire upon the
vessel in an attempt to board. Vessel sustained some damage but was
able to avoid being boarded. No injuries to crew. Pirate vessel had a
white hull with black bulwark and a high powered engine (IMB).
7. SOMALIA: An unidentified container ship was fired upon
18 Jul at 0300 local time while underway in position 12:11N, 050:27E,
off Caluula, NE coast of Somalia. Six pirates in two boats, armed
with guns, fired upon the vessel in an attempt to board. Ship
increased speed and boats moved away. No damage to ship or injuries
to crew (IMB).
8. SOMALIA: An unidentified RORO was fired upon 17 Jul at
1830 local time while underway in position 12:09N, 050:52E, off
Caluula, NE coast of Somalia. Seven pirates in two boats, armed
with guns, fired upon the vessel in an attempt to board from the
stern. Ship increased speed and crew activated fire hoses. After
10 minutes, boats moved away. No damage to ship or injuries to
crew. Pirate boats were white and approximately 4m in length (IMB).
9. SOMALIA: The general cargo ship (SEMLOW) was hijacked
26 Jun while underway in position 04:47.6N, 048:12.0E, off Hobyo.
Hijackers are demanding $500,000 to free the vessel and ten
crewmen. The vessel was under charter of the UN World Food
Program (WFP) and is carrying 850 MT of rice, donated by Japan
and Germany, destined for Bossaso, Somalia. On 12 Jul, the UN WFP
director warned the pirates that if the vessel, crew, and cargo were
not released within 48 hours, then the WFP would blacklist the area
of Haradheere and Hobyo for the next 10 years. Mohamed Abdi
Hassan, the leader of the group holding the vessel, denied they
were demanding ransom but rather simply guarding the seas against
illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste, and impounded the vessel
because of improper documentation. ONI NOTE: This is likely the
same militia group responsible for the attempted boarding of M/V
(TIMBUCK) and successful hijacking of a LPG tanker back in April
(see 20 Apr ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping report paragraphs 5.H.3
and 5.H.4). After 18 days of captivity, the LPG tanker and crew were
released unharmed upon receipt of ransom payment. All vessels
should heed the IMB warning to stay as far away as practical from the
eastern coast of Somalia, particularly in the area off Haradheere and

The Rich Go to Sea- but they are not like the rest of us

CNN says so here:
Imagine yourself cruising the high seas in a lavish, super-secret ocean-faring vessel complete with a remote controlled undersea rover, a 12-man submersible and a personal crew of 60, including several former Navy Seals and a recording studio.

No, you're not 007's nemesis in some 1970s James Bond flick. You're aboard Microsoft (Research) co-founder Paul Allen's $200 million private yacht.

Details about the 416-foot boat, named Octopus, are hard to come by. Spokespeople for all the boat owners in this story declined to comment. One even asked if this was an investigation into executive compensation. Of course it isn't -- it's simply an unabashed celebration of maritime largesse.
My own boat is substantially smaller and less lavish.

Malacca Littoral States Willing to Listen -but Sovereignity Reigns

Reported here:
The three littoral states responsible for security in the Straits of Melaka are open to the views of other interested countries, so long as the issue of sovereignty is clearly understood, Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Friday.

He said a number of states, including those that participated in the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) here, had offered to work with the littoral states of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, yet respecting their maritime responsibility and sovereignty.

"We are quite willing to co-operate, we are quite willing to have confidence building measures and inter-session discussions.

"(But) of course, the primary responsibility based on international law is on the littoral states and they are also responsible to ensure safety of navigation in that area," he told Malaysian newsmen on the sidelines of the 12th ARF here.

More on some forms of cooperation here.

Hong Kong has new approach in container security

Reported here:
Until now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has sought to secure global shipping by relying on intelligence and scrutinizing cargo manifests to identify and inspect suspicious shipments -- such as an unrefrigerated container full of "frozen fish" -- long before they reach American shores.

But critics say this method is flawed because it relies on the vague and often-unreliable information listed on shipping documents, as well as on spotty intelligence from remote corners of the world. Currently, less than 6 percent of the containers headed for American ports are deemed "high risk" by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and get pulled for examination by Customs inspectors.

Now, a new strategy being tested in Hong Kong claims to better secure the global shipping system by electronically scrutinizing every container full of sneakers, without unacceptably slowing the flow of international commerce.

In the past year, the Hong Kong Terminal Operators Association, which includes several private companies that manage the world's second-busiest port after Singapore, has deployed scanning machines supplied by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. Trucks that haul the port's containers pass through two of the giant scanners. One checks for nuclear radiation, while the other uses gamma rays to seek out any dense, suspicious object made of steel or lead inside the containers that could shield a bomb from the nuclear detector.

Singapore Foreign Minister Warns of Sea-Borne Terrorism

Reported here:
Foreign Minister George Yeo painted a dark scenario of the devastation that might hit Singapore should terrorists blow up a hijacked tanker in the island's harbour, one of the world's busiest.
"Singapore would, of course, be devastated. But the impact on global trade would also be severe and incalculable," he told Asia's biggest security forum as it wrapped up its annual session in the Laotian capital on Friday.
Pretty much the Standard Warning.

North Korea News in a Nutshell

StrategyPage sums it up for you: here:
July 28, 2005:-The negotiations with North Korea are continuing, but
are as pointless as all the earlier ones have been. This time around, the North Koreans are insisting that the United States get its nuclear weapons out of South Korea. But the U.S. insists that these weapons are gone. The North Koreans will not accept these assurances, so you can see where all this is going.

July 26, 2005:-About 30 percent of North Korea's 23 million people are starving once more. International food aid donations have dried up because of suspicions that the government was diverting the food aid to other uses. NorthKorea would not allow the foreign food aid groups to confirm that the food was going to the people that needed it most.

July 25, 2005:-India has alerted its navy and customs officials to be on the look out for a North Korean cargo ship thought to be carrying weapons.North Korea is known to be active in the illegal arms trade, and have been caught selling and moving illegal weapons into India before.

US Coast Guard in Gulf of Guinea

USCG Cutter Bear
What does the 6th Fleet do with a Coast Guard cutter? As reported here, it actually finds a use for it that does not involve following an aircraft carrier around.
The gigantic Gulf of Guinea is the part of the Atlantic southwest of Africa.The Gulf is considered the center of the earth because it is 0 degrees longitude and latitude. (source)
Arrow points to Gulf of Guinea

Update: More efforts in area.
Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, Vice Adm. "Boomer" Stufflebeem explained the importance of increasing regional cooperation in West Africa.

"Naval operational forces are providing relevant support to the ongoing global war on terrorism throughout Europe and Africa. International cooperation is essential to successfully winning the war against terrorism, and these engagements increase cooperation with regional partners," said Stufflebeem.
Note that this report has the Bear finishing its mission on July 23, 2005.

Leader of India's Navy Sees Bright Future

Painting a rosy scenario for India's future here, Admiral Arun Prakash talks about India becoming a major power and gives credit to democracy:
While he may be a military man at heart and advocate for a strong Indian armed forces for the future, Arun ultimately believes that it is the peaceful instruments of democracy that make India, and eventually a country like Indonesia, great.

"But perhaps our inherent strength is our democracy. Our secular setup, our open system, our economic strengths. These will probably show up in 25 to 30 years."

Oh,yes, one other note of interest:
One area in which he had no qualms in being compelling about was the danger of maritime terrorism.

"As things get hotter for the terrorists on land, I think its quite logical that they will move seawards. So there is potential for tremendous trouble at sea. It is likely to happen unless we work together on preemptive actions."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Spelling Bee?

Read Power Line: Shallow Throat.

Tee hee.

Run Dick, Run!

One way to kill a wicked witch is to offer up Dick Cheney for President!

Ship Still Held

The saga of the WFP ship Semlow continues here.

Of course, if it was an oil tanker...

He's Sorta Right: Bob Herbert Says It's All about the OIL

Offering living proof that real thought is not a requirement for a NY Times opinion piece writer, Bob Herbert offers Oil and Blood - full of real liberal gems:
It is now generally understood that the U.S.-led war in Iraq has become a debacle. Nevertheless, Iraqis are supposed to have their constitution ratified and a permanent government elected by the end of the year. It's a logical escape hatch for George W. Bush. He could declare victory, as a senator once suggested to Lyndon Johnson in the early years of Vietnam, and bring the troops home as quickly as possible.

His mantra would be: There's a government in place. We won. We're out of there.

But don't count on it. The Bush administration has no plans to bring the troops home from this misguided war, which has taken a fearful toll in lives and injuries while at the same time weakening the military, damaging the international reputation of the United States, serving as a world-class recruiting tool for terrorist groups and blowing a hole the size of Baghdad in Washington's budget....
Why no withdrawal plans? Of course, "It's the oil, stupid." and a "neoconservative" agenda to take over the world:
The point here is that the invasion of Iraq was part of a much larger, long-term policy that had to do with the U.S. imposing its will, militarily when necessary, throughout the Middle East and beyond. The war has gone badly, and the viciousness of the Iraq insurgency has put the torch to the idea of further pre-emptive adventures by the Bush administration.

But dreams of empire die hard. American G.I.'s are dug into Iraq, and the bases have been built for a long stay. The war may be going badly, but the primary consideration is that there is still a tremendous amount of oil at stake, the second-largest reserves on the planet. And neocon fantasies aside, the global competition for the planet's finite oil reserves intensifies by the hour.
And, despite the advice given so freely by the Herbert side to not go in the first place and to get out as soon as possible, the war will last forever and it will be awful:
That should be understood by the people who think that the formation of a permanent Iraqi government will lead to the withdrawal of American troops. There is no real withdrawal plan. The fighting and the dying will continue indefinitely.
After all, it's all about the oil.

But the oil wars have long been with us. Part of the war with Japan was "all about the oil (and the tin, rubber, etc)." You might recall that Japan lacks certain natural resources and decided that it should embark on its own form of "manifest destiny" - the "Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere" to acquire them. Some people feel the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was provoked when the US embargoed its oil shipments to Japan. Part of HItler's plan in WWII was to acquire the oil fields of Rumania and Russia as Germany didn't have any of its own... Part of our effort in fighting those powers was to interdict their supply of - you got it- oil. US and allied submarines sank the Japanese merchant fleet (especially tankers) and the Japanese war machine began to grind to a halt. Tell the widows and mothers who sons flew over Ploesti that it wasn't "about the oil." German U-boats attacked US tankers driving up the coast from Texas and pipelines were put in place to keep the oil flowing. And don't forget the "tanker war". Oil, oil, oil.

But so what? Thomas P. M. Barnett has response to the "blood-for-oil" crowd:
But the oil is also the region's salvation on one crucial level: at least the Middle East has our attention. Whenever I field that "blood-for-oil" question from audiences, I typically respond, "Hell, yes, it's all about oil. Thank God it's all about oll. Because I can show you parts of the world where there isn't any oil, and there's plenty of people dying, and no one seems to care whatsoever." There's no denying that oil has been the curse of the Arab economic development, as it hasd been for numerous other countries around the world, but without it, the Middle East's pain woud be as distant to most Americans as that half-a-holocaust that's already unfolded in Central Africa over the last decade. As Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times warns, we had all better be prepared to explain to our kids and grandchildren when they inevitably ask, "What did you do during the African Holocaust?" You want to know why you haven't attended any peace rallies or war protest marches on that one? Because there's no oil there, so American troops aren't sent, so millions die with no one paying any serious attention. That's what "no oil" plus "no US blood" equals. Doesn't exactly feel like the moral high ground, does it? (pg.216, The Pentagon's New Map(paperback, Berkley Books, NY, 2005)
So, yes, Mr. Herbert, It's about oil and oil and the interconnection between the "Functioning Core" and the "Non-Integrating Gap" and the forces of freedom and the forces of repression and regression to the 14th century.

In my view you have offered your voice to the latter group. Next time you watch Hotel Rwanda, ponder what the lack of oil cost...

So, Iraq, with a new government and the promise of a constitution is a debacle. What do you say of Kosovo, Rwanda. Ivory Coast, Uganda, Darfur...?

Update: Debacle:
de·ba·cle (dĭ-bä'kəl, -băk'əl, dĕb'ə-kəl)
1. A sudden, disastrous collapse, downfall, or defeat; a rout.
2. A total, often ludicrous failure.
Really, Mr. Herbert? "Generally understood?"

Update2: Related items: Failed States Map here and the Pentagion's New Map here (info on the book here.
Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.

State "piracy" by Georgia?

More fun on the waters of the world as reported here"
Tbilisi is acting on the international legal premise that there are no territorial waters or maritime borders, other than the Georgian one in this sector. Georgia will continue to detain ships bound for Abkhazia that trespass Georgia's territorial waters without permission or otherwise violate international law. This is a universal obligation for states, including Georgia.

The Abkhaz authorities, however, take the position that Abkhazia has territorial waters and a maritime border. On July 23, Abkhaz de facto president Sergei Bagapsh warned that "Abkhaz forces" would sink Georgian ships if they enter Abkhazia's waters. Abkhaz authorities have abducted 12 Georgians in Abkhaz-controlled territory and offered to release them in a deal for the release of the Turkish captain. After this abduction, it was Bagapsh again who accused Georgia of engaging in "piracy at sea," which he said was incompatible with holding political talks.
Update:Map of area in question:. And, some helpful background on the troubles between Abkhazia and Georgia.

Philippines and Malaysia start joint naval exercise

Regional cooperation is a goo thing as represented here:
The Philippine and Malaysian navies have begun a two-week long joint exercise aimed at boosting interoperability and cooperation.

The Philippine navy says the exercise will help improve its response to piracy, smuggling and other crimes, particularly in the maritime border shared by the two countries.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

South Korea and al Qaeda

Here's an interesting read---it's bad enough having the DPRK as a neighbor.
South Korean and Malaysian maritime police forces conducted joint special operations training exercises off the Langkawi Islands, Malaysia, in mid-October. The exercises were designed to increase South Korean’s familiarity with the Malacca Straits, improve cooperation and inter-operability between the two nations, and aerial boarding drills designed to defeat potential maritime terrorist threats to South Korea, according to, October 17, 2004.

Since South Korea’s economy is heavily dependent upon maritime trade - including ship building - the country is acutely vulnerable to attacks on international shipping - much of which passes through the most pirate-infested regions of the world. That threat becomes greater when one considers the nexus between indigenous pirates and international terrorist networks plying the world’s chokepoints.

Moreover, South Korea - the world’s fourth-largest oil buyer - is one of only three nations in the world importing 100 percent of its oil supply. In addition, South Korea is disproportionately and dangerously reliant (approximately 78 percent) upon one source for its oil - the Middle East. The United States, for example, receives oil from at least a dozen non-Middle East nations. Free and uninterrupted access to the sea lanes are vital for South Koreas survival especially considering the fact that South Korea is one of only a few nations with no strategic oil or gas reserve.

Follow-up To Guam Shooting

Bubblehead posts Follow-up To Guam Shooting. No need for me to say anymore than he and his commentors have said.

Peace in Aceh?

Interesting piece on the possible benefits of a peace being reached between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government here. Not only would the parties benefit, so would other countries:
The fight against terrorism would benefit as well. Although GAM did not directly participate in Al Qaeda-linked terrorist attacks, it did maintain contacts with a number of Al Qaeda-linked organizations. Moreover, GAM’s various terrorist and insurgent activities, including arms smuggling, money laundering, and training fighters, contributed economies of scale to the regional terrorist network. A peace deal would put a hole in the spider web of terrorist contacts in Southeast Asia.

A successful peace treaty could also bring some relief from rampant maritime piracy in the region. Piracy in the Malacca Straits, which Aceh borders, is so bad that Lloyd’s recently added the region to its list of 21 areas worldwide that are at risk for war and terror attacks; with this designation, insurance underwriters can, on short notice, cancel or increase insurance prices for ships transiting the straits. Because 50,000 vessels a year transit Malacca, the cost to shipping could be significant. There is considerable evidence that GAM is involved in at least some of the piracy in the straits, but a peace deal should reduce such activity.
Sounds good to me.

Simon get it right in "Myths of Chinese Exploration"

Heard of the Chinese assertions that in the 1400's one of their great sailors led a fleet of ships all over the world - including a discovery of North America several years before Columbus in 1492, as represented here? Simon reveals a new assertion and gently takes on some myths here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Threat from Stolen Iraqi Fire Engines?

Alert here:
Iraqi insurgents have stolen eight new fire engines and authorities here fear they will be used to carry out a mass bombing in the southern city of Basra.

The Age was told the vehicles were taken from a road convoy several days ago. Officials believe insurgents could create an incident designed to attract a crowd at which the fire engines would be used as vehicle bombs.

"They want to cause mass civilian casualties to turn the people against us," a Coalition military official said.

The fear is that insurgents using the emergency vehicles could drive through military and police checkpoints with relative ease.
Well, they should be easy to spot.

Wonder what the After Action Report on the convoy that lost the fire engines read like?

Update: Fixed link?
Update2: Link requires subscription. Sorry.
Update3: Account of an attack on US Marines that included the use of a fire truck here.

Words of wisdom

While "to thine own self be true" is a common bit of wisdom passed from generation to generation, this piece of a poem by Carl Sandburg in his "The People, Yes" deserves to be offered up, too:
A father sees a son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum and monotony
and guide him amid sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
'Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.'
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
And left them dead years before burial:
The quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
Has twisted good enough men
Sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.

Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use amongst other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is a born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.

A.E.Brain: Now for something completely different

A.E. Brain comes to grips with a new reality here.

What's that bit of dialogue from "Young Frankenstein?"

Oh, yes - "Destiny! Destiny! No escaping destiny!"

Best wishes for this new adventure...

Another Italian ship attacked by pirates

Pirate attack reported here:
he pirates of the Red Sea once again tried and failed to attack an Italian ship. At 11.10 a.m. local time (13.10 p.m. Italian time) and 85 miles away from Somalia coasts the Italian ship "Cielo di Milano" (174 meters, 24000 tonnes, 24 people crew, ship-owner D'Amico) was attacked by 2 small pirate boats. The ship captain immediately sent "SOS" signals to the Italian port authorities that contacted harbour-master's offices of the friendly countries straight away. However, the "Cielo di Milano" captain used the ship's fire-fighting devices against pirate boats and seceded in preventing the pirates from getting any further.

Update: Ship specifications. Ship images:

Battleship Texas

Just a couple of photos of the USS Texas (BB-35), now 91 years old and the only battleship still around to have served in WWI and WWII:

In the water

and In dry dock

Cross section

The Texas was only 573 feet long, a modern Spruance class destroyer is 563 feet long.

Update: I took the drydock photo above while floating by on something or other, but there is a whole page of such photos here.

Latest Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services (to 25 July)

ICC Commercial Crime Services weekly piracy report here. Excitement in Malacca Strait and off Somalia:

Somalia – East and NE coast
seven incidents have been reported since 16.07.05. Heavily armed pirates are now attacking ships further away from the coast. The most recent incident took place 120 nm off the eastern coast. Ships are advised to keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast.

21.07.2005 at 2030 LT at 12nm off Muar, Johor, Malacca straits.
Pirates armed with guns fired upon a fishing vessel wounding two crewmembers. Later they (NB: the crew, I presume) were taken ashore for hospital treatment.

Now Somali pirates want WFP food instead of ransom

According to this, the Somali pirates who seized the World Food Program ship SEMLOW now want the cargo and not the ransom previously demanded:
Pirates who seized a ship loaded with food destined for hungry Somalis are now interested in its cargo of rice instead of the ransom they earlier demanded, the vessel's shipping agent said on Tuesday.
Seaborne Somalia militiamen hijacked the MV Semlow last month as it steamed toward the northern port of Bossaso carrying 850 tonnes of rice donated by Japan and Germany to the U.N.'s World Food Programme.
The food was to help thousands of Somalis hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean after an undersea earthquake off north Indonesia.
The pirates initially demanded $500,000 ransom for the eight Kenyan crewmembers, Sri Lankan captain and Tanzanian engineer.
But they have now changed their mind, said Karim Kudrati, a director of the Motaku Shipping Agency which chartered the MV Semlow.
"They first demanded ransom but now they want the food," Kudrati told Reuters by phone from the company's offices in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
"I don't think they can now offload the consignment because the vessel is still at sea and the weather is not good."
Food is power in a starving nation.

Somalia: Current State

Nice summary of the current status of Somalia here:
Despite the fact that a transitional government for Somalia was finally agreed on eight months ago, after two years of highly charged talks, there is still no functioning government.

As the drama unfolded on the high seas off Somalia’s coast, the government that should have been addressing the very problems that allow such things to happen was busy squabbling about where in the country it should be based.
On the other hand, if you don't have the power to make your decision stick, long debates over trivia may be your only safe course....

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies and an Agenda

Read Chapomatic's Now It All Comes Together with the link therein and see how the alleged "ground truth" represented by the MSM is based on outright lies, distortions and very biased views expressed by what seems to be, as I learned through the study of abnormal psychology, a true whack job.

However, since the MSM was looking for what she had to offer...real truth was the casualty.


In case you are wondering whethet I have ever been a card-carrying member of The Federalist Society, the answer is "yes" and I am proud of it.

So there.

Al Qaeda and Pirates: A debate

The opposition leader in Australia says Maritime pirates the next big terror threat . However, the IMB Piracy Reportin Centre says "Not so fast"

I tend to agree with the oppo leader, especially since the identified groups seem to be using maritme kidnapping to fund their activities...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

101 Uses for a SCUD Casing

From the Desert Storm album, the
SCUD footrest

Of course, when something is still floating and is near the beach, it's a Navy problem. So they called us. I'm not sure if it became an Army problem after we dragged it ashore, but I like to think so.

Update: Photo quality explanation-there was this office fire and...

Stripper Well Business- Booming

The business of continuing to extract oil from oil wells abandoned buy "big oil" gets some coverage here:
With U.S. oil production on the decline, and energy from alternative sources still a small part of the supply picture, experts are pulling for companies such as Cano.

"Renewable energy is a great idea, but the fact is that we're not there yet," said Alesha Leemaster, spokeswoman for the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which represents the governors of states that produce oil and natural gas. "It's so important that we get those extra resources out of the ground."
"Stripper wells are huge in this country," said Jeff Eshelman, spokesman for the Independent Producers Assn. of America. "They're the equivalent of what we import from Saudi Arabia each year."
Important indeed.

An early oil well (source)

Coup Talk in the PI

A coup in the brew for the Philippines? LA Times reports rumors and calls to action here.
Many argue that the nation has again reached this state of crisis, with Arroyo's administration crippled by allegations of rampant financial corruption and claims that she rigged the election that returned her to power in 2004.

Wiretaps leaked in June suggest that Arroyo called a member of the elections commission 15 times during the tallying of vote totals from each province. She has acknowledged only a "lapse in judgment" in phoning an election commissioner to "protect" her votes.

Arroyo has refused to resign, challenging her opponents to impeach her. That process is set to begin in Congress this week but there is profound frustration among opponents at what they regard as Arroyo's stalling tactics as the country slides into deeper economic despair.

"Somebody has to take her out if she won't go," said Ike Seneres, a former ambassador who was an Arroyo advisor until a few weeks ago, when he bolted to the opposition. "The armed forces of the Philippines have to take her out. Do they not have a sense of smell? This government stinks, and they have not done anything."

Seneres made his plea Thursday at the launch of an umbrella group of opposition forces under the banner of a civilian Caretaker Council, which aims to govern until fresh elections can be held if Arroyo is forced from office. Opposition politicians have not been able to rally around an alternative leader.

If a coup does come, no one will be able to claim surprise. Arroyo and her dwindling band of supporters are clearly aware of the risk, repeatedly demanding that Filipinos stick to constitutional methods in trying to remove her. "No To Junta, Yes to Democracy" reads a government banner strung across a major bridge that leads toward the president's Malacanang Palace.

The top commanders of the police and armed forces have publicly pledged to remain neutral. The threat of a coup comes from junior officers in the armed forces who are widely regarded as idealistic, nationalistic and appalled by what they see as corruption extending into the upper reaches of the Philippine military itself. These officers have some backing from retired generals who have gone public with laments for the current state of the military.
What follows such a coup?

Interesting Take on the Palm Oil Ship Seizure

Remember the great palm oil ship attack? SupplyChain Review has an interesting angle:
"This is just another example of how criminals have infiltrated flag of convenience shipping and pose a risk to Australia," says Maritime Union Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.

"These are the same sort of ships and crew that Canberra is dishing out permits to work our coastal trade. At this rate it's just a matter of time before we have an incident in an Australian port or involving an Australian ship. Terrorists could just as easily infiltrate a tanker's crew and turn it into a floating bomb."
This is a potentially serious problem. In addition to the palm oil tanker, a tanker full of diesel fuel was captured by pirates with "inside" help as reported here.
But wait, there's more:
Meanwhile a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore has warned that Australia's multi-billion LNG exports are a terrorist target.

Michael Richardson yesterday warned of a possible al-Qaida inspired attack on tankers carrying Australian liquefied natural gas through the volatile Sulawsi Sea south of Mindanao, Philippines on route to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. ("Maritime attacks could damage our gas exports" - The Australian)

Last year a US report warned LNG tankers were vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
LNG tankers may be a harder target than an LPG tanker...see my earlier post on LNG risk.

Aussies at war: Protecting Iraqi Oil Flow

Aussies take the lead on an important mission as set outhere:
That lifeline is the two oil platforms, Khwar al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) and Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT), through which $US1billion worth of Iraqi oil is exported each month.

This is more than 80 per cent of Iraq's total export earnings and why they remain critical to the country's economic future.

Their protection is now the primary task of coalition maritime forces in the northern Gulf region, under the command of Australian Commodore Steve Gilmore aboard the US ship Normandy.

It is the first time Australia has headed a coalition task force since World War II.

The mission is to protect the oil platforms and train up the Iraqi navy to enable it to take over.

Sydney-based Commander Sean O'Dwyer says policing the bandits and closing down what he calls "the second oldest profession in the world" is a vital step.

"There has been lots of banditry hits up here," he said. "They come on board with AK47s, knives and sometimes hand grenades. They basically steal stuff and take it to the Basrah markets and sell it."

The last attack was about three weeks ago.

(orignal caption: ON guard . . . a US Marine at the Al Basrah Oil Terminal is armed and ready to prevent sabotage to one of Iraq's two oil platforms that are vital to the country's economic future. Picture: Rob Maccoll.)

Wagons West

A couple of threads in common:

Bonneville and the South Pass here:
Benjamin Bonneville, an inept fur trader who some speculate may have actually been a spy, leads the first wagon train to cross the Rocky Mountains at Wyoming's South Pass.

Mormons settle in Salt Lake:
After 17 months and many miles of travel, Brigham Young leads 148 Mormon pioneers into Utah's Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Gazing over the parched earth of the remote location, Young declared, "This is the place," and the pioneers began preparations for the thousands of Mormon migrants who would follow.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Protests in the Philippines

Street protests and more reported here. Tossed in among the politics:
One country that's interested in investing in the Philippines is China. President Arroyo recently signed a deal with Beijing to explore resources in the South China Sea. And last year the Chinese government donated engineering equipment and three million dollars to provide Chinese language training for the Philippine military.

Mr. Dillon opined, "As far as they're concerned, they're not investing in the Philippines, they're investing in their political objectives."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Living with risk

A certain kind of perspective at Car Crashes . . . Criminals . . . Cancer . . . Black Swans? AAAAAIIIEEEH!
Risk assessors rip their hair out at the general public’s innumeracy; many people jump to conclusions based only on absolute numbers and don’t consider ratios as well. For example, the average number of people killed each year in hot-air balloon accidents is 2.6, while the number killed in hunting accidents is 600. But there are two million hunters in the U.S. and just 3,000 hot-air balloonists, which makes ballooning’s death rate 30 times as high as that of hunting.

Pirates Attack Italian Ship Off Somalia

Reported here
An Italian cargo ship has been attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

But it was able to fend off the assault, port authority sources confirmed.

The attack was said to have taken place 200 kilometres off the Somali coast.

Two small boats carrying about a dozen armed men opened fire on the 30,000-tonne ship.

The captain of the Genoa-registered ship had to take emergency measures, including ordering the vessel to full speed.

The crew was able to thwart the attack without sustaining any serious damage or injuries.
There is Increasing Worry That Pirate Attacks in African Waters Are on the Rise. On Thursday the 30,000-Ton Italian Cargo Ship "Jolly Marrone" Was Attacked by Pirates 70 Miles off the Somali Coast, but There Were No Reports of Casualties.

The "Jolly Marrone" had earlier sailed from Mombasa, Kenya. But it weas unclear to where it was traveling. Other details were not immediately available.

In June Somali pirates attacked and seized a United Nations World Food Program vessel off the Somali coast that was carrying 937 tons of rice donated by Japan and Germany for Somalia`s 28,000 tsunami victims. The pirates are continuing to hold 10 crewman hostage.

The International Marine Bureau reported earlier this week that while the number of pirate attacks worldwide hit a six-year low in the first half of 2005, attacks in Iraqi and Somali waters are increasing. The IMF registered 127 attacks globally in January-June, a 30 percent drop and the lowest rate since 1999. So far in 2005 pirates have not killed any sailors, compared with 30 by this time last year.

During January-June 2005 Somali pirates armed with guns and grenades attacked eight vessels and seized hostages for ransom. Only one attack occurred in Somalia between January and June last year. (source)

Photo: Jolly Marrone from here:

And from here:
Visual Ships

More info:
A group of Somali pirates tried to assail an Italian ship of the Genoa based company Messina, the Jolly Marrone, 110 miles off Somali coasts. The assault occurred this morning and according to the reconstruction made by Rome port authorities the Italian merchant ship has avoided the assault with a disengagement manoeuvre and escaped to the Ghibuti port. Pirates were onboard two ships. They fired some sub-machine shots but they also had a bazooka.(source)
110 miles? Bazooka? Yikes!

Surface Warfare Officer Fun

A "dance of the baby elephants":
photo source.

Perhaps the submariners would call this a "target rich environment."

Most OODs would call it a pain in the ....

But wait, they all look like amphibs -- go over to CDR Salamander and wish that Phibian a happy anniversary!

Port insecurity

Excellent read from Government Computer News on Port insecurity
“Over 90 percent of the nation’s $5.3 billion annual investment in the Transportation Security Administration goes to aviation,” said the authors of the 9/11 Commission report, warning of investment skewed to “fight the last war. The current efforts do not yet reflect a forward-looking strategic plan systematically analyzing assets, risks, costs and benefits.”

“We think of the individual in very high terms in our [national] psyche, so we look at protecting people,” said John Hensley, former assistant commissioner for enforcement and operations at Customs and Border Protection. Hensley, a vice president at San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., said many people still think “seaport security is ‘only’ protecting cargo.’’ “

Despite chronic underfunding, local, state and federal authorities are taking steps to manage the risks, with the help of a variety of emerging technologies.

Federal officials say the only practical way to approach port security is to build a layered defense, starting as close to a container’s point of origin as possible and subjecting it to numerous checks as it approaches and then enters the country.

Probably not good news

From: Strategy Page:
Russia will upgrade Iran's three Kilo class subs, so that they can fire cruise missiles (launched from one of the six torpedo tubes of the Kilos), and be generally more capable. Iran got these subs from Russia between 1992-94.
The missile in question is the SS-NX-27 "Club-S" which is based on the older SS-N-21 cruise missile. The Club-S actually comes in three versions, one for attacking ships, another for land targets and another, with a homing torpedo, for going after submarines. All versions weigh about a ton and are about the same size as a 21 inch (533mm) torpedo. The anti-ship and land attack versions have a range of 220 and 300 kilometers respectively. The anti-sub version has a range of 50 kilometers. In addition to wiring the Iranian Kilos for the new missiles, there will be other upgrades and additions to equipment."

More info on the missiles here.

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping Posted (20 July2005)

Go here and click on the date. Highlights:
2. M/V (HANSEDUO) fired upon, attempted boarding, 16 Jul, east coast of Somalia.
3. M/V (PARANA) fired upon, attempted boarding, 16 Jul, east coast of Somalia.
4. Container ship fired upon, attempted boarding 18 Jul, off
Caluula, NE coast of Somalia.
5. RORO ship fired upon, attempted boarding 17 Jul, off Caluula, NE coast of Somalia.
6. General cargo ship (SEMLOW) hijacked, 27 Jun, off the coast of Somalia.

And this discussion of "war" insurance rates:
The London insurance market
Joint War Committee, in a sweeping overhaul of their listed
war-risk areas, provided new guidelines to underwriters listing a
total of 21 areas worldwide in jeopardy of “war, strike, terrorism
and related perils” per 01 Jul article. Areas specified included
the Strait of Malacca and adjacent ports in Indonesia. The Joint
War Committee has a purely advisory role and insurers remain free
to decide whether to seek additional premiums. Members of the
committee based decisions on reports from their staff and from the
external consulting agency of Aegis Defence Services. ONI NOTE:
The listing of these areas by the Joint War Committee does not
automatically affect rates or cause cancellation of insurance
policies’ standard war risks clauses. If individual underwriters
act upon the Committee’s listing, it will be in the form of a
notice of cancellation with effect seven days from the notice. At
that point insureds. Would have to determine if they wish to
secure and pay for more expensive special war risk cover for
transits through the Strait. Cancellation of standard war risk
clauses usually results from actual war risk related loss or
expectation of it, and not from the kind of “analysis” performed
by Aegis Defence Services. It is unclear to ONI analysts if the
cancellation of standard war risk clauses would imply that piracy,
now typically covered under protection and indemnity insurance,
would be transferred to a covered war risk or whether only risks
from terrorist action would be covered under the new war risk
policy. If it is the latter case, it is unclear whether the
underwriter or the insured bears the burden of showing that
damages from an attack were due to terrorism, rather than piracy.
In the short term and absent any actual losses attributed to “war”
causes in the Strait, ONI preliminarily assesses it is likely no
general cancellations will be issued and no special cover will be

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yogurt War?

Sometimes things are too absurd to be anything but connected to France: Yogurt Is a Strategic Industry

Update: I might be biased since as a young man I was tormented by family ownership of this fine product of France:
0-60 in 32 seconds(Source Forbes)

Resurgence of piracy highlights terror risk

MSNBC notices pirates and the terrorism threat in the Strait of Malacca here.

Smuggling in the Strait of Malacca? I'm shocked...

Cops make a big smuggling bust in the Strait of Malacca as reported here:
Marine police seized RM400,000 worth of contraband liquor and cigarettes and arrested seven Indonesians in its biggest haul this year at Tanjung Piai last night.
The operation, dubbed "Ops Baracuda", was carried out by an elite team using speedboats after two weeks of surveillance in the Straits of Malacca, off Kukup and Tanjung Piai.

Southern Region Marine Police deputy chief Omar Dawam said the stakeout paid off when they managed to seize the Indonesian registered vessel Diana Maju III about 1.7 nautical miles off Tanjung Piai about 11pm.

"The vessel was carrying 598 bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label Whisky, 6,647 cartons of Dunhill cigarettes, 2,950 cartons of Marlboro cigarettes, 1,240 cartons of Dji Sam Soe and 320 cartons of Gudang Garam Surya kretek," he said. (NB: the last two seem to be clove cigarettes of some sort)
Pirates, smugglers - ain't waterways fun?

Malaysian PM warns foreign navies to keep out of Malacca Straits

Accroding to the The Jakarta Post:
Malaysian leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday warned foreign navies to keep out of the Malacca Straits, an apparent message to the United States which has proposed sending an elite U.S. unit to help secure the piracy-prone waterway.

"We will view any uninvited presence as an intrusion and a sign of disrespect for our independence and our sovereignty," Prime Minister Abdullah told delegates at the annual congress ofthe ruling United Malays National Organization party.

Malaysia has said it is capable of guarding its portion of the narrow, 885-kilometer Malacca Strait, which it shares with Indonesia and Singapore. The strait is a key maritime route for a third of the world's trade and half of the world's oil supply.

More than 50,000 vessels ply the waterway each year.

"We are firm in our stand that it is our responsibility to safeguard the Straits of Malacca. We will not allow foreign troops to patrol these straits," Abdullah said.
Surprise. Not.

Read Michael Yon!

Go to Michael Yon : Online Magazine. It's a good thing to do.

London Bombings - Counterterrorism Blog Updates

Go to The Counterterrorism Blog for the background and the latest updates.

Update: Just heard the press conference between Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain and Prime Minister Howard of Australia - while I will wait for the transcript, both Mr. Howard and Mr. Blair disassembled some idiot reporter trying to blame the terrorist attacks on their nations' involvement in Iraq. Mr. Howard pointed out that OBL and his cohorts were attacking long before the invasion of Iraq (eg 9/11, Bali, USS Cole, etc) and that OBL's first mention of Australia was as a result of its involvment with East Timor --all occurred before Iraq)... Mr. Blair said something to the effect the the terrorism was the result of a long developing process and it would take a long time to take it down. Both noted the need to carry on as normal so that the terrorists achieve nothing...and that the responsibility for terrorist bombing lies with the...terrorists.

Update2: Looks like inept fusing saved lives... I wonder whose side these extremists will claim God is on... Too bad it wasn't a premature detonation...during assembly.

Update3: Transcript of Mr. Howard's reply to the idiot reporter is here (hat tip: Instapundit):
Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

PRIME MIN. BLAIR: And I agree 100 percent with that. (Laughter.)
I, of course, added the USS Cole and should have added Khobar Towers...

Update4: (Hat tip again to Instapundit): Video here and a better list of pre-Iraq attacks here.

Update5: (Hat tip to Michelle Malkin) - TATP info . And here's a piece on a man who has a TATP detector.

Interesting arrest in Pakistan: London bomber connection

Reported at A Daily Briefing on Iran:
Aswat has been known to Western intelligence services for more than three years after the FBI accused him of trying to set up al-Qaeda training camps in the US. When he was arrested in a madrassa (religious school), Aswat is understood to have been posing as a businessmen and using a false name. He was picked up in a raid at a madrassa at Sargodha, 90 miles from Islamabad, by Pakistani intelligence officials and flown to a jail in the capital.

Security sources there told The Times that he was armed with a number of guns, wearing an explosive belt and carrying around £17,000 in cash. He had a British passport and was about to flee across the border to Afghanistan.

Aswat, who is thought to have stayed in the madrassa with two of the British suicide bombers, is being questioned over claims that one ”Mohammad Sidique Khan” telephoned him on the morning of the July 7 attack.

Intelligence sources claim that there were up to twenty calls between Aswat and two of the bombers in the days leading up to the bombing of three Tube trains and a double-decker bus. A senior Pakistani security source said: "We believe this man had a crucial part to play in what happened in London."
Just a reminder, these guys want to kill us.

Malacca Fishermen Attacked

Shotgun attack by pirates reported here.

Dubious Achievement Award: 6 years of KFOR

KFOR turns 6 here :
KFOR soldiers, through their sacrifice – and commitment far from home and family - have helped change the face of Kosovo. However, the mission is not completed yet, and I know that there is still much to be done. .
Related story "Kosovo Faces Prospect of Running Out of Money Amid Expectations of Zero Economic Growth in 2005"
Economic activity is slowing down significantly in Kosovo, as the mainly Albanian-populated southern Serbian territory copes with reduced levels of assistance from Western donor nations.

After growing by more than 3.5 percent last year, Kosovo's economy could actually register a decline in 2005. In its latest projection, the International Monetary Fund says Kosovo's economy will be flat this year and could even decline by .5 percent...Kosovo was always the poorest part of the former Yugoslavia. There was rapid economic growth when donor assistance was pouring into Kosovo, earlier in this decade. But those donations have fallen by half. Mr. Auboin says the cutback in assistance has boosted unemployment.

"[It is] About 30 percent and slightly increasing at the moment because of the flatness in the economy. And, because we have the youngest population in Europe here, massive arrivals in the labor force every year. So this year the economy will not be able to absorb all of the incoming people," said Mr. Auboin.

Some private sector economists say the unemployment rate is closer to 50 percent.

Some experts say the looming cash crisis in Kosovo is likely to be avoided by western donors stepping forward with emergency assistance.
Hey, if your economy is basically gifts from other countries, there is no economy at all. Although General Wes Clark once wrote: "...[I}t is important to remember that Kosovo has already held two democratic elections and developed the foundations of a modern, functioning economy." (see here)

Kosovo, 6 years in, is still a mess.

Update: Semi-related, but still fun - General Wes Clark:
Interviews with a wide variety of current and retired military officials reveal that Clark was disliked by only three groups: Those whom ranked above him in the chain of command whom he ignored, his peers at the same rank whom he lied to, and those serving beneath him whom he micromanaged. Other than that, everyone liked him.(source)
(Also see this which reminds of the fine mind of a Rhodes scholar in operation:
In a speech at the University of Iowa College of Law, on September 19th Clark had declared that chief among America’ mistakes was that it had gone to war in Iraq without “the mantle of authority” bestowed by United Nations approval. But hadn’t the Kosovo war also been conducted without th endorsement of the U.N. Security Council? Yes, Clark allowed, and in that regard the Kosovo war was “technically illegal."
Okay, technically it's still a mess.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Captives Seized on World Food Program Ship Remain in Pirate Hands

Still hostages to Somali pirates, the Kenyan crew of the WFP ship as reported here:
He said requests by World Food Program (WFP) to the group to release the captives had fallen on deaf ears.

WFP, he said, has suspended the supply of food consignments to those areas till the situation is resolved.

The pirates, he said, wanted food because last December's tsunami had destroyed most of their crops.
See the ONI report here and my initial report here.

Why I want to be on the same team as the Marines

Read Attack on Husaybah, OIF from Leatherneck and you'll appreciate the discipline, courage and intelligence of these warriors, too.

Hat tip: NOSI

Fill in the Blanks for Judge Roberts

Well, I probably should not have had a mouth full of coffee before visiting Iowahawk and this insanely witty post. Now I have to clean off the laptop.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Buy crude carriers

Got any spare change? You might want to look into Value-Laden Crude Carriers:
The price of oil has little to do with the profitability of the tanker operators. Rather, boosting tanker fortunes is the interplay between the balance of worldwide demand for oil and for oil-shipping vessels supply. Driven in large part by increased consumption in China and reinforced by the recovering U.S. economy, global oil demand continues to grow. Bracing the upward pressure on charter fees created by demand growth, new rules requiring safer double-hulled vessels have caused a shortage in supply. Bears will argue the supply/demand scenario has tipped against the shippers. But we believe that, long term, the trend is still working in their favor.

Sea piracy drops worldwide in first half 2005, but...

IMB says Sea piracy drops worldwide . Among the "howevers:"
But the International Maritime Bureau warned of "a new and worrying trend" of armed robberies in Iraqi waters, noting that four "serious incidents" were reported there between April and June, despite the presence of U.S.-led coalition naval ships in the area.

Before this year, "attacks in and around Iraq were almost nonexistent," the bureau noted. It did not give details on why Iraqi waters have become more dangerous.

Security also worsened dramatically off Somalia's east coast, where bandits with guns and grenades attacked eight vessels and sometimes seized hostages for ransom. Only one attack occurred in Somalia between January and June last year.

"Pirates operating off Somalia have become increasingly audacious," bureau Director Pottengal Mukundan said. "Their demands for ransom are higher than ever before and negotiations for the release of the vessel and crew can become difficult and prolonged."

Ships not making scheduled calls on Somalian ports should remain at least 80 kilometers (50 miles) or "as far away as practical" from the east coast of the country, which is beset by political problems and poor law enforcement, the report said.

Indonesia's waters remained the world's most pirate-infested, though the number of attacks across the country's sprawling archipelago so far this year slipped to 42 -- one-third of the worldwide total -- compared to 50 in the first half of 2004.
However, considering the tsunami and all that, this doesn't seem to be a significant decline. Besides, it's all in the noted here in the Telegraph:
The pirates of the Malacca Strait, one of the world's most important waterways, are mounting more serious attacks than ever before after recovering from the Boxing Day tsunami, a report says today.

Lloyds of London recently added the straits to its list of war and terrorism risk areas and private military companies are offering their services to escort vessels through it.

About 50,000 ships use the strait every year, carrying a quarter of the world's sea-borne trade, including half its tanker-shipped oil.

For two months after the tsunami, when some of the world's most powerful navies were stationed in the region, there were no attacks.

But an International Maritime Bureau report says that since then there have been 14 incidents in the straits, between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the Singapore Strait at its southern end, making the area the most dangerous in the world.

Capt Jayant Abhyankar, the deputy director of the bureau, said: "What has changed is the nature of the attacks. People are now taking the crew as hostages and demanding ransoms. That is a worrying trend."

The real sound of Shakespeare?

What if you could hear Shakespeare in the language spoken by him at the time of his writing? The BBC offers the chance, here.
In August the theatre will stage an "original production" of Troilus and Cressida - with the actors performing the lines as close to the 16th century pronunciations as possible.

By opening night, they will have rehearsed using phonetic scripts for two months and, hopefully, will render the play just as its author intended. They say their accents are somewhere between Australian, Cornish, Irish and Scottish, with a dash of Yorkshire - yet bizarrely, completely intelligible if you happen to come from North Carolina.
Sure, most of North Carolina, but probably not Cary (known locally as an acronym for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees"). They may require a translator.

Indonesia accepts Japanese patrol boats for Malacca Strait patrol

Reported here:
Indonesia, which has claim to most of the busy Malacca Strait, has taken up Japan's offer to provide patrol boats to help guard the pirate-infested waterway.

The decisison was announced by a Japanese foreign ministry official in Tokyo.

He says training programmes which aim to raise the skills of Indonesian coast guard sailors have also been carried out as part of an anti-piracy co-operation agreement between Japan and Indonesia.

Piracy is a common event in the Malacca Strait, which carries a quarter of global trade and nearly all oil imports for Japan and China.

It now ranks among Japan's top security concerns after a recent string of attacks on vessels suggested pirates are growing more violent.

Peace deal for Aceh?

The Economist holds out some hope here:
Apart from ending the bloodshed in Aceh, a lasting peace deal could bring broader benefits. A planned $5 billion post-tsunami reconstruction programme, largely funded by foreign donors, would be much easier to carry out if there were peace in the province. Aceh’s oil and other plentiful natural resources could be better exploited, bringing prosperity to the region. Peace in Aceh might even reduce piracy in the Malacca Strait—one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, between Indonesia and the southern tip of Malaysia—as well as diminishing an Islamist insurgency in southern Thailand, since many of the Malacca pirates, and the Thai insurgents’ arms, are said to come from Aceh. Last but not least, ending a long-running conflict by civilised means, rather than brute force, would set a wonderful example across the whole of South-East Asia and beyond.
Why, yes it would.

Piracy Report ICC Commercial Crime Services (to July18 2005)

Latest piracy report fromICC CCShere. HIghlights:

Somalian waters
Serious attacks have resumed off eastern and north-eastern coast of Somalia. Since 31.03.2005, nine incidents were reported where pirates armed with guns and grenades have attacked ships and fired upon them. In three incidents crew were held hostage and ransom demanded. Some of these attacks took place far away from Somali coast. Eastern and north-eastern coasts of Somalia continue to be high-risk areas for hijackings. Ships not making scheduled calls to ports in these areas should stay at least 50 miles or as far away as practical from the coast of Somalia.

18.07.2005 at 0300 LT in position 12:11N - 050:27E, off Caluula, NE coast of Somalia.
Six pirates in two boats armed with guns opened fire on a container ship underway. Ship increased speed and boats moved away. No damage to ship or injuries to crew.

18.07.2005 at 0300 LT at Kingston anchorage, Jamaica.
A robber armed with a crowbar boarded a container ship. Alert crew raised alarm and robber jumped overboard and escaped in boat waiting with four accomplices.

18.07.2005 at 0200 LT at Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Eight robbers in a motorboat boarded a container ship drifting off port. They broke in to a container but crew mustered and robbers escaped empty handed.

17.07.2005 at 1830 LT in position 12:09N - 050:52.0E, off Caluula, NE coast of Somalia.
Seven pirates in two white boats, 4m long armed with guns opened fire on a RORO ship underway and attempted to board from stern. Ship increased speed and crew activated fire hoses. After 10 mins boats moved away. No damage to ship or injuries to crew.

16.07.2005 at 1600 LT in position 04:37.4N - 048 25.9E, east coast of Somalia.
Four pirates armed with bazooka missiles and machineguns in military fatigue fired upon a RORO ship underway. Ship suffered damages with bullets holes. Pirate craft was white hull and black bulwark with high-powered engine. No injuries to crew.

16.07.2005 at 1325 LT in position 03:05N - 048:05E, east coast of Somalia.
Four pirates armed with guns in a speedboat fired upon a container ship underway and tried to board at stud quarter. Ship increased speed and took evasive manoeuvres. Crew activated fire hoses and fired rocket flares. After 15 mines pirates aborted boarding.

15.07.2005 at 0315 LT in position 06:19.7N - 003:22.5E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria.
Three robbers armed with knives boarded a product tanker during STS operations. Two robbers overpowered a duty A/B and held him at knifepoint. They took away his walkie-talkie and assaulted him causing serious injuries. Robbers stole ship's stores and escaped.

15.07.2005 at 0215 LT in position 06:18.2N - 003:23.4E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria.
Three robbers armed with knives boarded a tanker at poop deck. They held two duty crew as hostages and took their walkie-talkies. They stole ship's stores and escaped. Master tried to contact marine police but received no response. Master then picked up anchor and sailed to high seas for drifting 25 miles off coast.

13.07.2005 at 0030 LT in position 01:13.18N - 103:34.12E, Singapore straits.
Six pirates armed and with long knives and wearing black facemasks boarded a tanker underway via a speedboat. They took hostage two duty crewmembers and tied them up. They entered accommodation and took captain, oiler and 2/E as hostages and tied them up with plastic strings. They kicked 3/O in his groin and destroyed communication equipment. They stole ship's cash, crew personal belongings and ship's property and escaped at 0045 LT. Master informed authorities.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Everything old is new again...

Photo source
Adm. Clark sends out a memo setting out some goals for the modern US Navy (looks like he's convinced that we own the blue water) and CDR Salamander seizes on the new "riverine" force as a cornerstone for his excellent post Back to Brown Water ( and begins or renews a debate with John of Argghhh! on whether river waters are Army or Navy turf. Vietnam and the US Civil war argue for Navy, as does the current underutilization of the Navy while the Army can do it (and well) but why stretch when your neighbor offers you a hand?). Of course, we'll have to reinvent the force since the last riverine remnants may have been traded in for the Inshore Boat Units of the Martime Protection Force Command (MFPC). Jet boats and some good armor. Call RADM Hoffman and the Swift Boat vets for some riverine expertise... a good old idea makes a comeback...

There are lots of good ideas in the memo, beyond the riverine... the Navy needs to get into the Civil Affairs area and adding the CA to the Seabees is a great idea. The Army has had CA in the Special Warfare community and it's heavy in the Army reserves, the Marines do it well when they choose to...having been involved a little with CA during the Kosovo thing, it's something that a large group of Navy reservists (lawyers, mayors, police chiefs, fire chiefs, sewer guys) all would enjoy getting into... and a far better use of their talents and training than, say, writing wills and delivering lectures on the fine art of fitrep writing... The Navy used to be strong in this area and it's good to see it reappear.

Automatic Identification Systems for surface ships: great idea - here's the Coast Guard explanation:
AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. It is a shipboard broadcast system that acts like a continuous and autonomous transponder, operating in the VHF maritime band. It allows ships to easily track, identify, and, exchange pertinent navigation information from one another or ashore; for collision avoidance, security and VTS reporting.

AIS technology relies on global navigation systems, navigation sensors, and digital communication equipment (i.e. transponders) operating according to standardized communication protocols that permit the voiceless exchange of navigation information between vessels and shore-side vessel traffic centers. AIS transponders on vessels can broadcast information about the vessel, such as its name or call sign, dimensions, type, position (derived from a global navigation system), course, speed, heading, navigation status and other pertinent navigation data. This information is continually updated, near real-time, and, received by all AIS-equipped stations in its vicinity. The advantage of this automatic exchange of information is that it is accessible to all, tailored to the mariner's needs, and greatly reduces voice radio exchanges.
Sort of like IFF only with more data.

And that leads into the "data mining" - if it is as defined as:
A class of database applications that look for hidden patterns in a group of data that can be used to predict future behavior. For example, data mining software can help retail companies find customers with common interests. The term is commonly misused to describe software that presents data in new ways. True data mining software doesn't just change the presentation, but actually discovers previously unknown relationships among the data.
I'll bet Charlie Dragonette and the gang at "OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE CIVIL MARITIME ANALYSIS DEPARTMENT" will appreciate the help offered. More info:
At the National Maritime Intelligence Center (NMIC), ONI brings military and civilian employees into a single command to provide "one-stop shopping" for national level maritime intelligence. The NMIC also hosts the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA) and the Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center (ICC) and the Naval Information Warfare Activity (NIWA).(source)

Lots of good stuff...if it comes to pass.