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Friday, June 30, 2006

OBL delight: Weak government of Somalia versus the Islamic Court

Reported here:
Somalia's weak interim government said Friday it will resist attempts by an increasingly powerful Muslim militia to assert authority across the Horn of Africa country that Osama bin Laden calls a battleground in his fight against the U.S.

The hard-line Muslim leaders, who have seized control of much of southern Somalia, claimed authority throughout the country Thursday in another slap at the interim government, which sits powerless at its base in Baidoa, 90 miles from the chaotic capital of Mogadishu.
In an audio message Friday purported to be bin Laden, the speaker vows to continue to fight the United States and its "allies everywhere, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan." The tape was released on an Islamic Web forum where militants often post messages and bears the logo of al-Qaida's production branch.

UPDATE: The "smart" terrorist money seems to be flowing to Somalia for an investment in terrorism as reported by al Reuters here:
Funds are flowing into Somalia from Saudi Arabia and Yemen to support the Islamic Courts movement that seized the capital Mogadishu this month, said a senior U.S. official on Thursday.

The State Department's point person on Africa, Jendayi Frazer, told a hearing on Capitol Hill that the United States and others were reaching out to the Arab League about the flow of funds into Somalia from Arab countries.

"I don't want to say the Saudi government is supporting any particular (Islamic) court but I do know that there is money coming in from Saudi Arabia," Frazer told the House of Representatives International Relations Committee.

"There is money coming in from Yemen and arms from Eritrea and other places (into Somalia)," she said, adding that some of the funds came from Somali businessmen based in Saudi Arabia.
'Course if the New York Times (spit) hadn't blown the cover of the SWIFT program, it might be easier to track money that is probably being couriered into Somalia...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 28 June 06)

Latest ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 28 June 06) found here. Not much activity in recent days, aside from the "squid pirates" of Vietnam, not yet covered by ONI, but posted about here

Philippines has to cut sea patrols, but argues "less is more"

Odd piece here:
SEA patrols, regularly conducted by the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard, have decreased due to high fuel costs.

Commodore Ferdinand Golez, commander of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, and Commodore Edmund Tan of the Philippine Coast Guard Southeastern Mindanao admitted this in Thursday's Gulf Forum at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

Tan said that from the usual "unlimited" sea patrols they used to conduct, they are now averaging only 15 hours of patrol per month.

He said this is not just because of the high fuel prices, but can also be attributed to their limited budget.

Tan revealed that their gasoline allocation has not increased in the past years despite the fact that their fleet of vessels increased.

But Golez said that amid the decrease in their patrol hours it does not necessarily mean there is a decrease in their effectiveness.

Golez said they compensate this by conducting quality patrols.
15 hours a month? When does less = non-existent?

Pirates off Vietnam

Reported here:
As the Steering Committee for Storm prevention and Rescue team of the Da Nang Border guard reported, in the area of Hoang Sa Archipelago, 18 Vietnamese fishing vessels were at anchor to shelter from a typhoon.

On June 27, pirates attacked one Vietnamese fishing vessel. They stole 25 fuel drums, four tonnes of dried squid, 10 bottles of water, 18 empty buckets and forced the fishermen to return to Vietnam.
Four tons of dried squid...

Headline should read: Congress needs to do something in GWOT

My first read of the Hamdan decision is that Congress will have to do some hard thinking about the GWOT and what to do with stateless combatants.

UPDATE: This is probably right.

UPDATE2: The Supremes question the timing:
The charge against Hamdan, described in detail in Part I, supra, alleges a conspiracy extending over a number of years, from 1996 to November 2001.30 All but two months of that more than 5-year-long period preceded the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the enactment of the AUMF--the Act of Congress on which the Government relies for exercise of its war powers and thus for its authority to convene military commissions.31 Neither the purported agreement with Osama bin Laden and others to commit war crimes, nor a single overt act, is alleged to have occurred in a theater of war or on any specified date after September 11, 2001. None of the overt acts that Hamdan is alleged to have committed violates the law of war.

These facts alone cast doubt on the legality of the charge and, hence, the commission; as Winthrop makes plain, the offense alleged must have been committed both in a theater of war and during, not before, the relevant conflict. But the deficiencies in the time and place allegations also underscore--indeed are symptomatic of--the most serious defect of this charge: The offense it alleges is not triable by law-of-war military commission. See Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 13 ("Neither congressional action nor the military orders constituting the commission authorized it to place petitioner on trial unless the charge proffered against him is of a violation of the law of war").32
The AUMF is the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress after the 9/11 attack. I reckon the Executive Branch should have gone to Congress at some point following the first al Qaeda attacks and sought an AUMF, maybe after bin Laden declared war on the US. As it is, it seems odd that attacks on US embassies, ships and all by an entity do not constitute acts of war sufficient to trigger the Winthrop "during a conflict" rule. In my very hasty early on-the-run reading, it occurs to me that this matter is on the seams of a lot of law and many brilliant minds can end up on opposite sides of the issue (as in a 5-3 decision overruling a decision in which now Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority in a lower court.

If I were a Congressman, I would offer up a Declaration of War against al Qaeda dating back to the first attack admitted by Osama bin Laden, just to fix relevant time periods and to get the War with al Qaeda fully debated.

UPDATE3: War or not? that is the question posed by Professor Bainbridge here. As I state above, the legal aspects of this ruling and the GWOT are right along the seams.

UPDATE4: Glad to see I am not the only person confused by the Geneva Code discussion by Justice Stevens. David Frum is boggled, too:
Let's take that slow: The Geneva conventions say that in a non-international conflict (a civil war for example) the parties to the conflict must observe certain restraints upon their treatment of detainees, including judgments on them only by regularly constituted courts. Fine. But a war between the United States and a multinational coalition on the one hand - and a gang of terrorists recruited from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, and dozens of other countries - conducted on the territory of Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention many other places as well - how can such a war be considered "non-international"?

Well here is Justice Steven's answer:

The D. C. Circuit ruled Common Article 3 inapplicable to Hamdan because the conflict with al Qaeda is international in scope and thus not a “conflict not of an international character."

However, Stevens continues,

That reasoning is erroneous. That the quoted phrase bears its literal meaning and is used here in contradistinction to a conflict between nations is demonstrated by Common Article 2, which limits its own application to any armed conflict between signatories and provides that signatories must abide by all terms of the Conventions even if another party to the conflict is a nonsignatory, so long as the nonsig- natory “accepts and applies” those terms. Common Article 3, by contrast, affords some minimal protection, falling short of full protection under the Conventions, to individuals associated with neither a signatory nor even a nonsignatory who are involved in a conflict “in the territory of” a signatory. The latter kind of conflict does not involve a clash between nations (whether signatories or not).

Does that make any sense to you? Me neither.
If you can explain what Steven wrote in terms simple enough to be understood by the common man, I will post your comment as an update. And did I mention you can read the entire opinion here?

UPDATE4: Mark Levin is not happy.

UPDATE5: General Article 3 of Geneva Conventions III, "Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War":
Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

General Article 2:
Art. 2. In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.

Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.
I'm sure it's made much clearer by the actual language of the Geneva Conventions. To someone. Not to me.

UPDATE6: Chester sees some unintended consequences of the ruling and Wretchard asks more questions. The end of the Geneva Code? Read the comments, too.

UPDATE7: Former dean of Boston U law sees a Kelo-like decision and doesn't much like it it:
The Supreme Court, trying hard on the anniversary of last term's Kelo decision to find a suitable sequel, performed a rare triple loop in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. It found jurisdiction in the face of a statute directly taking jurisdiction away from the Court. It second-guessed the President on the need for particular security features in trials of suspected al Qaeda terrorists. And it gave hope to One-World-ers by leaning on international common law to interpret U.S. federal law. If that weren't enough, the (left, lefter, and far left) turns were executed in the course of giving a court victory to Osama bin Laden's driver. What a perfect way to end the term!

Least surprising news: Kofi Annan weighs in on Somailia - finds US in error

Scandal tainted UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says the US was pursuing the wrong policy in Somalia as reported here:
Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters at a news conference on June 15 that, “it was wrong for the United States government to support warlords in Somalia. ‘I would not have recommended to the UN or the Security Council to support warlords,” Mr. Annan said.
I guess when ruthless dictators are paying money, Annan's tune changes

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Asian ASEAN anti-terror plot

Reported here:
Japan and ASEAN have launched their first talks on cooperating against terrorism as Tokyo seeks to boost its presence in Southeast Asia.

Officials from Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet for two days on ways "to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation in the ASEAN region," a foreign ministry statement said.

Talks are expected to focus on how Japan can help ASEAN to exchange information on terrorism, tighten immigration controls, strengthen maritime patrols and improve investigation technology.

Japan decided earlier this month to donate three patrol boats to Indonesia to help fight terrorism and piracy, breaking another taboo for the officially pacifist country.
Good for Japan, good for Asia, good for the world...

One more thing affecting gas prices

Big oil spill from Venezuela-owned Citgo refinery in Calcasieu Ship Channel , Lake Charles, Lousisna, cuts supplies to other refineries and will cost a bundle to clean up. Reported here:
The spill comes at an inopportune time for the oil industry. It comes ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, which usually is marked by gasoline demand, and has led to a cut in production at several Lake Charles refineries, pushing up oil product prices when they are already a politically sensitive issue.

Unexpected cleanup expenditures only compound the cost pressures faced by the industry, especially in the U.S. Gulf Coast, which has experienced high labor demand since the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery effort got underway.

As more sophisticated equipment has come in, along with an additional 1,000 people, the price has risen to about $2 million a day. Just one week into the effort, Guidry estimated that Citgo has already run up a $10 million bill.

At the most, another week of intensive cleanup will be needed, Guidry said. After that, the price structure for the effort will change as fewer personnel using increasingly specialized equipment work for several months or more to address the more sensitive shoreline areas. During that period, the costs may subside, but the ultimate price tag will rest on just how clean Citgo ultimately makes the area, he said.

A representative from Citgo, a unit of Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, declined to comment on the cleanup effort late Tuesday.

Beyond the burden of recovering the oil, Citgo may face fines often required of companies with significant spills, an official with a leading oil industry trade group said Tuesday.
The spill has cut off traffic to three refineries and limited traffic at a fourth.

ConocoPhillips and Citgo have acknowledged that they cut the amount of crude oil they were processing at their refineries due to the blockage of their main supply route. ConocoPhillips' refinery runs about 250,000 barrels a day normally and Citgo's about 425,000 barrels per day. A third, Pelican Refining, is shut temporarily. Two barges were allowed into Calcasieu Refining, an 85,000-barrel per day plant.

The blockage has pushed up prices for crude and gasoline on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
More here. Photo of portion of Calcasieu Ship Channel from the collection here.

UPDATE: (6/29/06) Ship channel now open.

It's true, I am Spiderman... sorta

Thanks to Professor Bainbridge, my secret is out: My results:
I am Spider-Man

The Flash
Iron Man
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

That "great power" thing? Just send a boatload of money and we'll not test it, okay?

Somalia: All the fun you can have in one hellhole

Peace has not broken out in Somalia as indicated here:
At least six people are dead after Somalists militiamen attacked two checkpoints that were controlled by armed men loyal to a faction leader. The fighting took place in the outskirts of Mogadisho. Yesterday's fighting near Lafole region, was the first since the 5th of June. The Islamic Courts took over the area which was controlled by a faction known as Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter Terrorism[ARPCT].

All the dead are said to be from Hassan Qeiybdid's camp who was a member of the warlords defeated earlier this month. An eye witness said that this ongoing effort by the Islamic Courts is yet another struggle to control Mogadisho and its outskirts. The Alliance captured three battle wagons from the militiamen.
The ICU seeks to consolidate its position. And reports of ICU "raids" on private homes where watchng of the World Cup might have been going on here:
The Somali Council of the Islamic Courts raided homes that were showing the World Cup and foreign films, the Alliance has intensified its action against foreign influence.

The Islamists entered private homes,yesterday,that they suspected of showing the World Cup and foreign movies without permission. Witnesses said that the militiamen destroyed televisions in the Hamar-Jadid neighbourhood of Mogadisho.

The Alliance led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys,banned the World Cup and foreign movies cutting off power supplies in the cinemas shortly after they had taken control of Mogadisho.

The Islamists believe that this form of foreign influence will corrupt the minds of the muslims and turn them away form God. This move came after the Alliance changed its name from the Islamic Courts Alliance to Somali Council of the Islamic Courts.
However, there have been denials that the Somali Council of the Islamic Courts is similar to the Taliban of Afghanistan, though the distinctions elude me at the moment.

Not too surprisingly, the Transitional Somali government has accused the Somali Council of the Islamic Courts of violating the recent peace accords as reported here:
The Transitional Federal Government has condemned on Wednesday the recent attack by Islamic militia in which they have captured the control of key post from militia loyal to Abdi Hassan Qeybdid in the southern outskirt of the Somalia capital.

The deputy minister of information in the transitional federal government based in the provincial town of Baidoa Salad Ali Jelle told the local media that TFG was sorry about the violence in the capital describing the seizure of Qeybdid’s position as in breach of the peace deal signed in Sudan by delegations from Islamic courts union and transitional federal government on 22 June.
Ethiopia is watching events in Somalia unfold with a concerned eye (and the Somalis don't much care for Ethiopia, anyway) and perhaps some eyes on the ground, as the report alleges an intrusion by Ethiopia into Somalia to recover an "Ethiopian spy":
Heavily armed Ethiopian troops are reported to have again crossed into Somalia territory on Wednesday and moved inside Hiran region in west of Somalia where they have met with local officials and back to their country.

The Ethiopian soldiers with several battlewagons have stormed the village of Jawil in Hiran region where they have forcefully freed one of their spies who has been arrested there, witnesses told Somalinet.
And, Ethiopia's Prime Minister has decided that Somalia's Islamists pose a threat"
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Tuesday that the Islamic Courts Union which controls Somalia's capital Mogadishu is dominated by al-Itihaad al-Islamiya members, which posed a threat to Ethiopia.

The United States calls the al-Itihaad al-Islamiya group a "terrorist" faction with links to al Qaeda.

"At the moment the new leadership ... is dominated by Al-Itihaad, an internationally recognised terrorist organization," Meles told a press conference.

The sharia courts appointed Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, named in a U.N. list of al Qaeda associates, to lead their governing council, raising fears they want to install Taliban-style rule.

Meles said the appointment of Aweys, who denies links to terrorism, confirmed that the Islamists were a dangerous group.

"Indeed the chairman of the new council they have established is a certain colonel who also happens to be the head of al-Itihaad," he said.

"Al-Itihaad has been involved in terrorist outrages in Addis Ababa. It is a terrorist organization which has no qualm in planting bombs in hotels, and so it would be absolutely prudent for us to take proper precautionary measures," Meles added.
And the Voice of America reports on a new Somali Parliment here:
The Islamic Courts militia, which now control Somalia’s capital, have named a cleric as the head of a new parliament. Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys was appointed Saturday at a meeting of Islamic authorities in Mogadishu. Some in Washington consider Sheik Hassan Dahir a terrorist with suspected ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. However, the Islamic Courts have denied any links to terrorism or al-Qaida and say they are interested only in restoring law and order to Somalia.
And don't forget the broad daylight murder of a Swedish journalist which has the Sweidsh government asking for an inquiry by "Somali authorities."
Adler was shot in the back by an unknown assailant while covering a rally on Friday in Mogadishu in support of the Islamist leaders who control the Somali capital and most of the country's south.

The shooter has not been caught, but the militia said the killing was planned by a foreign enemy that wants to shatter weeks of relative peace since the Islamists took over.

I understand that vacation packages to Somalia are being heavily discounted...

UPDATE: After careful study, changed the title to conform acceptable spelling of "hellhole."

I also note that Colonel Austin Bay is fishing in these waters.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Port Security: Port closed due to threat

Reported here:
Southern California port was closed off for several hours Monday afternoon while authorities investigated a possible terrorist threat on a cargo ship, authorities said.

The closure at the Port of Hueneme in Ventura County came just before noon after a dockworker discovered a threat written in the cargo hold of a ship carrying bananas from Guatemala, said Will Berg, the port's marketing director.

There was some discrepancy in the exact phrasing of the message.

Berg said it read: "This nitro is for you Mr. George W. Bush and your Jewish cronies."

Federal authorities said it read: "Nitro + glycerin my gift for G. W. Bush and his Jewish gang."

The message, scrawled in marker on a metal pillar within the ship, was being investigated by federal authorities, including the FBI and Secret Service, as well as local officials.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said agents were at the scene. No nitroglycerine or other explosives were found during a thorough search by bomb personnel, she said.

What do we do with Somalia?

One idea here:
John Prendergast of the nonpartisan International Crisis Group (ICG) says US funding of arms purchases by the Somali warlords since 2002 shows the US focused too much on "covert military intervention rather than restoring Somalia's economic and political infrastructure." He calls US involvement in the 1990s "throwing gasoline on the fire."

Meeting the Somali challenge should concentrate on control of the incessant arms traffic. It should consider calling in African Union or UN forces to protect aid to hungry Somalis, and lending political support to the transitional regime to transform it into a unified and strong federal system. This might reduce clan politics and encourage constructive action by neighboring African and Arab states to bring about peaceful change.
Mr. Prendergrast of the ICG seems to live in some alternate universe, in which "peaceful" Somalia was forced into anarchy and would have welcomed US involvement in its political and economic development, instead of a chaotic gaggle of warlords and other criminals who hate the US and would have fought any US intervention unless quelled by armed force. The other suggestion by the author of the piece, "control ... arms traffic" and call in the "African Union or UN" is unaccompanied by any realistic suggestion of how any of those could be made to happen and a complete disregard for the history of the UN in Somalia or the AU.

UPDATE: In the meantime, the battles for Somalia continue to rage as reported here:
Somalia's Islamist militia have taken control of a key road junction south of their Mogadishu stronghold despite last week's ceasefire.
Five people died in the battle for the road that links the capital to the interim government's base in Baidoa.

Meanwhile in Islamist-controlled Jowhar three men face death by stoning if convicted of rape by an Islamic court.

The charges come a day after the new Islamist leader said he would only back a government based on Islamic law.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys' Somali Supreme Islamic Courts Council is due to hold talks with the weak interim government next month.

Interim President Abdullahi Yusuf strongly opposes political Islam.

The two groups last week agreed not to fight each other, amid fears of renewed conflict in Somalia, which has not had an effective national government for 15 years.
The article helpfully adds, "Death by stoning is considered the most severe of punishments under Islamic law, handed down to adulterers and rapists."

Checks and balances for the NY Times and other blabber mouths

Here's the question posed here:
"Tell me again whether there are any checks at all on this 'power that has been given us'.� Where is the accountability at the Times - can We the People un-elect Bill Keller?� How can we make him stop?"
Here's my answer:

Enforce the laws against violating national security.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Andrew McCarthy turns big guns on the POS NYT and the disloyal intel weenies who feed it national secrets

Must read from National Review Andrew C. McCarthy on New York Times & National Security:
There are people in the U.S. intelligence community who are revealing the nation’s most precious secrets.

The media aspire to be the public’s watchdog? Ever on the prowl to promote good government? Okay, here we have public officials endangering American lives. Public officials whose violation of a solemn oath to protect national defense information is both a profound offense against honor and a serious crime.

What about the public interest in that? What about the public interest in rooting out those who betray their country in wartime?

Not on your life.

National-security secrets? All fair game. If it’s about how we detain, or infiltrate, or defang the monsters pledged to kill us, the New York Times reserves the right to derail us any time it finds such matters … interesting.

But the media’s own sources? That, and that alone, is sacrosanct. Worth protecting above all else.

National-security secrets, after all, are merely the public treasure that keeps us alive. Press informants are the private preserve of the media.

And they’re just more important than you are.
Time to get some investigators and throwing some self-righteous reporters and editors in jail until they reveal who is feeding them the information. And the press releases should announce exactly what Mr. McCarthy spells out early in his piece: have only one defense: Intelligence. Superpower power is useless. What are you gonna do? Hit them where they live? Bomb Hamburg? Bomb London? Bomb New York?

Not an option. Your nukes, stealth fighters, carpet bombers … they’re largely irrelevant. This is not about killing an advancing brigade. It’s about killing cells. A handful of operatives here and there, nestled among millions of innocents.

The real challenge is not how to kill them — or at least capture them. It’s how to find them. How to identify them from among the hordes they dress like, sound like, and even act like … right up until the moment they board a plane. Or wave cheerily alongside a naval destroyer. Or park their nondescript van in the catacombs of a mighty skyscraper.

The only way to prevent terrorist attacks is to gather intelligence. It is to collect the information that reveals who the jihadists are, who is backing them with money and resources, and where they are likely to strike. There is nothing else.
The NY Times and its ilk have done some serious damage and they need to pay for the blood that will spill as a result. You know, "in the public interest."

India and China

Two potential great powers of Asia play the Great Game as described here:
Despite these developments, China remains the most destabilising factor for Indian national security. It has consistently sought to undermine India's influence in Asia and across the world. The most dangerous manifestation of this role has been its continuing nuclear and missile cooperation with Pakistan. After having provided Pakistan with nuclear weapons designs, enrichment technology, un-safeguarded Plutonium facilities for developing thermonuclear weapons capabilities and nuclear capable missiles, China has recently transferred Cruise Missile technology enabling Pakistan to test Cruise missiles that can endanger our land and maritime security.

China took the unprecedented step of joining Pakistan in providing military supplies to the beleaguered and unpopular King Gyanendra in Nepal, at a time when India and the international community were trying to promote political reconciliation and democracy in the mountain kingdom.

During the past year, China has effectively lobbied against our efforts to seek Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council. There is now growing evidence that both in Washington and in the capitals of the 45 member Nuclear Suppliers Group, China is, behind the scenes, seeking to undermine the Indo-US nuclear deal that is designed to end global nuclear sanctions against India. In maritime terms, there are disturbing signs to indicate that China is seeking naval and monitoring facilities across the Indian Ocean from Myanmar to Pakistan, in a bid to challenge India's maritime security interests. Moreover, a Chinese naval presence in Gwadar port in Pakistan, can seriously challenge the security of oil supplies from the Persian Gulf to India.

Unlike India, China takes a long-term view of its national interests. It does not allow its policies to be influenced by sentimentalism. In the last few years China has seen India slowly, but steadily, emerging as a growing economic power that has been able to expand its influence in South and South East Asia. The 1998 nuclear tests and the failure of international sanctions against India, established that India has the potential to become a nuclear power independent.
China plays hardball on its own time schedule. India has learned, though, as shown in this concluding sentence: "There is no place for sentimentality or illusions in dealing with our powerful northern neighbour."

No, no there isn't.

Crew of sunken ship off Somalia took to liftboats

Reported here:
A vessel carrying 20 000 tons of charcoal had sunk off the Somali coast in bad weather, but 18 crew members had been rescued, maritime officials said yesterday.

The vessel, MV Kanaya, sank on Tuesday, but the crew members were believed to have beeen floating on life rafts, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarer's Association Programme.

Mwangura said that sailing along the Somali coastline could be risky during June and July because of strong south-easterly monsoon winds that made for rough seas.

There was no evidence that the vessel had run foul of the pirates who had plied the Somali coastline in the recent months, he said.
Initial report of sinking here.

An interesting take on Somalia and other soon to be fundamentalist states

Found here, an editorial on why secularism seems to be fading before fundamentalist advances:
What we are witnessing is not the triumph of religious fundamentalism, but the crisis of secularism. Those of us who consider ourselves secularists, the fellows who believe in the separation of religion and state, bear the blame for letting the cause crumble in disgrace.

Where secularists have risen to power in Africa and other parts of the Third World promising great change, many have ended up being maniacal butchers and thieves. We have let cherished freedoms degenerate into a bottomless pit of immorality and excess. Which is fine, except that we also don't expect to pay a price for it.

We allow a hedonistic life, but when our footsoldiers return home wrecked by booze, drugs, and other excesses, we shut the doors of our homes in their faces. We don't even admonish them.

Meanwhile, the fundamentalist mosques and churches take them in, chastise and even flog some, then get them to publicly renounce their waywardness and reward them for abandoning "sin". The Islamist are popular because, among other things, they came down hard on Somalia's criminal gangs, chopping off the hands of robbers, and publicly executing rapists.

Latter 20th century secularism's abhorrence of the hangman, on the other hand, has gradually led it to underestimate how much the victims of violent robbery, rape, and the relatives of murder victims crave retribution.

So you have a corrupt and incompetent Fatah in Palestine, and the world is surprised that it lost the elections to the Hamas hardliners who had a record of a more caring and honest organisation, murderous though it might be. In 1992, the Islamic front FIS won the elections in Algeria, but the army cancelled the results and seized power, setting off an orgy of violence.

Yet the FIS victory wasn't a fluke. In the municipalities they ran, garbage was collected and buses ran on time. The future belongs to organisations like the Islamic Courts Union, unless secularism responds with more than guns and deployment of global power.
The worst sin of secularists, therefore, is laziness. We don't recruit new warriors, while the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists stay up all night swelling their ranks. We don't have leadership factories, while the religious fundamentalists have their churches (many under trees and on street corners), synagogues, temples, and mosques.
Freedom is hard, becoming a "true believer" is easy - at first. But true believers exact a price for the stability they proffer- mandating compliance with each rule or exacting punishment of the worst kind. Why do these fundamentalists prosper? Eric Hoffer laid it out in The True Believer, a book that is timely and timeless, as set out by Thomas Sowell:
Among Hoffer's insights about mass movements was that they are an outlet for people whose individual significance is meager in the eyes of the world and -- more important -- in their own eyes. He pointed out that the leaders of the Nazi movement were men whose artistic and intellectual aspirations were wholly frustrated.

Hoffer said: "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding," Hoffer said. "When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause -- the "true believer," who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.
Hoffer actually covered more than just busybodies, describing the environment in which mass movements are most likely to succeed:
The milieu most favorable for the rise and propagation of mass movements is one in which a once compact corporate structure is, for one reason or another, in a state of disintegration."
Pretty much describes Somalia. As a reviewer
(Eugene A. Jewett) at Amazon lays it out:
Hoffer's beginning notion is that "people with a sense of fulfillment think the world is good while the frustrated blame the world for their failures. Therefore a mass movement's appeal is not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self. He continues by saying that the true believer "cannot be convinced, only converted". This basic tenet of the story is about human nature and its susceptibility to totalitarianism both secular and sectarian. To wit, he writes that "all mass movements strive to impose a fact proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. And, that that faith becomes the things the fanatic declines to see. He avers how startling it is to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible, and that faith manifests itself not in moving mountains, but in not seeing mountains move. He say's that in the context of mass movement's faith should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity, or truth but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from himself and the world as it is."
A faith which has leaders that lay the blame for all the ills of the world on "others" (especially the on non-believers or other forces of "evil") is particularly attractive to those who view their own lot in life as hopeless and stagnant.

The author of the editorial (the title of which is "Somalia: The Secularists Sleep, the Zealots Are Full of a Passionate Intensity") plays off of W. B. Yeat's lines from "The Second Coming"-
...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
As Hoffer sets out, it logically should be the case that the fanatics are full of passionate intensity:
One of the rules that emerges from a consideration of the factors that promote self-sacrifice is that we are less ready to die for what we have or are than for what we wish to have and to be. It is a perplexing and unpleasant truth that when men already have "something worth fighting for," they do not feel like fighting...Craving, not having is the mother of reckless giving of oneself.
Frustrated people will blow themselves up in a quest to attain the vision of paradise. While suicide bombers make little sense to Americans, who have much to live for, they are perfectly sensible to those who see no fulfillment on earth, but only in the next world where such sacrifice will be rewarded.

San Francisco to get Honolulu nose

Reported here:
At the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, workers are preparing to transplant the nose of a retiring submarine -- the USS Honolulu -- onto the USS San Francisco, which was damaged when it ran into an undersea mountain in 2005.

"A bow replacement on an operational hull is unique and has never been accomplished before," said Pat Dolan, a spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C.

The operation, scheduled to begin in November, will take nearly two years to complete and is expected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

The USS Honolulu is on its final deployment. The San Francisco has been in Bremerton since September, awaiting permanent repairs. Both are Los Angeles-class submarines. The San Francisco is four years older than the Honolulu, but it was overhauled in 2000-2002.

Replacing the bow is expected to cost $79 million, Dolan told The Kitsap Sun newspaper. That's well below the $170 million that would have been required to refuel the Honolulu's nuclear reactor; the San Francisco was refueled during its overhaul.

The San Francisco's bow was severely damaged when it hit an undersea mountain near Guam in January 2005. One sailor was killed, and nearly 100 were injured.
Whatever it takes, I suppose.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The war with Iran: Khobar towers

Must read here from Louis Freeh, former FBI director under President Clinton. And he may have an ax to grind, but his is not the only voice I have ever heard speaking to the same point.

We later learned that senior members of the Iranian government, including Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Spiritual Leader's office had selected Khobar as their target and commissioned the Saudi Hezbollah to carry out the operation. The Saudi police told us that FBI agents had to interview the bombers in custody in order to make our case. To make this happen, however, the U.S. president would need to make a personal request to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

So for 30 months, I wrote and rewrote the same set of simple talking points for the president, Mr. Berger, and others to press the FBI's request to go inside a Saudi prison and interview the Khobar bombers. And for 30 months nothing happened. The Saudis reported back to us that the president and Mr. Berger would either fail to raise the matter with the crown prince or raise it without making any request. On one such occasion, our commander in chief instead hit up Prince Abdullah for a contribution to his library. Mr. Berger never once, in the course of the five-year investigation which coincided with his tenure, even asked how the investigation was going.
And we wonder, after Khobar, Somalia, Desert One, Beirut and other debacles, why al Qaeda thinks they can outlast us...

Probably not good news from Somalia

Reported here:
Somalia's Islamic Courts, which control Mogadishu, have created a new power structure in which a leading Islamist wanted by the US is to play a key role.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys - who is on Washington's list of terrorists with alleged links to al-Qaeda - will head an 88-strong legislative council.

A new, eight-member executive committee will be chaired by a more moderate figure, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Sheikh Aweys, a prominent cleric, is seen as more radical. He previously headed an armed group, al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, which the US said had links with al-Qaeda.

The network of 11 Islamic courts has been set up in recent years in Mogadishu, funded by businessmen in an attempt to re-establish law and order.

The courts' stated goal is to restore a system of Sharia law and put an end to impunity and fighting.
Not unexpected, but not good news, either. I hope his life insurance is paid up, in case he has an "accident" like the Yemeni al Qaeda dupes pictured here.

Mystery man? Sounds like a typical "Stolen Valor" fake to me

Reported here, a mystery man who seems like another wannabe to me.

Here's a hint:
Kane boasted, Wiegand said, of having been awarded some of the most prestigious awards in the military: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Navy Cross, Purple Heart.
" 'I've earned these things but I can't wear them,' " Wiegand said Kane told him. " 'My assignments were too classified. It would expose who I was.' Now that's the biggest BS line."
"He presented himself as a guy who had been to about every special-forces training school in all four services but never graduated any to hide his identity," Wiegand remembers.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Al Qaeda intelligence service revealed

What kind of sophisticated intelligence network does al Qaeda maintain? Now we know:

What else would they need?

UPDATE: Also posted at Milblogs.

More China spying

Reported here:
A former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst has pleaded guilty to illegally holding classified documents and admitted in a plea agreement to passing "top secret" information to Chinese intelligence officials.
Ronald N. Montaperto, the former analyst who held a security clearance as a China specialist at a U.S. Pacific Command research center until 2004, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful retention of national defense information, according to court papers and law officials familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"Montaperto admitted to verbally providing [Chinese military] attaches a considerable amount of information that was useful to them, including classified information," according to a statement of facts submitted in the case.
Montaperto told investigators he could not recall specific information he gave Chinese attaches Col. Yang Qiming, Col. Yu Zhenghe and other Chinese officers during his 22-year career in government. But the statement said it included both "secret" and "top secret" data. It also said he had close unauthorized relationships with the two officers.
I hope the perp understands the "friendship" was one way.

US Navy shoots down missile warhead

Reported here:
Saying the test had been scheduled for months and had nothing to do with the current crisis with North Korea, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency has announced that a Navy ship has fired an interceptor that shot down a warhead from a medium-range missile over Hawaii, according to an Associated Press dispatch. The test had been postponed from Wednesday.

"The USS Shiloh detected a medium-range target after it was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, then fired a Standard Missile-3 interceptor. The interceptor shot down the target warhead after it separated from its rocket booster, more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) above the Pacific Ocean, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement," AP says

For the seventh time in eight tries, a ship-based missile hit its intended ballistic missile target yesterday off Kauai's coast.

The test, the first to include a Japanese naval vessel equipped with tracking equipment, checked the ability of the Navy's portion of the ballistic missile defense system.

At about noon yesterday, the USS Shiloh, an Aegis-class cruiser from San Diego, tracked the target missile fired from Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility and destroyed the target warhead using only the rocket's kinetic energy, ballistic missile defense officials said.

The whole test took about six minutes from launch to collision, while the contact occurred more than 100 miles above the Pacific and 250 miles northwest of Kauai.

It was USS Shiloh's first test since being fitted with the tracking and communication systems, officials said, and the test also involved upgrades in weapon system configuration and a new missile configuration.

It also was the second attempt by a ship to shoot down a separating target. The first came in November when the USS Lake Erie successfully shot down a multistage target in another test.

The achievement is considered significant because medium- and long-range ballistic missiles typically have at least two stages.

40 missing in ferry accident off Sumatra

Reported here:
Nearly 40 passengers were still missing after a ferry sunk in rough waters off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials said Friday.

Most of the over 130 passengers and crew on board the Surya Makmur Indah ferry when it sunk off the coast of North Sumatra Thursday were rescued, but dozens of others were still missing.

"Up to now, there are 94 passengers that have been evacuated from the accident," Navy commander Lieutenant Colonel Djaka Santosa told the online news agency, adding that 39 passengers listed on the boat's manifest were still missing.

Rescue workers have said the number missing could be even higher, with passengers, including children, often boarding Indonesia's ferries without being on the official list.

Three Americans and two Australians were also reported among the missing, the state-run news agency Antara said.

Protecting Iraq's oil outlets and Iraq's future

A "ring of steel" reported here:
There is a 3km zone around the oil platforms that the fishing dhows and other craft are not allowed to enter. It has been described as "a ring of steel" and there are sailors constantly scanning radar screens and looking from the bridge with binoculars to ensure it is not breached. What the navies want to prevent is a dhow laden with explosives sailing up to the platforms and detonating itself.
There can be little doubt that the threat to the oil platforms, Al Basra Oil Terminal, or ABOT as it is usually referred to, and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal or KAAOT is real.

Two years ago, three suspicious dhows sailing near the platforms were intercepted by US forces. The suicide attackers set off their explosives prematurely, killing three sailors.
A senior US military commander has said it is essential that coalition forces "stick it out" in Iraq.

Captain Chris Noble predicted the security situation in the insurgency-rattled nation would deteriorate significantly if there was a pull-out.

The 51-year-old - in charge of a major task group of ships operating in the Northern Arabian Gulf - said the coalition forces were "committed for the long haul".

"Just because it's long, that doesn't mean it's wrong. There was hope things would go faster, but people understand why they have not gone faster.

"If we leave, things will get very bad very quickly. There is a fundamental, underlying hope that we will stay and I really believe this is the right thing to do," he said.

Noble said the speed at which day-to-day life improved in Iraq was down to the new administration in Iraq.

"It is dependent upon the investment by the Iraqi government. It will be a measure of their commitment and resources. It really very much is in their hands," he said.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Homeland Security Thinks Outside the Box

From every MIB's favorite intel source Weekly World News on how to protect the Golden Gate Bridge:
However, working with the San Francisco Police Department, the OHS has devised a plan to keep the bridge safe.

"We've hired 25 young, beautiful women willing to remove all their clothing and station themselves at strategic points on and approaching the bridge," explained San Francisco Police Public Information Officer Bruce Onder.

"Hopefully, that will keep religious radicals from coming near the structure."

According to Dr. Henry Chilvers, Professor Emeritus of Religion and Morality at the University of Sprituality in Sacramento, "Many orthodox faiths demand that a woman cover herself completely, excluding the face and hands, from men except her husband. Most religious zealots who would harm our nation are youths who have not seen one naked woman, let alone many. The shock, shame or simple eye-popping spectacle is going to make them do a U-turn pretty quickly. Or else drive into the bay, which is just as good."
Hmmm. Of course the bridge will be too full of cars full of men for any terrorists to get on it anyway...

University of Spirituality in Sacramento...?

Nice move, Iran, you've even irked the Canadians

Iran, showing its usual deft sense of diplomacy, manages to select as a UN "human rights delegate" a man implicated in the death of a female Canadian photographer as reported here:
Canada expressed "disgust" on Wednesday at Iran's decision to send Tehran's chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, as a delegate to the new United Nations human rights council, saying he was implicated in the death of a Canadian photographer.

"The presence of Mr. Mortazavi in Iran's delegation demonstrates the government of Iran's complete contempt for internationally recognized principles of human rights," Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement.

"The government of Canada expresses its disgust at the fact that Iran would choose to include such a person in its delegation to a new U.N. body intended to promote the highest standards of respect for human rights."

Canada's relations with Iran have been frosty since 2003, when photographer Zahra Kazemi -- who held dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship -- died in detention after being arrested outside a Tehran prison.
Canadians are usually hard to get riled, but Iran seems intent on sticking a finger in the Canadian eye.

Dolts and clods seem to be in charge in Tehran now.

Professor Bainbridge Not Impressed with 500 WMD Shells

Read 500 WMD Shells: Big Deal:
Everybody knows Saddam used chemical weapons on the Kurds and in his war with Iran. It would be astonishing if we hadn't found some munitions. But there's nothing new here to suggest that Iraq had a WMD program sufficiently threatening to justify the war.
As I asked in a comment:
Out of idle curiosity, what number of shells or other indications of WMD would reach your level of justification for the war?

Obviously 500 is too low...would 1000 do it? 2000? 10,000? 100,000? A big huge lab full of anthrax spores?

What is your standard, Professor?
I just don't think saying "Oh, we knew about those" is an adequate dismissal of the issue.

UPDATE: Op-For has a very pertinent post. Not for the humor impaired.

UPDATE2: And Spook86 has some "backstory" here.

Rape, war and nonsense

It's a straight-forward report on a UN agency seeking (no surprise there) extra funding and reporting on rape and sexual violence in wars and conflicts. After all, given the dismal record of some UN peacekeepers, who better than the UN to study such a problem?
A UN report prepared for the meeting found that systematic rape was a prominent feature of the conflicts in Bosnia-Hergovina, DR Congo, East Timor and Haiti, and is ongoing in the Darfur region of Sudan.

No-one knows exactly how many women have been attacked in the chaos of Darfur, the BBC's David Loyn says from the conference.

But rape has been used there as a weapon of war to impose the will of one people on another - as it was in previous conflicts such as those in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Rwanda, he says.

In Rwanda, officials estimate that 60,000 women were raped during the 1994 conflict, two-thirds of whom have been infected with HIV/Aids, the UNFPA believes.

In Bosnia, the figure is put at around 40,000.

The conference has already heard testimony from the DR Congo, where sex with very young children has become commonplace in the mistaken belief it can cure Aids.
Ok, well and good. However, here's a howler from Gaza:
Sexual violence has also been linked to development funding. Cases in Gaza and the West Bank have increased significantly since the EU and the US cut funding after January's election of Hamas, Luay Shabaneh of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says.

Get it? Internal Palestinian problems are the fault of others- including the US- and not caused by support for a terrorist regime which is the reason funds got cut. All as "established by the "Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics."

Thank you BBC for sharing that unquestioned info with us.

One man's terrorist may be another's freedom fighter, and one woman's rapist may be another's victim of withdrawn US & EU funding...what garbage...

Indonesia to beef up military

Reported here:
Indonesia's defense minister said the country plans to buy submarines, fighter jets and frigates in a shopping spree stretching from Russia to the Netherlands.

The world's largest archipelago plans to buy two new German submarines next year, doubling its fleet, and four Dutch frigates within three years, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said in a June 20 interview in Jakarta. The government, which owns four Russian-made Sukhoi fighters, will buy a further six over the next four years.
German subs, Dutch frigates and Russian fighters. U.S. toys must be too expensive.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ask a simple question

Simple Simon meets a pieman and asks, "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed?" Which is, in fact, the title of this piece from The American Spectator. For those of you who think that the answer is a complicated economic package of mathematical complexity, let me reveal the much less complicated answer: Property law.

Or, as set out in the article
De Soto argues that in this way an actual majority of the world's population "has been locked out of the global economy." Poor people "are forced to operate outside the rule of law," and have "no legal identity, no credit, no capital and thus no way to prosper." They would like to participate in a free enterprise system, "but they cannot access the existing property law" and so are forced to operate outside the law. He adds:

Property law is what makes the market economy work. It is property law that provides the framework of rules that organizes the market, the titles and records that identify economic agents, the contractual mechanisms that allow people to exchange goods and services in the expanded market. It is property law that provides the means to enforce rules and contracts.... Therefore, those who are excluded from the legal system, mainly the poor, are also excluded from the legal market economy.
Well said. Read it all. Thank goodness the U.S. government was founded by property owners.

No direct talks with North Korea over missiles

The Bush administration has declined the opportunity to be blackmailed into talking with the North Korean government as reported here. And the DPRK gets a little verbal slap from UN Ambassador Bolton, too:
Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said a missile threat wasn't the way to seek dialogue.

"You don't normally engage in conversations by threatening to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, and it's not a way to produce a conversation because if you acquiesce in aberrant behavior, you simply encourage the repetition of it, which we're obviously not going to do," Bolton told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.

President Bush said North Korea faces further isolation from the international community if it test-fires the missile believed capable of reaching U.S. soil.

"It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have announced they have nuclear warheads, fire missiles," Bush said at a meeting with European leaders in Vienna, Austria. "This is not the way you conduct business in the world."

The U.S. and Japan have said they could consider sanctions against North Korea if it goes ahead with the launch, and Washington was weighing responses that could include attempting to shoot down the missile.

A spokesman for former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung cited the missile crisis as the reason for canceling a trip next week to the North that could have offered a rare chance for talks to soothe tensions.
I wonder what Kim Jong-il's face-saving fallback position is?

Some photos of the DPRK missile launch site at GlobalSecurity here.

Asian Regional Anti-Piracy Pact to take effect in September 2006

Reported here:
Eleven countries have now ratified the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), a Japanese initiative launched in Tokyo in November 2004.

"The ReCAAP Agreement will enter into force on 4 September 2006," a foreign affairs ministry statement said.

Singapore serves as the depository of the agreement and will host the group's information sharing centre, a permanent body with full-time staff.

Cambodia, Japan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka have all ratified the agreement, Singapore said, noting that 10 ratifications were needed for implementation of the pact.

Brunei has also signed and is in the process of ratification, Singapore said.

"The ReCAAP Agreement is the first regional government-to-government agreement to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia," it added.

Officials say vessels plying the Malacca Strait, which pass through Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian territorial waters, are vulnerable to pirates and seaborne "terrorism". The three countries have launched coordinated military air patrols over the waterway, one of the world's most vital sea lanes.

Horn of Africa: Djibouti's hope

Nice piece found here on the one stable country in the Horn of Africa:
Because of Djibouti's excellent port and strategic location - the eye of the storm between the Middle East across the Red Sea and the troubled Horn of Africa - it has attracted some 1,800 U.S. troops. They are stationed mostly at Camp Lemonier, under the command of U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Richard W. Hunt, with 2,300 French Foreign Legionnaires. There is also a joint international naval task force, including U.S. assets, in the Indian Ocean waters that include Djibouti.

All of that helps. But Djibouti also has plans for the future.

Dubai, in the Persian Gulf, started with little more than an excellent port. It has some oil, but that accounts for only 6 percent of its income. The rest is financial services, trade, and investment. Djibouti could do likewise, with a bit of enterprise, gumption, and foreign help.

Promising areas include fishing, environmental tourism, a role as an east coast depot for trade across Africa, and related financial services. Fish would be caught in the extensive waters off Djibouti and Somalia, brought to Djibouti for processing and storage, then exported across the world.

Eco-tourism - any kind of tourism - may seem hard to imagine at this point. Djibouti has killer heat, only one dubious major hotel, and generally forbidding desert terrain. But that is a misleading impression. The country has countless beautiful, colorful fish to dive for off the coast, a wide variety of interesting and unusual birds in the interior, and for those - unlike me - who like such things, a wide variety of nasty snakes and other reptiles to see and study. There is also a lovely, isolated lake, and cool mountains. A new world-class hotel is scheduled to open in October.

All of Djibouti's development possibilities require secure seas offshore. Somali pirates could wreck the whole show. Thus, naval security becomes essential. International naval assets are a temporary solution, but they are inadequate now, particularly for fishing and heavier cruise ship volume, and who knows how long they will be there. This becomes an issue of long-term concern to Djibouti, and to its president.
Dreams gotta start somewhere, I guess.

Headline: U.S. weighs shootdown of N. Korea missile

Found here:
The Bush administration is weighing responses to a possible North Korean missile test that include attempting to shoot it down in flight over the Pacific, defense officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Because North Korea is secretive about its missile operations, U.S. officials say they must consider the possibility that an anticipated test would turn out to be something else, such as a space launch or even an attack. Thus, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of attempting an interception, two defense officials said, even though it would be unprecedented and is not considered the likeliest scenario.
Spook 86 has some thoughts here:
Judging from Gertz's article, it appears the U.S. has been unable to clearly identify the purpose behind the TD-2 test, forcing us to prepare for both scenarios. If we can ascertain that the TD-2 is being used to launch a satellite, we will probably let the test proceed; if it is determined that the launch is an ICBM test, the probability of an intercept attempt increases dramatically. Determining North Korea's intentions has likely been complicated by Pyongyang's proficiency at denial and deception. It is certainly in Kim Jong-il's interest to keep Washington guessing, delaying any engagement decision to the last possible moment.

How would North Korea react to a U.S. attempt at engaging their missile? That's the $64,000 question. Beyond the usual propaganda barrage and diplomatic bluster, Pyongyang might employ some military options of its own, ranging from the intercept of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft near its borders, to the engagement of ROK naval forces along the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the maritime extension of the DMZ. Potential warning time for these events would be limited, given that much of North Korea's armed forces are positioned along their coastlines, or near the DMZ.
Earlier discussion here.

UPDATE: Wall Street Journal editorial says, "Take shot at it" here. The DPRK now says it wants direct talks with the U.S.:
North Korea said in comments published Wednesday that its self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles from 1999 no longer applies because it's not in direct dialogue with Washington, suggesting it would hold off on any launch if Washington agreed to new talks.

"Some say our missile test launch is a violation of the moratorium, but this is not the case," Han Song Ryol, deputy chief of North Korea's mission to the United Nations, told South Korea's Yonhap news agency in an interview from New York.

"North Korea as a sovereign state has the right to develop, deploy, test fire and export a missile," he said. "We are aware of the U.S. concerns about our missile test-launch. So our position is that we should resolve the issue through negotiations."

Pyongyang has consistently pressed for direct dialogue with the United States, while Washington insists it will only speak to the North at six-nation nuclear talks. The North has refused to return to those nuclear talks since November because of a U.S. crackdown on the country's alleged illicit financial activity.

On Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas Scheiffer, called on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks but did not address the possibility of bilateral negotiations.

"They have the opportunity to do that through the six-party talks," he said. "They don't have to undertake bad policies in order to talk to the United States."

He also said the United States has means of responding to a North Korean missile test that it didn't have the last time Pyongyang carried out a launch in 1998, and is considering "all options."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Say what? UN to assess security in Somalia

Before sending peacekeepers, the UN wants to make sure where things stand, as reported here:
The United Nations is sending a security team to Somalia later this week to meet Islamic leaders who control the capital, Mogadishu.
It will be the first formal contact between UN officials and the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia since the union captured much of south Somalia.

Earlier, the African Union agreed to send a separate team to assess the possibility of deploying peacekeepers.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991.

The deployment of any peacekeepers would require the UN to lift its arms embargo on Somalia.

The Islamic Courts fiercely oppose the idea and last week held large protests against peacekeepers. (emphasis added)
Let's see--what are some synonyms for "cannon fodder?" Part of the cause of the 15 year period of Somali chaos was the UN "cut and run" in 1995. Some history:
The regime of Mohamed SIAD Barre was ousted in January 1991; turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy have followed in the years since. In May of 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming dominance of a ruling clan and economic infrastructure left behind by British, Russian, and American military assistance programs. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring self-declared autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998, but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government, but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored.
The Somalis can't get along internally and don't much like anyone else, either.

While the UN studies,
Tension is high in Somalia, after the Islamists said Ethiopian troops had crossed the border - a claim the Ethiopians have denied.

UN envoy Mr Fall said that there were reports of troop movements on both sides of the Ethiopian border.

"There's a risk that if they [Islamist militias] move close to the border, the Ethiopians might react," he said.

Ethiopia has been mentioned as one of the countries that could send peacekeepers to Somalia, but Ethiopia is deeply distrusted by some Somalis.
And, by the way, they hate the U.S.

UPDATE: I just don't think peace will be flowing like a river in Somalia any time soon--see here and here:
Mogadishu was recently taken over by a Somali teacher, Sheikh Shariff Ahmed, now the chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts. While this group may now be in charge in Mogadishu, the war is far from over as there appears to be fears that the fighting could degenerate into internecine warfare, long the bane of Somalia.
And Austin Bay's gloomy outlook here:
Clans dominate Somali life and politics, which means even in the best of times Somalia is a country constantly grappling with divisive factional and regional interests. Somalia's U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is weak -- wracked by corruption and sapped by political infighting among clan leaders with designs on national leadership. The ICU bills itself as a multi-clan organization, with Islam the common denominator, but like the TFG it has internal factions with divisions that are tough to bridge.

The clerics atop the ICU now deny any affiliation with al-Qaida. They have, however, displayed Taliban tendencies. The clerics banned World Cup soccer "watching parties" and cut off electricity to theaters showing the games. They have ordered Somali women to wear veils.
In the long run, regional stabilization will help Somalia -- but in the short run, Somalia will remain a chaotic battlefield. The United States and Islamo-fascist terrorists will continue to square off through proxies. Neighboring nations like Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya will pursue their own interests by backing favored Somali clans and leaders with money and arms. Ethiopian troops (already inside Somalia) may masquerade as African Union peacekeepers. In January, the African Union discussed sending troops to Somalia. Its abysmal peacekeeping record in Darfur damns itself.
In short, the wheel is still very much in spin.

UPDATE: 6/21/06 The Somali leaders holding talks? Reported here.

I've been a little distracted lately

Red Neck Hockey. Indeed.

A Bangladesh piracy problem

Reported as 200 trawlers looted in Bay in 2 months:
Pirates killed six fishermen and looted 200 trawlers in the Bay of Bengal during the last two months creating panic among the fishermen.

Besides, 40 fishermen were abducted and 100 others injured in the attacks by the pirates during the same period.

Sources said the fishermen of Patharghata, Raenda, Tushk-hali, Mathbaria, Zianagor, Daulatkhan, Tazumunddin, Monpura, Kolapara and Morelganj areas under Barguna, Pirojpur, Bhola, Patuakhali and Bagerhut districts are the victims of piracy.

Locals said coastal and estuary areas of Meghna, Bishkhali, Balweswar rivers are under control of the different pirate gangs.

Jahangir, Kamal-Suman, Rezaul and BDR Kalam are the most notorious pirate gang leaders of these areas and they have secret dens in the deep forest of Sunderbans, they said.
Bangladesh is also under a "Piracy Alert" for its Chittagong anchorage as set out here (ICC CCS Weekly Piracy report to 19 June):
Chittagong anchorage, Bangladesh
Twenty two incidents have been reported since 28.01.2006. Pirates are targeting ships preparing to anchor. Ships are advised to take extra precautions.
More warnings at the ONI Worldwide Shipping Threat site here (to 14 June 06).

President Bush at the Merchant Marine Academy

Transcript of speech here. Highlights:
Life at this Academy is demanding -- and it is meant to be. America is a great maritime power, and our Merchant Marine has a vital role to play. In times of peace, the Merchant Marine helps ensure our economic security by keeping the oceans open to trade. In times of war, the Merchant Marine is the lifeline of our troops overseas, carrying critical supplies, equipment, and personnel. For more than six decades, the mission of this Academy has been to graduate highly skilled mariners to serve America's economic and national security needs. To train you for these responsibilities, this Academy sharpens your mind, it strengthens your body, and builds up your character. The Academy has made you strong and instilled respect for the Kings Point motto -- Acta Non Verba -- "Deeds, Not Words."
Deeds, Not Words" defines the Academy's role in the global war on terror. Your cadets are forward deployed in the Middle East, where they're supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your Global Maritime and Transportation School is providing advanced training in areas from marine engineering to port security for military units like the Navy Seabees and Surface Warfare Officers. And your graduates are serving our nation in every branch of our Armed Services, as sailors projecting American combat power across the Earth; as Marines and soldiers leading platoons from Khandahar to Tikrit; as Coast Guard officers securing our homeland; and as airmen delivering justice to terrorists hiding in safe houses and caves. In the global war on terror, the men and women of this Academy are making a difference on every front -- and the American people are grateful for your service.
The advance of freedom is the calling of our time -- and the men and women of the United States Merchant Marine Academy are answering that call. In a few moments, you'll walk through Vickery Gate and leave the Academy that's been your home. You leave with a bachelor's degree, a license as a Merchant Marine officer, and a commission in one of the branches of our Armed Services. And you leave with something else: The great truth that duty and honor and courage are not just words; they are virtues that sustain a free people, people who are determined to live under self-government. They're the virtues that will be your anchor and compass in a life of purpose and service. These are the virtues that America demands of those entrusted with leading her sons and daughters in uniform. And these are the virtues that America has come to expect from the blue and grey.

We see the devotion to duty and honor and country in the life of one of this Academy's finest graduates, Aaron Seesan. Aaron was an Ohio boy who grew up dreaming of being a soldier. He brought that dream with him to this Academy -- and when he walked through these gates three years ago, he carried on his shoulders the gold bar of a second lieutenant in the United States Army. After entering the Army, Lieutenant Seesan trained as a combat engineer. And he was serving at Fort Lewis, Washington, when a group of soldiers who were based at the fort were struck by a suicide bomb in Iraq. Two of the men were killed. And that's when this young lieutenant volunteered to go to Iraq to take the place of a wounded platoon leader.

When Lieutenant Seesan arrived in Iraq, some of his fellow soldiers wondered what was the Army thinking. His platoon sergeant said, "I didn't know what the hell a Merchant Marine graduate was doing here in the 73rd Engineering Company." The sergeant quickly changed his mind when he saw Lieutenant Seesan in action, taking care of his men as they patrolled the most dangerous roads in and around Mosul. In May 2005, he was leading a routine sweep of a city street when a bomb exploded and hit the fuel tank of his Humvee. Those who were with him recall his last words: "Take charge, Sergeant Arnold, and take care of the others."

He died on May 22 -- on National Maritime Day. For his act of bravery, Lieutenant Seesan was awarded the Bronze Star. And the campus memorial that bears his name will remind all who come here of Kings Point commitment to service above self.
As noted in other places, he also talked about Iran.
UPDATE: More coverage at Fred Fry International's Maritime Monday.

Ship sinks off Somalia -rescuers enroute

Marlo Bahrain sent out an email report of s ship sinking off Somalia:
M/V Kanaya has sunk of the Coast of Somalia at position 0840N - 05327E. It was carring 20,000 tons of coal. There are 18-19 crew members in life rafts. Two vessels (M/V Mearsk Arkansas and M/V Jo Betula) are enroute and they will be there in three hours. There is a Coalition vessel enroute and it will be there in approximately 10 hours.

Email dated at 0830, 20 June 06.

Map shows approximate area of sinking.

Monday, June 19, 2006

North Korea missile guessing

As posted about earlier here, the lovely DPRK and its wacky leader may be stirring a missile launch pot. And now there seems to be some suggestion that maybe there's an Aegis cruiser off the coast of the DPRK waiting.

Some background on the AEGIS Anti-ballistic missile system here. A SM-3 success story here and here.

Photo caption:
A Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) is launched from the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), during a joint Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy ballistic missile flight test today. Minutes later, the SM-3 intercepted a separating ballistic missile threat target, launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. The test was the sixth intercept, in seven flight tests, by the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, the maritime component of the "Hit-to-Kill" Ballistic Missile Defense System, being developed by the Missile Defense Agency. All previous Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense flight tests were against unitary (non-separating) targets. (U.S. Navy Photo)
Missile Defense Agency site here. Another good site is Missile Threat from Claremont Institute.

How the "Murtha plan" would work

As the blogoworld is now well aware, Rep.and Col (USMCR(ret)) John Murtha has suggested that we don't need boots on the ground in Iraq and could be using a bombing 911 service to dispatch the bad guys. Actually, his exact words are found in Froggy's post at Black Five here, wherein Rep Murtha suggests that using Okinawa as a base of operations just might work.

I assume that Rep. Murtha is suggesting bombing in lieu of ground forces. He might have missed a briefing or two on military capabilities since his retirement from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1989 (entered Marines in 1952, served 37 years= 1989). In fact, he missed out on the lessons of Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans and, last, but not least, Kosovo. Unless, of course, as a Congressman he gets up to the minute reports of an operational nature.

In any event, his suggestion of using precision bombing from, I presume, high and safe altitudes (so as not to place any of our personnel in undue harm's way) reminded me of some things.

The first of which was some lessons we might have learned from following up on the Kosovo bombing missions, as detailed in a MEAT report somehow gathered and reported on by Newsweek under the title Newsweek Exclusive: Suppressed Air Force Report on Kosovo Bombing Shows Little Damage Done to Milosevic's Forces, Contrary to Early NATO and Pentagon Claims. Some highlights:
A suppressed U.S. Air Force report
obtained by Newsweek shows that the number of targets verifiably destroyed by
high-altitude bombing in the Kosovo War was a tiny fraction of what top
military officers publicly claimed. The report shows there were 14 tanks
destroyed, not 120; 18 armored personnel carriers, not 220; and 20 artillery
pieces, not 450. And instead of the 744 "confirmed" strikes by NATO pilots
during the war, the Air Force investigators, who spent weeks combing Kosovo,
found evidence of just 58 strikes. The damage report has been buried by top
military officers and Pentagon officials, who, in interviews with Newsweek
over the last three weeks, were still glossing over or denying its
Gen. Wesley Clark, the top NATO commander during the war, tried - at least
at first - to gain an accurate picture of the bombing, Newsweek reports in the
current issue. At the end of June, Clark dispatched a team to do an
on-the-ground survey in Kosovo. The 30 experts were known as the Munitions
Effectiveness Assessment Team, or MEAT.
The bombing, they discovered, was highly accurate against fixed targets,
like bunkers and bridges. "But we were spoofed a lot," said one team member.
The Serbs protected one bridge from the high-flying NATO bombers by
constructing, 300 yards upstream, a fake bridge made of polyethylene sheeting
stretched over the river. NATO "destroyed" the phony bridge many times.
In addition, artillery pieces were faked out of long black logs stuck on
old truck wheels. A two-thirds scale SA-9 antiaircraft missile launcher was
fabricated from the metal-lined paper used to make European milk cartons. "It
would have looked perfect from three miles up," said a MEAT analyst. The team
found dozens of burnt-out cars, buses and trucks - but very few tanks, and no
indications that hit tanks had been hauled away.
When Clark heard this news, he ordered the inspectors to walk the terrain,
report National Security Correspondent John Barry and Assistant Managing
Editor Evan Thomas in the May 15 issue (on newsstands Monday, May 8). They
came back with 2,600 photographs and briefed the commanders. "What do you mean
we didn't hit tanks?" said Gen. Walter Begert, the Air Force deputy commander
in Europe. Clark said, "This can't be. I don't believe it.
The Air Force was ordered to prepare a new report and in a month, Brig.
Gen. John Corley was able to turn around a survey that pleased Clark. It
asserted that NATO had successfully struck 93 tanks, close to the 120 claimed
by Gen. Shelton at the end of the war, and 153 armored personnel carriers, not
far off the 220 touted by Shelton. But Corley's team did not do any actual
field research. Rather, it looked for any support for pilots' claims. "The
methodology is rock solid," said Corley, who strongly denied any attempt to
obfuscate. "Smoke and mirrors," is more like it, according to a senior officer
at NATO headquarters who examined the data, Newsweek reports. NATO sources
also say two of Clark's officers cautioned him not to accept Corley's numbers.
The U.S. intelligence community, too, was doubtful. "Nobody is very keen to
talk about this topic," a CIA official told Newsweek. Over-rating the Kosovo
bombing could lead to fundamentally flawed strategies in future similar
conflicts, Newsweek notes.
(emphasis mine)
I'm sure there is more on this topic other places, but it should give anyone thinking that bombing from afar is the solution some pause.

While pondering the implications over "over-rating the Kosovo bombing" you might also consider these words from T.R. Fehrenbach:
You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life--but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.
Just saying, commanders and Congressmen need to have the truth about past actions, not reports that support some previously taken position.
UPDATE: Another view of the "misunderstood" modern airpower here (Hat tip: NOSI). Maybe it is misunderstood, but it still seems to require some people on the ground to avoid the sort of deception used by the Serbs and to wrap up all those loose end things - like getting things to work in the area you just bombed.