Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Homeland Security: Drug-Running Recruiters

"The Tucson recruiters, trained to sell people on the military, often used those skills to recruit for the drug ring, helping the sting to mushroom, court records show."
-- Carol Ann Alaimo in The Arizona Daily Star.

Shortly after 9/11, the FBI investigated complaints that an Arizona Army National Guard recruiter at a strip mall in Tucson was taking bribes for fixing test results. The undercover officer who went to question the suspect recruiter was offered not only the chance to pay for the grades needed to join the service -- but to buy cocaine from the back of the recruiter's car.

So began the sting operation named "Operation Lively Green" -- as in uniforms, as in dollars, as in "the color of their authority," according to a Justice Department press release last year which named "16 current and former U.S. soldiers and law enforcement officers" who copped pleas for "participating in a widespread bribery and extortion conspiracy."

This is the way the DOJ laid out the case:

In documents filed today in federal court in Tucson, Arizona, each defendant agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to enrich themselves by obtaining cash bribes from persons they believed to be narcotics traffickers. Those individuals were actually Special Agents from the FBI, and the defendants used their official positions to assist, protect and participate in the activities of what they believed was an illegal narcotics trafficking organization engaged in the business of transporting and distributing cocaine from Arizona to other locations in the southwestern United States.

In order to protect the shipments of cocaine, the defendants wore their official uniforms and carried their official forms of identification, used official vehicles, and used their color of authority, where necessary, to prevent police stops, searches, and seizures of the narcotics as they drove the cocaine shipments on highways that passed through checkpoints manned by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and Nevada law enforcement officers. Many of the defendants also accepted additional cash bribes in return for recruiting other public officials they believed to be corrupt to further facilitate the activities of the fictitious narcotics trafficking organization.

According to court documents, all of the defendants escorted at least two shipments of cocaine from locations such as Nogales, Arizona and Tucson, Arizona to destinations which included Phoenix and Las Vegas, Nevada. The defendants pleading guilty today transported a total of over 560 kilograms of cocaine and accepted over $222,000 in cash bribes as payment for their illegal activities.

In one instance, on Aug. 22, 2002, several of the defendants drove three official government vehicles, including two military Humvees assigned to the Arizona Army National Guard (AANG), to a clandestine desert airstrip near Benson, Arizona, where they met with a twin-engine King Air aircraft flown by undercover agents of the FBI. Those defendants, while in full uniform, supervised the unloading of approximately 60 kilograms of cocaine from the King Air into their vehicles. They then drove the cocaine to a resort hotel in Phoenix where they were met by another undercover agent of the FBI, posing as a high-echelon narcotics trafficker, who immediately paid them off in cash.

In another instance, on April 12, 2002, defendant John M. Castillo, 30, while on duty as an inspector for the INS at the Mariposa Port of Entry located on the U.S. border at Nogales, Arizona, twice waved a truck he believed to be carrying at least 40 kilograms of cocaine through the border without being inspected. On or about Aug. 1, 2002, Castillo also sold an undercover FBI agent INS documents which fraudulently provided for the entry of undocumented aliens into the United States.

The article in the Arizona Daily Star looks at the fact that the recruiters involved made frequent visits to local high schools to persuade the kids they had a future in the military. So far as the paper was able to determine, they did not recruit any students into the ranks of abusers, dealers or traffickers. - C.D.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Taliban Rule Book in Pashto

Sami Yousufzai and Ron Moreau brought to light the Taliban Rule Book earlier this month, and a full translation is now available on the Newsweek site. For those who read Pashto, these photographs show the original pages. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Policing: "Guns Gone Wild"

The most informative article I've read on the Sean Bell killing outside the Kalua Nightclub in New York City is Sean Gardiner's piece in The Village Voice. The bottom line: cops appear to have more firepower than they know how to manage these days. Commissioner Ray Kelly, during his first tour, had tried to limit them to six-shooters. Then he brought in semi-automatics but limited them to ten shots. His successors upped the fatal ante to 15. In the Sean Bell killing, one cop, who'd never fired his gun in the streets before, went through two clips and one round in the chamber -- 31 bullets -- in less than 20 seconds. Obviously this wouldn't have been possible with a Smith & Wesson. But, that said, a lot of policing has to do with the psychological environment. One part of that is creating a sense of security for the public -- the approach laid out by Wilson and Kelling years ago in "Broken Windows." But another part is creating a sense of security for the cops. Now that they're used to their Glocks, it's all but impossible, and could be deeply demoralizing, if they had to give them up. - C.D.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Paths to War - and Out of It

These last two paragraphs from the cover story of Newsweek's U.S. edition this week are worth reading closely:

It is not out of the question that Bush 43 will be brought around by the so-called Realists. Fantasies of a liberal democracy in Iraq are long gone. The most Bush can reasonably hope for in Iraq is some measure of stability, which is what the Realists want, too. Bush's situation—and petulant tone—are not unlike Lyndon Johnson's in 1968, when the Vietnam War was getting no better, despite troop levels' reaching a half-million men and a heavy bombing campaign. Johnson's new secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford, was a clever fixer/statesman, just like Baker. Johnson ranted to his advisers, "Let's get one thing clear! I'm telling you now that I'm not going to stop the bombing!" (Bush last week: "There's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.") But Clifford and the other Wise Men he brought into the White House did persuade LBJ to halt the bombing and open peace talks with the North Vietnamese. Baker & Co. might still nudge Bush onto a track that involves more diplomacy and less force.

There is, however, a cautionary coda to the Vietnam comparison. The revolt of the Wise Men in 1968 did change administration policy—but it did not end the war. The peace talks dragged on until Richard Nixon became president in 1969; he then re-escalated the war, which didn't end until another five years had passed and 25,000 more American soldiers had been lost. Iraq has not cost nearly as many American lives. But Vietnam fundamentally shaped America in ways that reverberate even today, and no matter what happens between George Bush and Jim Baker in the coming days and weeks, it is likely that Iraq will be with us for as long as Vietnam has been—or longer.

Evan Thomas, who wrote the story, was also the c0-author of a fascinating book called "The Wise Men," in which Clifford played a major role. I'm happy to see it's still in print.

The lessons of Vietnam are complicated, but they're certainly worth studying today. If you want a quick short course, I'd suggest watching the HBO movie "Path to War," which came out in 2002 and is now available on DVD. It was John "The Manchurian Candidate" Frankenheimer's last film. Donald Sutherland plays Clifford. Alec Baldwin is McNamara, and Michael Gambon is a convincing LBJ. It presents a vivid picture of Johnson Agonistes, and gives a disturbingly accurate sense of how good intentions and bad advice can suck the United States into a quagmire.
One final note: all "ground combat troops" had been pulled out of Vietnam by 1972, on the eve of that year's presidential elections. The war went on for three more years, and ended in disaster after the U.S. Congress finally decided to pull the plug. But the outcome was inevitable in any case. - C.D.

Friday, December 01, 2006

More on the KGB, UFOs, Po-210 Coffee Mugs

Articles suggesting that the isotope used to kill former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London last month can be had on the Internet for $69 are, to say the least, misleading. A piece by Jessica Bennett on Newsweek's Web site goes some way toward clearing up the confusion about Polonium 210 and its availability. The stuff -- or what purports to be the stuff -- is being marketed by Bob Lazar, who formerly claimed he worked at Area 51 where UFOs are stored. Nobody we've found has actually tested the product he's selling to see if it amounts to more than the trace elements that can be discovered, for instance, in cigarette smoke. Or if the isotope is present in his samples at all. According to the Newsweek article, you pay $69 for one microcurie, which is one millionth of a curie, which is already a very, very, very small amount.

According to the nuclear experts I talked to for my column earlier this week, the assumption based on animal experiments is that 525 microcuries of Polonium-210 would be enough to kill you if ingested, and a gram would represent, roughly, 10,000 times the lethal dose.

But the fact is that there's not much known research on the ingestion of this rare isotope -- who would you feed it to? who would have been eating it or breathing it by accident? -- so some scientists suggest it would take hundreds of micrograms to kill someone.

Presumably an assassin would come to the same conclusion. That's yet another reason to suppose the stuff that killed Litvinenko came from an operation capable of bombarding highly pure bismuth, and which did so in the last few months -- ie., the kind of facility that exists in a nuclear weapons state and, as far as I know, nowhere else.

I also got e-mails asking about the "signature" or the "fingerprint" of this isotope. As I understand it the problem here is that no investigators, not those at the IAEA, much less those from Scotland Yard, have access to the facilities of the nuclear weapons states, and therfore cannot compare the Po-210 that killed Litvinenko with everything that might be available. Nor is it likely that the Russians, Israelis, or for that matter the Americans and the British, are going to open their labs and production facilities for police examination.

That traces of radiation were found on BA planes which flew from Moscow to London and back in the week before Litvinenko showed symptoms of poisoning would seem to point the finger even more clearly at Russians, although not necessarily at Putin. The current illness of former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar would seem to be another plot twist.

But I confess it's Lazar that interests -- and darkly amuses -- me. On his Web site he notes that the polonium-210 he sells, such as it is, would be almost impossible to use as a poison. But another isotope found in smoke detectors ... would work just great. I haven't tested that claim, and don't intend to.

This article about Lazar which appeared in the Albuquerque Journal earlier this year gives a pretty good picture of the "UFO guy":

And this one in Wired probably tells you more than you ever wanted to know:

For a statement from the man himself, see: http://www.unitednuclear.com/isotopes.htm

If you like, you can also order a Polonium coffee mug:

NYPD: Perspective

Clyde Haberman's essay in today's New York Times is the best single piece I've seen on the Sean Bell killing in New York. There are certainly a lot of questions to be asked about those 50 shots the police pumped into Bell, his friends and his car the day he was due to get married. But very little coverage looks at the crimes that precipitated the intensified undercover work at many bars and dives around NYC, even though the savage killings of 24-year-old Imette St. Guillen after clubbing in SoHo in February and 18-year-old Jennifer Moore in July dominated the tabloid headlines at the time. Even less attention has been paid to the dangers faced by the undercover officers on the ground. That's where Haberman focused his attention:

"... meanwhile, in Brooklyn, some attention turned to cops who lost life, not cops who took life.

This is happening in a federal courtroom where a Staten Island man with an expressionless face is on trial for his life, charged with shooting two undercover police detectives in the back of the head. He in effect executed them, it is charged, for the effrontery of trying to rid the streets of illegal guns.

These two events would seem unrelated. But they are two faces of the same New York story. Both involve police undercover work that went disastrously wrong, although in different ways.

The very nature of this work can lead to nightmarish situations because, by definition, undercover officers are supposed to melt into their surroundings. Snap decisions — when to back off, when to make arrests, certainly when to shoot — are rarely uncomplicated or without peril.

In the case before the Brooklyn jury, the murdered detectives pretended one night in March 2003 that they were interested in buying a gun. As part of this pretense, according to the charges, they sat up front in a car, acting as if they had a bond with two men in the back seat.

This was a mistake. It allowed one of the men in the back to fire at them, point-blank.

They paid with their lives, Detectives James V. Nemorin, 36, and Rodney J. Andrews, 34 — they with five children between them..."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

James Bond's Particular Poison

I still haven't seen the latest film version of "Casino Royale," but I gather from recent news stories that it includes the original Ian Fleming recipe for a devastating martini. (Charles Bremner's piece in the Times of London about the sudden global demand for Lillet was particularly amusing.) But while reading through my old copy of the novel (the same as the one pictured, pages 40 and 41) I was struck by the conversation that surrounded the recipe, reminiscent as it is of a cosmopolitan hedonism that seems long lost. It is the quintessence of classic Bond:

'My name's Felix Leiter,' said the American [CIA agent]. 'Glad to meet you.'

'Mine's Bond - James Bond.'

'Oh, yes,' said his companion, 'and now let's see. What shall we have to celebrate?'

Bond insisted on ordering Leiter's Haing-and-Haig 'on the rocks,' and then he looked carefully at the barman.

'A dry Martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'

'Oui, monsieur.'

'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?'

'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.

Bond laughed. 'When I'm - er - concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip.

'Excellent,' he said to the barman, 'but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.'

'Mais n'enculons pas des mouches,' he added in an aside to the barman. The barman grinned.
'That's a vulgar way of saying "we won't split hairs," ' explained Bond.

But Leiter was interested in Bond's drink. 'You certainly think things out,' he said with amusement as they carried their glasses to a corner of the room. He lowered his voice:
'You'd better call it the "Molotov Cocktail" after the one you tasted this afternoon.' ...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Litvinenko: Wet Work and KGB Sushi?

This is the sushi restaurant on Picadilly in London where Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko ate his last meal, as it were, on Nov. 1. I've passed by there a couple of times this week and it's been packed, despite the prominent coverage in the British press of Litvinenko's terrible suffering from a mysterious poison. .... So I decided, what the hell, I'd go to Itsu for lunch today, eat a couple of California rolls, chat up the staff, see what other customers were thinking. But by 1:30 this afternoon it was shut down tight. The sign out front reads "As a result of the Russia/KGB business, we are temporarily closed while Scotland Yard investigate. Sorry!!"... Litvinenko died last night of what authorities in the UK are calling a "massive and deliberate dose" of an isotope called Polonium 210. The BBC is reporting traces of radiation have indeed been found at Itsu as well. ... Apparently polonium, exotic as it sounds, is not so hard to come by. A quick Google search shows traces of it are found in cigarettes and, well, fish. The BBC is reporting that it can be purchased on line. ... Moscow is adamantly denying any involvement in Litvinenko's demise, but the suspicion that this is the work of some present or past members of the Russian secret services is not going to go away. As suggested in the Shadowland column this week, what the Soviets used to call "wet work" is growing common in our world of deeply conflicted national interests. The intellectual authors seem to think they have licenses to kill, and they may be right. -- C.D.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More On The Poker Paradigm

One of the comments on the previous post suggests author and poker player James McManus is misreading Iran's game, and somehow playing into the hands of neo-con warmongers. But, even if that were true, and I don't believe it is, his analysis is essentially about a paradigm -- and about the power of the unknown. On this point, and its role in "virtual" nuclear proliferation around the world, you'll soon be able to read much more. (Watch for Newsweek's special "Issues 2007.") In the meantime, you might want to keep an eye on www.cardplayer.com , where McManus will start a series of articles on poker history later this week. You can also listen to him on NPR yesterday:

Iran's Poker-Like Stand-Off

Listen to this story...

Weekend Edition Saturday, November 18, 2006 · Author and high-stakes poker player James McManus talks about the parallels he sees between the political posturing of Iran's president and a game of poker.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Of Persians, Poker, Bluster and Bluffs

James McManus, who writes brilliantly about poker, had a piece in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend that really is one of the most useful things I've seen about the diplomatic showdown with Iran over its nuclear program. Can President Bush master the game of Tehran Holdem? You may need to register to read the whole article online and get the nuances of winning with weak hands, developing a narrative, and so on. But here are some of McManus's observations:

...At least 250 years before our country was founded, Persians were playing bluff-based card games with decks of four suits: coins, goblets, polo mallets and scimitars. In the late 18th century, their vying game As-Nas (My Beloved Ace) became the prototype for the 20-card French game poque. Introduced by Napoleon's troops to New Orleans, poque evolved into 52-card poker on Mississippi steamboats in the decades after the Louisiana Purchase. Union and Confederate soldiers played the game between battles, then brought it home to every state and territory. By 1970, when the first World Series of Poker was hosted by Benny Binion at his Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas, the variation of choice was no-limit Texas hold 'em. During the next 36 years, the number of challengers in the main event mushroomed from seven to 8,773, including players from 56 countries. But only one country besides the U.S. has produced more than one champion: Iran.

Amir Vahedi is one of the likeliest Iranians to bring this number to three. Born in Tehran in 1961, Vahedi enlisted in the army during the war with Iraq (1980-88). After he'd served for two years in that hideous bloodbath—poison gas was deployed and martyr brigades of children, called the Basij, marched across minefields—Vahedi's mother begged him to desert his unit and leave the country. Despite his determination to serve with honor, he decided to obey his mother's desperate plea. He was imprisoned in Afghanistan, but upon his release obtained a forged passport, made his way to East Berlin, slipped into West Berlin and eventually arrived in Los Angeles. Here he drove limos and learned to play tournament poker, achieving enough success with the latter—his lifetime earnings exceed $2.5 million—to be immortalized with a cigar-chomping bobblehead. Affable and gregarious away from the tables, Vahedi is almost recklessly aggressive while playing hold 'em. "To live in a no-limit tournament," he has famously observed, "you have to be willing to die."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have adapted this as his rallying cry. He was a Basij instructor during the war with Iraq and lately has been extravagant in his praise for suicide bombers. Soon after his inauguration speech, he asked, "Is there any art more beautiful, more divine and more eternal than the art of the martyr's death? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity." And if, as he believes, the Twelfth Imam is about to return to destroy the infidels, why should he compromise, especially when a reported 9 million Basij formed a 5,400-mile human chain to support his nuclear program?

But is Ahmadinejad really a martyr himself, or does he just play one on TV? More crucially, can the West accept nuclear weapons in the hands of a demagogue obsessed with self-slaughter?

Even though his regime probably has no warheads, it counts on belligerent pronouncements toward Israel—which "must be wiped off the map"—and America to unnerve world energy markets, raising fuel prices while enriching Iranian coffers at the rate of nearly $1 billion a week. This in turn enables Iran to fund Hezbollah and Shiite jihadis more lavishly, to pay hefty sums to import nuclear expertise, and makes it less vulnerable to economic sanctions. In this sense Ahmadinejad has us almost literally over a barrel. Meanwhile, Iran's nuclear program edges closer to yielding the estimated 15 to 20 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium necessary for a warhead or suitcase bomb. Ahmadinejad and the atomic ayatollahs may have banned gambling, but they have communicated a willingness to risk millions of lives—Muslim, Christian and Jewish—in the ultimate no-limit staredown.

More general bluffing guidelines include:

Bluster = Weakness. If Ahmadinejad claims to already have "the full gamut of nuclear technology," a pokeraticious diplomat will infer that he doesn't. She'll put him on a much weaker hand and re-raise. If he tries to stare her down, she'll remain serenely confident that leaders holding powerful cards tend to downplay or even—the Israelis again come to mind—deny the existence of a nuclear arsenal.

Isolate your opponent. One player is exponentially easier to bluff than two or three. This is why Rice tries to isolate Iran by accepting Chinese and Russian demands to limit sanctions against their affluent client.

Project strength. After defeating Saddam Hussein, the U.S. failure to create a stable peace in which democracy could thrive makes us look weak. So does Israel's failure to disarm Hezbollah. So does our failure to capture Osama bin Laden.

Seem to mean it. As the physicist and educator Jeremy Bernstein observes, "The Israelis seem to mean it when they say they would not allow the Iranians to have nuclear weapons." Harry Truman clearly meant it in 1946, as did Kennedy in 1962. Indeed, the entire first and second world wars and the Cold War, as well as Operations Desert Storm and Joint Endeavor, made us appear very much to mean it, while Vietnam, Somalia, the fiasco in Tora Bora and now Iraq II all cut in the other direction. For his part, Ahmadinejad seemed to mean it when he recruited children to march across minefields, and, lately, as he arms and funds Hezbollah and countless Shia suicide bombers.

Expect duplicity. Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who also negotiated for the release of American hostages in 1979, warns that Iranian negotiators will deploy "bazaar behavior" resembling that of "a Middle Eastern marketplace, with outlandish demands, feints at abandoning the process and haggling over minor details up to the very last minute." He counsels our current negotiators to remain steadfast but realistic. Or as Doyle Brunson, winner of a record 10 WSOP bracelets, has noted, "Luck favors the backbone, not the wishbone."

Make sure your hole cards remain face-down. Israel, unlike North Korea, has never shown its hand by conducting a test, but is widely assumed to have nuclear weapons. It's safe to assume this is why Iran bars Atomic Energy Commission inspectors from several key sites.

Keep all options on the table. This includes even the most baldly Strangelovian. The trigger finger of Vice President Dick Cheney could seem even itchier, for example, if he communicated through back channels something along the lines of: "Keep rattling that rickety scimitar in our face, Mahmoud, and we'll turn Tehran and Natanz into parking lots that glow in the dark."

The most spectacular upside of a nuclear bluff is avoiding warfare. If we or the Israelis can make Iran's leaders believe their research enrichment facilities and even a city or two will be nuked if they don't halt enrichment, we might short-circuit their quest for weapons-grade material and avoid having to kill a single Iranian.

The downside, of course, is increasing the risk that we'll overplay our hand and push a desperate opponent too hard, unleashing a whirlwind of suicide bombers—or worse.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mark Twain's War Prayer

Thanks to Dr. Orin Hollander for reminding me of Mark Twain's powerful statement, dictated during the war in the Philippines 100 years ago, which his publisher refused to print. An excerpt:

"...When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"'O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

"(After a pause.) 'Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!'

"It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

War Poetry II

One of the better satires, from one Norman Ball, who certainly seems to have a good ear:

The Oz Man II

(In the Shameful Shadow of Shelley's 'Ozymandias')

I met a Baathist from a ravaged land
Who said: Two short, blue-trousered legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half-dazed by shock and awe, a visage frowns,
with wrinkled lip, and smirk of chimp-command.
No doubt Dick Cheney well those passions read,
Which squawk on yet, as do most lame-duck things,
Like mice that roared, while at the trough they fed,
And on one trouser-cuff these words appear:
"My name is W, unelected King:
Look on my Evil Axis and despair!"
No liberty remains. Round the decay
Of neo-cons and hegemonic air,
Fallujah's level sands stretch far away.

War Poetry

Many readers have their own thoughts about Kipling and about war poetry appropriate to Iraq. Some have sent in their own compositions. But this is a classic:

Here's something from LT. S. L. Sassoon known in WW I as the " Trench Poet"

Base Details

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with Scarlet Majors at the base,
And speed glum heros up the line to death,
You'd see me with my puffy petulent face,
guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the roll of honor, " poor young chap,"
I'd say - " I used to know his father well,
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap."
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed.

Things never seem to change, do they? As Woody Guthrie sang... " the worst of men must fight and the best of men must die..."

Thanks for listening.

Ray Brown
U.S. Army Infantry
Viet Nam 68-69

Timelines: Iraq and WWII

In response to the latest Shadowland column, about Kevin Tillman's scream of rage at the administration and its war, a reader in California who still clings to "stay the course" rhetoric asks, "Would today's America have the fortitute[sic] to persevere in World War II?"

Of course the answer is yes. But consider this:

From the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to final victory over Japan in August 1945, three years and eight months passed. The war was over.

From the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to November 2006, three years and eight months will have passed. And there is no end to this war in sight. - C.D.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Follow-Up: Alberto's Retraction

So, Alberto Fernandez retracted his remarks about the arrogance and stupidity of American policy in Iraq -- sort of. This very brief response appeared overnight on the State Department's Web site from the Office of the Spokesman:

In response to questions about his recent interview with Al-Jazeera, the following is a comment attributable to Mr. Alberto Fernandez:

"Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity' by the U.S. in Iraq. This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department. I apologize."


The irony, of course, is that this is the sanest admission the administration has made about Iraq in a long while -- if ever -- and perhaps even some Republicans were ready to applaud what had seemed to be, briefly, such candor and clarity coming out of Foggy Bottom. - C.D.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Iraq: A Rare Voice of Reason in D.C.

I hope Alberto Fernandez isn't in too much trouble. The director of public diplomacy for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Fernandez has been for several years now the only credible voice defending what is an almost entirely discredited policy in the Arab world. I think he always knew that one day someone in D.C. would pick up on the kinds of things he said in Arabic on Al-Jazeera. You know, like, the truth. And then he'd have the Bush administration's infamous loyalty test applied to him -- and most likely fail. We'll see. His description of U.S. policy in Iraq as "arrogant and stupid" is leading the AP wires.

In the meantime, you might want to take a look at Zvika Krieger's excellent little profile of Fernandez from a few weeks ago. - C.D.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Iran: Cartoon Controversies Continue...

The government in Tehran is mighty sensitive about cartoons. First it fed the uproar over the Danish depictions of Mohammed, then it held its own Holocaust caricature festival. And now it has closed down the newspaper that published the above depiction of two chess pieces. The cartoon is seen as an allusion to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks that the last time he spoke to the United Nations, a year ago, he felt himself surrounded by an aura. He's on his way back to speak again ... -- C.D.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Torture: The Basic Problem

As often happens, the most salient fact was left to the end of yesterday's New York Times story about the torture -- or, interrogation -- of Abu Zubaydah. As I was once told by an interrogator from Lebanon, not a place known for friendly persuasion, "the basic problem with torture is that if someone is telling the truth ... how do you know?" What the Times story establishes, in a fashion so understated that the point could be missed, is that the CIA turned up the heat, and cold, and music, on Abu Zubaydah when it didn't believe his story that Jose Padilla was a fool, which he clearly was, and after it became convinced Aby Zubaydah was lying when he said he knew of no other 9/11-scale terror attack in the works. In both cases, he was telling the truth. But--how do you know?

This is the conclusion of the Times story:

In his early interviews, Mr. Zubaydah had revealed what turned out to be important information, identifying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — from a photo on a hand-held computer — as the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Zubaydah also identified Jose Padilla, an American citizen who has been charged with terrorism-related crimes.

But Mr. Zubaydah dismissed Mr. Padilla as a maladroit extremist whose hope to construct a dirty bomb, using conventional explosives to disperse radioactive materials, was far-fetched. He told his questioners that Mr. Padilla was ignorant on the subject of nuclear physics and believed he could separate plutonium from nuclear material by rapidly swinging over his head a bucket filled with fissionable material.

Crucial aspects of what happened during Mr. Zubaydah’s interrogation are sharply disputed. Some former and current government officials briefed on the case, who were more closely allied with law enforcement, said Mr. Zubaydah cooperated with F.B.I. interviewers until the C.I.A. interrogation team arrived. They said that Mr. Zubaydah’s resistance began after the agency interrogators began using more stringent tactics.

Other officials, more closely tied to intelligence agencies, dismissed that account, saying that the C.I.A. had supervised all interviews with Mr. Zubaydah, including those in which F.B.I. agents asked questions. These officials said that he proved a wily adversary. “He was lying, and things were going nowhere,” one official briefed on the matter said of the early interviews. “It was clear that he had information about an imminent attack and time was of the essence.”

Several officials said the belief that Mr. Zubaydah might have possessed critical information about a coming terrorist operation figured significantly in the decision to employ tougher tactics, even though it later became apparent he had no such knowledge.

“As the president has made clear, the fact of the matter is that Abu Zubaydah was defiant and evasive until the approved procedures were used,” one government official said. “He soon began to provide information on key Al Qaeda operators to help us find and capture those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.”

This official added, “When you are concerned that a hard-core terrorist has information about an imminent threat that could put innocent lives at risk, rapport-building and stroking aren’t the top things on your agenda.”

Yeah, but ... -- C.D.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shadowland: Flying Blind

There's an interesing first batch of letters responding to this week's column, "Flying Blind," about the way travelers are being turned into inmates by airline security. Several of the writers favor profiling of one sort or another, which is a practice with all kinds of sinister overtones of its own, and probably isn't that reliable for the kind of mass transit we're talking about in American airports.

When I went through Ben Gurion a couple of weeks ago, a charming interviewer -- a graduate student in psychology -- did a very thorough job trying to find discrepancies in my explanation of why, among other things, I had Lebanese visas in my passport. ("I went there last year when there was so much hope for democracy? Remember that?" I said. I got the impression she didn't.) No doubt facial expressions played a role in the fact she let me get on the plane. I just kept smiling. But it's proving very diffictult to codify expressions into some sort of system than computers, or minimally trained security staff, can figure out. If you're interested, just take a look at this very detailed paper presented at Delft University in Holland. (Also see the photographs below.)

A fair amount of ironic humor crept into the e-mails about the column. My personal favorites are these two:


Agree completely. We are jumping at shadows, behaving like a nation of cowards, and making ourselves ridiculous. The real terrorists must be laughing themselves silly. All they have to do is whistle the tune, and we dance to it. The cheapest form of psychological warfare imaginable. Everyone agrees that aviation security is a necessity, but I would really like to see some strategic thinking rather than the knee-jerk, reactionary idiocy we see today. Perhaps the nation which sent a robot to patrol the Martian surface and decoded the human genome could come up with a technological way of screening passengers and cargo for explosives in an effective yet non-intrusive way? The fact that this has not been accomplished, almost two decades after Pan Am 103, is an utter disgrace. Right now, we have to surrender our Evian and hand cream to board an airliner, and TSA screeners fondle us in ways that would get you arrested for sexual assault anywhere else. We have to take off our shoes because Richard Reid tried to hide a bomb in his shoes--thank God he didn't try to hide it in his underwear!


Nudity. Nudity is the answer to airline security. All passengers should be totally nude, with no jewelry, no carry-on luggage, no nothing. Then all we would have to worry about is a terrorist eating or drinking something that might blow up during flight (like prune juice, pinto beans, etc.) This would drastically limit the options of any would-be terrorist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The JonBenet Hoax: The Important Part

Several irate e-mails responding to the Shadowland column on the over-coverage of claims by a creep named John Mark Karr that he murdered six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in 1996 insisted that the story was more than prurient entertainment, it was a warning to parents and others who wanted to protect their children from sexual predators.

Point taken. I stand by my criticism of the coverage, but the detention of Karr ultimately appears to have been a very good thing. The headlines yesterday were, of course, about the Boulder, CO, district attorney's motion to quash the arrest warrant against Karr because his DNA did not match that found in JonBenet's underwear. Those voyeuristic news readers and opportunistic news media who were hoping for months of trials and psychodrama centered on the case must surely be disappointed.

Yet the actual text of the motion to quash shows that the events surrounding Karr's detention in Thailand and eventual arrest in the United States, where he still faces child pornography charges, almost certainly saved other children from abuse.

Points 14 and 15 are especially chilling, given Karr's lurid descriptions of JonBenet's imagined death in the e-mails he had sent under the pseudonym "Daxis" to Prof. Michael Tracey:

"14. It was apparent from Daxis' emails, his manuscript, and from his phone conversations (1) that he believed his narrative of his responsibility for the death of JonBenet and (2) he believed his narrative about the sexuality of young girls and his ability to have a loving relationship with young girls, similar to the one he believed he had had with JonBenet Ramsey.

"15. After the death of Mrs. Ramsey [earlier this year], Daxis became more intense about his desire to publish his explanations about himself and his responsibility for the death of JonBenet, but to also keep his identity secret. He also began to express sexual interest in specific young girls he said he had met in the new school at which he had recently been hired and at which he was to teach when school began in mid-August. He began to describe his interest in several girls in much the same terms that he had described his interest in JonBenet Ramsey."

- C.D.

Turkey: Troop Movements

The Turkish military as a new chief of staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, sworn in yesterday. He's a man to watch as the Middle East grows more dangerous and volatile by the day, and Ankara moves to assert its influence around the neighborhood.

Buyukanit said during the handover ceremony that defeating Kurdish separatism is one of his top priorities -- and that kind of talk has Iraq's all-but-independent Kurdish leaders worried. The Turkish Kurds of the PKK allegedly find safe haven among their Iraqi cousins, and the Turkish army has been building up its forces on the frontier, implicitly threatening an open invasion, for several months. The number of Turkish troops poised on or near the border has been estimated at anywhere from 120,000 to 220,000.

What is clear, as The Christian Science Monitor reports, is that the Turks are preparing for an invasion, if and when they feel the time is right. According to an August 18 onscene report on The Guardian, "Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases."

Meanwhile, if the generals and the Erdogan government have their way, Turkey will also provide a large contingent of troops to the revivified UNIFIL forces in Lebanon. This is over the explicit objections of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, whose position gives him a high profile but little direct power. He said recently that it is "not Turkey's responsibility to protect the interests of other countries."

France, Italy and other EU countries, which are providing about half the 15,000 UNIFIL forces called for after Security Council Resolution 1701 brought a cessation of hostilities in the Israel-Hizbullah War, have said repeatedly they want Muslim troops to fill out the rest of the contingent.

From the first week of fighting, senior Lebanese officials were also telling me they wanted the Turks to deploy. Their reasoning: Syria has to be held in check, and Syria is probably more frightened of Turkey than it is of any other power on earth, including Israel. - C.D.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Iran: The Response?

The wires have picked up on a despatch from Agence Global by Abbas Maleki and Kevah L. Afrasiabi. Maleki is described as the Director of the International Institute For Caspian Studies in Tehran and currently a senior research fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Afrasiabi is a political scientist and author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts vs. Fiction. The outline below, as it appears in the article, seems plausible:

Iran has, expectedly, sought clarification on a number of issues, including the following:

• The incentive package mentions respecting Iran's rights under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), yet the only NPT articles mentioned are Articles I and II, pertaining to non-proliferation, and not Article IV, pertaining to a country's "inalienable right" to acquire nuclear technology;

• Iran wants firm guarantees on the proposed offers of nuclear assistance, such as the sale of light water reactors to Iran, as well as a secured nuclear fuel supply;

• Iran seeks clarification on the status of U.S. sanctions which presently prohibit those offers of nuclear and technological assistance to Iran: Is the United States willing to lift some if not all of those sanctions?

• The package's promise of an Iran-EURATOM cooperation agreement needs to be fleshed out;

• The package's brief reference to security and its hint of Iran's participation in a "regional security" arrangement needs further clarification; and,

• The timeline on the promised incentives, including the economic and trade incentives, has to be made specific.

Furthermore, Iran's response indicates that Iran is willing to re-adopt the IAEA's Additional Protocol and to take the steps toward legislating it as part and parcel of a final agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has declared Iran's willingness to use its influence in Lebanon for an Israeli-Hizbullah prisoners' exchange, reminding the world of Iran's stabilizing role. ...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Update: Women and Jihad

Last December we published a cover story on "The Women of Al Qaeda." This is from the most recent issue of "Terrorism Focus" published by the Jamestown Foundation.

London Plot Draws Attention to Potential Female Suicide Bombers
The arrests of at least two women out of the 24 suspects initially held in the recently foiled plot in London highlight the potential threat posed by radical Muslim women (al-Jazeera, August 21). While little is known about the recent female detainees, women have played a central role in providing ideological and logistics support to al-Qaeda and local jihadi terrorists. The role of female suicide bombers is still relatively new and could shift over time, should al-Qaeda and like-minded groups increasingly recruit Muslim women for future attacks.
In the few cases known about Muslim female suicide bombers, most were related by family to the male suspects and terrorist leaders. For example, an Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, appeared on Jordanian television in November 2005 confessing her intent to bomb a Western hotel in the capital city of Amman together withher husband (Khaleej Times, November 13, 2005). Having failed to release her explosives belt, her husband pushed her out of the ballroom and detonated his explosives. In recent years, several Palestinian female bombers, including Sana'a Shahada, Iman Asha, Abir Hamdan and Thawiya Hamour, had familial and personal links to male terrorists (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2003).
Other examples of female suicide operatives include a 19-year old Uzbek girl, Dilnoza Holmudora, who was married to the leader of the Islamic Jihad Movement of Uzbekistan, and two Egyptian women, who shot at a tourist bus in Cairo in April 2005. Both women were in their 20s. One was the fiancée, and the other the sister of the male perpetrators (RCA No. 278, April 20, 2004).
Most recently, the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq issued a communiqué claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing on August 16, executed by a female member of the group's suicide brigade, targeting a combined patrol of U.S. forces and Iraqi National Guards in al-Muqdadiyah (Associated Press, September 28, 2005). According to the message, more than 15 soldiers of the patrol were killed and others injured. Media reports indicate that the woman, wearing an explosives belt, detonated herself on the U.S.-Iraqi patrol near a bus stop, killing seven and wounding 20, including civilians and military members.
Despite the recent participation of Muslim women in attacks, a Muslim woman's primary role in the al-Qaeda family has been to offer moral and ideological support to male jihadis. The wives of male militants demonstrate their support for their husbands, sons, brothers and other fighters through their communiqués and statements in jihadi magazines. Um Muhammad, the wife of the deceased al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, posted a letter last month on a jihadi website urging Muslim men to hold steady in jihad and warned the Iraqi government that the "great death is coming" (Mujahideen Shura Council website, July 2006). In the al-Khansaa magazine, the propaganda arm of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, articles focus on the role of women in jihad. Even on the internet, websites for Muslim women such as http://www.mojahdat.jeeran.com encourage them to support male jihadis in various conflicts worldwide.
In short, women are increasingly being called on for jihad. No longer invisible, Muslim women are able to utilize modern technology, with support from a new generation of male terrorists, to proclaim their voices on the global jihadi landscape.
Farhana Ali is an Associate International Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation and has done extensive research on jihadist networks and religious extremism.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Press: The JonBenet Furore

A couple of follow-ups on last week's column, "Pulp Fact," about the JonBenet Ramsey case:

It's intriguing that the ransom note for JonBenet claimed her abuction in the name of "a small foreign faction" that respected Mr. Ramsey's "business but not the country that it serves." How strange, and how appropriate, one would think, if the kidnapper were a would-be expatriate looking to bankroll his dreamed-of travels to Central America, Europe and Thailand ...

More substantively, Media watcher Andrew Tyndall's forthcoming rundown on network news coverage gives a good picture of what he calls "JonBenet's Summer Diversion":

It was fortuitous that Monday saw a ceasefire end five weeks of fighting in southern Lebanon between the Hezbollah militia and the Israeli Defense Force. This letup in hard news cleared the way for tabloid tales. “It was a story that, as they say, had all the elements,” NBC’s Mike
Taibbi reminded us, “a pretty little girl with a melodic name, JonBenet, a beauty pageant veteran already at age six, found strangled, possibly sexually abused, and beaten to death in
her own Boulder home on the day after Christmas.” That was 1996. Now a suspect has been arrested in Thailand, to lead the year’s heaviest (44 min v 6 52-wk-avg) Crime week.

WEAK CONFESSION The Ramsey family archive was dusted off. Videotape of Little Miss
Colorado pageant performances was rerun. The bereaved parents’ protestations of innocence were reaired. A journalism professor turned JonBenet documentary filmmaker had tipped off prosecutors about one of his e-mail correspondents. They tracked down John Mark Karr, an expatriate schoolteacher, to Bangkok. “I was with JonBenet when she died,” he confessed.
“She died accidentally.” Case closed—except for a few details. ABC’s Dan Harris cited Karr’s
claim that he drugged the girl: “The autopsy report said drugs were not detected.” That Christmas, CBS’ Erin Moriarty added, “Karr’s former wife claims he was at home in Alabama.”
When Karr’s handwriting was compared with the ransom note, ABC’s Bill Redeker reported, independent document examiners were “dubious.” CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen concluded: “You never really see a case where a confession weakens the perception of the defendant’s guilt.” This may be a case of “suicide by confession.”

POOR PRIORITIES For all the attraction of that cold case, the networks still inexcusably spurned serious stories. On the economic front, only NBC assigned a reporter to cover Ford
Motors’ decision to slash automobile production by 21% this fall. Only ABC assigned a reporter to the ruling that warrantless wiretaps of citizens by the National Security Agency are unConstitutional. And only CBS had a correspondent cover the verdict that the tobacco industry ran a racketeering enterprise to market cigarettes through a conspiracy of lies: “Guilty,” declared Wyatt Andrews, “but the monetary award was zero.” ...

TOP TEN AUGUST 14–18, 2006
1 Little Miss Colorado murder mystery ...............42 [minutes total on all three nets]
2 Israel-Lebanon fighting: UN ceasefire begins...39
3 TransAtlantic jetliners bomb plot investigated..21
4 Airline travel: security precautions tightened ...18
5 Computer laptop batteries fire safety recall ........9
6 Iraq combat: US sees deteriorating security........9
7 UAL passenger disrupts flight in midair .............7
8 Brown bears on Alaska’s Katmai Peninsula .......6
9 Hijacked jets attacks: FDNY audiotapes.............5
10 Immigrant population reaches 36m nationwide..5

DAY by DAY [The more telling numbers]
M Israel-Lebanon: UN ceasefire goes into effect ..18
T TransAtlantic jetliners plot: any al-Qaeda role?.8
W Israel-Lebanon: Hezbollah funds rebuilding.......8
T Little Miss Colo: suspect arrested in Thailand..20
F Little Miss Colo: suspect traced via e-mails .....15

©2006 ADT RESEARCH 135 RIVINGTON ST, NYC 10002 tel 212 674 8913 fax 212 979 7304 andrew@tyndallreport.com

Italy-Lebanon: D'Alema's Dilemma

Photographs of Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema walking arm and arm through the ruins of Beirut on August 17 with Hizbullah parliamentarian Hussein Haji Hassan have -- not surprisingly -- created an uproar in Italy's Jewish community. Certainly the image raises questions about the Prodi government's intentions and strategy as it maneuvers to take the lead in the U.N. deployment now slowly getting started in Lebanon. What kind of assurances does it want from Hizbullah? What kind of assurances is it willing to give Hizbullah? What will Israel's reaction be? This is subtle and and possibly quite dangerous policymaking Italian style, and is certainly a story to watch. - C.D.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hizbullah: The Inside Story

There's been no shortage of commentary over the last month explaining Hizbullah, where it came from and where its leader, 46-year-old Hassan Nasrallah may think he's going. Most recently on the Newsweek site you can read Babak Dehghanpisheh's update on reconstruction efforts, and there's Web commentary (by me, among others) available as a podcast from Newsweek On Air. But some of the most interesting material is to be found in this book published last year by Saqi Press in Britain and signed by one of Nasrallah's top aides. It's self-serving, of course, but it is also extremely detailed. It is, in fact, an invaluable guide to the way the organization sees itself, and wants to be seen by others.

Video Blog: Walls Within Walls

A few days ago, as I was winding up my trip to Israel, I called up Daniel Seidemann of Ir Amim, an NGO focused on Jerusalem issues and especially the question of the "separation barrier." He obligingly took me on a tour of what, under other circumstances, might sound like a benign listing of holy sites: the Mount of Olives, the Hill of Evil Counsel, the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem, and the road to Bethlehem. The result was a video blog, shot with my tiny Sanyo Xacti camera and edited with the help of Jonathan Groat at Newsweek Online in New York.

Flashes from the Past: Notes on "The Ugly American" and "Unhappy Hours"

Sooner or later, every foreign correspondent learns that what Americans really want from the rest of the world is to forget about it. This is just a fact we have to deal with. Isolationism is an instinct in a nation of immigrants looking to dedicate their lives, not to the past, but to the future, and that's nothing new. When George Washington warned against "entangling alliances" overseas, he meant, as much as anything, entangling histories. I wrote about this general theme back around the Fourth of July. And I've been warning since the earliest days of the Iraq War that a big part of the administration's goal was to persuade the American public it was safe to change the channel -- which people are more than anxious to do, in any case.

A few months ago, to accompany a piece I wrote about George Clooney's political angst, and parallels with the movies being made about the time he was born, Newsweek posted the last scene from the 1963 film of "The Ugly American" with Marlon Brando. It's definitely worth watching.

Three years ago, when some 50 Americans had been killed in an Iraq where the mission was not quite accomplished, I wrote about the same theme. I've had a little trouble calling it up from the Newsweek archive -- although it is there, somewhere -- so here is the full text from August 1, 2003, as I find it in my laptop:

Shadowland: Unhappy Hours

The capture of Saddam Hussein, when it comes, may pacify America. It won’t change much in Iraq.

By Christopher Dickey

Over a catfish sandwich and a Coke in the Raleigh-Durham airport, I learned how the United States ends a war. Above the bar a long array of televisions, maybe eight or ten of them, broadcast silent sports-network images of tennis matches and stock car races. Only one was tuned to a closed-caption news channel.

This was ten weeks ago, in the middle of May, and it was obvious to any of us who’d covered Iraq that more than 100,000 Americans were still there, still in harm’s way. Serious harm. So why, I asked the woman tending bar, was nobody watching?

“Well,” she said, in one of those charming drawls were almost every sentence sounds like a question, “during the war, all these TVs were on news all the time? And you know, people would watch it and just kind of feel depressed, like, and down? And then President Bush landed on that aircraft carrier?” She waited for me to nod, like I might not have seen it. I did. “And the very next day, the boss called up and said we could put all these TVs back on ESPN.”

The war had ended, in other words, because on May 1 President George W. Bush made a thoroughly choreographed display of announcing it was over. And the American people believed him because they wanted to. They were tired of the war, even tired of winning it. They just wanted it zapped into the past, gone and forgotten like last season’s reality shows. But with more than 50 American soldiers killed since Bush declared major combat operations were over, the reality of the fighting that’s still going on has crept back into the American consciousness like an unexpected hangover. So the administration is increasingly anxious to show the war has ended … again.

Saddam Hussein can do that for the president. All Saddam has to do is get captured or, better yet, get killed. And, true to form, he’s even willing to play his old familiar role as Washington’s favorite bad guy. The erstwhile Butcher of Baghdad (or a mighty good imitator) keeps churning out audio-taped taunts that amount to “catch me if you can.”

Our American warriors here in Iraq, where I am now, certainly can and certainly will catch this decrepit thug, and sooner rather than later. But what will that mean? Problem solved? Just a little cleaning up to do once the Butcher bites the dust? Time to zap back to the sports networks? (How’s Kobe going to get through this? And ain’t that a shame about Kournikova?) It’s conceivable that Bush himself thinks Saddam’s death will pacify Iraq. But in fact this manhunt is mainly about pacifying America.

Two weeks ago Gen. John Abizaid, the new CENTCOM commander, made it clear he knows just what’s going on where the boots hit the ground: “A classic guerrilla-type campaign against us. It’s low-intensity conflict, in our doctrinal terms, but it’s war, however you describe it … I would think it’s very important for everybody to know that we take casualties and we cause casualties to be inflicted upon the enemy because we are at war.”

American troops are being picked off day by day by little groups of fewer than a dozen men, probably Ba’athi veterans of Saddam’s old military and security forces. But the attackers are waging this war mainly on their own account. For them, to paraphrase an old song, Operation Iraqi Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. There’s every indication they’re following their own instincts, not orders from their old boss.

“There is some level of regional command and control going on,” said Abizaid, but he wouldn’t claim the regions were all connected. “Not yet,” he told Pentagon reporters. “Could they become connected? Sure, they could become connected.” If they do, we probably won’t have heard of the mid-level commanders from the old Ba’athi army who make that happen.

As Abizaid elaborated his clear-eyed vision of the war, the uncomfortable paradox of the occupation grew more apparent. He literally claimed that as things get better, they’ll get worse. “You have to understand that there will be an increase in violence as we achieve political success.” With every step forward by the Coalition and the Iraqis working with it, pressure will mount from the guerillas trying to thwart it.

There’s also a problem, often cited by the U.S. commanders on the ground here, of “foreign fighters.” Essentially, these fanatics are from the international brigades of Islamic terror, the same sort who went to fight in Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, Indonesia -- wherever there were infidels to kill along their martyrs’ path to Paradise. For such Jihadists, Iraq is an answered prayer. “This is the place to come,” as Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Coalition troops here, told us at a briefing Baghdad yesterday.

You see what this means, of course. While there’s little proof that Al-Qaeda was here when Saddam was in power, Iraq under occupation already is the training ground for future Osamas.

No wonder Washington works so hard to spin the message back toward the simple, compelling narrative of the chase – a story the Pentagon is confident will come to an end. But our soldiers know better. They’re here for the long haul no matter what happens to the defunct dictator, and it’s a fight their government and their people would rather forget.

Maybe that’s why Maj. Gen. John Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, told a Quantico seminar on lessons learned in Iraq that happy hour is a vital part of a modern-day officer’s preparation. Like his colleagues, Mattis recognized that even during the “major combat operations,” field commanders had to improvise mightily in spite of official assumptions about the way the war was supposed to unfold. They had to know each other, and believe in each other, and the time they spent as younger men arguing doctrine and details over a couple of beers played a vital role. “The friendships and the trust, the mutual respect between officers who served once together as captains and majors who went to happy hour together…,” Mattis said in an emotional passage quoted by “Stars and Stripes,” “there was a bond between those of us on this stage, that I don’t care what the enemy could have done, I don’t care what weapons they had … there is nothing the Iraqis could have done to break the bond between us.”

Well, General, stay away from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. During happy hour back there, folks aren’t watching you, and they’re sure not watching your back. They’re watching ESPN every chance they get.

Post Script: Saddam was captured almost five months later, in late December 2003.

Catching Up

The advent of the latest wars in Gaza and Lebanon so entirely consumed my writing time over the last six weeks that I just ran out of the energy needed for decent blogging. Here, briefly, is what I've been working on:

Shadowland: Pulp Fact 18 August 2006
The JonBenet case is a reminder that news is what you make of it—or not.

Newsweek: The Real Nasrallah 13 Aug 2006
How a son of Beirut's slums became one of the most engaging, and dangerous, leaders in the Muslim world. Written with Babak Dehghanpisheh, who reported on the ground in Lebanon.

Newsweek: Eye for an Eye 6 August 2006
Israel shadow-boxes with a surprisingly high-tech foe. Inside the new Hizbullah.
(also check out the audio link to Newsweek on Air)

Newsweek: Mideast: Ripples of War 30 July 2006
From Iraq to Al Qaeda, the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah is resonating far beyond the battlefield.

Shadowland: Let It Bleed 26 July 2006
Leaders at the Rome summit on the Mideast are ignoring the real bottom line: Hizbullah is winning.

Newsweek Cover Story: Torn to Shreds 24 July 2006
While Israel tries to root out an enemy, Hizbullah feeds on the devastation.

Shadowland: Best-Laid Plans 21 July 2006
Hizbullah wanted to lead the Muslim and Arab world; Israel wanted to wipe Hizbullah off the map. Their strategies quickly went awry.

Newsweek Cover Story: The Hand That Feeds the Fire 16 July 2006
Behind The Crisis: How Iran is wielding its influence to wage a stealthy war against Israel and America. (With Peraino, Dehghanpisheh, Wolffe, Barry, Hosenball and others)

Newsweek: Sharon's Shadow 9 July 2006
As the crisis builds, Israelis are asking what the legendary general would have done. Can Olmert lead on his own? The article is a collaboration with Dan Ephron and Joanna Chen in Jerusalem.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Update: The Debate on Order 17 Heats Up

From the current issue of Newsweek, a brief report from Baghdad:

July 17, 2006 issue - The arrest of former U.S. Army Pfc. Steven D. Green—for the alleged rape of an Iraqi woman and the murder of her and three relatives near the town of Mahmudiyah—brought apologies from U.S. officials. But that didn't stem a growing debate over Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, which exempts members of the U.S. military from Iraqi laws. "We cannot go on having these unfortunate incidents repeated, and we have to work on stopping them from happening again," Iraqi national-security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told NEWSWEEK. "There is no way we can accept CPA Order 17 anymore." U.S. officials, unnamed because of diplomatic sensitivities, said Iraqi P.M. Maliki's need to oppose the order might lessen if any wrongdoers in the Haditha and Mahmudiyah cases are held accountable. Green pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court last week.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Update: Render Unto CIA That Which Is ...

If Italian prosecutors have anything to say about it, the issue of C.I.A. "renditions," particularly the egregious example of "Abu Omar," snatched off the streets of Milan in 2003, is not going to go away. We wrote about the case extensively last year, and even shot a little video from the scene of the alleged crime, in "The Road to Rendition." Then came a follow-up, "Bourne Again," about the lives and loves of the CIA team that allegedly took part in the abduction. (As the headlines suggest, there's something vaguely B-movie about the whole affair.) A Shadowland column in December about the role of "plane-spotters" in tracking down the rendition flights suggests just how extensive they were, and how hard it is to keep secrets in the Internet age.

A few weeks ago, on June 7, Swiss lawmaker Dick Marty, on behalf of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, issued a lengthy report. He didn't have many resources, but concluded -- largely on the basis of press reports and the cooperation he did or did not receive for his inquiries -- that about 14 European governments had cooperated with the American rendition program. The result was what his report called a "'spider's web' of secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers." But, bad luck for Marty, his headlines were obliterated by the annoucement next day that the infamous Jordanian terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi had been blown away in Iraq. The rendition issue looked as if it might be buried, too.

Nope. Yesterday news broke in Italy that prosecutors, led by the redoubtable anti-Mafia and anti-terror magistrate Armando Spataro, had issued warrants against two of the top officials in the Italian overseas intelligence service, SISMI. The organization has seen its share of troubles over the last two years -- not least the killing of its second highest-ranking officer, Nicola Calipari, by American troops manning a checkpoint in Iraq. (We wrote about this in two columns: "Reality Checkpoints," and "Body Counts," which I believe remains the most-read Shadowland column to date.) But Berlusconi was not inclined to hold Americans accountable, whether they were C.I.A. kidnappers or checkpoint gunners.

What's changed now, of course, is the government in Italy. Silvio Berlusconi is out, Romano Prodi and his leftist coalition are in. Spataro was isolated under the earlier regime, a charter member of the Coalition of the Willing. Berlusconi's justice minister, for instance, refused to pursue extradition requests for 22 Americans allegedly implicated in the Abu Omar case. Now, Spataro and other prosecutors seem to be getting more support.

This is not good news for the Bush administration. Even as prosecutors try to nail the top Italians involved in the Abu Omar kidnapping -- a trail that could lead to Berlusconi himself -- they are likely to renew those extradition requests. At the same time, they're looking at prosecution of the American soldier in Iraq who killedCalipari moments after he succeeded in freeing left-wing Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from hostage-takers in Baghdad. Sgrena was seriously wounded.

We'll keep you posted in the Shadowland column, in Newsweek, and on this blog. Meanwhile, a couple of recent clips:

One from The New York Daily News last month, when Sgrena visited the United States:

Italian seeks G.I. shooter

Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena (above) was shot and key Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed when Spec. Mario Lozano (below) fired at their car.

Italian journalist and former Iraq war hostage Giuliana Sgrena offered yesterday to meet face-to-face with Spec. Mario Lozano, the New York City National Guardsman who shot her in a friendly fire mistake on a deserted road to the Baghdad airport last year.

"I think that it would be useful for him and for me to have an exchange of opinion," Sgrena said during her first visit to the United States since the shooting.

The shooting, which killed Nicola Calipari, the Italian government's second-ranking intelligence officer, just minutes after Calipari had secured Sgrena's release from Iraqi guerrillas, sparked a public furor in Italy.

That uproar grew worse after a Pentagon report last year cleared the U.S. soldiers involved. Italian prosecutors, after conducting their own probe, announced plans this week to charge Lozano, a member of New York's legendary Fighting 69th, with murder and attempted murder.

But Sgrena, who is still recovering from a gunshot wound that collapsed her lung, doesn't want Lozano to be made a "scapegoat."

And this from the BBC:

Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK

Italians held over 'CIA kidnap'

US military base in Aviano, northern Italy Two Italian intelligence officers have been arrested over the alleged CIA kidnapping of a terror suspect from Milan in 2003, city prosecutors say.

Unconfirmed Italian reports named one as Marco Mancini, a senior official at the Sismi intelligence agency.

Arrest warrants for four Americans were also issued, adding to 22 earlier ones.

Italy's previous government denied any role in the seizing of Egyptian Muslim cleric Osama Mustafa Hassan, who says he was taken to Egypt and tortured.

The two arrested men are the first Italians to be linked to the investigation. One is said to be in custody; the other under house arrest.

Mr Mancini is a former head of the anti-terrorist division of the Italian secret service. He has taken part in negotiations to free Italian hostages kidnapped in Iraq.

Kidnap claims

Mr Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, is believed to have been abducted from a Milan street on 17 February 2003, and flown out of the country from Aviano air base north of Venice.

The cleric, who had been granted refugee status in Italy, was already under investigation by Italian officers as part of a terrorism inquiry.

Milan prosecutors probing the kidnap case believe Mr Hassan was snatched by the CIA and taken to Aviano for interrogation, before being flown on to Cairo via Ramstein air base in Germany.

He is still being held in a jail in Egypt, but did make contact with his family and friends during a brief release. A friend who spoke to him said he had suffered electric shocks and other severe torture.

Wanted Americans

The Milan prosecutors' office statement said three of the Americans involved in the fresh arrest warrants were CIA agents, while the fourth worked at the Aviano base....

Today's New York Times goes into somewhat more depth, but tells essentially the same story.

Update: Rules of the Game in Iraq

Last week's Shadowland column, "The Rule of Order 17," said the agreements and resolutions governing the American presence in Iraq were going to have to be re-thought as resentments grow about crimes by American soldiers and contractors. That is precisely the context for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's statements earlier this week, as cited on the BBC and in various wire reports:

Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK

Call for Iraq probe in rape case

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is demanding a fresh inquiry into the alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman by US troops.

Her father, mother and young sister also died in the March attack at their home in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad.

"We will demand an independent Iraqi inquiry, or a joint investigation with multinational forces," Mr Maliki said during a visit to Kuwait.

A former US soldier has been charged with rape and murder.

Up to four other soldiers are being investigated.

The inquiry is the latest in a series examining alleged abuses by US troops.

'Honour violated'

Mr Maliki also called for the immunity granted to coalition troops to be reviewed.

"We do not accept the violation of Iraqi people's honour as happened in this case. We believe that the immunity granted to international forces has emboldened them to commit such crimes," he said.

US marines in Iraq

But a US military spokesman, Major-General William Caldwell, said American soldiers were not immune from prosecution because they were accountable under military law. ...

Of course, Caldwell dodges the central question. The immunity of American soldiers -- and just about any other American working on a USG contract or subcontract in Iraq -- is to Iraqi prosecution. -- C.D.