June 2008

By Alan Caruba

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, it is worth keeping in mind that real independence depends on having secure borders. A nation that cannot or will not protect itself from a massive and intentional invasion for the purpose of changing its population and politics is a nation that will not exist very long.

The world’s elites, the jetsetters, the United Nations types who keep babbling about being citizens of the world and scoff at notions of national sovereignty, who deride a requirement to speak the language of the nation, and talk of multiculturalism when clearly not all cultures are equal, are a minority. The rest of us live in a specific town or city, in a specific State, in what we proudly call the United States of America.

There are many issues the forthcoming national election will address, but if illegal immigration, a broken immigration system, and the deliberate invasion of America by Mexico with the aim of changing our population and policies, is not among our priorities in 2008, then our independence, our sovereignty, is imperiled.

Real independence means secure borders. We don’t have them. What we have is a porous excuse for borders, a federal government that has not and still does not take our national security seriously enough to fix our immigration system, and a lack of will by Congress to call a moratorium on the influx of both legal and illegal immigration.

In his new book, The New Case Against Immigration, Mark Krikorian presents a cogent, moderate case for the necessity to assert control over legal and illegal immigration. President Lyndon Johnson said it best in the 1960s, "The days of unlimited immigration are past." The problem is that, in reality, unlimited immigration is the order of the day in America today!

The problem is a Congress hell-bent on extending yet another amnesty to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, most Mexican, in America, thus opening the floodgates, as with the previous amnesty, for the arrival of their entire family, despite the fact that many lack the most fundamental skills required of any legal immigrant seeking citizenship.

In a nation with more than 300 million citizens in a world hurtling toward a population of 7 billion, the failure to get control of our borders can so transform the America that it can disappear. As Kirkorian says, "Modern America has outgrown mass immigration."

At the heart of the immigration debate that has been raging nationwide has been the huge influx of illegal aliens from Mexico. "Mexicans now account for some 31 percent of the total immigrant population – legal and illegal, naturalized and non-citizen – and accounted for fully 43 percent of the growth of the total immigrant population in the 1990s."

Mexico, a nation still angry over the loss of its former territories, California and the southwestern States, has hit upon a plan to reclaim them and, through the sheer power of demographics, population and birthrates, lay claim to the whole of the nation. This plan is so deliberate that just one statistic is enough to demonstrate it. "Mexico’s network of consulates in the United States is without parallel in the world: fifty-six consulates and consular agencies (or honorary consuls, who perform consular services on a part-time basis) in twenty-six states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, (is) the largest network anywhere."

By contrast, "The United States…has only nine consulates, plus thirteen consular agencies, in Mexico." This network has evolved into an advocacy and educational role that is specifically forbidden by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the international treaty that governs such matters. It forbids any interference "in the internal affairs of the (host) state."

Despite this, this network of consulates distributes textbooks to American schools, supports lobbying by various Mexican-American organizations to challenge and change our immigration laws, and purports to speak for all Hispanics seeking to enter the United States or to remain here despite having overstayed their visas or simply entered illegally.

Many States, unable to get the federal government to perform its duty with regard to the protection of our borders and the deportation of illegal aliens using our schools, our hospitals, and other social service benefits, have passed resolutions to limit or deny such services and have been overwhelmingly supported by voters, many of whom are Mexican-American citizens.

The other side of the illegal immigration issue is the way our existing immigration services are totally overwhelmed when it comes to actually performing the security function of stopping visitors or immigrants before they ever get on a plane or other means of getting here. "In 2005," Kirkorian notes, "about 800 visa officers issued about six million visas to foreigners, an average of 7,500 visas per officers, roughly one every fifteen minutes."

Kirkorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The data on which he relies is some of the best offered by any organization concerned about the effect of out of control immigration into the United States. A panoply of such organizations now exists to get Washington, D.C. to address the issues.

The failure to stem the tide of immigration into America, not just from Mexico but from around the world, will ultimately undermine our national values, culture, and laws. It will ultimately steal America from the generations who came to a very different nation at a time when they were needed, who fought to protect it, and from present-day Americans and their descendents who still cherish it.

 By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch

According to the Palestinian Authority leadership, Samir Quntar epitomizes the ideal Palestinian prisoner. Quntar, who crushed the head of four-year-old Eynat Haran with his rifle, is serving four life sentences for murder in an Israeli prison, but is almost certain to be freed in a prisoner swap with Hizbullah this week.

On one hand, Quntar embodies what the PA considers the "heroism" of terrorists fighting Israel. On the other hand, he’s the ultimate symbol of all terrorist prisoners who have murdered Israelis and will eventually be freed as a result of future kidnappings or through some other means. 

PA TV, controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, broadcast the following picture honoring Quntar. He is depicted beside a map of Israel completely covered by the Palestinian flag.

[PATV, 23-25 June 2008]
Following are several recent quotes from PA leaders since April 2008, describing Quntar:  
"Samir Quntar, the warrior from Lebanon."
"The brave warrior, Samir Quntar."
"The Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership are standing behind you (Quntar)."
"You (Quntar) are an inseparable part of the action to free our homeland."
"Your (Quntar) patience and strength are a lesson for us."

Besides bludgeoning Eynat Haran to death with rocks and his rifle, Quntar killed her father and was responsible for the death of her infant sister. He also killed two policemen in the 1979 attack in Naharia.  The Israeli cabinet today approved a prisoner exchange that would free Quntar and several other prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped by Hizbullah in 2006. The exchange could happen within the next few days.

By Robert VerBruggen

In discussions of last Thursday’s District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion has, naturally, been front and center. But the two dissents are important as well. They show the four liberal justices’ complete willingness to subordinate the Constitution to their own policy preferences.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer wrote the dissents. All four justices signed both opinions, more or less making them one opinion with two sections. Stevens argues that the Second Amendment protects a militia-based right, and Breyer claims that, even if the amendment does protect an individual right, D.C.’s laws — which effectively banned handguns, and required that long guns be stored in non-functioning states — constituted "reasonable" regulations.

Stevens’s dissent is the more substantive, though it does contain some rather embarrassing factual errors. Stevens concedes the amendment "can be enforced by individuals" and "protects an individual right" before going on to argue around what he just theoretically conceded. His opinion echoes the theory, put forth by scholars such as Jack Rakove and Saul Cornell, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to use arms in conjunction with militia service.

(In recent years, this militia-based-right theory has supplanted the collective-right view — the Second Amendment protects the right of states to have militias, not the right of individuals to do anything, whether in conjunction with these militias or not — among anti-gun activists and scholars.)

Here is the text of the amendment, which Stevens tackles in order: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The absurdity begins with his interpretation of "the right of the people." One major tenet of the individual-right theory is that "the people" appears numerous times in the Constitution, and it’s always assumed to mean "the people of the United States." Therefore, the same reading of these words should apply to the Second Amendment.

Stevens claims the majority itself doesn’t read the amendment the same way it reads the First and Fourth (which also use "the people") — Scalia says a ban on felons owning guns is OK, but obviously a felon still has free-speech rights.

Apparently, for Stevens, reading "the people" as "the people of the United States" is an all-or-nothing proposition. An exception for violent criminals demolishes the whole idea.

IT ONLY GETS more ridiculous. Stevens notes that within the First Amendment, "the people" is used only to refer to two rights, the peaceable-assembly right, and the right to petition the government for redress.

He writes: "These rights contemplate collective action. While the right peaceably to assemble protects the individual rights of those persons participating in the assembly, its concern is with action engaged in by members of a group, rather than any single individual. Likewise, although the act of petitioning the Government is a right that can be exercised by individuals, it is primarily collective in nature. For if they are to be effective, petitions must involve groups of individuals acting in concert."

From there he claims that in the Second Amendment, "the people" simply refers back to the earlier mention of "Militia."

Here, it seems Stevens is trying to strike at David Konig’s notion of an individual right exercised collectively (another way to state the militia-based-right view), but the examples simply don’t fit.

In the First Amendment, all individuals have the right to engage in the behavior described, even if that behavior is typically collective in nature. In neither case does the First Amendment exempt from protection those acting alone, or those acting outside a specific collective organization like the militia.

Stevens then claims that "bear arms" was a term of art used, at the time of the Constitution, to refer only to military action. To prove this he points to a friend-of-the-court brief giving some examples where the term happened to be used in this way, and as Justice Scalia notes in the majority opinion, "every example given…either includes the preposition ‘against’ [as in, ‘bear arms against’] or was not clearly [meant to refer to the military only]." Scalia also notes that Stevens thinks "arms" means something different as applied to "keep" instead of "bear."

Follow the bouncing ball here: "keep arms" obviously refers to weapons, but "bear arms" is a term of art restricted to the military. "It would be rather like saying ‘He filled and kicked the bucket’ to mean ‘He filled the bucket and died,’" Scalia writes.

In addition, there are historical documents, including state constitutions, where a right to "bear arms" for self-defense or hunting is explicit. As Scalia states, under Stevens’s absurdist definition of "bear arms," "to bear arms for the purpose of killing game" translates as "to carry arms in the militia for the purpose of killing game."

Stevens also spends pages arguing that the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Miller interpreted the amendment as a militia-based right, making this interpretation a precedent worth more deference than Scalia gives it.

This is funny, because the anti-gun line used to be that Miller proved the collective-right theory. Neither proposition is true, as I detailed in this space Friday.

MOVING ON TO Breyer’s dissent, the justice dooms himself by assuming the majority’s interpretation of "keep and bear arms" — when a city severely limits every citizen’s right to keep arms (the handgun ban), and bars all citizens from bearing arms (the simultaneous requirement that all long guns be stored non-functional), how can that be a "reasonable" restriction on the right to keep and bear arms?

Because it passes Breyer’s so-called balancing test. Sometimes, of course, such tests are necessary in jurisprudence. There really isn’t a way to say why yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, or inciting violence, doesn’t deserve First Amendment protection without weighing the value of the speech against the government’s legitimate interest in regulating it.

But Breyer’s reasoning is such a blatant stretch that he actually argues the law is "limited," as in limited to D.C., a high-crime urban area, and limited to handguns, the type of weapon most commonly used in crime. He forgets about the long-gun restriction whenever it’s convenient to, and assumes this law wouldn’t apply in self-defense cases, though D.C. law contains no such exception.

Also, since every handgun available for self-defense is also available for crime, Breyer reasons that any less restrictive law wouldn’t control crime as well. (Breyer defers to the city that handgun regulations help with crime, which is fair for a judge to do, even though the city is dead wrong.)

When a test finds that a handgun ban is compatible with the right to keep arms, and that a handgun ban coupled with a ban on functional long guns jibes with the right to bear arms, it’s a useless test.

There is no other constitutional right that state and local governments can carve up at will, with the excuses that the law is "limited" to their territory, and that any less restrictive law will, in their analysis of the evidence, hurt a governmental interest to some unknowable degree.

Scalia’s opinion won the day, but the dissenters remain four of the most important figures in American life. It’s sad to read the faulty logic they find compelling, or more likely, claim to.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — When Capt. Ivan Castro joined the Army, he set goals: to jump out of planes, kick in doors and lead soldiers into combat. He achieved them all. Then the mortar round landed five feet away, blasting away his sight.

"Once you’re blind, you have to set new goals," Castro said.

He set them higher.

Not content with just staying in the Army, he is the only blind officer serving in the Special Forces – the small, elite units famed for dropping behind enemy lines on combat missions.

"I am going to push the limits," said the 40-year-old executive officer at the 7th Special Forces Group’s headquarters company in Fort Bragg. "I don’t want to go to Fort Bragg and show up and sit in an office. I want to work every day and have a mission."

Since the war began in Iraq, more than 100 troops have been blinded and 247 others have lost sight in one eye. Only two other blind officers serve in the active-duty Army: one a captain studying to be an instructor at West Point, the other an instructor at the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Castro’s unit commander said his is no charity assignment. Rather it draws on his experience as a Special Forces team member and platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.

"The only reason that anyone serves with 7th Special Forces Group is if they have real talents," said Col. Sean Mulholland. "We don’t treat (Castro) as a public affairs or a recruiting tool."

An 18-year Army veteran, Castro was a Ranger before completing Special Forces training, the grueling yearlong course many soldiers fail to finish. He joined the Special Forces as a weapons sergeant, earned an officer’s commission and moved on to the 82nd – hoping to return one day to the Special Forces as a team leader.

Then life changed on a rooftop outside Youssifiyah, Iraq, in September 2006.

Castro had relieved other paratroopers atop a house after a night of fighting. He never heard the incoming mortar round. There was just a flash of light, then darkness.

Shrapnel tore through his body, breaking his arm and shoulder and shredding the left side of his face. Two other paratroopers died.

When Castro awoke six weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his right eye was gone. Doctors were unable to save his left.

The Blinded Veterans Association estimates 13 percent of all combat hospital emergency procedures in Iraq have involved eye injuries and more than half of the soldiers with traumatic brain injuries also suffer some visual impairment. That makes them the third most common injury – behind post traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries – in Iraq.

"What he is doing is a strong example that blind individuals can lead exciting and meaningful careers," said Thomas Zampieri, director of government relations for the association.

After 17 months in recovery, Castro sought a permanent assignment in the service’s Special Operations Command, landing duty with the 7th Special Forces Group. He focuses on managerial tasks while honing the group’s Spanish training, a useful language for a unit that deploys regularly to train South American troops.

"I want to support the guys and make sure life is easier for those guys so that they can accomplish the mission," he said.

Though not fully independent, he spent a weekend before starting his job walking around the Group area at Fort Bragg to know just where he was going. He carefully measured the steps from car to office.

"Obviously, he cannot do some things that a sighted person can do. But Ivan will find a way to get done whatever he needs to get done," Mulholland said. "What I am most impressed with, though, is his determination to continue to serve his country after all that he’s been through."

Castro works out regularly at the gym and runs, his legs powerful and muscular. And though he has a prosthetic right eye and his arms are scarred by shrapnel, his outsized personality overshadows his war wounds: Nobody escapes his booming hellos, friendly banter and limitless drive.

He ran the Boston marathon this year with Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Last year it was the Marine Corps Marathon. He wants to compete in the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii and graduate from the Army’s officer advanced course, which teaches captains how to lead troops and plan operations.

Mulholland said Castro, who was awarded a Purple Heart like others wounded in combat, will always be part of the Special Forces family.

"I will fight for Ivan as long as Ivan wants to be in the Army," Mulholland said.

Married and the father of a 14-year-old son, Castro still needs help getting to the gym. He recently needed an escort to the front of the headquarters company formation, where he promoted a supply clerk.

Once in front, Ivan took charge.

Affixing the new soldier’s rank to his uniform, Castro urged the soldier to perform two ranks higher. In the Special Forces, he said, one has to go above and beyond what is asked – advice he lives by.

"I want to be treated the same way as other officers," Castro said. "I don’t want them to take pity over me or give me something I’ve not earned."

(CNSNews.com) – A senior Iranian commander on Sunday said his country would prepare 320,000 graves to accommodate its slain enemies in the event of an attack on the country. The remark was a veiled warning amid increasing tensions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear activities.

The Mehr news agency quoted Gen. Mir-Faisal Bagherzadeh as saying the graves would be dug in Iran’s border provinces, to provide for the burial of enemies in line with the Geneva Conventions.

"The burial of slain soldiers will be carried out decently and in little time," said Bagherzadeh, a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who heads a propaganda body called the Sacred Defense Foundation.

"We do not wish the families of enemy soldiers to experience what Americans had to go through in the aftermath of the Vietnam War," he added, apparently referring to the ordeal faced by families of MIAs during and after that conflict.

Although couched in humanitarian terms, Bagherzadeh’s comments come as top Iranians step up belligerent rhetoric in the face of reports suggesting that Israel or the United States are planning to attack Iran, and specifically its nuclear facilities.

The head of the IRGC, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, at the weekend delivered stern warnings to Iran’s enemies, telling the conservative Jam-e Jam newspaper that Israel was within easy range of Iran’s missiles.

"Our missile power and capability are such that the Zionist regime — despite all its abilities — cannot confront it," he said.

Jafari told Iran’s neighbors that they would also be held responsible if they allowed their soil to be used to launch attacks against Iran.

He warned that Iran could strike back at its foes through Hamas and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist groups in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon respectively.

"Revolutionary Muslims, whether Shi’ite or Sunni, see the U.S. and Israel attack against Islamic Iran as an attack on the Islamic world and thus defense will be on their mind without a doubt," Jafari was quoted as saying.

Other Iranian retaliation could come in the form of disruption to Gulf oil supplies, transported to world markets through the vulnerable Strait of Hormuz, he said.

"Naturally every country under attack by an enemy uses all its capacity and opportunities to confront the enemy. Regarding the main route for exiting energy, Iran will definitely act to impose control on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," Jafari said, adding that the price of oil would rise dramatically in such circumstances.

Terror support

Meanwhile, Iranian media gave extensive coverage to a new report claiming that congressional leaders late last year okayed a request by President Bush to fund covert operations against Iran.

Sunday’s report in The New Yorker magazine, citing current and former military, intelligence and congressional sources, said cross-border operations were being run into Iran from Iraq, and that members of the IRGC’s Quds Force had been seized and taken to Iraq for interrogation.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on Sunday "flatly" denied that U.S. forces were operating across the border in Iran. He told CNN that Iran’s influence in Iraq was declining, mostly because of Iraqi security force successes against Iranian-backed militias.

U.S. military officers in Iraq have long accused the IRGC, and specifically its Quds Force unit, of supporting and supplying anti-coalition Shi’ite militias in neighboring Iraq.

The Pentagon in a report to Congress last week said it had evidence that anti-coalition insurgents in Afghanistan were getting help originating from Iran, although it said it was "unclear what role, and at what level the Iranian government plays in providing this assistance."

The Bush administration last October imposed sanctions on the IRGC, the Quds Force and other entities to punish Tehran for its support of terrorism and its nuclear activities.

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at the weekend reiterated Iranian denials of U.S. claims of Iranian support for militias in Iraq.

Speaking on al-Jazeera, he said the U.S. would not likely attack Iran since the repercussions "would be disastrous for the entire region." Any Israeli attack, he said, would draw "massive and fatal" retaliation.

Rafsanjani is currently chairman of the Expediency Council, a consultative body appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The former president is wanted in Argentina for alleged involvement in a deadly 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

‘Iran must be dealt with urgently’

While claims of Iranian involvement in terrorism have added to regional tensions, the nuclear dispute is the key factor. The U.S. and its allies believe Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a cover for intensive efforts to develop a weapons capability.

Tehran has repeatedly ignored U.N. Security Council sanction-backed demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, saying it will never relinquish its inalienable right to access civilian nuclear energy. It says it is currently considering the latest offer of incentives by the UNSC permanent five members plus Germany in exchange for compliance, but has rejected previous such proposals.

A "sense of Congress" resolution before the House of Representatives and cosponsored by more than 200 bipartisan lawmakers states that "preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means, is vital to the national security interests of the United States and must be dealt with urgently."

Although it does not use the word "blockade," the non-binding resolution says steps should include "prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program."

The resolution explicitly says that it should not be construed as authorization of the use of force against Iran.

Iran’s Press TV on Saturday accused the U.S. Jewish lobby of being behind the House resolution and a companion one in the Senate, and said they were "considered a tacit declaration of war against the Islamic Republic."

The U.S. Military is kicking ass and this is a big problem for the anti-U.S. Military MSM (Marxist Shit Media) especially during the pro-Barack Hussein Obama election year.

Via the International Herald Tribune:

WASHINGTON: Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to authorize the Pentagon’s Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terror network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was designed to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave an easier path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was "mounting frustration" in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush committed the nation to a "war on terrorism" and made the destruction of Bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.

A recent American airstrike killing Pakistani troops has only inflamed tensions along the mountain border and added to tensions between Washington and Pakistan’s new government.

The story of how Al Qaeda, Arabic for "the base," has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired CIA officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 Arab and Pakistani militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Publicly, senior American and Pakistani officials have said that the creation of a Qaeda haven in the tribal areas was in many ways inevitable — that the lawless badlands where ethnic Pashtun tribes have resisted government control for centuries were a natural place for a dispirited terror network to find refuge. The American and Pakistani officials also blame a disastrous cease-fire brokered between the Pakistani government and militants in 2006.

But more than four dozen interviews in Washington and Pakistan tell another story. American intelligence officials say that the Qaeda hunt in Pakistan, code-named Operation Cannonball by the CIA in 2006, was often undermined by bitter disagreements within the Bush administration and within the intelligence agency, including about whether American commandos should launch ground raids inside the tribal areas.

Inside the CIA, the fights included clashes between the agency’s outposts in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad. There were also battles between field officers and the counterterrorism center at CIA headquarters, whose preference for carrying out raids remotely, via Predator missile strikes, was derided by officers in the Islamabad station as the work of "boys with toys."

An early arrangement that allowed American commandos to join Pakistani units on raids inside the tribal areas was halted in 2003 after protests in Pakistan. Another combat mission that came within hours of being launched in 2005 was scuttled because some CIA officials in Pakistan questioned the accuracy of the intelligence, and because aides to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believed that the mission force had become too large.

Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas. When American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq.

Some former officials say Bush should have done more to confront Musharraf, by aggressively demanding that he acknowledge the scale of the militant threat.

Western military officials say Musharraf was instead often distracted by his own political problems, and effectively allowed militants to regroup by brokering peace agreements with them.

Even critics of the White House agree that there was no foolproof solution to gaining control of the tribal areas. But by all accounts the administration failed to develop a comprehensive plan to address the militant problem there, and never resolved the disagreements between warring agencies that undermined efforts to fashion any coherent strategy.

"We’re just kind of drifting," said Richard Armitage, who as deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005 was the administration’s point person for Pakistan.

In March 2002, several hundred bedraggled foreign fighters — Uzbeks, Pakistanis and a handful of Arabs — fled the towering mountains of eastern Afghanistan and crossed into Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area.

Savaged by American air power in the battles of Tora Bora and the Shah-i-Kot valley, some were trying to make their way to the Arab states in the Gulf. Some were simply looking for a haven.

They soon arrived at Shakai, a remote region in South Waziristan of tree-covered mountains and valleys. Venturing into nearby farming villages, they asked local tribesmen if they could rent some of the area’s walled family compounds, paying two to three times the impoverished area’s normal rates as the militants began to lay new roots.

"They slowly, steadily from the mountainside tried to establish communication," recalled Mahmood Shah, the chief civilian administrator of the tribal areas from 2001 to 2005.

In many ways, the foreigners were returning to their home base. In the 1980s, Bin Laden and hundreds of Arab and foreign fighters backed by the United States and Pakistan used the tribal areas as a staging area for cross-border attacks on Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

The militants’ flight did not go unnoticed by American intelligence agencies, who began to report beginning in the spring of 2002 that large numbers of foreigners appeared to be hiding in South Waziristan and neighboring North Waziristan.

But General Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, the commander of Pakistani forces in northwestern Pakistan, was skeptical.

In an interview earlier this year, Aurakzai recalled that he regarded the warnings as "guesswork," and said his soldiers "found nothing," even when they pushed into dozens of square miles of territory that neither Pakistani nor British forces had ever entered.

The general, a tall, commanding figure who was born in the tribal areas, was Musharraf’s main adviser on the border areas, according to former Pakistani officials. For years, he would argue that American officials exaggerated the threat in the tribal areas and that the Pakistani Army should avoid causing a tribal rebellion at all costs.

Former American intelligence officials said Aurakzai’s sweeps were slow-moving and easily avoided by militants. Robert L. Grenier, the CIA station chief in Islamabad from 1999 to 2002, said that Aurakzai was dismissive of the reports because he and other Pakistani officials feared the kind of tribal uprising that could have been touched off by more intrusive military operations. "Aurakzai and others didn’t want to believe it because it would have been an inconvenient fact," Grenier recalled.

Signs of militants regrouping

Until recent elections pushed Musharraf off center stage in Pakistan, senior Bush administration officials consistently praised his cooperation in the Qaeda hunt.

Beginning shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Musharraf had allowed American forces to use Pakistani bases to support the American invasion of Afghanistan, while Pakistani intelligence services worked closely with the CIA in tracking down Qaeda operatives. But from their vantage point in Afghanistan, the picture looked different to American Special Operations forces who saw signs that the militants whom the Americans had driven out of Afghanistan were effectively regrouping on the Pakistani side of the border.

When American military officials proposed in 2002 that Special Operations forces be allowed to establish bases in the tribal areas, Pakistan flatly refused. Instead, a small number of "black" Special Operations forces — Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units — were allowed to accompany Pakistani forces on raids in the tribal areas in 2002 and early 2003.

That arrangement only angered both sides. American forces used to operating on their own felt that the Pakistanis were limiting their movements. And while Pakistani officials publicly denied the presence of Americans, local tribesmen spotted the Americans and protested.

Under pressure from Pakistan, the Bush administration decided in 2003 to end the American military presence on the ground. In a recent interview, Armitage said he had supported the pullback in recognition of the political risks that Musharraf had already taken. "We were pushing them almost to the breaking point," Armitage said.

The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 added another complicating factor, by cementing a view among Pakistanis that American forces in the tribal areas would be a prelude to an eventual American occupation.

To have insisted that American forces be allowed to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan, Armitage added, "might have been a bridge too far."

Dealing with Musharraf

Bush’s re-election in 2004 brought with it another problem once the president overhauled his national security team. By early 2005, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Armitage had resigned, joining George Tenet, who had stepped down earlier as director of central intelligence. Their departures left the administration with no senior officials with close personal relationships with Musharraf.

In order to keep pressure on the Pakistanis about the tribal areas, officials decided to have Bush raise the issue in personal phone calls with Musharraf.

The conversations backfired. Two former United States government officials say they were surprised and frustrated when instead of demanding action from Musharraf, Bush instead repeatedly thanked him for his contributions to the war on terror. "He never pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘Pervez you have to do this,’ " said a former senior intelligence official who saw transcripts of the phone conversations. But another senior administration official defended the president, saying that Bush had not gone easy on the Pakistani leader.

"I would say the president pushes quite hard," said the official, who would speak about the confidential conversations only on condition of anonymity. At the same time, the official said that Bush was keenly aware of the "unique burden" that rested on any head of state, and had the ability to determine "what the traffic will bear" when applying pressure to foreign leaders.

Tensions within the CIA

As attacks into Afghanistan by militants based in the tribal areas continued, tensions escalated between the CIA stations in Kabul and Islamabad, whose lines of responsibility for battling terrorism were blurred by the porous border that divides Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whose disagreements reflected animosities between the two countries.

Along with the Afghan government, the CIA officers in Afghanistan expressed alarm at what they saw as a growing threat from the tribal areas. But the CIA officers in Pakistan played down the problem, to the extent that some colleagues in Kabul said their colleagues in Islamabad were "drinking the Kool-Aid," as one former officer put it, by accepting Pakistani assurances that no one could control the tribal areas.

On several occasions, senior CIA officials at agency headquarters had to intervene to dampen tensions between the dueling CIA outposts. Other intragovernmental battles raged at higher altitudes, most notably over the plan in early 2005 for a Special Operations mission intended to capture Ayman al-Zawahri, Bin Laden’s top deputy, in what would have been the most aggressive use of American ground troops inside Pakistan. The New York Times disclosed the aborted operation in a 2007 article, but interviews since then have produced new details about the episode.

As described by current and former government officials, Zawahri was believed by intelligence officials to be attending a meeting at a compound in Bajaur, a tribal area, and the plan to send commandos to capture him had the support of Porter Goss, the CIA director, and the Special Operations commander, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal.

But even as Navy Seals and Army Rangers in parachute gear were boarding C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan, there were frenzied exchanges between officials at the Pentagon, Central Command and the CIA about whether the mission was too risky. Some complained that the American commando force was too large, numbering more than 100, while others argued that the intelligence was from a single source and unreliable.

Goss urged the military to carry out the mission, and some CIA officials in Washington even tried to give orders to execute the raid without informing Ryan Crocker, then the American ambassador in Islamabad. But other CIA officials were opposed to the raid, including a former officer who said in an interview that he had "told the military guys that this thing was going to be the biggest folly since the Bay of Pigs."

In the end, the mission was aborted after Rumsfeld refused to give his approval for it. The decision remains controversial, with some former officials seeing the episode as a squandered opportunity to capture a figure who might have led the United States to Bin Laden, while others dismiss its significance, saying that there had been previous false alarms and that there remained no solid evidence that Zawahri was present.

Bin Laden hunt at dead end

By late 2005, many inside the CIA headquarters in Virginia had reached the conclusion that their hunt for Bin Laden had reached a dead end.

Jose Rodriguez Jr., who at the time ran the CIA’s clandestine operations branch, decided in late 2005 to make a series of swift changes to the agency’s counterterrorism operations.

He fired Grenier, the former Islamabad station chief who in late 2004 took over as head of the agency’s Counterterrorist Center. The two men had barely spoken for months, as each saw the other as having a misguided approach to the C.I.A’s mission against Al Qaeda. Many inside the agency believed this personality clash was beginning to affect CIA operations.

Grenier had worked to expand the agency’s counterterrorism focus, reinforcing operations in places like the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia and North Africa. He also reorganized and renamed Alec Station, the secret CIA unit formed in the 1990s to hunt Bin Laden at a time when Al Qaeda was in its infancy.

Grenier believed that the unit, in addition to focusing on Bin Laden, needed to act in other parts of the world, given the spread of Qaeda-affiliated groups since the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Rodriguez believed that the Qaeda hunt had lost its focus on Bin Laden and the militant threat in Pakistan.

So he appointed a new head of the Counterterrorism Center, who has not been publicly identified, and sent dozens more CIA operatives to Pakistan. The new push was dubbed Operation Cannonball, and Rodriguez demanded urgency, but the response had a makeshift air.

There was nowhere to house an expanding headquarters staff, so giant Quonset huts were erected outside the cafeteria on the CIA’s leafy Virginia campus, to house a new team assigned to the Bin Laden mission. In Pakistan, the new operation was staffed not only with CIA operatives drawn from around the world, but also with recent graduates of "The Farm," the agency’s training center at Camp Peary in Virginia.

"We had to put people out in the field who had less than ideal levels of experience," one former senior CIA official said. "But there wasn’t much to choose from."

One reason for this, according to two former intelligence officials directly involved in the Qaeda hunt, was that by 2006 the Iraq war had drained away most of the CIA officers with field experience in the Islamic world. "You had a very finite number" of experienced officers, said one former senior intelligence official. "Those people all went to Iraq. We were all hurting because of Iraq."

Surge in suicide bombings

Militants inside Pakistan only continued to gain strength. In the spring of 2006, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan launched an offensive in southern Afghanistan, increasing suicide bombings by sixfold and American and NATO casualty rates by 45 percent. At the same time, they assassinated tribal elders who were cooperating with the government.

Once again, Pakistani Army units launched a military campaign in the tribal areas. Once again, they suffered heavy casualties.

And once again, Musharraf turned to Aurakzai to deal with the problem. Having retired from the Pakistani Army, Aurakzai had become the governor of North-West Frontier Province, and he immediately began negotiating with the militants. On Sept. 5, 2006, Aurakzai signed a truce with militants in North Waziristan, one in which the militants agreed to surrender to local tribes and carry out no further attacks in Afghanistan.

To help sell Washington on the peace deal, Musharraf brought Aurakzai to the Oval Office several weeks later.

In a presentation to Bush, Aurakzai advocated a strategy that would rely even more heavily on cease-fires, and said striking deals with the Taliban inside Afghanistan could allow American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan within seven years.

But the cease-fire in Waziristan had disastrous consequences. In the months after the agreement was signed, cross-border incursions from the tribal areas into Afghanistan rose by 300 percent. Some American officials began to refer to Aurakzai as a "snake oil salesman."


A rising terror threat

By the fall of 2006, the top American commander in Afghanistan had had enough.

Intelligence reports were painting an increasingly dark picture of the terror threat in the tribal areas. But with senior Bush administration officials consumed for much of that year with the spiraling violence in Iraq, the Qaeda threat in Pakistan was not at the top of the White House agenda.

Bush had declared in a White House news conference that fall that Al Qaeda was "on the run."

To get Washington’s attention, the commander, Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, ordered military officers, Special Operations forces and CIA operatives to assemble a dossier showing Pakistan’s role in allowing militants to establish a haven.

Behind the general’s order was a broader feeling of outrage within the military — at a terror war that had been outsourced to an unreliable ally, and at the grim fact that America’s most deadly enemy had become stronger.

For months, military officers inside a walled-off compound at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where a branch of the military’s classified Joint Special Operations Command is based, had grown increasingly frustrated at what they saw as missed opportunities in the tribal areas.

American commanders had been pressing for much of 2006 to get approval from Rumsfeld for an operation to capture Sheik Saiid al-Masri, a top Qaeda operator and paymaster whom American intelligence had been tracking in the Pakistani mountains.

Rumsfeld and his staff were reluctant to approve the mission, worried about possible American military casualties and a popular backlash in Pakistan.

Finally, in November 2006, Rumsfeld approved operation of Navy Seals and Army Delta Force commandos to move into Pakistan and capture Masri. But the operation was put on hold days later, after Rumsfeld was pushed out of the Pentagon, a casualty of the Democratic sweep of the 2006 election.

When Eikenberry presented his dossier to several members of Bush’s cabinet, some inside the State Department and CIA dismissed the briefing as exaggerated and simplistic. But the White House took note of his warnings, and decided to send Vice President Dick Cheney to Islamabad in March 2007, along with Stephen Kappes, the deputy CIA director, to register American concern.

That visit was the beginning of a more aggressive effort by the administration to pressure Pakistan’s government into stepping up its fight,. The decision last year to draw up the Pentagon order authorizing for a Special Operations campaign in the tribal areas was part of that effort.

But the fact that the order remains unsigned reflects the infighting that persists. Administration lawyers and State Department officials are concerned about any new authorities that would allow military missions to be launched without the approval of the American ambassador in Islamabad. With Qaeda operatives now described in intelligence reports as deeply entrenched in the tribal areas and immersed in the civilian population, there is also a view among some military and CIA officials that the opportunity for decisive American action against the militants may have been lost.

Pakistani military officials, meanwhile, express growing frustration with the American pressure, and point out that Pakistan has lost more than 1,000 members of its security forces in the tribal areas since 2001, nearly double the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan.

Some architects of America’s efforts in Pakistan defend the Bush administration’s record in the tribal areas, and vigorously deny that Washington took its eye off the terror threat as it focused on Iraq policy. Some also question whether Bin Laden and Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s top two leaders, are really still able to orchestrate large-scale attacks.

"I do wonder if it’s in fact the case that Al Qaeda has really reconstituted itself to a pre-9/11 capability, and in fact I would say I seriously doubt that," said Crocker, the American ambassador to Pakistan between 2004 and 2006 and currently the ambassador to Iraq.

"Their top-level leadership is still out there, but they’re not communicating and they’re not moving around. I think they’re symbolic more than operationally effective," Crocker said.

But while Bush vowed early on that Bin Laden would be captured "dead or alive," the moment in late 2001 when Bin Laden and his followers escaped at Tora Bora was almost certainly the last time the Qaeda leader was in American sights, current and former intelligence officials say. Leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.

"The United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001," said Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

"The base of operations has moved only a short distance, roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia."

 Via FOX News:

WASHINGTON —  A new report by Army historians levels heavy, unvarnished criticism against Pentagon leadership for its failure to plan beyond the initial invasion of Iraq.

"On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign" — which outlines the 18 months following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime — said too much focus was placed on a military victory, and not enough on post-war planning, due in part to optimism by the White House and the Pentagon that civilian agencies would take care much of the country’s post war rebuilding.

The unclassified report is set for official release Monday, but appeared on a Pentagon Web site over the weekend.

Click here to read the full report, "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign."

The 720-report — written by military historians Donald Wright and Colonel Timothy Reese — claims to provide "balanced" and "honest" account that is neither "triumphant nor defeatist."

"In many ways, On Point II is a book the Army did not expect to write because numerous observers, military leaders, and government officials believed, in the euphoria of early April 2003, that US objectives had been achieved and military forces could quickly redeploy out of Iraq. Clearly, those hopes were premature," the report says in its introduction.

The 720-report — written by military historians Donald Wright and Colonel Timothy Reese — claims to provide "balanced" and "honest" account that is neither "triumphant nor defeatist."

"In many ways, On Point II is a book the Army did not expect to write because numerous observers, military leaders, and government officials believed, in the euphoria of early April 2003, that US objectives had been achieved and military forces could quickly redeploy out of Iraq. Clearly, those hopes were premature," the report says in its introduction.

It cites an incident where Gen. Tommy Franks surprised supervisors by restructuring the Baghdad-based command shortly after the invasion and saying that major fighting was over.

“The move was sudden and caught most of the senior commanders in Iraq unaware,” the report states. It also said the staff for the new headquarters was not initially “configured for the types of responsibilities it received," and could be changed "at the snap of your fingers."

In other criticism of the planning effort, the report says: "The transition to a new campaign was not well thought out, planned for, and prepared for before it began."

"Additionally, the assumptions about the nature of post-Saddam Iraq on which the transition was planned proved to be largely incorrect," it states.

The study points to errors that resulted in U.S. forces and their allies lacking an operational and strategic plan for success in Iraq, adding that also questions the focus of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on military modernization.

"The intense desire to continue DoD’s transformation to smaller and lighter forces, to implement a perceived revolution in military affairs in the information age, and to savor the euphoria over seemingly easy successes in Afghanistan using those techniques seemed to outweigh searching through the past for insights into the future," the authors wrote in the report.

The study is the second in a series by Army historians. The first covered the start of combat through to the fall Saddam in April 2003.

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PARIS, France (AP) — A military shooting demonstration in southeast France on Sunday left 16 people wounded, including children, when real bullets were used instead of blank ones, officials said.

Four of the wounded were in serious condition, including a 3-year-old child, Bernard Lemaire, chief of the regional administration in Aude, said on France-3 television. Fifteen of the injured were civilians.

A Defense Ministry official said the incident occurred during a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks. The official said investigators will look into why real bullets were used.

No information was immediately available about what kind of weapon was used.

The soldier who fired the shots has been detained, Lemaire said. He said the injuries were likely an accident but that it could have been a "criminal act."

In a statement, President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his "horror" at Sunday’s incident at the base, which houses the 3rd marine infantry parachute regiment.

The injured were taken to nearby hospitals, with the most seriously wounded taken to Toulouse.


Heads_Up AWB

By Warner Todd Huston

It looks like Google has officially joined the Barack Obama campaign and decided that its contribution would be to shut down any blog on the Google owned Blogspot.com blogging system that has an anti-Obama message. Yes, it sure seems that Google has begun to go through its many thousands of blogs to lock out the owners of anti-Obama blogs so that the noObama message is effectively squelched. Thus far, Google has terminated the access by blog owners to 7 such sites and the list may be growing. Boy, it must be nice for Barack Obama to have an ally powerful enough to silence his opponents like that!

It isn’t just conservative sites that Google’s Blogger platform is eliminating. For instance, www.comealongway.blogspot.com has been frozen and this one is a Hillary supporting site. The operator of Come a Long Way has a mirror site off the Blogspot platform and has today posted this notice:

I used to have a happy internet home on Blogger: www.comealongway.blogspot.com. Then on Wednesday night, June 25, I received the following e-mail:

Dear Blogger user,

This is a message from the Blogger team.

Your blog, at http://comealongway.blogspot.com/, has been identified as a potential spam blog. You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog.


The Blogger Team

It turns out that there is an interesting pattern where it concerns the blogs that Google’s Blogspot team have summarily locked down on their service. They all belong to the Just Say No Deal coalition, a group of blogs that are standing against the Obama campaign. It seems the largest portion of these blogs are Hillary supporting blogs, too.

All I can say is, WOW! If Google is willing to abuse its power like this even against fellow leftists, what does it plan against conservatives, the folks Google hates even more!?

Here is a list of the Blogspot blogs that have been frozen by Google thus far:

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