August 2008








Anti-American RNC Welcoming Committee website

Photos of items found  in raid

Sharp objects to puncture the tires of Republican National Convention delegates’ buses. Buckets of urine to throw at police officers. Large-scale maps with routes targeted to be blocked.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said Saturday these were among items seized in searches of anarchist leaders’ homes and a center used by the RNC Welcoming Committee, which describes itself as an anarchist/anti-authoritarian group and uses the motto "Crash the Convention!" on its Web site.

Fletcher alleges plans are under way "to both shut down the Republican National Convention and actually harm the officers that are working this convention" and says what was found "is only a portion of what is out there."

Five people, whom Fletcher described as core leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee, were arrested Saturday on suspicion of three conspiracy counts — to riot, to commit civil disorder and to damage property.

Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said he doesn’t know whether the people arrested are RNC Welcoming Committee members, but he criticized the searches and arrests.

"To go in and arrest people on conspiracy charges without any solid evidence is to start to criminalize protected political activity and speech," Nestor said.

People planning to protest at the convention and St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune called the actions a pre-emptive strike before the RNC. The convention is slated to start Monday.

"This is all about free speech," Thune said. "It’s what my father fought in the war for."

Protesters have pointed to other examples of what they view as police interference in the run-up to the convention. Three videographers who document police activities were detained and their cameras confiscated in Minneapolis, and an activist said he was "viciously attacked" by police while he was observing officers outside a homeless shelter.

Members of the media watch as police question a group of people detained at a home, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008.

No preconvention raids were reported in Denver for the Democratic National Convention last week, but there were similar reports during the last two Republican National Conventions.

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, said Saturday that his group’s concerns are threefold.

"One, this appears this might be a pre-emptive strike to chill protesters on Monday," he said. "Two, we always have concerns about any type of conspiracy arrests, because conspiracy isn’t an act in the normal sense of the word. And three, we’re concerned … First Amendment-protected material may have been taken."

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Saturday that free-speech rights are separate from criminal behavior.

"We have worked very, very hard to make sure we’ve protected people’s right to exercise free speech," he said. "To pick up a protest sign, that’s fine. If you’re here to pick up a brick or some other instrument, there’s a problem."

At a news briefing Saturday, Fletcher said: "We’re here to put to rest whether law enforcement is picking on civil protesters. We’re not. … We are aware of literally 250 groups that plan to protest, 250 planned protest groups we haven’t investigated, looked at, explored. This is the only group that publicly, on the Internet and in other ways, has indicated, ‘We have criminal intent.’ "

A Ramsey County sheriff’s office task force continues its investigation into the RNC Welcoming Committee, Fletcher said. They are working "in close

communication with the FBI," he said. At the briefing, the task force showed the media some of the evidence it confiscated in several house raids Friday and Saturday.

"Long before we recovered this evidence here, we began an investigation into an obvious attempt to block the entrances into downtown St. Paul," Fletcher said.

Fletcher in the past questioned whether there would be enough officers to secure the convention and ensure overall safety during the event. Nestor questioned whether Fletcher’s office taking the lead in the raids and arrests were part of a self-fulfilling doom-and-gloom forecast.

Fletcher maintains the RNC Welcoming Committee is a legitimate threat. He said it comprises 35 people who live locally but have recruited "literally hundreds of anarchists from around the country … all with the same goal of blocking the streets and stopping delegates from getting into the convention."

Nestor said the group is a "much larger, looser organization" than 35 people and said, despite Fletcher’s description, that it is not a criminal enterprise.

The RNC Welcoming Committee’s Web site has never stated or discussed plans for violence during the RNC, including violence against law enforcement, Nestor said.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, the Ramsey County sheriff’s office executed search warrants at three Minneapolis homes — 2301 23rd Ave. S., 3500 Harriet Ave. and 3240 17th Ave. S.

About 9:15 p.m. Friday, the sheriff’s office executed a warrant at 627 Smith Ave. in St. Paul. The building is a former theater that the RNC Welcoming Committee and other groups are using as a center.

Some of the materials found could be regarded as ordinary household items. But Fletcher said his office has intelligence that people were intending to use them for criminal acts.

"We know that these items were going to be used because we had sources that were working inside," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said officers found large amounts of urine, including three- to five-gallon buckets, and they had information it would be thrown at police during the convention.

Nestor said he believes some of the alleged urine came from a garage that someone was living in at one of the Minneapolis homes. The garage doesn’t have plumbing and the resident, who isn’t involved in the case, urinates in a bucket, Nestor said.

Other buckets seized may not have been urine at all, Nestor said. There were buckets of water next to a toilet that people use to flush, in order to conserve water, he said.

The items seized, according to Fletcher’s office, include: materials for creating "sleeping dragons" (PVC pipe, chicken wire, duct tape), a method by which protesters lock themselves together; wrist rocket slingshots; a gas mask and filter; homemade caltrops (devices Fletcher said could be used to disable buses on roads); empty plastic buckets cut and made into shields; and materials that Fletcher said could be made into Molotov cocktails.

Arrested at the 17th Avenue home were Monica Rachel Bicking, 23; Erin Chase Trimmer, 23; and Garrett Scott Fitzgerald, 25, Nestor said.

Nathanael David Secor, 26, was arrested at the 23rd Avenue South home.

Erik Charles Oseland, 21, was arrested at an undisclosed location, the sheriff’s office said.

A judge has to review the case by Monday morning to determine whether there’s probable cause to continue to hold them, Fletcher said.

David Bicking, of Minneapolis, said his daughter and her boyfriend were among those arrested. Monica Bicking has devoted herself to standing up for her rights and the rights of others, and he couldn’t be more proud, her father said.

"In the last 24 hours, police haven’t targeted criminals," David Bicking said Saturday. "These people are some of the best people in our society."

RNC Welcoming Committee member Tony Jones, reading from a statement at a Saturday news conference, said the searches were an effort to "derail RNC protest-organizing efforts and to intimidate and terrorize individuals and groups converging in the Twin Cities to exercise what are supposed to be their basic civil rights."

Separate from the RNC Welcoming Committee searches, other raids happened throughout Saturday.

Police surrounded a duplex at 951 and 949 Iglehart Ave. shortly after 1 p.m. Two women who left the house were handcuffed while officers waited nearly two hours for a search warrant to arrive. The other occupants remained in the house until it was searched, when they were taken to the back yard in handcuffs.

The search was connected to the convention, said St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh. Without elaborating, he said the home was being searched for "probable cause to believe there was illegal activity there."

There were at least 10 people in the home and most were out-of-town visitors who identified themselves as journalists. Some in the home are here to document police activities and possible police improprieties during the convention, said Eileen Clancy, a co-founder of I-Witness Video, a New York-based media group.

The search ended when police found nothing of interest.

Several squad cars pulled over a bus heading eastbound on Interstate 94 near Minnesota 280 around 6:20 p.m. Saturday and impounded the vehicle. No arrests were made.

Delyla Wilson, her husband and daughter live on the bus and use it as a mobile permaculture demonstration, going city to city to teach people about sustainable living practices. They made the RNC part of their tour.

Wilson said police told her at first it was a routine traffic stop, but then later said they were impounding the vehicle to execute a search warrant at a later time. Officers allowed the seven people on board to get their dogs and chickens off the bus, she said, but weren’t allowed to retrieve their computers and other personal belongings. They waited about two hours to get a ride from a friend.

"We basically came out of there with our animals and the clothes on the back," Wilson said.


By Thomas Sowell

One of the few political cliches that makes sense is that "In politics, overnight is a lifetime."

Less than a year ago, the big question was whether Rudolph Giuliani could beat Hillary Clinton in this year’s presidential election. Less than two months ago, Barack Obama had a huge lead over John McCain in the polls. Less than a week ago, the smart money was saying that Mitt Romney would be McCain’s choice for vice president.

We don’t need Barack Obama to create "change." Things change in politics, in the economy, and elsewhere in American society, without waiting for a political messiah to lead us into the promised land.

Who would have thought that Obama’s big speech at the Democratic convention would disappoint expectations, while McCain’s speech electrified his audience when he announced his choice of Governor Sarah Palin for his running mate?

Some people were surprised that his choice was a woman. What is more surprising is that she is an articulate Republican. How many of those have you seen?

Despite the incessantly repeated mantra of "change," Barack Obama’s politics is as old as the New Deal and he is behind the curve when it comes to today’s economy.

Senator Obama’s statement that "our economy is in turmoil" is standard stuff on the left and in the mainstream media, which has been dying to use the word "recession."

Not only has the economic slowdown failed to reach the definition of a recession, the most recent data show the U.S. economy growing at a rate exceeding 3 percent– a rate that many European economies would die for, despite our being constantly urged to imitate those countries whose end results are not as good as ours.

Barack Obama’s "change" is a recycling of the kinds of policies and rhetoric of the New Deal that prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s far beyond the duration of any depression before or since.

These are the same kinds of liberal policies that led to double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and rising unemployment during the Carter administration. These are "back to the future" changes to economic disasters that need repeating.

Make no mistake, the political rhetoric of FDR was great. For those who admire political rhetoric, as so many of Barack Obama’s supporters seem to, FDR was tops. For those who go by actual results, FDR’s track record was abysmal.

Although the Great Depression of the 1930s began under Herbert Hoover, unemployment during Hoover’s last year in office was not as high as it became during each of the first five years under FDR.

During the eight years of FDR’s first two terms as president, there were only two years in which unemployment was lower than it had been under Herbert Hoover– and not by much.

World War II has been credited by some with getting the United States out of the Great Depression. What the war did was put an end to the New Deal, as national survival became the top priority and replaced FDR’s anti-business and class warfare rhetoric.

Senator Obama’s rhetoric today is the anti-business and class warfare rhetoric that worked so brilliantly in a political sense for FDR in the 1930s. But Obama is following an opposite course from FDR when it comes to recognizing threats to American national security.

Senator Obama has repeatedly tried to deal with national security threats with rhetoric. He tried to dismiss the threat of a nuclear Iran with because Iran is "a small nation"– even though it is larger than Japan, which launched a devastating attack against the United States at Pearl Harbor.

FDR had the good sense to begin urging greater military preparedness in 1940, more than a year before the United States was attacked. He said, "If you wait until you see the whites of their eyes, you will never know what hit you."

Cutting the military budget and taking foreign policy problems to the United Nations are Obama’s version of "change."

That is change that we dare not believe in. It is the audacity of hype.

Eighty-five thousand cheering fans.  Pyrotechnics.  A dramatic, temple-style backdrop.  Such was the scene in Denver Thursday night as Barack Obama accepted his party’s presidential nomination with “great humility.”  As his deep voice reverberated throughout the massive venue, thousands of eyes welled up with tears of hope and change.  In the sea of faces and waving flags stood a woman by the name of Marilyn Katz.  Like several of the other radicals who populate Obama’s sphere, she once advocated guerilla tactics against police officers and participated in violent riots.  Unlike some of her more infamous counterparts like Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn—who are in self-imposed exile until November 5—Katz is deeply, and officially, involved in Obama’s presidential campaign.

In 1969, an undercover policeman named William Frapolly took the stand at the infamous “Chicago Seven” trials.  Prosecutors asked him to describe his collaboration with organizers of the violent protests that roiled the previous year’s Democratic National Convention.  Frapolly testified that on one chaotic night in Lincoln Park, Ms. Katz briefed a group of protesters on a new addition to their arsenal of anarchy: Guerrilla nails.  “She had two types,” he recounted.  “One was a cluster of nails that were sharpened at both ends, and they were fastened in the center.  It looked like they were welded or soldered.  She said these were good for throwing or putting underneath tires.”

Katz wasn’t just an aggrieved foot soldier in the anti-war movement.  She was the head of security for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a hardcore leftist cabal from which Ayers’ militant Weathermen organization splintered away.  As the SDS security comrade-in-chief, Katz was intimately familiar with the group’s extreme tactics, which were employed repeatedly in clashes with authorities.  Four decades later, Katz has traded in her guerilla nails for manicured nails, and is actively working to elect Barack Obama president.

To be clear, Katz never graduated to the bombs and bullets approach of Ayers, Inc. She also seems to have grown up a bit since her SDS glory days and has cultivated a political consulting career in Obama’s hometown.  Katz has not, however, abandoned her left-wing ideology.  She was one of the principal organizers of a now-famous 2002 antiwar rally at which Barack Obama followed through on the “most gut-wrenching decision” of his entire life by publicly warning against Iraq’s liberation.  Katz has since described the event as Obama’s “coming out…as a public speaker.” This, of course, is not to be confused with his original political coming out party at the Ayers residence in the mid 1990s.

Ever since Obama decided to run for president, he’s been doing his very best to dismiss, deny, and obfuscate his longtime relationship with Ayers and Dohrn.  After all, mainstream politicians don’t often have close working relationships, let alone friendships, with people who once declared war on the United States government.  Katz, on the other hand, appears to have been welcomed into the Obama presidential campaign with open arms.  She serves on his national finance committee, she is listed as a fundraising “bundler” on his website, she has hosted fundraisers for him, and she has personally donated thousands of dollars to the cause.  Katz also traveled to Denver as part of the Illinois delegation last week, serving as a member of the credentials committee. 

There are so many objectionable figures in Obama’s social milieu, new revelations about yet another garden variety radical may elicit shrugs at this point.  How have we arrived at such a place?  His supporters have made it clear that his close ties to unrepentant terrorists—unrepentant terrorists—are no big deal.  In fact, those who raise concerns about the Obama-Ayers nexus are labeled vicious neo-swiftboaters.  So perhaps it follows that someone who preferred lobbing guerilla nails at police over planting pipe bombs in federal buildings would be integrated into Obama’s official campaign apparatus without so much as a second look.  Maybe her slot on the national finance committee was a long-delayed reward for her admirable show of restraint.

When Ayers first became a political liability for Obama, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story entitled, “Who is Bill Ayers?”  In case any readers were foolish enough to think the Ayers connection was a big deal, a voice of reason was quoted to set them straight.  “What Bill Ayers…did forty years ago has nothing to do with” Obama’s presidential run.  The source went on to detail Ayers’ wonderful work in the field of public education.  Who was this great moral authority?  Why, Marilyn Katz, of course—identified as a “political strategist” and a former member of the “peaceful” Students for a Democratic Society.  Leave it to the mainstream media to quote Ms. Guerilla Nails declaring that Mr. Wish-I-had-done-more’s bombings should be irrelevant, while adding that he’s really a swell guy these days.  How reassuring! 

During a break in the cheering on Thursday, Obama chided his opponents for making a “big election” about “small things.”  This was a clear reference to the mini-scandals (Ayers, Rezko, etc.) that continue to nip at his ankles and threaten to become larger headaches.  If only those right-wing hatchet men—to borrow an attack line from Team Obama—would quit mentioning that he’s abided some of America’s most subversive domestic detractors for much of his adult life, he could get on with the people’s business of caring for the sick, slowing the rise of the oceans, and healing America’s soul. 

One can only assume that Marilyn Katz applauded this line from Obama heartily.  If the “small things” like Obama’s alarming associates and hard left voting record can be taken off the table, his path to the White House will be a cakewalk.  There, he and his longtime allies could begin to do some truly big things.   


Abu Dhabi: Monday will be the first day of Ramadan, the UAE moonsighting committee announced on Saturday night. According to the committee, chaired by Hadef Jua’an Al Daheri, Minister of Justice, Sunday will be the last day of Sha’aban and Monday will be the first day of the fasting month. The committee said the Ramadan moon was not sighted on Saturday after using Sharia methods. The crescent was also not sighted after nightfall in neighbouring countries. Ramadan will also begin on Monday in Saudi Arabia, as well as in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt. Libya announced it would start the fasting month from Sunday.


By William Kristol

A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington–the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.

That spectre has a name–Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska chosen by John McCain on Friday to be his running mate. There she is: a working woman who’s a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who’s broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who’s a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who’s a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who’s a leader.

So what we will see in the next days and weeks–what we have already seen in the hours after her nomination–is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise this spectre. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

That’s why Palin’s spectacular performance in her introduction in Dayton was so important. Her remarks were cogent and compelling. Her presentation of herself was shrewd and savvy. I heard from many who watched Palin–many of them not predisposed to support her–about how moved they were by her remarks, her composure, and her story. She will have a chance to shine again Wednesday night at the Republican convention.

But before and after that, she’ll be swimming in political waters infested with sharks. Her nickname when she was the starting point guard on an Alaska high school championship basketball team was "Sarah Barracuda." I suspect she’ll take care of herself better than many expect.

But the McCain campaign can help. The choice of Palin was McCain’s own. Many of his staff expected, and favored, other more conventional candidates. The campaign may be tempted to overreact when one rash sentence or foolish comment by Palin from 10 or 15 years ago is dragged up by Democratic opposition research and magnified by a credulous and complicit media.

The McCain campaign will have to keep its cool. It will have to provide facts and context, and to hit back where appropriate. But it cannot become obsessed with playing defense. It should allow Palin to deal with the charges directly and resist the temptation to try to shield her from the media. Palin is potentially a huge asset to McCain. He took the gamble–wisely, we think–of putting her on the ticket. McCain’s choice of Palin was McCain being McCain. Now his campaign will have to let Palin be Palin.

There will be rocky moments. But they will fade if the McCain campaign lets Palin’s journey take its natural course over the next two months. Millions of Americans–mostly but not only women, mostly but not only Republicans and conservatives–seemed to get a sense of energy and enjoyment and pride, not just from her nomination, but especially from her smashing opening performance. Palin will be a compelling and mold-breaking example for lots of Americans who are told every day that to be even a bit conservative or Christian or old-fashioned is bad form. In this respect, Palin can become an inspirational figure and powerful symbol. The left senses this, which is why they want to discredit her quickly.

A key moment for Palin will be the vice presidential debate, to be held at Washington University in St. Louis on October 2. One liberal commentator–a former U.S. ambassador and not normally an unabashed vulgarian–licked his chops Friday afternoon: "To steal an old adage of former Secretary of State James Baker .  .  . putting Sarah Palin into a debate with Joe Biden is going to be like throwing Howdy Doody into a knife fight!"

Charming. And if Palin holds her own against Biden, as she is fully capable of doing? McCain will then have succeeded in combining with his own huge advantage in experience and judgment, a politician of great promise in his vice presidential slot who will make Joe Biden look like a tiresome relic. McCain’s willingness to take a chance on Palin could turn what looked, after Obama’s impressive speech Thursday night in Denver, like a long two months for Republicans and conservatives, into a campaign of excitement and–dare we say it?–hope, which will culminate on November 4 in victory.


Coalition special operations teams captured three Hezbollah Brigades operatives during raids inside Baghdad. The captures are the latest in an effort to dismantle the Iranian-backed terror group in Baghdad.

The Hezbollah Brigades operatives were captured in New Baghdad after Coalition forces received "sensitive intelligence" from other members of the group currently in custody. The information identified the location of a cell leader who "conspires with several known Khata’ib Hezbollah criminals" and was behind the deadly June 4 improvised rocket-assisted mortar, or IRAM, attack in the Sha’ab neighborhood in the Baghdad district of Adhamiyah. The attack, which was thought to be directed at a US forward operating base, killed 18 Iraqis and wounded 29 after the rockets detonated prematurely and fell short. The cell leader was among those captured.

Twenty Hezbollah Brigades operatives have been captured in Baghdad over the past two months. On Aug. 26, Coalition forces captured two operatives in Baghdad, including a propaganda facilitator who was "involved editing and posting of attack videos against Coalition and Iraqi forces."

Coalition forces captured two Hezbollah Brigades operatives in New Baghdad on Aug. 22. One of the men was a propaganda expert who was "believed to have uploaded more than 30 attack videos to the criminal ring’s now-defunct web site." One such website,, was deactivated by the Hezbollah Brigades after the group realized the site administrator was captured, a public affairs officer from Multinational Forces Iraq told The Long War Journal.

Other Hezbollah Brigades websites are active, Multinational Forces Iraq told The Long War Journal. "As more of these propaganda experts are captured, we learn of more web sites," the public affairs officer stated. "[Hezbollah Brigades] criminals have also been known to use video sharing web sites already in existence."

The Long War Journal has traced two Hezbollah Brigades videos that have been uploaded on Live Leak, a web-based video sharing site. The group has posted the July 8 IRAM attack on Joint Security Station Ur in northeastern Baghdad on Live Leak. One US soldier and one interpreter were wounded after eight of these makeshift "flying IEDs" detonated near the outpost. Shia terror groups have launched a handful of IRAM attacks on US and Iraqi outposts in Baghdad. Hezbollah Brigades also posted video of an attack on a US patrolwith an Iranian-supplied, armor-piercing, explosively formed projectile, or EFP, on Live Leak.

In the largest series of raid, Coalition forces captured nine Hezbollah Brigades operatives in Baghdad on Aug. 12. Among those captured were a commander in Basrah, an IRAM specialist, and several propaganda cell members. On July 31, Coalition forces detained a cell member who was responsible for videotaping attacks on US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. On July 21, Coalition forces captured a member of a Hezbollah Brigades propaganda cell who was responsible for uploading attack videos to the Internet in New Baghdad.

Background on the Hezbollah Brigades

The US military says Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have helped establish, fund, train, and arm and have provided operational support for various Shia terror groups such as the Hezbollah Brigades and the Army of the Righteous. These groups train in camps inside Iran and, prior to operations against the Mahdi Army and the Shia terror groups during the spring and summer of this year, in camps in southern Iraq.

In these camps, the Hezbollah Brigades and the Special Groups receive training on a variety of small arms and explosives. "The training includes how to conduct reconnaissance to pinpoint targets, small arms and weapons training, small unit tactics and terrorist cell operations and communications," The Associated Press reportedearlier this month. Training on the use of EFPs, armor-piercing RPG-29s, and various explosives and assassination techniques is also given.

Not mentioned in the AP article is that the Qods Force and Hezbollah are also providing training on the building and use of IRAMs.

The Hezbollah Brigades receives support from Iran and is an “offshoot of Iranian-trained Special Groups," Sergeant Susan James, a Public Affairs NCO for Multinational Forces Iraq told The Long War Journal in July, when the group first emerged on the Iraqi scene. The US military has referred to the Iranian-backed elements of the Mahdi Army as the Special Groups. The Hezbollah Brigades is described as "a separate and independent organization from Special Groups,” said James.

“We believe that Hezbollah Brigades does receive support from Iran,” James said. “That support likely includes funding, training, logistics, and material.” Iran’s Qods Force funds, trains, arms, and supports Mahdi Army operatives to facilitate attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces. "They are also believed to receive guidance or direction from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force," Multinational Forces Iraq stated in the latest press release on the capture of nine Hezbollah Brigades operatives in Baghdad.

The logo used by the Hezbollah Brigades is nearly an exact match of the one used by Lebanese Hezbollah, which is directly supported by Iran. The logo shows an arm extended vertically, with the fist grasping an AK-47 assault rifle.

US forces captured Ali Mussa Daqduq inside Iraq in early 2007. Daqduq is a senior Hezbollah commander who was tasked with setting up the Mahdi Army Special Groups along the same lines as the Lebanese terror group.

Other senior Qods Force operatives have been captured inside Iraq, including one of the Qods Force’s regional commanders inside Iraq.

Earlier this week, US forces captured an operative who was described as being "part of the most senior social and operational circles of Special Groups." The raid occurred at Baghdad International Airport as the operative got off a plane from Lebanon.

"The man has been known to travel in and out of Iraq to neighboring nations including Iran and Lebanon, where it is believed he meets and helps run the Iranian-backed Special Groups in Iraq," Multinational Forces-Iraq reported in a press release.

The Iraqi and US media later reported that Ali al Lami, the head of Iraq’s de-Baathification committee, was the Special Groups leader detained at the airport. Al Lami is a member of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi’s political party. Chalabi, the former oil minister and deputy prime minister during the interim government, has been accused of providing intelligence to Iran after he fell out of favor with the US and his party failed to win a seat in parliament.

MA man holds a sign reading "Insecurity" at a demonstration Saturday in Tijuana, Mexico.

A POS Mexican man holds a sign reading "Insecurity" at a demonstration Saturday in Tijuana, Mexico.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) — Tens of thousands of frustrated Mexicans, many carrying pictures of kidnapped loved ones, marched across the country Saturday to demand authorities act to stop a relentless tide of killings, abductions and shootouts.

The mass protests were a challenge to the government of President Felipe Calderon, who has made fighting crime a priority and deployed more than 25,000 soldiers and federal police to wrest territory from powerful drug cartels.

A sea of white-clad demonstrators carrying candles filled the 4 kilometer- (21/2 mile-) route between the Mexico City’s Angel of Independence monument and the main Zocalo square.

The government estimated the crowd in the nation’s capital at 50,000 shortly after the march began, but thousands continued to pour into the streets.

Thousands more marched in other cities across the country.

Romana Quintera, 72, wore a photograph of her baby grandson who was kidnapped for ransom five years ago when gunmen burst into her home and killed her niece. Two people have been imprisoned for the attack, but they have refused to reveal the boy’s fate, and Quintera said investigators have given up on the case.

"We’re desperate. We’ve been fighting for five years. We want an answer," she said, holding back tears. "We ask authorities with all our heart to be more sensitive. Maybe nothing like this has happened to them, or they would be more sensitive."

Despite the arrest of several drug kingpins, little has improved the ground since the Calderon government began its crackdown.

Homicides have surged as drug cartels battle each other for control of trafficking routes and stage vicious attacks against police nearly each day. In the gang-plagued border state of Chihuahua alone, there have been more than 800 killings this year, double the number during the same period last year.

This week, a dozen headless bodies were found in the Yucatan Peninsula, home to Mexico’s most popular beach resort, Cancun.

Saturday’s protests were inspired by the abduction and murder of the 14-year-old son of a wealthy businessman. The case provoked an outcry when prosecutors said a police detective was a key participant in the abduction for ransom.

The boy’s father, Alejandro Marti, called on top government officials to quit if they could not stem the crime wave. His challenge became a rally cry at the march, where many held up signs with his words: "If you can’t, resign."

The first to arrive for the protest was the family of 24-year-old Monica Alejandrina Ramirez, who was kidnapped on in 2004 and has not been heard from since. Video Watch marches at more than 70 cities across Mexico »

Hours before the march began, the family stood silently beneath the independence monument, holding up large banners with her picture. Some colleagues of her mother, a circus performer, walked on stilts and wore clown wigs to help draw attention.

"The most frustrating thing has been the indolence of many of the authorities, their insensitivity," said her father, Manuel Ramirez Juarez, a family doctor. "I have often asked myself, why? Why me? Why my daughter?"

Having staked his presidency on improving security, Calderon responded to the rising anger by summoning governors and mayors to a national security meeting, drawing up a a 74-point anti-crime plan.

It included plans for better police recruiting and oversight systems, as well as an anti-kidnapping strategy within six months. The Defense Department promised to equip police with more powerful automatic weapons.

"This a cancer that we are going to eradicate," Calderon promised during a televised address Monday. But he urged patience, warning that rooting out drug gangs and bringing security to the streets would not happen by decree.

Neither will cleaning up and bolstering Mexico‘s police.

In some northern towns, officers complain of having to share guns, and many have quit in terror after seeing colleagues killed in front of their homes.

More than half of Mexico’s state and municipal police officers have only a primary education, making it difficult for them to aspire to the highest ranks and salaries. Many are tempted to join the payrolls of criminal gangs.

Police are "illiterate, sick, fat, old and corrupt," said Herberto Ortega, public safety secretary in Aguascalientes, a small state north of Mexico City. "That’s why their response time during operations is slow."


By Colonel Kenneth Allard (US Army, ret.)

Editor’s Note: As usual, FSM readers today have the opportunity to read Ken Allard’s column, which is presented here just as he prepared it earlier this week for the San Antonio Express News. Unfortunately, the Express-News informed him on Wednesday that – allegedly for budgetary reasons – they would no longer be publishing his column.

We cannot, of course, comment on what other agendas may have been at work, although Ken has been outspoken in his criticism of the mainstream media – particularly the New York Times. As FSM readers know very well, Ken has a nasty habit of telling the truth, regardless of Democrat or Republican spin machines. We are proud to present to our readers – in San Antonio and around the country – a column that you would not have otherwise had the chance to read.

It is a classic line from a forgettable movie, a bygone era when Hollywood was joyfully even-handed. In the 1940 film Ghost Breakers, Claudette Colbert and Bob Hope are discussing zombies, those soulless, hollow-eyed creatures who blindly follow pointless orders. Hope deadpans, "You mean like Democrats"?

Actually, yes! As part of this newspaper’s convention coverage, and while trying to be equally unfair to both parties, let me invite your attention to the recently rediscovered issue of national security. And to make certain that you catch my drift, let me underline the argument presented here and repeated next week: Both parties, in their own ways and for their own less-than-noble ends, placed narrow constituency interests ahead of their overriding responsibility to provide for the common defense.

The living memories are fading rapidly but presidents like Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson once made Democrats almost synonymous with national security. Vietnam partly shattered that consensus but things really got crazy after the Russians threw in the towel. Thereafter, it was only a short step from opposing Vietnam to squandering the peace dividend, never once conceding that peace had been the real dividend all along. Profligate peace-keeping under Bill Clinton was a temporary palliative for a confusing multi-polar world, although we studiously ignored genocide in Rwanda and overlooked four years of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia before intervening.

Along the way, a new Democrat generation apparently bought into an unspoken canon: that national security is not their party’s core competency; that diplomacy and negotiations are the be-all of statecraft (although launching cruise missiles is sometimes permissible for signaling sore displeasure in non-confrontational ways); that defense budgets are, always and forever, needless diversions from social spending; above all, that retreat and withdrawal are the hallmarks of great statesmanship.

In 2006, the Democrats were finally able to put their West Wing instincts into practice after winning control of Congress. The nation clearly had ample grounds for frustration with the war policies of the Bush administration. But within days, Donald Rumsfeld had been dismissed, his policies reversed and Gen. David Petraeus appointed to lead the surge, a last-ditch attempt to prevent defeat, debacle and bloodbath in Iraq.

In his new book, The Strongest Tribe, former Marine grunt and war correspondent Bing West documents the turn-around which gained remarkable momentum throughout 2007. The strongest tribe in Iraq turned out to be the Americans, who finally arrived in the numbers and with the strategy capable of taking the deadly fight to al Qaeda – where it was always meant to be.

But West also recounts virulent opposition by a pantheon of Congressional Democrats. Chairman John Murtha, the kind of backroom-dealing politician "the mainstream press ordinarily despised" but lionized because of his anti-war stance; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who essentially called Petraeus a liar; even Sen. Joseph Biden, who said of the surge as recently as last September, "I give the strategy zero chance of succeeding. Zero." No matter how brilliantly Petraeus and his soldiers succeeded, the Democrats acted as if permanently stuck-on-stupid.

West argues that their attacks went far beyond policy disagreements, even permitting the "anti-military venom of the Vietnam era" to reappear and pollute an already difficult political dialogue. He mercilessly lays out why Democrat ambitions for 2008 ruled out any possibility of bipartisan cooperation in 2007: "There would be no compromise when rigid opposition garnered more votes for the presidency."

Opposition is one thing, governing another. A President Obama may find that his party’s protracted record of silliness on national security issues is a huge handicap when dealing with the crises surely confronting the next administration. Two notable and local exceptions are Congressmen Charles Gonzales and Ciro Rodriguez, who deeply

understand those cutting-edge issues (border security, cyber defenses and interoperability). Better yet: neither permitted opposition to the war to override deep-seated concerns for soldiers, veterans or their families.

Those are important first principles if the Democrats truly understand that a new consensus on national security is fundamental if they are ever to be trusted with governance – and inevitably judged by performance.


By Noah Shachtman

 The Defense Department is trying all kinds of tricks to prevent, cope with and measure concussive blasts to troops’ heads — from helmet-mounted sensors to pressure-sensitive crystals to Reiki. So maybe it was only a matter of time before the military turned to the NFL’s gear-makers, who know a thing or two about hits to the dome.

Helmet manufacturer Riddell was "asked by military personnel in February to improve the Army’s Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH)," PopSci notes.  "Adapting the dual density foam at the heart of its Revolution football helmet, Riddell claims the new padding reduces impact magnitudes by 50 percent."

Meanwhile, Xenith LLC has developed a helmet, the X1, which "relies on 18 thermoplastic shock absorbers filled with nothing but air that adapt depending how hard someone gets hit."

Push down lightly and the air flows out smoothly … but slam down on the pump and it resists compression…. Traditional padding can only compress to its material thickness, but the shock absorber can expel all the air and fold completely flat. Like trying to stop a car in 100 yards instead of just 10.

Dr. Robert Cantu of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the nation’s leading experts in concussion management, tells The New York Times that the X1 is “the greatest advance in helmet design in at least 30 years.” Dr. Gerry Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist who directs the concussion program at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, says the X1 could “take helmet protection to a whole new level.”

[Photo: Besportier]

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