24 October, 2007


My wife is through her surgery, back home, recovering. All went well.

I'm more than a little tired. I'll get back to this when I can.

12 October, 2007

Pettiness (and stupidity) reaches new lows

Who did he think he was fooling? And why would he care?

There's a saying: Once a cheater, always a cheater. And now former Mexican presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo has proven that he exemplifies that saying perfectly. On Sept. 30, he completed the 26.2-mile Berlin Marathon in an astonishingly fast time of 2 hours, 41 minutes, and 12 seconds (or 6 minutes, 9 seconds, per mile). That time gave him a first-place finish in the men's age-55 category, a lot better than his humiliating third-place finish in Mexico's presidential election last year.

But the electronic tracking chip that runners wear on their shoes showed that Madrazo hadn't crossed two checkpoints and that he apparently ran a nine-mile stretch in just 21 minutes. (The world record for running 15,000 meters—or 9.3 miles—is 41 minutes, 29 seconds.)

ISN on failed opportunities

With a new study decrying the failure of efforts to counter al-Qaida, and the White House acknowledging that the movement is building strength, a fundamental rethink is required.

Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers (Wikipedia)
Image: Wikipedia

Commentary by Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch (11/10/07)

The White House acknowledged this week that al-Qaida was building strength, giving weight to a think tank study's finding that the so-called "war on terror" has proved disastrous.

An Oxford Research Group report released this week argues that the decision to attack the Taliban was a mistake that directly benefited al-Qaida while creating a security vacuum in Afghanistan.

The report goes on to argue that the detention of tens of thousands without charge in Iraq, widespread abuse of prisoners and the CIA's extraordinary renditions program have all contributed significantly to the rising popularity of extremist groups.

The limitations of counterterrorism measures in combating al-Qaida have been underlined by the effective disappearance of the movement's leadership in the wake of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan - acknowledged in the White House report - and failure of greatly bolstered intelligence agency efforts to achieve consistent successes.

The release of the White House assessment appeared timed to coincide with congressional debate on a law sponsored by the George W Bush administration cementing domestic security agencies' right to expel illegal migrants and conduct telephone and e-mail surveillance without warrants where citizens are believed to be consorting with foreign militants.

According to reports, the US lost a significant window on al-Qaida activities last month with the precipitous leak to the media of a 20-minute Osama Bin Laden video passed on to the US government by the private intelligence firm SITE, which has been monitoring jihadi media traffic.

Firm founder Rita Katz told the Washington Post this week that the "[t]echniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless." The video had yet to be loaded onto al-Qaida-linked sites when it appeared on Fox News, alerting the group that its internet network had been compromised.

09 October, 2007

It's not just Americans who hire contractors

From the Canada Press:

OTTAWA - The Foreign Affairs Department quietly relies on a host of private security contractors to protect Canadian embassies and diplomats across the globe - a small army that needs more supervision, say opposition critics and defence experts.

The call for more oversight follows an incident last month involving the U.S. security firm Blackwater, in which 11 Iraqis died.

Canada has only employed the controversial security contractor to train members of the Canadian Forces and has not used Blackwater for embassy or dignitary protection.

However 2006 federal public account records show a handful of other U.S. and British security corporations working in Iraq have separate protection contracts with Canada for work in other countries.

Precisely what kind of service is provided by firms such as the ArmourGroup of the United Kingdom, and subsidiaries of Wackenhut Security Systems, which ran afoul of U.S. lawmakers over private prisons, isn't clear.

There are also questions about a $456,000 contract Canada's former ambassador to Kabul signed last year with Saladin Afghanistan Security Ltd.

Documents released under the Access to Information law show the agreement, which ran from June 2006 until June 2007, was to provide a quick reaction force to protect the embassy and the army's Strategic Advisor Team - both based in the Afghan capital.

Despite repeated requests for comment last week, a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said Friday no one was available to answer questions about security arrangements.

Professionals study logistics

What would it take to exit from Iraq?

From the Washington Times, October 7, 2007:

Arnaud de Borchgrave - Watching them drive by at 30 miles per hour, would take 75 days. Bumper-to-bumper, they would stretch from New York City to Denver. That's how U.S. Air Force logistical expert Lenny Richoux described the number of vehicles that would have to be shipped back from Iraq when the current deployment is over. These include, among others, 10,000 flatbed trucks, 1,000 tanks and 20,000 Humvees.

Even in an emergency, said Col. Richoux in DefenseNews, the evacuation of 162,000 troops in 23 ground combat brigades and millions of tons of equipment would take some 20 months. Military shipping containers, end to end, would stretch from New York City to the gates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The main resupply route for convoys that runs 344 miles from Kuwait (skirts Basra to the north) to Baghdad is already under the constant threat of hit-and-run insurgency attacks, including improvised explosive devices. Driving empty, on their way back to pick up another load in Kuwait, convoys are just as vulnerable.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the military has some 300,000 "heavy" items that would have to be shipped back, such as ice-cream machines that churn out different flavors upon request at a dozen bases throughout the California-size country. And before it can be loaded onto ships, equipment has to be scrubbed clean to conform to U.S. Agriculture Department regulations. The U.S. maintains some 200 wash points in Kuwait. Helicopters have to be shrinkwrapped.

Clearly any major withdrawal from Iraq would have to be a phased operation and some equipment would have to be destroyed or transferred to the new Iraqi army. Since the first Gulf war (1990-91), the U.S. Military Sealift Command has acquired a fleet of 18 large, roll-on/roll-off ships, each nearly the size of an aircraft carrier, capable of carrying more than 300,000 square feet of cargo. Eight of these ships are normally assigned to MSC's Afloat Prepositioning Ship Squadron, loaded with Army equipment and supplies in the Indian Ocean theater ready to meet up with troops flown in to an emergency situation in the Gulf region.

MSC cargo ships make regular runs to Iraq from San Diego and Jacksonville, Fla. For the first two years of the war, units were rotated in and out of theater with all their equipment. Thus, the 5,200-strong 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's equipment — 300 armored vehicles, 57 aircraft, 900 trucks and Humvees — made the trip from Fort Carson to Kuwait three times before the Pentagon changed back to the Gulf war I and Vietnam War system of leaving the heavy stuff for the incoming replacement unit.

And this assumes no unpleasant surprises, and no war with Iran.

Another attack? : )

From the Global Security Newswire's "quote of the day":

It’s the hottest thing we make. We are very proud of this dish. It is home cooked and the customers love it.

—Thai Cottage owner Sue Wasboonma, after smoke from a chili-based specialty produced by the restaurant sparked fears of a chemical attack in London’s Soho district.