Friday, April 27, 2007

Afghan Massacre: Criminal Charges Expected Against Marines

UPDATE - April 27, 2007 - Editor's note: I posting at the the secondary blog(also see some new articles below).

See older articles at the overflow blog
April 27, 2007

Criminal Charges Are Expected Against Marines, Official Says

The Marine Corps is expecting criminal charges against at least five marines from a Special Operations unit that killed 10 civilians in eastern Afghanistan last month after a suicide bomb attack on their patrol convoy, a marine official said yesterday.

Marine and civilian lawyers involved in the case have been told to expect charges against five to seven marines involved in the shootings, possibly including one officer, said the marine official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official added that a formal inquiry by naval investigators is continuing and could result in fewer or no marines being charged. The official declined to provide the names or ranks of those likely to be charged.



US Admits Killing Iraqi Women and Children in Baghdad Airstrike

Iraqi civilians believed dead in US strike-military

26 Apr 2007 10:17:15 GMT

More BAGHDAD, April 26 (Reuters) - Two Iraqi women and two children were believed to have been killed in a U.S. air strike aimed at al Qaeda militants north of Baghdad on Thursday, the U.S. military said.

Soldiers were searching buildings near Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, for a car bomb network with links to al Qaeda when they came under small arms fire, a military statement said.

The soldiers called in an air strike and four insurgents were killed.

"Additionally, coalition forces believe that two women and two children were also killed during the strike," the statement said. "The bodies were left on the site."

No other details were immediately available.

"Unfortunately, al Qaeda in Iraq continues to use women and children in their illegal activities," U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver said in the statement.

The military said explosives and weapons were also found in the building.

The U.S. military rarely admits killing Iraqi civilians in strikes against suspected insurgents. It says insurgents often place women and children in harm's way with their activities.

Bad Apples Fall in Bunches

By Stephen Barr

Friday, April 27, 2007; D04

Ugly. That's how to sum up this week for federal employees.

On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office reported that federal employees in the Washington area had abused the federal transit benefits program, defrauding the government of at least $17 million a year.

A day later, the Senate Finance Committee sounded an alarm about tax deadbeats who work or once worked for the government. About 450,000 government workers and retirees owe about $3 billion in back taxes, the committee said.

In both instances, the fault-finding was bipartisan. The GAO probe was requested by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) last year, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) chaired the hearing that aired the transit fraud. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking minority member, joined in a letter to President Bush urging him to remind government employees and retirees of their tax obligations.

Federal employees are embarrassed by these reports. Most government workers are straight arrows, and all large organizations have their share of bad apples. The Internal Revenue Service, for example, has noted in past years that the tax compliance rate for federal employees is somewhat better than the rate for all Americans.

Still, this week's numbers look bad, Paul C. Light, a New York University professor who once was a Senate Democratic staff member, said yesterday. "Federal employees should be appropriately ashamed of the bad behavior of some of their colleagues," he said.

The two cases jeopardize support for the federal service from Democrats and Republicans, Light said, adding that they also "undermine the case for pay increases equivalent to the military in the future for federal employees."

Some participants in Wednesday's Federal Diary Live on expressed concern that the abuse will undermine the transit subsidy program, which was started as a way to reduce smog by encouraging federal employees to use mass transit.

"I hope this report doesn't lead to the reduction or elimination of this important benefit," one participant wrote.

The transit subsidies go to 300,000 federal employees nationwide. In its probe, GAO found that transit vouchers, worth up to $105 a month during the period under review, had been sold on eBay or passed along to others. Agencies had handed out transit subsidies to employees who had free parking spaces, no longer worked for the government or never worked for the government.

The GAO's report, prepared by Gregory D. Kutz and John J. Ryan, included eight examples of illegal use of the subsidies. Half of the cases involved highly paid workers -- General Schedule 14 employees earning more than $93,800. One of the GS-14 employees, a technology specialist at the IRS, admitted selling Metrocheks, as the voucher is known here, on eBay, and also acknowledged stealing agency computers to sell on the Internet. He was indicted on charges of theft of government property in February, GAO said.

The transit fraud is especially troubling because federal employees received warnings about misuse of government-issued credit cards in 2000 and 2001. At that time, GAO found numerous federal employees buying clothing, jewelry, eyeglasses and pet supplies -- all for personal use.

With help from the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies have tightened their controls over travel and purchase cards. Agency officials told Coleman and Levin that they would take steps to hold down abuse of transit subsidies.

Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the government cannot tolerate fraud. But, he said, "the reality of 300,000 people receiving benefits is that someone is likely to do something wrong. That does not mean the benefit for the vast majority should be lost."

Talk Shows

Venetia Bell, lawyer and mediator; Angelia C. Richardson, director of the civil rights office at the National Endowment for the Arts; Dexter Brooks, federal training and outreach coordinator at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and Michelle A. Gavalek, associate executive director of the Federal Dispute Resolution Conference, will be the guests on "FedTalk" at 11 a.m. today on and WFED radio (1050 AM).

Jonathan Scharfen, deputy director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. Saturday on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

Stephen Barr's e-mail address

Justice Dept. Won't Release All Documents Lawmakers Seek

Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

After releasing nearly 6,000 pages of documents related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, the Justice Department says it is drawing the line.

In a letter sent last night to the Senate and House Judiciary committees, Justice gave a list of 171 documents it is withholding from Congress because they involve "congressional and media inquiries" about the dismissals, seven of which occurred Dec. 7.

According to descriptions on the list, Justice will hold e-mails plotting media strategies, draft letters to Capitol Hill, various memoranda and "discussions" related to conversations between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and lawmakers.

One e-mail from D. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's then-chief of staff, focuses on a hotly disputed meeting in December between Gonzales and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). Pryor has said he felt lied to by Gonzales because the attorney general had assured him that Justice had no plans to circumvent Senate confirmation for a new U.S. attorney in Little Rock. Subsequent documents show that such a plan was discussed by Gonzales's aides before and after the Pryor meeting. Gonzales has said he opposed the idea.

The records also indicate that senior Justice officials, including Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, spent a great deal of time critiquing press coverage. The department chose to release a handful of e-mails focused on two stories in the New York Times and The Washington Post in early March.

-- Dan Eggen

NASA Chief Improperly Destroyed Tapes of Meeting, Lawmaker Says

By Marc Kaufman

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin held an unusual meeting with the staff of the inspector general who oversees his agency and then ordered that video recordings of the meeting be destroyed, a House panel said yesterday.

In a letter to Griffin, the chairman of the Science and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight demanded an explanation from the NASA administrator and accused him of improperly trying to influence the watchdog office's decisions on what it should investigate.

In addition, the letter from Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said the order to destroy the meeting tapes, which was issued by NASA's chief of staff, "appears on its face to be nothing less than the destruction of evidence."

In a response yesterday, NASA spokesman David Mould said that the meeting was proper, and was a way for Griffin to discuss outstanding issues with the inspector general's staff and to express support for a strong watchdog office.

He also said NASA's chief of staff had ordered that the meeting not be recorded, but that it was anyway. As a result, he said, the agency's general counsel advised that any recordings be destroyed.

Griffin's meeting included NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb, who has been at the center of a controversy over his close relationship with Griffin's predecessor, Sean O'Keefe, and over his temperamental management style. A report early this month by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which oversees the government's corps of inspectors general, concluded that Cobb had abused his authority in his treatment of his staff and appeared to lack the requisite independence from top NASA officials.

After highlights of the report were made public early this month, Griffin defended Cobb, concluding that he needs training in management skills but should not be fired. In a letter to the integrity council in March, Griffin wrote that the investigation of Cobb had not found "any actual conflict of interest or actual lack of independence on his part."

Miller, chairman of the oversight subcommittee, wrote in his letter to Griffin: "Your role in disciplining and defending Mr. Cobb has eroded any vestige of independence for Mr. Cobb or, indeed, his own staff."

Miller wrote: "We have been told that your presentation to (the inspector general's) staff was no simple pep talk. Allegations have come to us that you told staff what you thought was worthwhile work and what was not."

If true, he wrote, Griffin's behavior would be "unprecedented and highly improper."

Under the Inspector General Act of 1978, the president appoints independent officials to monitor every Cabinet department and the larger federal agencies through audits and investigations.

Before he was appointed NASA's inspector general in 2002, Cobb spent 15 months as an adviser on ethics and conflicts of interest to then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales. Cobb quickly became a target of criticism from NASA whistle-blowers and members of his staff. Some complained that he had dropped investigations of serious safety concerns and that his mercurial behavior drove experienced auditors and investigators from the office.

In his letter, Miller said his staff had been told that five compact discs containing video of the April 10 meeting were delivered for destruction to the office of Michael C. Wholley, NASA's general counsel. The letter said the existence of the discs suggested that the recording may still exist on a NASA server and asked that the contents be handed over to the subcommittee.

Miller also asked for all records regarding Griffin's "determination" that Cobb had not abused his authority, the April 10 meeting and the decision to destroy the video recording. In an April 23 letter to Miller's panel, NASA Assistant Administrator Brian E. Chase wrote that the agency had looked for remaining copies of the video but had not found any.

On whose side is Al-Qaeda?

Tension between the national resistance in Iraq and Al-Qaeda mounts as the latter makes a bid for power monopoly, writes Lamis Andoni

Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq has signalled the beginning of an offensive that sets it apart from Iraqi resistance groups in a brazen and violent struggle not only against foreign occupation but also and mainly for power in Iraq.

If Al-Qaeda was responsible, as it claims, for the suicide bombing at the Iraqi parliament, the attack represents its most daring act yet aimed at asserting a monopoly of representation of Iraqis. The bombing, as much as it shattered the American security plan, signals that Al-Qaeda has embarked on an irreversible path of wrestling for power even before a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

While various Iraqi resistance groups have always differed with Al-Qaeda's tactics and actions, trying at the same time to avoid an all-out confrontation with the transnational organisation, the so- called Islamic State of Iraq is declaring war on all who do not conform to its ambitions.

The struggle between resistance groups and Al-Qaeda rose to surface when the Islamic Army, a prominent resistance group, issued a strong-worded statement condemning Al-Qaeda's actions and calling on Osama Bin Laden to personally intervene to rein-in Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The assassination of 1920 Revolution Brigades leader Harith Dhaher Khamis Al-Dhari, nephew of the influential Muslim Scholars Association leader Sheikh Harith Al-Dhari, on 27 March, reportedly in an Al-Qaeda ambush, sent shockwaves across resistance groups, especially that it followed the killing of at least 30 fighters from the Islamic Army.

"Al-Qaeda has actually killed a number of Mujahideen brothers, 30 of them so far, and also attacked other resistance groups, clashing with the 1920 Revolution Brigades, battles with which break out from time to time until now in Abu Ghraib. Most recently Al-Qaeda killed one of its field commanders, Brother Harith Dhaher Al-Dhari," the statement said.

"Al-Qaeda has also killed members of the Army of the Mujahideen resistance organisation and members of the Ansar Al-Sunna resistance group. Al-Qaeda has also threatened the Islamic Front," the statement added.

Differences between Al-Qaeda's Islamic State in Iraq and the resistance have been simmering ever since Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia declared an Islamic state with Abu Omar Baghdadi named "prince of the faithful". That dramatic move, replete with an armed parade, was witnessed with alarm across the Sunni political community and the resistance alike. While staking its claim over the leadership and future of Iraq, it was not expected that Al-Qaeda would move so quickly into eliminating its opponents and demanding total allegiance.

The Islamic Army and other resistance groups, even those with close coordinating ties with Al-Qaeda, refuse the logic of being subordinated to the Islamic State of Iraq's self-proclaimed leader. Sources close to both the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades say it is now obvious that Al-Qaeda is vying for unrivaled control over the resistance.

Differences over the agenda and leadership of the resistance are not new, but the death of Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi brought such differences to the fore.

"We were hoping that the resistance could continue coordinating with Al-Qaeda in the battlefield and postpone any conflict until later," a source close to the 1920 Revolution Brigades recalls. The declaration of the Islamic State and ensuing threats to resistance fighters and leaders made it clear that Al-Qaeda was looking neither for coordination nor a coalition. "Al-Qaeda saw no room for other agendas but one -- its own," the source said.

Following the assassination of Al-Dhari, the 1920 Revolution Brigade and the Dhari tribe tried to contain the incident, as the resistance "should not be dragged into dangerous confrontations with Al-Qaeda", according to at least two sources close to the resistance. Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq, however, was deterred neither by alarmed reactions nor attempts to contact its leadership in Iraq. The Islamic Army broke its silence once Al-Qaeda's attacks against Sunni civilians, mosques, imams, and even "demanding money" from families in return for protection, became the rule, not the exception.

"The Sunni population has thus become a 'legitimate target' for them, in particular the wealthy, who are told that either they must pay what Al-Qaeda wants or they will be killed, and they strive to kill anyone who criticises them or differs with them and exposes their errors, regarding this as a simple matter," the Islamic Army said.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Islamic Army spokesman Ibrahim Al-Shammari said that while at the beginning -- at the onset of the US occupation -- the Islamic Army maintained field coordination with Al-Qaeda, differences had grown to the point where it was impossible "to tolerate Al-Qaeda actions, which have been very damaging to the resistance".

Different resistance groups, especially Islamic- based groups, had initially accepted Al-Qaeda's role, which they saw as impressively efficient and painful for occupation forces. Salafi-based groups, like Ansar Al-Sunna, and some members of the other groups, embraced Al-Qaeda and hailed "the Muslim Mujahideen who came to liberate Iraq." Al-Qaeda was welcomed into the fold of the Majles Al-Shura (Consultative Council) that includes seven factions, though its attempts to control the council or impose its agenda were repeatedly rejected.

The resistance, according to different sources close to the movement, saw the advantage of Al-Qaeda's military attacks against the occupation forces but felt the damage done by its sectarian rhetoric and deadly assaults against Iraqi civilians.

A debate has been ongoing about targeting the Iraqi army and police, and Iraqis involved in the American-sponsored political process. In his Al-Jazeera interview, Al-Shammari rejected considering the Iraqi army, the police and Iraqis in parliament as legitimate targets. The same position is held by the 1920 Revolution Brigades and other Sunni leaders.

Now, as dramatically demonstrated in the parliament bombing, Al-Qaeda's Islamic State in Iraq is going out on its own. Reports from Baghdad also suggest an increasing number of attacks by Al-Qaeda on resistance groups, its leaders and districts that don't submit to its control.

While Al-Qaeda's influence has decreased in most of Al-Anbar, following the establishment of the Anbar Salvation Council and local/tribal police forces "to combat terrorism", it exerts total control in certain enclaves such as Al-Karma, a small town near Fallujah, by directly administering schools, hospitals and all movement.

"People and the resistance are finding themselves targets of the occupation and government forces on the one hand, and Al-Qaeda's Islamic State in Iraq on the other," an Iraqi journalist told Al-Ahram Weekly.

According to informed sources close to at least two resistance groups, the Iraqi resistance, though engaging Al-Qaeda when forced to, is still seeking to avoid an all-out confrontation, even if Al-Qaeda seeks it. Nonetheless, the situation seems to be escalating on a daily basis, with many Iraqi nationalist activists who support the resistance fearing that "occupation forces are benefiting the most from Al-Qaeda's actions."

* The writer is a US-based journalist.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online

Israel's lab in Palestine

26 April - 2 May 2007

Disturbing reports allege that Israel is using Gaza as a field to experiment its new lethal weapons, reports Mel Frykberg

Doctors in Gaza have been reporting strange wounds on the bodies of innocent bystanders and those targeted by drones. These wounds consist of many small holes, often invisible to X-rays, and burns caused by heat so intense that many cases have required amputation because of the extensive burning.

Habas Al-Wahid, head of the emergency centre at the Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza city told the journalists that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies "as if a saw was used to cut through the bone." But there was no evidence of ordinary metal shrapnel in or near the wounds.

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Juma Saka said that on examination of the wounds, the doctors had found a powder on the victim's bodies and in their internal organs. Afterwards they removed the microscopic particles which turned out to be carbon and tungsten.

"The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and this is likely what caused the injuries," Saka said. Complicating the issue was the death of many patients several days afterwards, although they appeared to recover initially. Accusations that Israel is using Gaza and its inhabitants as a laboratory to test new military weapons, have been made from several quarters.

"We don't know what it means -- new weapons or something added to a previous weapon," said Saied Joudda, deputy director at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

To back up their personal experiences, a group of doctors compiled extensive documentary evidence of the extent of the wounds, which occurred specifically in the legs. In other parts of the body, metallic fragments, bigger than the size of the small wounds, were found.

"In our opinion, Israel has also used chemical weapons, such as numerous cases demonstrate, documented cases, with persons having extremely serious burns to their internal organs in the absence of external wounds," said Mouawia, a cardio-vascular surgeon and director-general of emergency services in Gaza.

An investigating team of Italian journalists produced a documentary on Italian state television's satellite channel, RAI News 24, alleging that Israel used dense inert metal explosives (DIME) against Palestinian targets in July and August of last year. This followed journalists taking samples of the microscopic explosives from Gaza and having them tested in a laboratory in Italy.

Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at the University of Parma, examined samples sent by the Italian reporters from the Gaza Strip and found a high concentration of carbon, as well as copper, aluminium and tungsten, which she considered to be unusual materials. In her report she concluded, "these findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is DIME. The same investigating team also exposed the US military's use of white phosphorus against civilians during attacks on Falluja in Iraq.

Similar accusations were made against Israel during the Lebanon war, when the Jewish state originally denied using phosphorous against Lebanese civilians. But several days later, following the explosive allegations of the Italian journalists and with overwhelming evidence, Israeli cabinet minister, Jacob Edery confirmed that the Israeli military had in fact made use of phosphorous shells.

Israel is accused of dropping more than a million cluster bombs in the south of Lebanon just a few days before the ceasefire. Since then there have been several Lebanese deaths on a daily basis after people accidentally trod on unexploded shells.

According to military experts, DIME is a carbon-encased missile that shatters on impact into minuscule splinters, at the same time setting off an explosive that shoots blades of energy-charged, heavy metal tungsten alloy (HMTA) powder, such as cobalt and nickel or iron, with a carbon fibre casing. It turns to dust on impact, as it loses inertia very quickly due to air resistance, burning and destroying through a very precise angulation everything within a four-metre range, as opposed to the shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal casing. The designation of the metal as "inert" is due to the metal's non-involvement in the blast, rather than the metal being chemically or biologically inert.

This technology is one of a new range of "low collateral damage" or LCD weapons designed to minimise the damage to nearby property, by confining its increased lethal effects to a restricted space. So it is "ideal for densely populated areas" and "helping the warfighter to prevent the loss of public support," according to its enthusiastic proponents.

Israeli military spokesmen have refused to acknowledge or deny the use of DIME in Gaza, but simply stated that Israel only uses weapons that are legal under international law. The catch is that as DIME is a new weapon, the jury is still out as it still has to be assessed.

However, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a major-general in the Israel Air Force, and former head of the army's weapons- development programme didn't deny that the Israelis had used DIME in Gaza but went on to explain its credentials.

"The idea behind DIME is to allow the accurate pin- pointing of targets without causing collateral damage to innocent bystanders. This is a technology that allows the striking of very small targets."

This would conveniently fit in with Israel's policy of targeted assassinations, however as the Gaza Strip is so densely populated with nearly 1.5 million people crammed into an area 10 by six miles, the chances of innocent bystanders being hit is very high.

In addition to being seriously maimed, injured and killed, due to the carcinogenic effects of DIME, the number of Palestinians becoming afflicted with cancer will multiply in the long term, in addition to their environment being extensively damaged should the Israelis continue to use this new weapon with impunity.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online

Ex-C.I.A. Chief Says Cheney Cooked the Iraq War and Bush Ignored 9/11 Warnings

April 27, 2007

Ex-C.I.A. Chief, in Book, Assails Cheney on Iraq

WASHINGTON, April 26 — George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a “serious debate” about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.

The 549-page book, “At the Center of the Storm,” is to be published by HarperCollins on Monday. By turns accusatory, defensive, and modestly self-critical, it is the first detailed account by a member of the president’s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

Mr. Tenet admits that he made his famous “slam dunk” remark about the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But he argues that the quote was taken out of context and that it had little impact on President Bush’s decision to go to war. He also makes clear his bitter view that the administration made him a scapegoat for the Iraq war.

A copy of the book was purchased at retail price in advance of publication by a reporter for The New York Times. Mr. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of “Meet the Press” last September in which Mr. Cheney twice referred to Mr. Tenet’s “slam dunk” remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.

“I remember watching and thinking, ‘As if you needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,’ ” Mr. Tenet writes.



Taliban Take Over South Afghan District


The Associated Press
Friday, April 27, 2007; 6:57 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Taliban militants have seized control of a district in eastern Afghanistan after an hours-long clash that killed five people, including the local mayor and his police chief, a senior official said Friday.

The Taliban takeover is an embarrassment to the Afghan government and its foreign backers, and shows how vulnerable remote areas remain despite the presence of some 47,000 U.S. and NATO troops.

Militants launched the attack Thursday evening on the Giro district of Ghazni province, setting fire to several buildings and cutting communication lines, said provincial deputy governor Kazim Allayer.

The district mayor and four policemen, including the police chief, were killed in a battle that lasted several hours, Allayer said. Police reinforcements have been sent to the area, Ghazni's deputy police chief Mohammad Zaman said.

Giro is about 200 miles east of northern Helmand province, where a large NATO operation is under way.

"Giro collapsed last night, captured by the Taliban after heavy fighting between the police and the Taliban," said Gen. Murad Ali, deputy regional corps commander of the Afghan army.

The Afghan army sent troops early Friday from Ghazni and Paktika to assist, Ali said.

NATO and the U.S.-led coalition said they were aware of the incident.

"The details are very sketchy right now. We're tracking it closely," said Maj. William Mitchell, a spokesman for the coalition.

After a winter lull in attacks, the Taliban have stepped up bombings and attacks in recent weeks, as NATO-led forces push forward with their biggest ever offensive in southern Afghanistan to root out militants in the opium-producing heartland of Helmand province.

Meanwhile in eastern Khost province, gunmen assassinated a criminal investigation policeman as he was driving Friday in Tani district, said provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub.

A relative in the car also was killed, and the driver was wounded, Ayub said, adding that two suspects have been arrested. It was not immediately clear if it was a personal conflict or an insurgency attack.

In southern Uruzgan, Taliban militants ambushed a police convoy patrolling late Wednesday night, and the ensuing clash left four policemen and six Taliban dead, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Qasim Khan.

Army Officer Accuses Generals of 'Intellectual and Moral Failures'

Officer: American Army Leadership Failing Soldiers
By Thomas E. Ricks

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2007; A04

An active-duty Army officer is publishing a blistering attack on U.S. generals, saying they have botched the war in Iraq and misled Congress about the situation there.

"America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq," charges Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, an Iraq veteran who is deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "The intellectual and moral failures . . . constitute a crisis in American generals."

Yingling's comments are especially striking because his unit's performance in securing the northwestern Iraqi city of Tall Afar was cited by President Bush in a March 2006 speech and provided the model for the new security plan underway in Baghdad.

He also holds a high profile for a lieutenant colonel: He attended the Army's elite School for Advanced Military Studies and has written for one of the Army's top professional journals, Military Review.

The article, "General Failure," is to be published today in Armed Forces Journal and is posted at Its appearance signals the public emergence of a split inside the military between younger, mid-career officers and the top brass.

Many majors and lieutenant colonels have privately expressed anger and frustration with the performance of Gen. Tommy R. Franks, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and other top commanders in the war, calling them slow to grasp the realities of the war and overly optimistic in their assessments.

Some younger officers have stated privately that more generals should have been taken to task for their handling of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, news of which broke in 2004. The young officers also note that the Army's elaborate "lessons learned" process does not criticize generals and that no generals in Iraq have been replaced for poor battlefield performance, a contrast to other U.S. wars.

Top Army officials are also worried by the number of captains and majors choosing to leave the service. "We do have attrition in those grade slots above our average," acting Army Secretary Pete Geren noted in congressional testimony this week. In order to curtail the number of captains leaving, he said, the Army is planning a $20,000 bonus for those who agree to stay in, plus choices of where to be posted and other incentives.

Until now, charges of incompetent leadership have not been made as publicly by an Army officer as Yingling does in his article.

"After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public," he writes. "For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq."

Yingling said he decided to write the article after attending Purple Heart and deployment ceremonies for Army soldiers. "I find it hard to look them in the eye," he said in an interview. "Our generals are not worthy of their soldiers."

He said he had made his superiors aware of the article but had not sought permission to publish it. He intends to stay in the Army, he said, noting that he is scheduled in two months to take command of a battalion at Fort Hood, Tex.

The article has been read by about 30 of his peers, Yingling added. "At the level of lieutenant colonel and below, it received almost universal approval," he said.

Retired Marine Col. Jerry Durrant, now working in Iraq as a civilian contractor, agrees that discontent is widespread. "Talk to the junior leaders in the services and ask what they think of their senior leadership, and many will tell you how unhappy they are," he said.

Yingling advocates overhauling the way generals are picked and calls for more involvement by Congress. To replace today's "mild-mannered team players," he writes, Congress should create incentives in the promotion system to "reward adaptation and intellectual achievement."

He does not criticize officers by name; instead, the article refers repeatedly to "America's generals." Yingling said he did this intentionally, in order to focus not on the failings of a few people but rather on systemic problems.

He also recommends that Congress review the performance of senior generals as they retire and exercise its power to retire them at a lower rank if it deems their performance inferior. The threat of such high-profile demotions would restore accountability among top officers, he contends. "As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war," he states.

The Next Sam Zell? Howard Milstein Buys Into the Times

NYT's sales keep dropping, but the Israel Lobby holds on to the paper. The rah-rah for the destruction of Iraq, the devastation of Somalia, and the smearing of Iran will continue.
Apr 19 2007 2:58PM EDT

As the New York Times Company braces for a shareholder revolt at its annual meeting scheduled for April 24, Chairman Arthur Sulzberger may have found a potential lifeline: billionaire Howard Milstein.

Milstein, the C.E.O. of Emigrant Bancorp--the privately held New York bank with a history stretching back to 1850 and assets of $15 billion--bought 6 million shares of the New York Times Company in December, according to S.E.C. filings. He is now the sixth largest institutional shareholder with a 4.3 percent stake in the Times Company worth $150 million.

A person with knowledge of Milstein's investment said Milstein is an ally of Sulzberger. Before making the investment, Milstein called Sulzberger and said he was making a friendly investment in the Times, this person said. Another source said that while Milstein's investment is friendly, he is putting money into the Times Company as a long-term value play.

Milstein is the latest shareholder to emerge as a player in the proxy fight championed by Hassan Elmasry of Morgan Stanley Investment Management that is seeking to unseat Arthur Sulzberger's control of the paper.

The appearance of Milstein comes as the New York Times Company reported first quarter earnings results today, and a 9.9 percent decline in operating profit.

Milstein declined to comment. John R. Hart, vice chairman and treasurer of Emigrant Bancorp, declined to comment on the investment.

Times Company spokesperson Catherine Mathis, said: "We're delighted Mr. Milstein sees potential in the shares of the New York Times Company."

Still, Milstein's presence as the Times Company's sixth largest institutional shareholder is the latest twist in a deepening feud between Sulzberger and hostile shareholders, including Elmasry of Morgan Stanley, and Private Capital Management's Bruce Sherman.

In April, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis both issued reports recommending that New York Times Company stockholders withhold their votes for the board of director nominees at this month's annual meeting.

Recently, Sherman placed a call to Milstein seeking comment on his intentions but the call went unreturned.

With Milstein's support of the Sulzberger family, one theory is that with access to Emigrant Bancorp's financing, the Sulzbergers, perhaps teaming up with private equity investor Steven Rattner, could take the Times private.

If so, this wouldn't be the first flamboyant investment for Milstein. The 56-year-old Bronx-bred billionaire is the heir to one of New York's largest family real-estate fortunes that was ripped apart by an internecine struggle.

A media play for the New York Times would parallel other high-profile ventures Milstein has made over the years. In the 1990s, he owned the New York Islanders hockey team (he sold the franchise for $190 million in 2000), and in 1998, he made an unsuccessful $800 million bid for the Washington Redskins football team, then a record price offered for an NFL team.

by Gabriel Sherman

Russian Helicopter Downed in Chechnya, 17 Dead

Created: 27.04.2007 14:29 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 14:33 MSK, 1 hour 52 minutes ago


A military helicopter went down in Russia’s volatile province of Chechnya killing all 17 people on board, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported quoting a source in the military.

According to the Reuters news agency, an air force spokesman confirmed to Reuters that the Mi-8 transport helicopter had gone down but gave no further details.

Alexander Drobyshevsky, an aide to Russia’s air force commander, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying it crashed at 11:34 a.m. (0734 GMT) near the village of Shatoi in southern Chechnya.

A special investigative commission was working at the scene, he said. “Commission members will establish whether the helicopter was shot down or if the crash was caused by a technical glitch,” he said.

RIA-Novosti reported that the helicopter was downed by separatist rebels and that 14 soldiers and 3 crewmembers who were on board were killed. The agency said that the helicopter carried the servicemen of the “South” batallion of the Russian Army, manned by pro-Moscow Chechens.

Echoes of Terror Case Haunt California Pakistanis

April 27, 2007

LODI, Calif., April 24 — Khalid Farooq has shunned the low-slung yellow bungalow that serves as the Pakistani community’s mosque here for nearly two years, ever since a father and son who worshiped there were arrested on suspicion of being foot soldiers for Al Qaeda.

If he runs an errand at someplace like Wal-Mart, away from the neat, tree-lined streets that constitute the heart of Lodi’s Pakistani neighborhood, Mr. Farooq trades his traditional baggy clothes for standard American attire, he said, as often as four times in one day.

“Something has changed in the air; it’s a scary time,” said Mr. Farooq, who first arrived to work in the flat, black fields that surround this town 25 years ago. “We don’t want to talk; we’re all afraid.”

The tide of fear rolled in and has never quite receded after an informant incriminated two Lodi men, Umer Hayat, an ice cream truck driver, and his son Hamid, who were arrested in June 2005. Their trial ended a year ago with the younger Mr. Hayat, 24, convicted of providing material support for terrorism by attending a training camp in Pakistan. His lawyers recently began seeking a new trial based on arguments that the jury was tainted.

Members of the Pakistani community here distrust one another almost as much as they do outsiders. Even now, residents with evidence of sudden wealth, like a new car, are immediately rumored to be on the F.B.I.’s payroll. Anything connected to the government is inherently suspect.



Gilded Once More: PAUL KRUGMAN



Gilded Once More

Published: April 27, 2007

We’ve gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s.

One of the distinctive features of the modern American right has been nostalgia for the late 19th century, with its minimal taxation, absence of regulation and reliance on faith-based charity rather than government social programs. Conservatives from Milton Friedman to Grover Norquist have portrayed the Gilded Age as a golden age, dismissing talk of the era’s injustice and cruelty as a left-wing myth.

Well, in at least one respect, everything old is new again. Income inequality — which began rising at the same time that modern conservatism began gaining political power — is now fully back to Gilded Age levels.

Consider a head-to-head comparison. We know what John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in Gilded Age America, made in 1894, because in 1895 he had to pay income taxes. (The next year, the Supreme Court declared the income tax unconstitutional.) His return declared an income of $1.25 million, almost 7,000 times the average per capita income in the United States at the time.

But that makes him a mere piker by modern standards. Last year, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, James Simons, a hedge fund manager, took home $1.7 billion, more than 38,000 times the average income. Two other hedge fund managers also made more than $1 billion, and the top 25 combined made $14 billion.

How much is $14 billion? It’s more than it would cost to provide health care for a year to eight million children — the number of children in America who, unlike children in any other advanced country, don’t have health insurance.

The hedge fund billionaires are simply extreme examples of a much bigger phenomenon: every available measure of income concentration shows that we’ve gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s.


Democratic Candidate Debate: Gravel - “Some Of These People Frighten Me”


Tonight's debate is underway and by far the most passion is coming from former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska. He had a few things to say about the people with whom he shared the stage:

"And I gotta tell ya, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me!"

video_wmv Download (3384) | Play (4662) video_mov Download (1706) | Play (3219)

Who is Mike Gravel anyway?

Editor's note: also see yesterday's articles at the the secondary blog

And more coming up here.

The secondary blog.

See older articles at the overflow blog