• Is ISIS a Direct Threat to the U.S.?

    August 14, 2014 // 18 Comments »

    Is ISIS a Direct Threat to the U.S.? Doubtful.

    Get Afraid!

    First, a few samples of the fear-mongering rhetoric.

    “The militant Islamic State group could launch a direct attack on U.S. soil,” warned South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who claimed the militants are a “direct threat to our homeland… They are coming.” Graham, and his running dog accomplice John McCain, have never found a threat they could not exaggerate.

    “In reality, ISIS represents the most virulent form of Islamic jihad the planet has ever seen. These folks are not Muslims, they are animals, frankly… another 9/11 is imminent.” said Ali Khedery, who, as an advisor to five U.S. ambassadors in Iraq, is personally responsible for much of the mess there.

    “Every day that goes by, ISIS… becomes a direct threat to the United States of America. They are more powerful now than al Qaeda was on 9/11,” Representative Peter King said.

    R U Scared Yet?

    Well, that is all pretty terrifying. While the fear mongers depend on the idea that there is no way to prove a negative (i.e., ISIS will never attack the U.S., or Paraguay, or Bermuda), there is still room for rational thought. Here are a few of such thoughts:

    – ISIS has been in existence in some form since perhaps 2004, as part of Al Qaeda in Iraq. They formed their own organization, such as it is, in 2013. In the nine years of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq, no Mideast group launched an attack on the U.S. Nobody from the Taliban has shown up here since whenever, same for the groups unleashed after the U.S. attacked Libya. No Yemeni or Pakistani terrorists yet either. No Boko Haram, no Abu Sayyaf. Not even al Qaeda after 9/11. What’s different about ISIS?

    – Oh, the money? Yep, they seemed to have gotten ahold of a huge amount of Iraqi and U.S. currency, and American weapons, after the Iraqi Army gave up and ran away. Money can help, but in fact the 9/11 attacks may have cost about $400,000, and that included all that expensive flight training. Not small change, but certainly the kind of money that an international terror group could raise. Nope, no big change there either.

    – Many/most of the ISIS fighters are unsophisticated people with limited formal education, likely with no English skills and little if any experience outside their own areas. It seems unlikely they are the kind of people who will successfully obtain passports, travel to international airports, blend in, hop on planes, wander into the U.S., acquire weapons and navigate around America to strike important targets.

    – But what about the foreign fighters with ISIS? Aren’t there Americans among them who will return to the Homeland and carry out lone wolf attacks? Sure, that it always possible. But again, since 9/11, almost 13 years, it hasn’t happened. Is there something different about the ISIS Americans? Meanwhile, the very few acts of terrorism in the U.S. have been carried out by people already here, such as the hapless Boston kids, likely the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, and Major Hasan, a serving U.S. Army officer who shot up Fort Hood. We’ll leave aside the heavy death toll in America in the meantime by our own army of school mass shooters and workplace psychos.

    – And speaking of those Americans who have joined ISIS, perhaps the fear mongers might pause and consider what might encourage a young person to do that, and perhaps tackle the problem from the perspective.

    – Thinking ISIS will jump from the battlefields of Iraq to New York fails to understand the point of terrorism. ISIS has exactly what it wants already, and achieved its goal vis-vis the U.S. at almost no cost: they lured the Americans back into Iraq. What had been a struggle for territory among indigenous groups turned overnight into a jihad against the American crusaders, you know, the ones who promised to leave Iraq in 2011 and then instead came back?

    Nothing could be more helpful to ISIS in terms of recruitment, raising money and inspiring its forces than to recharacterize the conflict as something broader, with ISIS in the role of protector of Islam. If ISIS wants to kill Americans, they can do it right there at home.

    So sleep well America. ISIS is killing us over there because it is more convenient for them than killing us here. The rest is just fear mongering.




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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    More on State’s Illegal Passport Revocations in Yemen

    December 16, 2013 // 12 Comments »

    Searches of public court records continue to expose the illegal actions of the U.S. Department of State in Yemen. One private attorney connected to cases in Yemen says “Issues with the U.S. Consulate in Sana’a are systemic and reach far beyond seizure of U.S. passports. That is merely the egregious tip of the iceberg. I have dealt with many Yemeni’s experiencing problems with the U.S. Consulate in Sana’a. Most non-litigation options fail, but at the same time most Yemeni nationals are afraid litigation will result in retaliation.”

    If you have not read our original report on the issue, see it here.

    Abdo Alarir, et al, v. Hillary Clinton, Janice Jacobs

    The first case is Abdo Alarir, et al, v. Hillary Clinton, Janice Jacobs, et al, filed October 18, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for Southern New York. Mr. Alarir, a U.S. Citizen, filled paperwork to bring his children from Yemen to the U.S. One of the kids would immigrate to the U.S. on a visa (“Green Card”) and two would qualify already as American Citizens. The latter is made official when the State Department issues what is called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (a CRBA in State-speak). The reasons why one kid gets a visa and the other two a CRBA are complex but irrelevant to what the State Department, illegally, did with this case.

    Actually what State did was… nothing. The Department of Homeland Security approved the visa (it’s a two-agency process) in 2010. At State, nothing was done for three years to process the cases. As for the Consular Report of Birth for the other two kids, these can be approved within an hour, with the official documents available soon after, right at the embassy, no Homeland Security involvement required. That’s pretty much standard practice around the world. But apparently not in Yemen. So, faced with stonewalling out of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, the American dad sued.

    But back to Sanaa. Dad initially pursued the Consular Reports of Birth. He was told at an initial meeting with State on February 7, 2012 to provide more documents. He did on February 12, 2012, via DHL with a tracking number. Embassy Sanaa waited over a month until March 18, 2012 to send Dad a form letter saying the documents had not been received. Meanwhile, Dad’s lawyer was told by Homeland Security that they had done their part of the job on the visa, that the lawyer should contact the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, and to please bug State from here on out, not them. The paper trail as filed with the U.S. District Court ends there. State just dummied up and did… nothing.

    The lawsuit found its way through the court system, but before the District Court could issue a decision, wham! State, without comment, apology or explanation, just up and issued the visa and Consular Reports of Birth. The case was thus closed on November 23, 2013, and a State Department fudge-up swept under the rug.

    The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

    Two More

    Next up is Yemeni-American Nashwan Ahmed Qassem v. Hillary Clinton, Janice Jacobs, et al. This case was filed on January 30, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for Western New York and though full documentation is not available electronically, it appears to be similar to the other cases. Embassy Sanaa illegally revoked the U.S. Citizen’s passport, he sued, State turned around and re-issued the passport before the Court could render a verdict. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

    A third case we were able to unearth in public records is ongoing, that of Yemeni-American Hashed Mousa. This one involves a U.S. Citizen Yemeni-American grandfather, who was somehow made to “voluntarily” admit that years ago he obtained his own U.S. citizenship by fraud. Despite the law being very clear that only Homeland Security can revoke citizenship due to fraud on the original application, Embassy Sanaa just went ahead and confiscated grandpa’s U.S. passport. The embassy then waited for grandpa’s son to come in to apply for citizenship for the grandchildren, denying those applications based on a flimsy chain of a) since the embassy illegally claimed that grandpa was not a U.S. citizen b) his own son was not a U.S. citizen and therefore c) the grandkids could not be U.S. citizens. The case is 3:13-cv-05958-BHS, filed in the Western District of Washington State. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

    A Question

    It appears quite clear that something happened at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa. Whether the illegal actions against Yemeni-Americans were part of a State-sponsored process, or the actions of a local bureaucracy poorly supervised and out-of-control, are unclear and largely irrelevant. The problems with State and Sanaa grew so egregious that the National Security Council, and even Homeland Security, raised questions. Some good news; sources inside the Department of Justice suggest that whatever was going on toward Yemeni-Americans in Sanaa has tapered off under new management. State, for its part, selected the former manager as Consular Officer of the Year, promoted her, and reassigned her to a dream job in Sydney. The Consular Officer of the Year did not respond to a request for comment.

    That leaves only the question of why the State Department is not seeking to resolve these cases administratively, going back through the files, identifying and reviewing “unusual” actions/inactions and moving to fix things. Instead, State is forcing American Citizens to file expensive lawsuits, which State contests to the last moment before bellying up and doing what it should have and could have done much earlier, issuing the documents it was supposed to.

    It is almost as if State, even when caught red-handed in the wrong, still wants to punish those who challenge it.


    BONUS: In the past, State has challenged the use of its official seal, as seen above, by this blog. Haven’t heard them this time.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    EXCLUSIVE: State Department Seizing U.S. Passports in Yemen

    December 5, 2013 // 18 Comments »

    The rights of citizenship are among the most crucial to a democracy– from citizenship flows the full range of legal protections against unwarranted government interference, and the ability to travel freely.

    Citizenship for an American is made plain by the issuance of a U.S. passport by the U.S. Department of State. That passport once could only be seized and revoked by State under clear rules, and with a form of redress made explicit. Those strictures may still apply to most Americans, everywhere. Everywhere but in Yemen.

    NSC: 500 Unlawful Passport Seizures in Yemen?

    According to exclusive information obtained through a U.S. government whistleblower involved directly with U.S.-Yemeni affairs, the American Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen unlawfully seized over one hundred U.S. passports from Yemeni-Americans (some place the number at 500 passports), resulting in multiple lawsuits in Federal court. The Department of State, responsible for all U.S. passport matters, lost one case, and settled three others out-of-court. Yemenis in the U.S. are bringing the issue to the attention of the National Security Council and Congress, demanding oversight and assistance. State’s response has been to stonewall the inquiries inside the U.S., and to award and promote the person at the U.S. embassy in Yemen responsible for the seizures.

    The leaked information supports the contention that passport seizures are a bigger problem than was originally believed. The Yemen Post cited only twenty cases. A forum for legal advice includes accusations of the same, prompting one attorney to comment “The U.S. consular officers in Yemen believe they are God and act accordingly.”

    However, in emails from the National Security Council to the State Department obtained by this blog, the Director for Yemen cites contact from “another” immigration attorney on the subject, and, more significantly, an inquiry that involves 500 seized/revoked passport cases. She asks State “Can you tell me what he is referring to?” State’s response was to promise to hold a meeting with some Yemeni-Americans to “hear their concerns.” The last email in the chain is again from the NSC, pleading for confirmation that any such meeting actually took place.

    Abdulhakem Alsadah, who coordinates a Yemeni-American society in Michigan, said though he initiated calls to the State Department, he has never been contacted by them. He knows of no meetings held “to hear concerns.” The publisher of a Yemen-American news site also says he has heard of no meetings held by State. Both men would welcome the chance to speak directly to the officials responsible for what they see as a significant violation of rights at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa.

    The Case of Abdo Hizam

    The use of extra-judicial passport seizures by State against Yemeni-Americans extends back several years, and appears connected to the case of drone-assassinated al Qaeda propagandist and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.

    Yemeni-American Abdo Hizam immigrated with his parents to the U.S. at age nine, growing up a typical American kid outside Detroit. He was issued a U.S. passport, and in fact renewed it twice through the State Department. As an adult, Hizam traveled to Yemen in 2009. In the course of a routine immigration matter regarding his own children, the U.S. embassy unlawfully seized Hizam’s passport, providing no explanation. After three weeks of silence, he was permitted by the embassy to return to the U.S.

    Two years after returning home, around the same time as the more spectacular passport case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the State Department told Hizam that he had received his citizenship “in error” twenty two years earlier. The mistake was no fault of his or his parents. In fact, the government adjudicated the original application wrong, and admitted so. Nonetheless, State revoked his passport and stripped Mr. Hizam of his nationality, plunging him into statelessness, declaring he was, at the stroke of the pen, no longer an American. Hizam could not leave the U.S., and his wife and children in Yemen were not issued visas by State to come to the U.S., actions that kept the family apart for three years. Hizam was offered no chance to argue, no recourse by the State Department but to accept his forced expatriation.

    Hizam was however one of the lucky ones. Still in the U.S. physically but no longer legally, he sued the government. While the State Department argued in part that it could retroactively apply a law passed long after Hizam became a citizen to revoke his citizenship, in Hizam v. Hillary Clinton, a court ordered State to give Hizam back his passport. The court scolded the State Department that at the time it approved Hizam’s citizenship it was “impossible for him to have received any notice whatsoever that his status could be revoked in the future.”

    “It’s certainly a scary power that the State Department is asserting here,” one of Hizam’s lawyer said. “The fact that the State Department can go back and ask these questions when somebody has, from childhood, been a U.S. citizen, is very frightening.”

    But instead of accepting it could not go back to the future in Hizam’s case, State doubled-down and instead tried to stay the court order until it completed a lengthy appeal of the case, claiming the Department “will suffer irreparable injury because the Order undermines its ‘sole discretion’ to withhold passports.” The court disagreed and for the time gave Hizam back his passport, his citizenship, his right to travel and the ability to reunite with his family. State continues to appeal; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit the government’s arguments two months ago, but has yet to issue a decision. A lawyer familiar with the case stated “The government recognizes that their position is causing great unfairness to this man and suggests that the only remedy is to get a special law passed specifically for him.”

    Extra-Judicial Actions

    After failing to establish legal precedent for its unlawful passport revocations, the State Department appears to have shifted gears, simply ignoring the law to physically seize passports from Yemeni-Americans seeking routine services at the embassy in Sanaa, or those tricked into coming in. Supporters of the affected Yemenis report regular but often vague accusations of fraud being used as excuses to simply grab a passport. Others say that elderly Yemeni-Americans coming to the embassy for routine social security questions have been subjected to interrogations and again, after being accused of fraud, losing their passports without further explanation. While regulations require a formal, deliberative process to legally seize a U.S. passport, especially abroad where such seizure can strand an American and subject him to host-country immigration penalties, in Sanaa these regulations were bypassed simply by labeling the seizures as a case in need of “additional administrative processing.”

    The embassy in Sanaa gave itself top cover for its actions. In a cable obtained by Wikileaks, the embassy noted that “all immigrant visa cases are considered fraudulent until proven otherwise. Interviews are complex, due not only to fraud, but also to the illiteracy and poor education of applicants.”

    Rashid A. Abdu, publisher of the Michigan-based Yemeni-American, believes 100 or more Yemeni-Americans have had their passports taken away in Sanaa under dubious circumstances. He met with Congressman John Dingell not only to seek assistance but to remind him that word spreads fast in Yemen: these American citizens who could be serving as helpful bridges between the two countries are instead passing the word that the U.S. government seems to be singling them out for punishment (Dingell’s Dearborn office acknowledged the passport issue, but referred formal comment to the Congressman’s Washington office, who in turn refused to comment on the matter.)

    A Bigger Picture

    The actions at the American embassy in Yemen, while at first appearing to be little more than spiteful bureaucracy, fit into a larger pattern. For example, at the same time in 2011 the U.S. was ramping up its actions against Yemeni-Americans, Australia appeared to be doing much the same thing. “Withholding passports is an important means of preventing Australians from traveling overseas to train, support or participate in terrorism,” an Australian government spokesperson said. “It may also be used to help prevent an Australian already overseas from participating in activities that are prejudicial to the security of Australia or another country.”

    Anwar al-Awlaki

    The Government of the United States can also take away passports from American Citizens if “The Secretary of State determines that the applicant’s activities abroad are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.”

    If the government feels it is against its interest for you to have a passport and thus the freedom to travel, to depart the United States if you wish to, it will just take it away. The law allows this prospectively, the “or are likely to cause…” part of the law, meaning you don’t need to have done anything. The government just needs to decide that you might.

    A Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request revealed that prior to having him and his 16 year old son killed by a drone in 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton secretly revoked the passport of Anwar al-Awlaki, al Qaeda propagandist and U.S. Citizen. The State Department even tried later to invite al-Awlaki into the U.S. embassy in Yemen so that they could encourage him to return to the U.S. to face charges. In a cable to the embassy in Sanaa, al-Awaki’s street address was listed. The embassy was to send him a written letter inviting him into the embassy, specifying that he was to bring along photo ID “to preserve his privacy rights.” Six months later (al-Awlaki never dropped by the Embassy, by the way), the U.S. government simply killed him. Two weeks after that it killed his 16 year old son, also an American citizen.

    Because the passport revocations at the Secretary of State’s pleasure can be secret, it has been difficult to track down recent examples where the U.S. government revoked the passport of an American simply because his/her presence abroad bothered– or might bother– the Secretary of State. In fact, the only example found was that of infamous ex-CIA officer Phillip Agee, who in the 1970′s exposed CIA officers identities. It was in Agee’s case that the Supreme Court coldly stated that “The right to hold a passport is subordinate to national security and foreign policy considerations.”

    There is at least one other case of extra-judicial forced expatriation, this one outside of Yemen, though it follows an identical pattern of action by the State Department. Officials at the American embassy in Kuwait told an American working as a U.S. military contractor there that after they confiscated his passport that “he should no longer consider himself a U.S. citizen.”At issue is a 20 year old problem that occurred before the Moroccan-American resident of Oregon even was a U.S. citizen. “American citizenship is too important to be subject to the whims of low level bureaucrats,” a lawyer for the subject wrote. “If there are any concerns about my client’s citizenship, he has the right to have those concerns addressed through the judicial process once he returns to the United States.” The State Department referred questions about the case to its Bureau of Consular Affairs, where an official said she could not discuss the case because of privacy concerns.

    State Department’s Response

    Though the State Department did not respond to requests for comment on this article either, in response to a Yemeni newspaper inquiry the Department said “While we do not comment on individual cases, we take all passport fraud allegations seriously. U.S. passports are the property of the United States Government and under certain circumstances can be revoked.”

    Perhaps more telling is the State Department’s actions toward the American embassy official in Yemen in charge of the passport revocations. On November 13, via a cable sent worldwide to all embassies and consulates but curiously not yet made public, the State Department named the official consular officer of the year, an award for excellence that the cable said acknowledged “outstanding individual contributions… with a particular emphasis on efficiency and quality… the committee was impressed with (her) inspired leadership.” According to that official’s Facebook page, she was also promoted, and given a dream follow-on assignment from Yemen to Australia.

    State’s generous actions toward its official in Yemen are more than the usual puffery. They strongly imply sanction of the passport seizures and revocations, and thus encourage additional such actions despite the concerns at the White House and lawsuits that have followed. In the world of bureaucracy, no career action survives public chastisement without having official sanction.

    The War Hits Home

    Despite the devastating effect on individual lives, it is hard to see what is truly being accomplished in Yemen for the United States. Perhaps like the NSA hoovering up our Facebook posts, the point may be not that they need to do it, but that they can. A bureaucracy unchecked just continues to reach deeper into citizens’ lives.

    On the other hand, open season on Yemeni-Americans appears more than simple bureaucratic zeal. Since 9/11, the U.S. has stopped considering law and regulation in favor of unilateral, and often times secret, extra-judicial actions. From the more significant steps of indefinite imprisonment without trial, to torture to daily violations of Constitutional freedoms, the tentacles of the war on terror now reach as far as the forced expatriation of individual American citizens.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    Mice and Men: The Failure of Closing our MidEast Embassies

    August 7, 2013 // 8 Comments »

    UPDATE: The al Qaeda “conference call” that prompted US Embassy closures a week ago in the Middle East was a lie.

    (This article originally appeared on Huffington Post)


    What do you call it when you follow the same strategy for twelve years not only without success, but with negative results? What if time shows that that strategy actually helps the enemy you seek to defeat?

    Failure.

    Failing to Learn

    America’s global war of terror can this week be declared officially a failure, total and complete. After twelve years of invasions, drones, torture, spying and gulags, the U.S. closed its embassies and consulates across (only) the Muslim world. Not for a day, but in most cases heading toward a week, with terror warnings on file lasting through the month. The U.S. evacuated all non-essential diplomatic and military personnel from Yemen; dependents are already gone from most other MidEast posts. Only our fortress embassies in Kabul and Baghdad ironically were considered safe enough to reopen a day or two ago.

    The cause of all this? Apparently a message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri to his second in command in Yemen telling him to “do something.”

    U.S. government sources (one hopes for a robust investigation) later revealed concerns over a vast al Qaeda plot to capture Yemen’s oil supply infrastructure, vene taking over cities and ports, while simultaneously bombarding Western embassies with a string of suicide blasts. The BBC reported that all appeared to be part of a “complex and audacious” plot designed to enact revenge after a series of U.S. drone strikes.

    “Senior U.S. officials” (one hopes for a robust investigation) also revealed al Qaeda in Yemen has devised a new kind of liquid explosive that can be embedded in clothing, and which is not detectable by current security measures. That is of course an odd thing to say, revealing to the enemy that we can’t stop them– “It’s ingenious,” one of the officials said. Those same government officials also revived the now-crusty fear meme of the “Frankenbombers,” suicide bombers who carry explosives sewn into their body cavities.

    Failure to Understand

    All this might be read in one of three ways:

    – The simplest explanation is that the threat is indeed real. Twelves years of war has simply pushed the terror threat around, spilled mercury-like, from country to country. A Whack-a-Mole war.

    – U.S. officials, perhaps still reeling from Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures, chose to exaggerate a threat, in essence creating a strawman that could then be defeated. In favor of this argument are the many “leaks” noted above, essentially disclosing raw intel, specific conversations that would clearly reveal to the al Qaeda people concerned how and when they were monitored. Usually try to avoid that in the spy biz. The Frankenbomber stuff is pure 2001 scare tactic recycled. The idea that al Qaeda sought to seize infrastructure is a certain falsehood , as the whole point of guerrilla war is never to seize things, which would create a concentrated, open, stationary target that plays right into the Big Hardware advantage the U.S. holds. Just does not make sense, and supports the idea that this is all made-up for some U.S. domestic purpose.

    – However, the third way of looking at this is that the U.S. has failed to walk away from the climate of fear and paranoia that has distorted foreign and domestic policy since 9/12, Chicken Littles if you will. What if the U.S. really believed that al Qaeda was planning to take over Yemen this week in spite of the odd inconsistencies? What if “chatter” was enough to provoke the last Superpower into a super-sized public cower?


    Failure to Not Act

    The why in this case may not matter, when the what is so controlling. As I hit “submit” on this article, no embassies have been attacked; the only killings in Yemen we know of are a string of U.S. drone strikes coupled with public plans to deploy (additional?) special forces on the ground. That sadly predictable resort to violence by the U.S. shows that we have fundamentally failed to understand that in a guerrilla war one cannot shoot one’s way out. You win by offering a better idea to people than the other side, while at the same time luring the other side into acts of violence and political repression that make them lose the support of those same people. This is asymmetrical warfare 101 stuff.

    So the U.S. embassy closures, the ramped up drone strikes, the threat of special forces, may be seen as failure in this light:

    –al Qaeda blowing up an empty embassy would still make spectacular headlines and score their political points, the goal of terror. Even an empty embassy in smoldering ruins will drive home the weakness of the U.S. to defend itself, and provoke a significant and violent response that plays into al Qaeda’s long-game goals. The closures accomplish little strategically, though of course may still be necessary to protect lives. Nobody wants to be the last man to die for a mistake, reminded now-Secretary of State John Kerry during the Vietnam War.

    –How long will the embassies remain shuttered this time? What about next week, next month, and so on? Media across the world are showing images of closed U.S facilities, a powerful propaganda image.

    –In the populations al Qaeda seeks to influence, claiming they “humbled and scared” the US twelve years after 9/11 simply by ramping up their chatter seems an effective al Qaeda strategy. That the U.S. response is again to unleash violence in the Muslim world, especially significant this week as the Eid holidays begin, drives home al Qaeda’s point that America is at war with Islam– see, they may say, words alone are enough to unleash the beast against you.


    Of Mice and Men: Historical Failure

    My office is home to a few mice that have been here longer than I have. I feel they are cowards because they will not stand and fight, though I outweigh them by 200 pounds. They burrowed into my coworker’s desk and ate his Twizzlers. My colleague set traps. He comes from Ohio, where he has a nice lake house free of mice. It is better to fight them here than at home he says, but fight we must. Some have argued we can’t kill our way out of this dilemma. Leaving aside the issue of whether we should have moved uninvited into the mouse house in the first place, and leaving aside how the mice did not see themselves as liberated even after we got rid of the stray cats around here, they breed like rabbits. We can kill a few mice each day, but they just make more. We can’t kill all of them. Right now it is technology versus ideology. I hope the mice never learn to build car bombs or we are real trouble. God is with the patient, says an Arab proverb. We have the watch, but they have the time, says an American joke.

    Analogies only go so far of course. What is clear is that al Qaeda’s strategy is as old as history, and the U.S. reaction both equally historic and predictable. As with the British thrashing about as their empire collapsed, the world’s greatest military defeated by natives with old rifles, so now goes the U.S., by its own hand.

    Indeed, as a more eloquent commentator has said, “We continue to pay in blood because we can’t learn how to do something besides fight.”




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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    Obama Killed Four Americans with Drones Since Nobel Peace Prize

    May 23, 2013 // 13 Comments »

    Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress that U.S. drone strikes since 2009 have killed four Americans — three of whom were “not specifically targeted.”

    As Dangeroom reports, for all the effort that Obama has gone to in asserting that its drones only kill the people that the administration selects to kill, Holder wrote in a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy that Samir Khan, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammad were “not specifically targeted by the United States.” The fourth American to die in a drone strike since 2009 was Abdulrahman’s father Anwar Awlaki, an al Qaeda propagandist who never fired a shot in anger, but whom the U.S. killed in Yemen in 2011.

    I have re-read the Constitution and it says nothing about the Bill of Rights not applying to Americans who join terror groups. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law” and include no exceptions for war, terrorism, or being a really bad human being.

    I don’t like terrorists, but I do love our Rights as Citizens. If you support rights such as the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms for example, you gotta also take the rest. It is not a menu.

    Well, some say, the police shoot criminals who pose an imminent threat without due process all the time. True enough, but the police shootings are often unjustified, but when they are the event happens spontaneously and the cop has to make a life-or-death decision in a split second. The drone killings are planned and well-thought out– premeditated murder.

    Drones are surgical strikes, precision smiting of only America’s worst enemies? Then how come the White House admits that three of the four Americans it killed were “not specifically targeted.” In other words, fatal mistakes, collateral damage. Same dead Citizens.

    The actual acknowledged death count of Americans killed by their own government is five. Prior to the Obama administration, Kamal Derwish died in a strike launched in Yemen in 2002 under George W. Bush.

    We have survived as a nation a very long time without having to resort to this. Why now? Are terror groups so uniquely and specially dangerous? No, of course not. What has happened is that a technology– drones– has morphed into a policy. Obama falsely thinks the drones are clean and of little risk. By stepping off the edge and throwing out the Constitutional protections we have enjoyed for so many years, and for which so many have fought and died, he is doing more damage to America than some bomb. The arguments are old, but I guess we need to roll them out once more: once you unleash the authority to kill you do not know where it will stop. Once you start killing to prevent the possibility of a future act, where will it stop? Once you start creating unconstitutional exceptions to the Constitution, where will it stop? Blasting away a slug like Awlaki is not worth this.

    Can’t happen here? FBI Director Mueller, appearing before a House subcommittee, said that he simply did not know whether he could order an assassination of his own against an American here in the U.S. “I have to go back. Uh, I’m not certain whether that was addressed or not” and added “I’m going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice.”

    The Constitution was drafted to protect especially citizens whose actions were disfavored by the majority. We cannot let terrorism change the very fabric of America. We must stop now and see past the anger and fear to the bigger picture. This is the government assassinating U.S. citizens without even an indictment–much less a trial. We should all be concerned.

    And afraid. I don’t like that as an American I must live in fear.



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    You are Not a Person, Anwar al-Awlaki

    March 13, 2013 // 11 Comments »

    This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

    Though I spent 24 years working for the State Department as a Consular Officer, charged in part with the issuance and (very rarely) revocation of U.S. passports, there is still room to learn something new: The Government of the United States can, and apparently does, take away passports from American Citizens because “The Secretary of State determines that the applicant’s activities abroad are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.”

    If the government feels it is against its interest for you to have a passport and thus the freedom to travel, to depart the United States if you wish to, it will just take it away. The law allows them to do this prospectively, the “or are likely to cause…” part of the law, meaning you don’t need to have done anything. The government just needs to decide that you might.

    We learned via a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request that prior to having him and his 16 year old son away blown away via drone in 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton secretly revoked the passport of Anwar al-Awlaki, al Qaeda propagandist and U.S. Citizen. The State Department even tried to invite al-Awlaki into the U.S. Embassy in Yemen so they could hand him a letter announcing the revocation and so that they could encourage him to return to the U.S. to face charges. Six months later (al-Awlaki never dropped by the Embassy, by the way), the U.S. Government simply killed him. Two weeks after that it killed his 16 year old son.

    I have been unable to track down many recent examples where the U.S. Government revoked the passport of an American simply because his/her presence abroad bothered– or might bother– the Secretary of State. In fact, the only example I was able to locate was that of infamous ex-CIA officer Phillip Agee, who in the 1970′s exposed CIA officers identities. It was Agee’s case that prompted a Supreme Court review of the Department of State’s ability to revoke passports simply because the government didn’t want you to travel abroad (the Supreme’s upheld the government’s ability to do so based on a 1926 law after lower courts said no. The Court stated that “The right to hold a passport is subordinate to national security and foreign policy considerations.”)

    Agee was a naughty boy. According to the Supreme Court:

    In 1974, Agee called a press conference in London to announce his “campaign to fight the United States CIA wherever it is operating. He declared his intent “to expose CIA officers and agents and to take the measures necessary to drive them out of the countries where they are operating.” Since 1974, Agee has, by his own assertion, devoted consistent effort to that program, and he has traveled extensively in other countries in order to carry it out. To identify CIA personnel in a particular country, Agee goes to the target country and consults sources in local diplomatic circles whom he knows from his prior service in the United States Government. He recruits collaborators and trains them in clandestine techniques designed to expose the “cover” of CIA employees and sources. Agee and his collaborators have repeatedly and publicly identified individuals and organizations located in foreign countries as undercover CIA agents, employees, or sources. The record reveals that the identifications divulge classified information, violate Agee’s express contract not to make any public statements about Agency matters without prior clearance by the Agency, have prejudiced the ability of the United States to obtain intelligence, and have been followed by episodes of violence against the persons and organizations identified.


    In Anwar Al-Awlaki’s case, the Government has not made much of a case (never mind for the passport, remember he was murdered by a drone). In fact, officially, we do not know why al-Awlaki was killed at all, or under what laws or by what decision process. Some reports tie him to the failed idiot underwear bomber, but being part of a failed plot seems not to rise to the usual standard for capital punishment. It is all secret.

    The Government of the United States executed one of its own citizens abroad without any form of due process. This is generally seen as a no-no as far as the Bill of Rights goes. The silly old Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law” and includes no exceptions for war, terrorism, or being a really bad human being.

    Could the passport revocation have been simply a ruse, a bureaucratic CYA attempt at providing some sort of illusion of “due process?” Could al-Awlaki’s not dropping by the U.S. Embassy to chat about his passport have been a veiled attempt to justify his killing in that he was thus not able to be arrested? Or was the passport revocation just a simple act of dehumanizing someone to make killing him that much more palatable?

    We’ll never know.



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    How Obama Celebrated His Election Win

    November 9, 2012 // 10 Comments »

    Following his election victory on Tuesday, Obama no doubt enjoyed a cold brew, some frisky time with Michele, followed by a guilty phone call to Hillary, and a good night’s rest.

    But what better way to celebrate than ordering the killing of some mo’ suspected terrorists?

    Bright and early Wednesday, only hours after the polls closed, a U.S. drone in Yemen blew up an alleged al-Qaeda operative and four others, who, by virtue of being assassinated by the United States, were obviously terrorists.

    In case you care, the attack killed an alleged al-Qaeda figure named Adnan al-Qadhi, said U.S. officials, who described him as a little-known but important operational figure in the terrorist network’s Yemen branch. The strike was the 38th known one this year in Yemen alone.

    Ah, now that smells like Victory! Cheers!




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    US Diplomat Enslaved Woman; Sadly, Not Uncommon Except in the Extreme

    October 11, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    Next time Hillary cranks up the PR machine to talk about women’s rights and the rights of workers, somebody might clear their throat and ask her to look inside her own State Department before opening her mouth in public.

    Rape

    According to court documents, a U.S. Department of State diplomat (LinkedIn photo above) and her husband tricked an Ethiopian woman into accompanying them as their domestic servant to Japan, where they held her virtually as a prisoner in their home and forced her to work for them for less than $1 per hour and where the husband repeatedly raped the woman with his diplomat wife’s consent. A Virginia federal judge awarded the victim $3.3 million in damages on a default judgment against the couple. The diplomat retired from the State Department with full pension and then fled the country.

    The victim, identified only as “Jane Doe,” told the court she was hired by the Howards in 2008 as a live-in housekeeper at the couple’s home in Yemen, where Linda Howard worked at the U.S. embassy. Doe says she agreed to move with the couple to Japan after Linda Howard was transferred to the embassy there and that she was promised wages of $300 per month, time off each week, health insurance and a safe place to live and work.

    Once in Japan, Doe says, Russell Howard repeatedly raped her, forced her to perform oral sex and sexually assaulted her. Doe says Linda Howard was complicit in her husband’s sexual abuse, telling Doe that she should gratify her husband and make him happy. Doe, who speaks little English and no Japanese, says the Howards also used nonphysical force, such as isolation and threats of deportation, to coerce her into servitude.

    Justice?

    After five months in Japan, Doe says, she fled the Howards’ home in the middle of the night. She says that after she reported the abuse, the State Department removed Linda Howard from her overseas post and launched an investigation into the Howards.

    Once back in Washington and while the so-called investigation took place, Howard, according to her LinkedIn profile, worked among other places as a recruiter and assessor for people seeking jobs with the State Department. She tells us on LinkedIn that she received a Superior Honor Award, with cash bonus, from State in June 2011, which would have been well after any investigation commenced. Her LinkedIn profile also references Cleared Connections, an employment site for government workers, suggesting she retained her security clearance from State.

    Linda Howard acted in bad faith by telling the court that she was unaware of any upcoming overseas job-related travel and then two weeks later retiring and leaving the country, the magistrate judge said. She also refused to appear for a deposition as ordered by the court and refused to communicate with Doe’s attorneys to facilitate discovery as ordered by the court, Magistrate Judge Jones said.

    Now, a question: if the allegations are true– and a Virginia court says they are– Mr. and Mrs. Howard committed felonies on federal property. Mr. Howard is an Australian citizen, so maybe it is a huge guess to wonder if they are outback there. Has the FBI been called in by State, as the FBI has jurisdiction over crimes on federal property (that why they are the lead investigators in Libya now)?

    Or is Julian Assange the only Australian the State Department cares about bringing to justice?

    U.S. Embassy Prostitution

    Unfortunately the story above is not an isolated incident. America’s diplomats are allowed by both U.S. and most foreign laws to import and employ domestic help pretty much without oversight. The workers are typically from Third World countries, and often do not speak the local language. Lacking friends, social contacts and legal protections, State’s diplomats are free to treat their household help pretty much any way their conscience allows. Most are fair and decent, but there is little safety net underneath when things go bad.

    For example, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has had its share of problems. In the early part of this decade, the embassy paid-for-dormitory for domestics (so they did not have to live with their diplomatic masters) was found full of women not connected with the embassy, some of whom were prostituting themselves on and out of U.S. government property. The public restroom just outside the dorm was a known quickie spot for night time taxi drivers looking for sex. Things were handled nice and quietly by State and the story stayed out of the news and out of the taxpayers’ attention.

    Economic Enslavement?

    A bit further back, one Tokyo embassy U.S. diplomat identified here as Thurmond Borden, had domestic troubles. The story is that in 1993, 40 year-old Lucia Martel was working as a domestic in Manila. In March of that same year, Mr. Borden was visiting the Philippines on vacation with his Filipino wife, and the couple was looking for a woman. Mr. and Mrs. Borden offered Lucia a monthly wage of about Y30,000 (USD300). To comply with the Japanese immigration regulations, a written contract was signed that contained very different language. The contract stated her working conditions as six days/week, eight hours/day, a monthly salary of Y150,000 (USD1500), and an overtime pay of 125%. The contract papers were submitted both to the U.S. Embassy and to the Japanese Immigration Bureau.

    Lucia started working at Borden’s residence October 16, 1993. Despite her contract, she was forced to work from six in the morning to ten in the evening, and was not allowed to rest even on Christmas and New Years according to reports.

    On May 22, 1994, reports were that Lucia complained to Mrs. Borden and the latter confiscated Lucia’s original contract, return air-ticket and Alien Registration Certificate. This Certificate is very important for expatriates in Japan. It must be carried at all times and if caught without it, one may end up being taken into custody by the police. Lucia went to the Naka-ward municipal office to have a new card issued. The shocked office staff who heard her story contacted the police. A cop officer visited the Borden’s residence to take Lucia’s Registration Certificate back from Mrs. Borden. Mr. Borden, returning from his work, was said to have become enraged. He allegedly shouted, “Go back to the Philippines!” to Lucia. Lucia feared that she might be assaulted. She fled the residence taking none of her belongings except the clothes she was wearing.

    Lucia eventually tried to sue the Borden’s, and organized protest marches outside the U.S. embassy. The State Department, however, claimed diplomatic immunity on Borden’s behalf and the Japanese legal system dropped the case. State Department records list Borden now as the head of the Consular Section in Jakarta where, among other tasks, he has responsibility for issuing maid visas to U.S. diplomats’ domestic help bound for the U.S.



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    Let’s Look at Some Old Clinton Headlines about the Middle East

    September 22, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    Hillary Clinton says Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi must be killed or captured (October 2011)
    Clinton: “We hope he can be captured or killed soon.”

    Hilary Clinton Arrives Unannounced in Libya to Offer New Aid Package (October 2011)
    U.S. officials said the fresh aid Clinton is bringing totals about $11 million and will boost Washington’s contribution to Libya since the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi began in February to roughly $135 million.

    Remarks With Tunisian Foreign Minister (March 2011)
    Clinton: “The Tunisian people have made history once again. You have shown the world that peaceful change is possible.”

    Clinton calls for change in Yemen (May 2011)
    Clinton: “The government of Yemen must address the legitimate will of the people.”

    Clinton, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Embraces a Revolt She Once Discouraged (March 2011)
    Clinton: “To see where this revolution happened, and all that it has meant to the world, is extraordinary for me.”




    BONUS: Nothing can beat this one of course: Cheney: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire (April 1994)




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    What Video of the Attack on Our Embassy in Yemen Reveals

    September 14, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    It’s not good.

    Video is afloat on the internet showing the attack on America’s Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen. Any casual look tells you this is not a good thing, but there is more on display than first meets the eye.









    OK, Embassy vehicles on fire, people trying to bust through the protective glass, which actually is doing its job and taking a l-o-n-g time to give in. That’s what it is supposed to do, delay attackers to give anyone inside time to get away. Such glass, as well as Embassy doors and safes, all come with three time ratings: how long it will take an average person to bust it, how long for a determined/skilled person or persons, and how long for someone with the right tools or explosives. If it was your home’s front door, (made up numbers), the rating might be 10-5-2, ten minutes for some jerk pounding the door, five minutes for a group kicking at the hinges, and two minutes for a guy with a crowbar.

    But what don’t you see? Any Yemeni cops around? Any host country forces trying to restore order? Nope. Let’s look at another clip; watch towards the end, around 0:54:


    There’s the Yemeni security guy, a soldier or a cop. He’d been watching the whole time. He only fired his 20mm cannon– into the air– when the mob seemed to get too close to him. He and whatever colleagues of his were around did not intercede to stop the riot.

    Most people do not know that foreign embassies and consulates are protected primarily by the host country, the local security forces. It’s that way in the US, in Tokyo, in Yemen. No country wants lots of foreign troops hanging around and that, plus diplomatic tradition, places the burden of security on the locals. US Embassies do traditionally have a US Marine detachment, but except under extraordinary circumstances, even at large embassies, that might still only be 20 or so troops armed with light weapons. They are the last ditch internal defense force, not a full spectrum defense. Almost all US Consulates, branch offices of the embassy if you will, have no US Marine presence. Like in Benghazi, Libya. When more help is needed, such as now in Tripoli, the Marines can send in a FAST team, maybe another 50 men, specially trained for embassy work.

    The video shows that the Yemeni security forces either can’t, or more likely, wouldn’t, defend the US Embassy from the mob. This is bad, really bad. It could mean the Yemeni government is on the side of the mob, or, more likely, that the Yemeni government is more afraid of the mob than the US. That as far as we can tell from these videos the Yemenis stood by and let the mob ransack the Embassy is a very, very ominous sign for the future.

    UPDATE: The day after the events shown above, likely under US-pressure, the Yemeni police did engage the mob, killing four. Twenty-four security force members were reported injured, as were 11 protesters, according to Yemen’s Defense Ministry, security officials and eyewitnesses. SecState Clinton said “All governments have a responsibility to protect those spaces and people, because to attack an embassy is to attack the idea that we can work together to build understanding and a better future.”

    BONUS UPDATE: State Department Spokesdrone Victoria Nuland confirmed her lack of connection with reality by saying “We determined that the security at Benghazi was appropriate for what we knew.”



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    Happy 9/11 Day!

    September 11, 2012 // 9 Comments »

    Happy 9/11 day, our eleventh anniversary.

    We’re instituted full background checks, body scanners and cavity searches at my home for all guests, which keeps me pretty busy, so this will be a short post. You can’t be too careful! Because they hate our freedoms, we’ve taken them away for safekeeping.

    Here’s a fun thing for today while we’re all reflecting. I guess the cool political thing to do is ask “Are you better off now?” so let’s just do that:

    State of Things September 11, 2001

    Iraq opposed Iran, helping establish a balance of power in the Middle East. Any danger Saddam was worth was contained by the no-fly zones and had been, successfully, since 1991.

    Iraq had no WMDs.

    Iran’s plans were cooled by an enemy on its western border, Iraq, and one on its eastern border, the Taliban.

    Al Qaeda was active in Afghanistan.

    The Taliban controlled much of Afghanistan.

    The US was not at war, and 4,486 Americans had not died in Iraq and 1,935 had not died in Afghanistan. A bunch o’ brown people were still alive. Suicide was not the most common cause of death in our military.

    The US had a chunky budget surplus and had not spent three trillion dollars on wars. Americans got a tax rebate we had so much cash.

    The US was not well-known among nations as a torturer, a keeper of secret prisons, an assassin with drones.

    America was represented abroad primarily by diplomats.

    Americans at home were secure, protected from abuses by their government by the First and Fourth Amendments.

    Iraq had no WMDs.

    Gas was about $1.50 a gallon in the US.


    State of Things September 11, 2012

    Iran has become a dominant power in the Middle East, with well-established ties into Iraq and Afghanistan.

    China has also made healthy economic inroads in Afghanistan, as well as Africa. They hold a good chunk of America’s debt.

    Al Qaeda is active in Afghanistan. Also Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and many other places the franchise never held ground in before 9/11.

    The Taliban control much of Afghanistan.

    The US national debt is over $16 trillion dollars and growing growing growing growing…

    The US has assets in the fight in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, all over Africa, Guatemala, Yemen, used to in Libya, probaly in Syria, and has suffered drone strikes on all sort of other places, including the Philippines.

    The US government ctively and continuously spies on Americans, particularly through electronic means. Once aimed only abroad, the NSA now devotes a substantial portion of its mighty resources inside the US.

    The US government drone assassinates American Citizen abroad without trial.

    America is represented abroad primarily by soldiers.

    Iraq still has no WMDs. But other new places do or soon will.

    The amount of oil flowing from Iraq is about the same as it was in 2001.

    Gas is about $4.00 a gallon in the US.


    So, are you better off? The traditional anniversary gift for an eleventh anniversary is something made of silk or linen, so for you America, here is a linen hankie to cry into. Can’t afford a silk one.


    For a more sober reflection on how far we have fallen from 9/10/01, have a look at Morris Davis’ latest article.




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    Ibrahim Mothana Tells You Why the War of Terror is Failing

    June 18, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    If you placed every article on the US’ war of terror end-to-end, it would be a very long string of bullshit. So, it is important when somebody– a Yemeni named Ibrahim Mothana in this case– just shows up and tells you the whole story in a few words. Mothana wrote in the New York Times:

    Dear Obama, when a US drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda… Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair.

    Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.

    Certainly, there may be short-term military gains from killing militant leaders in these strikes, but they are minuscule compared with the long-term damage the drone program is causing. A new generation of leaders is spontaneously emerging in furious retaliation to attacks on their territories and tribes.

    This is why al Qaeda is much stronger in Yemen today than it was a few years ago.

    Only a long-term approach based on building relations with local communities, dealing with the economic and social drivers of extremism, and cooperating with tribes and Yemen’s army will eradicate the threat of Islamic radicalism.


    Best to read the entire article now online.

    Michele Obama, if you are reading this, please clip out the article above and leave it on Barack’s pillow, thanks.



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    State Department to Unfriend al Qaeda on Facebook

    May 24, 2012 // 5 Comments »

    Secretary of State Hillary said that “experts” at her State Department swapped al Qaeda ads on Yemeni websites bragging about killing Americans with ones showing the deadly impact of al Qaeda tactics on Yemenis themselves. “Our team plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll al-Qaida attacks have taken on the Yemeni people,” Clinton said. “Extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the Internet.”

    Rather than hacking the sites covertly, the State Department specialists challenge the extremists in open forums. “We parody and poke holes in what they do,” a State Department official explained, in a cyber “cat and mouse game.”

    According to the AP, last week, AQ launched a new series of banner attack ads focusing on them fighting the Americans, with U.S.-flag-draped coffins. The State Department team countered the attack by buying space on the same site with new ads, featuring the coffins of Yemeni civilians.

    A Few Things Worth Noting

    It was only last week that Clinton said “Each time a reporter is silenced or an activist is threatened it doesnt strengthen government, it weakens a nation… We have to continue making the case for respect, tolerance, openness, which are at the root of sustainable democracy.” I guess her idea of respect, tolerance and openness extends only to ideas she agrees with.


    And of course the State Department coughed up this on Twitter today:


    But wait a minute– we’re now trying to win the war on terror by buying banner ads? Won’t this keen strategy just stop working when the web site owners stop selling us the ads, which they will do now that Clinton has bragged about it?

    If the US is paying for banner ads on pro- al Qaeda websites, aren’t we sort of materially supporting pro- al Qaeda websites? Should DOJ now arrest the State Department for material support?

    Believe it or not, Clinton’s going commando about this silliness was part of her effort to show that diplomats can stand as equals alongside Special Forces operators.

    Anybody think any SpecOps guys are now convinced? Anybody think any SpecOps guys wet themselves laughing?

    Whose credit card did State use to buy the ads?

    Pretty much everyone already knows not to believe everything they read on the Internet.

    Does this count as cyber-bullying?

    How many cyber exploits does it take to erase the memory of each US drone killing?

    Seriously, our tax dollars are spent on crap like this and people who think this stuff up?

    Does anyone anywhere really click on banner ads anymore?

    Breaking

    Inside sources at the State Department have leaked that future cyber efforts will include unfriending al Qaeda on Facebook, releasing a fake al Qaeda sex tape and photoshopping lots of al Qaeda pictures from prom to make them look fatter. State will also bombard known al Qaeda email addresses with fake Viagra ads and offers for low cost government-backed mortgages (those are real). The State Department also plans to start a rumor during fifth period lunch that “no one likes al Qaeda anymore and no one should invite them to any more parties.”

    Also, the US drone strikes killing Yemenis will continue.




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    Eat This, Not That

    May 22, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    Eat this…






















    Not that.







    Yes, another great moment in public diplomacy. We congratulate the public diplomacists at the Department of State for changing minds and winning hearts with their wicked Tweeting. Seriously dudes, who is that lame ass Tweet intended to persuade?

    I mean, besides your boss.



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    Pakistan to Resume Drone Strikes in US; Yemen on Deck

    May 2, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    Following the US decision to resume killing people by remote control drone in Pakistan against the demands of Pakistan’s alleged sovereign government, Pakistan has announced that it will too resume drone strikes inside the United States against what it labels “suspected terrorists or somebody.”

    After almost eleven years of victories in Afghanistan, the United States has come to believe most terrorists in the area now seek refuge in Pakistan. After learning that during the Vietnam war bad guys ran away into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos and needed to be bombed there, President Obama has ordered repeated drone strikes inside Pakistan. It is uncertain who is being killed, but the White House has been clear that once drone struck, the targets magically do morph into suspected terrorists. A spokesperson described it “kind of like Avengers superpower transformation.”

    Failing to get the US to quit doing this despite asking pretty please twice, Pakistan has purchased its own drone from eBay and will soon begin launching strikes in the US mainland. “There are a helluva lot of Americans in the US who have killed people in Pakistan,” claimed an unnamed source in Islamabad now being circled overhead by a Predator. “Many of them are CIA and military with Pakistani blood on their hands, so we will smite them.” The US Congress took a short break from not approving anything to vote to say “No” to the Pakistani drones, only to be met by a rude gesture from the Pakistani Ambassador sent via Twitter and read by an intern.

    Meanwhile, the new US policy of signature killings in Yemen, where targets that are people are terminated which means killed based on suspicious actions which means being in Yemen without being identified first is reportedly paying off well. “We have killed dozens of suspected terrorists in Yemen,” claimed a visibly stimulated Obama on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to urinate into the skull of bin Laden preserved just for such a moment, “And we will keep killing them until I get re-elected. And then maybe some more. Man, once upon a time this shit counted as going to war, but now I can just freaking do it. Cool.”

    In other news, the suspected terrorists of Yemen are seeking to raise $12.5 million dollars on Kickstarter to purchase their own drone.



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    How Can She Say That?

    February 23, 2012 // Comments Off

    So Yemen just had an “election,” the money shot of their Arab Spring.

    Now of course there was only one candidate running for president, Vice President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, who has been acting president since November, has been vice president of Yemen since 1994. He is the hand-picked successor to his boss, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for 33 years. Saleh remains in the US on a State Department issued “medical visa,” though his treatment has apparently forced him to move from an apartment at the Ritz-Carlton in New York to California. The State Department also made sure that Saleh has diplomatic immunity for his many years of crimes against his own people. It is unclear how many mileage points you need for diplomatic immunity, but Saleh has ‘em while Syria’s Assad clearly does not.

    Despite the Yemeni election being just one guy, who is the hand-picked successor to an evil thug autocrat, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had a near-death level orgasmic reaction to the presidential election in Yemen– “The United States congratulates the Yemeni people on carrying out this successful presidential election and taking the next step in their democratic transition. Our understanding is that turnout was very high — and particularly high among women; among young people, voters under 30. And it just shows quite a bit of enthusiasm and ownership by the Yemeni people for this transition going forward.”

    Other popular rulers elected as the sole candidate in their “elections” include Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il.

    No doubt such a statement of pleasure by the State Department over the Yemeni race has dramatically increased US credibility throughout the Middle East.

    Right… I’ll have whatever she is having.



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    Tale of Two Dictators

    February 15, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    If you’re Syria’s evil dictator, Assad, the Secretary of State and her running dog UN Ambassador call you bad names. The say “your days are numbered” and that “you have lost all legitimacy.” Some Foggy Bottom lickspittal says that you are a “dead man walking,” and in a somewhat weird mix of things, refers to your country as “Pyongyang in the Levant.”

    However, if you are the dictator of Yemen, the nice one who turned a blind eye to US drone attacks in his own country and even covered up drone strikes by claiming the bombs were his own, the State Department rolls out the red carpet.

    Your dictator-in-residence status package begins with a medical visa, the travel document of choice for pro-US dictators such as the former Shah of Iran. Yemen’s thug Saleh is apparently staying at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City while he gets his “medical treatment.” Subtlety is not a dictator trait.

    Better yet, the State Department treatment does not end with your visa. State will in fact cover your dictator ass even as you relax in the Ritz’ spa.

    Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in the United States with full diplomatic immunity, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s legal advisor has written the Pentagon, and should not be compelled to provide sworn testimony for the Guantánamo war court. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Hongju Koh (photo above in his crazy ’70′s ‘do) wrote the letter to the Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, opposing a request for a subpoena.

    Koh’s letter makes no mention of Saleh’s medical treatment. Rather, Koh invoked “the particular importance attached by the United States to avoiding compulsion of an oral deposition of President Saleh in view of international norms and the implications of the litigation for the Nation’s foreign relations.” He did not describe those implications in the letter.

    So, to sum up: Middle East dictators we don’t like get outed. Middle East dictators we do like live at the Ritz and are given immunity. Arab Spring cheerleaders, please make a note of this.



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    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    Choosing Expediency over Morality, Again

    January 23, 2012 // Comments Off

    In late December I ran a blog post wondering if US foreign policy had been taken over by the cast of Jersey Shore, Snooki, et al, as the US seemed on the verge of granting the current dictator of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, permission to enter the US for “medical treatment.”

    Now we know Snooki must be in charge, as the US has apparently once again chosen expediency as the cornerstone of its Middle East policy. Saleh is enroute to the US as you read this.

    Iran once was America’s 51st state in the Middle East. The CIA helped overthrow one government there in 1953 and installed a monarch who bought American weapons, sold America oil and sucked up to the US. That was regime change old-school style.

    Then there was an Islamic Revolution that swept through Iran, flawed in its own right, but appealing to a people who had long been kept in line by the Shah’s security apparatus. The Shah was reviled by many of his country people and, to avoid facing their justice for his actions, fled to the US for “medical care.” (“Medical care” is what dictators say when they need to blow town; for domestic US politicians, the correct phrase is “spend more time with my family.”) Saleh had previously sought medical care in Saudi Arabia, but must have not had insurance because he left to go right back to Yemen. Apparently there are no other doctors available anywhere in the entire world now but in America.

    The Shah came to the US, Iran went wild and stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking US diplomats hostage. That crisis lasted 444 days, brought down the Carter Administration and messed relations in the Middle East up for pretty much forever. Memories are long in the desert, and people have a tendency to hang around in new roles. What you do today affects a lot of tomorrows, even if memories in the United States are sitcom-short.

    “It’s not over for Saleh,” said Hussein Mansoor, a protester in Sanaa. “We want him to come back to Yemen so that he is tried for his crimes.” On Saturday, lawmakers in Yemen approved a controversial law giving Saleh immunity from prosecution.

    Remember the Arab Spring Break? By accepting another non-democratic dictator formerly pals with the US for “medical care,” the US denies the events of 2011. The US has the chance to stand up for its long-term goals of supporting people who wish to throw off a dictator. Instead, it looks like we’ll let him into the US for safe haven, once again choosing expediency over morality. The image of the US among Yemenis will be nothing more than the country that gave shelter to their former dictator. US policy in the Middle East will again be clearly little more than oil and back slapping dictators who feed our counterterrorism fetish.



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    Jersey Shore: Snooki Takes Over US Foreign Policy

    December 28, 2011 // 6 Comments »

    For those too young to remember when Iran was America’s 51st state in the Middle East, it once was. The CIA helped overthrow one government there in 1953 and installed a monarch, The Shah (not his real name but it’s like on Jersey Shore) who bought American weapons, sold America oil and sucked up to the US like a tipsy Snooki with lips pursed from eating pickled lemons. That, kids, was regime change old-school style.

    Then there was an Islamic Revolution that swept through Iran, flawed in its own right, but appealing to a people who had long been kept in line by the Shah’s security apparatus and tired of playing Snooki to the US’ Vinnie or whoever, I’m bored with the guido satire. The Shah was reviled by many of his country people and, to avoid facing their justice for his actions, fled to the US for “medical care.” “Medical care” is what dictators say when they need to blow town; for domestic US politicians, the correct phrase is “spend more time with my family.”

    The Shah came to the US, Iran went spunky wild and stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking US diplomats hostage. That crisis lasted 444 days, brought down the Carter Administration and messed relations in the Middle East up for pretty much forever.

    So…

    The current dictator of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, aka “The Predicament,” (last Jersey reference, this is where the article turns serious) is unpopular and needs to blow town before his own people shred him in the village square. So he now needs “medical treatment” and it appears the Obama administration may issue him a visa to enter the US. Saleh had previously sought medical care in Saudi Arabia, but must have not had insurance because he left to go right back to Yemen. Apparently there are no other doctors available anywhere in the entire world, must be some sort of strike or big convention or something.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Hey, Obama, did you sleep through 2011? Remember the Arab Spring Break? By accepting another non-democratic dictator formerly pals with the US for “medical care,” the US denies the events of 2011 and essentially blows party chunks in the face of the ideals it publicly supported during the Spring. Hillary, this is not about Twitter or social media saving democracy– the US has the chance to stand up, for once, for its long-term goals of supporting people who wish to throw off a dictator. Instead, it looks like we’ll let him into the US for safe haven, once again choosing expediency over morality. The image of the US among Yemenis will be nothing more than the country that gave shelter to their former dictator. US policy in the Middle East will again be clearly little more than oil and back slapping dictators who feed our counterterrorism fetish.

    Welcome to 1979, President Obama Carter.

    (No gratuitous Jersey Shoe concluding reference. This is like serious!)



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    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    US Executes an American Citizen without Trial

    October 1, 2011 // 24 Comments »

    al Awlaki Q: If a foreign organization kills an American overseas for political reasons, it is called…

    A: Terrorism.

    Q: If the United States kills an American overseas for political reasons, it is called…

    A: Justice?

    The Government of the United States, currently under the management of a former professor of Constitutional law, executed one of its own citizens abroad without any form of due process. This is generally seen as a no-no as far as the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and playground rules goes. The silly old Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law” and include no exceptions for war, terrorism, or being a really shitty human being.

    Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Citizen, was killed in Yemen on or about September 30. While no one has claimed actual responsibility, the choices for trigger puller are either the inept Yemen military or the United States, with its Skynet-like web of drones, satellites and intelligence tools.

    America has been trying to kill al-Awlaki for some time. On or about May 7 a US military drone fired a missile in Yemen (which is another country that is not our country) aimed at American Citizen Anwar al Awlaki, then a real-live al Qaeda guy. The missile instead blew up a car with two other people in it, quickly dubbed “al Qaeda operatives” since we killed them. The US has shot at al Awlaki even before that, including under the Bush administration.

    In justifying the assassination attempts previously, Obama’s counterterrorism chief Michael Leiter said al Awlaki posed a bigger threat to the U.S. homeland than bin Laden did, albeit without a whole lot of explanation as to why this was. But, let’s be charitable and agree al Awaki is a bad guy; indeed, Yemen sentenced him to ten years in jail (which is not execution, fyi) for “inciting to kill foreigners” and “forming an armed gang.”

    The key factor in thinking this through is that no one has accused al-Awlaki of actual killing anyone. He is accused of talking to people, albeit about jihad and killing, and exchanging emails with evil people like the shoe bomber or the underwear bomber, I forget which, and the Fort Hood killer. None of these are nice people and I doubt any of the conversations were about nice things. Still, the true is uglier: the US executed an American Citizen because of what he said and what he thought.

    Attorneys for al Awlaki’s father previously tried to persuade a US District Court to issue an injunction last year preventing the government from the targeted killing of al Awlaki in Yemen, though a judge dismissed the case, ruling the father did not have standing to sue. My research has so far been unable to disclose whether or not this is the first time a father has sought to sue the US government to prevent the government from killing his son but I’ll keep looking. The judge did call the suit “unique and extraordinary” so I am going to go for now with the idea that no one has previously sued the USG to prevent them from murdering a citizen without trial or due process. The judge wimped out and wrote that it was up to the elected branches of government, not the courts, to determine whether the United States has the authority to murder its own citizens abroad.

    Just to get ahead of the curve, and even though my own kids are non-terrorists and still in school, I have written to the president asking in advance that he not order them killed. Who knows what they might do? One kid has violated curfew a couple of times, and another stays up late some nights on Facebook, and we all know where that can lead.

    The reason I bring up this worrisome turn from regular person to wanted terrorist is because al Awlaki used to be on better terms with the US government himself. In fact, after 9/11, the Pentagon invited him to a luncheon as part of the military’s outreach to the Muslim community. Al Awlaki “was considered to be an ‘up and coming’ member of the Islamic community” by the Army. He attended a luncheon at the Pentagon in the Secretary of the Army’s Office of Government Counsel. Al Awlaki was living in the DC area at that same, the SAME AREA MY KIDS LIVE, serving as Muslim chaplain at George Washington University, the SAME UNIVERSITY MY KIDS might walk past one day.

    Even though Constitutional law professor Obama appears to have skipped reading about the Fifth Amendment (release the transcripts! Maybe he skipped class that day!), courts in Canada have not.

    A Toronto judge was justified in freeing an alleged al Qaeda collaborator given the gravity of human rights abuses committed by the United States in connection with his capture in Pakistan, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled. Judges are not expected to remain passive when countries such as the US violate the rights of alleged terrorists, the court said.

    “We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values,” said the Canadian court.

    Golly, this means that because the US gave up its own principles in detaining and torturing this guy, the Canadians are not going to extradite him to the US. That means that the US actions were… counterproductive… to our fight against terrorism. The Bill of Rights was put in place for the tough cases, not the easy ones. Sticking with it as the guiding principle has worked well for the US for about 230 years, so why abandon all that now?

    Meanwhile, I’ll encourage my kids to stay inside when they hear drones overhead.



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    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

    Diplopundit Reviews We Meant Well

    September 22, 2011 // Comments Off

    The inside-the-Beltway must-read blog Diplopundit posted a review of We Meant Well.

    The writer had some nice things to say:


    It’s easy to see why the folks in Foggy Bottom will be none to pleased with the stories in this book.

    Learning from one’s mistakes is one of life’s most important skills. And if we are really serious about learning the mistakes of nation building in Iraq, Peter Van Buren’s book should be required reading not just for decision makers but for everyone heading to those PRT gigs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan and where ever else it is we are conducting reconstruction and stabilization efforts these days.

    In addition to being an engaging storyteller, the author was smart enough not to fill his book with too much government jargon and acronyms that you need a dictionary just to read it. People back home, if they’d bother to pick up the book will find it a fast read. It is also a book that will be a helpful addition to our understanding of what is wrong in Iraq, provided that we care and want to know. For the plenty squeezed and suffering American taxpayers, this would be a hard book to read.



    Read the whole review here.



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    Can’t We Just Kill Them All Faster in Yemen?

    June 15, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    Google is just wonderful. I looked back a few years and there was just not alot of news about terrorism and Yemen (USS Cole in 2000, certainly, but pre-9/11 doesn’t count, right?).

    For example, in 2007, al Qaeda sent letters (letters!) to 45 Jews living near Sanaa, saying that if the Jews did not abandon their homes in ten days, they would be abducted and murdered and their homes would be looted. The Jewish community sent a complaint letter (a letter!) to President Salah, who promised that their homes would be protected. Good times.

    Sure, 2001-2008, a lot about al Qaeda in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and more recently in Pakistan. Now Yemen. I could be wrong, but it is almost– almost– as if al Qaeda kept spreading to new places despite our killing as many Muslims as we can.

    Some news from Yemen.

    – Al Qaeda’s robust terror organization in Yemen is recruiting from a pool of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have fled war in their homeland, according to U.S. and Yemeni intelligence officials. Approximately 700,000 Somali refugees have made Yemen their home, and that population is expected to continue to grow in the face of the collapse of the East African nation.

    – Two American tourists were kidnapped by gunmen in Yemen Monday, and local officials said it was likely the group holding them had ties to al Qaeda.

    – A US military official warned that the global links between the groups in Yemen pose a “significant danger to our own national security because the next attack in the US may not come from someone we suspect but from a recruit born right here or someone else, like a Somali refugee.”

    – In April, 23 Somalis who entered Mexico illegally earlier in the year were believed headed for the US after being released by Mexican authorities.Several were directly connected to Islamo-terror group Al-Shabaab, according to the law enforcement documents.

    – US makes a drone attack a day in Yemen. The increase of such attacks is part of a US strategy to employ more drones to curb what the US believes is a growing terror threat in Yemen. The US plans to begin supplementing US military drones with CIA drones.


    Only intelligent comment made: A Yemen defence official, who requested anonymity, said he ws worried that US strategy may backfire. “The United States is turning Yemen into another Pakistan,” he said. He said relatives of innocent drone-attack victims will seek to avenge the deaths and resort to terror.

    Can we please listen to that guy?




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    Let’s Kill an American

    May 17, 2011 // 3 Comments »

    al Awlaki Q: If a foreign organization kills an American overseas for political reasons, it is called…
    A: Terrorism.

    Q: If the United States kills an American overseas for political reasons, it is called…
    A: Justice.

    The Government of the United States, currently under the management of a former professor of Constitutional law, is actively trying to kill one of its own citizens abroad without any form of due process. This is generally seen as a no-no as far as the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and playground rules goes. The silly old Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law” and include no exceptions for war, terrorism, or being a really shitty human being.

    On or about May 7 a US military drone fired a missile in Yemen (which is another country that is not our country) aimed at American Citizen Anwar al Awlaki, a real-live al Qaeda guy. The missile instead blew up a car with two other people in it, quickly dubbed “al Qaeda operatives” since we killed them. The US has shot at al Awlaki before, including under the Bush administration. In justifying the assassination attempt, Obama’s counterterrorism chief Michael Leiter said al Awlaki posed a bigger threat to the U.S. homeland than bin Laden did, albeit without a whole lot of explanation as to why this was. But, let’s be charitable and agree al Awaki is a bad guy; indeed, Yemen sentenced him to ten years in jail (which is not execution, fyi) for “inciting to kill foreigners” and “forming an armed gang.”

    Attorneys for al Awlaki’s father tried to persuade a US. District Court to issue an injunction last year preventing the government from the targeted killing of al Awlaki in Yemen, though a judge dismissed the case, ruling the father did not have standing to sue. My research has so far been unable to disclose whether or not this is the first time a father has sought to sue the US government to prevent the government from killing his son but I’ll keep looking. The judge did call the suit “unique and extraordinary” so I am going to go for now with the idea that no one has previously sued the USG to prevent them from murdering a citizen without trial or due process. The judge wimped out and wrote that it was up to the elected branches of government, not the courts, to determine whether the United States has the authority to murder its own citizens abroad.

    Just to get ahead of the curve, and even though my own kids are non-terrorists and still in school, I have written to the president asking in advance that he not order them killed. Who knows what they might do? One kid has violated curfew a couple of times, and another stays up late some nights on Facebook, and we all know where that can lead.

    The reason I bring up this worrisome turn from regular person to wanted terrorist is because al Awlaki used to be on better terms with the US government himself. In fact, after 9/11, the Pentagon invited him to a luncheon as part of the military’s outreach to the Muslim community. Al Awlaki “was considered to be an ‘up and coming’ member of the Islamic community” by the Army. He attended a luncheon at the Pentagon in the Secretary of the Army’s Office of Government Counsel. Al Awlaki was living in the DC area at that same, the SAME AREA MY KIDS LIVE, serving as Muslim chaplain at George Washington University, the SAME UNIVERSITY MY KIDS might walk past one day.

    Even though Constitutional law professor Obama appears to have skipped reading about the Fifth Amendment (release the transcripts! Maybe he skipped class that day!), courts in Canada have not.

    A Toronto judge was justified in freeing an alleged al Qaeda collaborator given the gravity of human rights abuses committed by the United States in connection with his capture in Pakistan, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled. Judges are not expected to remain passive when countries such as the US violate the rights of alleged terrorists, the court said Friday.

    “We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values,” said the Canadian court.

    Golly, this means that because the US gave up its own principles in detaining and torturing this guy, the Canadians are not going to extradite him to the US. That means that the US actions were… counterproductive… to our fight against terrorism. The Bill of Rights was put in place for the tough cases, not the easy ones. Sticking with it as the guiding principle has worked well for the US for about 230 years, so why abandon all that now?

    Meanwhile, I’ll encourage my kids to stay inside when they hear drones overhead.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Iraq, Links, Military

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