Friday, October 31, 2008

End-Mid-Week Open

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

Too much to hope for?

The Foreign Minister of Russia, S. Lavrov, will be visiting Japan next week for two days of "cultural matters" and consultations with the gaimushou (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan).

Supposedly, the Northern Territories issue is on the agenda.

Is it too much to hope for that he is bringing the groundwork for a final settlement?
But he also urged Japan to make concessions on the issue, saying, "Every problem requires compromise for a solution."
How about we concede not to evict your occupiers, and you get on with getting off our islands?

There are extant agreements from the conclusion of World War II with the rest of the Allied Powers that implicitly concede karafuto (Sakhalin) and the chishima rettou (Outer Kuriles) to Russia. Get the Northern Territories issue off the table, and then get on with signing a parallel peace accord, and that would make that all official.

Otherwise, one may as well toss the whole resolution in the trash and call the entire region in dispute... which would mean no more Japanese financing of Russian oil and gas projects, and no more freedom of navigation for Russian vessels.

Is that where one really wants this to go?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Peruvian Instability

Some of this has been building up for a couple of weeks, and there is enough wrong that there is some severe danger to the continued stability of the administration of Alan Garcia in Peru.

The major problem of the day is riots, but there are tax-rivalry problems between some of the southern provinces and then there was the Oil Scandal (bribery and profiteering) revealed earlier this month...

If this continues to build, things look dark for the government, and for Peru.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

When one is out at the dirt end of a logistics tail, what one gets to eat takes on a whole new importance. The horror stories about military rations are told no matter what army one is speaking of, and the comparisons between forces (and branches of service) as to who gets the "best" food are a staple of many a soldier's conversation. In American service, the much derided but essential MRE has been renamed many times over from its official reference: Meal, Ready-to-Eat...

And faced with this sort of problem, into the fray is deployed the U.K.'s finest: Gordon Ramsey, celebrity chef.

Victory is now at hand.

The entirely unrelated title to this thread is from joke and title of a superb book on the essential nature of punctuation. Consider this a free endorsement. ((grin))

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Somali troubles move north

A series of suicidal bombing attacks hit Hargeisa, the capital area of Somaliland, a reasonably secure northern semi-State loosely considered part of Somalia, and also hit inside Puntland territory in the east.

The targets were State government buildings, security service offices and a UNDP facility.

Investigations are underway. No claims of perpetration have been made public as of now.

*Here* is Reuters version of the report, containing more details as to the targets.

Shabelle Media Network out of Mogadishu reports as well, and claims the Ethiopian Embassy (sic) in Hargeisa was a prime target.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Second Follow-up on North Kivu Situation

Seems that a coincidence of timing is making things much worse as the fighting progresses:

1)FARDC (the D.R. Congolese Army) is showing its heels.

2)Efforts to evacuate Aid Workers have failed so far.

3)There has been another change of command at MONUC. This is the second command change in about one month.

Did I mention the quality of CNDP (the major rebel army) anti-aircraft fire is improving? Most unfortunate, that, as MONUC seems to be limited to only helicopter gunship raids as their peacekeepers are falling back as well.


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Weekly N&C for October 27th, 2008

If you are what you eat…

Many, if not most, discussions of National Security (in any Nation) focus on easily observable threats and reactions. Lines on a map are discussed as being “defensible” or not; Numbers of troops, armaments, and the ability of a State to move and supply them are totaled and compared; Networks and alliances are compared and analyzed in an attempt to determine who will stand with who if a crisis emerges. Resources are counted as well. To cite a recent example, the analysis of the Lebanese Army’s ability to effectively fight the Fatah al-Islam militants in May of 2007 quickly identified that the Lebanese Army would be functionally out of ammunition if a prolonged besiegement was necessary, so allies and supporting Nations were actually offering additional supplies before they were openly requested. Fuel needs, ammunition needs, these things are readily calculable and always are, unless incompetence rules the day. The modern conflict is still perceived as, and in some ways is, an industrial contest of logistics. Perhaps that is an improvement over the perception that the depth of a Nation’s military manpower pool was the measure of strength, or at least a measure of how many casualties that army could endure, as it was in the decades leading up to World War I…

Many, if not most, discussions of National Prosperity also focus on easily observable measures of wealth and productivity. Gross Domestic Products are compiled; Industrial output and the resources demanded to fuel that industry are tabulated; Reserve currencies, tax revenues, disposable incomes, stock market valuations, all are brought to the counting house and duly entered in the books. Perhaps that too is an improvement over the days of mercantilist authorities piling up gold bullion in treasuries to measure how successful their efforts to sell without buying were progressing…

It has all gotten rather complicated, and that is meant in a good way more than in converse. The wonderful, and at times astounding, interdependencies of the systems man has wrought are part and parcel of the way civilization has advanced. The issue that moves counter to that, however, is that in so advancing it is far too easy to allow the memory of more basic structures to fade. Those memories need not be tossed away, but need to be considered with all the unintended complications that the interdependencies bring with them.

Let us take a brief moment and begin to refresh that memory just a bit, with a look back at needs. Maslow, in his 1943 hierarchy of needs, quantified what had been observable throughout the human experience; that the needs of survival (physiological) and safety would trump lesser desires and motivations in all but the most uncommon circumstances. To put it in simpler terms, that (to pick one of the survival needs) “It is quite true that man lives by bread alone -- when there is no bread.” The same could be said of the city-dweller who responds to an interruption of the water mains by seeking bottled water from a store, only to find that the shelves are empty. The entire focus of that person’s needs are likely going to be securing some water, or getting to a place where water is available.

Did I mention that, world-wide, roughly half of the human race now lives in cities virtually dependent upon the means of logistical supply for sustenance?

The image gets far more foreboding when scaled up to the level of Nations rather than municipalities. Rather few of the Nations of the world are by gross measure self-sufficient in food production. Fewer still have the combination of a self-sufficiency of staples and sufficient stockpiles of grain reserves to endure any major disruption. Yes, total world production of food and per-capita world production of food have both steadily risen since the 1960’s, and yes, that has occurred while the number of farmers in developed countries has steadily fallen. Higher yields and constantly improving mechanization of both farming and transport will do that. To pick the example of the United States, roughly 2,000,000 people are “farmers” (less than 1% of the population) and they work 92% of the available farmland in what is still considered the greatest breadbasket nation in the world. The remaining 8% of farmland is taken out of production by government intervention (price-supporting and land preserving policies). But think for a moment about what has just been said: higher yields; mechanization and transport; government intervention…

Japan has mastered the protection of rice production (and farmer’s incomes) by a combination of having fabulously high-yielding crop strains and a TRQ tariff scheme that functionally supports the price at between 4 and 5 times the world market price for short-grain rice. The results are 100% self-sufficiency in rice production, produced from roughly 60% of available wet-field farmland, growing strains of rice that *can not* survive without agricultural chemical applications, at a price that absolutely precludes any viable export market for excess production. This may seem reasonable in light of how utterly incapable Japanese agriculture was until recent times of providing any reasonable livelihood to farmers or any reliable supply to the urban areas, but once again there are the warning signs of dependence upon something more than just growing the crops and the (in this case all-powerful) hand of government intervention …

Having sufficient food is a basic security. But how gets it, and at what cost in resources, can and does create other insecurities, locally and abroad. Energy costs, now at least temporarily receding, can play havoc with the production and transport of food. Financial instability and “credit crises” can at a moment’s notice disable the ability of global markets to move food from supplies to needs. Criminal and kleptocratic activities can deny the ability to transport food, and in particularly imbecilic cases actually destroy the ability of an area to produce food in any meaningful quantity. Corruption is even more endangering, for in places that still suffer under a corrupt culture that considers adulteration of foodstuffs to be a part of meeting goals, the trust of the entire market public is endangered. Now no one country has a monopoly on such conduct through history; that example given is just the most currently discussed one, and it is noteworthy in its effect on international relations in addition to the damage it has caused in the country.

Which brings this matter to its conclusion; that the continued insistence of central administrative authorities (that would be the government intervention cited above), most commonly by unelected bureaucrats and nationally chartered collective officers, that they and only they are the arbiters of wisdom is only defensible if said authorities are fully cognizant of the inter-relationships and dependencies of the almost comically complex system of supplying sustenance that has come to be the way the world feeds itself.

Some things can not, and should not be changed. Unless one was to be considering reprising the madness of forcible relocation of the urbanized masses during the Pol Pot regime on a global scale, the fraction of the population of the globe that is urbanized will likely only increase further in the near term. Not all lands are suited for agriculture, and no amount of government wishing can change that. The desert may well bloom for a time with enough money thrown at mega-scale irrigation projects, but that is already proving to be beyond reason from Southern California to the Valley of the Jordan.

Water demands for agriculture and “agriculture based” industrial activities have also compromised sustainability, with a myriad of examples through history, but recent demands are over-pumping aquifers in China and India foreshadowing falling levels of food security in two countries that are also most capable of participating fully in a global food market should they chose to.

The Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks has broken down after failing to meet any agreement on reducing agricultural subsidies and tariffs. It is not even scheduled to reconvene until 2009.

Unless one is willing to face the very real possibility that those States that have money and need food will balk at the cost and continue to denude their own lands in the pursuit of some temporary security, that the Nations that have exportable quantities of petroleum will consider it imprudent to continue to provide the energy and chemical feedstocks essential to how the developed world has chosen to grow and transport its food without some economic compensation in the form of availability-at-cost-not-subsidized-cost, and that the impoverished lands of the world will simply be bankrupted (again) the next time the farm futures markets of the developed world panic over the diversion of food to biofuel production or the credit markets seize up internationally…

Unless one is willing to continue to create such *insecurity*, then one had best be getting the hand of government off the scales of trade as much as is possible, world-wide.

If there is one international forum that should be reconvened as soon as possible, and pursued to a resolution with good faith, it is the Doha Round, and getting it restarted should be one of the first things on the agenda as of now.

Because National Security and National Productivity are still determined by needs.

End Notes:

All direct citations are embedded as links.

Additional material can be found in the references cited and the summaries given in the following Wiki-p entries, linked here for convenience. The usual caveat applies: check the sources.

2007-2008 World Food Crisis

2008 Chinese Milk Scandal

World Water Crisis

The Doha Development Round of the WTO

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hunter-Killer raid inside Syria

This is simply an advisory to readers regarding the reports of a Hunter-Killer raid (sometimes called Task Force 88 raid) having been conducted inside Syria.

The following sources have parts of the story:

Bill Roggio at Long War Journal has a lead story and a very good follow up.

Lebanese news source Ya Libnan has reports of what Syrian media is reporting.

Reuters Alertnet quotes the BBC as to Syria's diplomatic response

Sunday Morning Push

One new item up, as it is breaking news that would have fallen between the cracks. Other than that, there is no new discussion thread, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun.

There is a favor I would ask, as I thought this was a good suggestion and I'd be honored if something came of it:

If you think The Weekly N&C would be an item you would like to see in print, write to your local newspaper *as one of their subscribers*, suggest they contact me and provide a link to one of The Weekly items you'd think would make a good example.

To answer questions before they are asked: I think this is a good idea because local print media often depends on syndicates for their informed opinion items; I like supporting local print media; No, I wouldn't suggest any of the short or discussion items as they are really internet-based presentations; Yes, I do have versions of each The Weekly item with end notes rather than links, *and* a stripped version that has no references but instead samples the relevant linked item.

Who knows; somebody out there might be looking for content, eh?

Thanks again to All!

The Report to the Waki Commission is due.

The report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is due to be promulgated "soon", as per their website:
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has investigated and documented serious human rights violations following the post 2007 election violence. In the course of the investigations, the KNCHR established the names of the perpetrators and planners of the violence.
The Post election Violence report will be uploaded shortly
But for those of you that want a preview, FOXNews claims an exclusive.

It is powerful stuff, and it could go all the way to the International Criminal Court if an internal tribunal can't be agreed to.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One of the last fights of the last 'war'.

If the Cold War really was a 'war', and some (like me) sure think it was, then this was one of the last fights. UPI's The Almanac has it like this:
In 1983, U.S. troops, supported by six Caribbean nations, invaded the tiny, leftist-ruled island of Grenada. Nineteen Americans died in the fighting.
Just to refresh any memories as needed, it was called Operation Urgent Fury.

The first two reports that reached me were both rumors (said rumors will appear in comments to avoid confusion) and both rumors proved wrong. The SEALs did lose men on the way in, and there was a hell of a firefight on the airfield, but it wasn't as depressing as first thought. 19 dead, though...

The invasion served two purposes of note besides the stated rescues and liberation: Political (which I will not comment on further); and to finally make a public statement that Cuban military expeditions, which had been a constant danger for years from Africa to Latin America, were no longer going to be tolerated. From this point on, it was all downhill for Cuban Adventurism.

It isn't forgotten on Grenada, by the way. It is Thanksgiving Day and thank you for remembering.

Pop Quiz

If some one asked you "What country has claimed they would intervene militarily in Bolivia twice in the last few years?", what would would be your answer?

Here's the answer, near the end of this excellent piece from Francisco Olivares at El Universal (Caracas). English translation provided by El Universal.

A Global Counterterrorism Network

Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers appeared at The Washington Institute for Middle East Policy's special event yesterday (the 24th) and gave a superb top-down view of the roles and direction of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Here's a summary, with links to the full transcript.

M. Vickers is in a key position on the policy and civilian control side of USSOCOM leadership. More, he has had tremendous influence on policy for future operational needs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

End-Mid-Week Open

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

Is that what they call them?

The New York Times version of the report on the latest OPEC meeting and the decision to cut 1.5 million barrels per day off the composite production quotas states...
Some members, led by Iran, pushed for an aggressive cut in production. Their aim is to stop the precipitous slide in prices that risks putting a big dent in their government revenues and jeopardizes their increasingly large social spending programs.
(bold added)

Social Spending Programs? Is that what they call them now?

Still, the general take on all this is that the slide in oil futures prices won't stop even with this "cut". The Saudis are still filling the market with 300,000 bpd or more over quota, the economic slowdown has the market a-fear'n, and demand declines in developed economies (and those economies that export heavily to the developed economies) all point to a floor below $50 per barrel even after this cut.

This is good news for almost everyone, and bad news for some very deserving folks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The 'Root

25th Year Memorial, first one I've ever written down.

Here's how The AP's Almanac has it

On Oct. 23, 1983, 241 U.S. service members, mostly Marines, were killed in a suicide truck-bombing at Beirut International Airport in Lebanon; a near-simultaneous attack on French forces killed 58 paratroopers.

Excuse me, but I'm going to spend as much of the day as I can quietly, with some old friends. This unfinished business will still be there when I get back.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

OFAC drops the hammer on Iran-Venezuela "bank"

It has been alluded to here, before, that the Iran-Venezuela marriage of convenience opened all matter of possible avenues for troublemaking, but the specific concern that Iran would use Venezuelan front-banks to get around the sanctions regime aimed at denying nuclear technology to Iran has been more a matter for quiet side discussions...

...until now.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has just promulgated a ban on Banco Internacional de Desarrollo, C.A., of Caracas. Note this is neither of the Venezuelan banks of similar names, but an Iranian-funded entity. An Iranian exchange company, a stock brokerage, and a bank, all based in Iran also got the hammer.

Average member, about age minus24.6 years...

The "war veterans" gangs of the ZANU-PF of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) that serve as the enforcers of the regime of Robert Mugabe are at it again with the threats against anyone deemed to be against the revolution...

Quick reminder: the term "war veterans" is uniquely applied in propaganda to those insurgent soldiers of The Second Chimurenga (Rhodesian Bush War). The Lancaster House Agreement that sold out the future of the nation officially ended that in December, 1979. Any "wars" that the Mugabe regime has gotten into since then have been either slaughtering the tribal support groups of rivals or have been kleptocratic interventions into things like The Congo Wars. So the youngest "veteran" was just of the age to join the fight in 1979, which was 29 years ago. That would be maybe 12 years old, then.

But here is something to ponder:

Here's the BBC Country Profile for the neighborhood. It's a little out of date, so...

Here's the CIA Factbook entry on Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) current to 2008, which gives the median age for males in the country right now as...

16.4 years.

That's pretty typical of many undeveloped and underdeveloped countries, by the way, to have a median age below 20. High birthrates and early deaths do that to a place's demographics.

So when you read about the farm invasions and political repression that are daily occurrences *still*, and some noble-sounding so and so hauls out the "war veterans" claim for redistribution as a justification for the attacks, ask to see pictures of these murderous thieving totalitarian thug "veterans".


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Whether it is opium in Afghanistan, gemstones in Africa, or cocaine from the Andes, the signs keep coming in that illicit trade is the financial refuge of choice for militant groups irrespective of what the same groups claim is their political stance on such trade.

Hezbollah link to drug and money-laundering scheme

The implications are far more disturbing when all the advantages of such linkage are put to use. Here is a commentary by Douglas Farah from earlier this month, with statements by U.S. Southern Command and the DEA on this general issue.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Weekly N&C for October 20th, 2008

Note: This item relates to The Weekly N&C for October 6th, 2008, and the Follow-up entry on that.

Ituri Matters

As if the mounting humanitarian and ecological tragedy ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu Province was not horrific enough, there is a parallel conflict still underway in Ituri (Orientale Province) the next province to the north. It is so close-by that it would seem to be a part of the same conflict, but neither the goals nor names of many of the parties in arms share any meaningful connection to the Kivu Conflict. Instead, an ominously religious element of a kind rarely heard of, and a fearsomely inhumane manner of the conflict combine to make this war-with-three-borders nearly unique in its nature. If one has not heard of one of the current combatant militias before, or seen what they do, one might well doubt such a group’s existence is even possible.

Ituri, its northern neighbor Haut-Uele, as well as two other regions formerly called in sum Orientale Province, are the Northeast corner of D.R. Congo. Ituri shares an external border with Uganda along Lake Albert, and a narrow border in the north with Sudan. Here is a map reference. It is a heavily forested area in parts, and is on the high plateau area of the region. The area is famous for gold mining, and for a host of natural treasures. It also is the home of well over four million people.

Arguably the most important of the natural treasures is summed up in the Ituri Rainforest region, which includes the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Reserve was listed in 1997, and immediately noted as endangered. While some of that danger comes from the persistent encroachment by gold-hunters and the damage they do, the major issue has been conflict.

Ituri has been caught up in The Congo Wars, the on-again-off-again multinational regional struggle that in part spun off from the Rwandan Genocide. Ituri has also had an internal conflict of its own based on tribal loyalties and the patronage of “big men”, but a steady international intervention by MONUC U.N. forces had supposedly brought the conflict to a close in August of 2007, with the demobilization over time of the following laundry list of combatants:
Front de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI);
Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC);
Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI); and others as well. The same effort saw to the removal of Ugandan and Ugandan-aligned forces…


Yes, originally involved as a major combatant in The Congo Wars, Uganda had forces and allies in the region and still has important “interests” there. But Uganda has mostly been content until very recently to keep to its own matters, particularly to tend to the matter of rooting out an astoundingly persistent and strange insurgency in the Acholi-land regions of its own north, generally around the city of Gulu. Here is a map reference for Uganda. In the main, the country has done well since the days of Idi Amin Dada, but there is one significant obstacle to national peace and unity out there, a danger to neighboring nations as well.

For widespread through the Acholi tribals, who live from Lake Albert’s shore up to the north-center and on into southern Sudan, is a belief in a local version of Christian teachings referred to by observers as the “Spokesman of the Holy Spirit”. This was first popularized as an invocation of legitimacy for a leader in the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Auma that threatened to destroy the government in a 1986~1987 military campaign. While the Holy Spirit Movement was utterly defeated on the battlefield, successor movements called upon the same so-called divine power and inspiration, the most lasting of which is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by one Joseph Kony. This rebel force has spread terror and destruction through central Uganda for over a decade. Their campaign has embraced murder, maiming, rape, and child-kidnapping on a grand scale. Rather than belabor the details any further, *here* is the International Criminal Court indictment against the LRA leaders, as unsealed in 2005.

The Ugandan People’s Defense Force (national armed forces of Uganda) campaigned from 2002 to 2005 in a determined effort to destroy the LRA, even gaining permission to enter southern Sudan for a time to raid base-camps there, but all to no avail. By 2006, J. Kony and the LRA’s main force had moved into the far reaches of Ituri in the D.R. Congo and had already struck against MONUC forces operating there as part of the conclusion of the Ituri Conflict. By June of 2008, the LRA was firmly established in Ituri, and both preying upon the tribals there and continuing to export terror back into Uganda. They had found a way to not only survive, but prosper…

…by being given food and basic supplies by Christian charity NGOs.

No, you did not misread that.

Christian charities are providing food and medicine to the LRA.

The LRA is showing their appreciation by *doing this*. From a second source, *this*. Furthermore, they are party to *this*.
They have formed faction with re-militarized FRPI militias (see above), and are cited as having displaced 17,000 civilians in Ituri in attacks last September alone. Reuters news service cites 50,000 displaced by the LRA in Ituri.

This isn’t Christian charity, or any one’s charity.

This is madness.

End Notes:

Most notes are embedded as links. Wiki-p links used for convenience only, please check all cited sources.

SouthScan Ltd.’s report on the region this week includes information on the LRA in Ituri in addition to updates on the fighting in Nord-Kivu.

a related report, somewhat dated, of MONUC peacekeepers arming militia elements in Ituri. Some of those arms may well be in LRA or allied hands now.

Diehl on Nicaragua

I've been looking to write at length on the ugly turn of events that has left Daniel Ortega in control of the Government of Nicaragua (again), but for once I'll defer as someone got there before me and did a very fine job.

Jackson Diehl - Ortega Amnesia

He asks some very hard questions at the end of the piece, ones that we'll try to address here as time and context allow, later.

Cameroon vs. Pirates, the latest round

There has been another round of pirate attacks in the West African region, but this time there were two important differences:

*They were not robbing banks, but instead were contesting Government of Cameroon authority over the Bakassi Peninsula.

*The pirates lost the fight. Unfortunately though, it appears they mostly got away after the encounter.

Better luck next time, Cameroonians.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Morning Push

There is no new discussion thread, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun.

My special thanks to CNN and NPR readers who have come in to visit for the first time this week. Otherwise, there are no admin matters of note; all goes well.

As always, thank you for coming here!

extra: I've been asked about today's North Korea rumors. Yes, newspapers here had the story. No, neither RoK nor Japanese sources in Intelligence are will to confirm much of anything. I'll run a item on it if/when more reliable information hits Open Sources.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Imad Mughniyeh's replacement?

In an odd convergence, Lebanon is also the focus of this recent series of news items.

An Italian newspaper recently claimed that Iran had sent a replacement liaison to Hezbollah (Hiz'b-allah), which has drawn a quick public denial from the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon.

You can probably discount that denial, in intent if not in detail. I thought the part about Hezbollah being "independent" was particularly worthy of disdain.

Here's what you might not have heard unless you are reading Lebanese media:

The Iranians might not be needing a secret liaison much longer. Being that it seems possible that Christian-Lebanese turncoat faction-leader Michel Aoun seems to be bought and paid for. Quoting the brief:
Aoun, according to Tehran political observers is a key Christian cover for Hezbollah in implementing Iranian policies in the region and for this reason he will be financially supported during the upcoming elections.

This is bad for Lebanon and bad for the neighborhood.

Sir, I question your veracity and motivation.

The American National Public Radio (NPR) ran an interview today with Timothy Geraghty, USMC Col. (ret), the former commander of then-24th MAU during the 1983 Lebanon deployment. You can find the interview *here* and in full as audio on their link.

note: 1st Battalion, 8th Marines was then the ground component of 24th MAU.

Now it is not my habit, nor my pleasure to call into question the conduct of a U.S. Marine officer, but I feel the need to do so this time. NPR says:

Geraghty has often wondered if there were ways the U.S. military could have reduced or prevented the losses in 1983. "The original size magnitude of that device was considered to be stoppable. It wasn't," he says.

"Forensics done afterward by FBI and others [show] that this was the largest nonnuclear explosion on record," he adds. "It guaranteed mass casualties. There was no way we could have stopped that bomb in that environment."

Geraghty blames the vulnerable location of the base: "We were in the middle of an active international airport and really didn't have control of the people and vehicles entering and exiting.

"From the first day there, I was uneasy with that location. It was selected for diplomatic and political reasons a year earlier. [It was] a static location surrounded by hills with over 600 tubes of artillery [that] could be brought to bear on us."

He says that tactically, it was "an abominable position."

Sir, other than the entirely irrelevant statement about the number of tubes of arty looking down on you, what you are quoted as saying is an unmitigated misrepresentation.

The largest non-nuclear explosions in history (see references there cited) yield between 2 and 4 thousand tons of HE.

The bomb that hit your men was about 5 tons yield.

Your men got hit with one damn truckload.

A truck that proper perimeter and alertness could have stopped but for ROE and standing orders that prevented the guards from engaging.

This happened six months after a vehicle bomb had blasted the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, so the idea sure wasn't new to you.

Your wire fence wasn't even improved with improvised spikes to impede crashthroughs, you had no meaningful barriers around the building and your men posted as guards were not ordered to carry ready weapons.

You, Sir, may have done everything you could for your men after the bombing, but you have no, repeat no excuse for what you were responsible for before the bombing.

Telling outright falsehoods about what happened isn't exactly to your credit either.

Do you think the men don't know the truth?

The 25th Anniversary survivor's re-union is this week.

A retraction is in order, or I suggest you don't bother to show up.

Addenda, 19.Oct2008 -- Please see the comments for details

The issues in question are those of "impossibility" and of the motivation of publishing the claim of "impossibility".

The call made here is that Col. Geraghty make a correction to the quotations of his interview claiming the size and effect of the bomb, and make a retraction as to the implied assertion that *preventing* the total destruction of the building housing the Battalion Landing Team was "impossible".

A call is now made upon NPR to amend or annotate their report, and to retract their claim as to "impossibility" as extant investigations clearly refute that.

There is reason to believe that NPR initiated the interview, so questions of motivation fall upon them, *perhaps moreso*, to answer as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

End-Mid-Week Open

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

Let's not be letting the Iranians on the UNSC

The vote in the General Assembly comes Friday (today) and there are seven candidate countries up for the five 2-year seats.

Uganda is the sole candidate for the Africa allocation; Mexico is the sole candidate for the Latin America allocation; Austria, Iceland and Turkey are in for the two WE&O seats...

and in the Asia region, the candidates for the single seat are Japan and Iran.

Yes, Japan has selfish political reasons for wanting to be back on the Council.

Fortunately that meshes nicely with keeping one of the most hostile governments in the world off the list.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's bad if it is true, worse if it is not.

Reports in from Colombia tell of protests by Native Peoples against the central government's land and rights policy turning violent. Not only are there reports of protests and injuries, but...

A Senior Police Official claims FARC infiltrators in the protest movement are using the opportunity to plant bombs on transportation lines.

That is, obviously, a bad thing if it is true. In fairness, it probably is true. If it is a fabrication though, it is worse because Colombia has worked so hard to become a nation of laws again.

Let's look for some confirmation on this in other sources.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Kill them" would be a valid tactic as well.

The Times (UK) is carrying a story today on how the Royal Navy will actually be allowed to fight the Somali Pirates.

Good news, there is to be new legislation authorizing the following:
The Royal Navy is to be given the power to seize and arrest suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden under new emergency legislation, senior defence sources have disclosed.

Bad news, besides the MoD and the FCO having a hand in drafting said legislation:
The proposed legislation, which is being studied by the Department of Transport...

Maybe they think they can stop the pirates with sufficient paperwork.

Good grace, this really isn't that hard. These are pirates attacking high seas commerce. Kill them.

Not quite 155 seats

...but a superb result for the Stephen Harper administration and the Tories.

The Conservatives picked up about 20 seats but are still to form a minority government.

Key Points: After weeks of threaten collapse, Bloc Quebecois proved strong enough on home ground to survive well. The NDP (left-center; "progressives") is still doing about the same. The Conservatives lost one in Quebec but improved everywhere else except the Maritime provinces. The Liberals however...

ouch. Stephane Dion looks to be done for. Not even the economic panic could save the Libs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No one leaves.

The split is on, and the big man does not exactly approve.

"We must also remind the dissidents that history has been extremely unkind to those who break away from the ANC." -- Jacob Zuma, 14. Oct, 2008

Expect the Youth League to be sharpening their pangas as we speak.

Warrants issued re:Julio Soto Murder

A Venezuelan court has issued arrest warrants for 8 suspects in the October 1st (likely contract-) killing of student activist Julio Soto.

Who gets arrested, whether they will stand trial, and whether anyone of any importance in the Chavez regime gets implicated in the process will all be of interest.

My wager, were I to be making one, is that the judge who issued the warrants gets disqualified and then reassigned to mosquito census duty on a small island.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Weekly N&C for October 13th, 2008

A Heritage of Conflict

The UNESCO World Heritage List enshrines (and endows) 878 sites around the world to aid in their preservation and frankly, to encourage a rousing tourist trade for the host country of each site. In all fairness, both are good things when done right. There is nothing quite like making the local businesses and governments richer for the trouble to get cooperation with a cosmopolitan historical goal that might otherwise be unfathomable to them. Unfortunately, when it comes to events like wars and “cultural purity campaigns”, there is not much that being on the list does to help besides add to the list of crimes against humanity being committed. Just ask the townspeople of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) how much it slowed down the Yugoslavian Army-Serbian besiegers in 1991~1992.

With that dark event in mind, please consider the circumstances of the Prasat Preah Vihear (Temple of Preah Vihear), one of the most recent additions to the World Heritage List. This Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva was constructed over a period from the 9th to 12th centuries, and is notably unique in its layout, architecture and decoration. It is also on top of a cliff in the middle of what could charitably be called “outer nowhere”, at the edge of the Dangrek Mountains on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. It is an absolutely commanding position, towering over 500 meters above the Cambodian Plain (it is at 625m elevation, roughly 2,000 feet above sea level). Here is a map reference of Cambodia specifying the location of the province.

But what the map reference *doesn’t* show is that the location of this most noteworthy cultural site is in the heart of a section of border that has been under various disputes since the first attempt to demarcate it in 1904. French Colonial Officers mapping the border between their colony and then-Siam seem to have made sure that a minor violation of the terms of the border-setting would make it onto the official map, putting the Temple on the French (Cambodian) side of the line. The Kingdom of Siam however accepted that map as presented, and did not actively contest the matter for years. They did occupy the region as spoils of cooperating with Imperial Japan during World War II, but in a political effort to be considered a non-belligerent gave the land back to the French at the end of the war. Therein we find the first complication, because rightly or wrongly demarcated, recognized borders became legally “set in stone” after 1948 excepting declared cases like de-colonization. (That last piece of legal prevarication is what accounts for such acts as the Seizure of Goa being “legal” even though they happened after that date.) Following roughly just such a line of thinking, when the French abandoned their colony in 1954, the now-Thai government sent in the troops and occupied the area. Claim and counter-claim brought this before the International Court of Justice in 1959, and they ruled on it in June of 1962, confirming the extant map and Cambodia’s claim to the temple site. Thai authorities immediately rued allowing the claim to go before the ICJ, and blamed (amongst other things) American bias and interference in the ruling. The flames of incendiary national pride had now been lit.

Now it would be unfair to say that either the Cambodia or the Thailand of today is the same sort of country as it was in late 1962. From one perspective in particular, Cambodia after the various Southeast Asian wars is nothing like the same nation it was just after regaining independence. Both countries are unstable politically, and both have some need of a “distraction”.

The Kingdom of Cambodia has slipped part-way back into the thrall of autocracy, with the Hun Sen government having out-maneuvered and out-brutalized the opposition parties in the years after the UNTAC international protectorate gave way to something of a government with democratic trappings. There wasn’t much left to govern after the Khmer Rouge government of Pol Pot got done massacring much of the population, after all. Add in the arrival about four million immigrants of dubious legality from Viet Nam and it is no wonder that former Vietnamese-communist quisling Hun Sen would end up with the largest political base. The extraordinarily weak monarchy of the country simply accepts his government, as do what international agencies and activities that still remain in Cambodia.

In the opposite corner, the more-often-than-not-stable Kingdom of Thailand has been putting on a rousing display of how to make a terrible mess of a perfectly good country in recent years. There is a Muslim insurgency in the south of the country that is being answered militarily, but that can be considered just opportunism on the part of the insurgents. Since the election of Thaksin Shinawatra and his party to power and its removal by military coup fairly shortly thereafter (Sept. 2006 coup), the major population centers of Thailand have been political powder-kegs. The effort by the Monarchist (CDRM)military junta to rule in the King’s name inspired neither the populace’ nor His Majesty’s formal mandate and that has led to their reforming as the Council for National Security (CNS) to remain the power-behind-the-government. Efforts to re-form a parliament and cabinet have met mixed results and near daily street protests. As of the most recent change of front-men, the administration is in the hands of Somchai Wongsawat (since Sept. 2008) and it is teetering on the edge of collapse. Faced with the disaster of the riot police having killed three protesters during last week’s violent anti-government clashes, he says he won’t resign as “it is not the right solution to (the crisis)”. Very well, he might last another week. The CNS is still mostly pulling the strings in any case.

Which leads us to “what strings they are pulling”, and that seems to be the string connected to that old-fashioned (and remember, incendiary) Thai national pride. The Royal Thai Army has been contesting terrain around the Temple of Preah Vihear since the declaration of the site as being on the World Heritage List this summer, and has in the last weeks pushed across the line again only to discover Cambodian Army troops *and land mines* in the area. Two Thai troopers got maimed by mines and the resulting shooting match wounded at least one Cambodian solider. It seems safe to say that puts serious doubt into the mid-August agreement to have pulled back troops. The Hun Sen government is furious and has upped the rhetoric to the war with Thailand being possible as soon as “tomorrow”. Given reports place the troop positions of each side are within 40 meters of the other, it certainly need not wait that long. Worse, the line of potential contest has extended kilometers outside the general area of the Temple.

Unless some astoundingly uncharacteristic cool-thinking on the part of the governments involved happens very soon, expect more shooting, more danger to the site, and more fear and avoidance by researchers and tourists.

The once-overlords of the United Nations are even rumored to be pondering declaring the site “stateless”; making it an international protectorate and demilitarizing the zone around it.

This author is probably first in line when opportunity comes to promote the cause of a nation reclaiming stolen territories, but in this case it simply looks like there is no duality of claim. The Kingdom of Thailand is a great nation, and has many real threats around it with the insurgency in the south and the text-book example of a troublesome neighbor, ‘Myanmar’ (Burma), on the western border.

They don’t need to start something with the Kingdom of Cambodia, especially over something that they should have contested in 1907… or at least 1947.

I am certain the Royal Thai Army could take the place again. I am fairly certain they could even hold it. What I am not at all sure of is whether or not the Hun Sen regime might not haul out the artillery and obliterate some part of the Temple. We are talking about a government (Hun Sen’s) that throws hand grenades at political protest marches.

It has taken years to get the Temple site back into any real accessibility since the Cambodian wars, and it has just been luck that has spared the place serious damage in the past.

Let us not chance it again.

Pull back.

End Notes:

All are embedded as links. Wiki-p links used (for convenience only) and must be separately sourced.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Morning Push

Please read the U.S.S. Cole Memorial thread.

There is no new discussion thread, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun.

There is no administrative matter to post this week. All goes well.

As always, thank you for coming here!

U.S.S. Cole memorial

This one is for our brothers and sisters in the Canoe Club, bless them all.

I don't even have the right words, so I'll defer to Galrahn at InformationDissemination:

U.S.S. Cole 8 Years Later

Follow the link there to OP-FOR and you can see a picture of the Cole back in fighting trim as she is today.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sold out again

North Korea gets off the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List.

The U.S. supposedly gets a verification regime on North Korean nuclear activities.

To be absolutely plain about this:

We asked nicely.

...and the Bush administration chose other priorities.

...and the memory of Yokota Megumi-san gets sold out, the day after we stood by her memory and that of all the other victims of North Korean terror, lies and duplicity.

Thanks for nothing, Yanks. Hope you like fueling your Indian Ocean squadron by yourselves.

Workman's Safety Rules

In a note that is not, repeat not, intentionally comedic...

The Hamas regime that controls the Gaza Strip has ordered owners of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai " their workers and obtain a license from the administration to provide electricity for the tunnels." The smugglers are also to pay taxes on products smuggled in.

You couldn't make up stuff like this.

Thanks to the always excellent MEMRI translators for this item.

Follow-up on the North Kivu situation.

Here is the latest from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the MONUC high headquarters:

The U.N. urged Congo and Rwanda on Friday to hold talks to avoid a war.

There is also a call for an investigation into supposed Rwandan intervention. That would be, specifically, the claim that Rwandan Army forces have crossed over into Nord-Kivu (again) and are backing the CNDP rebels.

The GovD.R.Congo offers supposed photographic evidence of Rwandan intervention.

There should be no doubt that Rwanda *would* intervene if they thought it was worth it to them, as they have done in major ways twice before. Whether the Congolese "proof" is worth much, however...

So much for that Oct. 10th deadline.

If one has been waiting for a report on the Russian withdrawal from occupied land in the Republic of Georgia, it looks like one can keep waiting. Yes, the Russian Army did clear off from some of their checkpoints, but they haven't complied with the agreement.

Q: "more negotiations?"

A: "more negotiations."

Q: "more contempt?"

A: "more contempt."

Friday, October 10, 2008

End-Mid-Week Open

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Call me if it gets *really* bad.

The morning newspapers here (reminder: here = Japan) were all talking "Panic" from the 9.38% one-day drop in the Nikkei 225 stock market average.

What they should have said was "Panic led to..." said drop. The panic, mostly shared fears carried over from markets in Europe and the Americas, led to the sell-off.

See this web log's previous entry about Ovines about now re:panics.

Let us put this straight: no one likes losing 1/11th of the market's valuation in a day, and it just seems fitting that such a result should come a year to the day after the NYSE Dow Industrials hit their all-time high, but we've seen worse here.

The Nikkei all-time high was December 29, 1989: intra-day high of 38,957.44; closing at 38,915.87

The Nikkei hit bottom after the bubble economy collapsed at 7603.76 in April 2003.

Here's a graphic on that.

For comparison, *here* is the Dow Industrials' history. Please look at the period from 1970 to present to compare.

Again, no one should be saying that the market troubles, especially the credit market troubles, across the world are small. But saying these troubles are worse than they are only gives power to the practitioners of Demagogy that wish to rule over you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An ounce of prevention

It is not the intervention in Afghanistan that tests the validity of the NATO alliance, nor is it any future obligation to the Republic of Georgia or Ukraine.

The test is: Will NATO defend the members it has?

Allies, neighbors, potential foes... they all watch, and judge.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Still about 700 more to rescue.

Once the epic tale of rescuing Íngrid Betancourt and 14 others ran its course in the news cycle, there hasn't been much reported on the other 700+ hostages still in the hands of the FARC.

The Colombian Army is still out trying, and once in while there is a success.

Let's not allow this to disappear in amongst the distractions of the daily news.

Try sending someone cuter.

In one of those rare moments of good sense to come out of the Gaimushou (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of Japan), it seems that they are *still* rejecting the application for Diplomatic Status of a pending appointee to the job of "overseeing cultural activities" at the Russian Embassy.

Gee, even Wikipedia knows what that means.

Next time, try sending someone cuter. I understand our diplomats are big fans of Maria Sharapova, if you need a role-model.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Weekly N&C for October 6th, 2008

It didn’t end in 1994, and it is not over yet.

If one were to start a discussion with the topics of “Hutu’s” and “Tutsi’s”, one might have a decent chance of having the movie “Hotel Rwanda” come up. That movie details one experience within the multitude that was the Rwandan Genocide, the ~100 days of slaughter by government-organized elements of the Hutu majority tribals against the Tutsi minority tribals in Rwanda that killed somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi and only ended with the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front rebellion (a movement underway prior to the Genocide) fighting its way into control of the country. As many as 2,000,000 Hutu then fled Rwanda to adjacent lands to avoid arrest or reprisals, most going to then-called-Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo). The Hutu militias that were the prime perpetrators of the Genocide fled with and amongst them, in the main organizationally intact. In fact, they were likely allowed to go by a combination of U.S. and U.K. willful inaction and an act of overt French intervention.

But the Rwandan Genocide is also famously “resolved” by the establishment of and successful ongoing prosecutions by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The aftershocks of the Genocide destabilized the entire region, leading to a host of conflicts most famously including the First and Second Congo Wars. Now Congo is vastly larger, and more tribally complex than the simple Tutsi vs. Hutu conflict, but it is a measure of the intensity of that battle that it could sweep aside all else to become the driving force of two more major wars. The First (1996~1997) brought down Mobutu’s Zaire and was immediately followed in 1998 by the Second… which is perhaps better known as “Africa’s World War”. Eight countries battled for 4 years and left in excess of 3,500,000 dead (some citations reach over 5,000,000). In the course of the war, it often seemed that looting and controlling resource areas were more important than any larger goal. Think of it as Kleptocracy applied to war, and keep that in mind for later, here. Officially this war ended in December, 2002, with the Transitional Government being established in July of 2003. That is what the treaties say, at least. Hutu-aligned and Tutsi-aligned forces and a host of other locals and troublemakers still are at it, and are showing no sign of letting up.

Oh, there is one more relic of the Second Congo War still around besides those aligned forces: MONUC (site in English). This Peacekeeping Authority was authorized in February, 2000, by UNSC Resolution 1291, and has grown in scope, priorities, and expense ever since. As of now, MONUC is the largest and most expensive U.N. Peacekeeping authorization *in the world*. If you would prefer an overview of the history of MONUC, it can be found *here*. MONUC has recently been heavily involved in matters in Ituri province, and has a host of other responsibilities, but from here let us focus on their role in the Kivu Provinces, because that is where matters of Tutsi vs. Hutu are at their worst.

The two provinces of D.R. Congo facing Lake Kivu are Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu and unless one is particularly interested in the Rift Valley Great Lakes region of Africa, the only association that might come to mind is that there is a famous World Heritage site of Virunga National Park (the Colonial-times Albert National Park, est. 1925) that is the home of the Mountain Gorillas. Sadly, our focus here is on a different homonym: guerillas.

The not-formally-recognized-as-a-real-war Kivu Conflict is in full swing again, with an array of combatants and causes but once again an alignment of forces backing Tutsi or Hutu elements. The Tutsi are native to the area, and the bulk of the Hutu are… yes, escapees from Rwandan justice (or some say, revenge).

The array of factions through the region is astoundingly broad, as even a brief look at this resource from Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre offers (note the extended list includes forces in adjacent conflicts to Kivu). Three major forces in play are: the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) which is the national army of record in the D.R. Congo; what was known (see below) as the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), the primarily-Tutsi rebellion led by Laurent Nkunda; and MONUC. As the detailed list shows, there are handfuls of factional players and tribal forces aligned with both the FARDC and the former-CNDP, including the FARDC-allied Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), the army of the Hutu militias of the Rwandan Genocide. Force sizes by these two groups are in the thousands, and both possess arms and troop formations from the previous incarnation of the national army.

Laurent Nkunda, the founder of the former-CNDP in 2006, is a war-hardened veteran of the Congo Wars (both) as a part of the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (1998~2006) and before that, as a member of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (1992~1998), the Rwandan rebel movement that rescued the nation from the Genocide… which ties us all the way back to our beginning here. Regrettably, it seems that ‘General Nkunda’ is also not what anyone would call a good guy, and he has ended up listed on the UNSC wanted/banned list under Resolution 1596. In the interest comparison, however, *here* is a link to the former-CNDP organization web site. As of this week, the former-CNDP has been renamed (in English) as the Movement for the Total Liberation of Congo, although there is some debate as to what this could mean about a wider war to come, because…

The former-CNDP is saying that they are about to be attacked broadly by the FARDC, and there is active intervention by MONUC *on the side of the FARDC*. The FARDC is calling in re-enforcements and given their competence on the battlefield and the loyalty of their leaders, they need all the troops and arms they can get.

MONUC is calling for more “peacekeepers” including co-opting the language of “a surge” which is all rather beyond any mandate they may have, but may in fact be the correct thing to do considering the spreading humanitarian costs of the conflict. Things are getting so bad that Medicins Sans Frontieres is saying they are “losing” North Kivu.

It is all coming to a head, and it will be in the news again the next time MONUC attack helicopters fire on rebel formations…

But one might have missed *this* in all the posturing and maneuvering. Read it carefully, and notice that it is not only Tin Ore exports being banned. There on the list is Columbite-Tantalite as well.

Then remember the assertion made above about “…as Kleptocracy applied to war…”, and watch who is backing which faction to win and look at who will be controlling the resources.

Then pray for the people of the Kivu’s, for they are once again being trampled underfoot.

End Notes:

Most notes are embedded as links in the text.

Here is the U.N. Peacekeeping (worldwide) home page:

Here is an analysis by South Scan Ltd. on the quality of the FARDC.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Morning Push

There is no new discussion thread, mostly to allow me time to work on the Weekly piece.

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. If that isn't enough, there is still this week's Open for you all to make your own fun.

Site Meter works like a charm on people linking to here, searching to here, getting a grab from the feed or just entering the URL. Oddly, if you are seeing the posts here via Blogger's "Follower" function, Site Meter does not seem to count you. Same appears true for site widgets that display the latest thread post here in the sidebar of another weblog.

The sure-fire way to see and be seen by Site Meter remains actually visiting and commenting here.

Which reminds me to tell All... Comment!

Otherwise, I might fall into the dangerous intellectual trap of thinking that:

The World does not appreciate my obvious...


Seriously, thanks for coming here folks.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gee, I guess you *shouldn't* have brought it to HQ

In one of those "some days they get just what they deserve" moments, the Russian occupiers of South Ossetia just got hoist upon (somebody's) petard.

Quoted on RFE/RL:
RIA news agency quoted Kulakhmetov as saying that the peacekeepers, which control the region and a swathe of Georgian territory outside it, had detained two cars in the Georgian village of Ditsa.

"There were four people, apparently ethnic Georgians, in the car. Light firearms and two grenades were also found," Kulakhmetov said.

"The cars and the detained people were escorted to [the South Ossetian capital] Tskhinvali," he added. "During the search of one of the cars, an explosive device equivalent to some 20 kilograms went off."

That was good thinking there, guys. Bet your boss is upset.

Oh wait...

Seems you got the boss blown up, too.

You're doing a heck of job there, Ivan. Keep up the good work.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Another Anniversary

15 years.

18 American names, 19 with SFC M. Rierson included; 1 Malaysian name.

Gothic Serpent

...and the job still isn't done.


Remember this?

"Bets are there won't be any travel plans, either, until there is something to talk about besides the usual North Korean gamesmanship."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs C. Hill just spent three days in North Korea. He's back in South Korea now, has briefed the RoK and Japanese representatives there and is bound for China next.

The claim is "The meetings were indeed very lengthy, indeed very substantive."

Here also is the DeptState spokesman's presser on Oct. 2nd (U.S. Eastern Time). Please scroll down part way in that to find the North Korea items.

Anyone see anything that doesn't look like gamesmanship so far?

Me neither.

End-Mid-Week Open

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply. play nice, please.

Why is it, given how this week has gone, I have the vague feeling this is going to be a U.S. politics thread?


Thursday, October 2, 2008

October 2nd discussion item

Every culture has its scary stories, like the ones told children to keep them from being over-trusting of strangers for example. They mostly trace back to the real need in times before to not wander alone at night and to protect the group from predators (two and four -legged). But here is a continuing reminder that when you have neighbors like North Korea, the scary stories can be all-too-real.

Kyoudou News with the latest on the abductee negotiations

This story got a little play in the world media a couple years back when five of the victims were returned, but the issue is still of burning importance as it is seen as unresolved.

With the usual caveats about Wiki-p (i.e. check all the sources and ignore anything without citation) *here* is a fair summary of the situation regarding Japanese nationals that were kidnapped. There is lots more if one wishes to investigate South Koreans abducted by the North, or to look at the incredible deception that was done back in the late 1950's and 60's to lure large number of Korean-Japanese families to move to North Korea's "Worker's Paradise".

Open Ground: Is this an issue of sufficient merit that it deserves the place it takes beside de-nuclearization in the Six-Nations Negotiations? Or is this something where International interests should trump any moral imperative to resolve this? Is the U.S.A. sidelining this issue (just like it does about the Northern Territories when negotiating with Russia) because getting involved in any measurable way is far more trouble than it is worth? Or maybe you have something else to say about the whole matter...

By all means, begin!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Not much Republic of Georgia news making it to the headines

Ah, how soon we move along to the next crisis.

Here's the latest report on efforts to get the Russian occupiers pulled back from Georgian soil:

EU Observers begin patrols

I stand by my assertion that having turned back (somehow!) certain doom for the Republic of Georgia, the outcome of all this will be a vastly better, more developed, and possibly stronger Georgia.

US$1 billion in Aid (and another US$750 million in World Bank loans) to Georgia vs. Russian offers of near-annexation to the separatists. Any guess who is going to be better off if there is enough time?

I learned a new word today.

It came up in a discussion of the behavior of financiers and so-called investors:


hm, it turns out it can be used descriptively as well:

most ovine (re: individual)

and with a bit further investigation, it seems that


might have some application in political discourse as well.

Rather than my more lupine-favoring analogy of record, maybe I had best leave this with...

Where are the Mouflon when we need them?