Archive for September 18th, 2007
Just back from giving two units of blood via the Alyx machine. So easy, so quick, and so highly valued by the recipient, whoever it may be. Give it a go.
And probably many of those fighting the US. The story:
The grand debate about Gen. David Petraeus’ Capitol Hill testimony last week on U.S. strategy in Iraq focused primarily on troop levels, withdrawal dates and whether Bush’s so-called troop surge was succeeding. But widely overlooked was Petraeus’ sales pitch to lawmakers for one initiative he said will help save the war-torn country: massive arms sales from the U.S. government to Iraq.
“Iraq is becoming one of the United States’ larger foreign military sales customers,” Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 11, noting that Iraq has inked deals to buy $1.6 billion in arms from the U.S., with the “possibility of up to $1.8 billion more.” Data obtained by Salon shows the arms sales could rise far higher than even the amount the general suggested last week.
Petraeus said that the arms sales are an important part of the initiative to keep the Iraqis “rapidly expanding their security forces.” But Petraeus himself presided over an arms debacle in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 in which nearly 200,000 weapons went missing. And while U.S. arms might help the Iraqi security forces “stand up” in the short term, experts warn that the U.S. military could easily lose control over what may follow. Some fear a war zone flooded with weapons that could be turned on U.S. soldiers, or supply huge firepower for a full-blown civil war.
The Pentagon confirmed that this fiscal year, the United States has finalized $1.6 billion in arms sales to Iraq, placing the country in an elite club of weapons buyers. For example, in recent one-year periods Saudi Arabia bought $800 million and Egypt bought $1 billion in arms from the U.S., while Pakistan spent $3.5 billion, including the purchase of jet fighters. “This would put [Iraq] right up there with the top handful of arms buyers,” said William Hartung, a weapons proliferation expert at the New America Foundation.
In fact, the numbers Petraeus presented on Iraq were the tip of the iceberg. According to data obtained by Salon from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency at the Pentagon, which manages the arms sales, the military has alerted Congress to up to $4.3 billion in arms sales that have been under discussion since at least 2006 between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
The arms deals come as the U.S. has shifted strategy to enlist Sunnis in western Iraq — some of them former insurgents — into all-Sunni units of the Iraqi security forces. The fear is that these newly trained and armed units will ultimately turn against the Shiite-dominated central government or against U.S. forces again. “I think this is kind of crazy,” Hartung said about the arms sales. “Now we are making deals with some of these Sunni groups. Well, what if they turn around and go back to being insurgents after we have built them up? I think the danger of these arms being misused, even in the short term, is fairly high.”
And not in the good sense. From the NY Times:
Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.
Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders like Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Ms. Ghuman was to have participated last month in the Bard Music Festival, showcasing Elgar’s music.
But the door has remained closed to Ms. Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who is British and who had lived, studied and worked in this country for 10 years before her abrupt exclusion.
The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.
After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake.
Read it here. The list (click name for explanation):
The 22 most corrupt members of Congress
- Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM)
- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK)
- Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
- Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-CA)
- Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)
- Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA)
- Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
- Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-LA)
- Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
- Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-CA)
- Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)
- Rep. Timothy F. Murphy (R-PA)
- Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA)
- Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)
- Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ)
- Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY)
- Rep. David Scott (D-GA)
- Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL)
- Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-NM)
- Rep. Don Young (R-AK)
Specifically, we seem to be arming one side of it: the Sunni side (the Baathists were Sunni, Saddam Hussein was Sunni, Al Qaeda is Sunni, Wahhabism is Sunni—and the majority of Iraq is Shi’a). Kevin Drum:
Sunni political and tribal leaders are increasingly throwing in their lot with U.S. forces here against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent types. But, to get them to come over to our side, the American military has fed them a steady diet of anti-Shi’ite propaganda.
Arrests and killings of Shi’ite militants are announced from loudspeaker blasts; President Bush’s bellicose rhetoric towards Shi’a Iran is reported on friendly radio programs. But the majority of this country is Shi’ite. Are we setting ourselves up as the enemies of the majority here? Are we priming the pump for an all-in sectarian battle royale? It seems like a possibility.
It’s not clear whether Noah is talking about American actions in Anbar province, in Baghdad, or just in general. But either way, this is the danger of being in the middle of the civil war: it’s pretty much impossible to curry favor with one side for very long without losing the favor of the other side. At the moment, we probably don’t have any choice but to continue our alliance of convenience with the Sunni tribes, but as a long-term strategy it sure doesn’t look like much of a winner.
For more about this from a very senior source, take another look at this post from a couple of weeks ago. Arming the Sunni tribes against the Shiite central government isn’t just an accident, it’s a deliberate part of our strategy. This is not likely to end happily.
And were not the majority of attacks on US forces coming from Sunnis?
Maybe the aliens turn out to be viruses:
Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area, regional authorities said Monday.
Around midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was an airplane crashing near their remote village, located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.
Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a “strange odor,” local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.
Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being hospitalized, Lopez said.
Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene, where the meteorite left a 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) and 20-foot-deep (six-meter-deep) crater, said local official Marco Limache.
“Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned,” he said.