Friday, April 28, 2006
Of course one newspaper story is not a fair trial but the evidence against him as put forward by the report is pretty damning. He was seen handling weapons for insurgents who then fired at US troops as they chased Muneef, he entered the country illegally from Syria where he had been studying for some years, he was in Ramadi - not a very safe part of the country for a foreigner, and allegedly he had traces of explosive on his hands.
His family and defence team seem to be pushing a risky line by saying that he shouldn't have been charged for the visa violation. Surely, the alternative is to have been tried by the court of being part of the insurgency - a crime that could lead to the death penalty. They are also complaining that he has been held by the US in Iraq rather than in an Iraqi prison. After the Abu Ghraib scandal led to changing some rules, I would imagine that being held by Americans is actually the better option to being held by the Iraqi government.
The article also states that "at least" eight British men have died fighting for the insurgents, including three as suicide bombers. There hasn't been much reporting on that - I might dig around to see if I can come up with more information.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Finally, the global oil market is working as it should...so American politicians want to shut it down.
It has been with great interest that I’ve read the ‘high price of gas’ discussions in the
Instead of the naïve and useless (in terms of reducing the price of gas right now) ideas being presented by various Congress men and women, such as calling for taxation of oil corporations ‘windfall profits,’ opening up the ANWR for drilling, or giving every American a $100 gas rebate check, in my dream world of ‘what ought to happen’ I see this: All congressmen and women would together – that way no one gets punished more than the other at elections – tell the public: This Is How Capitalism Works! Supply decreases (or even the expectation that it does) and price goes up.
Admitting the obvious, that the market is working exactly as it should and needs to be, is clearly beyond the American political elite. That the American political establishment reacts like this is not surprising. The political history of the country is littered with examples of a retreat from international free trade (liberal capitalism) when important domestic constituencies are threatened.
It is unfortunate that the political elite in the
Rather, I’d like to close by noting some of the ironies at play in this debate. Nearly all of the proposals mentioned above have also included mentions of supporting research into alternative fuel sources such as ethanol – to create substitutes for ‘Unleaded Premium’. However, rising oil prices are making many current alternative energy sources economically competitive. For example, depending on the location, wind power can become economically sustainable when crude oil hits about $60 per barrel, as of writing the price is north of $70. While this sounds like the beginning of the golden age of energy-fuel alternatives, the rising price of crude actually is likely to significantly expand global oil reserves, continuing the reign of petroleum as the world’s central source of fuels. The reason is that rising crude prices also make it economically profitable to explore previously ‘unrecoverable’ deposits – increasing the recoverable reserves of petroleum in the world. This has recently made
What does this mean for the EU and
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Charly’s ruminations on American generals from last week means that I just can’t help myself and I’m going to have to link this article from the Telegraph. It doesn’t matter how Atlanticist and pro-American us Brits are, even when the US has so few other friends, it won’t stop us from being snobs. It would seem that senior British officers are sniggering at their American comrades’ shoulder holsters. Brigadier Alan Sharpe, whose credentials would seem to be impeccable as the US gave him a Bronze Star for his work in Iraq, said there was a “strong streak of Hollywood” amongst the US generals he worked with.It’s perhaps a cliché that the British Army are superb peacekeepers whilst the Americans aren’t – but like other clichés maybe there is some truth in it. An Estonian officer who had served in Baghdad with the Coalition told me the same (and also that the US reservists were much better peacekeepers than the regulars). Another contact who is a serving British officer told me of his time as a KFOR liaison officer with the French in Mitrovica (northern Kosovo) and how the French were “gobsmacked” when he used to stop to chat with the locals. Perhaps the practice provided by ‘policing’ the Falls Road during the troubles, and having bottles of piss thrown at you on the good days and bottles of burning petrol on the not-so-good-days, really has taught the British Army some valuable lessons.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
While I had far loftier goals in mind I could not shake the sheer mental violence of knowing that in June 2005 the combined power of CNN, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, and NBC was used in the following way: 485 stories on ‘the Runaway Bride’ (she didn’t show for her wedding, faked her own abduction); 6248 stories on Michael Jackson; and, 1534 stories about Tom Cruise (and his current fiancée Katie Holmes).
Going to write this entry I checked out Google News and was offered further proof on the true gift of some media editorial boards to retain their laser-like focus on the truly important. One of the top five news stories was, ”Tom [Cruise] to eat Katie’s [Holmes] placenta.” Fortunately there were only 131 articles on that subject. In comparison, whether the
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Earlier reports that a French Mirage fired warning shots at the rebel column advancing on N'Djamena seemed to have changed into them dropping a bomb. According to the French MoD spokesman, this was OK as it "landed in the sand" and didn't hurt anyone, it was just a warning bomb. The idea of warning shots is hardly new, but a warning bomb seems, well, you'd be pretty silly not to take the point.
Deby is claiming all of the capital is under his government's control and journalists were shown a relatively small number of dead bodies said to be rebels that were clearly designed to make this point.
I have only just noticed, but the rebel group being called in English "the FUC" is about the only funny side to this story.
The past month has seen perhaps the most ferocious attacks on and calls for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. What makes these different from the calls heard during the past five years is that they are coming from senior Generals (all retired though) and conservatives (many of whom still support the war, though often not how it has been executed). The key theme among all is that the McNamarian micromanagement of the planning and execution of the war in
Rumsfeld entered his office determined to reestablish true civilian control of the Pentagon. In his view the military had done little to genuinely change itself since the end of the Cold War, making it dangerously incapable of engaging with the security threats identified in the late 1990s U.S. National Security Strategies. Rumsfeld, therefore, determined that his primary job was to shepherd the Pentagon down a path so that its strategic, operational and tactical capabilities could more effectively contribute towards addressing the threats identified in the national security strategies.
In practice this required changes at all levels of the armed forces, and a level of civilian oversight/control that the Pentagon Generals were not used to. Some of the more public changes have had to do with canceling (or trying to) programs that the various services had designated as ‘key’ or ‘flagship’ projects. The Army’s Crusader mobile artillery system serves as a good example of such a project (picture courtesy of U.S. Army).
The Crusader (if only someone culturally aware could name platforms at the Pentagon) was designed for and during the Cold War. More dangerously, in Rumsfeld’s mind, the platform contributed little to countering the threats identified in the NSS documents. Yet, significant resources were expended by the Army, Congress and lobbyists representing the military industrial services complex to try to keep the project alive. Thankfully the $11Bn project was eventually cancelled (but only after promises from the Bush administration that the money would be redirected to the Army’s next flagship project, the FCS project).
While the Crusader serves as an example here, the point is that Generals at the Pentagon have many reasons to distrust or dislike Rumsfeld, one of which is the fact the he has forced people, organizations and bureaucracies to change – always a painful process to some, even if they do carry three or four stars on their shoulders.
I should read my own sources before posing questions. The Washington Post article I referenced from last July notes the following:
"The U.S.-trained battalion is commanded by Deby's nephew, Maj. Hardja Idriss, and is part of a regiment assigned to protect an authoritarian and the increasingly unpopular president. Deby survived an attempted coup last year, and his grip on power remains fragile. "It just makes sense. They're the president's guard, and in this region, will all the coups and stuff, you'd want them the best trained" said Capt. Jason, the [U.S. military training] team leader."
Some refreshing honesty there from Capt. Jason! I guess that pretty much answers my question on who's side the U.S. trained troops will be on.
Deby is still saying he is in control despite the fighting in N'Djamena.
News moves quickly. I was listening to World Service eating breakfast at home and they mentioned that the newly formed rebel alliance in
I mentioned the French presence in
I started taking an interest in this otherwise rather obscure part of the world due to research I have been doing on the
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Did you know that there was an extreme left, anti-fascist, anti-German, movement of Germans? No, nor did I. It's probably six blokes and a couple of dogs who never get far out of their Berlin pub, but no matter - they have a sense of humour:
Being English I find it slightly uncomfortable to find that as funny as I do, but never mind – that’s just the post-imperial guilt speaking. Could it all be an elaborate urban-art-guerrilla joke? I hope not as that wouldn’t be nearly so fun.
If anyone can't make out the lyrics on the first listen (or doesn't have broadband), it's basically:
there were ten(9/8/7/6...) German bombers in the air...
Then the RAF from England shot them down...
This is sung loudly with a German accent.
First spotted on Harry's Place.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
As a Chadian observer puts its: “This project could not survive contact with the reality of
The Deby regime now want to use its oil wealth to buy weapons. If one is charitable you could say this is to help defend
As an aside: France seems to have been less focused on Francophone Africa in recent years with its energies taken up in other areas of the world – they have been quite happy to cooperate with the US in aiding American military training operations across the Sahel - where in the past this would have been a definite no-no - yet they don’t seem to have given up yet on Deby as ‘their man’ in Chad. The French military seems to have played some role supporting government action against the eastern Rebels but, according to AFP (via “Baku Today”! Don’t you just love the internet?), were not involved in the fighting directly.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
An initiative to create a more inclusive and advanced partnership structure for a handful of non-NATO member countries that participate in NATO operations was unofficially unveiled over the weekend. In
If you divide, roughly, NATO’s mission into Chp.V mutual defense and rest of world operations, this means
- The Finnish military is completely interoperable with NATO standards
participates in two major NATO operations (KFOR and ISAF) Finland
- Finns have commanded NATO troops in the Balkans
has military liaison officers in both NATO and US Commands Finland (according to this initiative) would be able to directly influence the planning and decision making processes of NATO operations. Finland
Yet, the outsider would undoubtedly have missed the subtlety that even if this new advanced partnership structure would become operational, Finland would not have made any binding commitments to militarily assist the other western states, upon whose continued stability its own economy and national security rests.
For all those who are afraid that
On a more serious and final note;