Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thoughts on Katrina

By Aussiegirl

Like so many Americans I have been watching the unfolding catastrophe in
Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with growing concern and horror.

It's fair to say that this is by far the worst natural disaster to befall this country in its entire history. As I'm watching the refugees, for that's what they are, a number of thoughts go through my mind.

First -- we are witnessing the equivalent of a nuclear device going off in one of our cities. Think about it. If you had even imagined last week that a major American metropolis would have to be completely evacuated for untold months, that thousands of citizens were trapped and helpless to evacuate without aid, that untold numbers of dead lay buried in destroyed buildings, and that the city would be uninhabitable for months and would have to be completely rebuilt before life could return to normal, would you have believed it could happen? That's what we are
facing. The questions are enormous. And what is instructive is to look at how the government and the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are responding to this crisis, because this is the sort of scenario they have supposedly been preparing for. So far I'm a little nervous about our preparedness, despite all the talk and billions spend on creating new bureaucracies.

Yesterday morning it became clear that the levees had failed and that the worst case scenario of an almostly completely flooded New Orleans was coming true, after it had seemed as though the city had escaped the worst of the damage. The governor ordered the city to be completely evacuated. Fine -- how exactly did she expect that to happen without boats or helicopters or other aid?

Good grief!! Lord save us from women executives -- the Louisiana Governor Blanco unfortunatelyresembles her name -- Blanco -- she looks like a deer caught in the headlines -- oops -- I was going to type headlights -- but that was an apt slip of the fingers.

Even before this happened anyone with an ounce of common sense would have realized that the Superdome was going to be uninhabitable once the power failed, and that they needed to make plans to evacuate those people after the hurricane if the worst case scenario of flooding came to pass. The Superdome, which would have been a fine shelter for a few hours to weather the storm, is not inhabitable once the power fails.It's obvious that the water and sewage is going to fail once the city is flooded. Was any thought given as to how they were going to evacuate people once they became surrounded by water?

As we watch what is unfolding it is becoming clear that we are
witnessing the death of an American city. Clogged with silt, water, sewage, bodies, devoid of business and commerce -- it is completely uninhabitable for the forseeable future. The question must be asked -- is it worth rebuilding this city? Or should it be abandoned like ancient Pompeii and its half-million residents will have to be housed as refugees and eventually resettled in other towns and cities.

Have we ever tried to rebuild a city that has been completely underwater for weeks and weeks? I would imagine all the buildings will be
completely uninhabitable -- imagine the cost to repair and dry out those buildings -- and clean them of all that sewage and fuel and contaminants? And they will have to build seawalls capable of withstanding a category 5 hurricane -- which could happen this year still -- much less next year. Another Cat 4 or 5 storm could hit a week
after they open the city for business. Where are the businesses going to go in the meantime? So many questions, and so few answers. Is it sensible to continue rebuilding cities which are so vulnerable to yearly hurricanes. Can the country afford it?

Today there were people lining the ramps leading to the Superdome and no one was even dropping water or food to them while they lay there exposed to the sun and elements, most of them already exhausted and injured. I'd say that we are witnessing the unfortunate result of poor planning. They
still didn't know today what to do with all those people in the dome -- and they knew yesterday morning that they would have to be moved somewhere. Eventually they came up with the idea of moving them to the Houston Astrodome -- but with no coherent plan of how to accomplish this. Close to half a million people are refugees -- literally -- just like in wartime. Temporary housing is going to have to be found for all those people for a long time to come -- and they are going to have to be relocated and resettled somewhere, somehow -- it's not just a matter of
a few days and then everyone can go home and start rebuilding.

The first priority must be rescuing people and providing them with elementary food, water and sanitation and health care. This is beyond the capacity of these people to accomplish themselves -- if your house is gone and your car is gone and you can't access your money and you have no transport -- you are a refugee -- they are going to have to set up refugee centers like they did in the wartime to deal with this.

The President finally got engaged and flew back to Washington, passing over the devastated area on his way back. Now is no time for him to be seen as being on vacation, even though he can do what he has to do from Texas as well. Still, symbolism is important. It's important that the military is getting involved, for only they have the resources to provide shelter, food, water and medical care on short notice and on a mobile basis. This is a crisis even larger, in human and economic dimensions, than 9/11. And we must respond accordingly. And we must think creatively. Perhaps it's time to abandon New Orleans and build a new city on higher ground.

And we haven't even talked about the destruction of Biloxi and other Mississippi towns. Or the price of gas and what that will do to supply and prices of fuel in the coming weeks and months. Let's just hope the terrorists don't decide to strike now.

Roots bear local fruit

By Aussiegirl

As I read the American Thinker article by Professor Baker (posted just below)I was put in mind of something that took place recently close to home.

Currently on our neighborhood computer listserve there is a running controversy because someone posted the news that recent arrests of gang members in a nearby neighborhood might have some connection with the recent rash of car thefts and vandalism in the neighborhood.

That's all -- no mention of race -- or bigotry -- just simply that the recent arrests might alleviate some of the problems of crime. Then -gasp -- some rabid conservative complained that these are the same people that our Democrat County Executive is providing expensive social services for.

Oh, the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth!   Enraged emails flooded in condemning the evil miscreant as some latter-day Hitler, many people posted that they felt so traumatized by the intemperate and racist comments that they were forced to spend the day in prayer and contemplation of tolerance and peace and love.

Others chimed in -- they were all holding hands on the internet and singing "Kumbaya" together, simultaneously chanting "Om" and burning incense to ward off the evil vapors generated by someone having the temerity to state the obvious -- gangs are bad news and a danger to our communities
and our safety.

When someone posted that no one had mentioned anyone's race -- the retort was hotly asserted that it is obvious that the word gang is synonymous with racial minorities, and thereby a patently bigoted
reference. So I guess it's not even permitted to mention gangs -- too politically incorrect and racially charged.

Recommendations were forthcoming about a thoughtful piece in the WaPo about how a sensitive young lad had heroically resisted the efforts of local gangs to recruit him. Tolerance and peace and love were urged on a traumatized neighborhood. They may have to hold a candlelight vigil before this is over to purge the bad Karma that has been generated. Oh, the humanity!!

Conclusion? We are doomed!! This is suicidal, and these people will go like lambs to the slaughter, fully convicted of their righteousness and moral superiority. Remember Fiske, who sympathized with the Muslim thugs who were attacking him? I wonder if these same people will feel the same sense of understanding, compassion, tolerance and universal brotherhood when it is their children who are stabbed to death, as recently happened in two incidents in local high schools. Apparently nothing is enough to shake these people out of their sense of collective guilt for every evil
extant in the universe as we know it.

Liberals try to root out root causes -- and fail

By Aussiegirl

In a wonderful article in today's American Thinker, Professor Donald Baker exposes the roots of
suicidal guilt which has plagued European and Western civilization for centuries. Granted, we have elevated this collective guilt to an art form, but it is evidently nothing new. Don't miss this enlightening and bracing article.

Last week I watched a History Channel program that dealt with the Viking invasions of Europe. It occurred to me that one of our main problems
in responding to the Muslim menace is rooted in the sorry
Judeo-Christian miasma of guilt, from which the Muslim doesn't

The prayers of the European victims began with "God save us from the
fury of the Northmen!" or some variation. Then the prayers were
accompanied by penance, for the assumption was that they, the victims,
had sinned and that the Vikings were being permitted by God to punish
them – or some such nonsense. In some areas penance included
driving out the God-killers, the Jews. Our European ancestors didn't
advance as far as we have in searching for the root causes of their
misery, but they showed us the way. The root causes of the Viking
raids and invasions, of course, were simply that the Viking women did
the farming and cooking, and during the summer men could fish or go on
raids; raiding was much easier.

The Europeans were relatively wealthy through their hard work, and had
become the peaceful citizens of small towns. They were sitting ducks
for quick and bloody raids up the shallow rivers.

The Real Root Cause

The deeper root cause, of course, was greed combined with the fact that
the Vikings could get away with it. Moreover, it was in the nature of
their warrior society. What were the root causes of the various
dynasties of Mongols sweeping across seven thousand miles of nearly
barren plains to reach Poland? Or the root causes of Tamerlane's
conquest of southeastern Europe and the Middle East? In each case,
and also that of Alexander's conquests, the root cause was
megalomania and the warrior culture that produced it.

[...]On the days after 9-11 the academic halls and pulpits of America
were filled with vacuous maunderings about our guilt, our crimes
(stealing oil, murdering Iraqi children, etc.) which brought this attack
upon us – as in "chickens coming home to roost." There was earnest
arguing that the days of an-eye-for-an-eye were past. (I received two
absurd round-robin emails from my old university where Ward
Churchill holds forth urging me to sign a letter to President Bush
pleading that he do nothing.) Thousands bearing the burden of a Ph.D.
or D.D., or both, attempted to persuade the nation to lie still and

[..]A steady theme in all this guilt-mongering is, of course, Israel.
The Jews are the only semi-theological cause of catastrophe left to us
from the Middle Ages. As a medievalist, I feel very much at home in
the current atmosphere reading The New York Times, The Guardian,
Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and all the rest. I recall the days
of St. Hugh of Lincoln, when we could blame any otherwise inexplicable
unpleasant phenomena on the Jews. More recently, the Jews had a bit
of "good press" because of the Holocaust but of course that couldn't
last. The Jews are the most useful people in history; if we don't sin
ourselves then the Jews sin for us. I note that Mrs. Cindy Sheehan
has called for Israel to get out of Palestine and, one presumes, Israel
as well. All the Muslim problems stem from capitalism and democracy, in
both of which the Jews figure prominently. And there is always the
Zionist entity.

We have gone from "God save us from the fury of the Northmen" to "God
save us from the fury of al-Qaeda" and we still think it's all our

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Darwin on the ropes

By Aussiegirl

In today's The American Thinker, Tim Birdnow has a fascinating article, "The case against Darwin". This is a must-read that also ties in with recent posts in UT about intelligent design. Here's how Tim starts:
"Since Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species in 1859, there has been a continuous ongoing debate on the validity of Darwin`s theory. Through much of the Twentieth Century the mainstream scientific community considered Evolution to be a settled matter. Yet there were always weaknesses in Darwinism which brought into question the entire theory. Serious criticisms of their particular view are slowly eating away at their intellectual monopoly."
(For Tim's own views about intelligent design and Darwinism, see his brief comments here on his blog.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Re: The Crawford, Texas, Standoff

Posted by: BonnieBlueFlag

The following article, written by Jim Forsyth, explains much more precisely what my thoughts were yesterday.

COMMENTARY: The Racism of the Anti War Movement

By Jim Forsyth, News Radio 1200 WOAI

Like most Texas reporters, I have made the pilgrimage to interview Cindy Sheehan and her anti war comrades parked in front of Crawford. One of the made-for-television signs held up behind Cindy during the news event I attended was particularly disturbing. "Iraq," read the sign held aloft by two prosperous looking white women, "is Arabic for Vietnam."

By holding this sign, I presume they would favor that the Iraq war end the same way the war in Vietnam ended. I also presume that this means they would not oppose the same fate for the people of Iraq that befell the people of Vietnam and Cambodia after the end of US involvement there, which was one of the more horrible in the sorry annals of twentieth century tyranny. But in 1975, we were told by the anti war crowd that, after all, they were only Asians, they probably couldn't understand democracy anyway, and knew it wouldn't work 'for them.' Its sad to see the same attitude repeated today, that its not worth the blood of white Americans like Casey Sheehan to win freedom and democracy for 'those people,' in this case, brown skinned Arab Muslims.

Even if you drink every last drop of the anti war Kool Aid, even if you are convinced that President Bush was ordered by the Chairman of Halliburton to start the Iraq war and that he intentionally lied to the American people about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the simple fact is that today, there is demonstrably more freedom for the people of Iraq and for the people of Afghanistan, some 50 million brown skinned Muslims. Yes, there is dawdling over the drafting of an Iraqi constitution, but before April of 2003, metal shredders and rape rooms awaited any Iraqi who breathed the word 'constitution.' Yes, a brutal insurgency continues to threaten the Iraqi people, an insurgency which has killed some 25,000 Iraqi civilians since April of 2003. But Saddam Hussein, even by conservative estimates, butchered 1.5 million Iraqis during his 25 years in power (not counting the one million who died in the war he started with Iran). So Saddam and his goons killed an average of 60,000 people a year, while the insurgency has killed 25,000 in two and a half years. Despite the hand-wringing over the insurgency, the devil's arithmetic would indicate that life for the average Iraq is actually safer today than it was under Saddam. But they're brown skimmed Muslims, so not worthy of America's notice, let alone America's sacrifice.

President Bush is actually the greatest liberator of Muslims in history, considering that there weren't 50 million people in the entire MIddle East when Saladin beat back the Crusader hordes. But to the anti war activists, providing freedom from slavery, democratic and economic opportunity to brown skinned people isn't worth the sacrifice of white Americans. Good thing they weren't around when Lincoln was drafting the Emancipation Proclamation.

I recently watched the magnificent Don Cheadle film "Hotel Rwanda" with a group of friends, certified Bush Bashing Democrats all. After it was over, the general murmur in the room was 'why didn't America do something!' to stop the carnage in Rwanda. If Cindy Sheehan were to get her way, and President Bush would be 'impeached and tried for war crimes' over his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as she has demanded, the real losers will be the future citizens of Rwanda, and the other places where brutal dictators will have free reign to massacre people in large numbers, knowing that American leaders will pay too high a political price for them to get involved and 'do something.' And I don't think many of those places will be populated by white Europeans.

WOAI: San Antonio News

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The War of 1812--the plot thickens!

By Aussiegirl

What do Tecumseh, the War of 1812, shooting stars, and archeoastronomy have in common? Give up? Well, hurry on over to BonnieBlueFlag to find out!

Did "Able Danger" spy on Sec. Rice?

By Aussiegirl

The headline of this article in The New York Post is very misleading. It's not really correct to say that the military "spied" on Sec. Rice. What likely happened is that a computer program spits out a bunch of correlations and contacts, some of which may or may not turn out to be significant or relevant. Part of that is up the the human analyst who looks at the results of the raw numbers crunched by the computer, which is mindlessly tracking all sorts of criteria. The analyst uses the "false positive" to either refine his computer search or to simply discard some bits of information as irrelevant. There are further implications to this story however.

One possible reason that this led to the immediate termination of the program is that the Clinton administration thought the China connections would lead to some embarrassing revelations involving their own administration's allegedly dubious contacts with China, as well as the politically explosive notion that they were spying on the political opposition.

Further, revealing this sort of information now also serves to discredit "Able Danger" as a whole, and so conveniently aids those in power who want to sweep
all this business under the rug.

Cyber-sleuths working for a Pentagon intelligence unit that reportedly identified some of the 9/11 hijackers before the attack were fired by military officials, after they mistakenly pinpointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Americans as potential security risks, The Post has learned.
The private contractors working for the counter-terrorism unit Able Danger lost their jobs in May 2000. The firings following a series of analyses that Pentagon lawyers feared were dangerously close to violating laws banning the military from spying on Americans, sources said.

The Pentagon canceled its contract with the private firm shortly after the analysts who were working on identifying al Qaeda operatives produced a particularly controversial chart on proliferation of sensitive technology to China, the sources said.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ukraine seeks UN recognition of 1932-33 Famine Genocide

Ukraine plans to prepare a document towards 2007 that the United Nations
will adopt, which will recognize the Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 as
an act of genocide.

Ukraine's Permanent Representative at the UN, Valerii Kuchynskyi,
disclosed this to journalists while responding to a question of
Ukrainian News. In his words, Ukraine is preparing such document and
would like for it to be adopted by the 75th anniversary of the Famine.

As Ukrainian News reported previously, the Hungarian National Assembly
(parliament) passed a resolution in 2003, in which it recognized the
Famine in 1932-1933 in Ukraine as something that was planned in advance
and orchestrated by the Stalinist Soviet system.

Twenty-five UN member states had earlier prepared a joint statement, in
which they referred to the Famine in Ukraine as the result of the policy
of a totalitarian regime.

The Australian Senate (upper chamber of parliament) passed a resolution
in late October 2003, in which it recognized the Famine as one of the
manifestations of genocide in human history.

Prior to this, the House of Representatives of the US Congress (lower
chamber of parliament) declared the Famine as mass murder.

Earlier, the parliaments of Canada and Argentina had condemned the
Famine. The Verkhovna Rada declared the Famine in 2003 as an act of
genocide. According to various estimates, from 3 to 7 million people
died as a result.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A hero's welcome

By Aussiegirl

To understand how most patriotic Americans feel about their heros, read this inspiring post, Gateway Pundit: Missouri Welcomes Home a War Hero, and then remember one emotionally overwrought mother in Texas, fawned over by the media and manipulated by the left.

Why ID should be taught

By Aussiegirl

Jonah Avriel Cohan also weighs in inThe American Thinker on why he thinks ID should be taught, if not in science classes then in philosophy classes, and busts some prevailing myths about ID. Here's a good excerpt which talks about the concept of the "Anthropic Principle".

In 1930, F.R. Tennant wrote a magnificent book called Philosophical Theology, wherein he developed something called “The Anthropic Principle.” This principle suggested that the cosmos was fashioned for the development of intelligent life. Had there been only a slight alteration in the values of, say, the charge of the electron or the degree of nuclear force in the universe then intelligent life, or any life at all for that matter, would most likely not have developed. Tennant said it was possible to imagine a frenzied world wherein no rules held. But the actual universe was not chaotic and was evidently regulated in such a way that the evolutionary process lead to an environment in which intelligent life – think Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Nightingale – could exist. Such intellect, he thought, suggested evidence of a divine plan. Of course, Tennant’s conclusion might well have been mistaken, but he was right to point out that there was nothing obviously incompatible between the theory of evolution and the notion that a deity designed the evolutionary process itself.

Accordingly, the current idea that the “science” of evolution is logically at odds with the “faith” of intelligent design may rest on a false disjunction.

Jonas Salk on evolution vs. ID

By Aussiegirl

Herb Meyer share some memories of dinners with Jonas Salk. What a dream that must have been. I share Dr. Salk's opinion, I don't see why there has to be an either/or proposition -- after all -- everything in the universe was set in motion by the great creative hand of God, including all the laws of physics, quantum theory, and the secret of DNA and the mystery of evolution of life. One of the interesting things to ponder about Intelligent Design is the incredible number of so-called "anthropic coincidences" inherent in the universe which made the evolution of life even possible, and indeed led to the expansion of the universe as we currently see it rather than its almost immediate extinction or implosion. As one scientist so beautifully put it -- "Man is the universe taking a look at itself."Here's the excerpt:

Back in the early 1990s, Jonas and I would meet for dinner about once a month. His willingness to sit and chat with me, and to answer my questions about science, was among the greatest privileges of my life. At dinner one evening at a restaurant in La Jolla he liked to frequent, I told Jonas that I’d been reading some books and articles about Intelligent Design, and asked if he’d been following the debate. He nodded, so I plunged ahead and asked which side he was on. I was startled by the vehemence of his response. Jonas started to shake his head from side to side, slammed his knife and fork onto the table, and let fly:

“Why do I have to choose? Why must it be one or the other? Of course evolution is real. DNA mutates, and that makes evolution one of the most powerful forces in nature. But who set evolution into motion? Can’t God have done that? I can’t stand it when the ideologues take over on something like this. Don’t ever let yourself be caught in one of these “either/or” debates, because when you finally figure it out – it’s usually a bit of both.”

Darwinism as religion

By Aussiegirl

Research scientist Paul Shlichta writing in today's The American Thinker has some thoughts on the debate about Intelligent Design and the argument that ID proponents are unscientific. Don't miss this:

In contrast, the idea of ID, as I understand it, is well within the realm of science, since it can be summarized in the two statements:

(1) The probability of life on Earth having occurred spontaneously, by random chemical combination, is so infinitesimal as to be excludable. Therefore some other cause, outside the laws of nature as we currently understand them, is much more probable.

(2) Therefore, excluding the "we were lucky!" explanation, some intelligent force, which we call “God”, must be postulated as the cause.

Statement (2) is considered by some to be within the realm of scientific speculation while others claim it is philosophy or religion. The latter viewpoint has some validity when we consider that purist physicists have criticized string theory as being philosophy rather than science because it cannot be verified experimentally. (In this rigorous light, neither ID nor string theory should be taught in science classes.)

On the other hand, there is no question that statement (1) is in the realm of science. It challenges the mathematical probability of the spontaneous occurrence and development of life on Earth in terms that are amenable to calculation leading to some degree of verification or refutation. It is therefore legitimately scientific, not as a theory in itself but rather as a challenge to the causal self-sufficiency of the theory of evolution.

It is rather the “ID is anti-science” position that is unscientific. In the main, it seems to boil down to the idea that ID is not accepted as fashionable in current scientific circles. Well, so what! A hundred years ago, relativity and quantum mechanics were not fashionable. Fifty years ago, the big bang theory and plate tectonics were not fashionable. And a hundred years hence, scientists will talk patronizingly about the quaint superstitions of early 21st century scientists.

And “superstition” is not an inappropriate word for the more vituperative opponents of ID. The fact is that, separate from the scientific theory of evolution but mixed in with it in many people’s minds, there exists a philosophy (or what might even be considered a religion), which I shall call “evoluticism”, which preaches that some mysterious force, either inherent in or external to the laws of nature, is continually pushing things onward and upward toward a higher and more perfect humanity. In short, evoluticists believe in the Black Slab in Kubrick’s movie 2001 A Space Odyssey. This philosophical extension of evolutionary concepts is the basis of virtually all 20th century liberal philosophy and social thinking—and therefore, at least subconsciously, a part of the mindset of many contemporary scientists and journalists.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The emergence of a "Third Way" in American politics

By Aussiegirl

In an excellent article in The American Thinker, Herb Meyer lays out an emerging "Third Way" in American politics. I think this "Third Way" is not only related to criticism and doubts about how the war in Iraq is being handled, but extends to many other areas of adminstration policy, from borders and energy to taxation and the environment. You don't have to be a Democrat or a Bush hater to see that there are many things that do not seem to be going well in this second Bush term. It doesn't serve a leader well to isolate himself in the bunker of the White House and to surround himself with yes men.

As usual, Herb Meyer manages to analyze the situation clearly and succinctly without taking sides, which makes it easier to get beyond the many emotional issues that cloud this war and make it difficult to see the real problems facing us. Because of the relentless Bush-bashing we are naturally defensive of everything the President does, but we can't let these emotional issues cloud our view of what may be going very wrong in Iraq and how best to correct course. A little honesty goes a long way towards correcting that problem.

Bush does appear to be more "dogged than persuasive" in his occasional speeches about the war, which always seem like he has been dragged to the microphone grudgingly in order to repeat the same phrases he has been using about the war from the very beginning. Endless repetition does not make something persuasive, it either suggests that the person is disinterested in making a good faith effort to convince, is stubborn in his own refusal to admit that there are wider problems, or assumes that the audience is so stupid it didn't hear the message the first time. Endless repetition does not convince, it merely bores. We tune it out.

I fear that Mr. Meyer is also correct that President Bush in addition to being unpersuasive, is also unpersuadable at this point. It's dangerous for a president to insulate himself from friendly, but opposing viewpoints.

Indeed, if the administration is not careful, and does not address this emerging "Third Way" of discontent, he is in danger of fracturing the Republican party. Already members from within the party are beginning to break with the administration on the issue of Iraq and many conservatives feel that the Bush administration is downright hostile to their concerns. In fact, there's an increasing number of people in this country who are completely unhappy with the performance of BOTH parties. Reasonable people who can disagree on policies and various issues, but who nonetheless see little of what represents their views expressed in the pronouncements and policies of either party. In short, we are going to see the emergence of a third-party candidate who may or may not be what this country needs.

From the moment President Bush set his war policy after the 9-11 attacks, our country has been divided into two factions. The first faction supports the President because it believes he’s doing the right thing, while the second faction opposes the President because it believes he’s doing the wrong thing. Now a third faction has emerged, comprised of those who believe the President is doing the right thing – but that he isn’t doing it very well.

Generally, those who belong to this third faction argue that the war is going badly because we aren’t fighting hard enough, or smart enough. They note that the terrorists in Iraq appear to be growing stronger, rather than weakening. For example, the number of casualties remains too high among both our soldiers and Iraqis, and more than two years after our troops knocked out Saddam Hussein’s regime the highway to Baghdad International Airport remains the world’s most deadly road. Most of those who belong to this third faction believe that we should have sent more troops into Iraq from the start, that we must now stabilize Iraq before withdrawing, and that we won’t be able to stabilize Iraq without more American boots on the ground – and also without taking whatever military action may be necessary to stop Syria and Iran from funding and fueling the insurgency in Iraq.

You can find an opinion poll to support whatever outcome you want, but it’s obvious that since the President’s 2004 reelection victory the second faction has grown. Indeed, a key argument of those who belong to the new third faction is that anti-war sentiment among Americans has grown precisely because the President isn’t fighting the war as well as he should. And with the emergence of this third faction, opposition to the President’s policy is now coming from the right, as well as from the left.

This essay isn’t intended to take sides, or to make a case for one of the three factions. My purpose here is merely to describe this three-way split, and to illuminate the President’s response to it. Simply put, he is failing to convince those who believe he’s doing the wrong thing, that he’s right. And he has declined even to acknowledge the existence of the third faction.

In speech after speech, the President asserts that his policy is working. He cites whatever evidence he can that it is – such as the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the latter country’s movement toward a new constitution – and ignores whatever evidence there may be that his policy is going awry. Those who oppose the President’s policy are either “wrong” or just “impatient.” He rarely makes a new point, but rather seems content to make the same points over and over again. As a result he appears more dogged than persuasive. Those who speak for the President – the number of well-coiffed and button-down “communications directors” in this Administration is astounding – echo the commander-in-chief and seem interested only in connecting with the President’s political base, and oblivious to its erosion.

One of the first rules of management – and war – is that no plan survives its collision with reality. Great leaders often are those who recognize a need to change course to reach their original objective. On the other hand, history is sometimes made by men who stick with their plan long after everyone else has jumped ship -- and win. And a very different kind of history is sometimes made by men who stick with their plan long after it becomes obvious to everyone else that things are going awry – and lose.

I said earlier that the President is unpersuasive. He also may be unpersuadeable. All administrations over time tune out their political opponents. This administration tunes out even its political friends – those who support what the President is doing but believe that events on the ground require a course-correction. Rather than fight against the isolation that always envelops a President, the current White House staff has turned that building into a hermetically-sealed box. Presumably, this is how the President wants it; if he didn’t, he’d change it.

So far, there isn’t the slightest indication that the President will change his strategy for fighting the war. People are policy, and he hasn’t made one major personnel change since 9-11 that suggests any Presidential dissatisfaction with the way the war is going, or any inclination to change course. Unless you see key changes in personnel – at the Pentagon, among the generals, at the State Department – it’s safe to assume that the President will stick with his current strategy. If the war ends well, history will remember George Bush along with FDR and Ronald Reagan. If the war ends badly, history will remember him along with LBJ and Richard Nixon.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Islamic law looms large in Iraqi constitution talks

By Aussiegirl

Looks like there is a sticking point over the institution of Sharia law under the Iraqi constitution which may mean that non-Muslim Iraqis and women will have curtailed rights. If America is siding with the Shiites it would tend to consolidate Iranian influence in Iraq. Did we go to war only to create another Islamist state, and one that is friendly to Iran, to boot? This has always been a possible fundamental flaw in the Bush doctrine of encouraging democracy in the Middle East as a panacea for all political ills. Is a secular democracy compatible with Islam?

Reuters has the story:

U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq, negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure.

U.S. diplomats, who have insisted the constitution must enshrine ideals of equal rights and democracy, declined comment.

Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.

But a secular Kurdish politician said Kurds opposed making Islam "the", not "a", main source of law -- changing current wording -- and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.

"We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."

Washington, with 140,000 troops still in Iraq, has insisted Iraqis are free to govern themselves but made clear it will not approve the kind of clerical rule seen in Shi'ite Iran, a state U.S. President George W. Bush describes as "evil".

Friday, August 19, 2005

Condi Rice says Gaza is not enough

By Aussiegirl

Condi says Gaza is only the beginning and Israel will have to give up more and more. This disastrous policy of appeasement and pressure on Israel for further unilaterial disengagement can only lead to more terrorism. Let's face it -- Condi Rice may very well be out of her depth as Secretary of State. Yes, yes, I know how you all love her -- first black woman Secretary of State, figure skater, pianist, PhD., president of a university -- BUT -- she has zero experience as a diplomat and has little knowledge of the Middle East -- her specialty is the now defunct Soviet Union -- in effect, she has an obsolete body of knowledge. She commands no authority when she speaks and appears schoolmarmishly stilted and ill at ease, reading from a prepared text or searching for words. I am at a complete loss to understand the Bush policy in the region and fear it will prove disastrous.

The Jerusalem Post has the story:"

As Israel struggled Thursday to evacuate the Gush Katif settlements, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it must take further steps.

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," she said in an interview with The New York Times. But, she added, "It cannot be Gaza only."

Rice said this is "really quite a dramatic moment in the history of the Middle East," and praised Sharon for proving himself "enormously courageous."

According to the Times, Rice said that while the withdrawal would take several weeks, Israel must take further steps soon afterward, including loosening travel restrictions in the West Bank and withdrawing from more Palestinian cities.

Jihadists Find Convenient Base in Bosnia

By Aussiegirl

Bosnia has become Jihad-Central, courtesy of Bill Clinton who made it safe for terrorists by his disastrous war on the Serbs. It is hardly ever mentioned that all those mass graves which were the pretext for the illegal bombing of civilian targets in that war were never found. The media and democrats did not demand to know where they were -- nor was Bill Clinton accused of lying to get us into that war which was NOT sanctioned by the U.N. Civilian targets were the rule of the day in that war, resulting in every single bridge over the Danube being destroyed, an action which blocked vital shipping lanes for countries which relied on that river to ship most of their goods -- and let's not forget the ecological disaster wreaked by the bombing. In addition to the bridges, the bombing targets included a fully loaded civilian train which resulted in hundreds of casualties, and the "accidental" bombing of the Chinese Embassy due to an "outdated map". The result has been a safe haven for Muslim terrorists on European soil, and the destruction and burning of hundreds of Christian churches by Muslim mobs while U.N. forces stood idly by and watched.

Terrorists who previously targeted the U.S. are now in Bosnia, where they have access to a 'one-stop shop' of jihad training camps, weapons and illegal Islamic 'charities' -- all at the doorstep of Europe, terrorism experts said.

'[Convicted terrorist] Karim Said Atmani recently returned to Bosnia after being released early from French prison for 'good behavior,'' terrorism expert and author Evan Kohlmann said."

Best-selling author and humorist Andrey Kurkov

By Aussiegirl

The Kiev Post has a fascinating interview with best-selling Ukrainian author and humorist Andrey Kurkov:

Andrey Kurkov, a native of St Petersburg, Russia, has become somewhat of a globetrotter in recent years, but he still feels at home in Kyiv, where “nearly all, even the oligarchs, are relaxed.” Just back from Belgium and shortly before leaving for France, this top-selling Ukrainian writer took time out to meet me for lunch in El Asador, an Argentinian restaurant in Podil.

Kurkov has a radiant smile and appears to be very much at peace with himself as we talk.

“Kyiv has this sort of Mediterranean ambience,” he says. “It's a city where no one wants to work but rather sit back in a cafe over a cup of coffee. Lovely ambience, isn't it?” With these words he orders the Alubias vegetable soup (Hr 20) and the El Gauchito grilled veal chop (Hr 51) with baked potatoes.

One wonders whether Kurkov has always been that relaxed. His way to success has been long, as with the breakdown of the Soviet Union there came a collapse of the publishing business. In the early 1990s he switched to writing film scripts to earn his living, eventually gaining fame in that domain. Now a member of the European Film Academy, Kurkov was on the jury team of the recent Berlin International Film Festival.

Worldwide recognition first came to my outspoken lunch companion after the release of the French-Ukrainian comedy-drama “A Friend of the Deceased” (1997) for which he wrote the script. The movie was produced in France and premiered in Cannes, bringing the scriptwriter a nomination at the European Film Awards.

“So far it's been, I think, the only film of Ukrainian co-production that ever ran in cinemas in Europe, the U.S. and Australia,” Kurkov says finishing his Diet Coke (Hr 4 for 250 ml).

It was indeed the year when luck smiled at him. Shortly afterwards his novel “Picnic on Ice” became the first bestseller by a writer from the CIS. The screen version of this story is currently in pre-production in Britain, where earlier the cartoon based on the novel was released.

Kurkov is a frequent guest in Britain, Germany, Switzerland and France, where he spends half of the year on business. These are his primary destinations, though sometimes he heads as far north as Iceland.

“Nice people up there,” he says of the Icelandic. “I remember meeting their prime minister for a talk. We drank vodka, the local specialty called 'Black Death,' which goes with rancid shark fillets.” The writer looks forward to visiting Iceland again in September to take part in a literature festival in Reykjavik.

In Search of Lost Humor

Kurkov is about to resume work on his next novel, though these days he seems to be more of a reporter. Among other things, he has recently done a feature for the Guardian on the upcoming British parliamentary election. His entry apparently provoked a heated debate among the editors there, as Kurkov raised the issue of humor's decay in Britain.

“The Britons have stopped laughing at their politicians,” he explains with a concerned look. “It's just that the quality of political caricature leaves much to be desired. There's total apathy in that respect, as if life wasn't funny anymore.”

Humor is something Kurkov considers vital for the mental health of society, especially when it comes to politics. He recalls the first-class caricatures in the Punch magazine issues of the early 20th century (he happens to own some) and admits the Guardian is likely to do a follow-up on the humor issue, so it's not yet a hopeless case.

Neither it is for Ukraine. Isn't there humor involved in the Culture Ministry's calling Kurkov before the election to say they'll fund a film that he wrote a script for – provided he publicly supports Yanukovych? The writer grins at the mere thought, taking a sip coffee with whipped cream (Hr 8). He seems to be quite enthusiastic about the Orange Revolution and believes in its long-term, if not immediate effects.

“We'll have to wait nine months at the least till something has changed,” he says again, kiddingly, but in a way he means it.

President's Unreciprocated Love

Kurkov's latest novel, “The Last Love of the President,” was published in Ukraine more than a year ago and became quite prophetic. The narrator is someone who becomes president of Ukraine in 2011, almost by chance, after being poisoned in the third round of the election. All along the way, his team is hindered from coming to power by Russian officials headed by Putin, “the president of Russia till 2016.”

The novel was published in France in March of this year and immediately became a bestseller. Happy about its success with readers, Kurkov admits he still hasn't gotten over it himself.

“It's not easy getting back to who I am after writing it in the first person... Not that it was much fun, though. As soon as I imagined myself president of Ukraine, I no longer wanted to work or do anything but sit back and sip whisky.”

And what of the president's love?

“It's all in the novel,” the author smiles, unwilling to give away the intrigue. “There are four love stories there, three where women are involved. An extra story is the guy's attempted love of his country, but which is not reciprocated. Your country never reciprocates your love, especially not if you are the president.”

For you boxing fans

By Aussiegirl

Vitali Klitschko and Hasim Rahman will fight for the WBC heavyweight title in November says promoter Bob Arum, who has won a purse bid with an offer of $12 million (R78 million).

The fight is likely to take place on November 12 at either the MGM Grand or the Thomas and Mack Centre on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus, depending on which of two rival resorts wins in negotiations with Arum's Top Rank Boxing.

All you need is love

By Aussiegirl

Looks like the government is trying to encourage a baby boom. Ukraine, along with most other European countries is experiencing a baby bust, with a falling, rather than rising birthrate.

The talk of the town in Kiev : during the sleepy summer weeks this year has entered on hundreds of billboards in the city that, with their dash of sexual innuendo, have outraged some, amused others, and are quickly entering the national lexicon.

"There should be 52 million of us! Kokhaimosya!" declares one version plastered throughout the capital of a country that's currently 48 million souls strong.

Roughly translated, the key last word in the ad means "let's love one another," but its undertone connotation of "let's make love" has set off a storm of discussion here, including in the highest offices of the ex-Soviet land."

Chinese checkers -- or Chinese checkmate?

By Aussiegirl

Another outstanding article from The American Thinker and this author who is an expert on China. I hope the administration is on top of this, although I fear that there are many of the old "China Hands" who insiston seeing China as a "complex" and "inscrutable" place of great subtlety and nuance which doesn't really harbor ill intent or hegemonic ambitions. If you follow the news on China, it is clear this author is correct. China is positioning itself, globally and strategically, for facing down and challenging the United States even to the point of eventual military conflict. But before then they will launch many proxy wars at us on many fronts, supporting terrorist regimes such as North Korea, Iran and others, using cyberwarfare to undermine our economy, not to mention monopolizing oil imports which have already raised world gas prices to record highs. Witness their recent stated intention of launching a moon mission. Space weapons anyone?

China is taking careful, deliberate and well-coordinated action on a global scale to advance relations with strategically positioned countries possessing both the natural resources and influence to support its ascension in the international community. To accelerate the growth of its power and influence on the world stage, China has eagerly embraced the concept of Global Strategic Positioning or GSP, as the ?gold standard? of its foreign policy for the 21st century.

Lions, and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

by: BonnieBlueFlag

Some of you may remember my post of June 29th, just after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling abolishing our property rights. I maintained then that this ruling was in conjunction with UNESCO plans, to convert the United States into the naturally wild state, that existed prior to the landing of the "Pilgrims and the Mayflower." Misdirection 6/29/05

As I mentioned in that post, the term they favor to disguise their real intent, is "re-wilding," and here it is again.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Proposal Would Transplant Lions, Elephants to U.S. Great Plains

DENVER — Lions stalking deer in the stubble of a Nebraska corn field. Elephants trumpeting across Colorado's high plains. Cheetah slouching through the West Texas scrub. Prominent ecologists are floating an audacious plan that sounds like a "Jumanji" sequel — transplant African wildlife to the Great Plains of North America.

Their radical proposal is being greeted with gasps and groans from other scientists and conservationists who recall previous efforts to relocate foreign species halfway around the world, often with disastrous results.

The authors contend it could help save Africa's poster species from extinction, where protection is spotty and habitat is vanishing.

They also believe the relocated animals could restore biodiversity on this continent to a condition closer to what nature was like before humans overran the landscape.

They suggest starting with zoo animals. The perimeters of newly created reserves would be fenced.

"We aren't backing a truck up to some dump site in the dark and turning loose a bunch of elephants," insisted Cornell University ecologist Harry W. Greene, one of the plan's authors.

While most modern African species never lived on the American prairie, the scientists believe that today's animals could duplicate the natural roles played by their departed, even larger cousins — mastodons, camels and saber-toothed cats — that roamed for more than 1 million years alongside antelope and bison.

Relocating large animals to vast ecological parks and private reserves over the next century would begin to restore the balance, they said, while offering new ecotourism opportunities to a withering region.

The scientists' plan appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. It echoes the controversial 1987 Buffalo Commons proposal by Frank and Deborah Popper of Rutgers University to cut down fences of abandoned farms and reconnect corridors for native prairie wildlife.

A similar Pleistocene park is being established in Siberia. Scientists are importing bison from Canada to replace the native variety that vanished about 500 years ago.

Some ecologists said it is important to try such a bold plan. Otherwise, they said hundreds more species are likely to go extinct in coming decades and entire ecosystems like grasslands will fundamentally change.

"We're beginning to get backed into a corner," said Terry Chapin of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. "It's something worth trying."

But the plan is triggering thunderclaps of criticism, with discouraging words like "stupid" and "defeatist" raining down in torrents.

Scientists point to Australia, which was overrun by rabbits and poisonous cane toads after misguided species relocations.

"It is not restoration to introduce animals that were never here," said University of Washington anthropologist Donald K. Grayson. "Why introduce Old World camels and lions when there are North American species that could benefit from the same kind of effort?"

Given the continuing political struggle over the reintroduction of wolves in the rural West, others wonder how African lions would be at home on the range.

"I wonder how many calves or lambs it would take to feed a family of lions for a month?" said Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. "We sort of know what it takes for wolves, but something tells me we would be in a whole new ballgame."

Some conservationists said the plan would further damage the prospects of African species on their native turf, as well as that continent's hopes for sustainable economic development.

"Such relocations would affect future tourism opportunities," said Elizabeth Wamba, the East Africa spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Nairobi, Kenya. "The welfare of the animals would have been reduced by transporting and exposing them to different eco-climatic conditions."

The idea of "re-wilding" the Great Plains grew from a retreat at Ladder Ranch near Truth or Consequences, N.M. The 155,550-acre property is owned by media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner.

Ecologists at the ranch are planning to reintroduce the Bolson tortoise. These 100-pound burrowers were found across the Southwest, but now survive in a corner of northern Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert.

The extent of Turner's interest in the larger re-wilding plan was not immediately clear. Mike Phillips, who directs the Turner Endangered Species Fund and has directed wolf reintroductions in the Yellowstone region, was unavailable for comment.

The renewed presence of many large mammals might turn back the ecological clock in a variety of subtle ways.

For example, elephants eat woody plants that have overtaken grasslands. Could they act as Rototillers to restore the prairie?

Lions would be a harder sell, even if they would thin elk herds.

"Lions eat people," said co-author Josh Donlan of Cornell. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."


Please note: Ted Turner has a large herd of American Buffalo for which he has managed to get subsidies, and he has made every attempt (including bills in congress) to introduce Buffalo burgers to the American dinner table. He has been unsuccessful in these money making ventures with his herd of Buffalo, so I see he has come up with another scheme. One can only hope that his pockets will be filled with Buffalo chips!

Perhaps you know about the Wild European Rabbits, and the
Cane Toads in Australia, the Killer Bees that are moving into the U.S. from South America, or the Nutria, and Kudzu, the vine that ate the South.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Russia - Journalist hospitalized in Siberia with suspected bird flu

By Aussiegirl

The bird flu may be infecting humans in Russia. The problems with this migrating to Europe and the United States are that we have no vaccine, and even if one were to be developed, the state of vaccine manufacture in this country is nothing short of scandalous, all you have to do is remember the problems with the regular Asian flu virus that were experienced last year and the year before that. This is something that the government and the CDC has to be involved with. Companies will have to be subsidized by the government in order to produce these vaccines.

RIA Novosti reports:

Tests are being conducted to ascertain if a journalist hospitalized on August 12 has contracted bird flu, a health official in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk said Monday.

Maria Pashkova, a correspondent of the Novosibirsk state TV and radio company, was hospitalized days after returning from an assignment to areas in the region affected by an outbreak of bird flu. She felt ill upon her return home, and was admitted to hospital with a high temperature and headaches.

Pashkova is the fifth person to have been hospitalized with suspected bird flu, although tests failed to confirm that the other patients had contracted the disease. The journalist's results will be known later this week.

A regional health department official did not rule out the bird flu virus that had affected in the region could mutate and become dangerous for people. Sergei Pavlenko said that although humans could not contract the bird flu virus, the potential danger that the strain could mutate could not be ruled out.

According to the official, nobody has contracted bird flu in the Novosibirk region. Pavlenko also said quarantine measures had been imposed in 14 areas hit by the outbreak and doctors were making house calls every day in a bid to preclude any danger to the local population.

Bird flu may spread to southern Russia - physician

By Aussiegirl

Uh oh -- this looks bad. This is really something to keep an eye on.

RIA Novosti has the disturbing story:

Bird flu may spread to the Astrakhan, Rostov and Volgograd regions, Stavropol and Krasnodar territories in southern Russia this fall, the country's chief sanitary doctor said Monday.

"An analysis of bird migration routes has shown that the contagious A (H5N1) virus may spread from Western Siberia to the Caspian and Black Sea areas this fall," Gennady Onishchenko said in a letter to the heads of regional departments of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare. "Some birds nesting in the affected regions (the Novosibirsk region and Altai territory) migrate to the above-mentioned areas for winter or stop there on their way to Africa or Europe."

Bird migration routes run through Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine and Mediterranean countries, where bird flu outbreaks are also possible, he added.

"The 2006 spring migration may result in a spread of the A (H5N1) contagious virus across European Russia because birds migrating from European Russia and Siberia have common winter nesting areas," Onishchenko said.

According to the World Health Organization, 112 people contracted bird flu between December 2003 and August 2005 and 57 of them died.

He also said that the A (H5N1) virus had mutated and could infect people with fatal results.

Russia kills birds to halt advance of flu virus

By Aussiegirl

Looks like the bird flu is advancing into heavily populated areas. The danger involved with the bird flu would be if it could be communicated not only from birds to humans, but if the virus mutates and human to human transmission becomes a possibility the world faces a major pandemic of deadly flu similar to the 1918 outbreak.

The Bankok Post has the story:

Russia cordoned off roads and slaughtered hundreds of birds yesterday to contain the advance of a bird flu epidemic towards western Europe.

The outbreak, previously confined to five remote areas of Siberia, has now struck a major industrial region _ Chelyabinsk in the Ural mountains, which separate Asia from Europe.

"All ill and infected birds are being slaughtered there,'' the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

It was unclear whether the virus found in Chelyabinsk was the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed more than 50 people in Asia since 2003 and has hit Russia's Siberia as well as neighbouring Kazakhstan and Mongolia since mid-July.

Another denunciation of the retreat from Gaza

By Aussiegirl

Daniel Pipes, in an "Opposing View" to a USA Today editorial, has written this must-read indictment, The Gaza Withdrawal: A Democracy Killing Itself, of the flight from Gaza.

The Israeli government's removal of its own citizens from Gaza ranks as one of the worst errors ever made by a democracy....The harm will be three-fold: within Israel, in relations with the Palestinians, and internationally....Israel's mistakes are not unique for a democracy – French appeasement of Germany in the 1930s or American incrementalism in Vietnam come to mind – but none other jeopardized the very existence of a people.

(Here is the link to the original USA Today editorial, with the provocative title Gaza pullout begins with extremists poised for trouble.)

What was Sharon thinking!?

By Aussiegirl

If you have any doubts about Israel's fatal foolishness in giving up Gaza, here's a post from today's Jihad Watch that will forever quench those doubts.

Israel's destruction of its own villages, some of which long predate the existence of Israel as a state, and all of which are on land which, by the terms of the League of Nations' Mandate for Palestine, were part of the tiny territory assigned for the sole purpose of the establishment of a Jewish National Home, is nothing less than geopolitical and moral idiocy.

Was Bin-Laden's right hand man, Zawahiri, trained by the KGB?

By Aussiegirl

I've been reading more reports of the possible connection between Zawahiri and the KGB. I'll be posting more information as I pull it together. Also interesting in this analysis is the perspective on the recent threats by a Chinese General - I wrote about this earlier on UT and said at the time that there was no way that this general was simply speaking out of turn and voicing his own personal opinionl. Anhyone who believes that is foolish.

Global Politician:

Russian FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko, who defected in the 1990s, is reporting that, in 1998, the FSB trained Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's right-hand man, at an FSB camp in Dagestan. This was just before Zawahiri decided to merge Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was, according to some, founded with assistance from Soviet intelligence.

There has been a lot of attention devoted, over the years, to Zawahiri's apparent links to Marxism and the former East Bloc intelligence services. However, the details bof the relationship remain murky, and beg further investigation.

Regarding China, we were disappointed when US observers, and even the US government, barely reacted to General Zhenghu's comments, stating that China would use nuclear weapons if the US intervened in a war with Taiwan. Apparently, the US prefers to naively maintain that this statement is just one man's position, as opposed to it representing a larger, calculated strategy on the part of the Chinese government, as a whole.

The general claimed that China was prepared to suffer the destruction of all its cities east of Xian, but the US must likewise prepare to lose hundreds of its cities. It is highly unlikely that this was not a calculated statement. In fact, it bears the classic hallmarks of Chinese strategy: issuing a threat through a spokesperson, while being able to officially distance itself from the threat, so as to maintain a pretense of stable relations with the US.

China is living an aggressor's dream: China's primary enemy is China's primary source of technology and power. As US factories and technology relocate, inexorably, to China, China becomes stronger and the US becomes weaker. China appears to have a very promising future due to the US's inability to prioritize long-term geopolitical advantage, before temporary economic prosperity.

Obviously the Chinese are diligently applying the timeless strategic wisdom of their ancient general, Sun Tsu: “A wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own.” Such wisdom, the West would do well to heed.

Bin Laden aide had KGB link

By Aussiegirl

Here's a bit more info from the Gulf Times on the Zawahiri/KGB connection, no wonder Putin seems less than helpful on the war on terror. If this is true then Zawahiri follows in a long line of Marxist and KGB trained muslim terrorists, including the late unlamented Yassir Arafat:

Al Qaeda's number two was trained by Russia's secret service : and served as a KGB agent before becoming Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, a former KGB secret agent told Poland's Rzeczpospolita newspaper yesterday.

Ayman al-Zawahiri trained at a Federal Security Service (FSB, former KGB) base in Dagestan in 1998, claimed ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko who fled Russia in 2000.
He was then transferred to Afghanistan where he became Osama bin Laden's deputy, Litvinenko told the newspaper.
"I was working in that section at the time and I can confirm the fact Zawahiri was not the only link between the FSB and Al Qaeda, he said. "

Let's hope it's better than CNN

By Aussiegirl

Let's hope they don't run that new Yulia and Mikhail look-alike movie.

The New Zealand Herald:

"Russia to launch English-language news channel

Russia calling Russia is to launch a 24-hour English-language TV news channel in the mould of CNN to be beamed throughout Europe, the United States and parts of Asia via satellite and cable.

The project is already well advanced and the channel, to be called Russia Today, is expected to go on air before the end of the year.

It will offer a mixture of international news 'from a Russian perspective' as well as domestic Russian news.


The Panda and the Russian Bear play war games

By Aussiegirl

Here come the military exercises. Don't miss the reference at the end of the clip to the possible sale of strategic, cruise-missile-capable bombers to China. And don't miss the inclusion of Pakistan and Iran and India into the group. America must beware of these emerging alliances and threats and be prepared to act pre-emptively.

Peter Brookes: Beijing Bear Hug

This week will see an ominous precedent : The first-ever joint Chinese-Russian military exercises kick off Thursday in Northeast Asia.

The exercises are small in scale - but huge in implication. They indicate a further warming of the "strategic partnership" that Moscow and Beijing struck back in 1996.

More importantly, they signal the first real post-Cold War steps, beyond inflammatory rhetoric, by Russia and China to balance - and, ultimately, diminish - U.S. power across Asia.

If America doesn't take strategic steps to counter these efforts, it will lose influence to Russia and China in an increasingly important part of the world.

[...]The exercise also gives Russia an opportunity to strut its military wares before its best customers - Chinese generals. Moscow is Beijing's largest arms supplier, to the tune of more than $2 billion a year for purchases that include subs, ships, missiles and fighters.

Rumors abound that Moscow may finally be ready to sell strategic, cruise-missile-capable bombers such as the long-range TU-95 and supersonic TU-22 to Beijing - strengthening China's military hand against America and U.S. friends and allies in Asia.

Russia and China are working together to oppose American influence all around their periphery. Both are upset by U.S. support for freedom in the region - notably in the recent Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions - all of which fell in what Moscow or Beijing deems its sphere of influence.

[...]Moreover, it shouldn't be overlooked that the "Shanghai Six" have invited Iran, India and Pakistan to join the group as observers, expanding China and Russia's influence into South Asia and parts of the Middle East.

It's all about Art

By Aussiegirl

A shooting war erupts between Russia, Ukraine and Georgia -- movie shooting that is. May the best film win!

Ukraine, Georgia fuming over planned Russian sex film

Alexei Mitrofanov, deputy leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, says he cannot understand the ruckus over his dirty movie.

What's so wrong, he asks, about writing a film script that imagines a steamy rendezvous between a buxom woman named Yulia and a darkly handsome gentleman named Mikhail?

What does it matter if the porn star selected for the role of Yulia wears the same braided hairstyle as Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko? Or that she climbs into a Russian attack helicopter, zooms over the mountains along Georgia's northern border and makes love to someone who resembles Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili?

"How can they react like this when they haven't even seen the film?" said Mr. Mitrofanov, a senior member of the State Duma, or lower parliament, better-known for his extreme nationalist politics than his prowess as an author of sex films.

Ukraine and Georgia have voiced displeasure with Mr. Mitrofanov's side project, which is scheduled to start filming next week.

Rumours are circulating about possible retaliation by Ukrainian filmmakers, who are reportedly trying to cast a male porn star who resembles Russian President Vladimir Putin for a gay film.

Into Africa -- China never met a despot it couldn't do business with

By Aussiegirl

Well, how about some more cheery news on the increasing reach of China's global ambitions to start off your Monday morning with a bang. To all those investors with nothing but dollars signs dancing in their eyes, never forget that China is not simply another market opportunity, but an emerging hostile threat to U.S. interests.

China, Africa Dictators Link Rings Alarms

While the Bush administration engages China on these matters, the U.S.-China Commission has turned its focus in part to the political alliances China has been forming with governments that have been targeted by international critics for continued human rights violations, rampant corruption and state-sponsored terrorism.

Alongside new commercial enterprises on the continent of Africa, China has been solidifying its strongest and longest partnerships with two African dictatorships: Zimbabwe and Sudan. Both nations are known for their oppressive regimes.

In June, Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe ordered the bulldozing of 700,000 people's homes that he declared illegal. The government of Sudan has been blamed for the murder of more than 180,000 civilians in Darfur and the displacement of nearly 3 million people who now live in refugee camps. Both government actions have been called crimes against humanity.

"What I think is disconcerting is the willingness of China to not only help but to defend rogue regimes," said Princeton Lyman, who served as ambassador to both Nigeria and South Africa in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Origins of CAIR

By Aussiegirl

For an eye-opening account of the origins of CAIR, you must read today's post from the always relevant blog Always On Watch. And when you've finished, read Friday's post right below, also on the insidious nature of CAIR. It's always good to know who your enemy is!

"... CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group identified by a U.S. intelligence official as a front for Hamas. Awad was the group's public-relations adviser, and CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper also was an employee."

Intelligent Design too intelligent for intellectuals

By Aussiegirl

There's a fascinating article in the August 12th The American Thinker on the fear that intellectuals have about the idea of intelligent design. It's well worth reading.

No group is more opposed to the idea of intellect behind nature than "intellectuals." The absence of intelligence in the universe -- save the intelligence they find abundantly in themselves and search for eagerly in space -- is a Darwinian fable that brings powerful comfort to intellectuals[...]
Intellectual history since the Enlightenment suggests the reason: intellectuals do not want God to displace man as the measure of all things.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mohammed's Message to Cindy

by: BonnieBlueFlag

It has been a little while since I have checked in at the "Iraq The Model" Blog, but I accidentally found myself there today, reading a very moving letter to Cindy Sheehan.

I must say that my own emotions are on a roller coaster ride daily, as we try to do what is right in Iraq, without losing our own soul in the process.

Today's "A Message to Cindy Sheehan" has served to renew my own spirit and conviction, that President Bush must remain steady in his resolve. He must not be swayed by Cindy Sheehan and her fellow demonstrators. We cannot withdraw our troops based on the ill advised whims of this woman.

And those who are using Cindy Sheehan as a pawn in this deadly game they are playing, are no less dishonorable, no less brutal and cruel to her, than the Iraqi terrorists who murdered her son, Casey.

Keep Quiet And Listen!

Posted by: BonnieBlueFlag

Did you ever wonder what Aussiegirl and BonnieBlueFlag talk about over morning coffee?

BBF tells AG, that Victor Davis Hanson recommends that we shut-up and listen, but it is so very difficult to hear what the jihadists are really saying over the din of the MSM, the Michael Moores, and that outrageous woman standing at the gate of GW's ranch.

AG responds by reminding BBF that the Liberals are deaf, they only hear what they want to hear. Their minds are already made up, please don't confuse them with the facts. Anything that does not contribute to the propagation of their agenda must be shouted down.

Well, VDH has our attention in this most recent article, right down to the very last paragraph. We only wish that people like those who can afford to stand around in Crawford, Texas, would "Sit Down, Shut-up, and Listen!"

National Review Online
August 12, 2005, 8:13 a.m.

Keep Quiet And Listen!
by Victor Davis Hanson

The words of radical Islam speak for themselves.

“You will find that the Jews were behind all the civil strife in this world. The Jews are behind the suffering of the nations.”

When and where did that venom come from?

This last May — and out of the hateful mouth of a prominent Palestinian cleric, Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris. He was broadcast on a Palestinian Authority station.

The televised Sheik finished with an even more frightening thought: “The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews — even the stones and trees which were harmed by them…The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew.”

Nothing could be clearer than that promise of another holocaust — and promised explicitly on state-run Palestinian television, a public megaphone of the Palestinian Authority, itself the beneficiary of past and apparently promised future American financial aid.

Still, don’t hold your breath that the passive/aggressive sheik is about to lead a pan-Islamic army a few miles across the border to “finish off every Jew,” since he might then end up like Sheik Ahmed Yassin, whose threats of death earned him instead an early paradise.

Throughout this war we have an understandable, if ethnocentric, habit of ignoring what our enemies actually say. Instead we chatter on, don’t listen, and in self-absorbed fashion impart our own motives for their hatred. We live on the principles of the Enlightenment and so worship our god Reason, thus assuming that even our adversaries accept such rational protocols as their own.

So they talk on and on of beheading, suicide bombing, another holocaust, and blowing thousands of us up, while we snooze, now and again waking in the midst of a war to regurgitate Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, flushed Korans, the abusive Patriot Act, and the latest quip of Donald Rumsfeld.

But again keep quiet, and listen to radical Islam.

Take the August 4 declaration of al Qaeda’s second in command, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. He promises even “more destruction” for London, and tells us precisely why.

Many in the West assume that those mass murders were payback for the United Kingdom’s presence in Iraq, even though its troops are mostly confined to non-Wahhabi areas in the south.

But no, the Dr. instead lists a number of grievances beyond Iraq that justify his terrorist cadres murdering innocents. One complaint, for example, is “Stopping the robbing of our oil and resources.”

Examine that gripe carefully.

Oil is now at record highs. I just filled up with regular gas at $2.89 on a California interstate. It costs the Middle East about $3-4 a barrel to pump petroleum that was discovered, developed, and marketed for the Gulf autocracies through hated Western expertise — and is now selling at over $60. Despite Zawahiri’s rants, billions of poor the world over are being price gauged to enrich a Muslim world flush with petrodollars.

And some of those obscene profits have ended up in coffers of Zawahiri himself. Indeed, his al Qaeda blackmailers depend on recycled petrodollars from Gulf State sheikdoms. Nothing either he or bin Laden has ever done themselves warrants the type of cash that flowed into al Qaeda’s banks — a con operation that extorted oil dollars from autocratic price gougers who in turn got their revenues largely from inventive and productive Indians, Chinese, and Westerners.

Zawahiri next went on to cite, “Stopping your support for the corrupt and corrupting leaders.”

Did the terrorist Dr. read the text of Condoleezza Rice’s June 20 address in Cairo? There she rightly repudiated past American realpolitik that blinked at Arab dictatorships, and then prodded Arab governments to democratize?

Or maybe it was precisely that fresh support for democracy that grieves Zawahiri?

For clarification of al Qaeda’s ideas about democracy, we can turn to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the spiritual leader of the terrorists in Iraq. He recently warned that, “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology.”

That pathological hatred of democracy was also amplified in the latest al Qaeda video of August 10: “Democracy, human rights, and freedom are all but hollow illusions, with which they tranquilize inhabitants.”

Western critics of America’s attempt to introduce democratic reconstruction in Iraq should ask why al Qaeda is so furious at the effort. The answer is clear: Radical Islam can no longer blame the United States for propping up dictators, but instead is terrified that there is a third choice — the people’s freedom — between creepy strongmen and even creepier pre-modern theocrats.

But back again to the good Dr. Zawahiri, who had still more complaints beyond oil and corrupt leaders that explain why he, of course, plans on more murdering of Westerners.

“What you have you seen, O Americans, in New York and Washington and the losses you are having in Afghanistan and Iraq, in spite of all the media blackout, are only the losses of the initial clashes.”

And we know precisely what were our perceived pre-September 11 wrongs that caused “New York and Washington” since Dr Zawahiri’s boss, bin Laden himself, spelled them out in a 1998 fatwa.

“The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip.”

Note that bin Laden omits any reference to American efforts to save Muslim Kuwait (a war in which in vain he also volunteered to fight against Saddam Hussein), to save Balkan Muslims (which his own mujahadeen had failed utterly to do), or to stop the Soviet killing of Afghan Muslims (a war in which his resistance counted on American arms to save his fellow Muslims).

The constant theme of this envious and insecure motor mouth? Americans saved Muslims, while bin Laden’s minions talked big, but couldn’t do much against much stronger Baathist Iraqis, godless Soviets, and nationalist Serbs.

September 11 was the promised answer to bin Laden’s fatwa. Later when America withdrew all troops from the land of Mecca, his death promises increased rather than ceased.

Remember that Dr. Zawahiri lists both Afghanistan (his former headquarters) and Iraq in the same breath as reasons for his attacks to come. We in our civil discord tend to distinguish the two theaters; al Qaeda in its unity does not.

So as we try to assess the causes of Islamists’ venom toward the West, it seems wiser to listen to what they say rather than what we say they say.

If we would do that, we would conclude that the hatred of radical Islam is fed by envy, frustration, and pride — and thus existential: They despise Americans for who we are.

That’s why al Qaeda must constantly find new grievances, whether the West Bank, Israel itself, Jews, oil prices, troops in Saudi Arabia, Oil-for-Food, Afghanistan, or Iraq.

Indeed, the latest two-hour training video is little more than cut-and-paste from the Michael Moore Left and hand-me-downs from Euro anti-globalist radicals. Thus America, al Qaeda assures us, “seeks to ravage the entire globe for the interest…of corporate companies,” and so kills the sons of Islam “in Palestine, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Indonesia, the Caucuses, and elsewhere.”

Apparently about three billion Europeans, Asians, Russians, and Indians have been picking on poor suicide bombers and terrorists, who, in fact, are incognito environmentalists bent on stopping corporate exploitation of Mother Earth.

Yet there is one and only one legitimate objection of the crackpot radical Islamists that rings true: We in the West don’t listen to them when they promise us our deaths.

We should. They are yelling as loud as they can to tell us something that we don’t really want to hear.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

"Victor David Hanson on NRO"

Atta Details Omitted From Sept. 11 Report

By Aussiegirl

BINGO!! First the 9/11 Commission deny they were ever told about this,
then they say they were told but Atta's name was never mentioned, now
they admit that they knew about this but "decided" to omit the
information from the final report. Unbelievable!! WHO decided to leave
it out??? The same Jamie Gorelick who created "THE WALL" which
prevented intelligence agencies from sharing information??? Sounds like
the fox guarding the henhouse to me. And note that officials are now
combing THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES -- for any notes of those meetings.

Earth to the 9/11 Commission -- CHECK SANDY BERGER'S PANTS AND SOCKS!!!
-- because that's most likely where those documents are. We now
understand what Sandy Berger was so eager to find and to destroy (and we
do know he destroyed documents "accidentally").

And if that isn't enough to blow the top of your head off this morning
just read the part about "not overreacting to this news"!! I'm sorry --
when I discover that the commission empaneled to look into failures in
intelligence itself becomes complicit in a coverup of government
malfeasance I'm going to get just a little bit worked up. The committee
looks like it was set up deliberately to cover up any wrongdoing by the
Clinton administration -- and if this information was passed on to the
Bush administration then they also bear some responsibility. Perhaps
they are both covering up. Whatever the case -- this is big and needs
to get bigger. This matter cannot simply be dropped. No wonder I
called it the Omish-Commish at the time -- since it omitted so much

the story

The Sept. 11 commission knew military intelligence officials
had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a member of al-Qaida who
might be part of U.S.-based terror cell more than a year before the
terror attacks but decided not to include that in its final report, a
spokesman acknowledged Thursday.

Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the commission's follow-up project called
the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, had said earlier this week that the
panel was unaware of intelligence specifically naming Atta. But he said
subsequent information provided Wednesday confirmed that the commission
had been aware of the intelligence.

The information did not make it into the final report because it was not
consistent with what the commission knew about Atta's whereabouts before
the attacks, Felzenberg said.
The intelligence about Atta recently was disclosed by Rep. Curt Weldon,
vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security
committees. The Pennsylvania Republican has expressed anger that the
intelligence never was forwarded by the military establishment to the

The discourse project, Pentagon and at least two congressional
committees are looking into the issue. If found accurate, the
intelligence would change the timeline for when government officials
first became aware of Atta's links to al-Qaida.

According to Weldon, a classified military intelligence unit called
''Able Danger'' identified Atta and three other hijackers in 1999 as
potential members of a terrorist cell in New York City. Weldon said
Pentagon lawyers rejected the unit's recommendation that the information
be turned over to the FBI in 2000.
According to Pentagon documents, the information was not shared because
of concerns about pursuing information on ''U.S. persons,'' a legal term
that includes U.S. citizens as well as foreigners legally admitted to
the country.

Felzenberg said an unidentified person working with Weldon came forward
Wednesday and described a meeting 10 days before the panel's report was
issued last July. During it, a military official urged commission
staffers to include a reference to the intelligence on Atta in the final

Felzenberg said checks were made and the details of the July 12, 2004,
meeting were confirmed. Previous to that, Felzenberg said it was
believed commission staffers knew about Able Danger from a meeting with
military officials in Afghanistan during which no mention was made of
Atta or the other three hijackers.
Staff members now are searching documents in the National Archives to
look for notes from the meeting in Afghanistan and any other possible
references to Atta and Able Danger, Felzenberg said.
Felzenberg sought to minimize the significance of the new information.

''Even if it were valid, it would've joined the lists of dozens of other
instances where information was not shared,'' Felzenberg said. ''There
was a major problem with intelligence sharing.''
Weldon on Wednesday wrote to Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11
commission, and Lee Hamilton, the vice chairman, asking for information
to be sought that would look at why the information was not passed on by
Pentagon lawyers to the FBI.

His letter also asks the commissioners to find out why the panel's staff
members did not pass the information about Able Danger onto commission
members and provide full documentation.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the
Senate Intelligence Committee, and his House counterpart, Michigan Rep.
Peter Hoekstra, are looking into the issue.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Terror goes Hollywood -- jihadist as hero and star

By Aussiegirl

Jason Apuzzo writes about Hollywood's New War Effort: Terrorism Chic. Conservatives are simply going to have to start making movies that reflect the mainstream of American culture before these parasites completely brainwash our young people into identifying with the murderous jihadists.

Slow to awaken after the 9/11 attacks, Hollywood has finally come around to contributing what it can in the War on Terror: namely, glossy, star-studded movies that sympathize with the enemy.

Hard to believe? Here's the pitch: with box-office numbers trending down, studio executives are suddenly greenlighting movies they can describe to shareholders as 'controversial' or 'timely.' Whether the films are anti-American or otherwise demoralizing to the war effort is apparently immaterial. Its appetite whetted by "Fahrenheit 9/11"'s $222 million worldwide gross, Hollywood thinks it's found a formula for both financial security and critical plaudits: noxious anti-American storylines, bathed in the warm glow of star power.

Here are just a few films already in the pipeline:

- "V For Vendetta." From Warner Brothers and the creators of "The Matrix" comes this film about a futuristic Great Britain that's become a 'fascist state.' A masked 'freedom fighter' named V uses terror tactics (including bombing the London Underground) to undermine the government - leading to a climax in which the British Parliament is blown up. Natalie Portman stars as a skinhead who turns to 'the revolution' after doing time as a Guantanamo-style prisoner.

- "Munich." Steven Spielberg directs this film about the aftermath of the 1972 Olympic terror attacks that killed eleven Israeli athletes. "Munich"'s screenplay is written by playwrite Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"), who has been quoted as saying: "I think the founding of the state of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity ... I wish modern Israel hadn№t been born." The film focuses on the crisis of conscience undergone by Israeli commandos tasked with killing PLO terrorists - rather than on the barbarity of the terrorists themselves.

- "Untitled Oliver Stone 9/11 Project." Paramount will distribute Oliver Stone's new film recounting the rescue of two Port Authority officers after the 9/11 attacks. The film will star Nicholas Cage and Maggie Gyllenhaal - who recently suggested that America was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

As for Stone, he had this to say only a month after 9/11: "This attack was pure chaos, and chaos is energy. All great changes have come from people or events that were initially misunderstood, and seemed frightening, like madmen."

"Syriana." Starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, this Warner Brothers film - set during the first Bush administration - features a plot by American oil companies and the U.S. government to redraw Middle East borders for greater oil profiteering. The film even depicts a handsome, 'tragic' suicide bomber driven to jihad after being fired by an American oil company! The film's climax comes with the jihadist launching an explosive device into an oil tanker as American oil barons and Saudi officials look on.

"The Scorpion's Gate." Sony has optioned former terrorism-czar Richard Clarke's novel about oil companies and Washington politicians colluding to reshape the map of the Middle East for greater oil profiteering - this time by launching a global nuclear war.

"The Chancellor Manuscript." Paramount reworks Robert Ludlum№s 1977 thriller into an anti-Patriot Act star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. Here's the film's screenwriter, Michael Seitzman: "We live in this crazy post-Patriot Act environment where Benjamin Franklin№s warning that 'those that give up essential liberties for temporary security don№t deserve either one' are being ignored, so the subject matter seemed ripe."

"No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah." Universal has attached Harrison Ford to star as real-life General Jim Mattis - in this story blaming the White House for the deaths of fifty Marines in one of the Iraq war's deadliest battles. Based on the book of the same name by Bing West.

"American Dreamz." This 'satire' from Universal Pictures deals with Pakistani suicide bombers out to kill the US president. The film stars Hugh Grant, Richard Dreyfuss, Willem Dafoe and Mandy Moore. According to writer-director Paul Weitz ("American Pie"), "The film is a comic examination of ... cultural obsessions" like the War on Terror "and how they can anaesthetise us to the actual issues of our day."

"Terminus." Set in the Middle East of the future, this Warner Brothers film depicts a 'disillusioned' war correspondent covering an 'insurgency' he decides he must support. The producer, Basil Iwanyk, says: "It deals head on with what some call insurgency, what some call guerilla warfare and what some call freedom fighting."

"Jarhead." This Universal release, starring Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal, deals with the 'dehumanization' of Marine trainees prior to and during the 1991 Gulf War. Based on Andrew Swofford's notorious and questionable memoirs of the same name.

The above list, incidentally, should not be taken as comprehensive. For example, Paramount also has projects in the works about a 'reformed' al-Qaeda operative, and about the victim of an Iraqi suicide bomber. Little about these projects has been made public.