Archive | March, 2012

Afghanistan War VS Iraq War

30 Mar

Mr. Ackerman of Danger Room posted a sound review of recent polls concerning public attitude towards wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

There is no “good war” anymore.

According to a New York Times poll, 69 percent of Americans think the U.S. shouldn’t be waging the Afghanistan war. That reinforces the findings of a recent Pew poll, in which nearly six-in-ten respondents supported bringing U.S. troops home ASAP. It’s a major hemorrhage of support. Just a few weeks ago, the war was merely unpopular, with 54 percent saying it wasn’t worth fighting.

The new low represents the crossing of a certain psychological and cultural threshold. It means the Afghanistan war is now at least as unpopular as the Iraq war was at the height of public ire. In fact, by some measures, the war to beat the Taliban — the guys who gave safe harbor to the 9/11 terrorists — is now more unpopular than the one to get rid of Saddam and his alleged stockpiles of WMDs.

Take a look at what tallies for the Iraq war. During Iraq’s darkest days, in 2006, CNN’s poll registered opposition to the war in the high 50s or low to mid 60s. It took until the week George W. Bush announced the surge, in January 2007, for opposition to reach 67 percent. At no time between 2006 and 2011 did the poll register 69 percent opposition.
Other polls record a similar reaction. From January 2007 through August 2010, the Gallup poll found the high-water mark of opposition to the Iraq war was 63 percent, registered in April 2008. Throughout 2008 and 2009, when Iraq seemed like a settled issue for many Americans — hardened in either their support or their opposition — CBS’ poll asked if “looking back,” invading Iraq was a mistake. At most, 62 percent of respondents said the U.S. should have stayed out.
The decade-long Afghanistan war is significantly longer than the Iraq war was. And unlike the Iraq troop surge, the Afghan surge’s tactical gains were more ambiguous. And that was before the war was battered in recent weeks by fratricidal attacks by Afghan troops against their U.S. mentors; the burning of the Koran at a U.S. detention center; and a massacre by a rogue U.S. soldier of 17 civilians, mostly women and children.

Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that the upsurge in public opposition wouldn’t make a difference to U.S. war plans. “I’m not sure what would be gained from changing a strategy that’s actually working,” he said.
But clearly it’s a change that the American public wants, and the opposition will make it harder for Gen. John Allen, the war commander, to slow down U.S. troop reductions. Politicians (mostly Democratic ones) used to contrast the allegedly-virtuous Afghanistan war with the allegedly-illegitimate Iraq one. Goodbye to all that — and to the dubious, armchair notion that any war is “good,” rather than unfortunately necessary.



Saudi Grand Mufti urges to destroy all churches in the Arabian Peninsula

16 Mar

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has declared that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula must be demolished. The statement prompted anger from Christians throughout the Middle East.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah made the controversial statement in a response to a question from a Kuwaiti NGO delegation. A Kuwaiti parliamentarian had called for a ban on the construction of new churches in February, but so far the initiative has not been passed into law. The NGO, called the Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, asked the Sheikh to clarify what Islamic law says on the matter. 

The Grand Mufti, who is the highest official of religious law in Saudi Arabia, as well as the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars, cited the Prophet Mohammed, who said the Arabian Peninsula is to exist under only one religion. 

The Sheikh went on to conclude that it was therefore necessary for Kuwait, being a part of the Arabian Peninsula, to destroy all churches on its territory.  

In February, Kuwaiti MP Osama al-Munawar announced on Twitter that he was planning to submit legislation that would remove all churches in the country. However, he later clarified that existing churches should remain, while the construction of new non-Islamic places of worship would be banned. 

Another MP, Mohamemd Hayef, backed al-Munawar, saying the number of churches in the country was already disproportionate to the number of Christians. 

As for Saudi Arabia, all religions other than Islam are banned and there are no churches, although a small minority of Christians is theoretically allowed to practice their religion in the privacy of their own home. 

The Grand Mufti’s words have caused a heated response from Christians living in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries throughout the Middle East. A number of bloggers also wrote on the issue. 

Considering the hysteria that besets the West whenever non-authoritative individuals offend Islam – for instance, a fringe, unknown pastor – imagine what would happen if a Christian counterpart to the Grand Mufti, say the Pope, were to declare that all mosques in Italy must be destroyed; imagine the nonstop Western media frenzy that would erupt, all the shrill screams of ‘intolerance’ and ‘bigot,’ demands for apologies if not resignation, nonstop handwringing by sensitive politicians, and worse,” Raymond Ibrahim of Jihad Watch, a blog critical of extremist Islamic laws, wrote. 

Despite the sensational news value of the story, the Western media has been remarkably silent. No major news services have covered the story yet. Ibrahim argues that the Grand Mufti gets a free pass even when he incites Muslims to destroy churches because Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States. 

Restrictions on Islam in the West

The Grand Mufti’s words seem to mirror what a number of US politicians have been calling for – only their words were aimed at mosques and Muslims. In January, Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain said Americans have a constitutional right to ban mosques, arguing that Islam combines church and state, which contradicts the US Constitution. 

They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people of that community do not like it,” Cain said on Fox News Sunday.

In November, Pat Buchanan, who vied for the Republican presidential nomination on a number of occasions, agreed with radio host Bryan Fischer in promoting limits to immigration from Islamic countries and the construction of new mosques. 

In 2009 a constitutional amendment banning the construction of minarets was adopted in Switzerland following a referendum on the subject. Almost 58 per cent of the population said yes to the initiative, although the traditionally leftist French-speaking part of the country rejected it. The construction of new minarets is now banned throughout Switzerland, though the four existing minarets in Zurich, Geneva, Winterthur and Wangei bei Olten are to remain. 

In 2010, French legislators banned face-covering headgear in public. The ban meant that women caught wearing the burqa in public could be fined up to 150 euros and/or be forced to participate in citizenship education. Proponents of the legislation argued that face covering was both an issue of security and social integrity, as facial recognition is important for communication. Opponents said the law encroached on personal freedoms.

Source: Russia Today

US soldier kills at least 16 Afghans in deadly rampage

12 Mar

UPDATE: A US soldier is being interrogated after opening fire on civilians in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 16, including children, in an attack described by Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “unforgivable”.

US President Barack Obama described yesterday’s massacre as “tragic and shocking”, and called Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to express his “shock and sadness”.
Karzai has responded furiously to the massacre, in which women and children were killed in their homes in a pre-dawn rampage.
Nine children and three women were among the dead, Mr Karzai said.
The shooter was an Army staff sergeant based out of the Ft Lewis-McChord joint base in Washington State, senior US officials told FOX News Channel.
In an interview on ABC News, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby added that the solder is married with two children and was on his first mission in Afghanistan.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the soldier left his base in the Panjway district of Kandahar province and walked about a mile to a nearby village, where he went on a house-to-house rampage during the early hours of yesterday morning (local time).
He was arrested outside the base after the shooting by members of the Afghan National Army, the army corps commander in southern Afghanistan, Abdul Hameed, told AFP.
A joint Afghan-coalition investigation is underway into the shooting, and it remains unclear what the shooter’s motives were or whether he had previous contact with his victims.
The senior US officials told FOX News that after killing his victims, the soldier walked back to the base and immediately turned himself in.
US Air Force Capt Justin Brockhoff, a coalition spokesman in Kabul, said numerous civilian casualties were being treated in coalition military facilities.
The shooting is likely to ramp up tensions between Washington and Afghanistan at a delicate moment for the two countries.
“When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action,” Mr Karzai said in statement.
“The government and the people of Afghanistan demand an explanation from the United States government of this incident.”
President Barack Obama called Mr Karzai yesterday to personally express his “shock and sadness” at the incident.
In a statement, Obama said he supports an investigation of the attack that will hold the perpetrator responsible.
“I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering,” he said.
“This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.”
Obama quickly moved to assure Karzai, telling him in a phone call of Washington’s “commitment to establish the facts as quickly as possible and to hold fully accountable anyone responsible”, the White House said.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta also called Karzai and assured him that a “full investigation” was under way. In Brussels, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed shock and offered his “heartfelt condolences”.
The US embassy in Kabul sent out an alert to its citizens in Afghanistan warning that as a result of the shooting “there is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days”.
Deteriorating US-Afghan relations risk complicating negotiations on a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries for when US combat operations end in 2014.
The treaty would likely cover the legal status of any US troops remaining in Afghanistan to help Kabul with intelligence, air power and logistics in the fight against Taliban insurgents.
In Iraq, Washington abandoned its pursuit of a strategic partnership deal and pulled out all its troops, leaving no residual force, after failing to get Baghdad to grant its soldiers legal immunity.
The shooting sparked renewed soul-searching in the US about the war, which began in 2001 when an American-led force toppled the Taliban regime in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
“There’s something profoundly wrong with how we’re approaching the whole region and I think it’s going to get substantially worse, not better,” Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich told Fox News.’
An Afghan government official, who described Karzai as “very angry” over the incident, said the president had dispatched the army chief of staff to head an investigation.
Afghan resentment of US forces has also been exacerbated by a video posted online in January showing US Marines urinating on the bloodied corpses of slain Afghan insurgents – an incident condemned by the Pentagon.
And in November, the ringleader of a rogue American military “kill team” charged with murder for shooting civilians for sport was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison by a military panel.
Kandahar is a stronghold of Taliban insurgents fighting to oust Karzai’s government, which is supported by some 130,000 US-led NATO troops.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he also spoke to Mr Karzai, offering his “deepest condolences and profound regret” for the shooting rampage.
“I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens,” Panetta said in the statement, noting that the soldier was “clearly acting outside his chain of command.”
A statement issued by ISAF Commander Gen John R Allen said he was “shocked and saddened” in the wake of the incident.
Gen Allen pledged to continue offering medical care to the wounded and to cooperate with Afghan authorities in the investigation.
The shooting comes just weeks after the burning of Korans by US soldiers at a US detention facility north of Kabul. Anti-American riots rippled across the country in response, leaving some 30 protesters dead.
Six US troops were also killed in three separate attacks on American personnel by Afghan service members amid the unrest.
Last year, four US Army soldiers were convicted of deliberately murdering Afghan civilians and collecting their body parts as trophies in Kandahar in 2010.
The US Embassy in Kabul warned US citizens in Afghanistan that there is “a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days, especially in eastern and southern provinces”.
“US citizens in Afghanistan should remain vigilant and avoid areas where Westerners congregate,” it said. “Avoid large public gatherings or demonstrations. Past demonstrations in Afghanistan have escalated into violent attacks on Western targets of opportunity.”
The embassy said it is “carefully monitoring the situation”.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s interior ministry urged calm, and said people should await the outcome of investigations into the shooting before reaching any conclusions.
“This is a very unfortunate incident, but we ask people to let us do the investigation first,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi told Tolo News.

Source: Herald Sun

US Soldier: “What happened to OUR country while we were gone?”

1 Mar

Editor’s note: Paranoid TSA administration has become a meme already. Here is the story of an american soldier returning home from Afghanistan:

I don’t know of anyone who won’t get a kick out of this one. These are the knuckleheads who are so smart, and so knowing in charge at the TSA near you!

As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, We flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards. Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That’s where the stupid started.

First, everyone was forced to get off the plane – even though the plane wasn’t refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.

It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it re-inspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to re-inspect our cargo – just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, re-inspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers.

The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You’re not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your F**K**G nail clippers so we can get the F**K out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

To top it off, the TSA demanded we all be swabbed for “explosive residue” detection. Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for “Gun Powder Residue”. Who the F**K is hiring these people?

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns – but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Can someone please tell me what the hell happened to OUR country while we were gone?