Swat’s Refugee Crisis Underscores Government Incompetence

If there’s one thing the private sector can’t compete with a modern military on, it’s the ability to drive millions of people from their homes in a matter of weeks. The situation in the Swat Valley is the largest migration the nation has seen since the 1947 partition with India – and while many are staying with relatives and hoping the war eventually comes to an end, others are scrambling for refugee camps.

It’s providing an interesting case study, for while there is no shortage of reporting on the squalor and desperation of the overcrowded government IDP camps, the Los Angeles Times is reporting on another kind of camp.

The Hazrat Usman camp is run by a religious group and depends on private donations. While the government camps are crowded and short on supplies, the private camp has food, medicine, and far more comfortable living conditions.

Some express concern that the private groups, critical of the government’s invasion of the Swat Valley, will increase sympathy for the Taliban-styled factions there. Yet it is hard to imagine that the private sector’s ability to provide desperate people with food and shelter will undermine government support more than the military’s indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in the conflict.

Very Intriguing… Is Ross in Trouble?

Everyone knows that the Israelis are pressing hard for the Obama administration to set a a relatively short-term deadline for progress in its prospective diplomatic engagement with Iran to bear fruit, after which it would move to tighten sanctions, hopefully in coordination with the EU and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, against Tehran. If, after an additional period of time, Iran proved unresponsive, the Israelis hope that Washington would either take military action on its own or give the green light to Jerusalem to do so. By all accounts, Prime Minister Netanyahu will make some understanding about such a time line his Priority Number One in his talks with Obama in the White House Monday.

Now, on the eve of those talks, the administration appears to be preemptively rejecting this pressure, at least publicly. How else to interpret the following exchange today between reporters and State Department spokesman Ian Kelly about a report in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal headlined, “U.S., Allies Set October Target for Iran Progress: If Benchmarks on Nuclear Negotiations Aren’t Met, Sanctions Would Follow…” and an earlier — and remarkably similar — report that appeared May 10 in Haaretz? Read the rest of this entry »

McChrystal, Copper Green, Torture and Assassination

Check out this great Esquire article about the torture occupation of Iraq and new Afghan boss McChrystal‘s role. How’d I miss this in ’06?

It was a point of pride that the Red Cross would never be allowed in the door, Jeff says. This is important because it defied the Geneva Conventions, which require that the Red Cross have access to military prisons. “Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. ‘Will they ever be allowed in here?’ And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in — they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators.” …

To Garlasco, this is significant. This means that a full-bird colonel and all his support staff knew exactly what was going on at Camp Nama. “Do you know where the colonel was getting his orders from?” he asks.

Jeff answers quickly, perhaps a little defiantly. “I believe it was a two-star general. I believe his name was General McChrystal. I saw him there a couple of times.”

Back when he was an intelligence analyst, Garlasco had briefed Stanley McChrystal once. He remembers him as a tall Irishman with a gentle manner. He was head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the logical person to oversee Task Force 121, and vice-director for operations for the Joint Chiefs. That put responsibility right in the heart of the Pentagon.

Within the unit, the interrogators got the feeling they were reporting to the highest levels. The colonel would tell an interrogator that his report “is on Rumsfeld’s desk this morning” or that it was “read by SecDef.”

Muriel Kane wonders whether McChrystal ran Cheney’s global assassination hit squads.

Hersh: “…let’s say Yemen, let’s say Peru, let’s say Colombia, let’s say Eritrea, let’s say Madagascar, let’s say Kenya, countries like that…

Thanks to Douglas Valentine.

Tom Ricks to Antiwar.com: Get Off of My Cloud!

Anointed Washington Surge scribe Thomas Ricks takes Antiwar.com to task for writing “about an area about which they know absolutely freaking nothing,” referring to my current piece on Gian Gentile: Exposing Counterfeit COIN. To his mind and of the COIN clique he runs with online, writing about the war should be left to practitioners and military theorists, and of course, Washington Post special war correspondents and senior fellows at the Center for a New American Security.

Certainly not any operation calling itself “Antiwar.” (Note to Ricks: Try to take more than two minutes to check out the site, then you’d find out how we feel about “predatory strikes” and “protecting the population.”)

Like many Washington types who ride a singular moment — say a war, a Surge, the rising stars of generals named Petraeus and Odierno –to such breathless heights of Washington success and sycophancy, there is a tendency towards peevishness when any of it is questioned. It’s territorial, and I can understand that. Thus Ricks reacts by reminding us of his bonefides in Iraq, and is so quick to defend the Washington think tank where he now hangs his hat. Don’t worry, we’ll get off of your cloud.

Journo Deemed A U.S. Terror Threat

Apparently, the pen is so mighty, that we can’t even risk certain foreign journalists flying in our airspace.

According to reports over the weekend, an Air France flight to Mexico was diverted because of one passenger, Franco-Colombian writer Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for the Le Monde Diplomatique, a left-wing French-based newspaper. Apparently, Ospina has written extensive critiques of the current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the U.S.-fed drug war in Latin America. According to his publisher, he was on his way to Nicaragua, to research his current project, a book about the Central Intelligence Agency.

A spokesman for Mr Ospina’s French publisher, Le Temps des Cerises, said: “Hernando, who was heading to Nicaragua to research a report, thus found out that he is on a ‘no-fly list’ that bans a number of people from flying to or even over the United States.” (snip)

The publisher accused the Central Intelligence Agency of being behind Mr Ospina’s blacklisting, pointing out that the journalist was currently researching a book about the spy agency. “It shows to what degree its paranoia (has reached),” it said.

Air France said that as the flight was not due to stop in a US airport, it had not sent US authorities the passenger manifest. However, it sent one to Mexico, which apparently sent the list on. The crew were informed of the ban as they approached US airspace.

Mr Ospina, who has written several books and contributes to Le Monde Diplomatique, the left-wing French political monthly, said that he was informed of the order to divert the flight by its co-pilot.

“I was speechless and my first reaction was to ask, ‘Do you think I’m a terrorist?’,” he said. “He replied ‘no’ and said that was why he told me about it, adding that it was extraordinary and the first time it had happened on an Air France plane.”

Due to the secrecy of the Department of Homeland Security’s “no-fly list,” no one really knows how many names are on it, or who.  Fliers snagged up in the list have limited recourse for appealing their situation under current laws. Legislation has been introduced in Congress — but so far not moved –  to make the process more transparent.

According to reports and public statements, there are approximately 400,000 unique individuals on the FBI’s consolidated terror watch list, and more than one million names. In October 2008, then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters there were 2,500 individuals on the no-fly list and 16,000 on the “selectee list,” which directs airlines to send someone to secondary screening at airport checkpoints.