• nextstopchicago commented on the blog post The Changes Wyden/Udall Wanted to Section 215

    2011-05-26 06:25:17View | Delete

    Way off topic, but I thought I’d come here to share. In the wake of the amazing news of Ratko Mladic’s arrest, I revisited a couple of the articles that I had found really powerful at the time of the Balkan wars – “the Madness of General Mladic” and “Endgame in Kosovo” in the New York Review of Books.

    What I hadn’t expected to find was this horrifying gem, in a letter to the editor referencing the first article, by New York Times reporter David Binder:
    >Allow me to say also that, having spent much more time around Mladic and his colleagues than Mr. Block, I strongly wish to disassociate myself from his assessment of the general as a crazed killer. Until compelling evidence to the contrary surfaces, I will continue to view Mladic as a superb professional, an opinion voiced by senior American, British, French and Canadian military officers who have met him or followed his career and who are better qualified to judge him than either Block or I.

    Good god. For all the inaccurate reporting we’ve seen in the days since, this one is jaw-dropping. Here’s a description of Mladic’s work:

    > In Brcko, for example, which commands the critical and vulnerable “Posavina Corridor” linking the two wings of Bosnian Serb territory, Serb troops herded perhaps three thousand Bosnians into an abandoned warehouse, tortured them, and put them to death. At least some US intelligence officials must have strong memories of Brcko:

    >They have photographs of trucks going into Brcko with bodies standing upright, and pictures of trucks coming out of Brcko carrying bodies lying horizontally, stacked like cordwood…. [5]

    I wonder if Binder remembers writing that, and what he’s thinking today. Of course, he’s probably had a long time to recognize his error.

  • nextstopchicago commented on the blog post Maybe We Fought the War Wrong?

    2011-05-06 06:35:53View | Delete

    A little off-topic, but I thought it was interesting to compare this report in the Guardian:

    to this morning’s NPR interview with “former Pakistani President” (i.e., military dictator) Musharraf.

    Could have made for great radio if they’d pressed the “former President” on whether he really exploded in Karzai’s face when presented with evidence in 2007 that bin Laden was in a town a few kilometers from Abbottabad.

  • Mine will be the Illinois Chamboursin from Galena Vineyards. It’s a bit more expensive, but I’ll share, and once you taste it, you’ll realize you’ve won too.

  • OK. Thanks.

  • Chewiest,

    I too have spoken with soldiers about this, and I’ve heard them take both sides. One thing I’d mention – there’s a reason we don’t let soldiers make up their own rules for how they’ll act as they go. Angry men do not always think straight. I wouldn’t judge a soldier who tortured someone on the field the same way I judge the cold torturers of Guantanamo. Anger and the heat of battle and seeing a buddy shot do in my mind palliate some of the response. Though others here will come back strongly with the argument that that thinking yields a never-ending death spiral of hatred.

    But there are a variety of reasons against what you’re saying, most of which have been articulated here. First, torture doesn’t seem to work. Even on the battlefield, why torture someone if the outcome is that you send a withering attack against the vacant post he misdirected you to, and then get cut down by flanking fire from his comrades? Second, it’s wrong. It’s just wrong. And third, the moral high-ground is worth quite a lot. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re at least theoretically trying to win over the locals. But meanwhile, we’re committing brutality against their cousins and nephews. In many cases, we’ve committed this brutality against people we were later forced to admit were utterly and completely innocent. That has a devastating affect on, say, our ability to get locals to give us the intel that might help us win.

    Others will rank those items differently. Some will say #2 is so overpowering that 1 and 3 aren’t necessary. I’d say that any one of them individually is probably sufficient reason not to torture.

  • One of the things I found interesting in al-Libi’s file – given the furor about “Pakistan” right now (a misguided furor that should be directed at their nearly independent military-security complex, but instead, you’ve got idiots like Carl Levin making angry noises against Prime Minister Zardari.) Al-Libi was already in Pakistan 20 years ago, but fled with his entire al-Qaeda training class when, as the notes drily note, “the situation in Pakistan changed.” How did it change? Benazir Bhutto (ie, Zardari’s wife) was elected Prime Minister.

  • Sure. This is a 2008 document. So it’s consistent with for instance, the Miami Herald report that they learned Abu Ahmed’s real name from al-Libi:

    >The name of bin Laden’s designated courier, al Khaliq Jan, appears to have come from al Libi during 2005 and 2006 interrogations.

    It’s also consistent with other potential stories, and the Herald story notably lacks sourcing for this tidbit; it doesn’t even phrase very authoritatively. But bottom line, finding his name in al-Libi’s 2008 interrogation file isn’t particularly surprising. Meaning your OOPS seems misplaced unless I misunderstand what you’re finding fault with.

    But it’s still an interesting link. Thanks.

  • Off-Topic:

    Can someone tell me where to change my time-zone in FDL?

    All the posts and comments show up in PST. Is that hardwired, or can I reset it for myself to CST? I checked Profile and Settings and didn’t see any place to make a change.

  • I was surprised by many such things. Wouldn’t they have considered defending in depth, by putting someone else in a house across the street who might have a clear line of fire at the upper floor doorways in this house? Did no one in al-Qaeda think of using an IED or two to defend bin Laden’s residence? That’s stunning to me.

    Honestly, these guys seem a bit amateurish. And I mean that. I’ve always felt bin Laden was a bit of a one-trick pony. People would tell me we need the airport security so there’s not another 9/11, and I’d patiently attempt to explain that 9/11 wasn’t just a hijacking — the hijackers entered the cockpits and piloted the planes. The security doors on planes now make that impossible, and so we’re really back in 1974 – when there were quite a few successful hijackings, and yet we didn’t have to give up any freedom. But anyway, I’ve also felt that a bright enemy could think of other scenarios for attacks, and as each year passed and nothing happened, I just thought less and less of their competence.

  • I’d bet the other way. Among other things, we know the case of Sami al-Hajj, the al-Jazeera cameraman who was suspected of being a courier or of knowing couriers. He was picked up in 2001!

    So they were already focused on the question of couriers quite early. It looks like the torturers must have known to ask, but couldn’t get the info from KSM. Which is even more damning.

  • I read Three Cups of Tea just before the Krakow “take-down”. And I don’t know what to think.

    But in the book, there several compounds mentioned that frankly, I envisioned as being exactly like this – high, drab walls with barbed wire or embedded bottle fragments. The guy who stored building materials for the first school – I figured they were stored in something like this. The militant village where Mortenson was briefly sequestered, I pictured him being in a place like this.

    I imagine you’re being somewhat sarcastic, but I thought I’d answer seriously – this place just doesn’t look that surprising to me. If I ran into it in a middle-sized town in Mexico (and I surmise that’s a relevant comparison in terms of the security needs of the middle-class) I might not look twice. I have no real knowledge of Pakistan, so take with a huge grain of salt. But then, neither do most of the commentators who are saying this is a huge mansion and that the inordinate security “must have attracted attention” from Pak officials.

  • The “militant hideout” tweet came after the raid. If you look at the tweets in the techcrunch story, you’ll see that that particular one came an hour after the others all of which were prompted by a news story about the raid, which caused a guy who wasn’t in Abbottabad to begin tweeting to try to figure out what happened and whether his family was okay. So all this proves is that Pakistani security was telling locals it was a militant hideout after they’d had a chance to see 4 dead bodies and talk to the 18 survivors left behind about who it was that had been killed. Not particularly meaningful.

    And Spanish Inquisition, I believe they’ve got DNA samples from several relatives, allowing triangulation. He has no full brothers, and some parts of the genome (mtDNA, Y-chromosome) are not recombinant, so you can put someone in a particular “crosshair” slot in the family tree if you match both. H He’s also unusually tall, they used facial recognition software, and the guys in the attack seemed to think he looked like the right guy. That’s a lot of evidence. Most bodies are ID’d by sight and nothing else.

  • This must have been the quote that led NPR’s afternoon news. I heard it but immediately had to get out of the truck. I didn’t recognize the voice and my lame guess was H Clinton with a cold.

  • Bob,

    It wasn’t a million-dollar house. That’s a bit of propaganda.

    You can pull up real estate files for Abbottabad. You can find much nicer two-story houses with high walls that actually look good for $35,000. ($3 million Rs at about 85 rupees to the dollar) There’s no way that house was worth 30 times as much just because it was 3 stories and had a little land.

  • EW already answered, but I’d just add that many of those secondary names that start with al- and end in i are geographic names. The term is a ‘nisbah’ or descriptor name, and it needn’t always be geographic. “Khalid al-Masri” is the Egyptian, al-Kuwaiti is self-explanatory, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, one of Saddam Hussein’s brothers, was “from Tikrit”. Gaddhafi is from the Gaddafa tribe.

    The wiki for arabic names is here:

    I find it helpful because I find it very hard to keep track of these names, and if I can at least pin down some of the meanings, that makes it a little more likely I’ll distinguish from something else that to my western ears sounds the same. I thought I’d answer with a little more info in case it helps you too.

  • nextstopchicago commented on the blog post Tracking the Courier … Through Hassan Ghul

    2011-05-03 12:34:53View | Delete

    By the way, NPR led it’s 3:00 (CST) news with a quote, from a woman’s voice, possibly Hillary:

    “Based on a cursory review, none of the intelligence used resulted from harsh* interrogations.”

    I had to leave the pickup truck, and assumed this quote would be everywhere, when I came to the net, but I don’t immediately find it. The implication was this was a high official with access and the “cursory review” was the administration’s review. Wish I stayed in the truck.

    (* may have been another word that was a euphemism for torture. I can’t remember exactly. But the clear meaning was that the info didn’t come from torture.

  • nextstopchicago commented on the blog post Tracking the Courier … Through Hassan Ghul

    2011-05-03 12:23:04View | Delete

    You should have gone and hunted bin Laden yourself. You obviously could have shown them a thing or two.

    By the way, since Obama was never going to have a credible primary opponent, his next election is still 18 months away. If politics was a consideration, his team is utterly incompetent. He should have either done this 3 and a half weeks before the midterms, or in late September of next year.

  • nextstopchicago commented on the blog post Tracking the Courier … Through Hassan Ghul

    2011-05-03 12:08:56View | Delete


    Maybe you’ve already sorted this out, and I no longer have the source so I could be misremembering, but I read yesterday that they got Abu Ahmed’s real name via a Pakistani wiretap that happened to hear him. I interpreted that someone called him Abu Ahmed on the phone, and then they were able to trace the call or maybe his real name was used later in the call. I’ll read the comments and the next thread to see if you’ve already got this, then I”ll search for it if not.

  • The compound wasn’t destroyed. There are many pictures of it from today with Pakistani troops standing atop it, Pakistani military vehicles next to the walls, large parts of the helicopter un-destroyed and being carted away.

  • nextstopchicago commented on the blog post Apaches, Seminoles, and al Qaeda

    2011-05-02 19:44:10View | Delete

    Sorry. My use of natives was just a bad typist’s shortcut for native americans, which is what my head was thinking. But it’s a dumb shortcut that I wouldn’t have taken if I’d thought about it. And when you posted I sort of knew subconsciously that was partly what set you off, but wanted to avoid the issue because I was embarrassed it came out that way.

    I’d say that sure, I think we should hold ourselves to a different standard. I also think it’s worth acknowledging that there have always been Americans who did try to hold us to different standards. Much of the country hated Jackson for the Removal, for instance.

    In a small irony about the way this comment thread has progressed, I’ll mention that when the Dept. of Homeland Security was first announced, my reaction was “Homeland”? What’s a “homeland”? Isn’t that one of those mini-territories the Apartheidists set aside for “natives” in South Africa?

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