Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thank you, Colombia

Americans might be pre-occupied with the economic crisis and don't have much time to focus on the drug smuggling and gang-related activities making their way from Latin America over our borders, but our allies certainly do. Colombia just announced the seizure of 10 tons of Cocaine in a Caribbean port city. Just think of it this way...this is 10 tons of cocaine that won't be making it into our cities and our schools.

If you read the article, you will see that it mentions Venezuela is playing a very negative role in the fight against drug smuggling. Isn't it nice that Hugo Chavez looks the other way when these thugs hide out over the border in his country?

Huge Cocaine Seizure in Colombia

Colombian police have seized a 10-tonne consignment of cocaine with a street value of $200m (£126m) which was reportedly about to be sent to Mexico.

The drugs were found in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla in two trucks where they were camouflaged in boxes filled with children's modelling clay.

The drugs were headed for the city of Veracruz in Mexico.

They allegedly belonged to one of Colombia's top traffickers, Daniel Barrera, nicknamed "The Madman".

The cocaine was seized after a six-month intelligence operation which tracked a drug route up to Barranquilla.

The drugs were moved in two containers travelling on trucks that were to be put on a ship and dispatched to Mexico.

Gen Oscar Naranjo, the chief of Colombia's police force, said that the consignment belonged to "The Madman".

The trafficker is known to move through the eastern plains of Colombia and into Venezuela where he often bases himself out of reach of the Colombian security forces and the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela does not co-operate with the US anti-drug agencies.

Colombian drug lords have taken advantage of this not only to turn Venezuela into one of the principal transit nations for cocaine, but to use it as a refuge, the BBC's Jeremy McDermott reports from Colombia.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iraqi Security Forces take control of Babil Province

From the BBC:

Iraqi forces have been handed control of security in the province of Babil by the US military.

It is the 12th of Iraq's 18 provinces to be handed back to Iraqis.

Congragulations, Iraqis! !مبروك

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Aid workers under attack

People sometimes forget how anyone can be fair game in a violent conflict...and aid workers, the people who try to help and put a smile on the face of the innocent people they are protecting, are no exception. In the last week, there have been several attacks and assassinations carried out by various thugs and terrorist groups operating in countries ranging from Africa to south Asia.

The latest example is an attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam against two ships carrying aid supplies to war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka. LTTE "suicide squads" rammed two motor boats packed with explosives into the vessels, damaging one and nearly sinking the other. The ruthless Tamil fighters are growing more violent as the fighting intensifies with the Sri Lankan government.

A UNHCR convoy rumbles through the countryside in Uganda

Earlier this week, aid worker Gayle Williams, a native of London, was gunned down by Taliban militants in Kabul. She was heading off to work when two men on a motorbike opened fire...the Taliban later claimed responsibility and boasted about her killing, saying the aid worker was "spreading Christianity", whatever that is supposed to mean. Williams' charity organization is now considering withdrawing from the country amidst the deteriorating security situation. I hope the Taliban feel proud of what they have done to the Afghan people and those who are trying to help them.

Also earlier this week, suspected rebels from the Al-Shabab insurgency in Somalia shot dead Muktar Mohamed Mohamoud, an engineer working for the children's organization, UNICEF, in front of a tea shop. The attack came after another worker from the world food program was killed as he stepped out of a Mosque in Mogadishu.

It is a tough, dangerous, and even life-threatening line of work, but someone needs to be there to make the world a better place...even when the rest of the civilized world is too afraid to do anything about it, or too ignorant to look past their own borders.

The children of Africa

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Barack Obama and his support for Raila Odinga

Believe it or not, the presidential election is only two weeks away, and Barack Obama mania has affected many of my friends, family, and fellow bloggers. I continue to resist it though. The reason I cannot cast a vote for Barack Obama next month comes down to one reason...and that is his poor judgement. His list of relationships with questionable characters seems to keep growing, and in my mind, his relationship with Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga stands out the most.

Forget about Obama's friendship with all-around racist Jeremiah Wright and domestic terrorist/genuine slimebag Bill Ayers. I want to know why Barack traveled to Kenya to campaign for Odinga at taxpayer expense. Obama claims that he will be tough on Al-Qaeda and aggressive in the war on terrorism if he gets elected, but the Kenyan leader he has pushed for wants to end Kenya's alliance with the US in confronting Al-Qaeda-backed Al-Shabab militia fighters in neighboring Somalia. Given AQ's slaughter of hundreds of Kenyan's back in 1998 and a dozen others in 2002, I don't understand how that's possible. Odinga does claim to be Obama's cousin, however.

For those of you who don't know, Odinga was widely suspected of having a hand in the acts of genocide that rocked Kenya earlier this year. The country descended into a state of ethnic and tribal warfare after Odinga lost a presidential election bid to incumbent Mwai Kibaki by a very narrow margin. A subsequent power-sharing deal followed, which allowed Kibaki to remain president and appointed Odinga as Prime Minister.

Is Obama's relationship with Odinga a preview of what his policies will be like should he get elected on November 4th? It certainly seems that way.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A new dawn rises over Anbar

...and the sun has set for the forces of terrorism who worked so hard to destroy it. At least that's the way it seems now that the Iraqi security forces are running things and the Marines who have trained them look back on a job well done as they get ready to go home.

I think its safe to say that there was very little hope for Iraq's Al-Anbar province between the 2004 Presidential election and Saddam Hussein's execution in 2006. If there was one city the so-called "antiwar" movement could point to as proof that Iraq was a lost cause, Fallujah was that city. But by early next month, the US Marines will be completely withdrawn from the city and most of the other cities in Anbar Province. Of course, most of the media has continued its scorched-earth policy regarding positive news in Iraq, and is instead focused on Muqatada's rallies in Baghdad.

Maybe Mookie should take a deep breath, because it looks like the Iraqi people are taking their country back...and the Marines are doing everything they can to help them.

Marines begin withdrawal from Iraqi cities.

WASHINGTON — When Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly deployed to Iraq in February, the violence had fallen so low in Anbar province that he began figuring out how to start closing bases and prepare to go home.

In the last 10 months the Marines in Fallujah have done what was unthinkable before the surge began — they have quietly transferred out of one of Anbar province's largest cities. FOX News has learned in an exclusive interview with Kelly from Fallujah that 80 percent of the move is complete. In February there were 8,000 Marines living at Fallujah base. Now there are about 3,000 left. By Nov. 14 there will be none.

"We will shut down the command function here and I will move; my staff has already started to move," Kelly, the commander of Multinational Force-West, told FOX News in an exclusive interview via satellite. "We will turn the lights off here."

They will hand the Fallujah base over to their Iraqi counterparts on Nov. 14, having relocated themselves and thousands of combat vehicles to the desert base of Al Asad to the west. Marines will no longer be seen in city centers such as Fallujah — a major step toward leaving Iraq, and one step closer to Iraq's goal of having U.S. troops out of its population centers by mid-2009 — one of the key points enshrined in the Status of Forces Agreement being reviewed on Capitol Hill today.

On Wednesday, to little fanfare, the Marines quietly closed down Al Qaim base near the Syrian border. Now it is run by Iraqis.

In Fallujah, where the U.S. Marines once had three large mess halls to feed troops, they are now down to one. The Marines have quietly disassembled the entire infrastructure of the base.

"We probably had several thousand of those large metal containers — tractor-trailer containers," Kelly said. "I bet we don't have 200 of them here now."

Of the thousands of vehicles once parked at the base, now there are only 300 left. Their transfer occurred at night, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., over the past 10 months so as not to disturb Iraqi drivers and clog the roads.

They dubbed it "Operation Rudy Giuliani" because they were cleaning the streets up and returning Fallujah to normalcy — taking down barbed wire and tearing down checkpoints and Jersey walls that made Anbar look like a war zone.

"There is almost no barbed wire left anywhere in Fallujah," Kelly said. An Iraqi no longer sees barbed wire when traveling in and around the city.

Between 300 and 400 concrete barriers that divided the city were removed by Navy Seabees.

One of the big changes Kelly made when he took command in Anbar was to remove fixed checkpoints, and Iraqi vehicles no longer had to pull off to the side when a military convoy was on the road. His troops risked car bombs, but the gamble paid off in what had once been Iraq's most dangerous province. The new road rules instantly lowered the tension between military and locals. Soon he transitioned to moving military convoys only at night, so they would not encounter locals. This also stymied many of the insurgents laying IEDs or roadside bombs, which they often had done at night.

Another change for the better since Kelly arrived in February: He pushed the central government to provide more fuel to the people of Anbar, so the mostly Sunni population is now happier. In February, Anbaris were receiving only 8 percent of their allocation of fuel from the central government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Now it's 90 percent — eliminating one of their main gripes.

But perhaps the biggest sign that the situation has changed for the better for Sunnis living in Anbar: With the help of the Marines and the Iraqi police, nearly 100 percent of the eligible voting population were registered a month ago to vote in upcoming provincial elections.

The rest of this story can be viewed here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Background information

Recently, I saw the movie "Munich", which came out on DVD back in 2006. I didn't really like the film because of its failure to focus more on the event that led to the Mossad assassinations against organizers of the terrorist network "Black September", a group that kidnapped and executed 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympics. The impression I got were that both events were simply acts of senseless violence following each other, when in fact, the massacre at the Olympics deserved a lot more than a simple pledge to do better next time.

I found this documentary on youtube and I thought it was very enlightening, delving into the background information that Steven Spielberg only touched on. Watch this and see for yourself. Did the kidnappings merit a response from Israel?

Personally, I believe that the terrorists who kidnapped the athletes not only betrayed the religion they claim to embrace, they also smeared the Olympic message of peace and goodwill and only brought more suffering to their people.

By the way, this documentary contains and interview with the one Palestinian terrorist who lived through the hostage taking and the subsequent Israeli assassinations.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In the company of insanity

I visted San Francisco on Saturday with my brother and his friend. It was a beautiful day in the city, except for the mobs of tourists crowding Market Street. As we made our way through Union Square, a rally was taking place behind the cable car turntable...and it was organized by the 9/11 truth movement.

I have seen them before on TV...I have visited their crazy websites and seen them protest before Bill Clinton and Bill Maher. I have seen Bill O'Reilly shout it out with them on his program on several occasions. But until Saturday, I had never actually seen one of them in real life. But there they were, roughly a dozen of them, armed with megaphones, DVD's, and pamphlets to "educate" the Bay Area community about what they believe really happened on September 11th, 2001.

My amateur journalistic skills got the better of me and I just had to approach them. I talked to several representatives from the group, and I asked them the question I have always wanted to ask these nutjobs: What about the planes? They have plenty of theories about "controlled demolition" but despite devoting overwhelming thought into defying reality, the fact that four planes were hijacked on that terrible day cannot be pushed aside. Here are some theories they offered me...

  • "Bin Laden is really a CIA Agent!"
  • "The plane's were remote would take a pilot several tries to hit the Pentagon"
  • "Neocon agents willing to die for Cheney's imperialism hijacked the planes, not Arab terrorists"

But the craziest theory of all came from two girls decked out in their 9/11 truth gear. They suggested to me that the passengers aboard the hijacked plane were gassed unconscious and robots then took control of the plane. Really, I just can't make this stuff up...

One guy I talked to was obviously high on marijuana, I could tell by the look in his eyes and his repeated use of "who knows?" after offering up each conspiracy theory. So then I figured out how these people make sense of their delusional nonsense: they blaze up a joint before each rally. After all, how else would you actually believe that robots, not Al-Qaeda terrorists, were the hijackers on 9/11.

Truthers march in a 2007 rally in Los Angeles. The rally I observed wasn't quite this big, but nevertheless, it was equally disturbing to watch. I'll download some of my pics when I get them.

I would have burst out laughing at these theories if it weren't for the enormous disrespect it generates for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If any of this is accepted as reality, what does it say about the heroes on United Flight 93?

But the "truther" nutjobs have no respect for real heroes anyway. They explained to me that the attacks were carried out in order advance an imperialist agenda across the world, and then stated that the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan who blow up innocent men, women, and children are "defending their country". I asked them if Salih Al-Ajmi could really have been a CIA agent, and they said "its certainly possible. For those of you who don't know, Al-Ajmi was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was released, traveled to northern Iraq, and promptly blew himself up outside of a military checkpoint (manned by Iraqi soldiers) when the opportunity presented itself. They believe that the overwhelming majority of detainees are innocent Bedouins and Nomads being rounded up by the U.S. Government.

Finally, me and my brother brought home a copy of one of their free DVD's and it featured an "architect" in a suit explaining how the buildings came down via demolition explosives, as if some moron with a tie actually adds more legitimacy than mangy, dirty, San Francisco protesters shouting into a crowd with a megaphone. I quickly threw the DVD where it belongs--in the trash.

What makes my blood boil more than any deluded theory these kooks conjure up is the notion that they are somehow patriotic. They ask how people like myself could "question their patriotism" when they suggest that the US government is responsible for mass murder on the streets of New York or defend the actions of the terrorist scumbags in Iraq who strap women and children with explosives.

At the end of the day, this is about dislike of Bush. The 9/11 truthers hate him so much that they need an excuse to justify their blinding hatred for the man.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What happened after "Black Hawk Down"?

I have been busy working on several articles for some local newspapers, so I'm sorry that I haven't been able to update my blog. One of my articles focuses on the west's policy toward Africa and as I was doing some research, I found this story on BBC about Somalia. In a just world, this story would be at the top of the headlines, above economics and the financial crisis. No amount of foreclosures or bad lending can ever stack up to this.

Somalia is "most ignored" tragedy

The world should be shocked at the systematic destruction of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and its residents, says lobby group Human Rights Watch.

The organisation told the BBC the city had become a zone of free-fire between government and insurgent forces.

It said if such a situation was happening anywhere else in the world, like Georgia or Lebanon for example, it would be considered a travesty.

Instead Somalia was the most ignored tragedy in the world today, HRW said.

Meanwhile, a group of 52 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has issued a statement saying the international community had "completely failed Somali civilians".

The aid groups estimate that almost 40,000 people had been displaced from Mogadishu in the last few weeks, with 1.1 million uprooted in the last nine months.


BBC World Affairs correspondent Mark Doyle recently visited Mogadishu and says the city on the Indian Ocean, which was previously one of Africa's trading hubs with the Middle East, is dying.

Now whole swathes of it are rubble or skeletons of buildings without doors or windows or roofs, he says.

He adds that the most shocking, eerie aspect of it is that in many parts of the capital all the people have fled.

The fighting is between the US-backed government and Islamist and nationalist insurgents, who Washington accuses of having links with al-Qaeda.

There are no international aid workers left as they are threatened with kidnap for ransom or are murdered.

The fighting has been much worse for the ordinary residents of Mogadishu than even the infamous period in the early 1990s that spawned the film Black Hawk Down, a portrayal of US troops killed in Somalia at that time, our World Affairs correspondent says.

In the early 1990s not a night passed without explosions lighting up the sky, he says.

But even that did not empty the capital of Somalia like the daily fratricidal confrontations now taking place between the government and its armed opponents.

I suppose there is no interest in this conflict since American soldiers are no longer involved. I hope we do not make this same mistake with Iraq, especially with all the recent success...or just the same, Afghanistan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Back in the news

Could Russian Intelligence agents seeking to maintain a strong presence in Georgian territory be responsible for this? Or are angry Georgians anxious to get back at Russia for its week-long bombardment of their territory the perpetrators. Whichever it might be, both governments are trading blame back and forth. The most likely scenario is that this is the work of a group as opposed to a government. Whether that group is pro-Russian or pro-Georgian, I don't know.

My personal thought is that one of S. Ossetia's rebel groups could be responsible. They need a pretext to keep Russian soldiers in the region and prevent Georgia from reclaiming it.

Russia and Georgia trade blame in South Ossetia attack

A blast in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia killed seven Russian soldiers, a Russian commander says.

The soldiers died when a car full of explosives blew up near a Russian military base in the regional capital, Tskhinvali, local officials said.

Georgia said Russia organised the explosion as a pretext to delay withdrawing troops from South Ossetia.

But Russia blamed Georgia, saying it was an attempt to undermine a ceasefire agreement between the two sides.

Tension remains high in the region following the conflict between Russia and Georgia over the summer.

Seven other soldiers were injured in the blast, the Russian military commander in South Ossetia said.

According to a statement from the South Ossetian breakaway government, Russian troops had confiscated the vehicle that blew up from an ethnic Georgian village because it was carrying weapons.

Russian television footage showed a black plume of smoke rising from behind metal gates at the base.

An unidentified Russian foreign ministry official said forces "striving to destabilise the situation" were behind the blast, Russian media reported.

South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity went further, describing it as "a deliberate terrorist act prepared by the Georgian Security Ministry", Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili rejected the allegation.

"I think this is a provocation with the aim of keeping Russian forces in Georgia," he told the AFP new agency.

With tensions threatening to flare up into another conflict, I think that the presidential debate on Tuesday should focus on foreign policy for the first 45-minutes. 21st century Russia under Czar Putin and his protege is very dangerous, and Americans deserve to know exactly what our next president is going to do to about it.