Thursday, March 31, 2011

Al Qaeda's Number 3 Is Back, And This Time He's Libyan

The Cable's Josh Rogan reports that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), is not on board with any administration decision to arm the Libyan rebels.

Rogers wouldn't confirm or deny the report that Obama issued what's known as a "presidential finding" authorizing the intelligence community to begin broadly supporting the Libyan rebels, because such findings are sensitive and classified. But he said that if Obama wanted to arm the rebels, the president would need Rogers' support, which he doesn't yet have.

"Any covert action that happens would have to get the sign off of the intelligence chairmen, by statute. You won't get a sign off from me," Rogers said referring to National Security Act 47. "I still think arming the rebels is a horrible idea. We don't know who they are, we only know who they are against but we don't really who they are for. We don't have a good picture of who's really in charge."

-- snip --

Rogers said he was concerned about al Qaeda's involvement with the Libya opposition.

"The number 3 guy in al Qaeda right now is Libyan. They have put a fair number of fighters into Iraq from Libya. So it is a place where al Qaeda is, [but] that doesn't mean this is an al Qaeda effort."

Number 3 is back yet again? What does it take to put that guy down for good? We've killed him four times already, most recently in June 2010:

As [Slate's] Mr. Noah noted at the time, at least four previous militants identified by American officials as the third-ranking member of Al Qaeda were captured or killed as part of the Bush administration’s effort to “decapitate” the network — Abu Zubaydah in March, 2002; Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in March, 2003; Abu Faraj al-Libbi in May, 2005; Hamza Rabia in December, 2005. Iran may also have had another former No. 3, Saif al-Adel, in custody since August 2003.

We have also repeatedly captured Number 3, but he just keeps getting away.

It does not surprise me that Number 3 is now a Libyan. We have built him up into a mythic figure, an elusive folk hero who frustrates our War on Terror. So of course he would go where the action is.

Number 3 is basically the Scarlet Pimpernel of our day. Like that original elusive hero:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Fitting Inspiration

I noticed this photo on CNN today, and it made me wonder who that - obviously revered - gentleman is whose photo Libyan rebels were displaying as they drove to Sirte.

I feared he might be an Al Qaeda leader or a radical mullah. But, a bit of googling later, I learned that he is Omar Mukhtar, the political-religious figure who led native resistance to Italian colonization of Libya from 1912 to 1931. Anthony Quinn played him in the movie.

A national hero. That's a good sign.

Unemployed Diplomat Finds Work

P.J. Crowley evidently landed on his feet after being fired two weeks ago.

Judging by his appearance on CNN last night, parsing the president's speech, recently fired State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley is making a transition to media pundit in record time. In an op-ed for the Guardian today [here], he addresses the reason he was fired, his description of the treatment of accused WikiLeaker Bradley Manning as "stupid" and "counterproductive" during a speech at MIT.

I guess you can't keep a good spokeman down.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Diplomatic Security 2010 Year In Review

Diplomatic Security has just published its 2010 Year in Review.

One item among many stands out for me:

On April 5, six members of the Pakistani Taliban attacked U.S. Consulate General Peshawar in Pakistan with guns, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests, and three car bombs. Their plan: a multi-stage mission in which explosives breach the perimeter and combatants flood into the compound for an armed assault.

When the smoke cleared after the Peshawar attack, a crater seven feet long yawned at the Consulate gate. The area was strewn with twisted metal, rocket-propelled grenade shells, and unexploded hand grenades. Four Pakistani officers lay dead, and members of the Consulates’ local guard force were seriously injured. But the Taliban failed to breach the perimeter.

That complex attack on U.S. Consulate Peshawar didn't just fail, you understand. It was foiled, primarily by countermeasures taken by DS. For that and much else, a once a year bit of institutional horn-tooting is deserved.

"In Kinetic Military Action, Truth Is The First Casualty" - Aeschylus

So, administration officials were doing verbal contortions this week to avoid using the word "war" while briefing Congress and the press about what we're doing in Libya.

In a briefing on board Air Force One Wednesday, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes took a crack at an answer. "I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone," Rhodes said. "Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end."

-- snip --

Now, White House officials are referring to the war in Libya not as a war but as a "kinetic military action." As common as "kinetic" might be among those in government, it still seems likely to strike members of the public as a euphemism that allows the Obama administration to describe a war as something other than a war.

Some object on moral grounds to the use of a euphemistic expression for warfare. Others object because it is typical of what George Orwell called 'political speech,' which gives "an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

I object on aesthetic grounds. The term "kinetic military action" is way too clunky and has too many syllables. Consider how awful it sounds:

Cry 'Havoc', and let slip the dogs of kinetic military action" - Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1

"Kinetic military action is too important to be left to the generals" - Georges Clemenceau

"Kinetic military action is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things" - John Stewart Mill

"If you would have peace, prepare for kinetic military action" (“Si vis pacem, para bellum”) - Flavius Vegetius Renatus

"Only the dead have seen the end of kinetic military action" - George Santayana, but frequently misattributed to Plato

"Kinetic military action! ... huh ... yeah ... What is it good for?" – Edwin Starr, Billboard #1 hit song of 1970

"There was never a good kinetic military action or a bad peace” - Benjamin Franklyn

"Kinetic military action is the continuation of politics by other means" - Clausewitz

I have seen kinetic military action “ - FDR, referring to the KMA to end all KMAs, 1914-1917

Don't tap dance around such a serious topic, Mr. Deputy National Security Adviser. Just talk plainly. It's more honest, and it also sounds better.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

State Department Voted An Ideal Employer

The State Department was voted the fourth overall most favored employer out of 150 blue chip corporations and public agencies. Also the first and second most ideal employer for two particularly discerning subsets of voters.

Here the press release from PA:

The Department of State placed in the top five “ideal employers” in an annual poll of professionals conducted by Universum Communications. This first-ever U.S. Ideal Employer survey was based on the responses of more than 10,300 professionals.

The Universum ranking of ideal employers is based on professionals’ responses to questions about their career expectations, how they perceive companies as employers, and what they associate with those employers. The survey took place from November 2010 to January 2011.

Out of 150 employers, the Department of State ranked:

• first as ideal employer among senior professionals (8+ years of experience)
• second as ideal employer among military/veterans
• fourth as ideal employer among young professionals (1-8 years of experience)

To view all the rankings, visit: IDEAL Employer Rankings Professional Surveys United-States.

Taking a quick look at the entire list, I see that I have worked for one or another of them (State, the World Bank, and the U.S. Army) ever since I was a callow youth. Evidently I have been fortunate in my employers, and that undoubtedly contributes to my generally optimist outlook on life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Minor Bomb Attack At Chilean-North American Cultural Institute

About 10 PM last night, just before President Obama arrived in Chile, someone tossed a small bomb into the front yard of the Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura in Viña del Mar. The bomb was so small that some local reports referred to it as a "noise bomb." Windows were broken, but no one was injured. There was no claim of responsibility.

Viña del Mar is not on the President's itinerary.

The Instituto is a Binational Center, an autonomous institution governed by boards of local citizens and employing local staff, which have long been a mainstay of U.S. public diplomacy efforts in South America. The BNCs in Chile were established in 1941.

Living Under 'House Arrest' In Mexico

H/T to Small Bits for linking to this post by Dee Harlow about life under security-driven 'house arrest' in Mexico. And not merely in Mexico, but in Ciudad Juarez, the center of drug-trafficking related violence in Mexico.

Drug-trafficking related homicides in Mexico are highly concentrated geographically (see this), with 80% of them occurring in only seven percent of Mexico's municipalities, Ciudad Juarez foremost among them. According to Molly Molloy, a reference librarian at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces who tallied up the official Mexican Attorney General numbers for civilian homicides in Juarez during 2010, the total for 2010 was 3,096 homicides.

That was the count as of December 14, so the final total for the year might be perhaps 50 to 100 higher. Looking at the numbers, I see that in each month of 2010 about ten times as many men as women were killed. However, as the American expatriate community in Juarez knows all too well, the cartels certainly do not hesitate to kill women, and they are indifferent to the presence of children.

Raw numbers do not provide the context necessary to judge how extreme the Mexican borderland violence has become. To put it in perspective, consider this comparison. According to the Congressional Research Service (see this) the total number of civilians killed in Afghanistan during 2010 was 2,421. Six hundred more civilians were killed in one Mexican border city last year than were killed in all of Afghanistan during the same period. Putting those numbers on a per capita basis would make the comparison far worse, since the population of Afghanistan is 30 million to Ciudad Juarez's 1.3 million.

Those astounding statistics cannot be publicized too much. It seems to me there is a mental block that prevents an appreciation of the current situation in the Mexican borderlands from getting into the U.S. public mind. Maybe the problem arises from old habits of associating Mexico with spring break vacations. Maybe the problem is the very nearness and familiarity of the border, whereas we are accustomed to putting wars and insurrections into a mental box reserved for strange foreign places. Whatever it is, I hope posts like Dee Harlow's will get much more attention as a step toward raising public awareness.

Until the borderlands problem is solved, if it ever is, the USG will continue have a lot of employees and their family members living there under threat. I think it is possible to provide a reasonable level of security for them, and yet, a human toll is extracted from living under those security conditions. Constantly evaluating your vulnerability to attack before, during, and after making any sort of movement outside the house, or even before going to sleep at night, leaves a legacy of extreme precaution that persists long after a family has moved on to less dangerous places or back to the United States.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

U.S. Ambassador To Mexico Resigns His Post

It was not entirely unexpected. Here's the press release:

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 19, 2011

It is with great regret that I announce that Ambassador Pascual has asked President Obama and me to accept his resignation as our ambassador to Mexico.

For the past year and a half, Ambassador Pascual has been an architect and advocate for the U.S.-Mexico relationship, effectively advancing the policies of the United States on behalf of the President and this Administration. He has collaborated tirelessly with his Mexican counterparts to lay the foundation for a cross-border renewable energy market, to open negotiations on the management of oil and gas reserves that span U.S. and Mexican territory, and to build a new border strategy to advance trade while staunching illicit flows. Carlos has also engaged U.S. and Mexican business to build markets that have helped make Mexico the number two destination of U.S. exports.

Ambassador Pascual worked with the Mexican government to integrate human rights into our respective policies and engagement; he also partnered to enhance the human and cultural connections that underpin the friendship between the people of Mexico and the United States. Carlos partnered with his counterparts to reach beyond the Merida Initiative’s initial focus on disrupting cartels to building institutions for the rule of law in Mexico and engaging Mexican civil society in advancing their security. These ties, grown and strengthened throughout his tenure, will serve both our nations for decades.

Within the U.S. Government, Carlos embraced a “whole of government” approach to addressing one of our most important bilateral relationships, winning the respect and cooperation of our foreign service, military and law enforcement agencies. The President and I are particularly grateful to Carlos for his efforts to sustain the morale and security of American personnel after tragic shootings in Mexico that killed four people from our extended family in the past year.

Carlos has relayed his decision to return to Washington based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues raised by President Calderon that could distract from the important business of advancing our bilateral interests. It is with great reluctance that President Obama and I have acceded to Carlos’s request. Prior to returning to assuming his new responsibilities at the State Department, the President and I have asked Carlos to stay in Mexico to help us organize an orderly transition.

Raymond Davis Is Released A Second Time

First, the CIA employee by that name was released. Now, it's Raymond Davis the video, as popular Pakistani singer Shehzad Roy makes his musical comment on the Davis incident.

You know that a book and movie deal will be along any day now. And somebody just has to be pitching a script for Law and Order. For all I know, they might have already done a Davis episode.

If I knew how to write in screenplay format, I'd do an L&O treatment myself. It's perfect for one of those 'ripped from the headlines' stories they specialize in. Of course, I'd have to change enough facts to get past the NBC legal department, so I'd make it about a Pakistani Consulate employee in New York City who shoots two muggers while doing close protection for some smarmy ISI types [doink-doink!].

There isn't much whodunit factor there, so this would be a story for the back half of the show, with lots of discussion of social issues. All about when self-defense is legitimate, how the public is outraged over diplomatic immunity, and what happens when political influence is brought to bear on the legal system [doink-doink!].

Tensions would build, diplomatic relations would be endangered, and there would be much maneuvering in New York, Washington, and Islamabad. The Manhattan South District Attorney would agonize over how to balance the interests of criminal law against U.S. national security interests in having continued Pakistani cooperation with drone strikes on al-Qaeda strongholds [doink-doink!].

Finally, right before a trial is to begin, the CIA and ISI would cut a deal. The District Attorney gets a phone call from the Riker's Island jail complex informing her that the defendant has been taken into U.S. Marshal's custody. She turns on the television and sees the defendant getting out of a Pakistani Consulate limo and being escorted into Kennedy Airport [doink-doink!].

Not a bad story, actually. Does anyone know of a good how-to book on screenplay format?

Remain Calm!! All Is Well!!

The natives are restless in Rio de Janeiro, where there was a sustained and violent protest directed at the U.S. Consulate last night, just as President Obama arrived.

I've seen nothing whatsoever about this in U.S. news media so far today, but according to local press reports (here and here), the protesters consisted of labor, student and peasant groups. Specifically, the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores, the Sindipetro (Union of Oil), the National Union of Students, and the Landless Movement. They assembled in front of the Candelaria church in downtown Rio, and proceeded up Rio Branco Avenue to the U.S. Consulate.

Things turned nasty at some point after dark, when the protesters threw a coquetel molotov at the Consulate, injuring a security guard, and Brazilian Miltary Police responded with tear gas (bombas de gás lacrimogêneo), flash-ban grenades (bombas de efeitos sonoro) and rubber bullets (balas de borracha).

Note to self: do Rosetta Stone Portuguese. A language that can make riot control devices sound so pleasant and lyrical is a must-learn.

Local press reported that the Consulate security guard was treated for burns at a hospital, and a local radio reporter was treated for injuries caused by a rubber bullet.

Judging by the photos I found online, it was a pretty severe disturbance.

There is nothing about any of this at the Consulate's website. I think that's curious, but I suppose they are consumed by the effort of supporting the POTUS visit.

As a public service, I am embedding the following video which the Consulate is free to send out as a Warden Message:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

H. R. 1006, Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011, Introduced By Rep. Burton

Twice a year, every year since 1995, every occupant of the White House has signed a waiver of the Jerusalem Embassy Act (see this), thereby hitting the snooze button on legislation that would require the Secretary of State to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. Severe political and diplomatic complications would abound if a SecState did that, hence the long bi-partisan series of waivers.

Today, Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana introduced a bill called the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011 that removes the waiver provision of the Jerusalem Embassy Act and forces that recognition. One of his co-sponsors is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, so this bill might be more than just a symbolic effort.

Here is the key section of the bill:

STATEMENT OF POLICY - It is the policy of the United States that the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem as soon as possible, but not later than January 1, 2013.

OPENING DETERMINATION - Not more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of State for fiscal year 2013 for `Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad' may be obligated until the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The bill's enforcement mechanism is the restriction of funds for State's overseas buildings. In other words, unless an embassy is designated somewhere in Jerusalem by New Years Day of 2013, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) will get only half the money it needs to build new fortress embassies, or to fix the leaking roofs and broken air conditioners in the present embassy office buildings.

This is only a bill, and still far from becoming a law. Could it pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the President? I don't know, but, one should never underestimate the self-interest of our elected officials when an election year is upon them.

Cui Bono? Cui Cares?

I'm surprised by all the media interest about who paid the blood money to set Raymond Davis free.

U.S. citizen and CIA contractor Raymond Davis was released from a Pakistani prison on Wednesday after $2.3 million was paid to the families of the two Pakistani men he shot and killed and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said repeatedly on Wednesday that the United States had not paid any "blood money" to win his release.

But that's not the whole story. The truth is that the Pakistani government paid the victims' families the $2.3 million and the U.S. promised to reimburse them in the future, according to a senior Pakistani official.

Clinton's interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep was only one of many where Clinton refused to say how the money got into the hands of the Pakistani victims' families.

-- snp --

In several other interviews, Clinton told reporters to ask the families -- or anyone else other than the U.S. government -- how the reported $2.3 million appeared. Obama administration officials want to focus on the fact that Davis is now returning home, not the quid pro quo that made it happen.

"Quid pro quo." I like that Latin phrase. I also like this one: cui bono?

There is no big mystery here. I think we can figure out what party, or parties, had an interest in making the payments. Likewise, we can figure out who brought the families to the courthouse, isolated them from their - suddenly former - lawyer, and then relocated them immediately after they accepted the payment.

Considering that the USG provides Pakistan around $3.5 billion a year in civilian and military aid, a mere two or three million amounts to lunch money for either country.

The deal was cut, and all parties to it must have felt they benefited. Trying to tease out an admission from U.S. officials serves no purpose, and might just further rile up the already riled up Pakistani masses.

Raymond Davis Released, But The Round Ended 'Advantage ISI'

Foreign Policy's AF/PAK blog goes behind the scenes of Raymond Davis's release today:

Retired General Talat Masood, a defence analyst, told me that that Davis's release is a consequence of the smoothing over of relations between the CIA's and the ISI. "It's a good development, it demonstrates that both have come to an understanding about how they will operate with each other, and co-operate in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ISI has also determined certain boundaries about how the CIA will operate in the country." Masood says that this was a difficult decision for Pakistan for many reasons, which include changing the Pakistan-U.S. relationship from co-operative to confrontational, and then dealing with the right-wing and religious parties' aggressive stance on Raymond Davis.

A senior security official in Pakistan, speaking under condition of anonymity, told me that, "The Americans had been working on this, they thought that this (the diyat law) was the only way out." And ISI and CIA relations? "The ISI has laid down their terms for reengagement of certain areas where they felt they'd been bypassed, and the other side realized that they needed them. Both agencies need each other."

While rumours and more conspiracy theories continue to swirl in the air, it is evident that Pakistan has emerged as the biggest winner from Davis's strange and sordid case. While the religious parties may cry themselves hoarse over sovereignty of the country and rule of law, the ISI in particular has the upper hand here, and has impressed upon the CIA to make it clear that they cannot run a network under the noses of the powerful spy agency. To use tennis lingo: Advantage: ISI. What happens in the next round is anyone's guess.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has issued an updated Warden Message annoucing a precautionary shut-down of all embassy and consulate routine business throughout Pakistan for tomorrow, Friday.

This Warden Notice is to update the notice sent earlier today. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the U.S. Consulates General in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar will be closed on Friday, March 18, 2011. The Embassy will issue an updated Warden Message when the Embassy and the Consulates General reopen for routine business.

The Embassy reiterates its advice to all U.S. citizens to take measures for their safety and security at all times. These measures include maintaining good situational awareness, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, and keeping a low profile. U.S. citizens should avoid setting patterns by varying times and routes for all required travel. U.S. citizens should ensure that their travel documents and visas are valid at all times. In addition, over the next several days, we advise U.S. citizens to avoid areas where foreigners are known to congregate.

Notice that "the Embassy will issue an updated Warden Message when the Embassy and the Consulates General reopen for routine business." It sounds as if they aren't taking it for granted that civil unrest over Davis's release will have quieted down enough to allow reopening on the next business day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Doesn't There Come A Point Where You Have To Make A Decision? Not Necessarily.

Today's White House press briefing featured a simple question by CBS's Chip Reid followed by three and a half minutes of agonizing tap dancing by WH Spokesman Jay Carney.

The question - "On no-fly zone, what exactly is the U.S. -- the administration’s position before the Security Council?" - comes at minute 18:30.

Q On no-fly zone, what exactly is the U.S. -- the administration’s position before the Security Council?

MR. CARNEY: Our position, Chip, remains that we are evaluating a number of options, military options, including --

Q But a decision has to be made now.

MR. CARNEY: -- including a no-fly zone. We feel that it is important that any action like that that might be taken should be done in concert with our international partners. Through the United Nations would be our preferable vehicle for that, and therefore we would look to the U.N. as a forum for evaluating that option. I think I mentioned yesterday that today is the deadline for the no-fly zone option to -- preparations or plans to be submitted in Brussels at NATO. And I believe the NAC will review those tomorrow. So this process is moving forward.

But our position is that action like that should be considered and taken if decided upon in coordination with our international partners, because it’s very important in the way that we respond to a situation like we see in Libya, that it be international and not unilateral; that it include the support and participation, for example, of the Arab League and other organizations and countries in the region.

And that is our sort of focus as we proceed with these conversations.

Q Is the President satisfied to follow, not lead, on deciding whether to do it?

MR. CARNEY: I take issue with the characterization. We think it is precisely because the President believes that the best outcome in a situation like we see in Libya, as we have seen in different forms in other countries in the region, that the best outcome will come when the action taken by countries -- third-party countries outside of the country where the unrest is happening -- be done in consensus with international partners, precisely so that it is not viewed by those who oppose positive democratic reform as the dictate of the West or the United States.

Q But wouldn’t it be fair to say -- accurate to say the United States is still sitting on the fence on this? Isn’t it time to make a decision, yes or no?

MR. CARNEY: Well, Chip, you tell me if as an American citizen would you want your President not to consider all the implications and ramifications of taking military action.

Q Doesn’t there come a point to make a -- where you have to make a decision?

MR. CARNEY: And I would go back to what I said to Jill, that we have acted with great haste, and we have coordinated international -- led and coordinated an international response, the likes of which the world has never seen in such a short period of time. And we have -- we continue to consult with our international partners. We meet -- we have met with, as the Secretary of State did, with the Libyan opposition discussing new ways we can put pressure on Qaddafi.

And when it comes to considering military options, this President will always be mindful of what the mission, should it be engaged, what it entails, the risks that it poses to our men and women in uniform, and its likelihood of having the kind of impact that we set out for it to have. And that is his responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.

And I would suggest to you that that is what leadership is all about.

If I understand Mr. Carney correctly, leadership is all about evaluating options, moving processes forward, considering actions (but only in coordination with a coalition of our international partners!), believing that action is best when done in consensus, considering all the implications and ramifications, coordinating up a storm, consulting our partners, and discussing stuff.

With all that important work to do first, the point where you have to make a decision can easily be put off forever.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

P.J. Crowley Resigns Over Comment About Bradley Manning

The WikiLeaks matter has claimed another victim.

P.J. Crowley made a fairly mild remark (when considered in its entirety) about Manning's detention, but, according to CNN Political Ticker, he was in conflict with a later remark made by President Obama and the White House was greatly displeased.

There can be only one sheet of music in an administration, and the president isn't going to get on Crowley's.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case.

Sources close to the matter the resignation, first reported by CNN, came under pressure from the White House, where officials were furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website Wikileaks.

Speaking to a small group at MIT last week, Crowley was asked about allegations that Manning is being tortured and kicked up a firestorm by answering that what is being done to Manning by Defense Department officials "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

Crowley did add that "nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place" because of his alleged crimes, according to a blog post by BBC reporter Philippa Thomas, who was present at Crowley's talk.

-- snip --

Crowley has told friends that he is deeply concerned that mistreatment of Manning could undermine the legitimate prosecution of the young private. Crowley has also made clear he has the Obama administration's best interests at heart because he thinks any mistreatment of Manning could be damaging around the world to President Obama, who has tried to end the perception that the U.S. tortures prisoners.

Nevertheless, Crowley's political fate was sealed on Friday when Obama was asked at a White House news conference about his comments regarding Manning.

Obama revealed that he had asked Pentagon officials "whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of (Manning's) confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards."

In a comment that drew howls of protest from liberals, Obama added that Pentagon officials "assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well."

-- snip --

Crowley is highly respected on foreign policy matters, dating back to his time as National Security Council spokesman under then-President Bill Clinton. He has been the Obama administration's public face on many international stories as the daily briefer at the State Department for Secretary Hillary Clinton.

But he has not had a completely smooth relationship with officials in the Obama White House, and eyebrows were raised several months ago when White House aide Mike Hammer was sent over to the State Department to serve as Crowley's deputy.

Hammer will replace Crowley as the assistant secretary for public affairs, Hillary Clinton said in a statement Sunday.

She said she accepted Crowley's resignation "with regret."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kudos To American School In Japan For Exemplary Disaster Prepareness

There was a notable small emergency amid the large one that occurred after the earthquake hit Tokyo yesterday. Because the quake hit during school transportation hours, the embassy dependents and other students at The American School In Japan (ASIJ) were separated from their parents for several hours while the school's drivers and bus monitors worked their way through the disaster zone until they could bring the children safety home.

How's that for a nerve-racking complication to an already crisis-filled day? Say you're a consular officer or other member of the U.S. Mission in Tokyo, and you're trying to get emergency operations up and running to assist your fellow citizens and facilitate USG relief efforts, and all the while you're missing a family member or two.

It must have been a huge relief to parents to know that the ASIJ planned and prepared for exactly that contingency.

The ASIJ sent the following thank you note to it's bus monitors this morning via its website:

Dear Bus Monitors,

Emails are streaming in from parents here in Tokyo, parents on trips outside of Japan, alumuni parents and students, and former bus monitors appreciating your work and all that you did to get everyone home safely last night and early this morning. All were rivetted to MOL [Mustangs On Line] watching your progress and supporting you from afar.

At ASIJ, Dr.Thornton, Mr. Mita, and myself were monitoring your progress by the GPS system, communicating by radio if needed, emailing monitors and parents for communication, locating riders on certain buses, etc. About every half hour, Mr. Witt would post your progress on MOL.

Parents were much relieved to know that you were taking such good care of your bus riders - stopping when needed, pooling money, sharing food, and overall general support on what turned out to be such a long bus ride.

The entire ASIJ community thanks you and the bus drivers for a job exceedingly well done. You not only rose to the occasion, but went above and beyond the call of duty. Not for a second did I have any doubts on that. You are simply awesome!

Best Regards,

From that website you can even follow the periodic updates that the school sent to parents as events unfolded, starting at 3:17 PM Friday and ending with a final report at 1:30 AM the following day.

Kudos are also due to the Office of Overseas Schools, which provides critical assistance to schools with dependents of U.S. citizens and government employees, most definitely including assistance with emergency planning and security measures.

Gaffes and Guns (Or, What To Do About Libya?)

Last Thursday, our two most important intelligence officials committed an official gaffe - meaning, they blurted out the truth - while testifying before a Senate committee:

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee on Thursday that he believed Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi and his regime would prevail in their struggle against opposition forces, that China and Russia pose the greatest threat to the United States, and that Iran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program.

"I just think from a standpoint of attrition that over time, I mean, this is kind of a stalemate back and forth, but I think over the longer term that the regime will prevail," Clapper said to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) at Thursday's hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The comments so surprised Lieberman that he asked Clapper to confirm them.

"You said you were concerned or thought that in the long run the regime might actually prevail because of its superiority in logistics, weaponry, and the rest. Did I hear you correctly?" Lieberman said.

"Yes, sir," Clapper responded.

Both Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Ronald Burgess said they believed the opposition could not displace Qaddafi.

"He's in this for the, as he said, long haul," said Burgess. "So right now he seems to have staying power unless some other dynamic changes at this time."

Naturally, this led to calls for Clapper to resign. But it might, more productively, have led people to wonder how we can change the dynamics in Libya so as to favor the Libyan rebels.

Right on cue, the next day Foreign Policy had a post from a former State Department official recollecting how we did just that back in his day, when Libya was fighting an inept and poorly equipped opposition in Chad.

As the world debates how best to stop the slaughter in Libya, it's worth remembering that the United States has successfully countered Muammar al-Qaddafi's military before.

-- snip --

With so much on the agenda of senior officials [in 1983], there was -- by today's standards -- a lot of flexibility given to lower-level experts and operations officers. From our perspective, the Libyan problem was one that the United States could address, within certain political limits. The key point was that we did not want to get out ahead of the French in Chad. Nor did Washington want to inadvertently inherit Chad as "its" problem. We had enough other crises on our plates. Nevertheless, we did not want Qaddafi -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to think that the United States would acquiesce to such aggression without paying a price.

-- snip --

Although today Qaddafi's security forces are fighting a defensive battle on their home turf, there are important similarities to the Chadian events. Chiefly, the United States presumably wants to limit its political commitment, and the nature and type of aid it may consider is also limited. But so are the needs of the Libyan opposition.

Assuming the rebels can achieve at least the level of organization and training of the Chadians, the material and training support can be rudimentary and accomplished quickly by outside experts, from either a government (France comes to mind, since the country has been first off the mark to recognize officially the opposition in Libya) or even a private company.

[TSB note: Oil shipments have continued from Libyan ports controlled by the rebels. Who is getting that oil revenue, and how much of it are they willing to spend to win the jackpot?]

The most obvious military risk to the opposition is from helicopter gunships and possibly aircraft (the accuracy of Libyan bombing is dubious and the military effectiveness minimal, but the effects on civilians can be horrible). The United States provided Stinger missiles to the ragtag Chadian forces with significant effect. Back then, accounting for the missiles was easier given the very small numbers. Today, if Stinger missiles or similar Soviet weapons were deployed to Libyan opposition forces, the risks of loss would be manageable, and providing such missiles would certainly be cheaper and less of a commitment than establishing a no-fly zone. And if Qaddafi's forces summon forth heretofore unseen skill and/or courage, a decision on more elaborate air defense could be made later.

For now, however, let's recognize that there are options for arming and training the Libyan opposition that do not require the massive military and political commitments of a no-fly zone.

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said that it would be "premature" to arm the rebels at this point, because the administration is not yet finished dithering about the matter. Those weren't his exact words.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley (who gaffed pretty badly himself this week, by the way) pointed out that there is a UN Security Council resolution banning all weapon shipments to Libya. So, we would be risking the legal and moral condemnation of Security Council members such as Russian and China if we helped rebels to obtain arms with which to defend themselves against a tyrannical regime, and, we wouldn't want to do that because ... that would be bad because ... uh, I've lost my train of thought here. What was I saying?

I don't often see much wisdom in Rambo movies, but this nugget from the last one is starting to sound good to me:

Rambo: Are you bringing any weapons?
Professional Do-Gooder: Of course not.
Rambo: You're not changing anything.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Raymond Davis Case A Symptom Of Deeper Pakistani-American Tensions

Foreign Affairs has a longish article today by C. Christine Fair, assistant professor at Georgetown University, Center for Peace and Security Studies, about the tangled relationship between the United Sates and the CIA, on one side, and Pakistan and the ISI on the other. She points out that the greatest consequence of the Raymond Davis affair has been to bring the deep structural problems in that relationship to a crisis point.

Read it here.

Some key points:

The United States and Pakistan are bound by mutual if asymmetric dependence, which generates considerable resentment among our peoples and governments alike. The Pakistan-U.S. relationship sometimes feels more like an arranged marriage than a love match: both stay in it because of larger considerations, and begrudgingly acknowledge or even outright deride the other's concerns and priorities.

This is not new: it has been the case since the partnership was renewed in the wake of the events of 9/11. The Raymond Davis affair -- in which a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistani men he said were trying to rob him in Lahore in late January, causing a national outcry from Pakistanis worried about armies of American spies ravaging the country -- has again brought these long-standing bilateral troubles to fore. The crisis has revealed the apprehensions, recriminations, and anger that are rife on both sides. But Raymond Davis is a symptom, not the cause, of deep tensions between America and Pakistan.

-- snip --

Both Pakistan and the United States are struggling to discern whether the other is a bothersome partner with important benefits or an enemy to be resisted and thwarted. What Islamabad and Rawalpindi, on the one hand, and Washington D.C. and Langley, on the other, decide will profoundly affect the security of both states. Should this troubled and suboptimal relationship end as it did in 1990, both countries will soon re-learn the unpleasant lessons of the past. (In 1990, the United States applied nuclear nonproliferation sanctions to Pakistan, precipitating a decade-long hiatus in bilateral ties.)

The Raymond Davis affair is symptomatic of the underlying malaise of this partnership and brings up the contrasting and conflicting strategic priorities of the United States and Pakistan. At the crux of the challenge is the simple fact that both Pakistan and the United States have divergent strategic interests. The art of sustaining this increasingly fraught geostrategic partnership amidst such stark differences is currently proving beyond the capabilities of the politicians, diplomats, and defense and intelligence leadership in both countries.

These strategic differences are most clear when it comes to Islamist militant groups, which American policymakers and citizens alike see as terrorist groups.

-- snip --

The United States, with heroic optimism, had hoped that Pakistan could be persuaded to permanently abandon using Islamist militants as tools of foreign policy through a combination of profitable inducements and rehabilitating Pakistan, coaxing it back into the comity of nations after it had been reviled as a nuclear proliferator, a supporter of terrorism, and a state teetering on the brink of failure.

However, Pakistan sees India as an existential threat in the same way that the United States sees al-Qaeda and its murderous minions as its most menacing nemeses. Pakistan relies upon the most feared and loathed of U.S. adversaries to manage its competition with India, while the United States wants to extinguish them.

Before the Raymond Davis affair publicly exposed these differences, both sides tried to paper over them as they sought to extract as many marginal benefits from the other as possible. Neither side directly confronted how one forges a strategic partnership when both parties have divergent strategic priorities. After the Davis shooting, obfuscating these differences is no longer possible.

-- snip --

Which brings us back to the Raymond Davis affair. The United States intelligence community understands full well the political fallout that it will endure should Lashkar-e-Taiba commit or attempt to commit a Mumbai-like attack in the United States. After such an attack, the United States Congress will spare no agency or its leadership, given that unlike al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack, the capabilities and intentions of Lashkar-e-Taiba have long been well known.

Pakistan's refusal to do anything to take down the organization appears to have motivated the United States to take the issue into its own hands: setting up a cell in an obscure part of Punjab's populous city of Lahore to track and perhaps eliminate associates of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Davis reportedly did security and surveillance activities for the case managers of that cell.

-- snip --

Whatever the truth may be about Davis's victims, there can be little doubt that, at its core, it is a showdown between the countries' intelligence agencies: the ISI and the CIA. Moreover, the tragedy has allowed the ISI to regain the initiative over the CIA in Pakistan.

-- snip --

At best, the two organizations can seek to reset their operational relationship to the status quo ex ante before the confrontation over Davis. But this rift was long in the making. Last year, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced in Pakistan that Lashkar-e-Taiba was "a very dangerous organization and a significant regional and global threat."

Such a pronouncement by a high-ranking U.S. official against Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan was unprecedented and should have signaled to Pakistan that Washington would be less indulgent of the ISI's savage acolytes. If the ISI failed to get that message, the swollen piles of delayed visa applications from Pakistanis with obscure job titles may have been a likely clue that something was brewing.

However, the ISI needs the CIA as much as the CIA needs the ISI. Pakistan is increasingly beset by militant groups and the state seems both insouciant about the nature of some of the threats to Pakistan and its citizenry and less than capable of dealing with those threats it has acknowledged and taken on.

Unless these two spy organizations can find a workable peace that acknowledges and begrudgingly accommodates the other's concerns, the security of both of our countries will be at risk. And if the recent past is any guide, Pakistanis will bear the brunt of the terrorist rampages.

Shakespeare called the murder of Christopher Marlowe by an Elizabethan state agent, which was another murky affair that got written off as self-defense, "a great reckoning in a little room."

And that's where we are with the Davis incident. A fairly small case of self-defense against a street robbery in Lahore (not to minimize the gravity of any use of lethal force, however, it is a small matter compared to international affairs) has brought about a great crisis in Pakistani-American relations.

A Bill of Rights You Can Sing

When I heard that a WaPo columnist was going to write us a new National Anthem, I didn't expect to like it. But I have to say the result was pretty good.

Gene Weingarten decides "The Star-Spangled Banner" isn't good enough to be the national anthem and writes an alternative, with lyrics about the Bill of Rights set to the tune of the "William Tell Overture."

It was a genius move to put the Bill of Rights - a freely constructed version of it, anyway - to music. See the video here, and download the MP3.

These are the lyrics. Imagine them sung to the old Lone Ranger theme (ta-da-dump, ta-da-dump, ta-da-dump-dump-dump):

It's okay if you pray. You can own a gun.
You can say what you may about anyone.
You can meet in the street, you can march and strut.
Been wronged? You can sue his butt.
If you're popped by a cop, then you get a trial.
Army troops won't be cooped in your domicile,
When in jail, if there's bail, it can't be too high.
'Gainst yourself ... you don't testify.
There must be reasonable cause/for cops to seize or touch your junk.
In court, you get to see and hear/their case so it you can debunk.
You'll get a jury of your peers/and even if they throw the book
You won't be tarred or feathered or/be dangled on a butcher's hook.
Just because these/are the rights that we are hereby/to you doling
Doesn't mean you/Don't have others/(for example,/going bowling).
Uncle Sam wants your land? Gotta pay a price!
Just one time for a crime - they can't try you twice.
You can write what you might, no restraint awaits.
Other laws ... are left to the states.
That is all, it is small, but it makes us free
It's a trust that we must keep for liberty.
So, a toast, not a boast, as we raise our cup -
Here's to us ... let's not screw it up.

It doesn't replace the official anthem, but it has its niche. Like, on my iPod.

Ten Border Gang Members Charged In 2010 U.S. Consulate Juarez Murders

It was one year ago this week that two employees of U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juarez were murdered in simultaneous attacks for reasons that are still - to me, at least - somewhat murky.

Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it has charged ten persons, all of them members of a criminal gang that operates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, with those murders:

WASHINGTON – Thirty-five members and associates of the Barrio Azteca (BA) gang have been charged in a third superseding indictment unsealed today with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice, announced Attorney General Eric Holder. Of the 35 defendants, 10 Mexican nationals were charged with the March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez, Mexico, of U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee.

-- snip --

“The indictment unsealed today represents our continued action to ensure safety along our Southwest border, to seek justice for victims of violent crime in this region, and to weaken dangerous criminal organizations currently operating in Mexico and the United States,” said Attorney General Holder. “These arrests and criminal charges will disrupt Barrio Azteca’s current operations, and they reaffirm that we will not tolerate acts of violence against those who serve and protect American citizens. We will continue to stand with our partners in Mexico, and together, build on our unprecedented joint efforts to combat violence and protect the safety of the American and the Mexican people.”

“The indictment unsealed today offers a chilling picture of a highly organized, and extremely brutal gang,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The victims – like so many other victims of the Mexican drug wars – were senselessly caught in the crosshairs of a violent criminal enterprise. This is, at times, a gruesome battle. But let there be no mistake: we will devote our might to bringing Barrio Azteca and other gangs to justice for their acts of violence and intimidation along our border.”

“The vicious murders of Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido illustrate how senseless the violence perpetrated by the drug cartels and their affiliated criminal gangs has become,” said U.S. Attorney Murphy. “Our hearts go out to the families of these three innocent victims, as well as thousands of others, who have suffered tragic losses for which there can be no reparation. The indictment reflects our resolve to vigorously pursue those responsible for these wanton acts and hold them accountable under the rule of law.”

“Trans-border violence is a serious threat that we are using the power of partnerships to combat and prevent,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Henry. “Along with our other federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts, we are especially grateful to our Mexican partner agencies for the critical support they provided to help resolve this case and bring the subjects to justice. We may stand on opposite sides of the border, but we stand together on the same side of the law.”

-- snip --

Specifically, the indictment alleges that on March 13, 2010, Ricardo Valles de la Rosa called an individual in the Western District of Texas and received verification of the description of an intended target for murder. The indictment alleges that 10 named BA members, among others, participated in the murders of Enriquez, Redelfs and Salcido in Juarez.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, aka “Diego”; Eduardo Ravelo, aka “Tablas”; Luis Mendez, aka “Alex”; Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, aka “Benny”; Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, aka “Chino”; Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz, aka “Zorro”; Martin Perez Marrufo, aka “Popeye”; Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis, aka “Pac”; Miguel Angel Nevarez, aka “Lentes”; and Enrique Guajardo Lopez, aka “Kiki” are charged in the indictment with conspiracy to kill persons in a foreign country, murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm and murder in aid of racketeering for their alleged participation in the murder of Enriquez, Redelfs and Salcido.

Hernandez, Ravelo and Mendez are currently at large. The United States has filed provisional arrest warrants with the government of Mexico for the arrest of these men in connection with this case. Ravelo is currently one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to his arrest.

-- snip --

If convicted, the defendants face a variety of maximum penalties per charge, including up to life in prison.

So, justice is getting a little closer to those who ordered and carried out those murders, not that it can be any compensation to the families of the three victims.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Not The Best Security" In Tripoli (And Elsewhere)

Consumer Notice: This post is certified 100% free of Matters of Official Concern that are not referenced from publicly available sources of information.

Amidst the evacuation of citizens and embassy staff from Libya last week, CNN World ran a very brief interview with the acting Chief of Mission, Joan Polaschik, in which she made a few remarks about the poor state of physical security at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

Moments after a plane took off from Tripoli on Friday carrying the last American diplomats out of Libya, the White House announced it was suspending its embassy operations and imposing sanctions on the Ghadafi regime.

The news came after American officials caught in an increasingly perilous position completed an elaborate evacuation from Tripoli.

"We had not the best security," said Joan Polaschik, the embassy's acting head of mission. She spoke to CNN Friday night, shortly after a U.S.-chartered flight landed with evacuated American diplomatic personnel in Istanbul, Turkey

We don't have the typical fortress America embassy compound (in Tripoli). In fact we have a group of residential villas," Polaschik added.

Unlike most American diplomatic posts around the world, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli had no Marine guard presence. Instead, it relied on security guards provided by the Libyan government.

And while other American embassies and consulates have been substantially reinforced in recent years to protect against bomb and mob attacks, the embassy in Tripoli consisted of six villas in a poorly protected compound.

"The Libyans did not give the U.S. permission to build an embassy," said another recently evacuated American diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Read it here.

I can find no fault with the statement that U.S. Embassy Tripoli had "not the best" physical security. But it is evidently far from the only one in that situation. In fact, it seems the typical embassy is not a fortress.

According to this publicly available source of information, the United States has roughly 260 embassies, consulates, and other missions around the world. But how many of the 260 are so-called Fortress Embassies? Only 30 percent.

Here's how I know that. According to this very informative publicly available source provided by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, OBO has to date completed about 70 construction projects under a new construction program that began in 2001. However, as the source shows, many of those projects were housing compounds, or annexes, or something other than embassy office buildings. This second, and equally unimpeachable, source of publicly available information from the General Accountability Office says that exactly 52 new embassies and consulates were completed between 2001 and July of 2010. Let's round that number up to 60, to account for those that have been completed since then.

So, only 60 out of our 260 diplomatic missions, or 23 percent, are Fortress Embassies. If we include the 20 or so fortresses that were built in the 1980s and early 90s during the Inman building program, we can get to 30 percent. The fortresses remain distinctly atypical.

What about Marine Security Guards? Do "most" embassies have Marine Security Guards? The answer is yes, but not by much. According to DipNote, Marines currently serve in 150 diplomatic posts in 138 countries. That's more than half of our 260 posts, or 56 percent. In the movies every U.S. embassy has Marine Security Guards, but in real life the odds are barely 50/50.

Incidentally, in the movies every embassy seems to not only have Marines, but to have about an entire company of them. For example, the large crew that chased Jason Bourne:

Lastly, was the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli really housed in a few poorly protected villas inside a haphazard compound? You can't expect to find that sort of thing described in publicly available sources of information that were put on the internet by official U.S. government agencies. Except for this one from the Office of the Inspector General:

From 2004 until May 2008, the U.S. Liaison Office and then Embassy Tripoli operated from the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in downtown Tripoli and at an annex, the Villas compound, in a commercial-residential neighborhood.

-- snip --

The main chancery is now located at a complex of eight villas and three vacant lots, known as the Villas compound. One villa will house the consular, FCS, and PD sections, and three others will house the management office and its subsections. Another villa will house the executive office, political/economic section, regional security office, and the Defense attaché office.

So that's confirmed. There were no heavy security upgrades at the embassy's interim location in the Villas. When we go back to Tripoli, which with any luck will be in a post-Qaddafi era, maybe we'll finally get the permission of the new host government to built a big old forbidding fortress.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Another Wiki-Casualty?

Mexico's President Calderon was in Washington yesterday for a one-day visit. The WaPo reports that he pronounced himself highly offended by our embassy's frank assessments of his government's continued shortcomings in its muddled, but nevertheless laudatory, war against the drug cartels, and he threatens to take out his resentments on the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that the release of State Department cables criticizing Mexico's anti-drug fight had caused "severe damage" to its relationship with the United States and suggested that tensions had risen so dramatically that he could no longer work with the American ambassador in his country.

Calderon's comments were the strongest to date on the secret cables distributed by WikiLeaks, which have threatened to disrupt what both sides have hailed as increasingly close cooperation against Mexico's violent drug gangs.

The Mexican president, at the start of a one-day visit to Washington, suggested that the release of the cables had caused turmoil on his national security team. He took aim at one U.S. cable that said that Mexican military officials had "risk-averse habits."

"It's difficult if suddenly you are seeing the courage of the army [questioned]. For instance, they have lost probably 300 soldiers ... and suddenly somebody in the American embassy, they [say] the Mexican soldiers aren't brave enough," Calderon told Washington Post reporters and editors.

"Or you decide to play the game that they are not coordinated enough, and suddenly start to bring information to one agency and not to the other and try to get them to compete."

Calderon's remark appeared to be a reference to a cable signed by Ambassador Carlos Pascual that described how the Mexican navy captured a major trafficker after U.S. officials gave them information that the Mexican army had not acted upon.

"We have an expression in Mexico, which says, 'Don't help me, compadre,'" Calderon said sarcastically, using the Spanish word for a close friend.

Asked whether he could continue to work with the U.S. ambassador, the Mexican leader said, "That is a question that maybe I will talk [about] with President Obama." The two leaders were scheduled to meet at midday.

Pressed on whether he had lost confidence in Pascual, Calderon paused and then said, "It's difficult to build and it's easy to lose."

-- snip --

If Pascual was recalled, he would be the most prominent U.S. casualty of the WikiLeaks scandal. Only one American ambassador has had to leave the country where he was based because of the cables - Ambassador Gene Cretz, who took an extended break from Libya before the anti-government demonstrations erupted there.

Read the whole thing here - Calderon: WikiLeaks caused severe damage to U.S.-Mexico relations.

Calderon had already aired his resentments more extensively in an interview with El Universal, the Mexico City daily paper:

As officials from both countries vow to jointly avenge the murder of a U.S. federal agent, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has accused senior American diplomats of damaging the cross-border relationship with criticism of Mexico's public security forces.

In a wide-ranging interview published Tuesday in El Universal, one of Mexico City's leading newspapers, Calderon charged that U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual's "ignorance has translated into a distortion of what is happening in Mexico" that has caused "an impact and an irritation in our own team."

Calderon was reacting to a barrage of analytic cables - some signed by Pascual, others by senior embassy officials - that discuss the perceived shortcomings of Mexico's intelligence services, the conduct of its army in Calderon's anti-crime campaign and the inability of its security forces to work well with one another.

The U.S. Embassy offered no immediate reaction to the interview.

The cables, some classified secret, have been published by the website WikiLeaks, with still more appearing this week. Until Tuesday, Mexican officials have responded to the cables with shrugs and condemnations of WikiLeaks rather than the diplomats.

Not any more.

"They have done a lot of damage with the stories they tell and that, in truth, they distort," Calderon said of the cables in the interview.

Read the original, Spanish language, interview here.

By the way, I notice that President Calderon offered a derogatory assessment of his own in that interview. He used an idiomatic expression to compare U.S. government agencies to the comically confused characters in a Cuban popular song:

“They themselves are like ‘Borondongo’…, Barnabas hit the CIA and the DEA or ICE, really not coordinated, even compete with each other …”.

"Borondongo" is a catchy tune, one that was covered by Celia Cruz, in which a character named Fuchilanga casts a voodoo spell on a village idiot named Burundanga, causing his feet to swell, after which a friend of Burundanga named Bernabé (Baranabas) hits Fuchilanga, and Borondongo, a friend of Fuchilanga, hits Bernabé, and so on. The word is a slang term for a hopelessly confused mess.

That might be a pretty fair analogy to the usual state of interagency cooperation, frankly, but it is still an insult and we are as entitled to be offended by it as Calderon is by our embassy's reporting cables. More entitled, since our cables are carefully substantiated by actual facts.

Speaking of which, if you are feeling bold enough to view those WikiLeaks cables that caused all this ruckus, I've placed a link to them below the warning.



View them [link redacted, due to somewhat exaggerated official concern], if you dare, but only on a personal computer, and then immediately forget what you saw.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"This Is Coming To You, Buddy"

Read more here: Effort to replace Libyan embassy flag in District is stymied.

UN Does The Time Warp Again

I had to check the dateline to make sure this release from the UN News Centre didn't come from last week or even earlier:

1 March 2011 – The General Assembly today suspended Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council for “gross and systematic” human rights violations because of President Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s violent repression of peaceful protesters demanding his ouster.

The vote by the 192-member Assembly, for which a two-thirds majority was required, followed a request last Friday from the Geneva-based Council itself that it suspend the North African country – one of the top UN right’s body’s 47 elected members – and was passed by acclamation.

Notice the resolution was passed "by acclamation" (or consensus), thereby avoiding the need for Qaddafi supporters such as Venezuela to go on the record with a vote for or against. Venezuela's delegate got his comments into the record after the resolution was adopted, praising “friendly” Security Council members who had prevented the resolution from becoming “an instrument of war,” and condemning the “war-mongering mobilization” of the United States in the Mediterranean Sea.

Read the text of the resolution and more comments here.

It's been a while since I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I think I remember how The Time Warp went:

It's just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right.
Pretend you're real offended, but do your voting out of sight.

UN General Assembly, you are an inspiration.