December 2008 Archives

How whacked out can they be?

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David Weigel must have a strong stomach. He's dug into the story behind the people who keep insisting that Barack Obama is not a US citizen and hence, not qualified to become the next President of the United States. It strains credulity to see how far people will go. Kossack profmatt explained yesterday what will happen with the appeal that they've pushed to the Supreme Court.

The Slate story is important to read for one reason. So that all understand just how nuts these people are such that when they weigh in on any other topic, we'll all know their input should be disregarded.

Zimbabwe Imploding, South Africa Moving in

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This dkos post pulls together lots of disparate news sources and blogs to report on what's happening in Zimbabwe and it's not pretty.

Zimbabwe is in a condition of complete collapse. Cholera is spreading because the government is out of money to pay for water purification. Over 500 people have died. Troops went on a rampage in Harare yesterday when they couldn't get funds out of banks. People are starving.

Today, South Africa's president is announcing a plan for South Africa to go into Zimbabwe to deal with the crisis.

President Kgalema Motlanthe's cabinet will today unveil a plan for rescuing the country, which is buckling under the weight of a shattered economy, food shortages, a cholera outbreak and rioting soldiers.

South African government sources are saying that President Mugabe, who retained his office by force, has lost control.

A South African government official said: That is why we are moving in. To help some government institutions to provide basic services. Mugabe has lost control. He has lost power. It's just a matter of time before the country implodes. He cannot support his own people and that is a danger for the region.

Cholera has spread from Zimbabwe to South Africa. South Africa can no longer ignore the chaos is Zimbabwe because it threatens the whole region.

There's more. Go read.

Juan Cole on India, Pakistan and lessons learned from Bush-Cheney's 9/11 response

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Juan Cole has an articulate piece up on the implications of the Mumbai attacks and its implications for Pakistani and Indian relations. In particular he highlights its similarities to the US 9/11 attack and the lessons we learned there and a plea for the Indian and Pakistani governments not to repeat the mistakes of the Bush-Cheney administration in responding to this crisis.

Given Juan Cole's familiarity with that region of the world, the post is well worth the time to read it.

Why attack in Mumbai now?

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There's some interesting analysis in The Times UK about the motivation for the Mumbai terrorist attacks which posits that the attacks are designed to divert Pakistani attention away from Waziristan and al Qaeda and toward its rocky relationship with India, thus foiling the intent of the Obama administration in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Officials and analysts in the region believe that last week's atrocities were designed to provoke a crisis, or even a war, between the nuclear-armed neighbours, diverting Islamabad's attention from extremism in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and thus relieving pressure on al-Qaeda, Taleban and other militants based there.

One analyst even described the attacks as a "pre-emptive strike" against Barack Obama's strategy to put Pakistan and Afghanistan at the centre of US foreign policy.

The United States and its allies now face a balancing act in supporting India's efforts to investigate the Mumbai attacks, without jeopardizing Pakistan's crucial support for the Nato campaign in Afghanistan.

There's more history in the article about the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and al Qaeda.

The two groups were originally founded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency as deniable proxies to be sent to fight Indian forces in the disputed region of Kashmir. They have been blamed for numerous attacks on Indian targets.

However, Western intelligence agencies have recently perceived a growing nexus between these and other, militant groups such as the Pakistani Taleban and al Qaeda. In June, it was reported that some 300 militant leaders from a number groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad met in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi.

There they reportedly agreed that while the Kashmir struggle remained important, their primary focus should be the fight against international forces in Afghanistan.

Just a few weeks later, nine US soldiers were killed in an attack on a combat outpost at Wanat in the Afghan border province of Nuristan that displayed unusual military competence. Intelligence reports subsequently assessed that the assault included a significant Lashkar-e-Taiba element, as well as al Qaeda fighters.

The growing relationship between al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba may explain the scale and sophistication of the Bombay attacks, said Dr Kanchan Lakshman of the South Asia Terrorism Portal. "It would also suggest why they targeted Americans, British and Israelis," he said.

It's not clear what control, if any, the ISI has over the two groups at this time.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive