A disturbing insurgent video; CIA dude says they knew Bin Laden was at Tora Bora; more on yellowcake; Miller met Scooter

First of all, the gory details. A video released by the Ansar al-Sunna militant organization in Iraq, associated with an attack that killed several Marines, apparently shows their members firing mortar shells, a dead US soldier getting stripped of his dog tag, and a wide variety of weapons and equipment looted from the American forces. The disturbing & graphic insurgent video, and several stills, are available via ogrish.com. Former CIA guy Larry Johnson describes how the video indicates the futility of our current situation:

A friend of mine who has spoken to members of the unit indicates that the Marines were talking via radio to their base and trying to arrange an exfiltration. While they were talking the sound of gunfire erupted over the radio, then the radio went silent. One possibility is that the insurgents snuck up on the team. In any event, they were wiped out.

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It is important to view the videos to gain an idea of how awry our current strategy on the ground is. Despite happy talk that we are winning the war, we lost this skirmish and the images portray a happy, confident group of insurgents who are operating virtually unmolested.

One particularly disturbing image shows an insurgent inspecting the body of a partially stripped dead Marine. The insurgent bends down and cuts away the dog tag from the soldier's neck. The insurgent appears to conduct himself in a professional manner to the extent that he does not desecrate the Marine's body. What is so shocking is that this Marine has been left abandoned, albeit temporarily, on the battlefield while an insurgent leisurely and methodically strips him of uniform and weapons.

A second video shows two insurgents with a collection of captured U.S. Marine weapons. Again, with an air of non-chalance, the insurgents provide an impressive equipment display. The fact that they have time to lay weapons out on the ground and pose with them is a reminder that they are operating in territory where they feel comfortable and protected.

A third image from the videos shows two insurgents firing a mortar at an unknown target. The mortar, I'm told, appears to be and 82mm mortar. The individuals operating the weapon appear unconcerned about being discovered or being attacked by a counter battery of some sort. While it is not clear whether or not the mortar was being fired during this operation, it is certain that the insurgents intend to deliver the message that they can do what they want, where they want, when they want.

Taken as a whole the implications of this action are disturbing. The US Marine reservists were not backed up by a Quick Reaction Force that could respond quickly and decisively to the attack. The reservists appear to have inadequate artillery and air support to cover their operations. Unfortunately, reservists have been treated as the red headed step child as far as the regular military is concerned. Add to this that reservists normally do not operate at the same level of efficiency as regular military units. This is, as we see from the latest action, a lethal combination. The more fundamental, long term problem, is that our force levels on the ground in Iraq are not sufficient to ensure control and command of the battlefield.

In the mythical mountainside confrontation known as the Tora Bora incident during the (first) anti-Taliban campaign, people have disputed whether the military and the CIA knew that Bin Laden was inside the cave complex. This became a proxy idea for Bush's general incompetence in the 2004 elections, as Kerry accused Bush of screwing things up at Tora Bora 476 times, every one a scintillating rhetorical jewel. Bush claimed that they didn't know Bin Laden was there. But now Newsweek reports that a CIA field commander, with forthcoming new book, asserts that they knew Bin Laden was very much in the area, and the Pentagon failed to deploy a cordon to catch the various militants running around:

During the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry battled about whether Osama bin Laden had escaped from Tora Bora in the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Bush, Kerry charged, "didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill" the leader of Al Qaeda. The president called his opponent's allegation "the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking." Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border.

But in a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora—intelligence operatives had tracked him—and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen's remarks, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones passed on 2004 statements from former CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001," Franks wrote in an Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed. "Bin Laden was never within our grasp." Berntsen says Franks is "a great American. But he was not on the ground out there. I was."

Also the CIA agent, Gary Berntsen, has sued the agency for taking too damn long to vet his book. As I've noted here before, Scooter Libby was always a leading suspect in the Valerie Plame affair. And now indeed we learn that Judith Miller and 'Scoot' met only days before the famous Novak column:

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has told federal investigators that he met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Libby's account.

That story is by Murray Waas, who is keeping a blog with much more ongoing stuff @ whateveralready.blogspot.com.

TalkLeft has an absurdly detailed dissection of an important aspect of the Niger-uranium scandal: ongoing efforts in the Senate to cover up things about the forgeries, such as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report that carefully obfuscated the connection between the forgeries and their aggressive claims about WMD. There are just buckets of minutia to pore over, if yr. so inclined.

Some basic points about the WMD disinformation, in more crude terms than perhaps necessary: "Judith Miller's Dirty Little Secret":

So, the question of the hour is what does everyone in Washington know as of today? They know the administration lied about WMDs with the help of media operatives like Judith Miller. They know that there was no “intelligence failure” and that Joseph Wilson was punished for exposing the post-war cover-up. They also know that the administration and its media partners in crime continue to twist the facts about the situation in Iraq. Add to the mix the recent indictments of AIPAC officials in the Pentagon spy case, which might expose the culprits as the very same senior administration officials who outed Valerie Plame.

In Washington, they all know Judith Miller’s dirty little secret. Miller is a senior neo-con propagandist. If she goes down, she won’t go down alone. She will take the paper of record and Sulzberger with her. Her intimate relationships with Ahmed Chalabi, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, AIPAC, and the American Enterprise Institute are all part of the public record. Miller coordinated her work with the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, an outfit set up by Wolfowitz and Feith and tasked with fixing intelligence to make a case for war. Judith Miller is pleading the fifth to avoid confessing to the prominent role she played in launching weapons of mass deception at the American people.

The neo-con cabal and the Israeli lobby are an instrumental force in framing the foreign policy of the United States towards the Middle East. Other political forces had considerable influence in charting the path to war – including the equally formidable Saudi lobby and the usual suspects in the military industrial complex. But only the neo-cons had access to the media muscle necessary for implementing a massive propaganda campaign to sell the war. Judith Miller was by far the most lethal weapon in the war party’s media arsenal – if only because she wrote for The New York Times.

Ok whatever, that's all for now. I have been working very hard on getting the new website going, be patient and it will soon happen very nicely...

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