Daily Archives: September 13, 2007

Billions Missing from Iraq Cash Payload

_iraq_billions

Billions over Baghdad

Vanity Fair | Sep 12, 2007

Between April 2003 and June 2004, $12 billion in U.S. currency much of it belonging to the Iraqi people was shipped from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad, where it was dispensed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Some of the cash went to pay for projects and keep ministries afloat, but, incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing, unaccounted for, in a frenzy of mismanagement and greed. Following a trail that leads from a safe in one of Saddam’s palaces to a house near San Diego, to a P.O. box in the Bahamas, the authors discover just how little anyone cared about how the money was handled.

H idden in plain sight, 10 miles west of Manhattan, amid a suburban community of middle-class homes and small businesses, stands a fortress-like building shielded by big trees and lush plantings behind an iron fence. The steel-gray structure, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is all but invisible to the thousands of commuters who whiz by every day on Route 17. Even if they noticed it, they would scarcely guess that it is the largest repository of American currency in the world.

Officially, 100 Orchard Street is referred to by the acronym eroc , for the East Rutherford Operations Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The brains of the New York Fed may lie in Manhattan, but xeroc is the beating heart of its operations?a secretive, heavily guarded compound where the bank processes checks, makes wire transfers, and receives and ships out its most precious commodity: new and used paper money.

On Tuesday, June 22, 2004, a tractor-trailer truck turned off Route 17 onto Orchard Street, stopped at a guard station for clearance, and then entered the eroc compound. What happened next would have been the stuff of routine?procedures followed countless times. Inside an immense three-story cavern known as the currency vault, the truck’s next cargo was made ready for shipment. With storage space to rival a Wal-Mart’s, the currency vault can reportedly hold upwards of $60 billion in cash. Human beings don’t perform many functions inside the vault, and few are allowed in; a robotic system, immune to human temptation, handles everything. On that Tuesday in June the machines were especially busy. Though accustomed to receiving and shipping large quantities of cash, the vault had never before processed a single order of this magnitude: $2.4 billion in $100 bills.

Under the watchful eye of bank employees in a glass-enclosed control room, and under the even steadier gaze of a video surveillance system, pallets of shrink-wrapped bills were lifted out of currency bays by unmanned “storage and retrieval vehicles” and loaded onto conveyors that transported the 24 million bills, sorted into “bricks,” to the waiting trailer. No human being would have touched this cargo, which is how the Fed wants it: the bank aims to “minimize the handling of currency by eroc employees and create an audit trail of all currency movement from initial receipt through final disposition.”

iraqi-cash

Once the money arrived in Iraq it entered a free-for-all environment where virtually anyone with fingers could take some of it.

Forty pallets of cash, weighing 30 tons, were loaded that day. The tractor-trailer turned back onto Route 17 and after three miles merged onto a southbound lane of the New Jersey Turnpike, looking like any other big rig on a busy highway. Hours later the truck arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, D.C. There the seals on the truck were broken, and the cash was off-loaded and counted by Treasury Department personnel. The money was transferred to a C-130 transport plane. The next day, it arrived in Baghdad.

That transfer of cash to Iraq was the largest one-day shipment of currency in the history of the New York Fed. It was not, however, the first such shipment of cash to Iraq. Beginning soon after the invasion and continuing for more than a year, $12 billion in U.S. currency was airlifted to Baghdad, ostensibly as a stopgap measure to help run the Iraqi government and pay for basic services until a new Iraqi currency could be put into people’s hands. In effect, the entire nation of Iraq needed walking-around money, and Washington mobilized to provide it.

What Washington did not do was mobilize to keep track of it. By all accounts, the New York Fed and the Treasury Department exercised strict surveillance and control over all of this money while it was on American soil. But after the money was delivered to Iraq, oversight and control evaporated. Of the $12 billion in U.S. banknotes delivered to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, at least $9 billion cannot be accounted for. A portion of that money may have been spent wisely and honestly; much of it probably wasn’t. Some of it was stolen.

Once the money arrived in Iraq it entered a free-for-all environment where virtually anyone with fingers could take some of it. Moreover, the company that was hired to keep tabs on the outflow of money existed mainly on paper. Based in a private home in San Diego, it was a shell corporation with no certified public accountants. Its address of record is a post-office box in the Bahamas, where it is legally incorporated. That post-office box has been associated with shadowy offshore activities.

Read Entire Article At Vanity Fair

9/11 First Responder Heard WTC 7 Demolition Countdown

Former Air Force Special Operations for Search and Rescue expert witnessed officials attempt to conceal planned nature of demolition

Prison Planet | Sep 13, 2007

by Paul Joseph Watson

A 9/11 first responder has gone on the record to describe how he heard a demolition-style countdown precede the collapse of WTC 7, eyewitness testimony that dovetails with other EMT’s and rescue personnel who were also told that Building 7 was going to be “brought down”.

Earlier this year, we reported on the testimony of an anonymous EMT named Mike who told Loose Change producer Dylan Avery that hundreds of emergency rescue personnel were told over bullhorns that Building 7, a 47 story skyscraper adjacent the twin towers that was not hit by a plane yet imploded symmetrically later in the afternoon on 9/11, was about to be “pulled” and that a 20 second radio countdown preceded its collapse.

That account was backed up by another ground zero rescue worker who went on the record with her full name. Volunteer EMT Indira Singh described to a radio show how she learned that WTC 7 was going to be “brought down” and the context was clear that it was to be deliberately demolished.

In addition, former NYPD officer Craig Bartmer described hearing bombs tear down the building as he fled the collapse.

Now another ground zero first responder has shed more light on how he heard the countdown moments before attempting to escape the collapse of Building 7 as a stampede ensued.

Former Air Force Special Operations for Search and Rescue expert, Kevin McPadden traveled to ground zero completely of his own accord and spent the next four days searching through the rubble and nearby buildings for survivors.

In a speech given at this week’s 9/11 truth events in New York City, McPadden describes the shocking details of what he witnessed shortly before WTC 7 imploded into its own footprint.

“While we were on the right side, there was firefighters getting ready, they were bussing them back and forth, and a couple of vets that were there – they got the vibe that something was coming down,” said McPadden.

“We started asking questions, everybody started asking questions, and the next thing you know there was a Red Cross representative pacing back and forth in front of the crowd holding his hand over the radio – I couldn’t hear what it was saying but it was like pulsed – whatever the speech was on there it was pulsed – and that means to me most likely it was a countdown.”

“But he took his hand off at the last three seconds and he gave this heartfelt look – like just run for your life – because he didn’t want to bring it on his conscience – he didn’t want to go to his grave with that – and then we had a couple of seconds to put our heads together,” said McPadden.

McPadden then describes the frantic attempts to escape as the building began to collapse.

McPadden’s account, when added to the testimony of other first responders, clearly suggests that officials knew the building was about to be brought down in a planned demolition, and that they made a conscious effort or were ordered to hide that fact from the first responders, though at the very end onlookers were given a brief warning which enabled them to escape safely.

The following video from CNN clearly shows firefighters and police telling the public to get back because Building 7 was about to come down and in the words of the cameraman was about to “blow up.”

In June it was revealed that an individual who had a high level security clearance and was stationed in the Office of Emergency Management in World Trade Center 7 witnessed explosions and damage to the lobby  of the building before either twin tower had collapsed.

The testimony of these individuals meshes with others in confirming that Building 7 was deliberately brought down on the day of 9/11, a fact that eviscerates official investigations into Building 7 as nothing more than part of an orchestrated cover-up.

In February of 2002 Silverstein Properties won $861 million from Industrial Risk Insurers to rebuild on the site of WTC 7. Silverstein Properties’ estimated investment in WTC 7 was $386 million. This building’s collapse alone resulted in a payout of nearly $500 million, based on the contention that it was an unforeseen accidental event.

A cursory insight into professional building demolition tells us that experts are required to spend weeks and months planning the demolition of any building, ensuring that the explosives are placed in exactly the right spots, that the collapse will not impact surrounding buildings, and that a myriad of sufficient safety procedures are followed.

To imagine that demolition experts could rig such a huge building amidst the chaos of the day, unsure of whether further attacks were coming, in a matter of hours and bring the building down neatly in its own footprint without afflicting major damage to adjacent buildings is beyond belief.

Even if one entertains the notion that this is within the realm of possibility, the fact is that the federal government, FEMA and NIST and Silverstein Properties are all knowingly lying in claiming that the building collapsed by accident as a result of burning debris from the twin towers.

Now it is established that they lied about Building 7, how can we trust their often changing explanations of the collapse of the twin towers, especially considering the dozens and dozens of eyewitnesses who have gone on the record to report the fact that explosives were seen and heard on all levels of both towers, including underground explosions before the planes even hit?

We are being asked to put our faith in either the federal government, who deliberately lied about 9/11 in the very days after the attack in telling emergency workers and firefighters that the toxic air was safe to breathe , or the emergency workers and other rescue heroes who risked their lives and are still suffering the consequences of their courage.

This testimony demands an immediate grand jury inquiry into both monolithic insurance fraud, potential manslaughter, and a complete re-appraisal and re-investigation into everything else that happened on 9/11 in an effort to discover what else the government lied about concerning the events of that day and its aftermath.

Russian KGB agents flex their muscles

 dzerzhinsky

Dzerzhinsky set up a secret police force that once terrorised Russia

BBC | Sep 12, 2007

This week Russian communists laid flowers at the tomb of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, on the 130th anniversary of his birth.

The BBC’s James Rodgers in Moscow examines the enduring influence of the secret police in the era of President Vladimir Putin – himself a former KGB officer.

Communist-era secret police became hate figures across much of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War.

When those regimes unravelled in the late 1980s and early 1990s, people celebrated their demise. Archives were opened, informers were exposed, former dissidents became presidents.

But in Russia, things turned out differently.

After a decade of unpredictable change – in which jobs, savings, and many of the certainties which had come with communism simply disappeared – Russians looked for another solution.

In March 2000, they turned not to a dissident writer or activist. They elected a former KGB officer to lead the country.

As he prepares to leave office next spring, Vladimir Putin enjoys popularity ratings his predecessors could never have dreamed of.

His KGB past has proved no obstacle to widespread support among the population.

Soviet iron fist

The secret police under one name or another were a hugely influential force in Russia throughout the Soviet period.

They began as the “Cheka” – from the Russian letters standing for “Extraordinary Commission”. In that incarnation, they gave the Russian language the word “Chekist”.

The ties of loyalty which agents develop are supposed to last for life. As the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a former Chekist”.

KGB veterans may add: “there are only traitors”.

Many of Mr Putin’s former fellow officers have prospered during his tenure.

They are known in Russian today as the siloviki. The name comes from the Russian word sila, meaning “strength” or “power”.

Privileged elite

In Soviet times, those who joined the KGB’s ranks were in a position of privilege. They were considered reliable enough to see and hear things which the Soviet regime kept from the majority of the population.

Foreign travel was a rare opportunity. It gave those lucky enough to get it an experience denied to their follow citizens. They gained an understanding of the world as it really was, not just as it appeared in the Soviet media.

They served under the guise of diplomats, journalists and members of trade delegations. Top-quality language tuition had equipped them for intelligence-gathering.

Their varied experience and extensive contacts gave them the qualities they needed to find their way through the chaos and uncertainty of Russia in its immediate post-Soviet years.

Not only have they survived, they have succeeded. KGB agents, and those from the KGB’s main successor agency, the FSB (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, or State Security Service), are among those making millions from Russia’s economic boom.

“Former KGB officers and current FSB officers are increasing their influence in the oil and gas industries,” says Mikhail Krutikhin, of Rusenergia.

Mr Krutikhin’s years as a foreign correspondent for the Tass news agency brought him into frequent contact with Soviet intelligence officers. He sees the hand of their successors in Russia’s richest industries, which he now follows as an analyst.

“Russian companies have ‘curators’ assigned to them,” he explains. “They make requests and demands for information on foreign clients.”

Shadowy careers

Mr Putin himself has spoken proudly of his past in the KGB, suggesting that the experience has helped him as head of state.

Many of those now occupying positions of power in the Kremlin, and in the top levels of Russian business – the two often overlap – are believed to have been KGB agents. Their official biographies rarely spell it out, but gaps in individual CVs, or foreign postings during Soviet times, strongly suggest it.

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has studied the country’s centres of power since the late 1980s. This is what she sees today.

“A quarter of the political elite are siloviki,” she says.

Her definition includes not only the KGB, but also the military and other security forces.

That’s only the ones who publicly admit to it. It is not in the nature of many secret policemen to disclose their identity.

Ms Kryshtanovskaya estimates that when those she describes as “affiliated” – that is, not publicly declared – are taken into account, the figure could be as high as three-quarters.

One of those who makes no secret of his KGB past is Sergei Ivanov. “I am proud of it,” he told the BBC’s Hardtalk programme last year.

Mr Ivanov is currently one of Russia’s first deputy prime ministers. He is frequently spoken of as a likely successor to Mr Putin.

The siloviki look set to stay strong.

. . .

Related 

Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky
Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky was a Polish Communist revolutionary, famous as the founder of the Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka, later known by many names during the history of the Soviet Union. The agency became notorious for large-scale human rights abuses, including torture and mass summary executions, carried out during the Red Terror and the Russian Civil War.

Russians Celebrate “Sex Day” to Make Babies for Government

 babymaker_winners

This year’s grand prize winners drive off in their new SUV

BBC | Sep 12,  2007

Russian ‘sex day’ to boost births

The governor of Ulyanovsk region in Russia is offering prizes to couples who have babies in exactly nine months – on Russia’s national day on 12 June.

Sergei Morozov wants couples to take the day off work to have sex. If a baby is born on national day, they will receive cars, TVs or other prizes.

Mr Morozov has declared Wednesday “family contact day” as part of efforts to fight Russia’s demographic crisis.

The population has sharply declined since the Soviet Union collapsed.

This is the third year that Ulyanovsk, in central Russia, is offering prizes for babies born on 12 June.

This year, a couple won the grand prize of a sports utility vehicle (SUV).

The initiative seems to be paying off, as the region’s birth rate has risen by 4.5% over the last year.

“If there’s a good, healthy atmosphere at home within the family, if the husband and wife both love each other and their child, they will be in good spirits… so there’ll be a healthy atmosphere throughout the country,” Mr Morozov told the Associated Press news agency.

Demographers estimate that Russia could lose 40 million people – almost a third of its current population – by the middle of the century.

A combination of falling birth rates, emigration and an ailing healthcare system has led to the decline.

President Vladimir Putin has introduced a scheme to encourage more children.

Women who have a second or third child are eligible to receive $9,000, which can be used to pay for education or home purchases.

. . .

Related
putinyouth
Sex for the motherland: “Putin Youth” encouraged to procreate at camp

U.S. Officials Begin Crafting Iran Bombing Plan

FOX News | Sep 11, 2007

By James Rosen

A recent decision by German officials to withhold support for any new sanctions against Iran has pushed a broad spectrum of officials in Washington to develop potential scenarios for a military attack on the Islamic regime, FOX News confirmed Tuesday.

Germany — a pivotal player among three European nations to rein in Iran’s nuclear program over the last two-and-a-half years through a mixture of diplomacy and sanctions supported by the United States — notified its allies last week that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to support the imposition of any further sanctions against Iran that could be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.

The announcement was made at a meeting in Berlin that brought German officials together with Iran desk officers from the five member states of the Security Council. It stunned the room, according to one of several Bush administration and foreign government sources who spoke to FOX News, and left most Bush administration principals concluding that sanctions are dead.

The Germans voiced concern about the damaging effects any further sanctions on Iran would have on the German economy — and also, according to diplomats from other countries, gave the distinct impression that they would privately welcome, while publicly protesting, an American bombing campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Germany’s withdrawal from the allied diplomatic offensive is the latest consensus across relevant U.S. agencies and offices, including the State Department, the National Security Council and the offices of the president and vice president. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, the most ardent proponent of a diplomatic resolution to the problem of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, has had his chance on the Iranian account and come up empty.

Political and military officers, as well as weapons of mass destruction specialists at the State Department, are now advising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the diplomatic approach favored by Burns has failed and the administration must actively prepare for military intervention of some kind. Among those advising Rice along these lines are John Rood, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and a number of Mideast experts, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, deputy White House national security adviser under Stephen Hadley and formerly the principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs.

Consequently, according to a well-placed Bush administration source, “everyone in town” is now participating in a broad discussion about the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with the likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.

The discussions are now focused on two basic options: less invasive scenarios under which the U.S. might blockade Iranian imports of gasoline or exports of oil, actions generally thought to exact too high a cost on the Iranian people but not enough on the regime in Tehran; and full-scale aerial bombardment.

On the latter course, active consideration is being given as to how long it would take to degrade Iranian air defenses before American air superiority could be established and U.S. fighter jets could then begin a systematic attack on Iran’s known nuclear targets.

Most relevant parties have concluded such a comprehensive attack plan would require at least a week of sustained bombing runs, and would at best set the Iranian nuclear program back a number of years — but not destroy it forever. Other considerations include the likelihood of Iranian reprisals against Tel Aviv and other Israeli population centers; and the effects on American troops in Iraq. There, officials have concluded that the Iranians are unlikely to do much more damage than they already have been able to inflict through their supply of explosives and training of insurgents in Iraq.

The Bush administration “has just about had it with Iran,” said one foreign diplomat. “They tried the diplomatic process. China is now obstructing them at the U.N. Security Council and the Russians are tucking themselves behind them.

“The Germans are wobbling …There are a number of people in the administration who do not want their legacy to be leaving behind an Iran that is nuclear armed, so they are looking at what are the alternatives? They are looking at other options,” the diplomat said.

Vice President Cheney and his aides are said to be enjoying a bit of “schadenfreude” at the expense of Burns. A source described Cheney’s office as effectively gloating to Burns and Rice, “We told you so. (The Iranians) are not containable diplomatically.”

The next shoe to drop will be when Rice and President Bush make a final decision about whether to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and/or its lethal subset, the Quds Force, as a terrorist entity or entities. FOX News reported in June that such a move is under consideration.

Sources say news leaks about the prospective designation greatly worried European governments and private sector firms, which could theoretically face prosecution in American courts if such measures became law and these entities continued to do business with IRGC and its multiple financial subsidiaries.

If the Bush administration moves forward with such a designation, sources said, it would be an indication that Rice agrees that Burns’ approach has failed. Designation of such a large Iranian military institution as a terrorist entity would also be seen, sources said, as laying the groundwork for a public justification of American military action.

Israel Proposes National Service To Stem Tide of Draft Dodgers

Forward | Sep 12, 2007

by Andrew Friedman

Jerusalem – In a dramatic reconsideration of a pillar of Israeli society, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced plans to offer Israeli youth a nonmilitary option for serving the country. According to the prime minister’s office, a new Civilian Service Administration will offer draft-age Israelis who are exempt from military service the opportunity to contribute a year or two of their lives “to strengthen society as a whole and the weak sectors especially, enforcing the connection and identification of the young citizens with the community, society and state.”

The announcement comes amid growing public concern about the number of Israelis avoiding military service, which the army puts at a quarter of young men and as many as two-fifths of young women. In a country where donning the uniform has been among the most sacred of obligations to society, Olmert’s plans for a civilian alternative to military service has sent a message to young Israelis that while serving the country is a serious obligation, such “service” can take many forms.

David Baker, a spokesman for the prime minister, stressed that the program is not a replacement for mandatory military service, which the prime minister views as incumbent upon those able to enlist. At the same time, Baker said, many young people who are exempt from military service for a variety of legitimate reasons, including health issues, religious conviction and family circumstances, would welcome the opportunity to serve the country out of uniform.

“We are losing good people because they think that if they don’t serve in the IDF, then they have nothing to offer the country,” Baker told the Forward. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Army service has long been considered a unifying experience for the diverse immigrants who have made Israel their home. Plum jobs in the army, such as combat, intelligence and air force positions, have traditionally been seen as steppingstones to high-paying civilian jobs.

Draft dodging was rare until the past decade, apart from the many Arab and ultra-Orthodox Israelis who do not serve in the army for ideological reasons. But in the early 1990s, singer Aviv Gefen, grandson of legendary general Moshe Dayan, made headlines by opting out of the military to pursue his career. In the years since, the list of high-profile draft dodgers has grown to include soccer star Ben Sahar, model Bar Refaeli and even one of Olmert’s own children.

The exact number of draft dodgers is difficult to ascertain, but by most accounts the example set by Gefen and others has caught on in some circles. While certain sectors of Israeli society have retained consistent enlistment figures for decades — virtually all eligible kibbutz members serve in the army, as do most national religious men —as many as one-third of urban, secular Israelis now opt out of military service, according to a number of sources.

The reasons that secular youth are shunning the army, longtime Ha’aretz reporter Micha Odenheimer says, are largely practical.

“First of all, it is easier to get out of the army now than it was 30 years ago,” he said. “The Russian aliyah of the 1990s gave the army all the manpower it needed, giving the IDF the ability to be a bit selective of who it takes. But that also creates an opening for kids to ask themselves, ‘Hey, do I really want to give up two or three years of my life?’ Now, if someone goes to an army psychologist asking for an exemption, he barely has to make up any reason to get it. The army doesn’t want people that don’t want to be there.”

Reuben Gal, the man appointed by Olmert to head the new administration, went a step further, arguing that for decades, the military has had an over-dominant role in shaping Israeli society.

“For three generations, all Israelis understood that the question ‘Where did you do your service?’ meant ‘Where did you serve in the army?’” said Gal, who formerly served as the military’s chief psychologist. “For some people, the environment, demands and overall climate of the military are not appropriate, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer the country. They could be very effective serving the country in schools, kindergartens, old-age homes or hospitals.”

Roughly 10,000 volunteers, mainly girls from the national religious sector, are currently enlisted in national service. Most of them work in such traditional volunteer areas as health, education and social welfare.

Gal said that his administration would add an additional 500 volunteer spots by mid-2008, and that the program would expand the range of volunteer possibilities, adding positions related to traffic-safety education, Holocaust survivor groups, environmental organizations and more.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether large numbers of young Israelis will embrace the new program.

Netanel Weinstein, a 19-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Efrat who is now studying at the Ma’aleh Gilboa pre-army preparatory academy, assumed growing up that he would serve in the military. But shoulder surgery while he was in high school knocked him out of contention for a combat position, and a diagnosis of uveitis, an eye condition that places black dots in his field of vision, may result in the military’s medical corps granting him a complete exemption.

Weinstein, whose brother and brother-in-law served in the elite Maglan infantry unit, said he would consider national service if the army won’t take him, or even if his options in the military are limited. But he said he would have to come away feeling that the national service program was worthwhile.

“If my options are ‘serving’ in the army by making coffee for some general, then no thanks,” Weinstein said. “But if national service means I’d be sweeping streets somewhere, I’d also give that a pass. One way or the other, I’ll find something valuable I can do to serve the country, either in the IDF or in another framework.”

Weinstein said that many young Israelis who avoid the army do so because they do not want to serve the country, not because they are worried about the dangers that come with being in uniform.

“The kids who look to avoid the army aren’t doing it because they are scared,” Weinstein said. “Most people do want to do the army, but some kids are just not interested in the country. A lot of them want to go to America and work, and they’ll probably stay there if they manage to go. Those guys aren’t going to do national service just because there’s no uniform or guns involved.”

But Avital Leibovich, head of the international press branch in the military spokesman’s office, insists that young Israelis’ overall motivation to serve the country remains high.

“Look, you have a few high-profile cases that have successfully managed to avoid serving,” she said. “But the numbers speak for themselves: Seventy-five percent of eligible men do serve, and there are three applicants for every combat position available. Even for those who don’t serve, 11% are ultra-Orthodox, and approximately 7% are granted medical exemptions. That means less than one in 10 men is opting out of the army. To me, that says motivation is still very high.”

Leibovich points to the flourishing of pre-army colleges and programs like Ma’aleh Gilboa as proof that young people continue to appreciate both the necessity to maintain a strong military and the army’s central role in Israeli society.

“It’s not just that kids are coming; many of them are also taking a year off to study before they enlist, and they are paying a lot of money to increase their chances of getting a ‘good’ placement once they are drafted,” she said. “That’s not a sign of apathy.”

. . .

Related

AOL Time/Warner CNN
A Time To Serve
The Case For National Service

It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.

Reject the Un-American Call for “National Service”
“In fact,” said Alex Epstein, a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, “the idea of ‘national service’ is profoundly un-American. America was founded on the idea that each individual is a sovereign being with the moral right to his own life and to the achievement of his own goals. This is the basis of the political idea that the individual possesses inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American individualism and freedom are incompatible with the notion that people are servants who owe their lives–or any portion of them–to their neighbors or to the state. “The collectivist belief in the supremacy of the group over the individual is the foundation of the national-service ideology, which regards the individual as a servant to the nation. Every totalitarian society in history has rested on the premise of man’s alleged duty to the state.

Iraq key to fighting al Qaeda, Petraeus says

CNN | Sep 12, 2007

(CNN) — Iraq is important to U.S. security worldwide because it is “the central front of al Qaeda’s global war of terror,” Gen. David Petraeus said Wednesday.

“We don’t know what would happen if al Qaeda had a sanctuary in Iraq from which they could presumably export violence, perhaps train others. We just don’t know,” Petraeus told a news conference in Washington.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq was clarifying an answer he gave to Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee a day earlier.

Warner asked the general if U.S. military strategy in Iraq was making America safer.

“Sir, I don’t know, actually. I haven’t sat down and sorted it out in my own mind. What I have focused on and what I’m riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the Multi-National Force-Iraq,” Petraeus told Warner on Tuesday.

Petraeus elaborated before the National Press Club on Wednesday.

If a U.S. pullout left Iraq to al Qaeda influence, Petraeus said, “would it be focused in the Levant, in the Magreb, back in Afghanistan, Western Europe, the United States? I don’t know that.”

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, went further.

“We have to assume that anywhere al Qaeda can find operating room, space, the ability to organize, to consolidate, they’re going to use that to come after us,” said the ambassador, who had testified side-by-side with Petraeus the past two days on Capitol Hill.

Petraeus said during the hearings Monday and Tuesday that the U.S. military would be able to pull about 30,000 troops from Iraq by July 2008. That would get U.S. troop strength back to pre-“surge” levels.

The so-called surge began in January when President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq in January as part of a campaign to secure Baghdad and its surrounding provinces.

Again on Wednesday, Petraeus would not say how long U.S. troops would be needed in Iraq.

Asked if a long-term security pact with Iraq would mean tens of thousands of U.S. troops would remain in Iraq for years, Petraeus said, “It is very, very difficult to project out much further beyond the horizon at this point in time, even just to mid-July of next year.”

Crocker reiterated Wednesday that he believes Iraq will need U.S. help for the long haul.

“There are no shortcuts. … there’s just no switch to flip that’s going to automatically move Iraq overnight into a situation of security and stability,” the diplomat said. “It will be a long, hard grind. Right now, I think that grind is making progress.”

. . .

Related

60 Minutes: Bush Planned to Occupy Iraq within Days of his Inaugruation in Jan-Feb 2001, 8 Months Before 9/11

Plans included peace-keeping troops, war-crimes tribunals and “divvying up Iraq’s oil fields”

The Price of Loyalty
http://thepriceofloyalty.ronsuskind.com/

. . .

CIA pressured into linking Iraq, terror

Leaked report rejects Iraqi al-Qaeda link
There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network, according to an official British intelligence report seen by BBC News.

Wolfowitz: Iraq Not Involved in 9-11, No Ties to al-Qaeda

The Myth of Al Qaeda
Before 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s group was small and fractious. How Washington helped to build it into a global threat.

9/11 panel sees no link between Iraq, al-Qaida

The Al Qaeda Myth
Tom Porteous is a syndicated columnist and author who was formerly with the BBC and the British Foreign Office. We now know that Al Qaeda had nothing to do with the London bombings in July 2005. This is the conclusion of the British government’s official inquiry report leaked to the British press on April 9. We now also know that the U.S. military is deliberately misleading Iraqis, Americans and the rest of the world about the extent of Al Qaeda’s involvement in the Iraqi insurgency. This was reported in The Washington Post on April 10, on the basis of internal military documents seen by that newspaper.