Friday, March 6, 2015

One Man Is As Good As Another, Part 1

Overview of the Central African Republic and its Current Unrest

The Central Africa Republic (CAR) borders Cameroon to the west, then the Republic of the Congo to the southwest, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) to the south and southeast, South Sudan to the east, Sudan to the northeast, and Chad to the north. (Significantly, there is only a narrow strip of Cameroon between the Central African Republic and the part of Nigeria where Boko Haram is based; more on this in later posts at this blog.) Landlocked, with periodic political instability resulting in coups, and with ineffective and corrupt government, the Central African Republic is one of the least developed countries in the world. Statistics from a 2010 country profile help illustrate the situation:

An estimated 62.4 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and life expectancy is only 46.7 years. Moreover, CAR has a very young population, with a child dependency ratio of 72.3. While education is compulsory for six years and the literacy rate is 48.6 percent, there are few viable economic opportunities for CAR's youth. Its poor development places the country near the bottom of the Human Development Index, ranking 179 out of 182 countries.4

A UK House of Commons document dated February 19, 2014, and authored by Jon Lunn, entitled The Central African Republic: A Primer on the Current Crisis, offers a summary of the situation in the Central African Republic as of that time:

President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) was overthrown in March 2013 by a rebel coalition called Seleka, which then installed its leader, Michael Djotodia, as the new president. However, the country remained in turmoil and 'self-defence groups' opposed to Seleka, called Anti-Balaka, took up arms. By late 2013, senior UN officials were warning the conflict had turned into one between the Muslim minority, which was heavily represented in Seleka, and the Christian majority, represented in Anti-Balaka. They said there was a real danger of genocide. The country's population of around five million people is estimated to be 50% Christian, 25% Muslim and 35% Animist. [A typo causes this sum to be 110%. The true value for the Muslims should be 15%. - EL] A high proportion of Muslims live in the north. But many experts caution against over-simplified narratives of 'Christian versus Muslim' and question claims of possible genocide.

Central African Republic Situation UNHCR Regional Update 42, summarizing the situation as of December 5, 2014, the first anniversary of the retaking of the capital, Bangui, by the anti-Balaka militia who drove the Séléka forces out, brings the matter more current:

A year after the anti-Balaka militia overran Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, more than 854,000 people, or nearly one-fifth of the country's population of 4.5 million, remain displaced – including 430,000 IDPs and over 424,000 refugees in the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo. On 5 December last year, Bangui and the town of Bossangoa, until then in the hands of the rebel Seleka movement, fell to the anti-Balaka, further escalating the violence and the displacement crisis. The CAR situation remains one of the world's largest humanitarian crises, yet it is at risk of becoming overshadowed by other pressing crises if more support is not provided.

To summarize, Séléka forces were rebelling against the government in Bangui headed by President François Bozizé, ultimately taking the city and establishing their own government.

Séléka forces are predominantly Muslim, from the less developed northeastern regions of the country. (In this respect, the situation is very similar to the ongoing unrest in Nigeria, which is separated from the Central African Republic by the borderlands between Cameroon and Chad.) They include poachers and smugglers, Janjaweed militia from Darfur and other forces supported by Sudan, and mercenaries.

Séléka forces use the profits from smuggling diamonds and other commodities to fund their operations. Because of their close ties to corrupt elements of the Sudanese government, officials in Khartoum, including the Sudanese president himself, receive money from the illicit activities.

The political dimensions to the conflict seem rather complicated.

First, the border between the Central African Republic and neighboring Chad crosses an oil-rich area. This is the area where the Muslim minority is from, and it is close to the border of Sudan, most especially to the border of the troubled Darfur region. So far, only Chad is exploiting the oil deposits along the Chad-CAR border, and proceeds from oil production account for up to 90% of the budget of the Chadian government. Because of the nature of the oil deposits, pumping oil on one side of the border diminishes the amount of oil that is recoverable on the other side. The Central African Republic has occasionally tried to address oil exploration and production, but government instability has resulted in new governments being installed every few years, with no real progress toward the goal of oil production. This means that, absent equal production on both sides of the border and absent an agreement between Chad and the Central African Republic regarding revenues from these oil fields, every dollar that Chad makes off the production comes, to a certain extent, at the expense of the Central African Republic.

Superimposed upon this, various factions seek to control production of diamonds and other minerals, as well as control of the smuggling routes through the region. Superimposed upon this, and growing in importance, is the religious issue, wherein the Séléka forces are mainly Muslim, with ties to and support from the corrupt Islamist government in Khartoum, Sudan, as well as to other regional players.

With this background established, we return to The Central African Republic: A Primer on the Current Crisis, by Jon Lunn, (keep in mind this information was from February, 2014; the linked BBC article is linked in the original):

While a superficial degree of calm has returned to the capital, Bangui, violence continues in many other parts of the country, with reports that Christians and Muslims are being forced to leave their homes as areas are 'cleansed' by rival fighting forces. UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon has stated that "de facto partition of the CAR is a distinct risk." Christian extremists go so far as to assert that there is no future place for Muslims in CAR. Some Muslims are now talking about northern secession and there have been unconfirmed reports that al-Shabaab 'trainers' from Somalia are now offering their services.

Thus, the Central Africa Republic is a battleground where oil, diamond and other mineral resources, as well as smuggling routes, are being fought over with interest from players within the region as well as beyond (China and South Africa are interested in the oil, and France in the oil and in some uranium deposits), but due to the existence of militant Islam and its presence in proximity to the Central African Republic, and due to the nature of the Central African Republic's demographics, typical of the region, wherein the more arid regions of the north are populated by Muslims and the areas in the forested south (which, though landlocked, is closer to the coast) by Christians and animists, it is likely the religious dimension of the conflict will grow and could ultimately become the main driver of the conflict, at least on the surface.

Antecedents: Prior Unrest in the Central African Republic

In establishing the Central African Republic's background, the International Crisis Group in its publication entitled Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State, from December 13, 2007 (pg 3 of 48), painted a gloomy picture:

The Central African Republic (CAR) is if anything worse than a failed state: it has become virtually a phantom state, lacking any meaningful institutional capacity at least since the fall of Emperor Bokassa in 1979.


The CAR has been formally independent for nearly a half century but its government only gained a first measure of popular legitimacy through free elections in 1993. The democratisation process soon ran aground due to newly manipulated communal divisions between the people living along the river and those of the savannah, which plunged the country into civil war. Through a succession of mutinies and rebellions which have produced a permanent crisis, the government has lost its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Foreign troops mostly contain the violence in the capital, Bangui, but the north is desperate and destitute, and in a state of permanent insecurity.

I should perhaps point out that the stated division "between the people living along the river and those of the savannah" roughly corresponds to a division between the Christians and animists
in the southwest tip of the CAR and the rest of the country, which is mainly Muslim. This split along religious lines is what could easily develop into the predominant problem.

Roughly a year later, the Small Arms Survey painted a similarly gloomy picture, though from a different perspective. In The Central African Republic and Small Arms - A Regional Tinderbox by Eric G. Berman with Louisa N. Lombard, December, 2008, on page viii (10 of 186 in the pdf), we have this:

The not-so-good news is that the Central African Republic remains a country in trouble. The prevalence of small arms and armed groups throughout the country, small and weak state security forces, porous borders, a tradition in Central African policy of changing governments with bullets rather than by ballots, neighbours in conflict, and the propensity of other countries' leaders to intervene militarily across borders using proxy forces are just some of the challenges facing the government and the international community.

This perspective is perhaps skewed: the Small Arms Survey itself seems to focus on weapons as a cause of violent unrest, rather than as inanimate tools of such unrest. However, as a quote from farther on in the document alludes to, there may be some substance to this perspective. Skipping down to page 39 (65 of 186 in the pdf) we find this in reference to the various non-state armed factions:

More significantly, these groups are generally armed with weapons of greater firepower and lethality than those in the possession of the state.

Typically, in the West, with governments perceived to be interested in protecting the societies they serve, the implications of having heavily-armed criminal or guerrilla groups that outgun the opposing government forces are clear: one only has to look at the heavily-armed cartels in Mexico to see how not just public safety but even state security can be challenged by groups that outgun the authorities.

A government that is weak in military/police power, as well as being weak in authority in general, creates a de facto power vacuum which attracts criminal and terrorist groups who then use the territory of that state as a base. And, as we continue in Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State, from December 13, 2007 (pg 3 of 48), we find that such a weak central authority is exactly what the Central African Republic has long had:

By privatising the state for their own benefit, the CAR's leaders are able to prosper, while using repression to ensure impunity. François Bozizé was brought to power in 2003 by France and Chad and democratically elected two years later but, like his predecessor Ange-Félix Patassé, he has provoked a state of permanent rebellion with disastrous humanitarian consequences. Since the summer of 2005, the army and particularly the Presidential Guard – essentially a tribal militia – have committed widespread acts of brutality in Patassé's north west stronghold. Hundreds of civilians have been summarily executed and thousands of homes have been burned. At least 100,000 people have fled to forest hideouts, where they are exposed to the elements.

Such abuse of government authority motivates those who are abused to rebel, to support those who rebel, or at least to remain neutral and not help government security forces which are sent to deal with rebellion or unrest. Often, and as happened in the CAR, rebel groups seek not to right the wrongs, but merely to win their own opportunity to be in power and profit thereby; as mentioned above in the general introduction to Africa, use of the word "corruption" implies a system to be corrupted, but in these kinds of circumstances, corruption itself is the system. Thus, we understand what happens when we see a description such as the one given in Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State, (pg 25 of 48):

However, all armed opposition in the CAR has been driven by its desire to acquire control of the state to advance its own personal interests rather than any specific political agenda.

As we see in Central African Republic: Untangling the Political Dialogue from December 9, 2008, page 2, such attitudes of seeking to gain the upper hand in order to retain or gain power to benefit one's own group, rather than seeking to settle differences equitably, permeated efforts to address the previous violence:

Yet, as all the actors on the Central African political scene admit, the dialogue is no more than a semblance of reconciliation, a façade that masks each player's second thoughts. "It is a fantasy that we cultivate, in the hope of attracting the support of the international community, while waiting for the right moment to seize power, if necessary by force", explains a former senior figure in the current regime now in the "radical opposition", speaking anonymously.2 In similar vein, the CAR's head of state appears to have no illusions about what he describes as "an endless process – trip after trip to Libreville, merely to encounter a fresh obstacle each time".3 And the regional mediator, Gabon's president, Omar Bongo, no longer bothers to hide his exasperation with "Bozizé's obstructiveness".4

More insight into the thinking behind the lack of good-faith negotiations comes from the next page of Central African Republic: Untangling the Political Dialogue:

President Bozizé has never made any secret of his mistrust of an inclusive political dialogue, which he sees – not without reason – as essentially a trick by which his political enemies hope to overthrow him without the risk of incurring the opprobrium of the international community. The head of state sees the inclusive dialogue as no more than "a pretext for gangsters, presenting themselves as the opposition, who seek to seize presidential office with the support of the international community".8 In practice, this position reduces to nothing the political negotiating space that the inclusive dialogue is supposed to provide for.

These attitudes resulted in negotiations during previous years that were totally unfruitful. While the open hostilities may diminish for a time, it was clear that no problems would be truly solved. Rather, the situation would remain smoldering and potentially explosive, awaiting only the right spark to ignite it. And, given the Central African Republic's location on the edge of the Sahara/Sahel, which has essentially become a highway of criminality and the exchange if Islamic extremist ideas, and in particular the CAR's proximity to hotspots such as Darfur and South Sudan, and its contiguous border with Islamicist-controlled Sudan, whose president and certain key officials are under indictment by the International Criminal Court for instigating violence in the region, it is just a question of time before something spills across the border and detonates the situation.

This potential is introduced in Central African Republic: Anatomy of a Phantom State (pg 4 of 48):

The only misfortune the Central African Republic (CAR) still lacked was a major crisis on its borders. However, during spring 2006, the conflict in Darfur made itself felt in the CAR, Central Africa's weak link, the only country in the region that does not produce oil, a phantom state that haunts a territory of 623,000 sq. km (slightly larger than France, slightly smaller than Texas), with large areas covered by tropical forests and a population of only 4.2 million.

The totality of the situation is summarized in Heritage Foundation Issue Brief 4127 U.S. Response to Chaos in the Central African Republic by Charlotte Florance and Brett D. Schaefer, dated January 15, 2014:

Since the 1960s, CAR has grappled with coups d'état, corruption, and poor economic and political governance. It is one of the world's least developed nations, ranking 180th out of 185 countries in the U.N. Human Development Index. Poor governance has allowed foreign fighters to operate in CAR, including Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, which has undermined the government's authority and exacerbated real and perceived grievances.

This weakness, then, causes the Central African Republic to be not so much a nation as an internationally-defined piece of real estate which can and does serve as an arena for unrest to occur and for regional players to compete.

And, trouble in the Central African Republic may be connecting to Nigeria's situation with Boko Haram, and to other situations in Africa, resulting in a regional jihad.

One Man Is As Good As Another: Prelude

General Introduction to Africa

Prior to addressing the situation in the Central African Republic in particular, it is worth offering a few words about Africa in general. Unlike the rest of this series, this introduction will not be sourced; if you have any questions about the information presented in this first part, you will simply have to research particular facts yourself. The rest of the document connects information from numerous sources, and the sources are cited and linked for easy reference.

Africa is a land of ancient civilizations, though these civilizations did not advance technologically as far as Europe did. Also, as with civilizations in other parts of the world, many of them collapsed long before Europeans ever arrived to explore the continent. Consequently, when Europeans began to explore Africa, they came way with an impression of a continent that was very remote, backwards and uncivilized.

For example, the city of Timbuktu became in English synonymous with a place that is so hard to get to, it is essentially at the end of the world. From a European perspective, this was accurate: centuries ago, to get there, one had to journey by sea in a ship powered by sail from Europe to the coast of Africa; then, one had to go upstream along the Niger River, through jungles and across desert and arid lands, to arrive there. For a European, Timbuktu was one of the most remote cities known.

However, from an African perspective, Timbuktu was a crossroads. Caravans of camels came across the Sahara Desert from the Mediterranean coast of Africa, from Egypt and the Nile River Valley, and from as far away as Arabia and Southwest Asia. Meanwhile, goods came up from the jungles along the West African coast to the south and west. In the market places of Timbuktu, one could buy precious metals, dates from the Middle East, tropical fruits from Africa's coast, livestock and slaves. In fact, while many know of the slave trade moving black Africans to the Americas, few realize that Arab slave traders over the centuries took, by some estimates, as many as 18 million black Africans as slaves, both by caravan and by sea from ports on Africa's east coast; even fewer realize that, to a significant extent, this slave trade continues to this day.

Just as the people of the British Isles used the seas for trade, so did the people of Africa use the Sahara Desert and the region bordering the Sahara, called the Sahel - a region so named because it looks like a beach or seashore, with sparse grass in an arid, sandy land along the "coast" of Africa's great sea of trade, the Sahara.

Many Americans may think of the Sahara and the Sahel as barriers to the movement of merchandise and of people, but modern transportation, with light duty trucks now widely used, have caused the region to continue as a sea of trade for Africa. Now, though, illicit trade is widespread, with an international black market in heroin from South Asia, cocaine from South America, arms from Eastern Europe and elsewhere, and even slaves from Europe and black Africa supplanting in importance the age-old commodities.

Many Americans have an image of Africa as a land of famines, desertification, countries run by corrupt regimes headed by "strong men", and civil wars and unrest. The news stories that come out of Africa seldom feature the success stories, about stable countries with peaceful transitions in power after fair elections, about development of licit economies and the growth of cities. For example, did you know that Nigeria has a film industry known as "Nollywood", now the second largest producer of movies in the world?

To be sure, though, Africa has had its share of instability, including famines, wars, coups and outright genocides.

Most of Africa had been under colonial domination from the late 1800's until after World War II. In fact, at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, Africa was divided up by the European powers. The divisions were made without respect to local ethnic boundaries, and were based on relatively rough reports about significant geographic features. One key aspect to the division of Africa was that it occurred peacefully in Berlin, not militarily in Africa, and this was deliberate: the white Europeans did not want to be seen by the black Africans to be fighting among themselves. It was feared that if Africans saw that Europeans were vulnerable to each other, Africans might get the idea that Europeans could be vulnerable to black Africans, and this could result in uprisings, making life difficult for the colonial masters. In the event, African armies were raised to fight Europe's wars in both world wars.

European powers generally abandoned their African colonies in a rather hurried manner after World War II. The French and to a larger extent the Portuguese got chased out after wars of national liberation. France, exhausted after World War II and years of Nazi occupation, then by a long war in Indochina, saw the writing on the wall after a colonial war in Algeria. Portugal fought quite hard to maintain its position in what is now Angola and Mozambique. The British Empire, however, essentially turned its colonies over and left.

Of these countries, the French have arguably the worst reputation for continuing to meddle in African affairs. For example, there is the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, about which I have written extensively at my blog, wherein then-President Sarkozy used French military power to install his friend and IMF frontman Alassane Outtara as president, in violation of Ivoirian law. Deposed Ivoirian president Laurent Gbagbo, accused of various crimes, was declared to be a "strong man" and handed over to the International Criminal Court under indictment; however, evidence that was at least as credible regarding comparable atrocities committed by Outtara's supporters was ignored. Of significance to the topic at hand, however, is persistent French meddling in the Central African Republic, which is to a significant extent a giant multi-player chessboard, especially for France and neighboring Chad and Sudan, as well as a spillover battleground for hostilities from Sudan and the Congo.

Consequently, most African nations were essentially born in a hurry during the Cold War.

It is dangerous to overgeneralize about any topic, but especially so when dealing with Africa.

That notwithstanding, it is fair to say that most transitions of power in African nations occur as a result of a coup or of a civil war. Ancient customs that were widespread in Africa of deciding things through discussion to build consensus have given way to winner-take-all politics, wherein might makes right, and where an electoral majority, however narrow or dubious, provides an excuse for exercise of power, typically in favor of those who have it and at the expense of those who don't. Use of the word corruption would imply that there is some kind of system that has been corrupted; generally, in Africa, corruption is (or at least has been) the system.

In Africa, generally, people have identity based on their families, which are extended far, far beyond an American "nuclear" family, and families care for their members; this has lent itself to African leaders calling upon wealthy countries, mainly America and European nations, to send aid to Africa, with comparisons of the Americans and Europeans being like the parents, and Africans being like the children. However, since so many African governments have run their countries as a means of generating personal wealth for the rulers, their families, clans and ethnic groups, the result is that it is probably fair to say that for every dollar in aid sent to Africa, at least one dollar was misappropriated into the personal bank accounts of African leaders held outside of Africa.

Africa is rich in natural resources, including diamonds and precious metals, and now including oil. Also, Africa is a rich continent agriculturally, well able to produce food for its people. However, the prevalence of government corruption and oppression, armed groups seeking to depose governments, bandits, smugglers, and now terrorists, has resulted in wars, civil wars, coups, and instability. Because of this, many Africans are refugees, having left their own countries to cross a border into another, or are classified as "internally displaced persons" (IDP's), people who are refugees but who remain within the borders of their own nation. It is common, especially in the Central African Republic today, for people to have left the villages and towns to live in the forests and jungles; by hiding out here, they avoid being victimized by armed men who seek to conscript young men into armed groups or for forced labor, and who seek to rape women and girls. This has an impact on agricultural production, and the decreased agricultural output in turn results in famine. Wars have often brought epidemics of disease with them, and Africa is no exception, being unable to effectively deal with malaria and AIDS; the infrastructure was never as strong as it could have been, has been devastated by extensive armed violence and corruption, and is now deprived of resources which are devoted to war.

In recent decades, organizations seeking to provide aid to the people of Africa have found themselves in a dilemma. The aid they send often gets taken by the armed group which controls the area where the aid is delivered. Thus, international medical personnel often become the medical corps, and international food aid agencies the quartermaster, for a warring faction. This causes some agencies to suspend aid, while others are willing to continue the aid, believing that the help that does get through to the people in need justifies what could be construed as a deal with the devil. However, it is often acknowledged that, without all this international aid and humanitarian assistance, Africa would be unable to sustain the many ongoing armed conflicts that it has at any given time. For their part, the aid agencies are able to capitalize on the unrest for fundraising: a celebrity touring an area subjected to armed violence and meeting with victims gets free coverage by news services, and this results in free advertising and an increased flow of money to the aid agencies working that area.

It is in this context that we examine instability in the Central African Republic, a country located in a part of Africa that had been dominated by the French during the colonial era.

Note that throughout this series, numbers in superscripts within quoted passages refer to footnotes in the original; refer to the original document, which is linked, to see the footnote.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wherefore By Their Fruits, Part 1

It was not my intention to write about this, but military operations have begun, this will end neither well nor soon, and this ties in to other series I am writing, so here begins another series. :)

As you of course know, after high-profile beheadings of Western journalists, multinational operations have begun against the self-proclaimed Islamic State or IS, known among Western governments as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL, and known among Western media as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

There has been much debate over which name to use. The term Islamic State is not commonly used in the West, which leaves the debate between ISIS and ISIL. For a variety of reasons, the media has settled on ISIS, and that will be the term I will use in this series.

Some of the discussion over which name to use is significant, however. By calling itself simply "the Islamic State", the group has doubled-down on its establishment of a caliphate, basically making a unilateral claim to lead the world's Islamic terrorist movement in battle against all infidels. While many other terrorist groups around the world have expressed support, including Boko Haram of Nigerian fame and Abu Sayyaf of the Philippines, ultimately, if all these guys get their way and start collectively defeating world infidel forces (to include all the apostate Muslim forces from countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia), there will have to be a decision as to who will really lead the jihadists. It is obvious to me that, amid many uses of the word "takfir" (apostate), such a decision would be arrived at violently.


Basically, Al Qaeda had two horses in the Syrian civil war race: the Al Nusrah Front, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, ISIS left the Al Qaeda fold to go it alone. From The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, page 16 (28 of 81 in the pdf; numbers in superscript refer to notes - in cases where I have not reproduced them, see the original):

While ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front attract media attention because of their al-Qaeda affiliation, past or still existing, the other fighting factions in Syria deserve attention regarding their ideology and makeup as "moderate" forces, possible counterweights to al-Qaeda. The Syrian Islamic Front is the biggest alliance of salafi-jihadis, and, while many would like to see them as "moderate," they are committed first to defeating Assad's troops and then to creating an Islamic state, as opposed to al-Qaeda which is committed first and foremost to global jihad.

So in other words, the differences among the factions boil down to this: 1) Al Qaeda wants to go on a global jihad; 2) ISIS has by its name "The Islamic State" declared itself a caliphate, and now wants to go on a global jihad; 3) the "moderates" want to depose the current Syrian government of Assad, then declare an Islamic State, then expand their jihad on to other targets.

The very next paragraph explains how this Islamic state would work. Continuing with The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, page 16 (28 of 81 in the pdf):

Aron Lund's recent comprehensive reporting for Syria in Crisis32 notes that the Islamic Front wants "to establish an independent state where God's merciful law is sovereign and where the individuals of this state enjoy justice and a dignified life." It spurns the term "civil state" (dawla madaniya) as misleading and rejects democracy and parliamentary rule. They appear to be envisioning "a republican theocracy supervised by religious scholars where there is some degree of political competition within sharia-compliant but otherwise modern institutions and where the role of politicians is to administer a strict application of sharia rather than to make laws of their own."

In other words, there will be dictatorship by a small group of individuals who will decide what is Islamic and what is not, and membership in the group can be expected to change, and the group itself may be replaced with other groups.

It is not difficult to imagine that this will happen not democratically, since democratic processes are generally spurned, but rather by the will of Allah, which will naturally manifest itself in a violent manner as internal politics becomes a matter of convincing a strong enough faction to make takfir (apostate) out of the targeted faction.

However, this process of extremists declaring each other takfir has resulted not only in a great deal of violence within and among extremist groups; it has also alienated many Muslims. Skipping back in The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, to page 13 (25 of 81 in the pdf):

Al-Zawahiri, from his refuge in Pakistan, has belatedly realized that the militants' increasing ferocity and widespread practice of takfir (declaring other Muslims infidels) is not winning over the Muslim world.23

To understand better the relationship between ISIS and Al Qaeda's Al Nusrah Front, as well as the relationship between these two and other Sunni militant groups in Syria, we skip ahead in The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, to page 18 (30 of 81 in the pdf):

The Al Nusrah Front (Jahbat al-Nusrah) is directly subordinate to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The rival ISIS, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, despite its resurgence in Iraq, is being run as a renegade operation since al-Baghdadi defied al-Zawahiri's leadership. These two al-Qaeda branches have an estimated 6,000-7,000 operatives,36 and new recruits are continuing to arrive in large numbers. The other salafist rebel groups in Syria total about 100,000;37 thus the proportion of fighters with formal al-Qaeda loyalty is comparatively small. There are many groups who are on record as disavowing al-Qaeda, but that adhere to the salafi-jihadi objectives, adding to the complexity of predicting the strength of al-Qaeda as a distinct ideology, network, and organization.

This would support the view that al-Qaeda is divided effectively from other jihadist groups in Syria. Thus, not only is it at war with the regime and those who follow the Shia traditions, but is also at variance to other radical Sunni groups. In addition, even those who directly share its ideology are split into two factions. This may indicate that there are limits to its ability to influence events. However, in combination with its resurgence in Iraq, it is clear that al-Qaeda is again a major force.

The analysis of that paper had its focus on Al Qaeda. However, since then, ISIS has come to the forefront.

What distinguishes ISIS from the other groups, then, is this: 1) unlike the other Sunni groups, the so-called "moderate" forces, ISIS feels it is ready to take on the entire world, both infidels and takfir alike, beginning right now; 2) unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS has gone ahead and declared itself a caliphate, seizing and claiming territory as a base for the jihad against the rest of the world; and, 3) unlike Al Qaeda, which is trying to profit from lessons about how past atrocious behavior alienated potential supporters, ISIS seems bent on behaving as atrociously as Allah wills.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Commanders of the Faithful, Part 3

In Part 1 we began looking at how mosques are actually considered, by leaders in the Muslim world, not just as places of worship, but as centers of political and even military activity. In Part 2 we looked at money, and considered how it snakes its way in to the campaign coffers of political leaders, seeing in particular how Barack Obama and George W. Bush had both received financial support from the Middle East. Towards the end of the post, I wrote:

Once these guys start laundering money to a campaign, there are all kinds of ways to do it. Some foreign billionaire sends a few million to some associates in the US. That money goes to US citizens. Those citizens then have a list of campaigns, PACs and other entities to donate to; these PACs and entities know who they have to pass the money on to, or how it has to get spent. Sometimes, these middlemen keep a small cut for channeling the money.

A little farther on, near the end, we finished with one quote and added a little analysis:

After years of practice, and using methods pioneered by Islamic terrorist groups, they are very, very good at making money vanish.

Notice the last author's comments, about how the left uses the same methods to finance elections that Islamic terrorist groups use to finance holy terror.

We now begin to consider foreign influence coming from another direction, and moving to another destination. Specifically, we look at how foreign powers which, though our allies, have connections that are questionable (to say the least), and how they generate support in Washington.


You may recall the unrest in Egypt in recent years. As part of the "Arab Spring", long-time ruler of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, resigned, and during elections supervised by the military, Mohamed Morsi was elected to replace him in June, 2012. By November, Morsi, who had been a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood until his resignation from that organization upon assuming the presidency, established himself as essentially a dictator, granting himself unlimited powers to protect Egypt.

By June 30, 2013, the first anniversary of Morsi's election, Morsi was quite unpopular, and protests erupted demanding his resignation. The military intervened on behalf of the protesters, and in early July Morsi was forced out.

So, for about one year, from the end of June, 2012, until the beginning of July, 2013, Morsi was president of Egypt, and for much of that time ruled basically as a dictator.

It was during this time that an important vote came up in the Senate regarding a legislative amendment that would stop the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft and M1 tanks to Egypt. The amendment was defeated, meaning the sale and delivery could go forward.

In January, 2013, with Morsi - who had been a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood until he resigned to become president of Egypt - still firmly ruling Egypt with near-dictatorial powers, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was speaking in the Senate in favor of the amendment that he had introduced to stop the arms transfer. From US Senate Shoots Down Bid to Halt Sales of F-16s, Tanks to Egypt, January 31, 2013:

( – The U.S. Senate Thursday defeated an amendment that aimed to prevent the Obama administration from transferring F-16 fighter aircraft and Abrams tanks to an Egypt in disarray.

A vote to block the measure proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – an amendment to the debt limit bill – passed by a 79–19 vote.

In a strongly worded floor statement, Paul questioned the wisdom of providing the sophisticated weaponry at a time when "many see Egypt descending into chaos."

He based his argument on the Egyptian government's conduct, President Mohammed Morsi's expressed radical views, and the possibility that the weapons could be used in a future conflict against Israel.

Every Democrat in the Senate voted in favor of proceeding with the sale.

On the surface, the logic behind allowing the sale to proceed seemed to make some sense. Skipping down in US Senate Shoots Down Bid to Halt Sales of F-16s, Tanks to Egypt:

Rejecting Paul's amendment, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) characterized it as simplistic, short-sighted and potentially harmful to U.S. interests.

"Would that this amendment was as simple as the junior senator from Kentucky described it," he told senators after Paul had spoken. "His amendment would hinder our military assistance program, licenses for commercial sales of all major military equipment, including aircraft, ships, tanks, armor, parts and so on.

"It would mean a loss of thousands of American jobs. We'd incur more than two billion dollars in contract-termination penalties for U.S. taxpayers," Leahy said.

"But we'd also put at risk our access to the Suez Canal, the over flight by the U.S. Air Force over Egyptian territory, cooperation in the Sinai, Gaza, Syria, our emphasis and our ability to keep the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement going.

"Do I have problems with the way the Morsi government is going? Certainly," he said. "But removing our ability to be involved, with keeping that peace agreement and our ability to influence those – this is not the way to do it."

But, we were still looking at arming the military of a nation that borders Israel, one which the Muslim Brotherhood had just taken over, and one where a new Islamist constitution had just been passed in a referendum.

To be sure, in reviewing reports from that time frame, it is my distinct impression that the Egyptian military was actually a fairly strong ally of the United States. Ultimately, it was the Egyptian military the ousted Morsi, and replaced him with a leader that was far more... I hate to use the term "moderate", but he is a guy who does not support the Muslim Brotherhood.

Presumably, Senators had access to material, both classified offical information, and unclassified information, including that available to the general public, which would allow their staffers to consider this; presumably, Senators looked not just at Morsi, but at the Egyptian military, its leaning, and its ability to influence internal Egyptian politics, before signing off on the sale.

However, I still have concerns about the Democrats in the Senate voting to ship sophisticated arms to the military of a nation that was at the time dictatorially ruled by a de facto leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

How does a Senator really get influenced to go forward with such an arms sale? Obviously, there are many factors, but not the least of these is money from the country receiving the sophisticated arms.


The Glover Park Group is a registered foreign agent of the Government of Egypt.

Their job includes supporting Egyptian government communications with the US government, the business community, non-governmental audiences and the media.

The Glover Park Group has an affiliated political action committee.

This political action committee gave $1500 to Senator Mark Udall (D - Colorado) in June, 2012, shortly after Morsi came to power in Egypt.

This same PAC also gave another $1000 to Senator Udall in March, 2013, after Udall had supported the sale of these high-tech weapons to Egypt.

Senator Mark Udall raises big money. Over half of his money is itemized individual contributions, but when one factors in smaller individual contributions, which do not have to be itemized, you realize nearly three-quarters of his money comes not from PACs, but from individuals.

However, in this cycle alone, he has raised over $2 million from PACs. It's not surprising he is listed in a July, 2013, article as among the top ten recipients of lobbyists' money.

Speaking of lobbyist money in Mark Udall's campaign coffers, Senator Udall has also received $2000 from JSTREETPAC, a PAC associated with J Street, an organization which supports dialogue over confrontation and diplomatic solutions over military solutions, especially in regards to Israel and the Middle East.

While I personally agree that diplomacy and dialogue are favorable to war, it is my opinion that if Israel were to unilaterally commit exclusively to diplomacy and dialogue, the Islamic Arab states that surround Israel would overrun and destroy that nation quite quickly, as they have so often tried to do in the past.

I find it interesting that JSTREETPAC, which supports dialogue and diplomacy, gave money to a Senator who voted to send sophisticated weapons to Egypt when Egypt was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, and when the Muslim Brotherhood was pushing through a draft of an Islamist constitution.

By order of the Prophet (peace be upon him), stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Trivia, Part 3

In Part 1 we began by reviewing old news about how Rupert Murdoch's media empire used intrusive and illegal means to spy on celebrities in the United Kingdom. We then fast-forwarded to the then-breaking scandal whereby Hollywood celebrities were finding very personal photos appearing in public. We next began reviewing how cell phones work, with an eye towards establishing that basically any use of a cell phone can compromise personal material and information. We saw how cell phone towers can be disguised, and we looked at transportable cell towers, which are used to temporarily restore coverage when towers are out. Finally, we looked at reports about devices called "interceptors" and how they are used to spoof cell phones and access information they should not be able to access.

In Part 2 we looked more in-depth at the definitions of 3G and 4G cell phone technology, and saw just how portable legitimate cell phone "towers" can be - they can fit in the palm of your hand. Then, we looked at portable devices that could be used to spoof cell phones, and saw one that wears kind of like a bullet-proof vest under an overcoat. We finished by seeing that, with these concealable interceptors, it was possible to identify a cell phone belonging to a certain person, locate it, and then jam it or intercept the signals for the purposes of surveillance or spoofing, all without the cell phone operator even knowing.

The security breaches used by means of introduction in Part 1 centered on Apple products. It may therefore be worthwhile to review some relatively recent news about technology that specifically spies on Apple equipment.

At the end of last year, the German news magazine Der Spiegel ran an article entitled Shopping for Spy Gear: Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox (December 29, 2013), in which the magazine called attention to particulars concerning the United States' National Security Agency spy technology. This was when news of the NSA ANT catalog broke to the general public.

It should be noted that this topic is of particular importance in Germany, especially since the story broke that the United States intelligence community collects intelligence on our ally Germany. Particularly noteworthy in the the scandal is the fact that the United States was caught spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel herself.

According to the highly-classified catalog mentioned above, as of six years ago today the NSA had in development something called DROPOUTJEEP, which was described as (I have included explanatory notes and links in [brackets]):

a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic. camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control, and data exfiltration can occur over SMS [short message service] messaging or a GPRS [general packet radio service] data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted.

The catalog explains that the implant had to be installed via "close access methods", but that a "remote installation capability" would be pursued.

In my opinion, it is a safe bet that this been fielded, including with the "remote installation capability", in the intervening six years.

Another software implant that was underdevelopment six years ago, and is likely fielded and improved today, is the GOPHERSET, which pulls information from the target's SIM (subscriber identity module) card, and texts it out to the person who is doing the spying.

In fact, the Interactive Graphic: The NSA's Spy Catalog gives a nice overview of the NSA-advertised capabilities as of the time the catalog was created:

Cell Phone Networks

When it comes to monitoring and tracking mobile phones, the NSA's ANT division has an entire range of products on offer. These include everything from specially equipped mobile phone models that make it possible to physically track another mobile phone, to fully equipped GSM base stations capable of masquerading as a network operator's official mobile phone antennas, and thus monitor and record conversations or text messages from mobile phones within their range. One only has to think of the alleged tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone for examples of their potential uses. Several of these specialized mobile phone base stations also have the capability to determine the exact location of any mobile phone user within their range. Then there is a device called "CANDYGRAM" -- referred to by the ANT technicians as a "telephone tripwire" -- which sends a text message to a command center as soon as certain mobile phone users enter its range.

There is also CROSSBEAM, which records voice data and sends it to the guy doing the spying - a wiretap for the on-the-go cell phone generation:

The extensive capabilities that the NSA has fuel the ongoing scandal in Germany, where government officials and ordinary citizens are outraged that the NSA targets Germany with them. An excerpt from NSA, GCHQ have secret access to German telecom networks – report provides background on these capabilities:

US and UK intelligence services have secret access points for German telecom companies' internal networks, Der Spiegel reports, citing slides created in the NSA's 'Treasure Map' program used to get near-real-time visualization of the global internet.

The latest scandal continues to evolve around the US' NSA and the British GCHQ, both of which appear to be able to eavesdrop on German giants such as Deutsche Telekom, Netcologne, Stellar, Cetel and IABG network operators, according to Der Spiegel's report based on material disclosed by Edward Snowden.

The Treasure Map program, dubbed "the Google Earth of the Internet," allows the agencies to expose the data about the network structure and map individual routers as well as subscribers' computers, smartphones and tablets. The German telecoms had "access points" for technical supervision inside their networks, marked as red dots on such a map, shown on one of the leaked undated slides, Spiegel reports, warning it could be used for planning sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Notice that both the US and the UK are involved, with the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) mentioned.

Five powerful countries of the English-speaking industrialized world routinely share signals intelligence data - including communications intelligence - via the Five Eyes program, described in some circles as "the most powerful espionage alliance in world history."

It is worth recalling that we established in Part 1 that Rupert Murdoch's media empire had been intruding into the lives of celebrities in the United Kingdom using a variety of means, including by bribing law enforcement officers in order to gain access to restricted cell phone tracking information.

With that in mind, it is interesting to consider all the capabilities the NSA was advertising it had in its 48-page catalog as of several years ago, when the catalog was leaked. These capabilities are presumably now in the hands of law enforcement throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - the Five Eyes program's member countries - and one can similarly assume that the intelligence agenies of the United States at least, if not of other Five Eyes countries as well, have by now even more advanced capabilities.

With all this capability in the hands of all these people - who can be bribed or coerced, and who make mistakes - is there any real expectation of security and privacy as one uses one's cell phone to text a message or take a picture?

More to follow...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mary Landrieu and Democrat Clout

Republican Bill Cassidy is leaving Louisiana's 6th Congressional District seat to run against incumbent Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu.

This leaves LA CD 6 as an open seat; also, this means that there are a total of five Democrats, including incumbent Senator Landrieu, three Republicans, including Congressman Cassidy, and one Libertarian running for the US Senate seat from Louisiana in 2014.

In 2012, Republican Bill Cassidy won LA CD 6 with 79.4% of the vote; no Democrat was in the race. In 2010, incumbent Cassidy won with nearly two-thirds of the vote against Democrat Merritt E. McDonald, Sr., who had just over one third of the vote. In the past several elections, this district showed solid support for the Republican Party. We can project that this district is safe for the Republicans.

However, in 2014 there is a Democrat challenger: Edwin Edwards. Edwards, 87, is a former governor of Louisiana, the longest-serving state governor in post-Reconstruction America, and a former Congressman. Accused of corruption, ties to organized crime, receiving illegally-donated campaign money, and other crimes, Edwards was finally sent to prison in 2002, convicted of a variety of charges, including racketeering, extortion and money laundering.

While in prison, Edwards divorced his second wife, then met a woman 51 years younger than he is; the two were married six months after Edwards' release from prison in 2011. The story of Edwards' marriage to his young wife Trina is the subject of a reality show, The Governor's Wife.

In light of this background, it is interesting that Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu has skipped endorsing Edwards for the LA CD 6 race. Landrieu's dodge of endorsing Edwards as well as her dodge of explaining why she would not endorse him have played well with at least some in Louisiana.

Louisiana Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu
Official US Senate Photo

The question that comes to mind is: Why? Why would she not endorse him?

Louisiana uses a non-partisan blanket primary system which, ironically, was adopted in 1975 by then-governor Edwards. The Louisiana primary election is thus on November 4; if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then the top two candidates will compete in the general run-off election on December 6.

With two other Democrats running in the 6 CD race this year, the Democratic State Central Committee of Louisiana has already endorsed Edwards, as well as Landrieu herself. (I can understand endorsing an incumbent Senator against challengers, but I wonder how the other two Democrat candidates in the Congressional race must feel about being sidelined so the Democrats can give the ball to a convicted criminal.)

In fact, the matter has received media attention including a published list of Louisiana Democrat Central Committee members who may have been involved in endorsing a convicted criminal for Congress, along with some analysis as to why this might be happening and how it might impact the Senate race:

They know Edwards can't win, and there are other Democrats in the race. They have perfectly legitimate "outs" here; it's not necessary to endorse Edwin Edwards and bring upon themselves the shame and ridicule inherent in such a decision. They're doing it because they think Edwards can turn out the black vote in the 6th District and thus help Mary Landrieu in December. Plain and simple; they think Edwards can do it, and the Democrats in the race who are not coming off a stretch in federal prison on public corruption charges – Peter Williams and Richard Lieberman, by name – can't.

So they'll endorse a criminal in order to keep one of their candidates viable for another office. That he's a criminal doesn't bother them in the least. Wonder why that is.

We saw how Democrats governed this state for 100 years, and rampant criminality was the norm. And they're still endorsing criminals. Maybe somebody can explain how this endorsement is legitimate politics and not at the very least a looking of the other way at public corruption, but we doubt it.

If there are any Democrats in this state who don't support criminal conduct in public office, they ought to make a run at Peterson's chairmanship of the Louisiana Democrat Party. Until that time, we're going to call that a criminal syndicate disguised as a political party.

Why does Senator Landrieu not follow suit with the Louisiana Democratic Party, the organization that endorsed her, and endorse Edwards? Especially considering the suggestion that the whole reason Edwards was endorsed in a race he is believed to not be able to win is to get out the vote to support Landrieu so the Democrats can retain her in her seat in the US Senate?


Just as CD 6 seems to be quite safe for Republicans, some information suggests the entire state is leaning more toward Republicans. For example, Louisiana currently has 5 of 6 Congressmen, 1 of 2 Senators, and 7 of 7 statewide elected officeholders from the GOP; in statewide and Congressional offices, Democrats face a near shut-out. Additionally, the Louisiana Family Forum is said to report that the Louisiana legislature has over the past decade begun to vote much more conservatively on family and life issues, suggesting a trend that could work toward Republican advantage this year.

Additionally, the history of Senator Landrieu's elections sends mixed signals as far as predicting the outcome of her bid for re-election. In Louisiana's 2008 election for the US Senate, Landrieu took just over 52% of the vote in November, allowing her to win re-election without a run-off.

However, in 2002 Landrieu took 46% in the open primary, with Republican challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell coming in second with just over 27%. Landrieu then won re-election in the run-off, taking just under 52% of the vote.

What is very interesting, though, is the controversy surrounding Landrieu's first election to the US Senate, which happened in 1996. Initially, Republican Woody Jenkins took over 26% of the vote, with Landrieu taking just over 21% in the primary. This sent these two to the run-off election, where exit polls showed Jenkins ahead of Landrieu 51% to 49%. However, a late surge in Democrat stronghold New Orleans left Landrieu taking New Orleans by 100,000 votes, placing her just barely over the top statewide, with a 5788-vote margin; outside New Orleans, Jenkins had 53% of the vote.

Jenkins appealed the matter to the Senate Rules Committee, asking the Senate not to seat Landrieu, charging that her election was won fraudulently. It should be noted that 1996 was also the year Bill Clinton won re-election, and that the Senate was controlled by Republicans since the 1994 election. After a stormy 10-month investigation, the Senate let the election results stand.

More recent analysis shows that Senator Landrieu's hold on much of Louisiana may be less tenuous, but that it may also have peaked.

In this light, Senator Landrieu may be making a statement about former governor Edwards, but she may also be simply distancing herself from a convicted dirty politician whose own campaign will benefit hers by turning out voters in a race where literally every vote is expected to count: she needs the votes Edwards may bring to the polls, but can't afford to lose the votes of those who support her but not Edwards.


Scandals - however pertinent or not - seem to be a significant backdrop to this race.

For example, one scandal which seems to be getting some traction centers around Senator Landrieu's use of officially-funded transportation for campaign- and fundraising-related activities. Known in some circles as "Chartergate", the scandal has landed Senator Landrieu the nickname "Air Mary".

Apparently, Senator Landrieu racked up some $34,000 of questionable travel expenses since 2000. In response, Landrieu has promised that her staff will conduct a thorough review of her travel expenses. Then, there have been cries that the review has not been done as fast as it should have.

More significant than the concern that 11% of her total travel expenses were improperly billed, however, is the growing picture of Landrieu as a Washington insider, not someone who represents the Republican-leaning state of Louisiana. From The Scandals Are Catching Up With Mary Landrieu by Scott McCay, September 16, 2014:

But the travel scandal is a giant piece of a building narrative of Landrieu as a privileged Washington insider out of touch with the people she purportedly represents. A web ad put together by Karl Rove's American Crossroads PAC hammered Landrieu for her D.C. attachments and $2.5 million Washington mansion last month, and with Chartergate back in full flower that narrative is taking hold.

The expensive mansion in the Washington area is only part of another scandal, this one dealing with Landrieu's residency. From Judge throws out suit challenging Mary Landrieu's residency by Julia O'Donoghue, September 5, 2014:

Baton Rouge state court judge Wilson Fields dismissed a lawsuit challenging U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's Louisiana residency Friday morning after hearing approximately 45 minutes of discussion on the case.


Landrieu is Louisiana's only Democratic statewide elected official and considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. Congress up for reelection this fall. Her campaign has said attacks related to her Louisiana residency are political in nature and were never legally sound.


Landrieu listed her parents house in New Orleans as her Louisiana domicile when she qualified to run for office earlier this month. The Senator, her eight siblings and mother own the New Orleans house together, though Landrieu also owns a home with her husband in Washington D.C.

One thing Senator Landrieu says she brings to the table as an incumbent who has now spent three terms in DC, something that a challenger would not bring to the table simply because that challenger is not a three-term incumbent, is "clout". From 16 questions for Mary Landrieu by Philip Rucker, May 27, 2014:

The Washington Post: What is your argument for a fourth term? Why should the voters of Louisiana keep you there? What is the case you're trying to make?

Sen. Mary Landrieu: "The voters over 18 years have established great clout in Washington. It doesn't belong to me; it belongs to them. As chair of the energy committee, they sit at the head of the table with the gavel. As chair of homeland security, the state sits at the head of the table with the gavel. It's not easy -- you can't just be awarded those gavels. It comes with time and it comes with persistence. So I think, you know, the state has clout that it should really think carefully about before giving up. It turns into jobs and opportunities and projects and funding that comes to the state.

However, the whole "clout" thing just plays into the theme of a privileged insider, one who may be out of touch with the people of the state that sent her to Washington to begin with. Back to The Scandals Are Catching Up With Mary Landrieu for its conclusion:

George Will once said that a good scandal merely reinforces what people already believe about its subject, and the Air Mary disclosures fit nicely with that truism. Landrieu, in fact, has touted her status as a powerful member of the D.C. elite as an asset to her voters through the years. Tepid media coverage to date aside, how ironic that Louisianans tailgating at LSU or gathering around office water-coolers should be discussing that very subject as proof in their minds she's been in Washington too long.

So, does Senator Landrieu represent Louisiana in the US Senate?

Or, does she represent the Democrats?


Senator Mary Landrieu has been endorsed by the gun control crowd. The Hayride, a conservative Louisiana news source established in 2009, had this to say (September 23, 2014):

The same gun control advocacy group that has endorsed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also just endorsed Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), citing her support for gun control.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "Gun Sense Voter" group endorsed Landrieu last night because she voted for the Manchin-Toomey gun control amendment back in 2013 that Bloomberg, himself, lobbied for.

Republican National Committee spokesman Ben Voelkel called Landrieu out-of-touch with the state, opting to vote with President Obama and Bloomberg on issues like gun control.

"Law abiding Louisianans deserve to have their Second Amendment rights protected, not attacked like Senator Landrieu and her anti-gun allies have made it their mission to do," said Voelkel. "Mary Landrieu has lost touch with Louisiana, which is why she keeps supporting Washington, D.C. mandates like ObamaCare and gun grabbers like Michael Bloomberg."

A legitimate question to ask is: To what extent does Senator Landrieu represent Democrat interests instead of Louisiana interests?

Searchlight Leadership PAC is a PAC affiliated with Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada. Such leadership PACs can give money directly to candidates, but also, under certain circumstances, they can spend an unlimited amount of money to influence certain election outcomes. Having an important job as Senate Majority Leader, Reid is a big name, and brings in big money to his PAC. He can then channel this money to help other Senators get elected. By helping get Democrats elected, Reid maintains his own powerful position: first, he maintains the Democrats in the majority, thus maintaining himself as majority leader; second, since he has helped these other Democrats, they owe him favors, and this increases his power, and one favor they owe him is to support him as majority leader in the Senate (or as minority leader, should it go that way).

This PAC moves big money, and has for years. A quick look at their candidates page shows some races that Senator Reid thinks are key to holding the Senate.

However, a Democrat Senator facing a tough re-election bid in a Republican state might find that having her name on Reid's website - or even having her state marked on the map on his website - might be a little counterproductive. So, to find the money going from this PAC to Senator Landrieu in this election cycle, one may have to dig a little deeper.

In March and again in June of 2013, Harry Reid's Leadership PAC donated $5000 to Mary Landrieu's campaign.

But, it only begins there. Money doesn't just get sent from someone to Reid's PAC to some other politician's campaign; it also goes directly from that someone to this other politician's campaign. It also gets moved to other PACs and then to that other politician's campaign. When you compare the list of donors to Landrieu's campaign with the list of donors to all these PACs, and then compare the list of PACs that these donors give to with the list of PACs that give to Landrieu's campaign, you start to get the idea. :)

These politicians in Washington have a generous sampling of attorneys sprinkled in among them, and they are the ones who write these campaign finance laws. They make it complicated so the voting public cannot easily understand what is going on, but so the politicians themselves understand exactly what is happening. They make it difficult for us to follow the criss-crossing money trails, but they know exactly how to launder money through the system they themselves organized to the appropriate campaigns to keep themselves in power.


The Democrats have an agenda, and Mary Landrieu plays a key role in that agenda.

Their main goal is to keep enough of the voters of Louisiana, a state which certainly supports conservative values, in the dark or confused, that the Democrats themselves remain in power pushing their radical agenda.

And the Democrats are doing everything they can, from endorsing criminals in other races to funneling money into Landrieu's campaign, all to keep their clout at the expense of the decent people in Louisiana.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

People as Playthings, Part 3

Part 1 introduced, via an investigative report video, how the official explanation of the Amerithrax case, where weapons-grade anthrax was mailed to certain political leaders and media figures, was not the true story. I finished with this:

It seems to me the idea was not to maximize casualties among the American people, but rather, to maximize publicity about the potential for casualties. Unlike hoaxes a few years previously, this time the perpetrator did indeed have high-grade anthrax, and wanted to make sure America knew that, but without inflicting actual mass casualties, and while trying to make it look like Al Qaeda may have been responsible.

Who had both motive and opportuntity to do this?

In Part 2, we began to weave together a variety of other information, painting a picture of the connections between narcotics traffickers and terrorists, and the flow of heroin from places where it is produced along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and the United Kingdom, which is a significant destination country.

We then saw how then-recent outbreaks of anthrax among heroin users in the United Kingdom and in Western Europe were closely related to each other, and were related to no other outbreaks of anthrax among humans; in particular, the evidence suggested the heroin had been contaminated during transshipment through Turkey. In particular, we saw how one outbreak in 2009-2010 seemed connected to another outbreak in 2012, when the blog post was written, and then wondered: if the contamination occurred by accident in Turkey, why did we not hear about an outbreak of anthrax among heroin traffickers there? And, if it was just an accidental contamination, how could the very same strain of anthrax have been responsible, by accident, in two outbreaks separated by two years? (However, we do now have more information on this: there are people in Turkey who have developed a degree of immunity to contamination with anthrax by handling the material. Perhaps I will write about this at some point.)

We then considered additional information explaining how getting users to inject anthrax might be a far better method to contaminate them than trying to get them to inhale it.

I then pointed out that, in the Amerithrax case, the goal seemed to be to gain publicity while minimizing casualties: in other words, terrorization was the objective. However, using the same logic to analyze the more recent outbreaks, I concluded that it now looked like the objective was to spread the disease and cause death. This conclusion was in sharp contrast to the conclusions of officials looking into the matter.

However, others now seem to be beginning to share my concerns, as one respected blog has seen anthrax in heroin as a possible sneaky means of conducting bioterrorism. This is the concluding excerpt of Heroin's Anthrax Problem by Rebecca Kreston, August 30, 2014:

Anthrax is widely feared for its potential as an agent of bioterrorism; the media-induced panic attack that is occasionally invoked usually relies on images of shadowy terrorist cells spraying spores from planes above cities or perhaps into malls filled with aimless shoppers. However, this frightful microbe's recent entry into our communities was far more insidious and unexpected, relying on an altogether different type of illicit network that spreads harm.

I find this quite interesting, considering the increased use of heroin in the United States.

First we might want to consider some background that I believe can be found elsewhere here at my blog, but which, in any case, I have come across during my research and which is pertinent.

After the invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks, poppy production there soared; it was especially big along the border with Pakistan. Furthermore, whereas previously poppies had to be transported to some place such as Turkey for refining into heroin, after the invasion refining of heroin began to be done in Afghanistan, right under the eyes of US and allied military forces.

On top of that, this was very high-quality heroin. It was hitting the streets in the West as high-quality heroin, and even experienced junkies were overdosing, because they were not used to the quality and purity.

We consider now some excerpts from some recent news articles.

First, from 'The meat and potatoes' of fighting drugs, September 2, 2014:

Chelsea [Massachusetts] is in the middle of a heroin epidemic. In March, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts in response to the growing opioid addiction sweeping the entire state. From 2000 to 2012, the number of unintentional opiate overdoses in Massachusetts increased by 90%, he said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it's happening all across America. The demand for heroin is reaching unprecedented proportions -- fueled in part by a growing number of people who get hooked on prescription painkillers and soon need a cheaper way to get high.

Like heroin, the painkillers morphine, methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone are all opioids and have a similar effect on the nervous system.

Heroin, however, is cheaper to get and easier to find.


From Southeast Asia or Mexico, the drugs make it into the United States, [Lt. Detective David] Betz says. The drugs are smuggled into New York, then Connecticut and Rhode Island before heading into Massachusetts and the Boston area. From there, it is a short trip across the Tobin Bridge to Chelsea. Betz says small cities often have a tougher battle against drugs than bigger cities because of lower income and resources.

This gives you an idea how extensive the growing heroin problem is becoming in the United States.

Lt. Betz is said to have mentioned Mexico and Southeast Asia as the sources. However, well over 90% of the global heroin supply has come from Afghanistan and just across the border in neighboring Pakistan, basically since the invasion. While Mexico and Southeast Asia are heroin producers, we have to question the drug distribution networks, and wonder how much of the heroin showing up in America is coming from the world's major supplying region, Southwest Asia.

According to UN World Drug Report 2014 (page X):

There is evidence that Afghan heroin is increasingly reaching new markets, such as Oceania and South-East Asia, that had been traditionally supplied from South-East Asia.

Thus, even if the heroin is "from" Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia might just be a transshipment point for Afghan heroin.

Continuing with excerpts from UN World Drug Report 2014 (pgs 28-30):

According to Indian authorities (i.e. country report submitted by India to Thirty-seventh Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Asia and the Pacific, and the reply submitted by India in response to the 2011 UNODC annual report questionnaire) heroin from South-West Asia reaches India across the India-Pakistan border and tends to be trafficked onward to destinations such as Europe, the United States and South-East Asia. These destinations are presumably more lucrative markets than India, given the relatively low price of heroin in India (reported to be the equivalent of $8.6-$13 per gram, as of 2011, compared with a range of $100-$400 per gram of heroin from South-West Asia in the United States and an average price, taken from 17 countries in Western and Central Europe and weighted by population, of $72, both in the same year).


Moreover, Indian authorities also indicate illicit cultivation of opium poppy in some pockets within India, suspected diversion of opium from licit cultivation and manufacture of “brown sugar” (also referred to as “low-quality heroin”) by indigenous groups.110, 111 Thus, it appears that the consumer market in India is mainly supplied by heroin of domestic origin, quite plausibly derived from a minor proportion of licitly produced opium diverted into the illicit market.

And (from pg 31):

Apart from heroin originating in Latin America, heroin from South-West Asia may be reaching the North American market in larger quantities. Canada, which continues to identify Pakistan and India as being among the prominent countries of provenance for heroin reaching its market, mentioned an increase in the number of heroin seizures from couriers on commercial airlines in the latter part of 2012 and in early 2013, and reported that this could be due to a resurgence in the use of heroin across Canada, as well as possible export to other countries, such as the United States.118 However, the United States has not reported a significant flow of heroin from Canada. India and the United States both indicated that there was a flow of heroin from India to the United States; it is plausible that the flow of heroin reaching North America from India, while probably still small in relation to the size of the North American consumer market, is of South-West Asian origin (as discussed above).

Consquently, aside from an indirect impact on the heroin market from Southwest Asia, driving prices down and quality up through competition, there is a direct impact: correlating this information with other information here at the blog, heroin from regions of the world controlled by Islamic terrorist groups is reaching the United States, and the money benefits, in part, Islamic terrorist groups.

Next, with drug overdoses in Rhode Island up to 142 so far this year (not all from heroin; some from prescription drugs), New England governors joined together to put the fight against heroin on the front burner. From Governors Unite to Fight Heroin in New England by Katharine Q. Seelye, June 17, 2014:

WALTHAM, Mass. — Facing a heroin crisis that they say has reached epidemic proportions, the governors of five New England states met here on Tuesday to devise a regional strategy to combat the rise in overdoses and deaths from opioid abuse.

This is not just a problem in New England. From Low cost fuels growing heroin problem in Columbus by Mark Webber, September 6, 2014:

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- A plentiful and easy-to-get supply of heroin is creating a growing addiction problem in Columbus that law enforcement and lawmakers agree will take years to get under control.

Columbus Regional Hospital officials have noticed a significant jump in heroin abuse among patients over the past year, said Dr. Kevin Terrell, the emergency room medical director.

"We've gone from seeing 111 patients for heroin and pain pill abuse in 2009 to 169 patients in 2013," Terrell told The Republic. "With 118 patients seen for heroin and other narcotics in just the first half of 2014, we're on pace to see a large jump in drug abuse compared to last year."

This summer, the Columbus Police Department has been called to an average four to five heroin-related incidents a week, Police Chief Jon Rohde said.

The increasing numbers aren't a surprise to police.

In late 2012, local officers began recognizing they were witnessing the "calm before the storm," Columbus Police Department Lt. Matt Myers said.

So, heroin use in the United States is becoming more of a problem.

And, considering that "injectional anthrax" is a newly-coined term for contracting anthrax by injecting contaminated heroin, how long until this problem reaches America? And, when it does, will it be by accident or by design?

Back to the question I posed in Part 1, and unasked corollaries: Who had both motive and opportunity to scare the United States by mailing letters laced with weapons-grade anthrax to US Senators and media figures? Who would benefit by demonstrating an ability to cause mass casualties, without actually causing mass casualties?

Interestingly, the 2001 Amerithrax incident, in the wake of 9/11, has motivated US authorities to consider anthrax a real bioterrorism threat, as well as making them more concerned about its use as a weapon against US military forces.

As a result of this, one US company is seeing some growth.

Here are excerpts from Facility That Produces Anthrax Vaccine Moving To Mich., from September 21, 2013:

LANSING (AP) - Emergent BioSolutions Inc. is planning to open a new Michigan facility to expand production of its BioThrax anthrax vaccine to protect U.S military personnel against a leading biological weapons threat.

The Rockville, Md.-based company said it could take until 2014 or 2015 until the Lansing facility completes a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and receives certification, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Large-scale production has been a challenge and the expansion will help meet that goal, said company chief executive and president Daniel Abdun-Nabi.

"The reality is that BioThrax is the gold standard for anthrax vaccinations," said Abdun-Nabi. "The last challenge ... is to provide large-scale production."

Emergent BioSolutions announced in 2011 that the U.S. government formally ordered 44.8 million doses of BioThrax anthrax vaccine in an agreement worth as much as $1.25 billion over five years.


Anthrax "is your No. 1 threat organism," said Jeffrey Adamovicz, a research microbiologist at the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab and a former chief bacteriologist in the Army’s infectious disease lab in Maryland.

The U.S. is seeking to develop more advanced vaccines. For now, BioThrax will remain a significant part of the stockpile, said Robin Robinson, director of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's an insurance policy," Robinson said of BioThrax. "We don't know if these other vaccines are going to work."

And, in a more recent update to this aspect of the story, Emergent BioSolutions has won a contract to make a new vaccine. From Emergent BioSolutions wins $29M NIH contract for anthrax vaccine by Lindsay VanHulle, September 8, 2014:

LANSING – Emergent BioSolutions Inc. won a $29 million federal contract to make a new form of the anthrax vaccine, the company said today.

The Rockville, Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company said in a statement its five-year contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, will produce what it hopes will be the next generation of the anthrax vaccine.

Emergent is the nation's only producer of the anthrax vaccine, BioThrax, which is made at Emergent's Lansing facility on North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. About 450 worked in Lansing as of October 2013.

It was not immediately clear where the new vaccine would be made or how it might affect Lansing operations. Emergent officials could not be reached for comment.

Emergent said the contract will fund production and other non-clinical functions for an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an "investigational new drug." The vaccine Emergent wants to test is a dry version that could help it survive at warmer temperatures, which ultimately could cut the need for cold storage when shipping.

It would be made in part from BioThrax, the product made in Lansing, Emergent said in a statement.

Also, from EBS Gets Funded, HPTX Pulls Plug On Diabetes Drug Candidate, Panther On The Mend, September 8, 2014:

( - Emergent BioSolutions Inc. ( EBS ) has been awarded a five-year contract, valued at up to $29 million, by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a dry formulation of NuThrax, the company's next generation anthrax vaccine candidate. NuThrax is currently under phase II testing.

Emergent BioSolutions was founded in 1998 under the name BioPort (see Emergent BioSolutions: Company History).

The executive chairman of the board of directors is American businessamn Fuad El-Hibri, who was the CEO of Emergent BioSolutions until his 2012 retirement from that position.

Mr. El-Hibri also provides leadership to the El-Hibri Foundation which "builds a better world by embracing the universally shared values of Islam: peace and respect for diversity."

As an aside, it is interesting to look at campaign finances.

Among political donations, Mr. El-Hibri has given to President Bush's 2000 campaign. In an interesting connection with my previous two posts, Mary Landrieu and Obamacare and Mary Landrieu, Keystone Phase IV, and Louisiana, Mr. El-Hibri supported Senator Landrieu in 2002.

(In an effort to protect privacy, big black boxes block out information for other contributors and little black boxes black out Mr. El-Hibri's address in the images of this documentation.)

In fact, Emergent BioSolutions has an employee PAC, which was also a big supporter of Senator Landrieu in 2002. Once you start looking at the money trails... :)

More recently, Mr. El-Hibri supported Barack Obama in his 2004 bid for the Senate, and he supported Hillary Clinton in her bid for the Democrat Presidential Nomination for 2008.

Funny where the rabbit trails (and money trails) lead, isn't it?