Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Tragedy of Afghanistan - A Poem

The Tragedy of Afghanistan - A Poem

A poem by Theodor Fontane, translated by Gabriele Campbell.

Das Trauerspiel von Afghanistan

Snow like powder from the sky softly falls,
When before Djelalabad a rider halts.
"Who's there" - "A caval'rist from Britains army
A message from Afghanistan I carry."

Afghanistan. So weakly he'd said.
Half the town around him had met;
The British commander, Sir Robert Sale,
Helped to dismount the man who's face was so pale.

Into a guard-house they guided him
And made him sit at the fire's brim;
How warm was the fire, how bright was its shine,
He takes a deep breath, and begins to explain.

"Thirteen thousand men we had been,
When our outset from Kabul was seen -
Now soldiers, leaders, women and bairn
They are betrayed, and frozen and slain.

"Dispersed is the entire host,
Who is alive, in the darkness is lost.
A God to me salvation has sent -
To save the rest you may make an attempt."

Sir Robert ascends the castle wall,
And soldiers and officers follow him all,
Sir Robert speaks "How dense the snow falls,
How hard they may seek, they'll never see the walls.

"Like blindfold they'll err and yet are so near,
The way to their safety, now let it them hear,
Play songs of old, of the homeland so bright;
Bugler, let thy tune carry far in the night."

And they played and sang, and time passed by,
Song over song through the night they let fly,
The songs of their home so far and so dear,
And old Highland laments so mournful to hear.

They played all night and the following day,
They played like only love made them play;
The songs were still heard, but darkness did fall.
In vain is your watch, in vain is your call.

Those who should hear, they'll hear nevermore,
Destroyed, dispersed is the proud host of yore;
With thirteen thousand their trail they began.
Only one man returned from Afghanistan.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Heading off Chaos in Yemen, or Making it Worse?

Ok so one lonely maladjusted young man with $2000, a plane ticket, and PETN in his panties has now strangled the American air system. His patrons, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) hail from Yemen and there is talk of opening another front in the Global War on Terror. Should it be done? Yes, but we should watch how we tread. During the Cold War Uncle Sam made friends with a lot of tinpot dictators who we showered with cheap loans, cheap weapons, and then turned a blind eye as they used them on their own people--all in the name of anti-communism. The world became rife with the likes of Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Batista, and Noriega and we know what history has done to them. We shouldn't let that history repeat itself as we prosecute the GWoT. Our efforts have to be as much about defusing the causes of hate and anti-Americanism as it is about getting the bad guys. Food, medicine, technology, and aid should follow right behind the guns and grenades. Doctors and engineers should hit the sand right alongside the Marines and soldiers.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Who is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the wing of Al Qaeda
operating in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and is led by a Yemeni who
was once an aid to Osama bin Laden.
The group is growing in the region, especially in Yemen which
even long after its civil war remains a troublespot in the region.
AQAP is made up of groups in the two countries who merged under
Nasir Wuhaishi's leadership in January 2009.
Wuhaishi was given the job by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's
number two man. In 2006 he escaped a Yemeni prison along with
23 other Al Qaeda members. He is now one of Saudi Arabia's
most wantedmen. Under him is Abu al-hareth Muhammad al-Oufi (above left) who
has been identified as the field commander and Said Ali al-Shiri (above right),
who was in Guantanamo Bay until sent to Saudi custody and released
by them in 2007, acts as deputy leader.
The group has several hundred members and hides among the Yemeni tribes
in the eastern provinces.
Of key import to Al Qaeda is Yemen's use as a training area and crossing point
for operations in the peninsula as well as Iraq, Somalia, and East Africa.
Of the Al Qaeda off-shoot groups the AQAP is not the best funded or trained which
may have been the saving grace for the travelers on the plane on Christmas Day.
That attack has been claimed by AQAP who has said it was in response to military raids
by the Yemeni government that killed 30 al-Qaeda personnel December 17 and the American
support for the raid.
"We tell the American people that since you support the leaders who kill our women and
children ... we have come to slaughter you [and] will strike you with no previous
[warning], our vengeance is near," a statement released by the group said.

"We call on all Muslims ... to throw out all unbelievers from the Arabian
Peninsula by killing crusaders who work in embassies or elsewhere ... [in]
a total war on all crusaders in the Peninsula of [Prophet] Muhammad."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

According to the BBC: (

"Sudanese officials say their forces have shot and killed six of the kidnappers who abducted a group of European tourists in Egypt last week.

Two other suspected kidnappers have been taken into custody, but the tourists themselves remain in captivity in Chad, the officials say.

The hostages - 11 tourists and eight Egyptian guides - were taken on 19 September and are said to be unharmed.

They include five Germans, five Italians and a Romanian.

A spokesman for Sudan's military said that the kidnappers had been killed following a high-speed desert chase.

The spokesman, Sawarmy Khaled, said the missing Europeans, who were abducted in south-western Egypt but thought to have been taken first to Sudan and then to Chad."


So the good news is the bad guys are dead. The bad news: no one knows where the hostages are. Still. I'm not one to advocate torture but when there is a life in imminent danger I think there should be exceptions allowed within certain guidelines. The old adage of "stooping to their level" or "we'd be no better than they are"; while sentiments I appreciate, only serve our enemies' purposes. The only thing worse than an enemy's hatred of you is their disdain.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Marriott Attack

With the recent horrible attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad we again see a repetition of terrorists taking advantage of a change in regime. Only a few weeks after the ousting of Musharraf the new democratic government is being tested in the worst way. Attacks like the one this week only beg the question: will we see more after the US elections?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Colombia Raid

The recent successful hostage rescue in Colombia highlights an often forgotten theater in the War on Terror, South America. In terms of numbers FARC is the largest terrorist group in the world. At one time they controlled a section of the country larger than Connecticut. They not only have small arms but their narcotics money has bought artillery, helicopters, and they even tried to buy a submarine. The raid this week shows what a little bit of luck and a lot of audacity coupled with expertise and training can accomplish.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sorry its been a while

Sorry its been so long, been busy with real life.
IMHO Iran is a lot closer than to a nuclear capability than anyone realizes or admits. The balance of world power is about to shift.