Fox News and the Willie Hortonization of Barack Obama

Media Matters for America has produced a video documenting Roger Ailes' Fox News assault on President Obama and the Administration.

Media Matters has also launched a Only on Fox page on their website dedicated to tracking the outlandish nonsense spouted by the radical right wingers for whom Fox provides a platform. Another website worth checking out is OutFoxed which runs with the premise that Fox is nothing more than a Republican propaganda machine disguised as a media outlet.

US Looking at Striking Pakistan

The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is reviewing options for a unilateral strike in Pakistan in the event that a successful attack on American soil is traced backed to Pakistan.

Ties between the alleged Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, and elements of the Pakistani Taliban have sharpened the Obama administration's need for retaliatory options, the officials said. They stressed that a U.S. reprisal would be contemplated only under extreme circumstances, such as a catastrophic attack that leaves President Obama convinced that the ongoing campaign of CIA drone strikes is insufficient.

"Planning has been reinvigorated in the wake of Times Square," one of the officials said.

At the same time, the administration is trying to deepen ties to Pakistan's intelligence officials in a bid to head off any attack by militant groups. The United States and Pakistan have recently established a joint military intelligence center on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar, and are in negotiations to set up another one near Quetta, the Pakistani city where the Afghan Taliban is based, according to the U.S. military officials. They and other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding U.S. military and intelligence activities in Pakistan.

The "fusion centers" are meant to bolster Pakistani military operations by providing direct access to U.S. intelligence, including real-time video surveillance from drones controlled by the U.S. Special Operations Command, the officials said. But in an acknowledgment of the continuing mistrust between the two governments, the officials added that both sides also see the centers as a way to keep a closer eye on one another, as well as to monitor military operations and intelligence activities in insurgent areas.

Obama said during his campaign for the presidency that he would be willing to order strikes in Pakistan, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a television interview after the Times Square attempt that "if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences."

Obama dispatched his national security adviser, James L. Jones, and CIA Director Leon Panetta to Islamabad this month to deliver a similar message to Pakistani officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari and the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani.

Jones and Panetta also presented evidence gathered by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Shahzad received significant support from the Pakistani Taliban.

The U.S. options for potential retaliatory action rely mainly on air and missile strikes, but could also employ small teams of U.S. Special Operations troops already positioned along the border with Afghanistan. One of the senior military officials said plans for military strikes in Pakistan have been revised significantly over the past several years, moving away from a "large, punitive response" to more measured plans meant to deliver retaliatory blows against specific militant groups.

The official added that there is a broad consensus in the U.S. military that airstrikes would at best erode the threat posed by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and risk an irreparable rupture in the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

We are already striking at Pakistan. Unmanned drone attacks have become so commonplace that they are not even reported anymore or at best reported in passing as if incidental. As of the end of April there had been 34 missile strikes, at least two every week, according to figures compiled by the New America Foundation. This compares to 53 for all of last year and 30 during the last year of the Bush Administration. In terms of fatalities, the New American Foundation reports that only seven of the 247 people in killed in strikes up until the end of April have been classified as militants or enemy combatants. If that number is accurate, that's a 2.8% hit rate.

UPDATE: Spencer Ackermann of the Washington Independent points to a new study on the efficacy of predator drone attacks in Pakistan. The forthcoming study, led by Brian Glyn Williams, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, finds that the civilian death toll from the drones is lower than most media accounts present. The Williams study which runs through the end of February 2010 finds that there have been a total of 127 confirmed CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, killing a total of 1,247 people. Of those killed only 44 (or 3.53 percent) could be confirmed as civilians, while 963 (or 77.23 percent) were reported to be “militants” or “suspected militants.” Clearly the hit rate, and thus the efficacy of the predator drone attacks, is now a matter of intense study and debate. But what also should not be lost is the deletoroius effect that the drone attacks are having on Pakistani public opinion and ultimately on US-Pakistani relations.

The New York Times also has an editorial today on the subject of US-Pakistani relations. While the whole editorial is well worth the read, its conclusion is particularly striking. The Times editorial board concludes that "changing Pakistani attitudes about the United States will take generations." Generations.

Pakistan Taliban Infighting after the Death of Baitullah Meshud

From Dawn of Pakistan:

"According to sources, commanders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the two leading contenders for the chief slot, exchanged hot words at the shura meeting in Sara Rogha over the choosing of a successor to Baitullah.

A shootout followed, leading to the death of Hakeemullah while causing life-threatening injuries to Waliur Rehman."

However, a government official in Peshawar said that both Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman had been killed in the clash.

The names of Hakeemullah, Waliur Rehman and 50-year-old Azmatullah Mehsud were shortlisted at a meeting of senior Taliban leaders from the Mehsud tribe, but a decision was put off following differences over who would succeed the slain leader.

There was no independent confirmation of the reported shooting. A Taliban commander denied that any clash had taken place.`There is a serious power struggle going on,' the government official said.

Hakeemullah had replaced Waliur Rehman as commander in Kurram. He belonged to a rival group led by Qari Hussain, widely known as the Ustad-i-Fidayeen (teacher of suicide bombers).

`I think the Haqqanis will now intervene to resolve the leadership dispute,' the official said, referring to Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of veteran Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar's point man for North and South Waziristan.

If these reports are true, then the Pakistani Taliban seem to be entering a period of fractious infighting. It's clear that the predator drone attacks are having an effect in disrupting the operations of the various Islamist groups operating in Pakistan and are causing dissension in their ranks.

The question still remains can we justify the number of civilian casualties that the reliance on predator drone engenders? While sourcing on civilian deaths is weak and unreliable with the numbers perhaps prone to exaggeration, independent reports suggest that more than 600 civilians are likely to have died from the attacks. That number suggests that for every militant killed, approximately 10 non-combatant civilians have also died. But Abdul Malik Mujahid writing in Truth Out back in May suggests that the civilian to militant kill ratio is on the order of 15 to 1.

There's more...

The Pakistanization of the Afghan War

The Los Angeles Times is reporting in a marked shift for US policy towards Pakistan that the US military has begun flying armed Predator drones inside Pakistan in partnership with the Pakistani military. Furthermore, under this new joint operation Pakistani officers have significant control over targets, flight routes and decisions to launch attacks.

For the U.S. military, the missions represent a broad new role in searching for Islamic militants in Pakistan. For years, that task has been the domain of the CIA, which has flown its own fleet of Predators over the South Asian nation.

Under the new partnership, U.S. military drones will be allowed for the first time to venture beyond the borders of Afghanistan under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working with American counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said the program was aimed at getting Pakistan -- which has frequently protested airstrikes in its territory as a violation of sovereignty -- more directly and deeply engaged in the Predator program.

"This is about building trust," said a senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the program has not been publicly acknowledged. "This is about giving them capabilities they do not currently have to help them defeat this radical extreme element that is in their country."

The Pakistanis, however, have yet to use the drones to shoot at suspected militants and are grappling with a cumbersome military chain of command as well as ambivalence over using U.S. equipment to fire on their own people.

The program marks a significant departure from how the war against Taliban insurgents has been fought for most of the last seven years. The heavy U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has been largely powerless to pursue militants who routinely escape across the border into Pakistan.

But the initiative carries serious risks for Pakistan, which is struggling to balance a desire for more control over the drones with a deep reluctance to become complicit in U.S.-operated Predator strikes on its own people.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, on a visit to Washington last week, reiterated his nation's request for its own fleet of Predators. U.S. officials have all but ruled that out, and they described the new, jointly operated flights as an effective compromise.


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