Tuesday, February 27, 2007

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Cheney hears boom

Apparently Vice President Richard Cheney's surprise visit to Afghanistan was not a surprise to the Taliban:

Vice President Dick Cheney was whisked into a bomb shelter immediately after a Taliban suicide bomber struck the main American military base he was visiting in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Up to 14 people were killed, including one U.S. and one South Korean soldier, in the Bagram Airbase attack which rebels said was aimed at Cheney.

He had been in his room at the base where he had unexpectedly had to stay the night after bad weather forced postponement of his trip to the capital, Kabul, about 60 km (40 miles) away.

"At 10 a.m. I heard a loud boom," Cheney said.

Base authorities sounded a red alert and secret service officials told Cheney there had been a suspected suicide attack.

"They moved me for a relatively brief period of time to one of the bomb shelters nearby," he said. "As the situation settled down and they got a better sense in terms of what was going on, then I went back to my room until it was time to leave."

NATO's death toll in the attack was four, officials said. A Reuters photographer at the scene saw an additional 10 bodies, putting the total at 14....

"We wanted to target ... Cheney," Taliban spokesman Mullah Hayat Khan told Reuters by phone from an undisclosed location.

Given that Cheney wasn't supposed to be in Bagram at the time of the bombing, I find this statement pretty dubious.

However, for more details about Cheney's whirlwind worldwide tour, you would be hard-pressed to beat this diary by Newsweek's Holly Bailey. One fascinating vignette:

But shortly before his plane was to lift off, it began snowing. Reporters and aides who had been waiting on the tarmac for Cheney' arrival were escorted back to the base' firehouse, where they sat and waited. Within an hour came the word: the weather in Kabul made the trip too dangerous to carry on. Already considered the most risky portion of the trip— the road connecting the airport and Karzai's palace was covered in several inches of snow and would need to be cleared. The VP and his entourage would stay overnight at Bagram, in hopes of holding the meeting on Tuesday.

But where would people sleep? Cheney and his top aides quickly found accommodations on the base, but finding a place for the press and the dozens of Secret Service agents and lower level aides on the trip would prove far trickier. Just after 8:30 PM, a Cheney aide tried to escort the seven reporters on the trip to the mess hall for food. (It was taco night, the base reported.) But just a few minutes before arrival came word that the base didn't have enough food for its visitors.

Reporters were then taken to one of the few open barracks on the base and assigned bunk beds—girls in one room, guys in the other. The soldiers escorting the media were extremely apologetic and embarrassed: They had not been prepared for guests. There were no sheets, only a few blankets and even fewer pillows. They handed out Ziploc bags of socks, sweatshirts and other supplies. Eyeing the packages, reporters immediately felt guilty: these were intended care packages for the troops. One Ziploc full of socks had a label describing it as a donation from a Boy Scout troop in Michigan. ('Operation Quiet Comfort,' it said.) Another care package, full of toothpaste and other toiletries, was from the USO. "Can we really use these?" one reporter asked. In the end, the media agreed to use the care packages, but only sparingly.

Just after dawn on Tuesday morning, reporters were taken to the mess hall, where Cheney was dining with the troops. "How was breakfast?" a reporter yelled to the VP. "Breakfast was excellent," Cheney replied, in what were his first three words to the press pool traveling with him on the trip, now in its eighth day.

posted by Dan on 02.27.07 at 09:30 AM


re: cheyney getting bombed

when i heard the news this morning about cheyney getting bombed in Afghanistan, I assumed he'd had too much scotch and gone out hunting with his buddies again.


--arthur j kyriazis, philly

ps seriously, you can't eliminate all the dissidents from a mountainous country. The ottoman empire couldn't subdue Albania for 500 years or the caucasus regions. The Russians had the same problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to the mountains in the 80s. If a tank can't go there, you're going to have to eradicate the resistance on foot, and consequently, you're going to have to expend infantry in virtual one to one rifle combat, which is bloody, expensive and almost impossible to win completely and exhaustively. Likewise the Nazi's couldn't subdue the Greeks during WWII or their mountain resistance, or the Sicilian resistance, etc. Mountains are a pain in the behind to subdue for any central authority.

The only commander I know of who successfully subdued mountain peoples was Alexander the Great in his campains in Bactria and Sogdiana. A re-reading of Arrian's Anabasis might prove insightful in this regard. It's the same terrain and he was the greatest general ever to walk the earth.

--arthur j kyriazis

posted by: arthur john kyriazis on 02.27.07 at 09:30 AM [permalink]

Nonsense. There are relatively few examples of it, but that's because mountainous areas tend to be relatively uninhabited and traditionally undesireable - the populations and wealth tend to follow river valleys.

Much of what is now Pakistan was conquered and pacified by the Brits, who then recruited the inhabitants for the Indian Army. The Muslims who were living in what is now Pakistan were some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the British government during the Second World War; the Muslim units of the Indian Army went on to become the basis of the modern Pak Army.

The Balkans, widely supposed to be intractable, were similarly ruled by the Turks for centuries, and by the Hapsburgs after them. The Hapsburgs pacified Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 after a brief campaign; it didn't take decades of fighting; they even supplied troops for Austria in WWI.

The "elimination of all dissidents" is a pretty high standard, after all, the frightening totality of the language aside; if Yukio Mishima's fate is any indication, we didn't even manage that in Japan. Getting the place more or less quiet is a more plausible goal, and a more attainable one. There's no such thing as a permanent peace.

posted by: Nanonymous on 02.27.07 at 09:30 AM [permalink]

My concern is, did any of the press people who used the Operation: Quiet Comfort items that were meant for wounded soldiers, thought about the fact that a wounded soldier might go without because they used those items? Do you think any one of them thought to try to replace what they used? Appalling!

posted by: joy on 02.27.07 at 09:30 AM [permalink]

My concern is, did any of the press people who used the Operation: Quiet Comfort items that were meant for wounded soldiers, thought about the fact that a wounded soldier might go without because they used those items? Do you think any one of them thought to try to replace what they used? Appalling!

posted by: joy on 02.27.07 at 09:30 AM [permalink]

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