Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

After the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night, there have been widespread calls for gun control. Hillary Clinton should not be quoted or mentioned in any type of digital or printed media from this point forward. She is beyond irrelevant. A CBS executive was apparently fired for not having sympathy for all the redneck Trump supporters who were murdered at a country music concert. I feel like I need to remind 50 percent of the population (Trump lost the popular vote 65 mil to 62 mil) that we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. The population of the United States is 325 million. We are the 3rd most populated country on earth. China has 1.386 billion and India has 1.322 billion, and I cannot describe how lucky I feel to be living in the United States – even when things like this happen.

Over the last 15 hours, I’ve listened to the radio, watched television and read news articles online. I’ve pieced together, as best I can, what happened in Las Vegas last night. Jason Aldean was singing at an outdoor concert. At approximately 10 p.m., someone starting shooting an automatic weapon from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay hotel down into the crowd of concert goers. Out of apparently 22,000 people in the crowd, 59 were killed and 527 were some degree of injured. After several minutes, security guards in the hotel went to the room of the gunman. A security guard was shot in the leg. Police said Paddock killed himself before a SWAT team breached his hotel room overlooking the country music venue. Police report there being over a dozen guns in the hotel room.

So far, that’s all I know.

At this point, I think it’s important to watch this video by Paul Joseph Watson:

As much as I agree with this video, I don’t agree 100 percent. Machine guns aren’t banned. I own one. I made it myself. The ATF already knows – I sent them a form stating that I had manufactured one. Machine guns only melt silencers after 10 minutes of continual firing – read as “extremely rare.” Also, Mr. Watson mentions that the machine gun could have only been legal if purchased before 1986. This is also false. You can purchase a machine gun just as easily as you can a short barreled rifle or silencer – with a fingerprint card, passport photos, $200 and a 12-month wait for a background check. It is entirely possible that all 20-something firearms that the shooter was in possession of are completely legal – even if some are full automatic.

So there you have it. Nobody, on either “side” of this argument, is 100 percent correct. However, I will agree with Mr. Watson the majority of the time. Especially in this case, liberals are again showing that they are incredibly incompetent. The things that come out of some people’s mouth (or Facebook post or tweets) are shocking. How can they be so stupid? If you ban all guns, what happens to the 190 million guns current in circulation? They disappear? I’m dumbfounded on the internet each and everyday, but not just by liberals. I’m surprised at how soft Americans (even Trump supporters) are getting.

I want to get to the real reason for this blog post – perspective.

perspective

Here are some of the headlines I’ve seen today:

A Burst of Gunfire, a Pause, Then Carnage in Las Vegas That Would Not Stop

Las Vegas Shooting: One Minute Jason Aldean Was Rocking; the Next It Was ‘World War III

The drama that has unfolded today has been surprising. It happens after each and every mass shooting in America. The graphic below was made 12 hours ago, when the death count was 50 and not 59. However, you can see the rest of the mass shootings in the graph. The 1999 Columbine High School shooting had 13 as well.mass shootings

As terrible as it is for innocent concert goers to be randomly murdered on a Sunday night, the media needs to reel in the selective drama. “One second Jason Aldean was singing, the next it was WWIII.” In World War I, 38.8 million people were killed, wounded or went missing. A short 20 years later, World War II saw 73 million more people killed, wounded or missing. “Carnage in Las Vegas That Would Not Stop.” Do you know where in America there is actually “carnage that will not stop?” Chicago. So far this year, 519 people have been murdered in Chicago. The overwhelming majority of them are shootings. In September alone, 56 people were murdered. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the news article headlines reading, “A burst of gunfire, then Chicago carnage that will not stop” or “One minute it was a Chicago Bears game, the next minute it was WWIII?” Where’s the perspective?

The talk of assault weaponry, the term “mass” (as in more than one at a time), the misleading gun control drama that is meant to pull on liberal heartstrings needs to take a sideline to the talk on mental health and psychoactive drugs.

Recently at Florida State University, there was a shooting. Myron May, an assistant district attorney in New Mexico, went into FSU’s Strozier library and shot three people in the middle of the night. Apparently, documents from the investigation suggest that May was intent on ending the mental torment that had plagued him for months. He was consumed with paranoia and convinced he was a “targeted individual” being stalked and harassed.

The similarities between the Las Vegas shooter’s situation and May’s are weird. In this video, the shooter’s brother is completely shocked at his brother’s behavior. He claims no mental illness, no criminal record, no parking tickets, no religious affiliation, no political affiliation, he wasn’t a white supremacist or Muslim. So…why gun down 600 people and kill yourself? Gambling debt? Doubtful. Read more:

The mystery of Stephen Paddock — gambler, real estate investor, mass killer

Perhaps in the weeks to come, we’ll find out more.

Again, where is the perspective? We live in the greatest country in the history of the world. We also live in the relatively new modern age of technology – read as the easiest life for a human to have thus far. We slowly move from our air-conditioned houses to our air-conditioned cars so we can drive to our air-conditioned places of employment. There we stock the shelves at Wal-Mart or type on our computers all day while listening to Spotify or work a construction job at a $10 million company and still find the time to complain about NFL players taking a knee.

“Spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, the Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60% of Europe’s total population. In total, the plague may have reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century. The world population as a whole did not recover to pre-plague levels until the 17th century.”

Ahhhh, those were the good ole’ days. I wish people realized how absolutely easy their lives are compared to historical events. I’ll spend my entire life not having to worry about the Mongols or Vikings invading my country and killing or imprisoning me. Even though I did my time in Iraq and Africa, it was nothing compared to invading Normandy or Iwo Jima.

Where’s the perspective? Yes, it’s terrible 59 people died in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. No, it is not time to ban all guns. What we need to see more of is people talking about how poorly people reacted at the concert. In one of the videos, a lady can be heard saying, “Stay down. Don’t move.” They were laying on the ground in the middle of the wide open among tons of other people. Don’t know where the shooting is coming from? Fine. However, the deer-in-the-headlights look so many people had in the videos was terrifying. No matter where the shooter was at, hundreds of people simply laid on the ground and waited to get shot. Arguably, people were probably shot and/or killed because they laid there and did nothing.

That’s my perspective.

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By IBRAHIM BARZAK and PETER ENAV

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state headed to Cairo on Monday to try to end two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting that has killed at least 508 Palestinians and 20 Israelis and displaced tens of thousands of Gaza residents.

The new cease-fire efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry followed the deadliest day of fighting since the escalation erupted on July 8.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council expressed “serious concern” about Gaza’s rising civilian death toll and demanded an immediate end to the fighting following an emergency session.

As Israeli airstrikes continued to pound Gaza, rescue workers near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis were digging out bodies early Monday from the one-story home of the Abu Jamea family, flattened in one of the strikes overnight, said Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health ministry official.

Al-Kidra said the Palestinian death toll from the two-week offensive stood at 508 as of Monday morning. More than half of those victims — 268 — were killed since an Israeli ground operation in Gaza began late Thursday.

That total included 20 bodies that were found at the site near Khan Younis, where two people were pulled alive from the rubble, Al-Kidra said.

Elsewhere in Gaza, he said, Israeli tanks opened fire on the home of the Siyam family west of Rafah in the southern part of the strip, killing 10 people, including four young children and a 9-month-old baby girl.

“Without any warning at all they began bombarding us at midnight, at 2 a.m., said Dr. Mahmoud Siyam, the head of the family. “We are not related to any military or political activities. We are civilized people (living) in this area of Gaza, what crime have we committed?”

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it foiled a Hamas infiltration attempt on Monday through two tunnels leading from northern Gaza into southern Israel. The military said 10 infiltrators were killed after being detected and targeted by Israeli aircraft.

On Sunday, the first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forcing thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their devastated Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israel says is a major source for rocket fire against its civilians.

Palestinian medics tend to a boy who they said was wounded in an Israeli shelling, at a hospital, in …
Large sections of Shijaiyah were pulverized by a barrage of Israeli tank and artillery bombardments and repeated Israeli air strikes that buffeted the densely populated neighborhood for most of Sunday.

Speaking on national television shortly after the military announced the deaths of the 13 Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Gaza offensive would continue “as long as necessary” to end attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians.

Appearing with Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Israel expected to complete its work neutralizing the Hamas tunnels leading into Israeli territory within several days — a possible hint of a timeframe for the end of the operation.

Still, much work remains if diplomats are to succeed in brokering a sustainable cease-fire. On Sunday, Kerry said the U.S. still supports the Egyptian proposal for a halt to the hostilities that Israel accepted and Hamas rejected last week.

Hamas remains deeply suspicious of the motives of the Egyptian government, which has banned the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Hamas closely identifies with.

The 13 Israeli soldiers who died in Shijaiyah brought the overall Israeli death toll to 20, including two civilians who died from rocket and mortar fire directed at Israeli towns and villages from different parts of Gaza.

On Sunday evening, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri in Gaza claimed his group had captured an Israeli soldier. An announcement on Gaza TV of the soldier’s capture set off celebration in the streets of West Bank.

But there was no official confirmation of the claim in Israel. Earlier, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, said the Hamas claim was untrue.

For Israelis, a captured soldier would be a nightmare scenario. Hamas-allied militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid in 2006 and held him captive in Gaza until Israel traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom were involved in grisly killings, for his return in 2011.

Mr. McDonald,

Congratulations on your nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a good citizen you have agreed to take on one of the most demanding and important jobs in Washington.

As a veteran yourself you can appreciate how shaken veterans and their families are by the scandals and corruption that has been exposed throughout the Veterans Administration. I know you will agree that we owe our veterans the best care and we have failed to deliver.

Given the scale of the challenge, I hope you will not mind if, as someone who has spent nearly five decades in politics and government and has seen scores of cabinet secretaries come and go, I share a few thoughts on the position to which you’ve been nominated.

Should the Senate confirm you to this post, you will take command of the VA at the most troubled time in its history. The reports of corruption, incompetence, and corruption to hide incompetence have drawn the nation’s outrage and caused your predecessor to resign. How might you succeed at reform where so many others before you have failed?

Given your lifetime spent in business, probably you are familiar with W. Edwards Deming’s famous “Red Bead Experiment.” Deming used to carry around a bin full of red beads and white beads mixed together. He would describe to audiences his intention to gather up just the white beads, and then he would blindly plunge a scoop into the bin. To his ostensible frustration, the scoop would always emerge with a mix of both kinds of beads. Feigning disbelief, he would appoint a new person to wield the scoop. Invariably, he or she would fail as well. Then Deming would proceed to the next candidate, and so on.

The point of the Deming demonstration was to illustrate that a systems problem couldn’t be solved with new people, new slogans, and new speeches. When the system is broken, the personalities don’t matter. People will fail one after the next until the system is changed.

The range and scale of the misconduct at the VA shows that the corruption there, like the doomed attempt to isolate white beads, is not just a problem of personalities but more importantly of systems, and it goes to the very core of the bureaucracy. I have attached a map we have developed at Gingrich Productions which shows 55 VA sites with major problems. We are certain this number will grow as more parts of the VA are investigated and audited.

When you have that many places in trouble simultaneously you are not dealing with a few bad apples, a failure of a few leaders, or a need for better inspections. With that many places simultaneously in trouble, you have a system and a culture that have been corrupted and are collapsing.

The agency’s own audit found that 70 percent of VA medical facilities were using improper scheduling practices to hide long wait times by falsifying data. The wait times persist despite (or more likely because of) the fact that VA doctors see less than half as many patients as doctors in the private sector.

This is a department that has 40 percent more employees and costs 90 percent more money than it did in 2006. Operating rooms close at 3:00 pm so the union cleaning staff can leave by 5:00. Officials get bonuses no matter what their performance, apparently (though 100 percent of them were given “fully successful” performance reviews or better last year–a remarkable achievement in light of the agency’s widespread mismanagement).

It takes 175 days to transfer a veteran’s medical records from the Department of Defense to the VA. The DoD and the VA spent $1.3 billion and four years trying to build software to solve this issue before announcing in February that they had given up.

Failure this thorough points to a system–the giant, fossilized bureaucracy–that is hopelessly broken and must be replaced rather than repaired. Unfortunately, the entrenched bureaucrats, the unions, and the President, along with many others in Congress who are ideologically committed to a failed model of delivering health care, all oppose the systemic changes that could actually work.

Mr. McDonald, you are about to become the next guy holding the scoop at the VA. The prison guards of the past might write legislation to give you a bigger scoop, and then they will call the problem solved. Your job, as the new champion of our nation’s veterans, will be to focus the public’s outrage and to marshal support for real change.

Opportunities to force the kind of transformation the VA needs come along once or twice in a generation. It would be a tragic mistake if, after the enormous human pain that led to your appointment, you allowed the moment to pass.

What would systemic change look like? It would begin with enforcing the right metrics, with measuring success not by how well the Department serves the bureaucrats but by how well it serves our veterans. This would mean insisting the VA meet the standards our veterans are accustomed to as consumers in every other aspect of their lives–the world where services work and are increasingly digital, mobile, virtual, and personal.

The VA is a long way from that today, and to get there it will have to become a radically different agency with many fewer bureaucrats operating under a new set of assumptions. The fight to change the VA will be big. But the ramifications could extend well beyond your single department. The whole federal bureaucracy is broken, swollen into an unrestrained fourth branch of government. If you can harness public support to transform the current VA into a system based on choice, accountability, and efficiency, you could be setting the pattern for replacing the entire bureaucratic state with a government for the modern world.

It would be a fitting conclusion to a century plagued by bureaucracy if the renewal of American governance were to begin at the VA, a department which exemplified the system’s worst tendencies from the start. Charles Forbes, the first person to hold the position to which you have been nominated, stole tens of thousands of dollars from the bureau after World War I, as did many of his cronies. The corruption is not new, but nearly 100 years of it is enough.

I hope you will be the Secretary with the courage to demand the fundamental change our veterans need. The American people will be with you, even if many in Washington are not.

Sincerely,

Newt Gingrich

From LBEB:

Progress: it is the reason why the majority of us are in the gym every week. However you measure progress, whether you want bigger lifts, bigger muscles, less bodyfat or a faster 400m split, progress is what keeps us training day in and day out. Disregard the individuals that are going to the gym to “maintain”, that is just an excuse to not work hard. But, what if everything you put into your training doesn’t amount to a hill of beans? Here are 10 things that can indicate whether or not your programming & training is being spent wisely.

1. You don’t understand the difference between difficult and useful.
Just because something is hard to do, does not mean it is useful, or will do anything to progress your lifting career. I could spend 3 months mastering a strict muscle up, but will that really help me as a Strongman? Spend your time wisely, time is finite.

2. You aren’t eating enough carbs.
If I had a nickel for every time we added carbs in to someone’s diet improved their lifts, I would have more nickels than you. Carbs are not your enemy, stagnation is. Steak and broccoli is not eating big, so for the love of progress, put a potato on the barbie.

3. You ask everyone on the internet for advice, and listen to all of it/none of it.
Either way you end this equation, you are going to lose. If you try to follow everyone’s cues and tips, you will go nowhere, because everyone on the internet has different opinions about the “right” way to do things, which may not apply to you at all. If you listen to none of it, you are wasting everyone’s time, especially yours. Pick someone’s advice that you trust, put on your blinders, and follow their orders.

4. You think a supplement will make up for calories. No supplement is going to replace the calories you need to get bigger and stronger, if it comes in a pill, it has little or no calories in it. Pills and powders don’t get you big on their own, that’s why it is called a supplement, not a replacement.

5. You want to get better at everything, and you want it to happen yesterday. Arguably, a lot of us are guilty of this. However, the line that separates those who want to be good and those who want to become good is the ability to break goals into smaller pieces, and accomplish them in segments. World records aren’t built in a day.

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6. You view training gear as non-primal/cheating. I am going to let you in on a secret: if you are reading this article while connected to the internet, you are about as far removed from a primal state as you can be, why should your training be any different? I am not afraid to venture a guess that I am stronger than my cave dwelling ancestors, because I am not afraid to use proper assistance gear when lifting. Belts, straps, chalk, and wrist wraps are your friend, if you think that is cheating, you should start walking barefoot to work and start living in the nearest redwood forest.

7. You aren’t recording your lifts. Unless you are doing bodybuilding movements, you probably don’t need to watch yourself in a mirror while lifting. However, recording your lifts and watching them after is an excellent way to study your movements and learn how to improve them next time. If you think good athletes don’t record and post their videos, you are in for a rude awakening.

8. You are afraid to compete. I can personally attest to this, because I was once afraid to compete. Sometimes failing at a competition is exactly what you need, in order to do better the next time. I have yet to work with someone who, after their first competition, did not have a fire lit under their ass to compete again ASAP.

9. You think bench/squat/deadlift is all you need to do to be a good lifter. This may be true for those first starting out, but as you progress, you will see that it is simply not true. By not adding in supplementary bodybuilding movements, your weaknesses will still be your weaknesses as you get stronger. Suns Out, Guns Out.

10. You don’t know how to detach. What if I told you that there was a whole world out there, full of people and places that have no idea about lifting, or care about it? Sometimes getting out of the “community” for a short period of time is exactly what you need to get your mind right. Familiarity breeds contempt, and all too often we get extremely familiar with our lifestyles. Take some time off and hit lifting with renewed vigor.

By Colin Freeman, 5:50PM BST 10 Jun 2014

Militants storm northern city of Mosul, freeing thousands of prisoners, as Iraqi prime minister declares state of emergency and offers to arm citizens who volunteer to fight against militants

Al-Qaeda seized control of Iraq’s third biggest city on Tuesday, freeing thousands of imprisoned fellow fighters in a series of jailbreaks and sparking a mass exodus of refugees.

The assault on the city of Mosul, 225 miles north west of Baghdad, saw the Iraqi army retreat to the outskirts after a sustained assault by men armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

As well as seizing the main governorate building – forcing the city’s governor to flee – the gunmen were also reported to have gained control of three different jails, numerous police stations and an airport, where several military planes and helicopters were based.

The loss of the city, home to around one million people, is potentially a huge challenge to the Iraqi government, which has been struggling to quell a regalvanised al-Qaeda insurgency for more than two years.

As residents fled in their thousands, they spoke of seeing militants raising al-Qaeda’s black flag from buildings, and of newly-released prisoners running through the streets in yellow jumpsuits.

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Iraqis fleeing violence in the Nineveh province wait at a Kurdish checkpoint (AFP)

“Mosul now is like hell. It’s up in flames,” said Amina Ibrahim, who like many others was heading for northern Iraq’s more stable Kurdish-controlled zone. “I lost my husband in a bomb blast last year, I don’t want my kids to follow him.”

The militants are believed to be from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the joint Iraqi-Syrian al-Qaida affiliate that is also fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in neighbouring Syria. Seizing control of Mosul, which lies on a stretch of the Tigris less than 100 miles from the Syrian border, would help the group in its aim of carving out a swathe of uncontested territory straddling the two borders.

While the exact picture in Mosul was still confused on Tuesday because of the ongoing fighting, the militants appeared to have made significant ground in routing Iraqi security forces, some of whom were filmed being pelted with rocks as they pulled out of the city.

“The city of Mosul is outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants,” an interior ministry official told the Agence France Presse news agency, saying soldiers had fled after removing their uniforms.

Several residents told the Associated Press that the militants were now touring the city with loudspeakers, announcing that they had “come to liberate Mosul and would fight only those who attack them”.

“The situation is chaotic inside the city and there is nobody to help us,” said Umm Karam, a government employee. “We are afraid… There is no police or army in Mosul.”

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Iraqi soldiers prepare to take their positions during clashes with militants in Mosul (AP)

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, said on Tuesday that the government would provide weapons and equipment to citizens who volunteer to fight against militants.

Maliki, in a statement broadcast on state TV, said the cabinet has “created a special crisis cell to follow up on the process of volunteering and equipping and arming”.

The assault follows similar attempts by ISIL in January to seize the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, which Iraqi security forces are still fighting to regain control of some five months on.

Mosul, however, represents a potentially far bigger prize, as the regional capital of the non-Kurdish section of northern Iraq. It has been a stronghold of al-Qaeda for nearly a decade, ever since militants attempted a similar takeover in late 2004, when US troops were in control. While other Iraqi cities were later largely cleared of al-Qaeda during the US troop “surge” in 2007, the group was never properly routed from Mosul, where it has since rebuilt its presence.

Last year, diplomats in Baghdad told The Telegraph that the group had also established a thriving Mafia-style extortion empire in the city, raking in up to £1 million a month in “protection” fees from local businesses.

The assault on Mosul began around four days ago, around the same time that gunmen briefly took around 1,000 students hostage at a university campus in Ramadi. Having gained control of most of the western side of Mosul, the insurgents seized the government complex – a key symbol of state authority – late on Monday.

According to Reuters, the city’s governor, Atheel Nujaifi, was trapped inside the provincial government’s headquarters but managed to escape while police held back an assault by hundreds of militants. Just earlier that day, Mr Nujaifi had made a televised plea to the city’s residents to stand up to the militants.

“I call on the men of Mosul to stand firm in their areas and defend them against the outsiders, and to form popular committees through the provincial council,” he said, speaking with the Iraqi flag draped behind him.

Several army officers told Reuters that the Iraqi forces were demoralized and outgunned by ISIL. “Without urgent intervention of more supporting troops, Mosul could fall into their hands in a matter of days” said a senior security official.

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Armored vehicles take position during clashes between army and militants in Mosul (AP)

Another officer added: “They are well trained in street fighting and we’re not. They’re like ghosts: they appear to strike and disappear in seconds.”

Following the taking of the governor’s office, Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, on Wednesday asked parliament to declare a state of emergency. “Iraq is undergoing a difficult stage,” he said, acknowledging that militants had taken control of “vital areas in Mosul.”

The Turkish government said it was investigating reports that 28 Turkish lorry drivers had been taken hostage in Nineveh, the province that surrounds Nineveh.

Having effectively been reduced to a spent force by 2008, al-Qaeda’s brand of Sunni Muslim extremism has gradually regained strength in Iraq thanks to growing discontent with the Shia-led government among the country’s minority Sunni community, who ruled during the late Saddam Hussein’s time.

Many Sunnis accuse the government of treating them as second-class citizens, and while not all of them support al-Qaeda’s ideology, the growing sense of discontent has driven some to see al-Qaeda as an ally again. The Iraqi government’s slow response to the demands of a new Sunni-led civil rights movement, based on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring countries, has also inflamed tensions.

Violence in Iraq is now running at its highest levels since 2006-2007, when tens of thousands were killed in sectarian conflict between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority. More than 900 people were killed last month, according to figures separately compiled by the United Nations and the government.

Security officials also attribute the spike in violence to the organisational capabilities of the new local leader of al-Qaeda, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who formed ISIL under the nom de guerre of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

As well as strings of attacks involving carbombings and gun assaults, al-Baghdadi organised a previous mass jail break from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad last summer, freeing an estimated 500 hard-core militants.

By Colin Freeman 12:13PM BST 11 Jun 2014

The march of al-Qaeda-linked militants towarsds the Iraqi capital is a coup for the shadowy leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – a former US detainee

The FBI “most wanted” mugshot shows a tough, swarthy figure, his hair in a jailbird crew-cut. The $10 million price on his head, meanwhile, suggests that whoever released him from US custody four years ago may now be regretting it.

Taken during his years as a detainee at the US-run Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, this is one of the few known photographs of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS). But while he may lack the photogenic qualities of his hero, Osama bin Laden, he is fast becoming the new poster-boy for the global jihadist movement.

Well-organised and utterly ruthless, the ex-preacher is the driving force behind al-Qaeda’s resurgence throughout Syria and Iraq, putting it at the forefront of the war to topple President Bashar al-Assad and starting a fresh campaign of mayhem against the Western-backed government in Baghdad.

This week, his forces have achieved their biggest coup in Iraq to date, seizing control of government buildings in Mosul, the country’s third biggest city, and marching further south to come within striking distance of the capital, Baghdad. Coming on top of similar operations in January that planted the black jihadi flag in the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi, it gives al-Qaeda control of large swathes of the north and west of the country, and poses the biggest security crisis since the US pull-out two years ago.

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But who is exactly is the man who is threatening to plunge Iraq back to its darkest days, and why has he become so effective?

As with many of al-Qaeda’s leaders, precise details are sketchy. His FBI rap sheet offers little beyond the fact that he is aged around 42, and was born as Ibrahim Ali al-Badri in the city of Samarrah, which lies on a palm-lined bend in the Tigris north of Baghdad. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a nom de guerre, as is his other name, Abu Duaa, which translates roughly as “Father of the Summons”.

Some describe him as a farmer who was arrested by US forces during a mass sweep in 2005, who then became radicalised at Camp Bucca, where many al-Qaeda commanders were held. Others, though, believe he was a radical even during the largely secular era of Saddam Hussein, and became a prominent al-Qaeda player very shortly after the US invasion.

“This guy was a Salafi (a follower of a fundamentalist brand of Islam), and Saddam’s regime would have kept a close eye on him,” said Dr Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“He was also in Camp Bucca for several years, which suggests he was already considered a serious threat when he went in there.”

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Armed tribesmen and Iraqi police stand guard in a street as clashes rage on in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad (AFP/Getty Images)

That theory seems backed by US intelligence reports from 2005, which describe him as al-Qaeda’s point man in Qaim, a fly-blown town in Iraq’s western desert.

“Abu Duaa was connected to the intimidation, torture and murder of local civilians in Qaim”, says a Pentagon document. “He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”

Why such a ferocious individual was deemed fit for release in 2009 is not known. One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq. Another, though, is that rather like Keyser Söze, the enigmatic crimelord in the film The Usual Suspects, he may actually be several different people.

“We either arrested or killed a man of that name about half a dozen times, he is like a wraith who keeps reappearing, and I am not sure where fact and fiction meet,” said Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former British special forces commander who helped US efforts against al-Qaeda in Iraq. “There are those who want to promote the idea that this man is invincible, when it may actually be several people using the same nom de guerre.”

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Sunni insurgents guard the streets of Fallujah (AP)

What does seem clear, however, is that al-Qaeda now has its most formidable leadership since Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who kidnapped the British hostage, Ken Bigley, and who died in a missile strike in 2006.

When al-Baghdadi was announced as a new leader in 2010 – following the killing of two other top commanders – al-Qaeda was seriously on the back foot, not just in Iraq but regionwide. In former strongholds like Fallujah, its fighters had been routed after their brutality sparked a rebellion by local tribes. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, drone strikes were destroying the cream of its senior leadership. And the following year, the onset of the Arab Spring revolutions, with their emphasis on democracy and human rights, made it look simply irrelevant.

Indeed, when bin Laden himself was killed in May 2011, Baghdadi’s pledge to revenge his death with 100 terrorist attacks across Iraq looked like little more than bluster.

Today, he is already well past that target, thanks to a devastating campaign of car bombings and Mumbai-style killing sprees that has pushed Iraq’s death toll back up to around 1,000 per month.

“Baghdadi is actually more capable than the man he took over from,” said Dr Knights. “It’s one of those unfortunate situations where taking out the previous leadership has made things worse, not better.”

Quietly-spoken and publicity-shy, Baghdadi is said to be fond of turning up on frontline operations himself. Mindful, though, of the price on his head — second only to the $25m reward for al-Qaeda’s No 1, Ayman al Zawahari – he takes extensive precautions.

Fighters who have met him speak of a shadowy figure who can mimic a number of regional accents to blend in. In the company of all but the closest devotees, he wears a mask to prevent anyone getting a close look at him.

He has, however, won respect for being less gung-ho than other al-Qaeda leaders: while suicide bombers are a key part of his arsenal, he is said often to veto operations that put his other fighters at too much risk.

In the same spirit, his greatest coup so far was to free around 500 of his most loyal supporters during a spectacular jail break last July at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, supposedly the most-heavily guarded facility in the country. It is a trick he is believed to have repeated this week in Mosul, where three jails holding at least 1,000 militants were “liberated”.

Many of those freed in the earlier Abu Ghraib break out in July are believed to have headed to neighbouring Syria, where they have proved decisive in turning al-Qaeda into the pre-eminent rebel movement in the fight against President Assad.

Al-Baghdadi himself is also believed to have relocated there, and last year renamed his group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which sees both countries as a single al-Qaeda caliphate. Already the group has about 7,000 fighters in northern Syria, including volunteers from Britain and Europe whom it is feared may one day start terror campaigns at home.

Such has been ISIS’s brutality in Syria that it has even alienated other al-Qaeda affiliated groups, and prompted numerous reports that it is at least partly a creation of President Assad’s intelligence services, designed to descredit and disunite the rebel movement.

That, though, does not square with Baghdadi’s known-hatred of Shia Muslims, the sect to which Mr Assad belongs. Like most other al-Qaeda extremists, Baghdadi views Shias as apostates, be they those in Syria or those in the Shia-majority government in Baghdad.

“One sheikh who knew Baghdadi said he was very sectarian, even more so than other al-Qaeda leaders,” said Sterling Jensen, an interpreter tasked by the US military to liaise with Fallujah’s sheikhs during the rebellion against al-Qaeda in 2007.

Some believe that Bagdadi will eventually make the mistake of many of his predecessors, by over-flexing his muscles and seizing more territory than he can hold. But similar predictions when his men attacked Fallujah and Ramadi in January – and five months on, they are still there.

This is an updated version of a previous article that appeared in The Telegraph on January 11, 2014.

Because they suck. This has been screamed by veterans for a decade. You can give these cavemen all the money and expensive hardware in the world, but you can’t GIVE them an indomitable spirit. You can’t teach them honor, courage or commitment. You can’t make them want to save their own goddamn country… I guess. I knew when I left that place…Iraq is doomed.

– Rob

The extremist group seizing vast swaths of Iraq this week is most likely fielding a small force of less than 1,000 fighters equipped with little more than small-arms weaponry and soft-shelled pickup trucks.

But the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, apparently has routed an estimated 30,000 Iraqi Army soldiers who were trained by the U.S. military and given billions in sophisticated American military equipment.

The stunning outcome reflects widespread desertions among the Iraqi units in the north as well as the Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions that underlie the military battles, experts say.

“It’s a relativity small force that managed to take the city [of Mosul], and it’s shocking that they were able to do that,” said Charlie Cooper, who studies Islamic extremism for the Quilliam Foundation in London.

“To me, that suggests there is collusion or at least deliberate capitulation on the part of Sunni tribes in western and northern Iraq,” Cooper said. “It’s likely that this happened because Sunni tribes in the area let it happen.”

Experts say ISIS totals no more than 10,000 fighters throughout Iraq and Syria, while the force that specifically seized the city of Mosul this week probably totaled about 800 fighters. That force overpowered two Iraqi Army divisions totaling about 30,000 troops.

“Clearly, the Iraqi forces in the north lack cohesion and a will to fight,” said Jeff White, a former intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a defense expert with the Washington Institute think tank.

In terms of weaponry, ISIS has small arms and civilian-style pickup trucks with mounted crew-served weapons, mainly heavy machine guns such as Russian-made Dushkas, and also a limited supply of 23mm anti-aircraft weapons that they are using for direct fire, White said.

On the other side, the Iraqi army is awash in about $15 billion in U.S. gear transferred since 2005, including IA-407 helicopters, M-1 Abrams tanks, C-130 fixed-wing aircraft and 300 hellfire missiles, Pentagon officials say.

While the ISIS force has limited manpower, it may be joining up with other elements of the Iraqi insurgency that U.S. troops fought for years, such as the more sectarian Sunnis who once controlled the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

“Were hearing a lot about former Ba’athists coming out of the woodwork and working with [ISIS], and that could give them a lot more capability,” White said.

Until now, virtually all the territory seized by ISIS — portions of Anbar province in the west and the city of Mosul in the north — have a population majority that is Sunni Arab. Reports suggest ISIS fighters are moving south toward Baghdad, which has a large Shiite population.

“The Iraqi army units in the Baghdad area are presumably better trained, more reliable, more cohesive. One question is: Is that true? Does the government actually have Army elements it can rely on?” White said.

“On the ISIS side, the question is going to become one of force-to-space: Can they really keep pushing with a snowball effect? Or at some point are they going to actually come up against an effective force that brings this offensive to a halt?” White said.

One former senior U.S. commander in Iraq who spoke on condition of anonymity agreed that an important underlying problem stems from the current Shiite-led Iraqi government’s poor treatment of its Sunni minority in the north and west.

“It appears that three and a half years of highly sectarian and increasingly authoritarian actions undid the important reconciliation component of the strategy during the Surge and beyond, leaving Sunni Arabs once again feeling marginalized by the Shia-led government in Baghdad,” the former senior commander told Military Times.

That discontent, he said, has intensified inside the Iraqi military command as the Iraqi civilian government has replaced some Sunni military leaders with Shiites, undermining “the effectiveness and cohesion of the Iraqi army,” the former commander said.

The seizure of Mosul this week, along with parts of Anbar province several months ago, reflects in part a course change in the so-called “Awakening” movement, which the U.S. military fostered in 2006 and 2007, when local Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against the extremists in their midst and allied with the U.S. military.

“It’s as if this is a reversal of the [Awakening],” Cooper said.

Source.