The Marines discovered something very interesting in the deserts of Iraq:
|::::::::||U.S. Marines said yesterday they had discovered a massive underground bunker complex with 50 caches of weapons and ammunition and living quarters fitted out with air conditioning, a kitchen and showers.
The Marines said the bunker complex, discovered over the past four days in Anbar province west of Baghdad, included a recently used “insurgent lair” containing air-conditioned quarters and high-tech military equipment, including night-vision glasses.
The bunker was found cut from a rock quarry in Karmah, 50 miles west of Baghdad. Marines said the facility was 170 yards wide and 275 yards long.
In its rooms were “four fully furnished living spaces, a kitchen with fresh food, two shower facilities and a working air conditioner. Other rooms within the complex were filled with weapons and ammunition,” the Marines said.
The weapons included “numerous types of machine guns, ordnance including mortars, rockets and artillery rounds, black uniforms, ski masks, compasses, log books, night-vision goggles and fully charged cell phones.”
That’s a lot of square footage to have been tunneled out of a rock quarry. People keep forgetting how big this country is and how easy it can be to hide activity if you’re careful. But it’s getting harder. The bunkers show a number of things, but 2 of them are especially noteworthy to me. First, this complex was expensive. It cost money to build, maintain, and supply. I know where that money is coming from, at least in part. Part of it was in the Italian lira handed over to buy hostages back, a process that keeps getting repeated. When payoffs are made to these terrorists, that money doesn’t just go into someone’s pocket never to be seen again. These guys aren’t taking the money and running to live out retirement in Costa Rica with beautiful beaches and beautiful women at their sides. They’re taking that money and buying weapons, ammo, food, shower facilities and air conditioners. Secondly, they’re getting help. The old Republican Guard didn’t take their earth-moving equipment with them when they melted into the populace to avoid the might of the US military. So they’re getting it from somewhere else.
They’re being sustained by outside forces.
Kudos to the Marines. Nice catch, boys.
The Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been huge, huge successes. Landing on Mars in January 2004, they were projected for 3-month missions of exploration. To lob a machine that complex between planets, have them land in a pile of air bags, then have all of their experiment packages work as advertised was victory enough. When they both completed their 3-month tours and kept right on going, that was just stellar.
It’s June 2005, and they’re both still going.
Opportunity ran into a snag 5 weeks ago, unfortunately. Trying to climb over a sand dune, it got stuck in the sand. For days the team tried to get it out of there with no success. This morning, Fox News is reporting they finally managed to get it back on the road:
|::::::::||The Mars rover Opportunity resumed rolling freely across the Martian surface Saturday after scientists freed it from a sand dune where it had been mired for nearly five weeks, NASA officials said.
Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission, cheered when images beamed back to Earth showed the rover’s wheels were free.
For all the badmouthing NASA gets, this set of missions has gone remarkably well. The home page for the project shows the locations of both rovers and some highlights from their imagery. I especially like the “dust devil” captured on camera by Spirit.
SD Senator John Thune, fresh from a victory that saw the previous Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle get kicked out of office, doesn’t want the Pentagon to close down Ellsworth Air Force Base. So he’ll vote against John Bolton’s nomination for Ambassador to the UN.
|::::::::||Sen. John Thune (search), a self-described loyal Republican, said he’s considering using his most powerful weapon — his vote on the U.S. Senate floor — against President Bush’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, a notable break with the administration that is tied to his displeasure over the base-closing proposal.
“My loyalty in this particular matter is with the people of South Dakota, always has been, always will be,” Thune said.
Well, that’s great, John, but what does John Bolton have to do with your base closure? He’s never even been remotely involved with the process. The only way this can do anything about the base closure is if you think President Bush will call up Rumsfeld and tell him to order the base removed from the BRAC list so the President can get your vote back. I’m no public official, John, but I have to tell you that I think attempting public political blackmail against the President – the most powerful single politician hailing from the party that put your sorry butt into office – when you haven’t even been in the job for a year is likely not the smartest move in the book.
I can understand Thune’s thoughts, here. SD doesn’t have that large of a population and the loss of Ellsworth would be a major hit to the State. I don’t see a whole lot of businesses looking to relocate their international headquarters there, so that loss wouldn’t be even remotely easy to recover. And I’m OK with Thune putting his constituents first. That’s his job, let’s recall. But I can’t condone this kind of action when it just seems such a non-sequitur. Voting against military funding of another project, I could see. Something with some connection to the BRAC list. If this ploy doesn’t work, what’s left? Voting against judicial nominees?
There are several bases on the BRAC list and no one wants their base to be the one to close. I expect Thune to fight to keep his bases open. He should expect people to remember well how he fights.