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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Pentagon investigating domestic crimes?

From what I can tell, under the provisions of these changes, the Pentagon now has the ability to collect information on US citizens without any significant judicial oversight. I'll do more on this as more details come out.

WaPo page A06

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

And doesn't this next bit sound like the old TIA that was defunded by Congress after a public outcry?

One CIFA activity, threat assessments, involves using "leading edge information technologies and data harvesting," according to a February 2004 Pentagon budget document. This involves "exploiting commercial data" with the help of outside contractors including White Oak Technologies Inc. of Silver Spring, and MZM Inc., a Washington-based research organization, according to the Pentagon document.

And for those keeping score, MZM got in trouble in the whole Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R - Ca) bribery thing.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, acknowledged last week that his relationship with MZM founder Mitchell J. Wade is being examined by federal authorities.

And while we're listing them, there's this. (She later returned the money.)
A defense contractor under federal investigation gave Rep. Katherine Harris, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, about $42,000 during the 2003-04 election cycle.

No real connection to the above, just found these questionable contributions by MZM interesting. Oh, and this computer company with no previous experience in the field, got $5 million for translators in Iraq. Josh Marshall has been the Duke Cunningham, and thus, MZM expert.

Is poverty really that funny?

I've been struck by the tone of the coverage of the several events yesterday where people were injured in the pre-Christmas surge.

There seems to be a superiority to the coverage, something along the lines of "look at the crazy people."

But notice that the people involved in these events all seem to be lower middle or poor. Sure Keith Olberman and Matt Drudge can look down their noses(just two examples I've specifically seen of a greater phenomena), but how would they respond if they were trying to shop for Christmas with a family of four and an annual income of $20,000?

Leaving aside, for a moment, the ugly underpinnings of our consumer society, that success and affection are often displayed through goods, can you blame people for wanting to see their kids smile on Christmas morning?

All coverage of these events seems to separate them from the underlying realities of the economy. For instance, if you net $20,000 a year, that $422 off a laptop at Wal Mart, which by the way will help your children's education, represents more than a week's work. ($20K represents $9.60 /hr., 40 hr. work week.) And that is well above both the minimum wage and the poverty line.

The people storming through the Walmart doors aren't crazy, although they have succumbed to some degree of consumerist frenzy, they are trying to provide for their families the best that they can.

How has the existence of the poor gone from being finally acknowledged four months ago during Katrina to being mocked the day after the collective gluttony of Thanksgiving?

Perhaps Misters Drudge and Olberman, and the rest of the media that covered this in a mocking way, can throw some silver dollars out their carriage windows as they pass by. Apparently, it's funny to watch the poor scramble to take care of their families.

Think the Afghanis will buy this?

Remember the story from the embedded Australian cameraman about the burning of two Afghan bodies? The shocking thing he caught on tape was the broadcast by psy-ops troops where they "incited the Taleban" by blasting insults through loudspeakers while burning the bodies. Well, it appears no one did anything wrong, so everybody can just forget it ever happened.

The U.S.-led coalition's operational commander, Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, said two junior officers who ordered the bodies burned would be reprimanded for showing a lack of cultural and religious understanding, but that the men had been unaware at the time of doing anything wrong.

Kamiya also said two noncommissioned officers would be reprimanded for using the burning of the bodies to taunt the rebels. The two men also would face nonjudicial punishments, which could include a loss of pay or demotion in rank.

Think the Afghanis are gonna buy that?

Are the people of Yemen the next target of the GWOT?

Great post from the Left Coaster warning that Yemen may soon find itself of the wrong side of the war on terror. Their reasoning?

Two United States oil companies, taking an unusual tack, filed arbitration proceedings this week against the government of Yemen for expropriating an oil-producing block with output worth more than $1 billion a year.

It's a really long post that digresses alot from the initial point. But just kind of a heads up to watch for an upsurge in the mentions of Yemen in relation to terror or a sudden new emphasis on the USS Cole bombing.

It also mentions that China would likely resist any US intentions towards Syria because of oil deals. (I have mentioned before China's connections with Iranian oil in relation to stalled UN talks on Iran's nuclear programs.)

ALSO: A very interesting article theorizing the possible realities of a coming nuclear attack on Iran. More of a thought-provoker than out right fact. But interesting.

Bush to talk pullout on Wednesday - LATimes

I doubt there's been a substantial change in the last two weeks in the numbers, readiness or ability to "stand up" by the local Iraqi forces, but Bush is indeed talking about "standing down."

President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces.

So is President Bush preparing to "surrender to terrorists"? (Scott McClellan's written description of discussing withdrawal "on the eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq." DATED NOV. 17)

I couldn't be happier at the probable result of this sea change, fewer American deaths in Iraq, but I just can't let the dishonesty of it pass by.

Of course, there is the possibility that this "politics led withdrawal," if not joined with less geographic resposibility or a significant change in tactics, will leave the troops in Iraq further undermanned and exposed to more casualties and deaths.

Ashcroft now teaches at Pat Robertson's Grad School?

In a moderately funny BBC article pointing out the inanity of Intelligent Design, I came across this:

Mr (Pat)Robertson is an important man: the former Attorney General John Ashcroft teaches at his university, and his views are sought on Supreme Court candidates and foreign affairs.

Did you know this? I sure didn't. But it's true.

Ashcroft resigned in February from President Bush’s administration and one month later accepted a job to teach at Regent University in Virginia Beach .

And another source if you need it. And Regent's announcement.

OK. So, the next thing to do is to look at exactly what is Pat Robertson's Regent University (formally known as CBN University/Christian Broadcasting Network University).


Preamble Regent University is an institution of higher learning that exists to bring glory to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Mission Our mission is to provide exemplary education, from a biblical perspective, leading to the bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for aspiring servant leaders in pivotal professions, and to be a leading center of Christian thought and action. .....

It is expected that our students will both understand and agree to receive an education in accordance with the following articles:

• That the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept.
• That there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
• That man was created in the image of God but as a result of sin is lost and powerless to save himself.
• That the only hope for man is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead, so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood.
• That Jesus Christ will personally return to earth in power and glory.
• That the Holy Spirit indwells those who receive Christ for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and holy lives.
• That the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is worldwide evangelization and the nurturing and discipling of Christians.

Is this the best gig Ashcroft could get? No, probably not. But I do think it underlines just how "Christian Crazy" the guy really is. And he was attorney general of the US for four years.

(Kind of a slow news weekend.)

Picture of the day

Friday, November 25, 2005

How smart is Murtha?

Just got to thinking, that if, in fact, John Murtha is as wired into the military as has been reported, then he must've known that the military was drawing up plans for a troop reduction. If that's the case, his sudden announcement for redeployment takes on a whole new set of possible motivations.

Was he out front, trying to create public pressure to support Gen. Casey's hopes for withdrawal? Acting genuinely in concert with his military contacts to create political ground to help them push their plan?

Did he hear about plans being drawn up by the Bush administration to wait out the December elections, then declare victory and bring the troops home? Was this a preemptive move to make it appear that the Dems have driven this policy?

Was he trying to bring forth a political situation, like we have now, where the Congress came forward to defend the president, stating any withdrawal would be a failure? Think about it. By calling for redeployment, he created a situation where the Republican side of Congress predictably attacked him, saying that any withdrawal would be a sign of weakness. Now, the president will have to meet a nearly impossible threshold of success to characterize bringing the troops home as a victory.

If this is the case, this is brilliant jiu jitsu. He played on the Republican's preferred tactic of attack to lead them to a position of imbalance.

And notice, he chose the moment when the President was in China, and presidential staff was spread around the world unable to coordinate a response.

If any of these three speculations are true, I have to take my hat off once again to Rep. Murtha. Even though I would prefer to believe this was just a genuine outpouring of frustration, the more I look at this, the less I think it is so. The politics are just too good to be coincidental.

I'll say it again, Brilliant.

(The kernel for this idea came trading comments with JReid)

Picture of the day

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I haven't seen the Bush/Bush picture yet.

Remember that strange article from Wash Times/Insight Magazine that spoke of a rift between Bush Jr. and Bush Sr. among other elements of Bush Jr's isolation. I've been trying to watch very closely since Bush Jr. got back from China to see if the appearance obsessed White House had the two pose together for a picture.

But here we are Thanksgiving night, a couple days since the return from China and no Bush/Bush picture. Bush Sr. did travel to Crawford, but as many of you may know after today, just having a family member present, doesn't mean everybody's happy with each other.

It's been nine days. To quote myself from that day,

"Also, look for a Bush/Bush photo op when Bush Jr. gets back from running from his domestic problems. If it doesn't happen, this is a really big deal."

So, is it a big deal?

Where is Scott McClellan?

I mentioned before that McClellan hasn't held a press briefing since Nov. 9(actually, I said Nov. 7, but Nov. 9 is correct,) so I went back to look at the last one. Initial question on each topic only, no followups, answers, or arguments just to get a sense of why McClellan may be quitting.

(emphasis in original White House transcript)

Q Scott, some people have noted that it's more than a little ironic that a year ago, the U.S. was kicking down Ahmed Chalabi's door, and now he's being welcomed at the highest levels here in Washington. It seems to be a startling rehabilitation.

Q ....
the Democrats are looking at the results on Election Night yesterday and saying this is an indication that the President is really unpopular and is a drag on the Republican Party now, going into midterm elections.

Q ....
Why doesn't the President share this concern about the profits of these oil companies?

Q .... Yesterday, when we were asking about the ethics briefings, you said that staff members who get security clearance do have to sign information when they go through their briefings. You also said that you'd be glad to provide us with information that's not classified regarding these briefings. Would you provide to the media copies of the documents that senior staff have to sign when they agree --

Q Scott, on the election, Corzine is casting his win as a victory over Bush-Rove. Are you concerned that the leak investigation is having a political fallout? Is that an indication that it is?

Q Scott, I have a couple questions related to the White House ethics guidelines. But, first of all, I have a follow-up with the windfall profits.

Q With respect to the ethics guidelines, I understand there's a document that was, I presume, being used, prepared by the Office of Government Ethics for the briefings. And I have just a few questions, if you could clarify this. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 2, would public disclosure of classified information constitute an offense against the United States government?

Q Last night's elections again. Does the White House really not see any cautionary lessons from last night? Or are you viewing this entirely as a situation normal, status quo, nothing to be learned?

Q ..... Yesterday also, on Capitol Hill, Senator Kyl and Senator Specter and Senator Leahy were having a briefing on the Saudi Arabia war on terrorism, and they are saying that Saudi Arabia still finances the terrorists around the globe, and also there is no religious freedom, and the persecutions in Saudi Arabia. So where do we stand now as far as --

Q Concerning China, today the Dalai Lama is meeting with President, and I'm sure he has concerns in his country that he want to see -- Tibet also to be respected, and religious freedom.

Q Scott, a new round of talks has begun to try and force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Does the President have any reason to believe that this round will be more successful than previous ones?

(okay, this second question from Les was better)
Q And then President Carter also said, quote, "I've never been convinced that Jesus Christ would approve abortion." And my question: Does the President believe that a 13-year-old victim of gang rape or incest by her father or mother should be denied the right to abortion because he believes Jesus opposes all abortion? (Dance, Scotty, Dance)

Enough. You get the idea. And this was all before Abramoff, white phosphorus, secret prisons, torture, Woodward, bombing Al Jazeera, Bush knowing no Iraq Al Queda connection, a majority thinking the president untrustworthy, collapsing war support, Murtha, Condi Rice and pentagon talking pullout, does Cheney still have support, and a lot more.

I wouldn't blame McClellan if he never got up there again.

Spain clears CIA "rendition" planes.

Boy, that was one quick investigation.

The Spanish government, responding to allegations that CIA planes used a Spanish airport as a base to transport Islamic terrorism suspects, said on Thursday it was convinced U.S. aircraft had broken no law.

10 days since the announcement of a judicial inquiry. They must have really looked into it.

Questions about Zarqawi.

Josh Marshall has an interesting post questioning what we really know about Zarqawi. This has been bouncing around some less reputable right sided blogs over the past year, so I found this interesting.

Picture of the day

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bombing Al Jazeera was a funny joke

The British government has filed a "gag" against the UK's Mirror to prevent them from publishing further articles regarding the leaked 5 page transcript where Tony Blair talks Bush out of a plan to bomb the Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar. Basically, this is being done to prevent the publication of the actual transcript. Perhaps the BBC spin that it was a joke might be undone if people actually saw the documents. (Okay, Michael. You win. I will no longer defend the BBC.)

I will reiterate my observations from yesterday. If this was a very poor joke by Bush, then why did the transcript of this exchange go on for five pages? Do you really see Bush and Blair "fake arguing" back and forth for a couple of minutes? OR, does Blair think that Bush is so f***ing crazy that Bush meant it as a joke, and Blair took him seriously? Now that's scary.

"From now on I will be a terrorist," said Sirheed

No way to know for sure what happened, but that line will haunt me.

(From the post title, I bet they've started a file on me now.)

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms shot dead a 70-year-old Sunni Arab tribal leader and three of his sons as they slept in their home, relatives said on Wednesday.

A Defense Ministry official denied Iraqi troops were involved in the slayings in the Hurriya district of Baghdad overnight and said the killers must have been terrorists in disguise. .....

It comes a week after the discovery of more than 170 malnourished Sunni prisoners locked in an Interior Ministry bunker. Some showed signs of starvation and torture.

In the latest attack, an Interior Ministry official said 40 men wearing army uniforms had come to the victims' house in the night. Relatives said they were shot in their sleep......

"I saw it with my own eyes. They were soldiers," said Thair Kathim Sirheed of the men who killed his father and three brothers in the shooting attack.

Sirheed said he and two of his slain brothers had worked as policemen.

"I am going to get rid of my police badge. From now on I will be a terrorist," said Sirheed.

Condi Rice is "surrendering to terrorists"

Apparently, not only was Jack Murtha right, to some degree, he was also politically brilliant. Do you think this man, who is reportedly so connected with the military, didn't have some idea that this might be coming? Or am I too cynical?

Anyhow, now we know Condi Rice wants to "surrender to the terrorists."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated that conditions for a gradual pullout of US troops from violence-torn Iraq could become ripe "fairly soon," but warned that a decision about their withdrawal will not be made unilaterally.

Appearing on two television channels, Rice said the possibility of handing over to Iraqis important security responsibilities is being constantly discussed in Baghdad by coalition commander General George Casey and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

And in both interviews she stressed that the moment when US soldiers will start returning home could be close.

Happy Thanksgiving - Pic of the day

When the political tensions arise at the dinner table, just remember what Rummy Sez:

"You go to Thanksgiving with the family you have, not the family you wish you had."

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Take that, Dick

The bitter battle in Washington over whether to withdraw U.S. troops quickly from Iraq is disturbing but has not damaged U.S. military morale, a senior American Army general in Baghdad said on Tuesday.

And that

Sixty three percent of those surveyed were in favor of bringing US troops home from Iraq in the next year, up two percent from August, while 35 percent thought they should be kept in large numbers until a democracy is established, down one point from August.

Iraqi leaders call targeting of US troops "a legitimate right"

This is part of the statement from the same conference of Iraqi leaders that called for a timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq. Read this carefully.

"Though resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent resistance. Therefore, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping targeting Iraqi citizens and humanitarian, civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worships," the document said.

Can't guarantee the WaPo translation, but if I read this right, what they're saying here is that resistance(i. e. attacks) against US troops are a legitimate right, but any action against anybody else is not. Not exactly being greeted with flowers, eh, Mr. Rumsfeld?

Knight Ridder - the only media left.

Knight Ridder may be the only real media left. After Cheney's speech where everybody else was focusing on what Cheney did or didn't say about Murtha, look what Knight Ridder found in the speech.

After freeing himself Monday from any perception that he was challenging Murtha's character, Cheney laid out the administration's defense of the war again - and again conflated the war with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even though investigative commissions have concluded that there was no connection between them and Saddam Hussein.

Cheney said:

"(T)hey attacked us on 9/11 here in the homeland, killing 3,000 people. Now they are making a stand in Iraq. ... "

"Would the United States ... be better off, or worse off, with Zarqawi, bin Laden and Zawahiri in control of Iraq?"

" ... A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists."

But the war in Iraq isn't primarily with terrorists. Cheney didn't note that Iraq's insurgency rises primarily from ethnic and sectarian tensions among Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Kurds, rejection of U.S.-led occupation forces, and loyalists to Saddam and his once-dominant Baath Party.

It's at the bottom, but at least it's there.

Plame gossip

This is pretty minor, but TalkLeft has an interesting detail in the Libby defense. They have added an attorney who apparently specializes in muddying up cases involving classified information. Details here.

Bush talked out of bombing Al-Jazeera?

This conversation allegedly took place in 2004, a year after the invasion of Iraq. Bush wanted to launch a strike into Doha, Qatar?

(AFP) US President George W. Bush planned to bomb pan-Arab television broadcaster al-Jazeera, British newspaper the Daily Mirror said, citing a Downing Street memo marked "Top Secret".

The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in Iraq.

The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters.

Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks.

Leaving aside the ethical and legal questions of intentionally targeting media, how bad of an idea was this? I don't care what they're broadcasting, bombing Al Jazeera, and more pertinently, Qatar, is certainly not gonna win many hearts and minds.

After all, it's the reporting that's turning the Islamists against us, right?

My mind is boggled by the massive political insanity of this, so no great contextual analyisis here. Read the whole thing and decide for yourself. It's short.

As an aside, McClellan hasn't held a real press gaggle since Nov. 7th. Sure, they've been on the road alot, but still..... Can't wait to read the next one. How many hard questions are there gonna be? Murtha, secret prisons, falling war support, Woodward, torture, Rove and Libby lied to you, does Cheney still have the president's support, this story ....... Like going to the dentist, I don't think putting it off is gonna make it any better.

UPDATE: BBC is reporting "A White House official said: "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response.""

And here's Al Jazeera's take on it. ( From the english version.)

And the original Mirror story. You may have to try a few times, the link is slow. The way I got it was to go to the Mirror website and click through from there.

Later, the push seems to be that Bush's statements were a joke, delivered in a humorous tone. But if that's true, then why did Blair take the time in detail to talk him out of it? That's a pretty weird joke going back and forth. Or does Tony Blair think Bush is so f***ing crazy that he took the joke seriously. I don't buy it.

Hurrah! Jose Padilla indicted!

The past couple years I have been ranting about the detention of Jose Padilla, a US citizen detained on US soil, held without charge in a navy brig in South Carolina, and no contact with his lawyer. Throughout, I didn't doubt that he was indeed a bad guy, but the constitutionality of the method and manner of his detention greatly concerned me. So he's finally been indicted. Hurrah! This is how American justice is supposed to work. But there's a problem.

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held by the Bush administration for three years without charges as an enemy combatant plotting a "dirty bomb" attack in the United States, has been indicted on charges unrelated to any potential terrorist attack in this country.

Padilla, 35, a former Chicago gang member who converted to Islam, was indicted by a Miami federal grand jury Thursday on charges he and four others were part of a U.S.-based terrorism conspiracy to "murder, maim, and kidnap" people overseas, Justice Department officials announced at a press conference in Washington today.

So, after being held unconstitutionally for three years, he is not charged with crimes he was supposedly being detained for? I assume that his questionable detention invalidated any charges that might have been related to the dirty bomb allegations. This is the basic problem with the "enemy combatant" designation and detention in that all evidence related is not admissible in court.

Quite frankly, I'm ecstatic to see the guy indicted and hope that the charges stick, but can the president now, solely on his own designation, hold enemy combatants for such a period that evidence of other crimes can be dug up? Although I'm happy to see Padilla returned to the judicial system, by placing these charges, the government has prevented any court decisions which might have prevented these tactics from being applied to other American citizens.

Picture of the day

Hitchcock-esque, no?

Sini at Jusiper found this in a NYTimes piece: Friends describe Mr. Cheney as subdued since the indictment of his chief of staff and friend, I. Lewis Libby Jr., and they say they are concerned about his weight, which appears to be up again after his recent years of keeping it under control. Mr. Cheney, 64, has had four heart attacks, and in September had surgery to repair aneurysms in arteries behind both his knees.

I would wager that this is actually laying the groundwork for Cheney to step aside at some future point. Don't get too excited. Whoever they bring in to replace him is gonna suddenly be a favorite for the 2008 election. Giuliani, anyone?

Somehow, I don't find "fat Cheney" as endearing as "fat Elvis."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jean Schmidt's "marine"

Remember Friday night when Rep. Jean Schmidt called John Murtha a coward by citing a Colonel in the Marine Corps. Well, Newsguy actually did the work to track this guy down and come to find out, he's a big time Republican operative. (I use big time to cite his commitment and causes, not his impact.)

It's over at the Skeptical Observer. Take a look.

By the way, Ms. Schmidt, I hope you've enjoyed your year and a half in Congress. I don't think you'll be back.

Nothing to do with the trip to China

I'm sure that this has nothing to do with Bush's trip to China who has a veto vote on the UN Security Council.

The United States and Europe are to delay a possible move this week to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its disputed nuclear program, diplomats said.

Instead, Russia -- which opposes a referral, something which could pave the way for sanctions -- will be given more time to broker a compromise deal.

Moves to call on the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to bring Iran before the Security Council "will not happen at this week's meeting" of the IAEA in Vienna, a Western diplomat told AFP.

Americans want a timetable, Iraqis want a timetable

The only one's who don't want a timetable for leaving Iraq is the Bush administration. Why? Because a forced redeployment(that seems the preferred word rather than withdrawal) would be difficult to paint as a victory. There would be no "mission accomplished" speech for Bush to claim all the credit.

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Iraqi leaders, meeting at a reconciliation conference in Cairo, urged an end to violence in the country and demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq.

In a final statement, read by Arab League chief Amre Moussa, host of the three-day summit, they called for ``the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces.'' No date was specified.

Also, Saturday Night Live had a kinda funny(you really don't expect anymore than that from them, do you?) opening skit with an impersonated Bush answering questions in China. Two highlights, paraphrased:

"disagreement with the president is patriotic, and, well, my administration is making America more and more patriotic every day."

"Leaving Iraq early would mean that those who have died have died for nothing.... and that those who haven't died yet would also die for nothing."

Sorry, no matter how hard I try, I can't write funny. Go here to see for yourself. It starts slow, but gets better.

More on the 'Salvador Option'

With a little time this afternoon, I thought I'd post a little more on the dirty war the administration is now running in Iraq. I'm grouping these posts under the topic 'Salvador Option.' This name, utilized by administration officials in their internal debates, intentionally recalls the operations throughout Central America in the 80's in which the CIA equipped and trained specific local units in terror tactics which involved snatching supposed enemies of the state. These"snatched" individuals very often turned up tortured or dead, an estimated 50,000 of them, including nuns, priests, labor leaders, and anyone else who questioned the policies of their government.

(IMPORTANT: There is no evidence that US military personnel are involved in any way in this policy. In the dirty wars of Central America in the 80's, the primary sources of training and technical support were CIA operatives and the School of the Americas. I do not rule out the possibility that some military special ops personnel could be involved, but there is no evidence of any military personnel being involved. The civilians at DoD, Rumsfeld and his planners, maybe, but do not convolute the actions of a corrupt administration with the actions of the US military personnel serving in Iraq.)

For a little background, start with this Newsweek article from early January 2005 which is one of the first thorough public mentions of the Salvador option. This article frames it as a debate among Pentagon officials.

Next, I'll lay out my previous posts on this issue, chronologically. 1 (an eyeopening account from the WaPo) 2 3 4 5 6 7 .

One of the characteristic traits of these tactics is the discovery of groups of bodies with their hands tied behind their back or corpses shot "execution style" in the back of the head. Whenever you see these details, remember that supporting these groups is US government policy.

Now on to new citations.

And when the disappeared are finally found, on the streets or in the city's massive rubbish dumps, or in the river, their bodies bear the all-too-telling signs of a savage beating, often with electrical cables, followed by the inevitable bullet to the head.

In a new twist in the ongoing brutality of this country, Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence is escalating dramatically.

Last July an Observer investigation reported that Iraqi police commandos were running secret torture units, and last week there was international outrage when an Iraqi government bunker was found being used as a makeshift prison. American forces found 173 half-starved prisoners being held in dreadful conditions. Most were Sunnis.....

According to human rights organisations in Baghdad, 'disappearances' - for long a feature of Iraq's dirty war - have reached epidemic proportions in recent months. Human rights workers, international and local, who asked not to be identified in order to protect their researchers in the city and their organisations' access to senior government officials, told The Observer last week that they have hundreds of cases on their books. They described the disappearances as the most pressing human rights issue in a country that is in the midst of a human rights disaster. ....

We blame the government for these events, and no matter how often we have complained there has been no investigation. I have spoken to the UN. I have handed over a dossier of what has been going on.

'We have been trying to persuade the US and UK governments for the past two years about what has been going on. It has taken until now to convince them that this is real.'

The US government knew it was real. It was policy.

British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. ....

In the US-controlled districts of Iraq, some senior military and intelligence officials have been accused of giving tacit approval to the extra-judicial actions of counter-insurgency forces.

Critics claim the situation echoes American collaboration with military regimes in Latin America and south-east Asia during the Cold War, particularly in Vietnam, where US-trained paramilitaries were used to kill opponents of the South Vietnamese government.

Count me as a critic I guess. And remember, these policies are not only being culled from the past. The three sided civil war in Columbia that the US is supporting to the tune of a billion dollars a year consists of government forces, the FARC narco revolutionaries, and a third faction usually referred to as the paramilitaries who are largely mercenary forces who practice the same techniques, storming a village, rounding up all the men, killing some and taking some away to "disappear."

Sorry for the long post, but it was these tactics, disappearances, and mass killings of the dirty wars of Central America that first brought me to political consciousness. Prior to this, I had never really cared about politics and the foreign policy of our nation. I had always believed the US to be a force for good abroad, and the fact that my country would sanction and support this shocked me to political awareness. So, if I tend to go on about this, forgive me.

Hearts and Minds

WASHINGTON - The United States’ image is so tattered overseas two years after the Iraq invasion that China, which is ruled by a communist dictatorship, is viewed more favorably than the U.S. in many countries, an international poll found.

Don't Blame Me For Your Failed War, Mr. President

Don't blame me for your failed war, Mr. President. It is not my fault that your administration made mistake after mistake after the invasion which allowed, and even fostered, the growth of the insurgency. It is not my fault that you entered into a war of choice.

Leaving aside the debate over pre war intelligence and the selling of the war, here are some examples of bad policies which led to the current situation in Iraq.

When Jay Garner was sitting in Bagdhad, shortly after the airport was secured, he was drawing up plans to hold Iraqi elections within ninety days. You relieved him from that responsibility. Then, you put Paul Bremer in his place. Paul Bremer, whose first priority, judging from the orders he issued in his first two weeks in charge, was not to instill democracy and order to Iraq, but instead to put in place neoliberal economic policies attempting to privatize public services, power, water, mobile phones, and of course, oil. At the time, some in your adminstration were expressing fears that such an early election might lead to a Shia dominated Islamic government.

It is not my fault, Mr. President that you allowed Paul Bremer to disband the Iraqi military and police forces. How could anyone possibly think that a society in such a state of chaos and deprivation, not to mention occupation, could be maintained in any sort of order without some sort of local authority?

And then there was Fallujah. Four Blackwater contractor/merceneries were killed, and their bodies were dragged through the streets. And your response was to be "tough" and attack Fallujah immediately, despite your top military representatives in Iraq telling you to wait until they could redeploy troops and establish a plan that would allow them to attack the insurgents with a much smaller impact on the innocent civilians of Fallujah. You rejected this, I can only assume for political reasons, and ordered the immediate attack on Fallujah. This was the insurgents' Alamo. Prior to Fallujah, the insurgency was a small group of ex-Saddam supporters who received only marginal support from the Iraqi populus, but after the complete levelling of Fallujah, the insurgency suddenly burst forth, growing rapidly, and more importantly, receiving support from a significant proportion of Iraqi society.

So, you see, it was your decisions to 1) delay a swift election, 2) remove any stabilizing forces, and 3) mainstream the insurgency by decimating Fallujah which led to Iraq being in the state it's in two and a half years after the invasion.

The morale of the troops in Iraq is being eroded by being shot at every day, by dodging IED's and mortar rounds fired by an insurgency which was made stronger by your administration's policy decisions. It's a very clever rhetorical device you are using, equating all criticism of your administration with criticism of the troops, but I don't stand by that.

In fact, I find the loyalty to the mission and the ability with which military men and women in Iraq are carrying out your policies, all the more amazing because of all this. I greatly respect what they're doing because they are still standing in and doing their duty in the face of increasing evidence that you lied about the reasons you gave for this war. I consider that devotion to duty pretty damned admirable.

So, don't tell me that it is my criticism of your policies that is undermining our war effort. Our war effort was undermined by the decisions your administration made when the war was still receiving majority report. It was your mistakes that allowed the insurgency to blossom and led us into the current situation.

And then you gave Paul Bremer the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Picture of the Day

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Negroponte's death squads

Just a quick update on the apparent implementation of Negroponte's "Salvador Option." Short version, when Negroponte was promoted to DNI, there were a number of stories that he was proposing the "Salvador option" to resolve Iraq. Negroponte was one of the dirty warriors for Reagan/Bush I in Central America who oversaw the formation of "strike squads" which were really death squads. So, everytime I see a story like this, I am reminded of the dirty wars of Central America.

The commandos are part of the Iraqi security forces that the Bush administration says will gradually replace American troops in this war. But the commandos are being blamed for a wave of kidnappings and executions around Baghdad since the spring. ....

For three hours, the raiders burst into Sunni homes, handcuffed dozens of men and loaded them into vans. They ended the assault and drove out of the neighborhood just before the dawn call to prayer, which would bring men into the streets, walking to the local mosques, Abu Yusuf said.

Two days later and 90 miles away, residents of the desert town of Badrah, near the Iranian border, found the bodies of 36 of the men in a gully, their hands still bound and their skulls shattered by bullets. Two were the cousins who had phoned him the warning, Abu Yusuf said.

One of the trademarks of the Iraqi death squads is finding the bodies with their hands bound. So, remember when you come across these stories, US forces are not doing this, but Bush administration officials are supporting this as policy in an effort to regain control of their poorly chosen war.

The attacks on Murtha must not be testing well.

Despite multiple assurances from this Whitehouse that they "don't do focus groups" or look at polling, I'm guessing that the hatchet job on Murtha must not have tested well.

After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy.

"People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were "reprehensible."

A couple of blogs had made the point, that by attacking Murtha, the administration was attacking the majority of the country(54%) who now believe the Iraq War was a mistake. I doubted it would be perceived that way, but apparently the attack plan was based on "the last war."

LATimes on 'Curveball'

The LATimes produced a major story on 'Curveball', the INC provided intel source who was the source for significant amounts of the bad intel cited by the Bush administration in the runup to the Iraq war, like the mobile bioweapons labs. German intel repeatedly warned the US that the information was total fabrication. It's big, but if you've got the time, read this.

Just for a taste, I'll use a couple of clips,

An investigation by The Times based on interviews since May with about 30 current and former intelligence officials in the U.S., Germany, England, Iraq and the United Nations, as well as other experts, shows that U.S. bungling in the Curveball case was worse than official reports have disclosed.

The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball's account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq's biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years. ....

British intelligence also warned that spy satellite images taken in 1997 when Curveball claimed to be working at Djerf al Nadaf conflicted with his descriptions. The photos showed a wall around most of the main warehouse, clearly blocking trucks from getting in or out.

(A quick comment for some readers I have who are not big blog readers/internet news readers. There's a lot being written in blogworld about this, but it's generally not very concise. Keep an ear open to this story, it will be bouncing around for weeks, and you will get some of the detail and an idea of just how big a deal this is.)

Coupling this with the Al Libi information that was known to be false and used to back claims of Iraq Al Qeada ties, we now have the basis for some proof that the Bush administration wasn't just wrong on the prewar intel. By actively ignoring all the counter evidence, they were deliberately wrong. To me that's lying.

The real question going forward is whether this complex story can be distilled down into reasonably small bites so that the non-news junkie population can get a grip on just how bad this is.

This is the smoking gun that could take the shape of lies about a mushroom cloud.

Plame Gossip - Woodward/Hadley edition

The Financial Times says Woodward's source was Hadley. The tone implies certainty.

THE mysterious source who gave America’s foremost journalist, Bob Woodward, a tip-off about the CIA agent at the centre of one of Washington’s biggest political storms was Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, according to lawyers close to the investigation......

A White House official said the national security adviser’s ambiguity was unintentional and repeated that Hadley was not Woodward’s source. But others close to the investigation insisted that he was.

And, I would just like to revisit the idea that, despite Woodward's claim that it was his "conscience" that brought this forward, that it was, in fact, Rove's eleventh hour "new information" that forced Woodward forward. In the first version of the Woodward story, he claims that his source contacted him to issue a confidentiality waiver. By Friday's Time piece, the story had reversed and it was Woodward's conscience that prompted the disclosure. Quite frankly with the ethical level shown by Woodward in all this, I'm far more likely to believe he was forced.

In his "eleventh hour" desperation to stave off indictment, did Rove turn on Woodward's source? Sure looks that way.

UPDATE: This is a very long and complex piece at The Next Hurrah which also theorizes Rove's eleventh hour new information as leading to Woodward's attack of conscience. It's pretty good in that it offers the more subtle proposition that Rove turned the pressure on Woodward by partially informing on him to the prosecutor, and then leveraging him with the threat in order to buy some time. If you're deep in this, it's worth a read.

UPDATE 2: Although this entry is decidedly pro Hadley as Woodward's leak source, I definitely do not want to shut the door on Armitage as a second significant possibility. I spoke with someone I know who recently retired out of Washington Republican circles, not top level by any means, but certainly in enough to know what the speculations are, and he emphasized Armitage. I am reminded of this because the Left Coaster is making a pitch for Armitage.

UPDATE 3: Firedoglake has a pretty interesting argument for Cheney. Boiled down a bit, Woodward decided to tell his editor about his source the morning after a night released NYTimes story first reported that Libby got Plame's name from Cheney.

Don't know anymore, but the blog consensus list seems to have narrowed to three: Hadley, Armitage, and Cheney.

Picture of the day

President George W. Bush took a break from talks with Chinese leaders on Sunday, trading his business suit for a wind-breaker and shorts to take a bike ride with aspiring Olympic athletes in Beijing. ........

"How do you say, take it easy on the old man?" Bush joked as he got on his bike.

"C'mon, let's go," said Bush, who had brought his mountain bike from Washington aboard Air Force One.

What do you think Hu Jintao thinks of this man?