Saturday, July 01, 2006
No official connection
The alleged rape murder took place in March, while Pfc. Tucker and Pfc. Menchaca were captured June 16.
The investigation has thus far not made any connection between the two events, but it was the killings which prompted the investigation. "The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one of them to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22."
(A platoon is roughly 40 soldiers.) Small world.
On the wars failings and the media
I understand that the media is an easy target of blame which exculpates the administration and the war's supporters, but thus far, the media has been very disproportionately favorable to the administration and the war.
Only 33% of Americans approve of Bush's handling of Iraq.
Can you imagine if two out of every three stories on Iraq disapproved of Bush's conduct? Or two out of three talking heads on Hardball, CNN, or Meet the Press? Can you imagine if the media narrative actually reflected the true opinions of what the American people are telling pollsters, covering the sense of loss and aimlessness that underpin the antiwar sentiment?
Americans aren't upset about the war because the media is telling them to feel that way; they're upset about the war because it is not going well.
Also, I find the suggestion that the media should reshape the truth very unamerican.
(I know there's nothing revelatory here. Just some random thoughts on a rainy day.)
Picture of the Day
Both sides rejecting Maliki's settlement offer; both sides want the US to leave
In his Friday sermon, Shia cleric and leader of the largest Shia militia Muqtada al Sadr also rejected Maliki's settlement deal and matched the Sunni calls for a timetable of US withdrawal.
"I strongly reject reconciliation with three groups -- first the US, the nawasib (the killers of Shiites), and the Baathists" of the deposed Saddam Hussein regime, Sadr said.
"We demand that the occupiers leave and offer a timetable for their withdrawal and not extend their stay here," Sadr said, adding that de-Baathification must be activated fast and "their leader executed".
Also: Make note that in an effort to push his settlement deal, Maliki is travelling to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE, three Sunni neighbors. Much has been made of Iran's assistance and influence over the Shia side of the civil war, but this move leads me to wonder about the degree to which Iraq's Sunni neighbors are currently effecting influence.
Is this an attempt to find another access point in negotiations with the Sunni insurgency, or is there more to it?
66 killed in Baghdad bombing
Major General Jihad Taher al-Luaibi, head of the interior ministry's anti-explosives unit told state television: "The martyrs were of all sexes and ages -- innocent people. Their bones and flesh were crushed together.(AP) Al-Zarqawi's death has not brought a halt to the attacks. At least 631 Iraqi civilians and security forces were killed between June 8 and June 30.
(Reuters) Angry crowds formed around the scene of devastation at the sprawling outdoor market along a main road in the slum district.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Is your internet usage being tracked?
I'm not tech enough to know if this is hooey, but a blog at Wired has a way to trace the routers your internet traffic goes through.
Mine went through AT&T Dallas, so I guess I'm gonna have to be more careful when I talk about "car bombs" in Iraq and "President Bush"'s policies, or the "gift" I'm bringing to my friends "wedding." (Hellooooo, Mr. NSA-man.)
(Slow news afternoon. It looks like the long weekend has already started in Washington.)
Declare a mission or go home.
Five U.S. soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three relatives, an American military official said Friday, describing the latest allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians.The soldiers also allegedly burned the body of the woman they are accused of assaulting in the March incident.......
In the early days of the Iraq war, US soldiers were told that the road home led through Baghdad, and those soldiers fought with everything they had to follow that road in a truly historic military action. Where does the road home lie now?
I don't know enough about this specific incident to pass any judgement, but I do feel we can add it to the collected evidence of breakdowns in discipline, and I would credit the breakdowns in discipline to the stress generated by the "unique nature of this war."
Often that phrase is used in describing the incredible stresses brought on by the realities of fighting an insurgency, the daily attacks and bombings, the unidentifiable, almost omnipresent enemy force, but I think something that is often left out of this discussion is the absence of a clear "on the ground" mission.
Sure, the soldiers in Iraq can regurgitate that they're there to help the Iraqis towards freedom, but what does that really mean? And how does that translate to an IED?
So, as the daily violence continues, frustrations and discipline problems among the troops appear to be growing. I feel certain that alot of soldiers recognize the disconnect between that vaguely expressed mission of freedom and the realities of their daily experience.
The answer to this is leadership. Declare a mission for the military in Iraq. A mission that is clear, definable, and achievable. A mission that can be broken down into small actionable tasks that can be carried out by soldiers.
Tell them where the road home lies, and, I believe, they will fight like hell to get there.
Where are the Guardsmen on the border?
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Bush administration has been unable to muster even half of the 2,500 National Guardsmen it planned to have on the Mexican border by the end of June.
The reasons governors are citing for not sending Guardsmen are Iraq deployments and fear of natural disasters. Not a good message for Bush either.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I read somewhere there's this war thing going on.....
Quickhits - "Heckuva job" edition
Robert T. Schofield, a district office supervisor for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, subdepartment of the DHS, was arrested for passport and visa fraud. Sounds like this guy was selling illegal tickets into the US. Chertoff didn't want to comment ("on an ongoing investigation?")
Bernie Kerik, who was once nominated by Bush for Chertoff's job as head of homeland security, "is close to reaching an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to having accepted improper gifts totaling tens of thousands of dollars."
Bob Ney's key staffers are leaving him raising suspicion that those on the inside want nothjing more to do with the likely to be indicted congressman.
Iraqi Civil War
"American soldiers also took part in the battles, but it was unclear exactly what role they played."
In the same article,
Gun battles also broke out Wednesday in the market in central Baquba, as Shiite militiamen fought with Sunni Arab insurgents, according to a shopkeeper, Hassan Abdul Fattah, 25.
The Shiite militiamen had distributed fliers in the morning warning Sunni storeowners to keep their shops closed or they would be killed, he said. Sunni Arab guerrillas then put out fliers telling the storeowners to open their shops or risk death.
Open street fighting between factional elements? Wasn't that the definitional limit used in March by the administration to support the claim Iraq wasn't in a civil war?
"Daddy beat the evil man"
If I were a father, I think that would be my celebration.
Analysis: Lederman thinks this decision extends Geneva protections affecting interrogation and detainment practices. Greenwald and ThinkProgress think the decision extends to invalidate wiretapping and other claims of executive power. (I'll add to this list if I run across more.)
I feel like we're going to have to wait a little bit before we have a real sense on either of these, but it does mark a significant rebuke to Bush's claims of extraordinary executive power.
Dick Cheney must be chewing nails right now. "No, Dick. I don't think I can make the hunting trip this weekend after all...."
(And, if you're a total wonk, here's the complete ruling and dissents at Findlaw.)
A partial list of US foreign intervention since WWII
Just a quick list more or less off the top of my head. It is neither complete nor perfect.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Is the US losing the war on terror?
Bush loses key supporters
(I can't vouch for the source, I know nothing about the site or organization, but it's engaging enough to take a quick look.)
Maliki's settlement deal
Of course, their agreement would require a two year timetable for a complete US withdrawal, and if you're here, I think you see the improbability of that. Interestingly, this does put Maliki on the spot as to whether he'll commit to a US withdrawal or not, and that could significantly undermine him politically.
(In the Reuters version, there is mention about 2/3 of the way down of the capture of one of the Feb. 22 shrine bombers who gave his fellow bombers up. "It was not clear under what circumstances the confession was obtained. ")
UPDATE: Maliki rejected the premise of a withdrawal timeline. (Halfway down.)
Maybe the Russians can do it better
It would be a huge highlight of Bush administration ineffectiveness in dealing with both Iraq and terrorism.
(And, apparently, "many Russian officials, clerics, politicians and commentators have blamed the deaths on the United States and the failure of the American-led forces to provide security.")
Voting Machine War Games
To determine what it would take to hack a U.S. election, a team of cybersecurity experts turned to a fictional battleground state called Pennasota and a fictional gubernatorial race between Tom Jefferson and Johnny Adams. It's the year 2007, and the state uses electronic voting machines.....
The experts thought about all the ways to do it. And they concluded in a report issued yesterday that it would take only one person, with a sophisticated technical knowledge and timely access to the software that runs the voting machines, to change the outcome.
Making the point
Senate Democrats on Tuesday vowed to block pay raises for members of Congress until the minimum wage is increased.
This just makes sense, both practically (as I proffered a couple of weeks ago) and, more importantly, politically. If the Dems can get this fight public, they win on both sides, with those who think the minimum wage should be raised (a majority of Americans,) and with those who think that Congress shouldn't get pay raises either for incompetence or on principle.
It also puts the blame for both the minimum wage and Congressional raises where it belongs, squarely on the Republicans. I think this is a winner all the way around.
Big Pushback from Big Oil
Picture of the Day
U.S. President George W. Bush jogs with Iraq war double-amputee U.S. Army soldier SSgt Christian Bagge.
The thing that bugs me most about this is the, oh, too obvious nature of it. Huge photo op, second item on the Whitehouse website, AP story, press releases on both PRNewswire and USNewswire, and the unusual step of the event's own 17 picture slideshow on Yahoo, all with one single intended message.
Don't feel bad about Iraq, because they're all fine with their injuries.
Sometimes I wish I believed in Hell.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Update on the Baghdad "crackdown"
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military issued a sober assessment Tuesday of the Baghdad security crackdown, saying violence had decreased slightly but not to "the degree we would like to see" in the two weeks since 75,000 Iraqi and American troops flooded the capital.
Also, updating Afghanistan....
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in Afghanistan on Wednesday to show support for President Hamid Karzai, whose popularity has slumped as he struggles to stem a surge in Taliban violence......
But anti-U.S., anti-Karzai riots rocked Kabul earlier this month and violence in Afghanistan, especially in the south, is at its worst since the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, with more than 1,100 people killed since January.
Also, the rift between Afghanistan and Pakistan is growing, and the mentions of Condi Rice praising Musharraf for his democracy have been stripped from earlier versions of these articles.
Picture of the Day - 3
An Iraqi woman hugs her husband after he was released from Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. About 450 detainees have been released from Iraqi and US-run prisons under a national reconciliation plan aimed at bringing insurgents into the political process and ending the deadly tide of bloodshed in Iraq.(AFP/Ahmad Al Rubaye)
Let's get this straight...
While Social Security is apparently only a crisis in non-election years.
So, this effort to attract younger viewers by attempting a Daily Show knockoff starring Laura Ingraham? Both amusing and doomed.
Picture of the Day - 2
Eroding privacy through the private sector: AOL version
AOL, for instance, plans to check e-mail attachments that are already being scanned for viruses. If child porn is detected, AOL would refer the case to the missing-children's center for further investigation, as service providers are required to do under federal law.....
Ryan said that although AOL will initially focus on scanning e-mail attachments, the goal is to ultimately develop techniques for checking other distribution techniques as well, such as instant messaging or Web uploads.
Okay, so child porn warrants scanning emails. What about terrorism? Or drug trafficking? Where is the stop down the slope?
If your life, and the lives of your family and children, had been threatened, would you register with a government that has been so deeply infiltrated by the militias?
Instead of leaving after the shooting stops — as the Americans have been forced to do in other Iraqi cities — the Americans plan to leave behind garrisons of American and Iraqi troops at various points throughout the city. For the first time, they say, they believe they have the manpower to make the strategy work. .....
Lt. Col. Raad Niaf Haroosh, the Iraqi battalion commander, said the 145 soldiers represented a fraction of the battalion's usual numbers. He said as many as 500 of his fellow soldiers — most of them Sunni Muslims from Al Jabouri tribe — stayed behind in Mosul rather than fight in Ramadi.....
So, there does appear to be some capable Iraqi military presence in Ramadi, however about half of those forces have refused to fight against their factional brethren which doesn't bode well.
Assuming that these Iraqi forces are rated at level two (able to fight with US support,) the 12,000 strong presence in Ramadi, plus the 8,000 who refused to come to Ramadi, represent about a third of all Iraqi troops the US has rated at level 2.
(Please note that one third of the troops rated as "combat ready" refused to serve in this operation which I think raises more significant doubts about the current combat capabilities rating system. Link: Latest details on the ratings and readiness of Iraqi troops.)
Tom Delay may be on the ballot in Sugarland
Austin American Statesman.
This is huge news for Dem challenger Nick Lampson.
Monday, June 26, 2006
I think it would take a severe effort towards intentional corporate ignorance for them to claim that they didn't know, and by taking a side in the "argument" by funding global warming denial groups, I think they may have given up that right.
(I recognize that conclusively proving such a thing would be well nigh imposible. Just a stray thought.)
I can almost see Karl Rove sitting at his desk, "Don't issue the correction, not yet.... not yet.... Now."
(And if you doubt the political play on this story, answer this question: How do specific details of a classified meeting between the war's top commander and the president get leaked without an okay? Are we going to see prosecutions on this leak?)
Update: AP changed the article. Now it includes this quote. "Generally Casey proposes lots of things and actually laid out more than one option. And everybody's fastening on one," Snow said. "Certainly that's under consideration, but I would warn against saying this is what he's saying, this is what he wants."
But that one option just happens to be the one that was leaked.
Needlenose points to an almost identical Iraq troop withdrawal story from Aug 2005.
The AP has a sad story on Iraq War vets and homelessness.
Iraq oil production has increased. (Funny how almost none of the articles on this mentions that it's still well below prewar levels.)
Picture of the Day - 2 (Caption Contest)
"Now, where did I put that finger that made it smell like that?" -or-
Cheney consults with the invisible little bird which served as his primary source for Iraq WMD intel. -or-
"We must bomb Iran. No, no, no. We must bomb Iran. No. We must bomb Iran. Yeah. that's it. We must bomb Iran."
(Fire away, it's an open mike all week in this time slot.)
Texas redistricting ruling expected this week.
For you, it could represent a shift of six congressional seats from Republican to Democrat. Or, perhaps of more concern, the legitimization of mid-decade redistricting every time a state changes parties.
Anyway, a Supreme Court ruling is expected this week.
(I wouldn't be surprised if they split the baby saying some of the current districts are illegal but not fixing them until 2008. In the arguments phase, most of the questions revolved around the Voting Rights Act.
Remember that just last week a group of southern Republican Congressmen stalled a renewal of the Voting Rights Act ostensibly over Spanish language protections.)
Well timed regret by Bush
But something in that article made me think of Bush's tough talk, "bring it on" and all that. So, curious, I did a little back checking, and guess what. Bush's statement of regret over his tough talk in the press conference with Tony Blair was made on May 25, just one day before the Haditha killings exploded as front page news.
It's almost like he knew the NYTimes front pager was coming and that his false bravado might have been perceived as contributing to the violence. That "day before" retraction is quite a coincidence, eh?
(Remember how he was lauded by the press for that expression of regret.)
The WaPo has a large front page story on the falling star of Hamid Karzai as the government of Afghanistan heads towards irrelevance.
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 25 -- Many Afghans and some foreign supporters say they are losing faith in President Hamid Karzai's government, which is besieged by an escalating insurgency and endemic corruption and is unable to protect or administer large areas of the country.....
"There is an awful feeling that everything is lurching downward," said a Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Nearly five years on, there is no rule of law, no accountability. The Afghans know it is all a charade, and they see us as not only complicit but actively involved. You cannot fight a terror war and build a weak state at the same time, and it was a terrible mistake to think we could."
How far is this from a possible future for Iraq? If the Iraqi government is unable to address the main concerns of the Iraqi people, increasing security and restoring basic services, what legitimacy would remain?
The one significant difference is that the Iraqi constitution constructs a parliamentary system where no confidence votes could remove the head of government, and create an endless period of transition.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
An empty house
I already miss the little skittering sounds of her claws on the floor and the way, in her later years, she slowly walked up and just kind of leaned softly into me. My feelings for that dog were very deep.
I'm not posting this looking for sympathy or support, at this point, I just can't deal with it. But I wanted to reiterate the message: Take a few minutes to play with your dog, to make your kids laugh, to do something nice for somebody you love.
It's the little things.....
Iraqi "peace deal" DOA
IRAQ’S main insurgent groups intend to reject a peace plan that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, will present today in an attempt to halt the country’s spiral of violence.
Maliki is expected to go before parliament with a 28- point plan for national reconciliation aimed at defusing the Sunni insurgency and sectarian conflict in which thousands of people have died.....
Representatives of 11 Iraqi insurgent groups told The Sunday Times yesterday that they would reject the peace offer because they did not recognise the legitimacy of the government.
A senior commander authorised to speak on behalf of other groups warned that they would continue to fight. “As long as there is an occupation and an illegitimate government, the resistance and insurgency will continue,” he said.
Maliki’s plan follows talks involving Jalal al-Talabani, the president, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador, and seven Sunni insurgent groups.
However, the groups that have taken part in the negotiations are understood to be relatively small. Those rejecting the peace offer include larger organisations such as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of Ansar al-Sunna.....
The commander, who cannot be identified, said the seven Sunni insurgent groups in the negotiations were splinter groups and small groups that were neither authorised nor empowered to represent Iraq’s main insurgency......
“The government is very aware that those it says it is negotiating with are not representatives of the main organisations. This whole so-called reconciliation plan is being exaggerated as a breakthrough to help to promote Maliki and his government as well as to aid the Americans to find a face-saving way out of Iraq.”
So, what the heck is going on? Maliki and the US compliment in Iraq headed by Zalmay Khalilzad are pushing through a "peace deal" with several relatively unimportant Sunni groups. The Iraqis must know this is farce.
So, is this all a big political move for the US audience? Is this laying the groundwork for "declaring victory?" A tangible peg on which to hang (token) US troop withdrawals? Is this all part of the 2006 midterm campaign timed so carefully to follow the congressional "debates" on Iraq?
The NYTimes reports(AP) that the plan will be debated in the Iraqi parliament, and that it has public support of a pretty major Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi, the leader of the Accordance Front. However, it also sounds like it may be unlikely to pass.
(Juan Cole "Al-Hayat reports that Malik views this initiative as a privilege of the executive and that he does not intend to have parliament vote on it." So are they going to debate it and not vote on it?)
That's the state of play as I see it at this point, but I don't have a sense of how it will resolve. I think the key question would be why is the US and the Maliki government going through all this if it doesn't involve the mainline resistance groups.
A commenter on Kinky Friedman
An Anonymous commenter posted a list of some questionable details about Friedman. (7th comment, list of ten with links.) Big thanks.