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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Picture of the Day

Israeli anti-war protest in Tel Aviv.


Sorry, just lazy blogging today. Several more things that caught my eye.

Torture promoting, Israel defending Alan Dershowitz is back in an editorial in the LATimes where he proposes to redefine "civilian" so that the death toll in Lebanon doesn't look as bad. Funny, I don't remember Dershowitz trying to redifine "civilian" over Iraq, or Chechnya, or Afghanistan, or the Balkans, or Rwanda, or Darfur, or.....

The court cases for Bush "dissenters" who were arrested and released around Bush appearances in the election year of 2004 are starting to come around. After publicly refusing Iraqi-style democracy, I wonder if Putin would accept this kind of democracy.

War in the horn of Africa is getting closer as the Ethiopians have occupied a second Somali town.

And, elements of the Pacific food chain are being disrupted as warmer sea waters are affecting the number of krill.

Picture of the Day - 3

“That’s my daughter, No. 9,” he said, pointing at a coffin coming out of the truck. “It’s a nice number, don’t you think? And No. 7, it’s a nice number, too. It’s my wife. And there’s No. 10. I hope they will be lucky.” HASSAN M. FATTAH

(Tyre, Lebanon)

Quickhits - Iraq reader

Reuters has a great overview piece on the gloom descending on Iraqi government officials.
BAGHDAD, July 21 (Reuters) - Iraqi leaders have all but given up on holding the country together and, just two months after forming a national unity government, talk in private of "black days" of civil war ahead.

Signalling a dramatic abandonment of the U.S.-backed project for Iraq, there is even talk among them of pre-empting the worst bloodshed by agreeing to an east-west division of Baghdad into Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim zones, senior officials told Reuters.....

"Maliki and some others seem to be genuinely trying to make this work," one (Western diplomat) said. "But it doesn't look like they have real support. The factions are looking out for their own interests."....

Maliki meets Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Monday before seeing Bush at the White House on Tuesday. Both leaders, penalised in polls since the 2003 invasion, will expect him to tell U.S. and British voters of his hopes for a new Iraq.

During the meeting next week, the Bush administration is going to try to pressure Maliki to crack down on the Shia militia. Just how a government constructed primarily of politicians affiliated with the militias is supposed to do that is unclear.
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House expressed disappointment at a security plan for Baghdad and said President George W. Bush will discuss the issue during a meeting here with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.....

But the official said Bush would also press Maliki to take "hard steps" to rein in the Iraqi militia, arguing that safety would not improve until Iraqis ran security operations themselves.

But Maliki is coming looking for some concessions to take home.
(AP) Al-Maliki also said Saturday he will urge U.S. officials to work for a cease-fire in Lebanon, saying Israel's "hostile acts" adversely affect the entire Middle East.

And Patrick Cockburn has a more anecdotal look at the breakdown.
The Iraqi government is a prisoner of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified enclave defended by US troops in the centre of Baghdad. ..... "Some ministers have never visited their ministries outside the Green Zone," said one ex-minister. "They have their officials bring them documents to sign."

Just some quick clips that I found interesting.

Picture of the Day - 2

If the "umbrella of Arab allies" is anything like the coalition of the willing, we're all going to get wet. (see next.)

The Bush administration's "umbrella" against Hezbullah and how it's doomed

It sounds like Condi Rice's mission to the mideast next week will be to try and build an arab alliance in support of Israel.
These officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will leave Sunday night for a week of diplomacy in the region and will go with the modest goal of forming an "umbrella of Arab allies" in opposition to the militant group Hizballah that incited the conflagration by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.

"She's not going to come home with a ceasefire, but stronger ties to the Arab world," an administration official said. "It's going to allow us to say that America isn't going to put up with this and we have Arab friends that are against you terrorists. What we want is our Arab allies standing against Hizballah and against Iran, since there is no one who doesn't think Iran is behind this. We're going to say to Hizballah and the terrorist groups, 'This will not stand.' That is the way to bring real change to the Middle East. If you just have a ceasefire, then soon or later, they go back to fighting."

Rice was to announce her plans at a briefing this afternoon, officials said. Officials were using the word "umbrella" instead of "coalition" to avoid reminders of the struggling coalition the U.S. led into Iraq.

With the US having massively destabilized the middle east, it is in the interests of the Saudi ruling family, for instance, to support any effort which limits Iran's role, but the real question is, how sustainable is such action from "friendly" Arab governments.
In mosques from Mecca to Marrakesh, sermons at Friday Prayer services underscored both the David-versus-Goliath glamour many Arabs associate with Hezbollah’s fight against Israel and their antipathy toward the United States and its allies in the region for doing so little to stop yet another Arab country from collapsing into bloodshed.....

“Where are the Arab leaders?” he said. “Do they have any skill other than begging for a fake peace outside the White House? We don’t want leaders who bow to the White House.”

If the US was going to try this "umbrella of Arab allies" strategy, they should have made the effort early this week. The delay has allowed the momentum to shift.

Spawning a generation of hate

Not only is the Bush administration actively preventing a ceasefire and end to the Israeli attacks, they are now "rushing" more bombs to Israel to be dropped on the Lebanese.
WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

I don't even know how to describe what an insanely bad decision this is. A new generation of anti-US terrorists is being spawned, and the Bush administration has just drawn them a map, from the bodies and bombed out ruins of Lebanon through Tel Aviv and straight to our shores.

Picture of the Day


Friday, July 21, 2006

It's coming

Chris Matthews on Hardball, right now, "A senior western intelligence official, we can't tell you who or what government, says an Israeli ground invasion of Lebanon is expected overnight."


I figure you're getting all the Israel-Lebanon news you could want in the 24/7 wall to wall coverage (if you're not, seek professional help either from your therapist or your cable company,) so, let's look elsewhere, like Afghanistan.
The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan today described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.

Or perhaps Somalia, a country which Bin Laden mentioned as a focal point for his followers.

BAIDOA, Somalia - Somalia's top Islamic leader called Friday for a holy war against Ethiopia to drive out troops the largely Christian nation sent to protect the internationally backed Somali government.

Whether or not you agree with the premises of the 'war on terror', neither of these are positive developments towards peace in the world. All three of the US's main engagement points against Islamic movements are turning sour rapidly. (Somalia representing the "Horn of Africa," and I include Iraq.)

The 'war' is going very badly on almost every front. Perhaps it's time to revisit the offense vs. defense debate on terrorism, and now, with a bit more data, to look at whether it was better to invade Iraq as part of some harebrained scheme to create a "tsunami of democracy" rather than spending a fractional amount of that securing US ports, for instance.

(Of course, in March 2003, Colin Powell's State Department issued a report that said the theory of a "domino effect" of spreading democracies was bull. The Bush admin ignored that advice, too, of course. They broke it and hoooo boy have we bought it.)

Oh, and Bush still hasn't spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, and Condi Rice is still stalling her trip to Israel.

Picture of the Day - 3


How many new terrorists have been created in the last ten days? How many children have lost their fathers? How many fathers have lost their children? How many have had their homes destroyed? How many have been forced to Hezbullah or the Sadr militias for food and shelter?

How many people have been filled with rage at the apparent US supply and sanction of Israel? How many people look at the carnage in Iraq and blame the US?

How many Muslims have taken the step towards terrorism in Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, or London?

How many now want to kill Americans? How many now want to car bomb this country?

No one knows.

And that should scare us more than anything.

Picture of the Day - 2

Oh what a difference a month makes.

Reality-based educator made a point in the comments yesterday about how the congressional Republicans' grandstand debate on Iraq has completely turned on them in just a month. (Remember 'cut and run'?) Just as an interesting confirmation,
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Declaring that he believes the situation in Iraq has devolved into a civil war, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he plans to try to bring the war back up for debate on the Senate floor.

There was the WaPo story on the new, more nuanced, position the congressional Republicans are trying to manage on the war, but the spin is no longer driving Iraq. Iraq is driving Iraq, and all indications are that it's going to get worse. Yesterday,
(U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William) Caldwell said insurgents were streaming into the capital for "an all-out assault against the Baghdad area."

"Clearly the death squad elements, the terrorist elements, know that Baghdad is a must-win for them," he said. "Whoever wins the Baghdad area, whoever is able to bring peace and security to that area, is going to set the conditions to stabilize this country."

(And, I'm sorry to even mention politics in relation to the horrors that are going on in Iraq right now, but these same Republicans I'm attacking here are, in part, responsible for the policies that have led to today's Iraq. If they had done their jobs through oversight rather than cheering on their failing president, the policy would've been shifted some time ago.)

But, I'm not the only one playing politics with Iraq. Allegedly, John Negroponte has "stonewalled" the creation of a new National Intelligence Estimate(NIE) on Iraq out of fear of the phrase "civil war."
The analysts know that it's a civil war, but there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters.” Negroponte, said another source regarding the potential impact of a pessimistic assessment, “doesn't want the president to have to deal with that.”

At least my mention of politics in Iraq isn't stalling policy assessment and getting people killed.

Israelis looking at ground invasion

This isn't really a surprise if you look at the Israeli operations thus far and the bombing patterns, but still, here're a few articles supporting the idea that the Israelis are about to go in.

(AP) Israel preparing Lebanon ground offensive

(Reuters) Israel warns Lebanese to flee

(Ha'aretz) Army set to call up thousands of reservists (for deployment to Gaza freeing up frontline troops for the north.)

A warning shot for the UN to stay out of the way, (AP) UN post hit in Israeli-Hezbullah fighting.

Update: (AP) Israel massing troops on the border

Picture of the Day

Thursday, July 20, 2006


A BBC video from inside the Shia section of southern Beirut.

From the NYTimes tonight/tomorrow:
TYRE, Lebanon, July 20 — Carpenters are running out of wood for coffins. Bodies are stacked three or four high in a truck at the local hospital morgue. The stench is spreading in the rubble.

The morbid reality of Israel’s bombing campaign of the south is reaching almost every corner of this city. Just a few miles from the Rest House hotel, where the United Nations was evacuating civilians on Thursday, wild dogs gnawed at the charred remains of a family bombed as they were trying to escape the village of Hosh, officials said.

And, just as an ironic reminder that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, the Israelis plan to celebrate their July 22, 1946 terror bombing against the British which killed 92 at the King David Hotel.

Picture of the Day - 3

You know, if you're trying to win back black voters, maybe slapping a black congressman after your big NAACP speech isn't the best idea.

U.S. President George W. Bush playfully slaps U.S. Congressman Al Green (D-TX) (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

(Question: After all these gaffes over the last week in Germany, at the G8, and now this, will the staff reconsider and allow Bush his whole August vacation in Crawford? Is he tanking it to get the full month? Or do they need to establish a three foot rule around the president?)


Just a few little bits being lost beneath the wall to wall Israel Lebanon coverage.

The Islamic militiamen that now control Somalia have encircled Baidoa, the seat of the now superfluous UN recognized Somali government, with stated intention of taking the town. In response, neighboring Ethiopia has threatened to invade to defend the legitimate government.

UPDATE: (BBC) A column of Ethiopian trucks, more than 100-strong and including armoured cars, have crossed into neighbouring Somalia.....The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which control much of southern Somalia, say they never intended to attack Baidoa and have pulled troops back.

A group of antiwar protesters at UC Berkely and UC Santa Cruz have turned up in the Pentagon's anti-terrorist Talon database.

"The Turkish military is moving forward with plans to send forces into northern Iraq to clear out Turkish Kurdish guerrilla bases, the prime minister said Wednesday." Again, this may just be political maneuvering, but threatening military action against US wishes in Iraq is pretty serious.

More civilians died in Iraq in June than died in the World Trade Center attack.

Picture of the Day - 2

Attacking Pat Tillman's family on their Christianity

Look how much goddamned ink ESPN(!?!?!?) gives to the claims that
"the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives."

Kauzlarich, the source of these statements, was "regiment executive officer in Afghanistan, making him ultimately responsible for the conduct of the fateful operation in which Pat Tillman died."

He was also the one who conducted the first investigation of Tillman's death.

ESPN should be ashamed.
(Significant excerpts at Rising Hegemon. Full ESPN article here.)

Ummmm.... Iraq?

While all the networks have been focusing all their coverage on Israel Lebanon for a week, the Iraq war, our war, has taken a rather frightening turn.

I mentioned yesterday Casey and Khalilzad's very open criticism of the Iraqi goverrnment and Prime Minister Maliki. Around Friday sermons, Al Sistani, breaking something of a silence, came forward and issued his own urgent message.
Al-Sistani warned that if the violence continues, it "will harm the unity of the people and hinder their hopes of liberation and independence for a long time."

"I call on all those who are keen for the unity and future of this country — religious and political leaders, tribal chiefs and others — to exert maximum efforts to stop the bloodletting," al-Sistani said.

These are substantial statements, and, as all three of these are rare and represent a stronger position than previously expressed, it tells me that the senior people "on the ground" in Iraq are feeling the situation slip out from under them.

But more troubling than that is the huge upsurge in the number of refugees.
A day after the United States issued a stern warning to both Shi'ite and minority Sunni leaders to match talk with action on reining in "death squads" and "terrorists" from their respective communities, the Migration Ministry said more than 30,000 people had registered as refugees this month alone.

"We consider this to be a dangerous sign," ministry spokesman Sattar Nowruz told Reuters, acknowledging that many more people fled abroad or quietly sought refuge with relatives rather than sign up for official aid or move into state camps.

This is ethnic cleansing.

Tom Lasseter of McClatchy(Knight Ridder) who has done some phenomenal reporting from Iraq, looks at the slide in relation to the Iraqi security forces.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Despite the addition of almost 100,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops in the past year, American efforts to pacify central Iraq and the capital appear to be failing, challenging a central assumption behind the U.S. strategy in Iraq: that training more Iraqi security forces will allow American troops to start going home.....

Some U.S. officials acknowledge privately that their hopes that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be able to rein in Shiite militia groups and persuade Sunni insurgents to negotiate may be misplaced. Many of the government's leaders, they note, are themselves linked to Shiite or Kurdish militias or guerrilla groups.

"I keep hope up - it's misguided perhaps - that cooler heads will prevail," said an American defense official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "I have to believe that; otherwise all of this has been a tremendous, tremendous fiasco."

Lasseter also notes "There are about 8,000 American soldiers in Baghdad." That echoes other reporting that there are now 55,000 of the 127,000 US troops in Baghdad, but only 8,000 of them are patrolling the streets.

CNN: 38 tortured bodies found scattered around Iraq and tons of other "good news."

And, I feel obliged to mention the front page WaPo piece on Republican candidates shifting their positions on Iraq.
Republicans are making it clear to constituents they do not agree with every decision the president has made on Iraq. Then they boil the argument down to two choices: staying and fighting or conceding defeat to a vicious enemy.

The shift is subtle, but Republican lawmakers acknowledge that it is no longer tenable to say the news media are ignoring the good news in Iraq and painting an unfair picture of the war.

(Sorry for such a long post, but, despite the lack of mainstream coverage, Iraq is rapidly failing.)

Later: There's a report out of Iraq that the number of attacks on US troops just in Baghdad week to week has increased 40% from 24 a day to 34 a day over the last week.


A lot of blogs are making a big deal out of this WSJ/Harris poll that shows Bush approval at 34%. Let it go, it's meaningless.

This poll was conducted July 7-10 several days before Israel started attacking Lebanon. That's what's going to shift the polling.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4

Israeli girls write messages on a shell at a heavy artillery position near Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border, Monday, July 17, 2006. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

And what exactly would you recommend, sir?

This is awfully public, very challenging and shaming to Maliki, and completely undermines any negotiating strength he might hold. This tells me that the "generals on the ground" recognize that Iraq is rapidly sliding out from under them.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United States told Iraq's leaders in stern language on Wednesday they must act swiftly to halt a surge in attacks by both Sunnis and Shi'ites that the United Nations said risks pitching the nation into civil war.....

In a blunt statement, Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey condemned "terrorists" and "death squads" and said: "We call on Iraqi leaders to take responsibility and pursue reconciliation not just in words, but through deeds as well."

On the other hand, it might force a change from the current "stand and bleed" strategy.

Picture of the Day - 3

Lebanese refugees in Sanayeh Park in Beirut.


I just watched the Tony Snow press briefing and the US policy towards the Israeli attacks on Lebanon appears to be we don't want to know so we're not going to ask and don't kill too many civilians.

As for what's too many civilians....?

Heads up

I think this may be just rhetoric, but still....
Turkish officials signaled Tuesday they are prepared to send the army into northern Iraq if U.S. and Iraqi forces do not take steps to combat Turkish Kurdish guerrillas there - a move that could put Turkey on a collision course with the United States.

Turkey is facing increasing domestic pressure to act after 15 soldiers, police and guards were killed fighting the guerrillas in southeastern Turkey in the past week.

The US did issue a warning to Turkey, in response to which the Turkish Prime Minister pointed to the US acquiescence towards Israel attacking Lebanon.
“Terrorism is terrorism everywhere,” Erdogan said in Istanbul. “It is not possible to agree with a mentality that tolerates country A and displays a different attitude when it comes to country B.

Also in Iraq news, "The United States urged Iraq to adopt a new hydrocarbon law that would enable US and other foreign companies to invest in the war-torn country's oil sector."

Sam Bodman, the US Energy Secretary, went to great lengths to emphasize the word "hydrocarbon," or perhaps more exactly, not to use the word "oil."

Picture of the Day - 2

"Look, let's not do this now..... I barely know Angela Merkel.... I was just trying to be nice...."

Dear God

Dana Milbank lights them up on the gay marriage debate in the House yesterday. Best quote in the second to last paragraph:
Gingrey, the floor leader/gynecologist, posited that the debate was "about values and how this great country represents them to the world." After the vote, he elaborated: "This is probably the best message we can give to the Middle East in regards to the trouble we are having over there right now."

More thoughts on Israel/Lebanon

One of the apparent intentions of the Israeli attacks on Lebanese infrastructure is to drive a wedge between the main body of the people in Lebanon and Hezbullah by inflicting "inconveniences" on the non-combabtant Lebanese people. Among some segments of Lebanese society that does seem to be occurring, but, as so many other nations have learned, the application of force also has the effect of radicalizing the society under attack.

So, Israel may have some success, but it may also cost them more in the long run. Look at Gaza.

Also, The Decider seems to have decided.
"Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me," Mr Bush said in Washington.

"It's essential that the government of Lebanon survives this crisis. We've worked hard to free - and we meaning the international community - worked hard to free Lebanon from Syrian influence."

("we meaning the international community" - Riiiggghhhttt.)

Picture of the Day

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


As of today, Bush still hasn't spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.
Q Well, I don't think that he's even had a conversation with Olmert.

MR. SNOW: Okay, so you're assuming because the President hasn't called Olmert that that creates breathing room?

Maybe, just maybe, this is the "breathing room" she's talking about, Tony.
The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources.

Interestingly, the NYTimes has the same story sourced to Israeli and American officials. (Notice the Israelis are the common source.) So, either one paper swiped the story from another, or somebody's out there intentionally spreading this. Is this an effort to tamp down international pressure? An effort to stall the growing movement towards UN troops?

This comes on the same day that the Israelis are really first broaching the idea of sending significant troops across the border.

(Also in the same briefing today, Tony Snow said this addressing Helen Thomas, "Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you...."

Helen Thomas is of Lebanese descent. After all these years, Helen is about as tough as they come, but still, Tony, you owe her an apology.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Gonzales's long day

When you're the head of the legal department with knowledge that your organization is doing illegal things, one would think that you would be better prepared to answer a few questions.

The attorney general sounded grudging in his acceptance of the recent rulings against military commissions.

The other revelation today, "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an internal probe of the warrantless eavesdropping program...."

I'm not sure what to make of this latter revelation. I'm sure this decision will be couched as "National Security" (trademarked,) but, if the President was "personally" shielding an illegal program from oversight.......

Quickhits - Iraq

A UN Report finds that over the last two months almost 6,000 Iraqis have died (3,000/month, 100/day,) with about the same number wounded. Make note that this figure is based on REPORTED deaths, and as the NYTimes included, "The figures do not include dead among the country’s security services." So, the floor on the number is 100/day. It's likely higher.

I heard this great NPR story in the car this morning, a snapshot of US troops working with Iraqi forces in South Baghdad.

The British detained a major figure within the Shia militia movement in Basra. I found this bit interesting,
Burbridge said the detained suspect was "believed to have been acting against the wishes of Sadr".

There have been a number of operations, involving U.S. and Iraqi forces, against Mehdi Army leaders this month. The targets, however, have mostly been rogue elements, Shi'ite sources say. Sadr has made no comment publicly on the arrests.

police found the head of a young woman near Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. A man was killed when a bomb planted under the head exploded as he was trying to take a photo of the head, police said.

I don't know why, but I found the story of Iraq's "ghost train" compelling.

Lastly, I think we should be encouraging the Iraqis to smoke Marijuana rather than arresting them for it. Stoners make very poor insurgents.

(And, again, I know I'm doing alot of Iraq right now, but I really have this feeling we're at another critical point. Maliki's settlement offer with the Sunnis appears to have completely collapsed, and the "security crackdown" in Baghdad seems to be having to effect whatsoever. Both of these were major efforts towards credibility and both seem to have failed miserably. What's next?)

Picture of the Day - 2

From a series of photos of Bush attempting to give German Chancellor Merkel a backrub at the G8.

Tell me that doesn't look like office harassment you've seen before. Check out the whole series, you'll see what I mean.

(Two links in case the original gets overloaded.)

Another Sunni attack

This is the third major Sunni attack in three days. The internet cafe bombing killing 26, the market attack yesterday killing at least 40, and now this....
A suicide car bomber detonated explosives in a crowd of laborers gathered across the street from a major Shiite shrine in southern Iraq Tuesday, killing at least 53 people and wounding 105, officials and witnesses said.

And from the Reuters version
Police in the scene were pelted with rocks by angry crowds. Many appeared to be followers of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has many supporters in the town. Kufa is near the holy city of Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

The protesters chanted to the police: "You are traitors!" "You are not doing your job!" "American agents!."

And a new detail from yesterday's market attack.

The assault occurred a few hundred yards from Iraqi army and police positions, but the troops did not intervene until the attackers were fleeing, the witnesses said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals.....

The events also raised doubts about the effectiveness of the U.S. strategy of handing over large areas of the country to Iraqi control, while keeping U.S. troops in reserve.

U.S. troops of the 101st Airborne Division reported hearing detonations and gunfire, the U.S. command said. But Iraqi troops are responsible for security in Mahmoudiya, and American soldiers do not intervene unless asked by the Iraqis.

So, I'll go back to the question, how is the US supposed to stop this? How do you stop a man from pulling up in a minivan loaded with explosives? How do respond to a market attack when the Iraqi forces don't intervene? What is the mission? What is the mission on a tactical level?

Picture of the Day

(A Purple Heart taped to a soldier in intensive care in the Green Zone, Baghdad.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tinfoil hat, but......

Emptywheel theorizes that it was Hu Jintao's microphone that caught Bush last night at the G8 and that this was done in retaliation for the "pullback" and the other embarrassments (like playing the Taiwanese anthem) during Hu's visit in April.

That seems awfully small fry for someone as agile and patient as Hu Jintao, but just of the fun of it, it's worth a read.

Picture of the Day - 4

An Afghan policeman tries to burn alcoholic drinks in a Kabul park in front of the bomb-ravaged Dar Laman Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, July 17, 2006. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Afghanistan is so off the radar that I left it out of my earlier post, but things are continuing to get messier there.

Taliban forces took two towns in Southern Afghanistan "forcing police and government officials to flee." I doubt if they came under attack that they would attempt to hold the towns against the British forces operating there, but the Taliban doesn't need to hold the towns to effect their influence.

Who would you cooperate with, the Taliban who could come in at any time and kill those who are even suspected of working against them or the British who won't?

British, US, and Canadian forces are in the middle of a "major operation" which seems to be gaining some successes, but at the same time, carbombings are increasing and British bases are coming under more frequent attacks.
British and Afghan forces came under heavy fire in Nazad town in Helmand province on Sunday, days after nearly being overrun in an attack by 200 Taliban. "This is the 27th attack in 18 days."

Also, while we're here, let's talk about that "freedom" thing again....
The Afghan government has alarmed human rights groups by approving a plan to reintroduce a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the body which the Taliban used to enforce its extreme religious doctrine.....

The spin on this is that it's an effort by the Karzai government to appear more Islamic to counter the rising Taleban influence in the south of the country.

Picture of the Day - 3

"Denny was just showin' me some of them 'stem cells.'"


"Having just witnessed a live demonstration of gay marriage..."

Just what does "freedom" mean?

Rarely spoken of in polite society, one of the reasons for the "Freedom agenda" is that it allows the US a far greater ability to influence the selection of governments and policies in the countries targeted for "Freedom."

I won't go through all the examples, but look at the funding of Fatah against Hamas or the sending of consultants to Mexico or Venezuela or the funding of anti-government groups in Iran, or the work of the IRI in Haiti and in the former Eastern Bloc. (Or, perhaps more to the point today, Lebanon.)

Without "freedom" the US would have to manage a Mossadeq type coup to change these governments and their policies.

Also, in a representative (paliamentary) government, it is far easier to place spies and operatives in the government as the spoils of the election are spread through many parties and because of governmental turnover.

I've just been thinking about this in the wake of US pressure on Russia to democratize while negotiations over her energy policies are ongoing. Why else would Cheney be utilizing the rhetoric of "freedom?"

Picture of the Day - 2

Priorities and Coverage

I understand that the Israel/Lebanon conflict is a major story with huge potential implications (especially when the Israelis actually send ground forces across the border,) but let's get a little perspective. There was another major market attack in Iraq today killing at least 40 civilians, maybe as many 70+.

Where's my breathless Wolf Blitzer with his graphic map showing me a half dozen reporters spread around Iraq promising to cover "all sides of the conflict?" Where's my "BREAKING NEWS: Mid East Conflict" banner for Iraq with updates in every segment and constant interviews and analysis?

Take a look at the Reuters "Developments in Iraq" post yesterday. It looks like that every damn day, and it reflects only the incidents that make it to the Reuters newsdesk.

For all the criticism the Bush administration has heaped on the media over Iraq, I think the administration should just be thankful for the media they have. If Iraq had been covered the way this Israel/Lebanon conflict has been covered......

(Also, I want to point again to last night's post. The Sunnis are asking for the US to stay and protect them while, at the same time, conducting retaliatory attacks against unarmed civilians. How are US troops supposed to combat this? What is the mission?)

Picture of the Day

Did you ever have a stupid boss?

You know, the one where you just keep wondering how in the hell he got his job. Then you get stuck on a trip with him, you're tired, and he just won't shut up.

And the whole time he's talking, all you're thinking is, "Please don't say something stupid. Please don't say something stupid."

Later: Was I about four hours ahead of my time or what?
President Bush, not realizing his remarks were being picked up by a microphone, bluntly expressed his frustration with the actions of Hezbollah, a militant Islamic group believed backed by Iran and Syria that is engaged in escalating warfare with Israel.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive) and it's over," Bush told Blair in a discussion before the Group of Eight leaders began their lunch.

Elsewhere: "You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving," Bush said.

(And what's with all the open mikes in Russia? Is it a plan to embarass the US by publicizing what US leaders are really like?) (Transcript HERE.) (Video Youtube, Quicktime.)

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

This is "in the middle of a civil war"

This may be presented as "good news," but I don't see this as a positive development at all.
As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The situation the US will soon find itself in is that it will be expected to do "defensive duties" by both sides including being in the blame for every attack, while at the same time both sides will continue their offensives against each other. (Like today, when the Sunnis are requesting American protection while conducting a masive bombing, 25 dead, against the Shiites.)

US soldiers will be expected to guard targets and thus will become a part of those targets. The US cannot turnover defense to the militias or insurgents because those are the same forces they are supposed to be suppressing. And to top it off, efforts to get the militias off the streets simply frees them up for more offensive operations.

And as for turning security over to the "legitimate" Iraqi government forces, take a look at the operation conducted yesterday when an organized operation of "about 60 gunmen in masks and government-style camouflage uniforms" kidnapped the Iraqi olympic chief. Were they government forces or not? Does anybody even know anymore?

We are smack in the middle of a civil war with both sides asking for US protection while, at the same time, carrying out attacks on the other. What is the mission? Where do we tell our soldiers to point their guns?

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Taking it beyond me

Michael's got a new video up using some of the more dramatic pictures I've posted over the last few months.

Sunday snippet

Condi Rice on This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Extremists now appear to have been emboldened. The moderates appear to be in retreat. There is no peace process. There is war. How do you answer administration critics who say that the administration’s actions have unleashed, have helped unleash the very hostilities you hoped to contain?

RICE: Well, first of all, those hostilities were not very well contained as we found out on September 11th, so the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque.

Then on CNN just now.
Wolf Blitzer: Let's move on and talk about Iran and it's nuclear ambitions. Does Russia believe that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb?

Sergei Lavrov: We're not in the business of believing. We are in the business of having facts.

I have foreign mininster envy.

(And, while I'm at it, Bill Kristol, if the Fox News host shouts you down, maybe that's a sign you should think about where you are.)

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Remember Alice? This is a song about Alice.

(Bodies found in Haditha blindfolded, hands bound.)


It appeared after the last rockets fell on Haifa that a very clear line had been drawn by the Israelis that attacking Haifa was to be regarded as an escalation. Hizbullah had maintained that restriction after the initial attack, until today.

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