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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The 2006 election narrative

I've been talking alot about how the media frames the upcoming election. Take a look at this Reuters article as example, (the whole thing's like this.)
Dogged by the increasingly violent Iraq war, one of their lowest approval ratings in decades, high-profile legislative setbacks and the unpopularity of President George W. Bush, Republicans are scrambling to hold onto Congress.

Opinion polls show most Americans believe the nation is headed in "the wrong direction," and Democrats argue it's time for voters to give them the reins of power.

All the context in this article, "dogged," "stuggling," "scrambling," is merely the writer's opinion of the state of things injected into the storyline. This could just as easily be written in a much more neutral way, "Facing a number of difficulties the Republicans are working to maintain their majority in Congress." But that's not the current framing narrative.

Despite polling right now that shows the Republicans maintaining a slim majority, the growing narrative is one of expected Republican defeat, and that opinion creeps in to have effects throughout the media coverage.

(The countering narrative that the Republicans prefer is one of a disunified Democratic party that can't settle on a single position on anything and, thus, will find someway to lose any election.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Picture of the Day - 2

Stomach turning - a lobbyist's story

The NYTimes has an article on Brent Wilkes, telling his version of the "lobbying process." It's absolutely disgusting how corrupt this has become.
Mr. Wilkes had set up separate meetings with the lawmakers hoping to win a government contract, and he planned to punctuate each pitch with a campaign donation. But his hometown congressman, Representative Bill Lowery of San Diego, a Republican, told him that presenting the checks during the sessions was not how things were done, Mr. Wilkes recalled.

Instead, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lowery taught him the right way to do it: hand over the envelope in the hallway outside the suite, at least a few feet away.....

The culture of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee is one of great power and little scrutiny. Mr. Wilkes said every member appeared to have a personal allowance of millions of dollars to disburse without public disclosure.......

Sometimes, Mr. Wilkes said, lobbyists offered him an earmark if he could come up with a project. In 2004, he said, (former top Delay aide) Edwin A. Buckham, another lobbyist for Mr. Wilkes, reported that the House Appropriations Committee wanted to make a “going-away gift” in the form of an earmark to Representative George Nethercutt, Republican of Washington, who was leaving his seat on the panel to run for the Senate.

Mr. Wilkes suggested a shipboard communications project in Washington State and got $1 million for it. Mr. Nethercutt said he thought the technology was promising.

It's all about earmarks. (and it looks like Rep. Lewis (R- Ca.) is toast.)

House Majority Leader Boehner isn't making changes. Neither is the presidency eyeing McCain. I don't know if a Speaker Pelosi would necessarily be any cleaner, but at least it would stall the process for a few years as the Republican K street project fell out and another construct formed.

Picture of the Day

Iraqi civil war has already begun, U.S. troops say

If you didn't see this excellent piece by Tom Lasseter, give it a read. It describes, from the US soldier's point of view, some of what's going on on the ground in the streets of Iraq. Streets acting as boundaries (front lines) betweeen the Sunni and Shia and shelling and raids across those boundaries.

Efforts to "purify" the various neighborhoods, and a stark pessimism among the lower ranks.

Framing Lieberman/Lamont as being about the war

Everytime a Republican comments on the Liebermen/Lamont primary, they always frame the race as solely about the war. Why?

The Republicans desperately want this race framed around Lieberman's war support because in the short term that message can be used to amplify the idea that Democrats are still split on the Iraq war, that they don't have a unified message. This idea of Democrats without a plan is essential if the Republican strategy is to continue to cleave to the President's current "stand and bleed" policy.

In the longer term, framing Lieberman/Lamont as solely about the war puts more pressure on those Democrats who voted for the war, complicating their future politics on a key issue. (Senators, Hillary '08.) "I was for the war before I was against it."

Lastly, if the race is solely about the war and not about a broader question of Lieberman's "closeness" to the president, a Lamont victory is merely a squabble between those hippie Democrats having very little reach into the mainstream.

If a Lamont win represents a repudiation of Bush, that conversation starts now, and the narrative of Bush dragging down the Republicans moves into every race at this critical point three months before the election.

(These are just a few quick thoughts. All are open to revision if you've got a better argument. I've just been amazed watching the Republicans trying to get involved in this one Democratic primary.)

Later: As example on the question of narrative. (NYTimes) Clinton dodges political peril for war vote.

That's the headline, rather than noting that at the RNC strategy meeting the theme was 'Defining the difference,' where the RNC advised candidates not to try to defend the last six years of the presidency or congress.

Or maybe the WaPo's framing, GOP Candidates Claim Degrees Of Separation From President. Narrative.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Political Bits

Claude Allen former chief White House domestic policy advisor told the judge while pleading guilty that he had shoplifted 25 times because of the stress brought onto him in dealing with Katrina. He got probation and community service.

Meanwhile, the people who shoplifted in New Orleans after Katrina, stealing 27 bottles of liquor, got 15 years. That seems fair, huh?

Rawstory claims to have gotten hold of a memo outlining the Senate Republican's strategy for campaigning in August.

2008 Republican hopeful Hagel jumps on the withdrawal bandwagon.

And, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report which helps set the conventional wisdom,
"Time is running out for Republicans. Unless something dramatic happens before Election Day, Democrats will take control of the House. And the chances that they’ll seize the Senate are rising toward 50-50.

I'm eligible for the Army!!!!

I hurt my knee the other day just walking around the house.

I groan sometimes when I get into and out of a chair, but the Pentagon thinks I'm ready to go.
The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.

Funny, what an unpopular anti-insurgency campaign does to recruiting.

A little more on martyrs

The whole complex of the martyr as it exists in the Muslim world is often presented as something foreign and exotic and, almost as frequently, presented as something from a more primitive culture. (Mmmmm... Smell that American exceptionalism.)

But in reality, the US has utilized martyrs just as well. After 9-11, how often were those deaths mentioned to justify military action? Or Pat Tillman? Or Jessica Lynch? Or the repeated political statement that leaving Iraq now would somehow "dishonor" the "sacrifice" of those who have died?

From "Remember the Maine!" to "Remember Pearl Harbor!" the US has utilized its linguistic version of the concept of the martyr to motivate the population into war.

So, as the Arab world begins to rally around the pictures coming out of Lebanon, understand that that's their Pearl Harbor, that's their Maine, and we are perceived as having had a part in it.

Picture of the Day - 2

As 4,700 US troops are transferred to Baghdad apparently to crack down on the Shia militias, Sadr's Mahdi army is preparing for the conflict, too.

(AFP) More than 100,000 white-clad Shiites marched through Baghdad in a noisy rally in support of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, as US commanders warned of a slide towards civil war......

"We will win by God's help, Mehdi Army and Hezbollah," chanted the demonstrators. "We are soldiers, ready for Nasrallah's call."

Demonstrators wore white to symbolize the burial shroud and their readiness for martyrdom.

(AP) Carrying effigies of U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ....

(AP) Hundreds of thousands of Shiites chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" marched through the streets of Baghdad's biggest Shiite district....Iraqi government television said the Defense Ministry had approved the demonstration....

Look. We can't win this one.

I understand that means admitting you were wrong, Mr. Bush, but whether you admit it today, or in two years, the outcome has already been decided. It's just a matter of how many you're willing to let die in the interim for your politics and your ego.

Remember the Alamo

Whether Israel succeeds or fails in it's efforts against Hezbullah, at this point, the key battle has already been lost. Across the Arab world, the resistance of Hezbullah has gained massive support, and its fighters and leaders have become almost mythical symbols for the greater resistance against Israel and the US.

This fight is their Alamo, and it will be a rallying cry we will hear for the duration of this "generational war."

Bush's vacation

With everything that's going on, I can't believe he actually went to Crawford.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said that "while everybody recognizes what happened with Katrina" the president's vacation schedule this year is "driven by sheer necessity."

Yeah. It must be tough.

Picture of the Day


Thursday, August 03, 2006

A little night reading

Just some article links to fill the space between pictures.

1) Salon has an article which says the US is sharing NSA intercepts with Israel. No surprise there, but the Sidney Blumenthal then goes on to paint a picture of some of the "core" neocons selectively supplying intercept intel that implicates Iran and Syria in an attempt to draw Israel into a broader regional war. (I's Salon, so you gotta watch the ad.)

2) The LATimes has an article describing some of the more overt psyops efforts by Israel and Hezbullah.

3) The WaPo reports that with US troops decamping and heading to Baghdad, insurgents are preparing an attempt to unify and retake Fallujah.

Picture of the Day - 4

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (L) speaks with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)(R) as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace watches before testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Picture of the Day - 3


Rumsfeld at the show

The headline out of the Senate hearing today is Generals raise fears of Iraq civil war, but that's not all that was there. I didn't see Rumsfeld's opening statement, but an excerpt from Reuters. (This is Rumsfeld's justification for staying in Iraq. If we leave Iraq, Americans would no longer be allowed in Spain.)
"If we left Iraq prematurely as the terrorists demand, the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing.

"And if we left the Middle East, they'd order us and all those who don't share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines," he said.

"And then we would face not only the evil ideology of these extremists, but an enemy that will have grown accustomed to succeeding in telling free people everywhere what to do."

This is the thinking that's running the war. It's not about winning, it's about proving we can take casualties.

(And, it's no wonder Rumsfeld looked cowed, a new poll shows 55% of Americans want a complete troop withdrawal within a year.)

Last, something crossed my mind as I watched Rumsfeld defending himself from Hillary Clinton's scathing indictment. The Iraqis are not fighting against "freedom," they are fighting for self-determination.

Later: I forgot about the odd section where Republican committee chair Sen. Warner was asking whether Congress's original force authorization extended to the current circumstance.

(Again, sorry for so much Iraq today, but that's the story that's got my interest.)

Picture of the Day - 2

The US raises troop levels, Sadr raises troop levels

Perhaps in preparation for more conflict, Sadr has brought followers and militia members from Basra north to Baghdad, ostensibly to protest Israel's attacks on Lebanon.

However, bringing 20 buses "carrying young men, mostly unarmed members of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia," should raise the antenna. And, Israel/Lebanon is enough of a rallying cry to motivate violence against US forces.

If the US does decide to directly confront the Shia militias in a coordinated way, the violence will get far worse. Unfortunately, in the current US strategy, that's the next logical step.

A grim British assessment of Iraq and Sadr braces for conflict.

A leaked memo from William Patey, Britain's outgoing ambassador in Baghdad, paints a very different picture from the public statements. (BBC)
"The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.

"Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq - a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror - must remain in doubt."

The memo also marks the Mahdi militia as the greatest threat going forward. Thus far, the US has largely avoided direct confrontation with the Shia militias, although that such conflicts have increased over the last month or so. But I want to point out again,
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.

“En eles” - in traditional Arabic it means chewed up

According to a NYTimes article this morning describing Iraqi's terror at the sight of Iraqi uniforms, that phrase "en eles" is the way that Iraqis describe people who disappear due to the secret police or militias. They've been chewed up.

As the bodies of the missing are almost always found tortured and mutilated, it's quite a descriptive phrase. It also gives the violence form as some great beast that is preying on the people of Iraq.

En eles. They've been chewed up.

(Sorry for so much Iraq this morning, but that's what's got my attention this morning. Also, Rumsfeld is testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. On CSpan right now. internet video.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4


Guantanamo could be for you.

I can't imagine that this "plan" would pass with these provisions, but take a look at the authority the White House wants to claim.

A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such "commissions" to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.

The article makes the point that this proposed legislation, in effect, attempts to pass previous administration practices into law. To me, it simply details all the abrogations of rights already committed.

Picture of the Day - 3

A Pakistani girl protests the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Haditha - A Pentagon official confirms

They're still weighing whether to press charges.
WASHINGTON-- Evidence collected on the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

And, the AP has another article on a different investigation on other unwarranted killings.

Let's open up the 9-11 debate - The Pentagon lied

I'm going to leave my views out for awhile, just to see what y'all think. (The survey was conducted by telephone from July 6-24 at the Scripps Survey Research Center.)
Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."

And, just to add to the conversation, the Pentagon lied to the 9-11 commission, (in this morning's WaPo, page A03)
Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.

Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.....

"We to this day don't know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It's one of those loose ends that never got tied."

UPDATE: Here's the Vanity Fair article released today that spawned the WaPo piece.

Picture of the Day - 2 - Bush's Vacation

Bush's August vacation is scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon. What does he do?

It looks extremely unlikely that Israel/Lebanon will be settled in the next two days, despite Condi Rice's hope to get a Security Council Resolution passed "by the end of the week."

So, does Bush stay in Washington, giving the appearance of engagement, but also conveying a message to 2006 voters of the gravity of the crisis?

Or does he go to Crawford reinforcing the opinions of presidential detachment from Katrina last year?

Bush has made his vacations an issue. In his first five years, he spent one full year on vacation. So, what he does here will carry a message. But what message?


This is not good.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Many of the Shiite Muslim religious leaders who strongly backed the formation of the Iraqi government now are condemning it, warning that the country could descend into full revolt......

Many Shiites have refrained from engaging in all-out war because of repeated pleas from the Shiite leaders' council, the Marjaiyyah, to show restraint. The recent statements from religious leaders suggest that stance could be changing.

"The Marjaiyyah will support the government as long as the government serves the people," Abdul-Aziz al Hakim, the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, the largest Shiite political bloc, said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. "This was a warning."

As Maliki's government stumbles, the Shia politics of Iraq will become the primary issue. If Shia coalition abandons Maliki.....

And what does the US do in this position? Try to prop up a hobbled, non-backed Maliki? Try to find another 2/3 consensus candidate? (yeah, right.) Allow a coup(rumor only)? Or just get out?

How does the US reinforce security, build Iraqi forces, rebuild the country, etc, in any of these cases?

Picture of the Day

Wounded Iraqis are carried away from the scene of a massive car bomb, Tuesday morning, Aug. 1, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq. The car bomb exploded near a bank in the Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad, killing at least eight people and injuring 20, said police Lt. Col. Abbas Mohammed Salman. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

They don't even mount a pushback

If you want to get some idea of the politics of Iraq at this point, take a look at the White House response to the Dem. letter calling for a timetable of withdrawal.

Nothing. Crickets.

No pushback, no "stay the course," no "fighting them over there." Nothing.

The argument is over.

Picture of the Day - 4

Does anybody remember this guy?

He was so glib. Now he's hiding.

(Later: Apparently, he's dodging the Congress, too.)

Santorum funding the Greens

Everyone is getting so excited about Santorum's little Republican conspiracy to fund the Green party and get their candidate in the Pa. Senate race.

This isn't the first time the Repubs have done this by any means. Remember 2004?
Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000, is financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of Reverend Al Sharpton.

Ostensibly this move was to put an active critic in the Democratic primaries. Off the record, the goal was to scare off white middle of the road voters from the Democratic party.

Picture of the Day - 3

Bush stumbles.

Picture of the Day - 2


Haaretz - No rockets from Qana?

How does this play into the politics of this war?
As the Israel Air Force continues to investigate the air strike, questions have been raised over military accounts of the incident.

It now appears that the military had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence of Hezbollah men at the time.

The Israel Defense Forces had said after the deadly air-strike that many rockets had been launched from Qana. However, it changed its version on Monday.

The site was included in an IAF plan to strike at several buildings in proximity to a previous launching site. Similar strikes were carried out in the past. However, there were no rocket launches from Qana on the day of the strike.

Iraq Quickhits

The refugee numbers in Iraq are shooting up. 182,000 are reported, but those are only the individuals who registered with the Iraqi ministry. If you were forced out of your home by Sunni/Shia threats, do you think you would register your location with an Iraqi ministry?

The violence continues underreported.

(WaPo) Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the debate over the treatment of detainees in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, retired from the Army yesterday amid ongoing congressional concern about his role in policies that allegedly led to abuse by U.S. service members.

Was the Kurdish "Thank You" tour around the US, complete with TV ads in DC, a Republican stunt? The funding is very murky.

And, how are prominent Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's comments not on the front pages? He roundly criticized the policy on Israel saying it made the US less safe, and likened Iraq to Vietnam. This is a Republican power player, and it's not news?

Questions for the President

Do Jenna and Laura (Jr.) practice abstinence? Did Laura (Sr.) use birth control?

Do you believe the bible to be literal? Do you believe the earth is 6,000 years old?

How is it that embryos have a "dignity of life" while Palestinian children must continue dying as you work to "establish a sustainable peace"?

With a history of terror groups in western democracies, how exactly is the ideology of freedom supposed to transplant the ideology of terrorism? Can you explain that relationship?

Do you employ any gay staff at the White House? If not, isn't that discriminatory?

(Just a quick, off the top of the head list. I'll probably add to it as more occur to me.)

Picture of the Day

Nato takes over in Afghanistan.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Command and Control

On day 20 of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, there were zero rockets fired from Hezbullah positions. Zero.

20 days of Israeli airstrikes, intelligence and ground operations, and still Hezbullah leaders, in the middle of the conflict with all the complications that entails, were able to contact the hundreds of rocket launch sites to turn off the tap just like that.

20 days of Israeli operations, and the Hezbullah leadership is still at large and exercising total command and control.

(The other option is that each of the missile firings has been individually ordered, which at a hundred firings a day also displays a robust communication system.)

Picture of the Day - 3

A great read

I'm not sure I agree with everything in it, but Juan Cole has a fascinating, thought provoking post that challenges the inclusion of the Israeli operations in Lebanon in the "war on terror."

Short version, Hezbullah represents a subnationalist independence group rather than a non-geographic Al-Qaeda type structure.

I rarely openly recommend articles, but, just for the perspective, this one is worth your three minutes.

Blaming the Iraqis

As a US failure becomes more and more apparent in Iraq in the shape of chaos, confusion, and a growing mass of tens of thousands of dead civilians, expect to see more and more efforts from all sides in political America to pin the blame on the Iraqis themselves.

For the Democrats it will probably take the form of joint blame, administration policies coupled with a failure of the Iraqis to "step forward." Framing the failure this way, enables the Dems to point at the administration for the failure, but also offer some cover to those who supported the war in the party.

Also, and this is key, it allows the Dems to criticize the war and call for pull out while cutting a wide and careful path around the military, its decisions, and tactics, insulating them from charges of being anti-military or "soft" on the war on terror. (Take a look at the letter released today as example.) It takes the debates away from policy issues on which their nuanced positions have traditionally lost. It's the Iraqis fault, after all.

For the Republicans it's a much more linear connection. It's the Iraqis who have failed, not the Republicans. However, this is a very fine political needle to thread for the Republicans as they want to pin the failure on Maliki's government, but also don't want to undermine support for the war or start a Republican withdrawal movement.

What this means is that the message must come out through back channels. Certainly, they can't afford to have that sort of talk come out of the administration, because it would undermine the "strategy" they are attempting in Iraq. At the same time, the message can't come from other Republican politicians because there is a chance that the issue could catch fire suddenly, leading to a Congressman riding the withdrawal argument to the national stage.

So, I would expect that we will start to see the Republican version of "it's the Iraqis fault" to start trickling out through the editorial, think tank, and talkshow circuits. They will try to get it out under the radar, so that when they need it to justify the inevitable, it's already present and available in the framing. Watch for more and more mentions of Maliki's mistakes to lay the groundwork.

For the media, "it's the Iraqis fault" frees them from the burden of having to blame the administration. Certainly, they want conflict, at least on the TV level, but they really prefer fiery conflict about nothing. (gay marriage, ten commandments, blue dress. ) They want their viewers passionately tuning in to watch the pundit arguments, but not so upset at the reality of Iraq that they tune out. Blaming the Iraqis might well offer the conscience salving debate "just how culpable are the Iraqis?"

That's how I see it at this point. It's going to be the Iraqis fault for not "standing up." We blew up their country, destroyed their infrastructure, disbanded their security forces, and enacted policies that exacerbated the long standing tensions. But, it's going to be their fault.

Also, having watched politics too long, once politicians start trying to apportion blame away from themselves, the policy has already passed the tipping point. It's a damned scandal that US soldiers will be dying while all this is going on. And they never should have been there in the first place.

It's all over but the killing. (Friedman attributed to Bob Shrum.)

Picture of the Day - 2


Picture of the Day

Blogger's picture function is not working right now. I'll put one up when it comes back up.

In the meantime, let me offer this old picture. I think it's apt.

Sistani on Lebanon

Iraqi PM Nour al-Maliki's statements on Lebanon made big ripples in the US domestic press and politics, (How dare our puppet not do what we want?) but in the end, his statements were only significant in that they reflected the majority Shia opinion in Iraq. He's got his hands full right now and, frankly, not even the people of Iraq listen to him anymore.

On the other hand, when Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani says it, we had better listen.
"Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire," al-Sistani said, in a clear reference to the United States.

"It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon," he added. "If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region."

Sistani who has a significant following throughout the Shia world has been a consistent and strident voice against Shia violence in Iraq which gives this veiled threat a lot more meaning.

"words are unable to condemn this crime that was carried out by those who got rid of all humanitarian values."

"The size of the catastrophe in Lebanon resulting from the continuation of the Israeli aggression has reached a point that cannot tolerate more patience and we cannot stand idle toward it."

The illusory ceasefire

I didn't post last night on Israel's "suspension" of air attacks because of the lack of clarity, the strange way the statement came out through Adam Ereli, a US State Dept spokesman, and the fact that Israeli statements seemed pretty shaky on the whole thing.
Israeli officials said nothing publicly about the suspension early Monday, and Mr. Ereli noted that Israel reserved the right to strike at militants preparing attacks against it.

Whatever the US was trying to put together, it didn't hold. (AP) Israeli air force continues Lebanon strikes. "The airstrikes near the village of Taibe were meant to protect ground forces operating in the area and were not targeting anyone or anything specific, the army said."

Also, I ran across this collection of photos from Qana. (Very Graphic.) If you want to know why the Arab world is outraged, take a look. It impacted me. The NYTimes also has a pretty good montage with a voiceover using alot of the same, less graphic, pictures.

(And, Condi's still pushing for a ceasefire by Bush's vacation.)

(And, Lebanese Army firing on Israeli helicopters?)

Cabinet changes in Iraq?

Buried at the bottom of an article.
Several key Iraqi parliament members are pressing to replace Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, who is responsible for police and paramilitary commandos at the forefront of the fight against extremists in the capital.

"Some changes will take place in cabinet during the coming days," said Hassan al-Suneid, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party. "There is talk among the cabinet, the (Shiite) alliance and parliament about changing the interior minister because he is unqualified.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Picture of the Day - 2

The vacation is scheduled to begin August 3.

Saudis supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq

This certainly isn't a surprise, but it's the first place I've seen it stated plainly as fact. (Buried in a Joe Klein piece on the flawed alternatives left in Iraq.)
In recent months, according to U.S. intelligence sources, the Saudis and Jordanians, who are predominantly Sunni, have quietly moved to support the insurgency with money and intelligence, fearing that Shi'ite Iran will dominate the new Iraqi government if the U.S. decides to leave.

Okay, so, Iran supplying weapons to Hezbullah, "Axis of Evil," source of all that is dark and evil in the universe. Saudi Arabia is supplying an Iraqi insurgency that is actually targeting and killing Americans and is deemed an ally in the war on terror worthy of weapons sales.

It seems to me that the Bush administration is completely freaking out at the reality that their failed Iraq war has created that Shia crescent that Chris Matthews keeps going on about. Not only have they lost Iraq, but they're losing the region.

That adds a slightly different flavor to the increased US attacks on Iraq's Shia militias. And just how firm is pro-Iran, pro-Hezbullah Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al Maliki right now? So long as SCIRI and Maliki's Dawa party stand with him, he won't lose his position through parliamentary action, but the US is not best pleased with Maliki right now, and there are the rumors passing around.

Emergency Security Council meeting on Lebanon

Interesting. After the latest bombing, Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora cancelled a meeting with Condi Rice who is now planning to head back to the US tomorrow. Then, Saniora went around the US to request and receive an emergency Security Council meeting today.

This certainly short circuits Rice's planned efforts to build a coalition for Wednesday, stranding her in Israel while the French proposal is considered. In the current circumstances, would the US veto an immediate ceasefire? Imagine the Arab heat that would flow from that.

Nothing is signed yet, but, at this point, it looks like the US may have been outmaneuvered by old Europe, the Chinese, and the Russians.

Also, this little add on at the bottom of a JPost article is making the rounds. (Remember JPost is ultraconservative.) It must be said that this may be an intentional "leak" as part of the strategy to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.
Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.

Turkish troops in Northern Iraq?

My knowledge of Turkish media is very slight, so treat this with some skepticism.
Some 200 Turkish soldiers accompanied by village guards crossed the border into northern Iraq in a military operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, an Iraqi Kurdish media source reported on Thursday......

"At 3 p.m. on Wednesday we were informed that about 200 Turkish soldiers and some village rangers encroached 2 kilometers inside the border. Several hours later, they withdrew to the Turkish border," he said without giving further detail......

Turkish officials on Friday declined to comment on the incident but one told The New Anatolian that nothing extraordinary had occurred on the Iraq border and that the incident could have been a regular "hot pursuit" operation.

Picture of the Day

Lebanese protesters broke into the United Nations headquarters in Beirut on Sunday, smashing windows and ransacking offices, after an Israeli air strike killed at least 50 people in south Lebanon. (MSNBC - "most of them children.")


(AP) "Up to two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades are not ready for wartime missions, largely because they are hampered by equipment shortfalls, Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday, citing unclassified documents."

(WaPo) The "doughnut hole" in the Medicare drug plan is here forcing most seniors to pay 100% of their medication costs. The "hole" costs seniors $2850.

(TPM) Larry Johnson says that the Hezbullah intel from the Pentagon is being cooked to support "the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran."

(Reuters) Somalia is very close to collapse. Prime Minister Gedi barely survived a no confidence vote followed by open brawling on the parliament floor. Police were called. (Reuters) The US warned long warring Ethiopia and Eritrea to stay out of Somalia, but, (AP) Prime Minister Gedi is blaming Egypt, Libya, and Iran for aiding the ICU.

(Note: the reason I'm focusing on Somalia so much is because its current situation is, in part, a result of failed US covert activity, creating a haven for Islamic radicals.)

15 Days

I will accept the argument that maybe this is 15 days too many, but really, less than 5 days a month?
House members left town yesterday for the August recess, and senators are expected to follow suit in a few days. When both chambers reconvene after Labor Day, they will have 15 scheduled work days before their planned final adjournment for the fall elections.

(Note: That is scheduled legislative days for the full Congress. Committee meetings can be held on other days at the discretion of the chairman.)