Saturday, August 12, 2006
Quickhits - Saturday reading
There's actually a long article on DU sickness floating around on the AP.
And I found this Financial Times analysis piece interesting discussing Bush's binary certainty around the Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Picture of the Day - 2 (Evil Bert)
We haven't caught "Evil Bert" yet either.
(look over Bin Laden's left shoulder. It's real.)
(PS. No one has ever explained the "Evil Bert"-Osama nexus.)
The Sunni/Shia split and the battle for the mantle of Islam
There have been irregular reports for some time that some of the more fanatic militant Islam supporters had been growing disenchanted with Al Qaeda because of its failure to follow up 9-11 with another big attack. Watching Bin Laden and Zawahiri's statements over the last year, they have tried to coopt the "Israel cause" into their manifesto to gain support.
But now with Hezbullah's seeming success in stalemating the Israelis, the center of gravity has been pushed well over onto the Shia side.
Seemingly, the interdicted London airliner attacks were an effort by Al Qaeda to regain the forward position.
"Just a number"
Baghdad, Iraq - Two U.S soldiers were killed Saturday when their foot patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the military said. The deaths brought to 23 the number of Americans killed in Iraq this month.
At least 2,600 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
And, in forgotten Afghanistan,
Support for Israel causes attacks/doesn't cause attacks.
The British government on Saturday rejected as "dangerous and foolish" accusations that its foreign policy heightened the threat of terrorist attacks after police foiled a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners.
Okay, that version of events supports the British foreign policy, but...
Iran is pressing Shi'ite militias to step up attacks against the U.S.-led forces in Iraq in retaliation for the Israeli assault on Lebanon, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq told The New York Times in an interview.
(And, because it matters, I'm going to ask again, has anyone seen a stated or claimed motivation for the interdicted terror attack?
With an informant in the group for months, and all the electronic eavesdropping, the British certainly know that answer, and yet they have remained conspicuously quiet.)
Friday, August 11, 2006
Picture of the Day - 3
Watching DHS chief Chertoff, I can't seem to help thinking about the fiasco under his leadership during Katrina.
Chertoff was an appeals court judge who was drafted into the post after Bernie Kerik imploded. He has a strong law enforcement background, but no experience in management or disaster relief.
If the terrorists do strike, this is the top government official tasked with response. (pictured with Michael Brown)
Terrorism is a risk our foreign policy leaders are willing to take.
We can't stop terrorism, at least not in any conventional sense. The numbers and political realities are simply against that proposition. The Britain plot was roughly 20 people. There are 1.8 million Muslims in Britain. By no means am I suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists, but out of a population of 1.8 million of almost any group, I think you could certainly find 20 disposed towards violence.
Look at the anti-abortionists in the US, or White Supremacists, or environmentalists, who are already exhibiting a tendency towards violence from within elements of these groups.
Now, broaden those small populations to include 1.3 billion people. 99.99998% of them could have no tendency towards violence, yet the group could still throw up twenty terrorists.
My point is this, the only solution to Islamic terrorism is to address the grievances and root causes from which it stems, both the direct political issues, and broader societal issues which are currently being crammed together under the language of "alienation."
And, frankly, there's no real motion in that direction.
The cost of truly ending terrorism might be too high.
I don't really want to launch the evaluative argument here, but terrorism is really a matter of foreign policy risk analysis. Is the increased risk of terrorism worth keeping a US military presence in the middle east? Is the geopolitical and economic benefit of influencing the oil powers worth the current terror risk? What about supporting Israel? Or leveraging China?
I don't know, but those analyses are being made right now. The US is at risk of terrorism because a decision has been made that certain policies are worth that mitigated risk. This isn't a Republican/Democrat or an anti-Bush issue, it's a broader issue made present by a combination of US hegemony and foreign policy coupled with advances in modern communication, transportation, and chemistry.
The bottom line is that there will be more attacks and more people will die (although when, where, and how is still subject to the efforts on both sides.)
Terrorism is a risk our foreign policy leaders are willing to take.
Behind that bush!!!!!!
And, William Arkin asks the question, "If liquids are a threat to airline safety and not just a prop in Michael Chertoff's press conference, then why hadn’t Homeland Security and TSA dealt with them months ago, when the intelligence agencies became aware of the British investigation (July 2005)?"
UPDATE: Japan has been using a "liquid explosive detector" in its airports since January, and the tests here have been hung up in the bureaucracy. That's right. The threat was known about for over a year, yet the technology wasn't even tested.
Picture of the Day - 2
(The Lebanese Red Cross attempts to move supplies south of the Litani.)
Food running out in South Lebanon
Heads up. This might be a big deal as the Shia and Kurds represent the largest fighting forces in Iraq and have thus far been peaceful towards each other. (It might just be an isolated incident, too.)
Remember a few days ago, "Talabani said he told Casey "it is in no one's interest to have a confrontation" with al-Sadr's movement." (Also remember as we talk about this, that the US is trying to use the Kurds against Iran and that Sadr is tied to Iran.)
And, I know it's Moonie WashTimes, but I found the telling of the US Baghdad offensive from an Iraqi civilian's experience interesting.
Then there's this little bit from a Reuters article on the Baghdad offensive as the war approaches the absurdist.
The operation is unusual because it combines a crackdown on militants and criminals with a hearts and minds-winning regeneration scheme to provide essential services and clean up the rubbish-strewn streets of the predominantly Sunni district.I don't know why that sounds so insane to me, but it does.
When U.S. troops break down doors or smash windows to enter homes in search of illegal weapons, explosives and wanted insurgents, they are followed shortly afterwards by local contractors who repair the locks or replace the windows.
Hmmmm... Who to believe?
(NYTimes) "A senior Republican consultant with ties to the White House.... said he had recently conducted a focus group in a highly contested Congressional district in the Philadelphia suburbs. He was shocked, he said, at the degree of hostility among Republicans toward the war..."
Or maybe you believe the "leaked" GOP "internal" poll results in USNews Washington Whispers. "Many Democrats may hate the war in Iraq and itch to dump the president, but a new GOP survey shows that Republican base voters stand ready to jam the November polls to return their team to Congress."
So, let's see.... AP/Ipsos public polling which confirms the general trend, a Republican off the record confirming the general trend, or polling produced without backing data by the Republican party promoted on Drudge. I'm just not sure who to believe.
(Related: CQ politics has moved a number of Republican races one notch towards the Dems.)
Picture of the Day
Thursday, August 10, 2006
"An Honest Broker"
Politics and Terror - I hate to mix them.
Can you imagine if someone actually asked the president to explain how invading Iraq helped the war on terror?
The White House has adopted a very clever deception on this question. The answer given is we can't leave now or Iraq will devolve into a terrorist safe haven.
But that's not the question asked. The question is, "How did invading Iraq in the first place help the war on terror?"
Picture of the Day - 3
I was going to do a massive post with pictures from them all, but it got too big.
So, after looking at images of tens and tens of thousands rallying in rage against the US, my question is, has anyone yet seen a stated or claimed motivation for today's interdicted terror attack?
Iraq? Lebanon? Does it matter?
I think it does.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman seized on the terror arrests in Britain today to attack his Democratic rival, Ned Lamont, saying that Mr. Lamont’s goals for ending the war in Iraq would constitute a “victory” for the extremists who are accused of plotting to blow up airliners traveling between Britain and the United States.
As he waited til today, I'm guessing he's in the second circulation of the Republican talking points. (Did Rove call again?)
Just go away, Joe. You lost. I know feel a need to "clear your name," but you're not helping yourself, and you're not helping your party. Let it go.
Related: Larry Sabato projects 5 probable Senate pickups for the Dems. They need six. Tennessee, Arizona, or Virginia would be needed. Still a long way to go though, so leave those chickens uncounted for now.
Just a heads up
Picture of the Day - 2
An Iraqi policeman mourns over the body of a colleague, killed in a suicide bomber attack, in Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday Aug. 10, 2006. A suicide bomber detonated a belt of explosives on his body near a highly revered Shiite shrine in southern Iraq Thursday, killing at least 33 people and injuring 108. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)
A VERY crass question
What if I added this? "Britain's Home Secretary John Reid said 21 people had been arrested in London, its suburbs and in Birmingham following a lengthy investigation."
Later: Cheney hit the talking point yesterday, too.
As proof, ABCNews' The Blotter is reporting that the arrests may have been accelerated days ago after a couple of arrests in Pakistan. Also,
British authorities had been tracking some of the suspects for several weeks but stepped in to round up the plotters when they began to book flight reservations.
British authorities have shared parts of the investigation with the FBI, and out of concern for leaks, only the barest details were shared with regional authorities as late as last night.
So, while the White House (Cheney, Snow, Mehlman) was orchestrating the "vote for Lamont equals a vote for terrorism" campaign, they certainly knew that these arrests were on the horizon.
Quotes that caught my eye this morning
“Look, we’ve had this experience, with Katrina, and we thought we were doing it right,” she reportedly said. “But we learned that many people who want to leave can’t leave.”
Though Ms. Rice was not directly involved in the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, she told colleagues last summer that she had been appalled at the slow reaction and had urged Mr. Bush to do more to alleviate the hardship of residents, many of them black, who were trapped in the flooded city.
Remember, Condi was so "appalled" that she was buying "several thousand dollars" worth of shoes on Wednesday, two and a half days after the levee breach was on my TV. Sorry, the revisionism just got to me.
Second quote, from a Mass. woman waiting in a British airport.
Last, Mr. Chertoff, what the hell does "suggestive of Al Qaeda" mean? Here's the full quote:
Picture of the Day
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Oh my god, The Daily Show
Here it is. (It's the Aasif Mandvi interview, not the Lieberman segment.)
It's soooo dry and soooo funny.
Picture of the Day - 3
Hell yeah, he'll help
According to a close Lieberman adviser, the President's political guru, Karl Rove, has reached out to the Lieberman camp with a message straight from the Oval Office: "The boss wants to help. Whatever we can do, we will do."
(Note, this came through George Snuffleupogus, so it might have been an unintentional over drinks kinda comment.)
Update: That is confirmed. And now, Lieberman's whole campaign staff is gone. Still unclear whether they jumped or were pushed.
(CNN) "Sixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, the highest number since polling on the subject began....And a majority of poll respondents said they would support the withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops by the end of the year."
(Al Jazeera) "In at least six separate incidents since June, Iraqi reporters said they had been physically beaten, had their equipment confiscated and been falsely accused of "terrorism". Senior US and Iraqi military officials admit such attacks have occurred and a series of investigations are underway."
(Zaman) "The Turkish military has opened fire (artillery) on a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camp in northern Iraq, according to reports by the Peyamner News Agency (PNA)."
(AP reporter's blog) "The only store open last weekend at a shopping district in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood was the one selling suitcases. And business was brisk."
And, we have a new term. Terrorists, insurgents, rejectionists, dead enders, and now...... "murderers associated with death squads", the statement said, using the military's new catch-all term for illegal armed groups."
SCIRI talks about partition
Leaders of Iraq's powerful Shiite Muslim political bloc have begun aggressively promoting a radical plan to partition the country as a way of separating the warring sects. Some Iraqis are even talking about dividing the capital, with the Tigris River as a kind of Berlin Wall....
Sunni leaders see nothing but greed in the new push — the Shiites, they say, are taking advantage of the escalating violence to make an oil grab.
(It's LATimes, so here's a non-registration link.)
Partition sounds so easy and clean, but it's not. Who defines the borders? Think the oil regions and revenues will be peacefully given up? What happens to the minorities on the wrong side of those borders?
Partition is a possible solution, but it is a solution that will lead to even more violence and death, not to mention the creation of an oil rich Iranian/Shia client state that is within missile range of the Saudi oilfields. An Iranian client state that could credibly threaten to shut down oil production from Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
Then there's the possibility of a Hezbullah type militia operating unchallenged in southern Iraq exerting influence southward across the border. The Saudis won't stand for that, so they will continually fund and support Sunni attacks on the region.
Our "allies" in the war on terror are already funding the same Sunni insurgents that are killing US troops. This is a war that will not end.
(There is the possibility that partition is being raised as a negotiating tool against the Sunnis.)
Picture of the Day
An Iraqi woman carries her injured daughter, a victim of a market bomb blast, after her treatment from a hospital, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Aug. 8, 2006. Two roadside bombs exploded in the main Shurja market in central Baghdad within minutes of each other, killing 10 people and injuring 50, said police. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Oh, they didn't?
(Okay, I understand that this is a big story with ramifications, but c'mon. For the last three weeks, we were on the road to Armageddon, we were in World War III. And today? I guess the apocalypse can wait for another day.)
Lampson wins TX-22 - Political quickhits
Tom Delay's current plan appears to be to support a write-in candidate which I think is pretty sure to split the Republican vote with Delay. Say hello to Congressman Lampson. (He'll probably only get one term out of that district.)
This might be an outlier or poll fluke, but Democrats outpolling Republicans on trust them to "do a better job handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism," doesn't bode well for Republican 2006 midterm hopes. (WaPo. 1,000 people. Aug 3-6)
And, Congressman Bob Ney (R - OH.) only stepped aside after he was threatened by House leadership. "If he lost his House seat for the party, Boehner is said to have cautioned, Ney could not expect a lucrative career on K Street to pay those tuition bills, along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees piling up."
Coup attempt in Iraq? Sunnis forming militias?
The Times learnt yesterday that Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq’s Sunni Vice-President, is forming a unit of the National Guard that will act as his personal bodyguard and fend off attacks against Addumiyah, a Sunni district surrounded by overwhelmingly Shia districts.
All kinds of points here. Civil War? Formal/government security forces being appropriated solely as a partisan force?
Also, I don't know how much creedence to give this report that a group of Sunni military officers were "rounded up" after it was claimed they planned a coup. There were rumors.
You don't hear about this.
During his speech, leftist lawmakers held up photographs of many of the 58 hostages FARC rebels proposed exchanging for some of its 500 imprisoned fighters.....
Huh? What? Americans? I had to read it twice.
How is this not even passingly mentioned on CNN or in the newspapers? Is there some key part of this story that I'm missing?
I guess it's only news when it supports the foreign policy.
Whew! Inflation at bay from faltering economy.
(AFP) But Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has stressed that he believes cooling growth should curb inflation in the coming months, despite the high energy prices and budding wage pressures.
(AP) Many analysts believe Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues will decide they don't need to raise rates further, at least for now, because of growing signs that the economy is slowing.
Whew. That was close. The "booming economy" almost reached down into middle class wages.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Picture of the Day - 4
Iraqi leaders not happy with US military raid
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he was "very angered and pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts toward national reconciliation.
"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," al-Maliki said in a statement on government television. "This operation used weapons that are unreasonable to detain someone — like using planes."
After the Sadr City attack, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, met with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., to discuss security operations in Baghdad. Talabani said he told Casey "it is in no one's interest to have a confrontation" with al-Sadr's movement.
This speak volumes about the true state of affairs in Baghdad. Sadr and his militia are running the show. That Maliki is protecting them isn't a huge shock as they are a part of his power base and governing faction, but for Talabani....?
The pro-US Talabani is trying to warn the US off its current Baghdad strategy which will activate the Shia militias transforming them into a force directly fighting the government and the Americans.
Effectively, Maliki and Talabani are only open to the US attacking their common Sunni foes. Tell me this isn't a civil war.
Get out. Get out now.
Hallucinating a Walmart in the Iraqi heat
I have been the direct target of propaganda
Spc. Ziegler here from U.S. Central Command Public Affairs, don’t worry, big brother is not watching. I seem to get that allot. I am not posting a comment here to try and persuade anybody to change there mind or point of view. My only intention is to invite readers to visit the CENTCOM website at www.centcom.mil.....Think I got it for the "Battle for Baghdad" title, the Juan Cole link, or was I just next on the list?
(On the Centcom site, there is no mention of war at all!!!! It shows training and construction projects, but not one mention of any missions or fighting. Scary, intentional propaganda. (And no, I'm not giving them a link.))
Two interesting articles on tactics
Second, an article in the NYTimes describing Hezbullah weaponry, structures, and tactics.
The Battle for Baghdad
It turns out that the Sunni Arab guerrilla strategy had been gradually to ethnically cleanse southern districts of the capital [Ar.], so as to cut it off from the Shiite south. One observer in Baghdad told a friend of mine that this operation is make or break. If the US cannot stop the deterioration of security in Baghdad at this point, then the capital is lost, and with it the country.
Ironically, after intensively covering Iraq for over three years, the US mass media are largely missing this story, the pivotal one for the endgame.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
40,000 deserters since 2000 the Pentagon says?
Iranians smuggling uranium from the Congo? This is from a fear mongering piece on Iran talking about sleeper cells in Britain. “The container was put in a secure part of the port and it was later taken away, by the Americans, I think, or at least with their help. We have all been told not to talk to anyone about this.”
The Israelis are leaving certain Hezbullah rocket installations in place to justify the continued assault? Thomas Ricks does have credibility and connections, so I'm not going to dismiss this out of hand.
The fifth anniversary is wood
Ron Nasty pointed out in comments that today is the 5 year anniversary(right word?) of President Bush in Crawford receiving the infamous Aug. 6, 2001 PDB - Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.
Perhaps, in memory, we should retell Suskind's description of the event.
The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."
Time Mag - Bush quietly plans for Iraq pullout
Aug. 14, 2006 issue - The Bush administration insists Iraq is a long way from civil war, but the contingency planning has already begun inside the White House and the Pentagon. President Bush will move U.S. troops out of Iraq if the country descends into civil war.
But be secure that the administration's threshold for civil war is pretty extreme. Later in the article, it sounds like the definition requires the complete collapse of the government and near complete dissolution of the Iraqi security forces.
(Also in Time, a great first person look at Baghdad by reporter Aparisim Ghosh titled "Life in Hell." I found the descent into Baghdad riveting, the second page offers some interesting observations on the undergirding flaws of the "unity government," and the third describes some of the fears and difficulties Iraqis live with every day. Great article.)
From AP Correspondent Robert H. Reid who is blogging while he is reporting from Baghdad.
There was no Diet Coke today at the dining facility. For a few seconds, I was a little irritated. I try to limit my caffeine intake and keep it to one Diet Coke a day, but I do look forward to my soda with a little ice.
After a few seconds I remembered that just about all the food that is eaten on this base is driven by truck, possibly from Kuwait to the south or Turkey to the north. And those truck drivers — many from neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan — take horrible risks driving on roads that are filled with homemade bombs set by insurgents and ambushes set up by people wanting to steal their loads.
So every time that something such as Diet Coke doesn't make it to the dining facility or the mail doesn't arrive or there's no sour cream for the baked potatoes, it could mean that a driver out on the roads of Iraq is dead.