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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The military is struggling to fill the deployment

The recruiting troubles of the army are well documented, but they are really digging deep into the IRR. 18,700 have been called back into service from the Inactive Ready Reserve.

Oh, and they're accepting 41 year old grandmas. The army has already accepted 1,100 recruits over 35 in the two months since the age limit was raised to 42.

Why? As Gen. Barry McCaffrey pointed out last night on Hardball (still no transcript,) the US is suffering about a battalion a month in deaths and wounded.

(Loose math: 2,607 killed, 19,323 wounded divided by 41 months equals 535 killed or wounded a month, a small battalion a month. Although it's got to be said that an unknown number of those wounded have returned to duty, but I don't know how many.)

Picture of the Day - 3

An Afghani woman.

Say a little prayer

4 soldiers killed in Afghanistan.


As the stories of PTSD from the current Iraq war become more prevalent, it is beginning to have an effect on veterans of Iraq '91 and Vietnam, exacerbating existing problems.

Then there's this "painstaking reanalysis" of old data from the 80's that claims the prevalence of PTSD from Vietnam is actually lower than previously reported. Yeah! Only 1 in 5 rather than 1 in 3 in the new evaluation. But there are alot of veterans groups questioning the methods, and the motives, of this study.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which spends almost $10 billion a year on PTSD benefits and mental health care services generally, has in recent years initiated a number of reviews of how PTSD is diagnosed and treated. Many veterans believe that those moves have been motivated by a desire to cut back on help for ailing vets.

Cost issues have become prominent amid recent revelations that the number of veterans receiving compensation for PTSD -- about 216,000 last year -- has grown seven times as fast as the number receiving benefits for disabilities in general. And that figure does not include most of the more than 100,000 veterans who have sought mental health services since returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And just as a bad taste kicker, speaking about the old study,
"some critics have contended that its numbers were inflated. That view has recently been invoked by conservative commentators who have implied that many vets are malingerers who have exaggerated their traumas and are bilking taxpayers."

The death of an ideology...

Reading an article about Republican efforts to buy the Green party onto the Pa. Senate ticket in an effort to draw voters from Bob Casey, I got to wondering, why in the hell isn't the Libertarian party rolling in clover right now?

I mean, this should be their time. A large percentage of disaffected Republicans out there who would really like to not vote Democrat. Challenges on what could be their core issues, first and fourth amendment, and sustantial fights over eminent domain.

I don't really want to get too far into the merits of the ideology, but with the situation where it is, why hasn't the libertarian party developed into the 4% campaign altering force that the green party has?

Just crossed my mind.

Picture of the Day - 2 (updated)

In an effort to avoid possible prosecutions, the president encourages his staff to prominently display their white collars.


Two articles on the problems with the Iraqi security forces: A massive article in the NYTimes magazine on the Iraqi forces in Anbar, a 700 troop Iraqi regiment fighting with 270. But what got me were the "whack a mole" descriptions in both of an undermanned US force.
For all this, Anbar has long been what the military calls an “economy of force” operation, which is a polite way of saying that troop requirements elsewhere in Iraq have led American commanders to employ fewer forces in the province than the situation warrants. As a consequence, counterinsurgency operations have taken on the quality of a whack-a-mole arcade game. Every time the Americans have massed force to put out one fire, they have created a vacuum elsewhere that the insurgents have rushed to fill.

And McClatchy's Nancy Youssef travels with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Baghdad.
In the end, the three days netted what seemed like a small haul amid Baghdad's violence: nine suspected insurgents and 37 weapons, most notably two 250-pound bombs.

Some residents pointed out where snipers and fighters usually are stationed. They told the soldiers that if they come back next week, they can find the attackers.

Imagine how that must feel on the ground. You've been in Iraq a few months (a few tours,) and you keep going back to the same neighborhoods time and time again fighting the same invisible enemy.

Laura Rozen has this frustrating one line post up: Has Bush called some people to inquire if they would be willing to replace Rumsfeld? In the past ten days?

Frustratingly, there's no more, nothing else there.

Fear is keeping Iraqis from attending mosque.

The "denunciation" of Iran by two Shia groups is largely internal politics within the Shia bloc. The IAP led by al-Hasani, sometimes described as "cultlike," has been combating the Sadr affiliated groups for territory, while Fadhila has been long involved in a turf war with the Maliki government over oil revenues. So, read this within context. This is gangs fighting over turf, influence, and money.

This quote from an article about people being killed for reading/selling the wrong news sources,
Saif Muhsin, a 33-year-old government employee, who lives in the Adhamiya neighborhood, is dismayed at the situation.

"I never expected that the country would reach this low point of freedom where people get killed for reading or even carrying this or that paper," he said, adding, "If only the government and the security forces granted citizens as much freedom to read different opinions as militias have to roam the streets."

"But the government sits safely in the Green Zone and the militants rule the streets," he said.

And, from that other war we don't talk about,
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Less than a year ago, this was a city on the rebound after years of conflict, drought and political isolation. Business was booming with an influx of international development aid, shops stayed open late, markets burst with locally grown fruit and traffic snarled hopelessly much of the time.

Today Kandahar is a ghost town, braced for the next suicide bomb and full of refugees from rural districts where Taliban insurgents are battling Afghan and NATO forces. Streets are all but empty of vehicles, foreign aid offices are reduced to skeleton crews and shoppers hurry home before dark instead of lingering at tea shops.

Picture of the Day

Iraqi Police.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Writing the Obituary for Iraq.

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the media are beginning to write the obituary for Iraq. The bare bones are not surprising, poor planning, not enough troops, the civilian leadership, but the fact that it is being written at all says alot.

We're not yet to the pronouncement of death, but it seems that the media, as all good newspeople do, has started working on their final pieces for the day when the operation finally and incontrovertibly gives up the ghost.

The interesting thing to me is that because the administration is still standing by the war, they can have no influence on the process, thus the weight is falling heavily upon them. (which it should.)

So, on that day, when the certificate is finally signed, and a final pronouncement can at last be made, the cause of death will not be obscured. Poor decisions, poor planning from the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the White House flaks who pushed the war. Thousands of soldiers dead because these guys thought they were the smartest people in the room.

(It's also interesting to me that the media heads are finally starting to come around to public opinion. How long has approval on the war been below 50%?)


The debate is not whether or not we should wiretap terrorism suspects!!!

The debate is whether or not it should be done without a warrant!!!

(Sorry, just had to get that out.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A relative walks amongst the graves in advance of a mass funeral in Qana, southern Lebanon Friday, Aug. 18, 2006. The funeral of 29 people killed in an Israeli airstrike on July 30th - half of them children - took place about half a kilometer from the two-story home which was destroyed in the attack. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)


I'm not sure I totally agree with this William Arkin piece, but it launched a whole raft of thoughts.

My crotchety old man, my "inner Cafferty" is at it again.

And, I thought this was pretty funny.

Later: Sid Blumenthal on why the Republicans want Lieberman in the race. By drawing more Republicans to the polls than the card counting Republican candidate would, Lieberman may help them hold onto a couple of House seats.

Quote of the Day

President Bush today:
France has said they'd send some troops. ..... Today they had a statement. We're working with France. France is a friend. France is an ally. France has got a great stake in the future of Lebanon.

It's amazing how an overextended military can sharpen one's focus.

Runnerup: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Ne.)
Bush administration spokesmen already are “ratcheting up charges” against Iran, he says, perhaps reaching for “an excuse to attack.”

“I hope this administration thinks through this very carefully.

“Who’s going to do the dying?"

Picture of the Day

This is Kurt Deschen. Lance Cpl. Kurt Dechen.

He didn't rape and kill some little girl ten years ago. He's not holding press conferences, or being extradited from Thailand.

There's no speculation.

He was shot and killed in Anbar serving his country.

I thought someone should notice.


Another article on the increasing tensions in the Kurdish north with Iran and Turkey upping the military presence along the border. I can't help but think the recent rise in violence against the legitimate Kurdish political movement in Iraq (PUK not PKK) by Shia militias is related. Amidst everything else in Iraq, there may be a Kurd/Iran proxy war brewing. (And the Iran sympathetic Maliki government is outright closing Kurdish political offices in Baghdad and the central areas of Iraq.)

Big NYTimes headline(I assume everybody saw it) evidence of a coverup on the killings in Haditha.

In the current Baghdad security operation, 15,000 homes are to be searched.
"He asked me for help to find the bad guys," he said. "I refused. I am not stupid. "Me and my family would be killed most horrifically if they learnt I helped the Americans but the officer was very sad.

"He (the US commanding officer) said he understood but he also said, 'It is so difficult. We do not know where to look. All we want to do is help but we do not know who to target'."

This lack of assistance and detailed intelligence may - like an earlier Iraqi security push six weeks ago - doom the US mission to failure, even if restoring order is possible in a city where sectarian groups are now so polarised by mutual fear and hatred.

Baghdad, gas lines are reaching a mile long with people spending the night on line. The Iraqi government is doubling the funding for oil imports. But I think the thing to note is that the Iraqi people are blaming the government not the insurgents. The belief is that it's corruption within Maliki's government.

Two more American soldiers were killed in combat, the U.S. command said. (What does it say that I got this headline from a British paper? But Jon Benet.....) (Or maybe you prefer the Turkish press.)

Tom Lasseter, one of the best mainstream reporters out of Iraq, writes about the fear of Iraqi officials and lower level US soldiers that the top line policy makers have no contact, no sense of what's really going on in Iraq at the ground level. (They're right, by the way.)
"All the American policies have failed because the American analysis of the situation is wrong; it is not related to reality," (Parliament member) Saghir said. "The slaughtered Iraqi man on the street conveys the best explanation."

"As an intelligence officer ... I have had the chance to move around Baghdad on mounted and dismounted patrols and see the city and violence from the ground," wrote a U.S. military officer, whose name is being withheld to protect him from possible reprimand.

"I think that the greatest problem that we deal with (besides the insurgents and militia) is that our leadership has no real comprehension of the ground truth. I wish that I could offer a solution, but I can't."

And, if you didn't see it, IED's are up, attacks on civilians are up, and attacks on US troops are up.
"The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels," said a senior Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak for attribution.

"The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time."

(Oh, in that other war we don't talk about, the US dropped a bomb on an Afghan government patrol, and the Taliban is shutting schools throughout the south.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Been Busy

Sorry for the lighter posting today, I've been working on another project. I'm trying to take alot of the "pictures of the day" around Iraq and turn them into a video/slideshow.

It's taking a lot longer than I expected, but I think it's really good.

I'll let you know.

Warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional

Just breaking now, a Federal Judge in Detroit struck down the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program as unconstitutional. (I'm assuming on 4th amendment grounds.)

Later: Copy Editor came through with the injuction link (PDF.) The stay was issued as TSP(Terrorist Surveillance Program) violates Separation of Powers, the Administrative Procedures Act, First and Fourt Amendments, FISA, and Tile III.

(TPM has the full decision (PDF.))

And, interestingly, it seems to be another slapdown of the Bush administration's claims of Article II "Commander In Chief" powers similar to Hamdan.

(It's still early, and the lawyer/bloggers haven't really dug in, but for analysis, might I recommend Glenn Greenwald, or Talkleft.

Allies and all

It's no wonder the Israelis didn't want to start that regional war with Syria that Bush himself was pushing for.
Israeli intelligence believes that nearly all of the heavy weapons that Iran has provided to Hezbollah passed through Turkish ground or airspace en route to Syria and then Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, security sources said.

I'm turning into Cafferty

I'm not too enthusiastic about my crotchety old man side, but sometimes when he makes a point, you just have to be crotchety.
In the first six months of the year, the media devoted 39 minutes/week to Iraq coverage. Since July 12, they have devoted just 13 minutes/week. Additionally, in the last seven weeks, the media spent 510 minutes covering the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and just 94 minutes on Iraq.

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraq: More Bombs, More Violence as the Bush administration steps away from democracy

The lead on the frontpage NYTimes piece this morning is certainly important,
The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January.

That is significant, but it's the part down at the very bottom that caught my eye.
Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive.

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

I think that the fall of the Maliki government is a real possibility. With the ministry posts spread among the groups, the fracture lines are obviously already there. We're just one event away from one of the groups pulling out.

So what's the plan? Is the US plan to back a strongman? An Iranian backed Saddam Hussein?

All this. All that our two countries have been through, the deaths, the killings, the money, and the blood, and that's the outcome.

Also: The WaPo has had two stories in the last two days about the increases in violence throughout the country as the US brings troops back into Baghdad to pacify four neighborhoods. In Mosul (-3,000 US troops, page 2,) and throughout the small villages outside Baghdad.

And, still, to this day...
Unsure of the loyalties of Iraqi forces, U.S. officers sometimes lie to Iraqi army commanders about where they are going on joint missions and require Iraqi soldiers to give up their cellphones before leaving camp. Police are distrusted even more.

Find me an area of Iraq that's working(or even trending in the right direction.) Politics, security, Iraqi forces' training, public services, the economy, crime,....

We have destroyed this country and these people. It will take them decades, and now it sounds like we may give them a Shia Saddam Hussein.

Picture of the Day

In this U.S. Air Force photo released Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, Spc. Jarrod Nordby, of Charlie Company, 4-23 Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, rests between mission objectives near Rabea'a, Iraq, on June 27. The bulk of the 172nd Brigade was still in Iraq when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last month extended their deployment as part of a plan to quell the escalating violence in Baghdad. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Two articles on the Democratic Wave

First, Chris Cilizza, the WaPo's Politics blogger.
So is now the time to conclude that a Democratic wave is building that will sweep Republicans out of a House majority in November?

The answer, according to Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg, is a guarded yes.

"If you take an average of the last three or four polls, because any one can be an outlier in either direction, you can determine which way the wind is blowing, and whether the wind speed is small, medium, large or extra-large," said Cook. "The last three generics that I have seen have been in the 18 or 19 point range, which is on the high side of extra large. That suggests the probability of large Democratic gains."

Second, and I think more tellingly, the WaPo is reporting that "Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats."

Again, still a long, long way away, but you'd far rather have the wind at your back than not.

Later: As an addition to the political tea leaf reading, Reality Based Educator pointed towards today's Broder editorial in the comments. I'm not a huge editorial fan, but Broder, more than anyone else, reflects the conventional wisdom.

Picture of the Day - 5

U.S. President George W. Bush looks out from Marine One as he prepares to depart the White House in Washington August 16, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES)


After the Saudis chastised Bush for using the term "Islamic Fascists," he has stopped using the term. Gotta know your constituents.

Bush personally pushed for Israel to attack Lebanon and Syria.
As part of Bush's determination to create a "new Middle East" - one that is more amenable to U.S. policies and desires - Bush even urged Israel to attack Syria, but the Olmert government refused to go that far, according to Israeli sources.

One source said some Israeli officials thought Bush's attack-Syria idea was "nuts"...

The Pentagon is preparing to fight the last war in the next war. (Yes we need to change tactics for Iraq, but to change the structure permanently is to repeat this mistake into the next war.)
The US military establishment has quietly undertaken a wholesale reassessment of its war strategy with a goal of identifying the mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and remedying them before the next conflict.

This is a great AP article on the ongoing, unresolvable, unwinnable conflict with the Sunnis in Anbar. Perhaps the most telling bit about the situation,
The top U.S. commander in Haditha went so far as to ask local leaders to spread the word that Marines wanted to know which reconstruction projects would be safe from sabotage. But insurgents never responded.

Finally, Bush on a motorcycle being a dork. I'm not going to put the picture up, because I think it's going to be everywhere.

(Later) Craig Murray asks some pretty good questions about just how much of a threat the London terror bombers were.

Al Gonzales says there's a red under every bed.

The Afghan opium crop shatters the 2005 record by 40%.

And Zogby confirms, Bush's approval has not been affected by the terror alerts. (62-38 among Republicans!)

Picture of the Day - 4 - Propaganda

These signs are a propaganda operation.They are appearing all over southern Beirut. I would assume it's Hezbullah.

Here's another one exactly like it. And then a variation. And on CNN, I just saw another one just like the first two. (And another. And another. And another.)

These signs will resonate throughout the Muslim world.

Picture of the Day - 3

"Mi and I just finished discussing the challenges of Iraq...."

"Is Bush an Idiot?"

Scarborough debates with Larry O'Donnell and John Fund. The banner across the bottom "Is Bush an Idiot?"

The funniest thing is that hard core pro-administration John Fund can't even muster a strong defense."Voltaire once said that common sense is both rare and a lot more important to successful leadership than intelligence," said Fund. "And I agree."

Too bad it was on Scarborough's show so nobody saw it. But you should.

Scarborough "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth of these other people, but do we need that as a President?"

Look around, Joe. Yes, we do.

And, while I'm bashing, an excerpt from Tom Friedman yesterday. (It's behind the pay wall so the link isn't to the NYTimes.)
Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam, and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did you 'tough guys' fight the Iraq war with .... just enough troops to lose? .... Please, Mr. Cheney, spare us your flag-waving rhetoric about the titanic struggle we are in and how Democrats just don’t understand it. It is just so phony — such a patent ploy to divert Americans from the fact that you have never risen to the challenge of this war. .... "

The terror strategy for 2006 seems to be failing.

Picture of the Day - 2

Bush has no understanding of Iraq at all

This may be the most terrifying article on Iraq that I've seen in awhile. (NYTimes)
President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday.

Those who attended a Monday lunch at the Pentagon that included the president’s war cabinet and several outside experts said Mr. Bush carefully avoided expressing a clear personal view of the new prime minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki....

“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,” said one person who attended the meeting. “The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success.”....

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.....

He said he got no sense that the Bush administration was contemplating a shift in its Iraq policy.

How dare they? How dare they not be grateful?

OK, splenetic outbursts aside, if the top "decider" on Iraq policy doesn't understand why Iraqis might not be "grateful," doesn't understand why there might be pro-Hezbullah, anti-Israel/anti-US demonstrations, and doesn't understand that alot of the violence comes from a greater context than his drive for "freedom....."

I think that's what frightens me the most, that Bush views this war solely around the idea that he is the "freedom giver." It's all a referendum on him.

He actually does view Iraq as a simple binary proposition. It's not just rhetoric. It's his understanding. The entire historical, religious, and regional fuel of the Iraq conflict is stripped away.

The reality is that the Iraqis aren't fighting us anymore. The main combatant elements in Iraq are focused on political ends within a future Iraq. They only attack US forces when the US attempts to intervene against them.

Seperated from real forces that are driving this civil war, what hope is there for a change in policy that might actually make some difference.

Set a timetable. Start getting out now.

(And, what does it say about the "Yes, Mr. President" advice that has gone on up to this point?)

Picture of the Day

Najaf. Aug 12.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Scope and Scale

Roosevelt conquered western Europe, Bush....

December 7, 1941 through May 8, 1945 (VE-Day) = 1,248 days

March 19, 2003 (U.S. invasion of Iraq) through Friday, August 18, 2006 = 1,248 days

(although it must be said that the Bush/FDR comparison isn't really fair. FDR wasn't distracted by mountain biking.)

(Too far?)

Picture of the Day - 3

Mexican Congresswoman Dolores Padierna of the Democratic Revolution Party, PRD, is blocked by riot police as she tries to make her way to the National Congress in Mexico City, Monday Aug. 14, 2006. (AP Photo / Marco Ugarte)

And we thought our guys were crooked.

Dan Halutz, the much criticized Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff, apparently sold his stock portfolio three hours after the two Israeli soldiers were captured.

He says it was just a coincidence. Right.......

Two of his soldiers were captured and he took the time out of his day to travel down to his bank.

Dear CNN....

We are at war. I know it's not the ratings grabber that Israel Lebanon is/was, but there are actual Americans getting wounded and killed in Iraq RIGHT NOW.

On the CNN front page, a big block picture story on the Israeli pullout, then,

Top Stories: (3:36 PM Eastern)

Carroll quivered beside boy kidnapper | Video
Wife accused of killing preacher gets bail | Video
9/11 rescue workers get expanded benefits
Bergen: Bin Laden, CIA links hogwash
Sex ring employed 240 call girls, cops say
Ronald Reagan's shooter wants more freedom
Katrina storm surge not covered, judge rules
Why the gay rumors dog Oprah and Superman
Girly Britney rips manly belch on home video
Big rig fire kills 60 caged puppies
Mr. Kentuckyfriedcruelty.com reverts to Chris
Multi-state heroin bust news conference

Iraq is mentioned one time, way down the page in the "world" section and that is related to the retraction of the ludicrous natural gas explosion story.

I mean, can imagine in WWII if stories about Oprah and Superman's sexuality, or Britney, or puppies, or a call girl ring, or an anti KFC protester were on the front pages while the war was relegated to the International section.

I know I keep going on about this, but I just can't believe it.

(Later: If you want a story, CNN, how about the fact that 2 US soldiers died today? Numbers 2,600 and 2,601.)

Picture of the Day - 2

The party's over. Talking terror didn't help the approval numbers.

Time, CBS, SUSA, Gallup, Rasmussen.

Gonna need a real October surprise.

Iraq quickhits

First, a couple of updates: The US has backed off (bottom) its unbelievable claim yesterday that the deaths in Zafraniyah were caused only by a series of natural gas explosions. I blogged about this too much yesterday.

It does appear that Mashhadani, the Sunni Speaker of the Parliament, could be removed/replaced, although from the sound of it, the majority Sunni political party is on board, so this may not be too big a deal.

An interesting "eye on the ground" version of the politically charged arrest of 5 Health Ministry security officers the other day.

Last, this one just crawled up my butt. Duncan Hunter, the head of the House Armed Services Committee, has had a monument moved over into military possession in an effort to save it. I really don't care about the underlying conflict (it's a big ass cross.) What gets me is that this is the focus of the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee!!!

Doesn't he have more important things he should be doing? Like taking a look at the fiasco that has been the Iraqi training program?

Later: Another attack against the offices of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Mosul. Starting to see more and more attacks against them.

Picture of the Day

Funny, they just don't seem to be using the word "victory" much anymore.

Remember, they brought in that outside guy from Duke who had done all the polling that said that the use of the word "victory" would swing public opinion on Iraq?

Other Language: On Sunday, Ken Mehlman assured the world that nobody ever said "stay the course," even though they did, and trotted out the new talking point "adapt to win."

Now we have "troubled times," (it's not my fault, it's "the times") and "leave behind a better world."

They are floundering, looking for some sort of language that helps their political cause. It's a long way from "shock and awe," "bring 'em on," and "dead or alive."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Flashback - When Rummy was riding high....

Jan 7, 2004 - The Hill
It isn’t often that someone turns down an offer to be Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” especially when that someone is as important as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But that’s what Rumsfeld did when he learned that Time was planning to honor him in its year-end issue last month.

Picture of the Day - 3

"Displacement" in Samarra.

More trouble in Iraq

The third top official in Iraq has threatened to resign. Sunni Speaker of the Parliament Mashhadani has threatened to walk away from the "unity government."

I don't know if this is just a threat or a possible reality, but the rhetoric seems heated and coming from both sides. If he does leave, it'll be a huge blow to the legitimacy of the Iraqi government. And if you want to get into definitions of "civil war...."

Also, the Army is recalling the final 300 soldiers of the 172nd Stryker brigade to Baghdad. They've been home in Alaska for weeks, and now have to turn around and redeploy. They've already served their year, and are now being pulled back in for an extension with the possible threat of another after that.

Question: I know the Stryker units are the best available tool for an urban environment, but is the situation in Baghdad so dire that this is necessary? Are 300 troops going to turn the tide amidst Baghdad's 7 million?

(By the way, I'm sorry I'm doing so much Iraq lately, but I'm getting that bad feeling again that things are about to get still worse. Another bad sign is that the Iraq wire photos are drying up again. Even the local Iraqi stringers seem to be going only where there are troops.)

"Life returns to normal"

I keep flipping across CNN, and they keep showing pictures out of Haifa and repeating the phrase "Life is returning to normal."

Well, I doubt "life is returning to normal" in Lebanon with no bridges, no major roads, no power plants, no ports, and innumerable levelled structures throughout Beirut and S. Lebanon.

(And I'm not waiting for CNN to "redeploy" their 12 Israel-Lebanon reporters to Iraq. There must be a missing white woman somewhere.)

Blatant lies by the US military in Baghdad?

What the hell is this?
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military said Monday that a natural gas explosion was to blame for a series of blasts that killed 47 people in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood the night before. But residents and the Iraqi government insisted the destruction was caused by car bombs and a rocket barrage from a neighborhood where American forces operate.

I mean, police and witnesses describe, in specific, the sequencing of a complex attack,

Ali Ibrahim, a shopkeeper in a market near the apartment complex, said he saw as many as 10 rockets strike several buildings, spraying debris and glass and setting several nearby shops on fire. ....

Iraqi television reported that as bystanders ran toward the scene to rescue victims from the rubble of the partly collapsed apartment complex, the second and third bombs exploded, killing dozens more.

Now, the official statement from Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Saddoun Abu al-Ula (from this AP article,) said the rockets appeared to come from the Sunni neighborhood of Dora, one of the only four neighborhoods in Baghdad that the US selected for it's new security plan.

So, why lie? To cover ass about Dora? I think it's more likely that the cover story is intended as psyop to tamp down any Shia reprisal(which might be focused on that same Dora neighborhood.)

It's just so blatant. I mean, does this description sound like a series of natural gas explosions?
A pedestrian bridge, ripped off its mooring at one end, had crushed a car underneath. One rocket had punched a hole in the roof of a house exposing the steel rod reinforcements inside. Store fronts were blasted inward, blowing away metal shutters.

(Later: I just can't let this go for some reason. Take a look at these pictures from the site. 1 2 3 4.)

I just don't think this is good policy. Eventually, when it really is a gas explosion, no one will believe you.

(I also think spending that credibility now may indicate just how "last gasp" the current security operations in Baghdad are.)

And, while we're on lies, the top military spokesman in Iraq said that there is no evidence that there are Iranians operating inside Iraq directly contradicting what the top civilian Bush administration representative in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last Friday, "Iran ... has some forces here. There is the possibility that they might encourage those forces to create increased instability here."

Picture of the Day (Rice banner)

(Beirut) A large banner looms over the now nearly empty streets of downtown: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stares intently, with piercing fangs and blood dripping from her lips. "The massacre of children in Qana is a gift from Rice," the banner says.

I don't know what this means.
"Lebanon will be, I think, the last state to sign a peace treaty with Israel," (Lebanese) UN ambassador Nouhad Mahmoud told CNN television's "Late Edition" program, without explaining the remark.

Find the strategy

John Burns of the AP follows Gen Peter Pace taking questions from soldiers in a "townhall" format.
"More U.S. and coalition forces could get the job done quicker, but that would mean dependency much longer for the Iraqi armed forces and the Iraqi government." .....

How much more time, one Marine asked, should the Iraqi government be given to achieve the political unity necessary to stabilize the country?"I guess they have as long as it takes _ which is not forever," Pace replied.....

Pace argued that setting a deadline for the United States to withdraw its support would risk pushing the Iraqis into political decisions that are unviable. On the other hand, he said, "You do not want to leave it open ended."....

One Marine wound up his question about the pace of U.S. troop deployments to Iraq by asking, "Is the war coming to an end?"

Pace didn't answer directly.

I'm sure the soldiers felt much better after all that.

I just can't look away

If you're following the Katherine Harris debacle, you gotta read this article.

I would so love an insider's account on this disaster of a campaign. It just sounds like Harris has become delusional, detached from reality, prone to wild mood swings and paranoia. And yet she still goes on campaigning.

It's a bit of a lurid interest, but it's also a kind of fascination with the psychology of this seeming breakdown and how, regardless of any realities, she keeps campaigning through it.

It's a special kinda crazy you don't normally see on a public stage.

(The latest poll has her losing 60-25 to Nelson.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4

Local residents shout anti government slogans during a demonstration in Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday Aug.13, 2006. Frustration has sparked violent demonstrations in northern Iraq as police fired into the air to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing protesters on Sunday protesting against fuel and power shortages.Iraq is the world's third largest oil reserves country. (AP Photo / Yahya Ahmed)

Picture of the Day - 3

Iraqis rest on the roof of their vehicle as they wait in a queue outside a gas station, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday Aug. 12, 2006. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

This is becoming a real problem, one that Juan Cole says is beginning to threaten the government. His source is in Arabic, so I don't know.

An AP story on the shortage here.

Also, I think the Khalilzad claim that Sadr is losing control is spin. I could be wrong, but he's been working the Iran angle very hard lately, and such a claim weaken and fracture Sadr's control, as well as seeking some political cover for the attacks on the Shia militias. Just a feeling.

Picture of the Day - 2

A worker of an aid organization distributes food to waiting people in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Sunday Aug. 13, 2006. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

The US was "closely involved" in Israel's offensive

From Sy Hersh, just out in The New Yorker
The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

I floated this possibility as a crazy theory back in July.

Maybe it's time to bring back the "Date the Iran bombing" contest. Feel free to revise and update your guess.

As the Bush admin grows more bellicose towards Iran

Something to think about.
Recent US intelligence community analyses raise the question: What would change Hezbollah's current posture of standing on the sidelines and not actively targeting Americans?

In April , the community produced a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, which, according to people who have read it , says that Hezbollah is the only major terrorist group with global reach currently not trying to kill Americans. The document also raised the intelligence community's concern that, if the United States were to attack Iran over its nuclear program, Iran might use Hezbollah to strike US targets once again.

But they're just crazy freedom haters. Their violence exists completely separate from US foreign policy. At least, how the newsmedia covers it.

Iraq Quickhits

The Iranians an Turks are upping their efforts to restrain the Kurds in N. Iraq. There have been artillery attacks from both into Iraq, and both have also raised troop levels along the border. The Turks are still threatening a large scale military incursion into N. Iraq.

This also helps reframe the recent attack by Sadr gunmen on several PKK offices throughout Iraq. (The US has attempted to use Kurdish influence to destabilize N. Iran.)

The Economist on how Basra is devolving into more violence as the various Shia militias try to carve out their own fiefdoms of patronage.

An AP article on the growing use of sectarian slurs in Baghdad.

And a great analysis/book review on how the emergence of a "Shia Crescent" is a bit of a canard that obscures the real, mid-term shaping forces in the middle east, a rise of identity and that the main future conflicts will be between individual groups and their autocratic governments. Just a very different, non-US centric view.

Later: And the violence goes on. "Car bombs and a rocket barrage struck a crowded predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad late Sunday, killing at least 47 people and wounding at least 148, authorities said."

Picture of the Day

President George W. Bush speaks with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, over the telephone at the Bush Ranch in Crawford, Texas August 12, 2006. Separately, Bush cautioned on Saturday the threat from a plot to detonate liquid explosives on commercial flights may not have passed and denied Democratic charges he was trying to use the crisis for political gains in an election year. (Eric Draper/The White House/Handout/Reuters)

I don't even know what to say. But notice, this is a White House handout photo. This is an image they want out there.

In the year 2015

"Dad? What did you do during the Iraq war?"

"Well, son, pretty much what you're doing now....."

(This joke is stolen, but I don't remember from where.)