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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Two VERY troubling Iraq stories

First is the statement by Sistani that he will no longer attempt to restrain the violence in Iraq, "admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war."

This has been developing for awhile as his influence has been failing in favor of the more militant Sadr-type clerics. Sistani has decided not to squander any more of his power pushing against the tide. Calls for peace are now the route to irrelevancy in Iraq. Enough said.

Interestingly, this statement comes just one day after Sistani met with Prime Minister Maliki. Iwould like to know what went on in that meeting.

Second, Kurdish President Barzani has ordered the replacement of the Iraqi flag with the Kurdish one, a symbolic but meaningful statement towards independence with regional implications.

(Later: Kurdish PKK guerillas killed seven Turkish soldiers in four separate attacks in 24 hours in southeastern Turkey.)

(Later still: (AP) "Meanwhile, authorities canceled a highly touted ceremony in which the U.S.-led coalition was to hand over control of Iraq's armed forces command to the Defense Ministry after disagreements emerged over Iraqi forces' responsibilities and the coalition's role. The ceremony, initially set for Saturday, was postponed to Sunday and then canceled altogether.")

The NYTimes, on the sliding US troop morale.

And, Sistani's statement might well be related to the Iraqi Government's announcement to extend the Baghdad security operation into Sadr city(bottom.)

Election '06

It's Broder, so it's a recitation of the "conventional wisdom." That doesn't mean it's right, but it's the current "centrist" comprehension.
Facing the most difficult political environment since they took control of Congress in 1994, Republicans begin the final two months of the midterm campaign in growing danger of losing the House while fighting to preserve at best a slim majority in the Senate, according to strategists and officials in both parties.

Over the summer, the political battlefield has expanded well beyond the roughly 20 GOP House seats originally thought to be vulnerable. Now some Republicans concede there may be almost twice as many districts from which Democrats could wrest the 15 additional seats they need to take control.

Picture of the Day - 3

I think this understates the majority neighborhoods, but as a starting point, it's not bad.

Whenever you hear talk of partitioning Baghdad along the Tigris, think about the million or so in all those mixed neighborhoods that would have to be moved.

The Democratic push in Texas

I've been targeted. In the last 24 hours I have received a mailing, a door hang, and tonight a pretty subtle third party push poll from my Democratic candidate for State Rep. Ellen Cohen. That's alot of money they're spending on me for that race.

State Rep in Texas is not that big a deal, but control of the legislature is huge because of the way state money is doled out. My district must be one of the targeted few they need to flip control. (And then maybe they'll return the congressional districts to where they were.)

Not much to this except that I have never been so targeted. My point is that the Dems think they are fighting with a chance even in local offices down here in Red State Texas.

Army seeking the Death Penalty in killings

I think this story is just out.
An Army investigator has recommended the death penalty for four soldiers accused of murder during a raid in Iraq.

Lt. Col. James P. Daniel Jr. made the recommendation in report obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.

Daniel found several aggravating factors that warrant a sentence of death in the case of four soldiers accused of killing three men during the May raid in the Salahuddin province.

Picture of the Day - 2

A man only identified as Shari smokes heroin in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006. Afghanistan could be 'taken down' by its booming illegal drug trade, a senior U.S. anti-narcotics official warned Saturday, ahead of the scheduled release of U.N. opium crop data. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

Pakistan freeing up fighters for the Taliban

I don't really know what to make of this, but it seems significant.
KABUL, Afghanistan - The Pakistani military is striking truces with Islamic separatists along the country's border with Afghanistan, freeing Pakistani militants and al-Qaida fighters to join Taliban insurgents battling U.S.-led troops and government forces in Afghanistan.....

The Pakistani regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been negotiating truces - with the Bush administration's encouragement - with Islamic separatists in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, mountainous tribal areas along the Afghan border where U.S. officials think bin Laden may be hiding.

In return, Pakistani officials are promising to restrict the country's troops in the area to major bases and towns and to pour huge amounts of aid - much of it from the United States and other nations - into the destitute region, according to American officials.

But as the truces take hold, separatists have been crossing into Afghanistan to fight alongside Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, according to Western and Afghan officials.

So, what is the US trying to do by encouraging these "truces?" I would assume the flow of fighters into Afghanistan is a secondary but expected consequence which means the overall goal is bigger.

Part of some long term plan to take the fire out of the resistance? Maybe some backhanded way to get at Bin Laden? It would seem counterproductive to either.

My first guess would be that Musharraf's government is more wobbly than presented and that this is intended to take some of the steam out of the Sunni opposition that penetrates into his military, but I just don't know.

I just can't shake the feeling that this is telling me something very important.

(And, in the area, "Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is spiraling out of control, rising 59 percent this year to produce a record 6,100 tons — nearly a third more than the world's drug users consume, the U.N. said Saturday. "

And, a NATO plane went down killing 14 British troops. A Taleban spokesman said it was shot down with a Stinger anti-aircraft missile (thanks, Ron Reagan) which the British deny, although a witness "reported seeing a small fire at the back of the plane before it hit the ground.")

Generally, I'm beginning to get that vague "significant point" feeling about Afghanistan that I felt about Iraq two months ago.

Picture of the Day

(If you go back through the older photos, none of the soldiers wrote 2003 on their signs.)

I think I need a scorecard

So, dictators in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan good, dictator in Burma bad. Bloody dictator in Equitorial Guinea good, dictator in Iraq bad. Libyan dictator was bad, now good. Pakistani dictator was bad, now good.

(*** note - This list is subject to change without notice.)

Tell me again how Iraq helped stop terrorism.

I found this BBC piece fascinating describing the transition of one Paris teenager from average rap listening class clown to foreign fighter in Iraq, from dating a half Jewish girl in Paris to ending up captured in Fallujah.
In a year's investigation, I found the tragedy of Barbara and Peter replicated across Britain, Europe and the Middle East.

I was left in no doubt from all those I spoke to that Iraq above all else was the motivating factor behind the radicalisation and recruitment of young Muslims, and that the US-led invasion has gifted Osama bin Laden with a Jihad he could only dream of.

All I keep wondering is how many more?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4

Pelosi's response

Check out future Speaker Pelosi's statement on the Iraq report.


(To reinforce her point, take a look at this lengthy AP article discussing the stale Bin Laden manhunt.
The roughly 10,000 (US troops) in the border area must cover about 30,000 square miles of some of the most forbidding territory on Earth....

140,000 troops now in Iraq, $8 billon a month, and the Bush administration has only 10,000 troops covering 30,000 square miles of mountains in Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden and his deputies 5 years after 9-11.)

Political bits

Voter self-identification has continued its slow, steady swing in a recent Rasmussen poll. The numbers self identifying as Republicans has fallen again to 31.9% (from 37.2% in Oct. 2004, and 34.5% early 2006. Dems picked up 1.2% since early 2006.) (Big sample size - 15,000)

ThinkProgress has a link to a WSJ piece behind the subscription wall discussing the possibility that Bolton won't be confirmed next Thursday. ‘It depends on whether he has won over a Democrat or two.' So, Lieberman and ......

The DSCC is putting money into Virginia which implies they think Webb has a real shot at beating Allen.

And, local to Alaska, but funny as hell,
JUNEAU - Among the items federal agents were searching for in Alaska legislative offices this week are hats or garments labeled “Corrupt Bastards Club” or “Corrupt Bastards Caucus,” according to the search warrant.

That's right. The legislators under investigation actually had hats made up with "Corrupt Bastards" on them.

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Pentagon: Conditions for Civil War Exist.

The Congressionally mandated quarterly report on Iraq came out today(Thanks, Dems.)

An interesting point in an early CNN report, the Pentagon correspondent was talking about what a definitional shift to civil war would actually mean because the tactics for a civil war are sharply different than the tactics currently employed.

The US is currently attempting a "clear and hold" counter- insurgency campaign whereas in a civil war, the tactics would be political reconciliation and policing the truce. You can't do "clear and hold" in a civil war because it would force taking a side.

A "civil war" strategy would be a radical shift from the current approach.

(I might argue that both an insurgency and civil are going on at the same time. What are the tactics for that?)

UPDATE: The NYTimes article is a little longer, and a little grimmer, but you gotta like the kicker they stuck at the end.
The Pentagon distributed the report on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend, a common time for government officials to put out bad news.

Or maybe the CNN headline: Pentagon: Cold-blooded carnage soaring in Iraq.

The AP now has a good longer version, too.

And here's a .pdf of the report from the NYTimes.

Picture of the Day - 2

A man cries after his policeman brother was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Kirkuk. REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed (IRAQ)

Stray thought

Maybe Rumsfeld's crazy rant about appeasers was an attempt to turn the coming "no confidence vote" into a more partisan argument rather than a straight forward referendum on his performance to allow Republicans some cover to support him.

Certainly, the overall line, repeated by Cheney and Bush, is an election strategy separate from that issue, but perhaps that's why Rumsfeld was chosen to give the most strident and partisan elements.

He hasn't really ever taken on that role before. Just thinking.

(Oh, and on the appeaser speech, Peter Galbraith has an editorial in the Boston Globe pointing out Reagan and Bush the Better's appeasement of Saddam even after he used gas and Rumsfeld's part in that.)

Iraq - The final battle of Diwaniyah?

From the Reuters Factbox we learn,
DIWANIYA - An Iraqi army commander said 70 U.S. vehicles as well as helicopters had arrived at the Polish-run base in the city of Diwaniya, the scene of fierce clashes between Shi'ite militias and the Iraqi army that left dozens dead on Monday. The U.S. military declined comment.

I've been talking about this Diwaniyah conflict alot, but it's hugely significant as it represents government/SCIRI forces agaist Sadr's militia and has become a symbolic fight for the Sadr supporters throughout the country.

The key question is whether this significant increase in US presence is merely threat or presages a conflict. This would be the largest assault against Sadr supporting militias and that will have major repercussions.

And, in the Baghdad security operation? Like I said yesterday, some temporary success with deaths significantly down earlier this month, but that now seems to be slipping away. But any successes seem limited to the duration of a US troop presence.
So far, the U.S. military says, U.S. and Iraqi forces have searched more than 33,000 buildings, including 25 mosques. But the yield has been relatively small. They have detained 70 suspects and seized more than 700 weapons and 19 arms caches, and they have cleared 10,200 tons of trash.

Commanders concede that insurgents and killers may be waiting out the U.S. presence, knowing the troops will soon move on.

The same article notes that the Iraqi participation in Operation Forward Together often consists of just a few "observers."

(As a possible example for what will happen when US troops move on, look to Mosul, which had been a moderate pacifying success, and is now getting more violent since the 172nd Stryker brigade was pulled out for the Baghdad Operation.)

Iraq is a dyke with 200,000 holes, and the US only has 140,000 fingers.

Picture of the Day

An man sits next to a stretcher with the body of a child on it at the Baquba hospital morgue. Iraq battled to contain mounting violence that has killed nearly 200 people in the past five days, as US President George W. Bush said pulling out US troops now would be a "major defeat".(AFP/Ali Yussef)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

20 soldiers dead in Iraq in the last 5 days.

With little notice, the US military has announced the deaths of 20 US military personnel in just the last 5 days. 3 from non-hostile causes and 17 from hostile fire - IED.

Details on the Pentagon's media monitoring.

The story of the Pentagon putting out a $20 million contract for monitoring media has been out for awhile, but this WaPo story has some good detail about exactly what that means.

The Pentagon is going to contract out to someone to log and grade all media stories in foreign and US press including
broadcast and cable television outlets, the Pentagon channel, two wire services and three major U.S. newspapers: The Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times. .....

The monitors are to analyze stories to determine the "dissemination of key themes and messages" along with whether the "tone" is positive, neutral or negative.

The media outlets would be monitored for how they present coalition or anti-Iraqi force operations. That part of the proposal could reflect Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's often-stated concern that the media does not cover positive aspects of Iraq.

Please note that "Donald Rumsfeld's concern" about fair coverage has been mainly focused on the US press. In other words, Don Rumsfeld is going to spend my tax money to log and grade all those stories in the American press that he doesn't think reflect well on him.

Tell me that's going to be used morally.

Picture of the Day - 4

A boy waits for transport after getting treatment in a hospital in Baghdad August 31, 2006. He was among the six passengers on a bus who were injured in a roadside bomb attack, police said. REUTERS Mohammed Ameen

Iraq is a failure.

200 killed in the last 5 days, with today's violence killing "at least" 66. After a fairly placid few weeks in Baghdad after the start of Operation Forward Together, this week the violence has returned to roughly the same level. So the numbers for the month will probably be down, but the trend has returned to its previous arc.

The press is beginning to recognize already the return of violence in the face of "Forward Together." NYTimes "defied stepped-up efforts." AP "despite U.S. and Iraqi officials' claims." AFP "undermined a massive security crackdown." Reuters "as militants defy a major security crackdown."

And in relation to the crackdown, note the sophistication of the attacks in Baghdad.
The closely spaced attacks in an eastern part of the capital included two car bombs — one at a popular market and one on a street about 1.5 miles away. The area also was hit by four mortar rounds, two rockets, a roadside bomb and a bomb in a building, police said.

A Reuters report cites a "barrage of seven rockets was spread over neighborhoods in the mainly Shiite east of the city." In Baghdad.

This is all a really big deal, because this is the last US chip on the table. Despite the fact that the US presence is now up to 140,000 in Iraq, the militants are still able to carry on complex, timed, multi-pronged attacks. This is the last shot at US credibility.

ALSO: The Iraqi Defense Minister (friendly to the US) has cancelled the Iraqi govrnment's truce with the Shia militias in Diwaniyah demanding an "extraordinary security plan" be implemented in the city. What that means is very unclear. (Remember the Iraqi security forces are primarily Shia SCIRI while the Diwaniyah millitants are Sadr.)

The Diwaniyah incident is significant because it is the largest Shia/Shia confrontation thus far, however, there have been previous similar flareups around Basra. The thing to note in these flareups is that they are primarily for control of areas and their resources.

We are now seeing the beginnings of "warlord-ism" in sections of Shia Iraq. That development, as it is elsewhere around the world, is emblematic of a weak non-functioning central government.

Bottom line of this post. The US no longer represents a significant, credible deterrent to acts of violence in Iraq. The influence of the Iraqi government has shrunk to the Green Zone except where the government's interests happen to coincide with some larger more effective armed group.

There is no more brake as Iraq slides towards warlordism and open civil war.

Iraq is a failure.

Picture of the Day - 3

This is where I'm going to stop the Katrina pictures. It was on this day that Bush finally decided to leave Crawford depicted in the memorable picture of Bush looking out a plane window some 50+ hours after the New Orleans levees broke.

I could go on for weeks. It was two more days until the Michael Brown, airport hangar, "Heckuva job" photo op. And two more days after that before the Superdome was evacuated. The flooding and fires and dying went on for a week still.

This was the greatest natural disaster ever faced by our country. It was made worse by a president who had to be shown a DVD of the coverage compiled by his staff to finally bring him into action.

Even with the best response, Katrina would've been a disaster with alot of deaths.

But Americans dying on the streets begging for help, the elderly dying without aid, the six days people were trapped at the Superdome, those unforgettable images of human suffering, are attributable to an administration and a president that largely stayed on vacation for days while New Orleans died.

This is this president's shame, and all he seemed concerned about on his anniversary visit was protecting his political ass. He made his token visit, repeating promises not yet fulfilled, and then went to a Republican fundraiser.

Today, he's trying to change the topic to terrorism, because, you see, Katrina doesn't poll well.

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At least they're fighting it.

The people of Zimbabwe, a raw dictatorship, are fighting against a proposed law to monitor telephone calls and internet use.

Once again, the US is a beacon, a shining example to the world.
The government says the bill is similar to anti-terror laws elsewhere to protect people from organised crime.....

"One of the key obligations on internet service providers (ISPs) is to install equipment which would allow them to interface between the ISP and the monitoring service," Jim Holland, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers' Association, told the BBC News website.

Doesn't that sound similar to the "secret rooms" at AT&T's offices in St. Louis and San Francisco?

Dems shouldn't play defense

After reading the wire stories I am struck by the desperate nature of this pre-election pro Iraq war push by the White House. But I have one piece of advice for the Dems, don't respond with defense, go on offense.

When Donald Rumsfeld reaches back for the WWII historical analogy, the Dems should find some safe seat congressman to respond with a different historical analogy. Vietnam. Vietnam evokes far more charged emotions than Neville Chamberlain.

The framework is there because of the historical understanding of Vietnam, that we stayed long after the war was already lost, that so many died needlessly, and that despite all the rhetoric and empty justifying threats, the dominos never fell.

This counter attack would be mentioned in every single article written on Iraq for weeks just because it's so loaded. Iraq=Vietnam. Iraq=Vietnam. (You could even have an outside group do an add.) Iraq=Vietnam.

These are the lessons of the Swiftboaters. Spurious attacks get airtime. Controversy gets on TV. Truth doesn't really matter on cable news.

These are the lessons. Learn them.

Later: For example, regarding Bush's, Rumsfeld's, and Cheney's recent charges that Dems want to withdrawal in an effort towards "appeasement,"
Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone. But White House and Republican officials said those are logical interpretations of the most common Democratic position favoring a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

(Or maybe this one, Dan Senor claims Democrats want to withdraw from Afghanistan. When pressed, he couldn't come up with one example.)

That's the way it works. Lie, make up salacious allegations and the media will give you almost unlimited repetitions of your message. Try to have a real discussion of a rational plan and your party is muddled.

Certainty and stridency over merit, over truth. Learn the lesson. Bring back my pet goat, the Aug 6, 2001 PDB. The truth doesn't matter. Make the administration try to defend through nuance. It makes them look weak.

If the EU's not unified on Iran sanctions.....

If this is the official position, the US battle for sanctions will be nearly impossible.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said today that Iran's desire to develop nuclear energy is "legitimate" provided the goal of the program was for "peaceful purposes".

Picture of the Day

A makeshift grave.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


In relation to this story on Bush's campaign travel, $166 million dollars for Republican candidates in 15 months, I find myself wondering if anyone's ever heard of him appearing even once at a Katrina fundraiser? Or maybe showing up to help raise funds for Iraq war widows and orphans? Or even a local policeor fire dept. somewhere for hazmat gear?

It would take him maybe an extra hour or two to travel down the road, give a quick speech, and pose for some pictures.

He spent as many days fundraising this week as he did in Biloxi and New Orleans. He raised $400,000 at one appearance today. You don't think that money might help some of the Iraq families get by?

Maybe just a jar by the door.

Just thinking.

Picture of the Day - 6


In an article on possible US proposed sanctions on Iran, we find an excellent example of "groupthink" by the author.
In addition, the sanctions effort may also be hampered by a report to be issued Thursday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in which inspectors will describe only slow progress by Iran in enriching uranium.

Yes, we can't have revelations of the truth "hampering" US efforts to impose sanctions.

If all your sources are from the pro-sanctions side, it's not surprising that you might internalize that view.

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I was joking

When I built my fictional list of "books I read" in the ten days I was in Crawford, I was joking, but apparently my fictional list doesn't beat George's.
No word on whether Bush ever read anything Mahfouz wrote. But really -- so many books, so little time. Asked about his summer reading, Bush tells NBC's Brian Williams: "I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read, and Laura said, 'You oughtta try Camus.' I also read three Shakespeares."

Seriously, the "fart joke president?"

Picture of the Day - 4

"The White House carefully chose the scenes it wanted to highlight on this, the anniversary of one of Bush's biggest political embarrassments."
(Washington Post Aug. 30, 2006.)

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"With the midterm elections coming into view, President Bush is launching an extended publicity tour to draw attention back to the threat of terrorism, quickly pivoting to more comfortable political territory for him after the focus in recent days on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina."
(NYTimes Aug 30, 2006.)


These daily outages are getting very old.

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An agreement has been reached on the sharing of oil revenues? If this is true, it would be a huge step towards lessening future violence in Iraq, but I haven't seen this confirmed anywhere else.

Undermanned in Ramadi
. Trying to retake Ramadi with half the troops of the Fallujah operation.

4 more soldiers deaths announced on Tuesday.

The violence is continuing across the country and in Baghdad. The BBC has the bottom line,
"The Baghdad blasts come amid a joint US-Iraqi security clampdown that officials insist is working. It probably does not feel that way to Baghdad 's citizens, says the BBC's world affairs correspondent Nick Childs."

To confirm this, McClatchy has an article describing territorial Sunni-Shia street battles for neighborhoods (plural) in Baghdad. (That's a civil war, by the way.)
Fighting between armed groups of Shiites and Sunnis isn't uncommon in Baghdad, but the extent of Tuesday's fighting was unprecedented, and it raised troubling questions about the U.S. and Iraqi government effort to bring order to the capital.

Different self promoting versions from both sides, but "Both sides agreed it was a battle for control of the neighborhoods."

The WaPo has this awful piece on the sectarian killings that even reach the wounded in their hospital beds.

(Angus Reid - Do you believe the United States’ policies in the Middle East are helping or hurting the war on terrorism? 56% hurting, 29% helping.)

(And, I'm beginning to think that Rumsfeld's wingnut diatribe yesterday was an effort to look tough before the Democrats push their "no confidence" vote in September. It will be a recitation of all his weaknesses, so maybe he's trying to preemptively shape the debate away from specifics.)

Picture of the Day

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Lyndon Baines Johnson - Speech at Johns Hopkins on Vietnam
(April 7, 1965)
We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe, from Berlin to Thailand, are people whose well-being rests, in part, on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Vietnam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America's word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even wider war.

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Vietnam would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next.

Picture of the Day - 5

(I'll be mixing in Katrina pictures for the next couple of days.
It's my remembrance.)

Political quickhits

My governor Rick Perry is slime. He called a special election concurrent with the November election so that the write in candidate's name will be somewhere on the ballot. This comes after all the experts have declared the seat either tossup or leans Dem.

300 calls is hardly a notable response if the Utah Republican party is trying to overwhelm the Salt Lake City mayor's office to stop the anti-Bush protest.

Lieberman is searching (unsuccessfully) for a new web team. I guess those allegations of Lamont tanking the site were bunk, eh? Funny, I haven't seen an apology.

And, how's that post Katrina, Jackson Square "war on poverty" going Mr. Bush?
In the world's biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty last year, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Tuesday, both ratios virtually unchanged from 2004.

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The Middle East and Their Freedom Agenda

Don Rumsfeld made a wingnut speech today claiming that "Islamic Fascism" represents a great threat to America even bringing up Hitler. I wrote a really long post outlining why Islamic fascism is one of the lesser threats compared to the rise of China, the dissoluton of Latin American ties, and poor domestic policy, but I threw it out. Because the key point is this:

What this administration doesn't seem to accept, at least rhetorically, is that the middle easterners have a freedom agenda of their own. For them, freedom is not so much freedom as enshrined in our Bill of Rights, but instead a freedom from tyrannical rulers supported by the West.

We want them to be at the stage of the Bill of Rights, but in actuality, they are fighting for the freedom described in our Declaration of Independence.

They are not fighting for freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, but instead fighting for the right of self determination.

And that's what we're trying to prevent.

(In the ultimate irony, I think it's the Iraq war that did unleash this desire for freedom among the peoples of the region.

The administration believed that a "free and prosperous" Iraq (notice they always included prosperous) would act as a beacon drawing the middle east towards a materialist western-style democracy. Instead, it has acted as an example that the laity of the middle east can stand up to the largest army in the world.)

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Bush off the cuff on Katrina

Very telling snip from this AFP article.
But local frustration was also on the menu as a waitress took Bush to task over the botched government response to the killer storm.....

As Bush tried to squeeze his way through narrow spaces between tables, waitress Joyce Labruzzo asked him: "Mister President, are you going to turn your back on me?"

"No, ma'am," Bush said, with a laugh and a pause. "Not again."

Somebody on the staff slipped up there. Not like Biloxi.
Bush's visit to Mississippi, carefully scripted by the White House, left little possibility of the president encountering much anger over the federal reconstruction efforts.

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More details on Diwaniyah

Juan Cole makes a very interesting point about the violence in Diwaniyah.
Diwaniyah is run politically by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and likely its police and security forces have been heavily infiltrated by the Iran-trained Badr Corps, the paramilitary of SCIRI. So a lot of the struggle is probably actually best thought of as Mahdi Army on Badr Corps faction fighting. Although SCIRI and allies won the provincial elections of January, 2005, since then the Sadr movement has been gaining adherents and influence in this and other southern Shiite provinces. New provincial elections were scheduled but have never been held, in part for fear that the Sadrists would sweep to power in provincial statehouses.

Iraqi forces have agreed to a "peace deal" with the militias in Diwaniyah. AP reports that the violence ended after government officials went to Sadr. The AFP outlines the terms.
According to Abid, the army agreed not to enter residential areas for three days, the Mahdi Army will withdraw fighters and a militia commander who was arrested at the weekend will be brought to court within 24 hours.

There was a sophisticated attack on Sadr's offices in Baquoba.

And, with the Iraqi fuel crisis leading to instability and riots in the streets, not to mention the pipeline explosion that may have killed 50 today, maybe someone should mention one major external reason why Iraqi fuel prices are high,
Fuel prices have soared as the Iraqi government phases out subsidies under a deal with the International Monetary Fund, angering Iraqis.

That's right, the IMF is pushing neoliberalism in the middle of the Iraqi Civil War.

Picture of the Day

At approximately 7:00AM CDT, the first reports of levee breeches.

Where are the Katrina retrospectives?

I flipped through the channel guide looking for some sort of "special" on TV tonight that would replay that godawful week from a year ago, sort of a video timeline of Katrina, and I really didn't find anything.

According to the listings I saw last night, the cable news shows were still listed (although I'm sure they'll do segments,) and the History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, etc. really didn't have anything significant listed.

I find this very surprising in comparison to 9-11 (there's a 9-11 special on tonight,) or even the tsunami, which each had significant TV specials on their anniversaries. Both have become staple topics on the "educational" cable channels partially supplanting the Nazis.

I'm sure there will be stuff out there, I'm just surprised by the lack of title shows.

I mean, this was the biggest natural disaster in American history.

(If anybody sees anything good, let me know. I'm not looking for rebuilding or current state; I'm looking for a video montage of that week. I want to remember.)

Later: I found one. ONE. History Channel at 10 PM Central, 11PM Eastern, hosted by the wounded in Iraq Bob Woodruff. Hardly primetime and probably old.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bush dines with dictators

The Washington Post properly skewers George Bush for the hypocrisy of the "Freedom Agenda," as a scheduled meeting with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nazarbayev will soon be announced. But what caught my eye....
Not only will President Nursultan Nazarbayev visit the White House, people involved say, but he also will travel to the Bush family compound in Maine.

That's pretty damn friendly, but I guess it's only fair. George Jr used George Sr's office to cement oil deals when it was his turn.

Picture of the Day - 4

An evacuated woman and child lie on the floor while members of the press corps wait for U.S. President Bush to speak during his visit to the Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana September 5, 2005. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Amidst all the talk of politics, of how Katrina affected the president's approval and how it's going to impact the elections, I thought this picture captured my feelings tonight.

Just for one day, can't we let reality intrude?

Another terror attack in Turkey

There's been another terror attack in Turkey following on the heels of the four yesterday which were claimed by a splinter group of the PKK.

(And, if you haven't seen it, the "energy rich" "southwestern" Baluchistan province of Pakistan has had violent riots after a leader of their independence movement was killed by the government.)

Bush's unintentional honesty

At Bush's first Katrina appearance today, his speechwriter slipped in a little bit of truth.
I've been in this neighborhood before. As a matter of fact, I was here a couple of days after Katrina hit. It's amazing, isn't it, amazing what the world looked like then and what it looks like now.

Certainly, the President meant the Gulf Coast, but how true is that statement?

(Oh, and no questions from the press or the affected residents.)

Picture of the Day - 3

"Clear the Way - Obama is coming!"

That's what the Kenyans were singing as Barak Obama passed through the crowd.

This guy is just electric to me. I really don't know all his positions and whether I agree, but everytime I see him, I want to march. I want to line up behind him and go where he's leading.

I can't tell you why, but I want to fight for this man.

(It's been a long time since I've felt that way about a politician. I just hope the Senate doesn't blunt him.)

Republican Congressional staffers planning for after the election

More than the polling, I'm trying to watch all the little signals that show the prevailing opinions in Washington towards the 2006 midterms. This one is Novak (blah) and wholely anecdotal, but interesting nonetheless.
A political indicator of hard times ahead for Republicans is frantic activity during the current congressional recess by GOP staffers contemplating life under a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

Several Republican aides, including many working for House members from safe seats, are seeking employment elsewhere. Most of them have never worked under Democratic control and dread the prospect of minority status on Capitol Hill.


Blogger was down all day again.

I've decided that, like rain, it's best to just go do something else and wait it out.

(The picture function still isn't working right. I'm going to be posting Katrina pictures mixed in throughout the week.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Angela Perkins drops to her knees begging for help among thousands of people gathered at the New Orleans Convention Center waiting for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)

Iraq violence

The violence in Iraq was significant yesterday. The LATimes has the latest numbers, 80 reported Iraqi deaths and the announcement of 6 US military deaths. (8 were killed over the weekend.) The violence was from all across the country.

One of the bombs went off in front of the Iraqi Interior Ministry in Baghdad, the hub of the police forces.

And it sounds like the Iraqi forces took pretty big losses in Shia Diwaniyah, "34 bodies were brought in — 25 Iraqi soldiers, seven civilians and two militiamen." (10 militants captured.)

(Later: add this, "Some of the soldiers were executed in a public square after they ran out of ammunition.")

(As an aside, has anyone else noticed that the 90 day security crackdown in Baghdad is timed almost perfectly to the US election day? Realistically, that timeline is probably pretty malleable and likely to stretch, but it is curious, no? )

The lessons of Hezbullah

Tell me this doesn't sound familiar. (From an article on Sunni/Shia "house swapping" in Iraq.)
Supporters of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been particularly adept, using their control of the ministries of education, which oversees schools, and trade, which oversees the country's rationing system, to make sure families are comfortable in their new homes.

Sadrists greet new families, help them transfer their children to new schools, secure their streets, move their food ration card to the new community and in some cases provide gasoline at a time when there is a nationwide shortage.

Shiite residents who've swapped houses said they'd depended more on Sadr's political wing than the government to help them get acclimated in their new communities.

The Sadrists provide security and social services which the government of Iraq cannot, a page right out of the playbook of Hezbullah that has established their strong base in Lebanon. (Articles on Hezbullah's efforts: Time, Newsweek)

Picture of the Day

U.S. Secertary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld puts his hand to his head as he and Iraqi Deputy President Adil Abdul Mahdi speak to reporters following their meeting at the Pentagon in Washington August 25, 2006. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Turk-Kurdish escalation?

It's not yet clear whether the bombings in Turkey were carried out by the PKK, the Kurdish independence movement. If so, Northern Iraq may well be getting much hotter very soon.

The Bush economy

No surprise, just confirmation.
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.....

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s.

Picture of the Day - 3

Residents pull victims out of a burning minibus shortly after a bomb exploded in Baghdad August 27, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Jasim (IRAQ)

More violence in Iraq as Maliki drifts to irrelvance.

55 killed in Iraq today that were reported, but what I wanted to make note of is Maliki's increasing distance from the reality of his country.

First we have the "pact of honor" signed among the tribal chiefs who are becoming increasingly irrelevant against the rising militant tides of armed young men. The militias, both Shia and Sunni, are the new tribalism in Iraq.

Next, there's this quote,
"Violence has decreased and our security ability is increasing. We are not in civil war and will never be in civil war," Maliki told CNN in a recorded interview on Sunday. "What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation."

And most frighteningly to me (same article,)
A top government official said Maliki planned to reshuffle his coalition cabinet just 100 days after it was formed because he wanted to root out disloyal or poorly performing ministers and rally factions behind his national reconciliation plan.

So, the plan is to take those who represent the militant factions and throw them out of the government to push forward efforts at reconciliation? I'm sure the militia groups will accept the expulsion and removal from the graft train with humility and grace.

Oh, right.

Maliki is becoming dangerously removed from the realities of his country. The people of Iraq no longer believe in him (if they ever did,) and as his weakness becomes more and more apparent, the outside possibility of a reconciliation in Iraq drifts away as well.

(Oh, and the Turks are still bombing the Kurdish regions in N. Iraq.)

Picture of the Day - 2


Picture of the Day

It's from here.

And, don't miss the WaPo piece on Rumsfeld's visit with the wives of the 172nd stryker brigade. After saying that he couldn't guarantee that the 172nd would be coming home after their already 3 month extension,
In an interview during his flight to Fairbanks, Rumsfeld said he saw no reason for the soldiers or their families to be angry at him.

"I don't put it in that context," he said. "These people are all volunteers. They all signed up. They all are there doing what they're doing because they want to do it. They're proud of what they do. They do it very, very well."

There's a reason the guys in uniform have grown to hate Rumsfeld.


Take a minute for Doonesbury today.

Votes over voters in the wake of Ernesto

Having been through a hurricane, I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but if, god forbid, I was to be hit by another hurricane and had to chose which one, I think it would be this one, Ernesto.

Coming in this election year which looks so dim for Republicans with landfall right after the Katrina anniversary, the poor people who are at the point of this thing will be able to rebuild their houses out of stacks of dollar bills.

The Republicans will paint the response as an example of "lessons learned," but in reality it will show what could've been done last year if there had been political will.

Make specific note that it will be a concern for electorial success, not a genuine caring for the plight of those affected that will drive the disaster response, a concern for votes over voters.

If that isn't a statement of the condition of our political leaders, I don't know what is.

And, you know I like contests, so....
Which politician will make the most grandstanding appearance? Other categories: Standing on the highest pile of rubble. Photo op with the saddest affected resident. Most electioneering statement. Least connection to the affected area.

(Let me say again, I went through a relatively minor storm years ago here in Houston 50 miles inland and it was still quite difficult. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.)


How is this the last paragraph of an article?
One year after Katrina, large areas of New Orleans remain virtually uninhabitable. Only $117 million in at least $25 billion in federal aid has reached the city, while federal investigators determined that roughly $2 billion in taxpayer money was wasted in no-bid contracts and disaster aid to people who did not need the help.

"Only $117 million in aid has reached the city." Isn't that a front page story?