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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Frist gets nasty on torture bill

Bill Frist singled out South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham over the detainee bill at a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, in Graham's homestate, in front of the major South Carolina Republican donors. Nasty.

James Baker and the ISG

An interesting article in the WaPo on the progress of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission looking for a solution in Iraq.
Baker is not revealing much of his hand. He has indicated that recommendations will not be forthcoming until after the November elections, in an effort to keep the group above the political fray. ....

Baker has offered some hints of his thinking -- and his dismay with the way the Iraq occupation has been handled by the administration.

"The difficulty of winning the peace was severely underestimated," Baker wrote in a recent memoir, citing "costly mistakes" by the Pentagon. These included, he wrote, disbanding the Iraqi army, not securing weapons depots and "perhaps never having committed enough troops to successfully pacify the country."

But in an interview in the current issue of Texas Monthly, Baker dashed the idea of "just picking up and pulling out" of Iraq. "Even though it's something we need to find a way out of, the worst thing in the world we could do would be to pick up our marbles and go home," he said, "because then we will trigger, without a doubt, a huge civil war. And every one of the regional actors -- the Iranians and everybody else -- will come in and do their thing."

I think it's notable that Condi Rice was more concerned with ass covering than finding a solution. (I find that a telling inclusion in the article.)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave her support only after being assured by officials with the federally funded U.S. Institute of Peace, under whose aegis the group was formed, and other think tanks involved in the project that the venture would be a forward-looking exercise and not an examination of past mistakes, according to people familiar with the project.

Radical Islam in Thailand

This is one of those terror acts that makes up those upward sloping State Department statistics.
Four people, including two foreigners, were killed overnight after five bombs ripped through a popular tourist area in Thailand's mostly-Muslim south, police said.....

Parts of Songkhla province are under martial law as the government struggles to contain an Islamic insurgency that has killed more than 1,400 people since January 2004, mostly in the three southern-most Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia.

(Also, BBC version.)

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Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. (Claire Soares/Reuters)

Between 170,000 and 255,000 people have died in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region since 2003.....The Arab-dominated Sudanese government has been accused of unleashing Arab militiamen known as janjaweed who have been blamed for widespread atrocities, including rapes and killings.

Great blogging

Edit Copy has pulled together a collection of quotes from a bunch of sources trying to reconstruct the classified Devlin report (the recent report saying most notably Anbar has been politically lost to Al Qaeda.)

It's really good, and I'm quite sure it was a ton of work, so give 'em some love.

Edit Copy's main point as I read it, is that because the troops are being pulled out of the dire situation in Anbar to Baghdad, the situation must be perceived by the military as substantially dire there as well.

I would fully agree, but I would extend to say that Baghdad represents a strategic priority, because if Baghdad falls, there will be no more Iraqi government forces for Anbar or anywhere else in the longer term.

If the US loses Baghdad, the Iraqi government will extend its reach only to the green zone, any hope of turning anything over to the Iraqi government is gone and we're looking at warlord ridden Mogadishu circa 1993 with better troops, organization, and weapons.

On the bright side, nobody can credibly calim Iraq was the Democrat's fault

Another one of those rarely told stories about the failure in Iraq.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

When historians write of the disaster that was (still is in 2020?) the US presence in Iraq, this portion will probably get small mention against some of the major errors by the "name" participants and the longer term regional instabilities that resulted, but this was a big part of the failure.

All of this crap under Bremer wasted time. Time that was unrecoverable as the various factions organized and began their military resistance.
"I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to 'the President's vision for Iraq' (a frequently heard phrase at CPA) was 'uncertain.'

(This is a long article, but it has lots in it.)

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A Palestinian from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade attends a rally in Gaza to protest against remarks regarding Islam made by Pope Benedict XVI September 15, 2006. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)


The two big news stories out of Iraq are the "trench," which security experts are already saying won't help that much, and the reduction of troops in Anbar.

The US military denies the trench speaking more of restricted access.

On Anbar, I just keep wondering how it must feel to be deployed there. They know it's not going well, and, in essence, they've just been told that they are to fight a holding/occupying action, that there is no intention to defeat their enemy. How do you think that feels?

From the WaPo article on the partial withdrawal.
Implicit in Chiarelli's remarks on Anbar was the idea that, given limited overall troop numbers in Iraq, American commanders must make difficult trade-offs as they concentrate forces in one troubled region at a time. "There's not a commander in the world who wouldn't say he could use more forces," he said.

Or maybe from the Robert Burns AP version,
In fact, they have shifted some troops from Anbar to Baghdad this summer, not because security conditions are improving in the western province but because they are deteriorating even more in the capital area. ....

In fact, they have shifted some troops from Anbar to Baghdad this summer, not because security conditions are improving in the western province but because they are deteriorating even more in the capital area.

(Reuters) Iraqi police found 47 more bodies of death squad victims dumped in Baghdad overnight.

(USAToday) The US-Iraqi Baghdad offensive tries to steer clear of Sadr and the Mahdi militia. Sadr is playing this like a pro. Without fighting, he is negotiating for more power.

(Reuters) No story on this one, just this brief mention in the factbox.
BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed in a bomb attack on his foot patrol just northwest of Baghdad late on Thursday, the U.S. military said in statement. The deaths of five other U.S. troops were announced on Thursday in four separate incidents.

This makes me so sick. Six US soldiers die in service to their country, and this is what they get in the press.

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Here we go again. This time it's Iran

Some officials at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department said they're concerned that the offices of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney may be receiving a stream of questionable information that originates with Iranian exiles, including a discredited arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who played a role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

Officials at all three agencies said they suspect that the dubious information may include claims that Iran directed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in July; that Iran's nuclear program is moving faster than generally believed; and that the Iranian people are eager to join foreign efforts to overthrow their theocratic rulers.

The officials said there is no reliable intelligence to support any of those assertions and some that contradicts all three.....

Adding to the unease, Rumsfeld's office earlier this year set up a new Iranian directorate, reported to be under the leadership of neoconservatives who played a role in planning the Iraq war.

Current and former officials said the Pentagon's Iranian directorate has been headed by Abram Shulsky. Shulsky also was the head of the now-defunct Office of Special Plans, whose role in allegedly manipulating Iraq intelligence is under investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Some officials say they fear the office, whose existence was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, is being used to funnel intelligence from Ghorbanifar, the arms dealer, and an Iranian exile group known as the Mujahedeen Khalq.

Bush is scheduled to address the UN Tuesday.

And, the propaganda is working.
Rasmussen: 77% believe Iran is likely to have nukes 'soon'.

Picture of the Day

From the press conference. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Friday, September 15, 2006

One more bit on detainee politics.

On Olberman, Johnathan Turley made an interesting point regarding retroactive immunity (1, 2.)

Now that Khalid Sheik Muhammed and the rest have been transferred to Guantanamo, within the next week or so, they will get their first Red Cross visit since their original detention. At that time, they may reveal their experience.

If history is any judge, the Red Cross will try to resolve any issues regarding Guantanamo first behind closed doors. But if there was torture, it will come out, and it will likely have legal jeopardy attached.

So, in a sense, the clock is ticking on the Bush administration to get this legislation done.

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(The sign's in English? What target audience was this aimed for? - mike)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, prays during the opening ceremony for a Coca-Cola plant in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

A little more press conference

Tell me I didn't fall out laughing when I heard this one out of Bush.
THE PRESIDENT: ....Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.

Also, I think this is a significant admission,
THE PRESIDENT: I said the other night in a speech, this is like the ideological war of the 21st century, and I believe it. And I believe that if we leave that region, if we don't help democracy prevail, then our children and grandchildren will be faced with an unbelievable chaotic and dangerous situation in the Middle East. Imagine -- imagine an enemy that can't stand what we believe in getting a hold of oil resources and taking a bunch of oil off the market in order to have an economic punishment. In other words, they say, you go ahead and do this, and if you don't, we'll punish you economically.

A week ago discussing the "ideological struggle" with Katie Kouric, Bush indirectly stated something very similar.

Look. This "war" isn't about freedom. This conflict with Al Qaeda is only secondarily about terrorism. The US is fighting a broad based Islamic movement of identity and self determination in an effort to prop up friendly (oil rich) Arab governments. That is the root of the "ideological struggle."

That is why this administration chose to go to "war" rather than what would've been a universally supported police operation to round up those responsible for 9-11.

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A shoe of an Iraqi traffic police man lies in a pool of blood, after a car bomb explosion, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday Sept. 13, 2006, killing at least 11 people and wounding another 58. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

Iraq II

No, I wasn't crazy. I did hear the president announce the encirclement of Baghdad with trenches and berms.

Also in this article, are they just writing off Anbar, the center of Al Qaeda in Iraq, supposedly the terrorist element we're in Iraq fighting by pulling a battalion out to Baghdad? (UPDATE: Yes, they are according to Gen. Chiarelli.)

And, same article, another US soldier is missing,
Neither U.S. military officials in Iraq nor in Washington would say whether they believed the soldier had been abducted or whether he may have been killed in the attack, and his remains had not been recovered.

If you pray, pray for him.

(Also: CNN is actually showing video of wounded US troops rolling into the Baghdad CASH. Unprecedented. It's on their site, but I can't link it directly. Go to an Iraq article and look about halfway down on the left under video "Casualties mount in Iraq conflict.")

Bush press conference at 11:15 Eastern

Today's killer question: (Atrios) If Bin Laden is on par with Hitler and Lenin, then why is catching him not a "top priority"? Or, how many US troops have died in Iraq? (How about that hemming and hawing moment?)

(Later: Did he really say the Iraq war was necessary to prevent unfriendly regimes from taking control of oil reserves?

The Newsweek guy actually asked Atrios' Killer Question.)

Later still: Rove mission #1 accomplished. In all this flutter, nobody's talking about Iraq.


32 more bodies "bound, tortured, and shot," were found around Baghdad on Thursday. (By the way notice that these reports of death squad killings never mention deaths outside Baghdad. How many?)

Same article: "Apart from the mounting toll of execution-style murders, some of them sectarian, some probably the work of kidnap gangs, Thursday saw a number of bombings that have become routine." (14 dead, at least 26 wounded.)

(CNN) - A suicide truck bomb hit a U.S. Army outpost Thursday in Baghdad, killing two American soldiers and leaving 25 wounded, the U.S. military said.

(Reuters) - "Saudi Arabia is trying to secure its borders with Iraq to prevent violence in its northern neighbour spilling into the wider region, a Saudi official said on Thursday."

Joseph Ralston, the US appointee to try and deal with the Kurdish - Turkish violence, warned Turkey against military action, said the US would not militarily engage the PKK, then said he will not meet with them because, "I never meet a terrorist organization." So, you're doing what exactly?

The Financial Times has an article with a number of revealing bits. Sunnis are afraid to go to the hospital since a Sadrist was appointed health minister, "anyone who goes to the hospital is likely to turn up in the morgue several days later, pierced through the skull with an electric drill."

And, "according to a Pentagon report, 115,000 out of a planned 137,000-strong force are already on duty, with 92 per cent of battalions formed." So, they're formed and the violence is still where it is?

Tom Dispatch has this rather informal look at twelve ways the military has filled out its numbers. Interesting side point, Rumsfeld's transformation to high tech is being undermined by lower recruiting standards.

(AP) Iraq war's signature wound: Brain injury.

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Is this the Rumsfeld - Saddam picture of the future?

Pakistan, our ally, releases thousands of foreign fighters

Holy Crap!
Pakistan's credibility as a leading ally in the war on terrorism was called into question last night when it emerged that President Pervez Musharraf's government had authorised the release from jail of thousands of Taliban fighters caught fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Five years after American-led coalition forces overthrew the Taliban during Operation Enduring Freedom, United States officials have been horrified to discover that thousands of foreign fighters detained by Pakistan after fleeing the battleground in Afghanistan have been quietly released and allowed to return to their home countries.

So, he's offering safe haven to those foreign fighters in Pakistan, and even throwing back the ones he incidentally captures.

No matter what the rhetoric, since the fall of the Taliban, Pakistan is the headwater of terrorism. If you look at all the major thwarted terror attacks, almost all of them have ties back to Pakistan.

Taliban 'seize Afghan district'

NATO troops are currently conducting heavy operations in the south while US forces are working in the east and north of the country.
The Taleban have ousted Afghan security forces from a district headquarters in western Farah province, police say. Government forces beat a retreat after days of fighting, Farah police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib told the BBC.

It sounds like fairly light fighting relative to elsewhere in the country, but if you look at the accompanying map, it's not like they just flowed over the border into this province. They must've been getting local support.

The "immunity clause" in the detainee bill

Amidst all the discussion and debate over the treatment, torture, and trial issues around the Bush bill and the 3rd Geneva Convention, the inclusion of the immunity clause is going largely unmentioned.
"the draft Administration bill would (i) retroactively legalize all the unlawful acts that were approved and performed from 2001 to the present day (see section 9, page 86); (ii) would cut off all judicial review of U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions (section 6(b), page 79)" (sorry, I can't find the link. - mike)

The Supreme Court has expressed in Hamdan that the administration's claims of war time powers are void, so, this clause not only acts to protect the CIA folks who were "just following orders," but it would also serve to retroactively immunize Bush administration officials for ordering violations of the Geneva Conventions, and by connection, The War Crimes Act in the US criminal code.

Maybe I'm the only one, but I think retroactively legalizing war crimes is a pretty big deal.

(And it's probably worth mentioning this is not the first immunity effort being debated against McCain and Graham (1, 2.) All of the language is around protecting US personnel, but, legally, the immunity would reach the White House.)

Picture of the Day

A man injured in a car bomb explosion, Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday Sept.13, 2006. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shenanigans on the detainee bill?

I'm finding it hard to believe that the current Republican spat over the detainee bill is real.

If you look back at the McCain torture amendment (which turned out to be toothless because of a signing statement,) the same three Senators were extremely active on more or less exactly the same ground, and now I'm expected to believe that the White House staked its entire "national security" election strategy on this bill without vetting it through those three first? Without even sounding them out?

Maybe my tinfoil hat is too tight, but that just doesn't sound right.

One argument might be that the White House was trying to use the force of the election to jam through their critical immunity clauses, except that none of these three is up for election. Were they trying to pressure Dems to agree to this bill or maybe remake Bush as the compromiser?

If the entire plan was to have the bill fail to blame the Dems for "making America less safe" then why are these three Senators so far and so publicly out in front? Maybe it's a ploy to eventually assuage these three and then paint the Dems as extremist, but then Colin Powell and the generals and the military jump in.

Is the whole thing designed to show Congressional independence? Then where are the Senators/House members who need that for their election?

So, is this real or an elaborate Kabuki being conducted by McCain, Warner, Graham, and the White House? I would suspect Kabuki, but right now I don't see a clear positive Republican end game. Is Osama going to show up? Are we going to avert nuclear disaster only because of the torturer in chief? Is there enough time to engineer a "failure" because of the stalled bill?

I just don't get it.

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A little girl carries her grandfather's stick as he carries aid materials being distributed by the U.S. Army at Kandagal, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team, or PRT, based in Asadabad distributed essential materials and held a medical camp in Kandagal. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

The US military says sectarian killings up in Baghdad

This story isn't really a surprise, but after all the recent efforts to play down the numbers of sectarian killings, this inevitable admission is news.
Sectarian killings have surged in parts of Baghdad not yet included in a security offensive, the U.S. military said Thursday, while bombings and other insurgent attacks killed four American soldiers and wounded 25 in the capital region.

And from the Department of Duh,
"The terrorists and death squads are clearly targeting civilians outside of the focus areas," Caldwell said.

How dare they avoid the four neighborhoods in Baghdad where the US is operating? (Sorry, probably not the right tone here, but the miltary is announcing this widely predicted outcome as if it were a surprise, and I don't really know how to express that.)

There are some new stats on Together Forward. It looks like the various combatants moved their weapons, too. In the five and a half weeks "In areas that have been part of the operation, U.S. and Iraqi forces have cleared more than 52,000 buildings, found 32 weapon caches, detained 91 people and seized more than 1,200 weapons."

They have captured a "name" Al Qaeda guy, al-Liby, which is something, but thus far the obvious whack-a-mole analogy seems to be holding true.

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President Bush listens to a Korean translator as he meets with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Sept. 14, 2006. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Very quietly in the US press, the US military has moved into Diwaniyah and begun operations against the Sadr supporters there. A protest of the US raid ended with ten dead after government forces opened fire on the crowd. We'll have to wait and see if Sadr accepts this or responds elsewhere.

US troop levels in Iraq are now up to 147,000. The army claims this is the result of a rotation, but "could not be specific when levels would return to the 138,000-troop level that has been the baseline for many months."

At their meeting in Tehran, Khamenei told al-Maliki "that the way to end instability in Iraq is for U.S. forces to withdraw." This states Iran's intentions in Iraq fairly clearly. Iran will continue to support anti-US activities. (The top point of Maliki's visit, at least officially, was to ask Iran to stop its support.)

And if you didn't see Kofi Annan's comments after his middle east tour, they're worth a look.
"Most of the leaders I spoke to felt that the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath have been a real disaster for them ... They believe it has destabilized the region....."

Other leaders, notably in Iran, felt that "the presence of the US is a problem and that the US should leave, and if the US were to decide to leave they would help them," Annan said.

"So in a way the US finds itself in a position where it cannot stay and it cannot leave," he said.

Reaction from the White House was swift.

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In this undated photo released by family, Merideth Howard, 52, of Waukesha, Wis., is shown. Sgt. 1st Class Merideth Howard was killed Friday, Sept. 8, 2006, when a car bomber slammed into a Humvee filled with people in Afghanistan, said her husband, Hugh Hvolboll. Howard joined the Army Reserves in 1988 and went to Afghanistan in April with the 364th Civil Affairs brigade, said Hvolboll. (AP Photo/Family)

Quotes from the fight in Afghanistan

From a British soldier in Afghanistan,
"We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming. We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming, either locally or from across the border," one said. "We have used B1 bombers, Harriers, F16s and Mirage 2000s. We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs. At one point our Apaches [helicopter gunships] ran out of missiles they have fired so many. Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed. We need an entire battle group to move things. Yet they will not give us the helicopters we have been asking for."

And from the British commander there,
"We did not expect the ferocity of the engagements. We also expected the Taliban to carry out hit and run raids. Instead we have often been fighting toe to toe, endless close-quarters combat. It has been exhausting. I remember when we had to extract a Danish recce group which was getting attacked on all sides; it was bedlam. We have greater firepower, so we tend to win, but, of course, they can take their losses while our casualties will invariably lead to concern back home.You also have to think that each time we kill one, how many more enemies we are creating. And, of course, the lack of security means hardly any reconstruction is taking place now, so we are not exactly winning hearts and minds."

And, of course, "NATO members have failed to respond to a call from military commanders for reinforcements to try to quell the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, an alliance spokesman said."

Tony Snow lays it on the table

A shorter version of the overly long post I wrote last night. According to the president, Al Qaeda in Iraq is the central front in the "war on terror," right?
Q Is the U.S. goal also to defeat the insurgency?

MR. SNOW: The U.S. goal is to have the insurgency defeated.

So that's the plan for removing Al Qaeda from Iraq, to assume that a fragile new Iraqi government will take on Sunni wrath for military operations in Anbar rather than coming to conciliation and turning a blind eye while Al Qaeda in Iraq launches attacks against Saudi Arabia and Jordan from their new safe harbor? That's the plan?

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IAEA protests "erroneous" U.S. report on Iran

So here we are again.
VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. inspectors have protested to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest," according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

The letter recalled clashes between the IAEA and the Bush administration before the 2003 Iraq war over findings cited by Washington about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved false, and underlined continued tensions over Iran's dossier.

Remember this "report" was written by Neocon, former Bolton Deputy, Cuba biological weapons program charging, Frederick Fleitz, and was very unusually issued through the committee chair without being voted on by the committee.

The Republicans even do Democratic talking points better

On Bush's proposed detainee bill that he is trying to rush through Congress.
“This is not about November 2006. It is not about your election. It is about those who take risks to defend America,” Mr. Graham said.

Picture of the Day

I know it was staged, but I'll always remember Ann Richards like this.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Let's review the Iraq strategy

For the sake of this post examining the strategy for Iraq, let's accept the premise of administration competence and clarity. (I know.)

In recent speeches, Bush has made clear that Al Qaeda wants to make Iraq its central front in the war on terror, and to that end, fighting the battle of Al Qaeda's choosing, we must defeat them there.

Now, the plan is not actually for the US to defeat Al Qaeda, but instead to stalemate them and train the Iraqi forces so that they can defeat Al Qaeda. (As Tony Snow said today, the US is not trying to "subdue every bad guy," but "train Iraqi forces so they can do the job.")

The heart of Al Qaeda in Iraq is in Anbar. Best estimates are that there are about 5,000- 10,000 foreign/Al Qaeda fighters there with good local support. Thus far, the US with about 30,000 troops, and another 15,000 Iraqi troops (about 7,500 actually active - I cant' find the link,) has fought for roughly three years and is now being assessed as losing the massive province to Al Qaeda.

So, how exactly are the fledgling Iraqi forces supposed to conquer an Al Qaeda element (that wasn't there before the US invasion) when 30,000 of the best trained troops in the world haven't been able to do so in three years.

George Bush's plan is to turn over the "central front in the war on terror" to those fledgling forces and the goodwill of a fragile Iraqi government.

That's the administration's plan to defeat Al Qaeda, to let the Iraqis handle it.

"The decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation" is being turned over to the Iraqi government.

(Ditto for Afghanistan.)

(Longer term: Even if you were to assume that the Iraqi forces were capable of this job, why would Iraq not go the route of Pakistan, preferring political stability so long as Al Qaeda focuses its efforts outside the country?

Or, you could look at the very real possibilty of Iraq fracturing either completely or informally under the currently proposed "federalism" legislation that would allow sectarian military forces and armed borders. What incentive would a central Iraqi government have to enter the Sunni areas under force and go after Al Qaeda so long as they didn't attack the government?

Or, let's look at the possibility that Iran ends up wielding excessive influence in Iraq. Al Qaeda has stated three major goals. To remove the US from the region, to overthrow the Saudi Arabian government, and (later) to remove the Israelis. I think it's highly unlikely that the Iranians would work directly with Al Qaeda for a number of reasons, but as Al Qaeda actions might coincide with Iranian goals, an Iraqi government influenced by Iran might not pursue them as vigorously as the US would want.

That's all assuming the US has pulled out, and Al Qaeda focused on their other goals rather than civil war. If they got safe haven, the foreign fighters don't need civil war except as it might please their Sunni hosts.)

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An Iraqi man injured in a car bomb explosion narrates the incident as medics treat him at a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday Sept. 13, 2006. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

The spin on Chafee, the election is underway.

The Republicans are trying to spin Chafee's win as a great victory and evidence of their "superior" GOTV apparatus. I'm going to clip my own previous comment as an answer.
A well funded GOTV is very easy and extremely effective in Rhode Island. "With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Chafee had 34,042 votes, or 54 percent, to Laffey's 29,431 votes, or 46 percent." I mean, with the millions the RNC poured in, you can literally handhold 10,000 voters to create this landslide.

It's not Tennessee or Virginia, or Ohio, or Missouri. (although it is Montana.)

And, Laffey had no preexisting GOTV structure or framework. His lists and data must've been miniscule.

So, to some degree I think it's spin. I do think the GOP does have a better operation, but in this case, it was a tiny market against virtually no opposition.

This was the RNC "A" team with a whole lot of money working just two congressional districts.

(Chafee spent about $500,000 outside the RNC money and efforts, to identify and target 42,000 possible independents and Chafee leaning Dems. He only got 34,000 total votes. 20,000 disaffiliation forms were filed.)

Schumer's spin, "Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse got as many votes as the two Republicans combined in a Democratic primary that wasn’t close to competitive." (It's a very blue state - mike)

Also, see the spin picking up in Boehner's “I wonder if they’re more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people,” and this entire NYTimes story which seems to be buying the White House's narrative.

And, the smartest politician in the world, Claire McCaskill. Tell me that didn't get her three hours of lauding airtime.

Path to 9-11 (2008 version) or Tora Bora Redux

(NYPost so probably a little over the top.)
Taliban terror leaders who had gathered for a funeral - and were secretly being watched by an eye-in-the-sky American drone - dodged assassination because U.S. rules of engagement bar attacks in cemeteries, according to a shocking report

U.S. intelligence officers in Afghanistan are still fuming about the recent lost opportunity for an easy kill of Taliban honchos packed in tight formation for the burial, NBC News reported......

Pentagon officials declined comment and referred The Post to Central Command officers in Afghanistan, who did not respond to a request for comment or explanation.

I do understand that cultural sensitivities are the reason for the limitations, but still, you'd think somebody'd make that call.

Ah, my Republican Congress......

You know, there's nothing greater I could want from my Congress than to rush through bills as an election tactic that abridge fourth amendment rights.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) in Tehran.(AFP/Mehr News)

"This guy... I love this guy. He's the best employee I've ever had."

(and I assume the (R) in the caption is for right, not Republican.)

A bad day in Baghdad and that's saying alot

65 bodies appeared on the streets of Baghdad overnight all apparently victims of death squads, many tortured several beheaded.

(Note, the very unusual addition in almost all these stories, that 45 of these deaths were west of the Tigris(mainly Sunni) and 15 were east(Shia.) I've just never seen that distinction made before.)

This is in addition to the approximately 27 killed in several bomb attacks on Iraqi forces in the capital including six civilians in an attack on a US convoy.

Mortar attacks on a police station and recruiting center in Baghdad killed 7.

All against the backdrop of the US security crackdown. I guess the insurgents decided to leave those four neighborhoods.

And Sadr is playing a big political game right now. Outside of possibly killing the federalism legislation sponsored by his main Shia rivals the SCIRI, there's this.
A group of lawmakers tried to capitalize Tuesday on the unpopularity of U.S. troops among many Shiite and Sunni legislators, seeking approval of a resolution setting a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, which the Shiite-dominated government has so far refused to do.

Sponsored by supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some Sunni Arabs, the resolution managed to gather 104 signatures in the 275-member parliament before it was effectively shelved by being sent to a committee for review.

My impression is that Sadr is now playing to win it all. His popularity has soared even in SCIRI strongholds. If elections were held today, his group would likely takeover the Shia block of paliament. His Medhi militia is one of the largest and fastest growing armed groups in Iraq. It is my belief that he opposes federalism because he believes that he will someday run the entire country.

On the US politics, dissect carefully the statement by Gen. Zilmer yesterday supposedly contradicting the report about Anbar. He doesn't actually contradict any of the elements of that big WaPo piece, the only its tone.

Zilmer's main statement is that the US can continue "stifling" the Sunnis in Anbar, but the point of Devlin's report is that while the marines have been treading water for two and a half years, the politics have moved irrevocably away from them.

Picture of the Day

A demonstrator kicks a wooden panel placed by authorities to close the entrance to a subway station in anticipation of violence expected during a march on the eve of the 33rd annivesary of the military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, in Santiago, Chile, Sunday Sept. 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Santiago Llanquin)

(Sometimes it's just because I like the picture.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Another Kurdish bombing inside Turkey kills 7. How long can we expect the Turks to just sit by while the Kurds repeatedly attack? BBC reports at least five of the dead are children.

(Reuters) The Sudanese government is bombing civilians in Darfur.

(WaPo or AP) The NSA issued "a set of administration approved, unclassified talking points for the members to use" promoting its warrantless eavesdropping program. That's a no no. The WaPo version has some of the actual talking points.

(AP) The port security bill may be dead because the Republicans are objecting to Democratic amendments. The Democrats are asking for such unreasonable things as requiring bus lines, train lines, and chemical plants to implement security measures as well as the implementation of ALL of the 9/11 commission's recommendations. How dare they!!

(AP) The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee don't want to subpoena Duke Cunningham to testify in an investigation of just what Duke Cunningham did.

Picture of the Day - 4

A sign at a polling station in Germantown elementary school greets voters with a direction to the voting machines or a last chance to change your political affiliation in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006, during voting hours in the Maryland primary elections. (AP Photo/Matt Houston)
(Their caption, not mine. - mike)

Picture of the Day - 3

This is a picture of the "arch-conservative" Steve Laffey today who is in the Rhode Island Senate Primary.

He dressed his ten year old son up in camoflage and an army helmet for the biggest day in his political life. If you see the obligatiory shots of Laffey voting, there's the boy in full kit. It's just so bizarre.

(Sorry, this is the best photo I could easily find.)

Tony Snow tops himself.

The evidence is solid. Saddam's government had no ties to Al Qaeda. But, Tony Snow says
MR. SNOW: Well, and there was a relationship -- there was a relationship in this sense: Zarqawi was in Iraq; al Qaeda members were in Iraq; they were operating, and in some cases, operating freely from Iraq. Zarqawi, for instance, directed the assassination of an American diplomat in Amman, Jordan. But they did they have a corner office at the Mukhabarat? No. Were they getting a line item in Saddam's budget? No. There was no direct operational relationship, but there was a relationship. They were in the country, and I think you understand that the Iraqis knew they were there. That's the relationship.

Okay, so the Bush administration had a relationship with Mohammed Atta? Is that what you're saying Tony?

Picture of the Day

A man injured in a roadside bomb explosion gets treated at hospital, in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Sept.12, 2006. A roadside bomb next to a market killed at least four people and wounded 24 others, police said. (AP Photo/Adam Hadei)


(Dahr Jamail) Fallujah is under threat again. "Last week the Americans used loudspeakers on the backs of their tanks and Humvees to threaten us," Dhahy said. Residents said the U.S. forces warned of a "large military operation" if fighters were not handed over." The US military denies this.

(AFP) Al Arabiya television was banned from Iraq because someone on the station said the new "federalism" law would lead to the breakup of the country.

(Reuters) Maliki is in Iran meeting with Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

(WaPo) Dennis Kucinich confronting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric S. Edelman about yesterday's report on Anbar.
"But wouldn't it be of interest to the parents of American soldiers who are being sent to fight, that they would know that a report existed that said that a province was beyond repair and the thing couldn't be won militarily? Wouldn't that be of interest, Mr. Edelman?"

Afghanistan: (Times Online) Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and maybe France have rejected the recent dire request by Gen. James Jones for a rapid deployment of more troops to Afghanistan.

More troops for Iraq

I've seen this line of argument in several places over the last twenty-four hours coming from several sources. (Maybe most explicitly here. Or more simply here.)
If, as the president expressed several times over the last week, Al Qaeda sees Iraq as its "central front" in the war on terror, why are we getting reports out of Anbar of a stalemate, a losing battle, and not enough troops from the one place in Iraq where Al Qaeda is known to be centered?

That's a really good question. It was asked in the gaggle today and answered, "we rely on the generals for troop levels" or somesuch. In other words, the administration is laying the groundwork to blame the generals for the failure in Iraq.

On the other hand, the fact that these types of things are starting to leak out of the military tells me that they are already seeing the endgame and that their concern is to distance themselves from the failure by pointing back at the administration.

The fact that this is beginning means the military and the Bush administration are finally recognizing the failure of the Iraq war.

(subquestion: Has the tipping point been reached on the politics of Iraq?)

Picture of the Day

An unexploded shell lies at the site of a car bomb explosion, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Sept .12, 2006. A parked car bomb detonated Tuesday in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood, killing at least six people and wounding 18 others, police said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The reviews are in on Bush's speech. Well, sort of.

Let's start with the AP headliner: Bush uses 9/11 to argue for Iraq war. Not exactly the headline the White House was looking for.

Every article seems to contain some version of this line from USAToday, "Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 even though he said the country's now-deposed leader "was not responsible" for 9/11."

The WaPo leads with an analysis piece framing the speech solely in its politics, littered with negative words, "soured," "falsely optimistic," "undermined," etc.

The NYTimes leads with a straight recounting with opposition quotes, but in a more interesting piece, frames the politics in relation to a specific Colo district. (Oh, and it's a tiny little headline underneath the 9/11 remembrance story.)

It's not even near the top story on Reuters, AFP, or the BBC.

I list all this as example that the speech failed. The press aren't buying it; it's not on the top of every page. This "major address on the anniversary of 9/11" is not being panned. Far worse for the Bush administration, it is being largely ignored.

(By the way, if your record is so bad that you get flustered defending it to a journalistic heavyweight like Matt Lauer, you're in alot of trouble.)

Another downbeat assessment of Iraq. This time from the GAO.

It's been said many times before, although not often with the authority of the GAO, that Iraq is failing.
WASHINGTON - Iraq's political process has sharpened the country's sectarian divisions, polarized relations between its ethnic and religious groups, and weakened its sense of national identity, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.

In spite of a sharp increase in Sunni-Shiite violence, however, attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces are still the primary source of bloodshed in Iraq, the report found. It was the latest in a series of recent grim assessments of conditions in Iraq.

But the report was unusual in its sweep, relying on a series of other government studies, some of them previously unpublicized, to touch on issues from violence and politics to electricity production. Published on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the GAO report was downbeat in its conclusions - underscoring how Iraq's deteriorating security situation threatens the Bush administration's goal of a stable and democratic regime in Baghdad.

"Despite coalition efforts and the efforts of the newly formed Iraqi government, insurgents continue to demonstrate the ability to recruit new fighters, supply themselves, and attack coalition security forces," the report says. "The deteriorating conditions threaten continued progress in U.S. and other international efforts to assist Iraq in the political and economic areas."

(Do you ever wonder if Bush regrets that grandstanding political move of changing the General Accounting Office to the awkwardly named General Accountability Office? (Remember that at one time this administration claimed it was going to restore accountability.))

Picture of the Day

Monday, September 11, 2006

You're not gonna believe this Tony Snow spin

From the gaggle today in an exchage about the WaPo story saying the Bin Laden trail has gone "stone cold."
MR. SNOW: One of the things I can say is that bin Laden is harder to find these days because he, in fact, does not feel at liberty to move about, he does not feel at liberty to use electronic means of communications. In many ways, the senior leadership of al Qaeda has been degraded. And under such circumstances, somebody leaves fewer clues. ...

Q Harder to find than when, since we haven't found him?

MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way. There have been clues in the past, for instance, based on electronic communications, as you know -- satellite telephones -- they have changed the way in which they've done a number of things -- and I won't go into that, but they have changed their methods of operation in response to the fact that they don't want to be found out. It's just tougher. They've moved to more primitive means of communication and they've gone to ground.

Q It sort of sounds like since he's harder to find is a sign of our success.

MR. SNOW: Well, in some ways, it is. I mean, if bin Laden was thoroughly successful, he'd be sitting on a throne conducting press conferences or issuing fatwas in full view of everyone -- and he is not doing so.

That's right. The fact that we have no idea where Bin Laden is, and no information going back two years, is a sign of rampant Bush administration success.

Record setting spin, eh?

Bush still standing on the bodies of 9-11

Tonight's speech, on the commemoration of 9-11, was all politics. It was an attempt to use this day, and the deaths, to reframe the debate about Iraq. No memory, no commemoration, very little mention of 9/11 except as to it's political value in justifying his policies.

He stood on the bodies of the dead to justify his failing policies.

The more I think about it, the more apt the visual metaphor below.

Picture of the Day - 3

Forever in our Hearts...

September 11, 2001.

(And Bush makes a speech standing right on it.)

"Showing respect for the flag shows reverence for American ideals." George W. Bush -
From the National Flag Foundation website.

(I had to check this out before I posted. The second two pictures I found uncredited, so I hunted down the first which is authentic Reuters/Jason Reed. So, I have every reason to believe the second two are real as well.)

Quickhits - Potpourri

The Observer has an article on emails suggesting US/CIA involvement in Somalia. Not a surprise as it's been accepted for awhile, but documentation is rare.

CIA officers involved in renditions and the secret prisons are buying legal insurance.

The military in Columbia have been planting car bombs around the capital (one of them went off) in an effort to collect reward money.

Anderson Cooper was reporting live from Afghanistan on the 9/11 moment of silence when there was a rocket attack. (I can't link it directly. Look for "Anderson Cooper dodges attack" on the CNN homepage. It's in Latest News right now.)

Peter Bergen quoted a poll on CNN last night saying that 65% of Pakistanis approve of Bin Laden and don't want him caught.

And things are looking up for Harold Ford in Tennessee. He's pulled even, and his opponent may be facing nasty disclosures over a land deal three weeks from the election. (A whole bunch of Senate races have closed to the point that they will be decided by turnout.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Classifying the bad news in Iraq

(Newsweek) "Is Iraq in a civil war? The CIA has developed its own secret guideline for answering that increasingly contentious question. CIA officials offered the definition of "civil war," which remains classified, at a closed-door Capitol Hill briefing."

This LATimes piece discussing all the recent deceptions in Iraq including the 3X understatement of August deaths in Baghdad. (Turns out the numbers behind that lie are classified, too. "Commanders won't release the raw data, saying such specifics could help the enemy.")

(As a footnote of history, James Glantz finds the remnants of Gerald Bull's supergun in an Iraq scrapyard.)

Global media abhors US response to 9/11

I found this article interesting, tons of clips from editorials around the world. Global media abhors response to 9/11. The WaPo has a different but similar piece.

And, years later, I still haven't gotten over how messed up this is. (From an article on Bush's "tour" today.)
The tour is packed with symbols that recall both the devastation of the day when terrorists killed nearly 3,000 on American soil, and the high point of Bush's presidency that followed.

The "high point" of Bush's presidency was the result of the death of 3,000 Americans in a terror attack on his watch. So messed up.

Situation called dire in Anbar

Wow. This isn't a particularly surprising assessment if you've been watching the stalemate in Anbar for the past three years, but what does it say when the leaders no longer think they can win?
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western al Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.....

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it.....

(By the way, what happened to when the generals on the ground ask for more troops......?)

Also, the NYTimes has a piece on the parliamentary standoff over the "federalism" legislation suggesting that it could well lead to the dissolution of the unity government.

Picture of the Day

On Sept. 11, 2001 a hole was punched in America's heart, in its soul, and in its psyche.

Today we mourn the loss of 2,976 Americans.

The attack though did more than senselessly take lives. It punctured America's psyche, its self image.

No longer were we safe. No longer were we invulnerable. Despite our incredible wealth and high tech miltary, the US learned on that day that it could still be hurt.

And in it's wounded response, America has also proved the limitations of its power.

The symbolism of the attack is far broader than currently discussed. The best historical parallel I can draw is the sack of Rome by Alaric and the Gauls. Once the unthinkable sack of Rome was proved possible, many peoples who had long standing grievances attacked Rome in wave after wave.

Today, we mourn the 2,976 who died on 9-11, but we must recognize that they may well be only the first.

(extended in the comments.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Path to 9-11 is even worse than I had expected.

This DailyKos diary from New Zealand has pertinent clips from the New Zealand broadcast. It's bad. It's really bad. Take a look at these two clips as a starter. 1, 2.

There're 8 clips. If you're following this story, take a look.

Later: Apparently, this was the edited version.

(CBS is rerunning the 9/11 documentary put together by the Naudet brothers. It's raw but it's good.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqi medics treat shrapnel wounds of an injured man following a roadside bomb, at a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday Sept. 7, 2006. (AP Photo/Assad Mouhsin)


(NYPost) Path to 9-11 star Keitel forced major revisions after hiring his own researcher. Tom Kean went to the set, maybe once. And a quote from a network staffer, "there's no way they're not running it."

Al Gore maintains his "not likely, but possible stance" on a presidential bid. I would guess he, like everyone else, is waiting to see if Hillary Clinton decides not to run.

John Ashcroft is cashing in as a "consultant" on some of the programs and projects he put in place around homeland security. Tom Ridge, too.

Both Condi Rice and Richard Bruce Cheney were asked directly about the SSCI Phase II report which said there were absolutely no Saddam/Al Qaeda connections. They both played semantics and stated that there was a connection.

And, I did an Afghanistan catchall that turned out kind of long, so I'm going to back archive it(follow this link.) Short version, the violence is in the south, east, and north creeping toward Kabul. The Taleban forces are big enough to take hundreds of casualties and still fight stand up territorial battles. John Kerry is calling for more troops.

Abu Ghraib is back

The US handed Abu Ghraib back over to the Iraqis about a week ago. (Sorry, link fixed. Thanks, Gary.)
An independent witness who went into Abu Ghraib this week told The Sunday Telegraph that screams were coming from the cell blocks housing the terrorist suspects. Prisoners released from the jail this week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects and on Wednesday, 27 prisoners were hanged in the first mass execution since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Conditions in the rest of the jail were grim, with an overwhelming stench of excrement, prisoners crammed into cells for all but 20 minutes a day, food rations cut to just rice and water and no air conditioning.

Picture of the Day

Spc. Christopher Six, 20, is seen during an interview with the Associated Press at the Pennsylvania National Guard armory in New Milford Pa., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006. Six joined the National Guard with two of his high school buddies at age 17, who were both killed while serving in Iraq. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The 9/11 headline

Against all the rhetoric of the Bush administration around 9/11 and terrorism, this should be the headline. Bin Laden Trail 'Stone Cold.'

Five years after 9-11 and Bin Laden is hiding comfortably. The US has not received a tip in more than two years (which would date to the Fallujah assault.)

Big Surprise. The GOP goes negative.

The Vandehei article is interesting in that it shows the level of desperation among the GOP (90% of money to be spent on negative ads,) but I think it will be far more interesting to see where the money is spent. More than anything else, the distribution of the national money will tell us how the GOP sees the election.

Also, I would note the sourcing on this. It's coming straight from the GOP. ("GOP officials said internal polling shows Republicans could limit losses to six to 10 House seats and two or three Senate seats..." That "internal polling" is not close to reality.) This is the story they want out there.

Threats of negative ads may force Dem candidates to temporarily pull back spending nationwide to prepare to defend themselves, when in actuality, the Republicans will only target 20-40 congressional districts. Also, the later the Dems wait to buy ads, the more expensive they become, so this "threat" by Republicans increases ad costs.

(Note that this spending curtailing threat is coming right in the middle of the national effort to bolster the president. Bush claims free national "terrorism" speech network time against fewer Dem ads. I'm just so skeptical this time of year.)

Iraqi parliament "suspends debate."

Sunni legislators boycotted the parliament yesterday in objection to the "federalism" bill currently under consideration which would allow the functional breakup of Iraq into three factional "superprovinces." The Sunnis object in part because it would cut them out of the oil revenues.

But what's really interesting in this article,
The Iraqi National List of the former secular Prime Minister Ayad Alawi, and the group headed by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr joined the Sunni parties in boycotting the session.

The federalism bill was proposed by Sadr's Shiite rivals SCIRI. SCIRI, closely tied to Iran, currently holds the majority of political posts throughout the Shia south, but if elections were held today, Sadr's group would probably take control. (That's what the huge Diwaniyah fight was about.)

I don't know the details on the SCIRI proposed bill, but if Sadr is siding on the issue with the Sunnis against SCIRI and Maliki, it probably institutionalizes SCIRI power.

I doubt it, but.....

Maliki cancelled his meetings in Iran tomorrow for "purely logistical and technical" reasons. Because of the date tomorrow, I'm mentioning it.

(It could also be that this meeting, symbolic of the the Iranian victory in Iraq, was moved so it wouldn't interfere with the administration's "9-11 message.")