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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Foley coverup

The mainstream is starting to pick up the story of the Republican leadership coverup of cyber-molester Rep. Mark Foley. (That's what the Democrats are calling him, and CNN will like that.)

And now they're turning on each other. Late PM, Rep. Reynolds says he told Hastert. A little later, Hastert issued a statement contradicting his first story, now saying he knew, but didn't know.

We've also got Rep. Alexander on the record, and Boehner has that little matter of the retraction this morning to clear up.

As said on Hardball recently, if you're explaining, you're losing.

(Above all else, this is a sad statement on the media. Almost six years, a failing war launched on lies, Abramoff and the highest level of corruption in decades, four Congressmen already indicted for four different money scandals, the NIE just Monday, and this is what the media chooses to really go after.

I'll bet NBC is gutted that they didn't get Foley on that "To catch a predator" series on Dateline.)

I find myself wondering how differently this story would be covered if Foley had actually touched the kid. The story would actually be much bigger, but I don't think the press would pursue it as gleefully.

Picture of the Day - 2

Tammy Duckworth is running for Illinois' 6th Congressional seat.

An Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot, Duckworth suffered the loss of both legs when a rocket-propelled grenade penetrated her helicopter beneath her feet and exploded at her knees in Iraq.

She gave the Democratic response today.

The NOLA levees on a grand scale

I saw this somewhere as a shock headline,
The cost of curbing the soaring emissions of harmful gases that are blamed for causing global warming has been estimated at $1 trillion by a major study of the cost of climate change.

That's alot of money, and the costs should be managed carefully and wisely, but as this article points out, the potential costs of not capping greenhouse gasses is far higher.

It's a worldwide version of the New Orleans levee debate before Katrina where a 10% investment could've prevented the situation.

Even if you were to put aside the human suffering and just look at the disruptions and infrastructure loss, this is still an extremely wise investment. How much will it cost to relocate coastal area cities just in the US? How much will the farming disruptions cost? Managing refugees?

A $1 trillion cost spread over the next two decades is only $50 billion a year worldwide, and accepting the burden of that cost now will save tens of trillions in the long run.

(The US has spent half a trillion in Iraq in the 3 1/2 years so far.)

Instead of dealing with this problem, the administration's current plan on global warming is to "hope the levees hold," but we've already seen how that turns out.

Our grandchildren are going to curse us.

Afghanistan/Pakistan Quickhits

(AP) A suicide bomber in Kabul kills 12, wounds more than 40. (BBC has an interesting "voices" piece on the loss of optimism in Kabul. Note their jobs, they are the urban and successful.)

(BBC) Indian police have said that Pakistan's ISI is behind the Mumbai train bombings. There's alot of operational detail so it's not just an allegation.

(Timesonline) NATO has still not raised any more troops for the "dire" situation in Afghanistan.

Picture of the Day - 2

Coup plot in Iraq? Part III

Let's reexamine last night's stories, Engel's unsubstantiated claim of a coup plot, and the NYTimes emphasis on an arrest and bombing campaign. The stories this morning seem to favor the NYTimes version. Reuters:
"Coalition Force personnel detained an individual at the residence of Dr. Adnan al-Dulaimi in Baghdad September 29. The detained individual is suspected of involvement in the planning of a multi-vehicle suicide operation inside Baghdad's International Zone," the military said in a statement.

It said the man may have been linked to al Qaeda, and the plan might have been to use suicide vests to attack the Green Zone. U.S. forces did not enter Dulaimi's house, but searched a security trailer there and the suspect's car, it said.

Dulaimi is the leader of the Iraqi National Accordance front, the largest Sunni Muslim political bloc in parliament.

HOLY CRAP! Whether the coup claim is true or not, we have a major attack on the Green Zone, possibly Al Qaeda, being planned out of the top Sunni politician's house!!!!

The Shia response to this story will be massive, the implication being that all those bombings on civilians are tied directly to the Sunni political leadership. It offers confirmation to that widely held Shia belief and will be certain to engender a response.

How does Maliki practice the politics of reconciliation after this?

Also: AFP confirms with more detail
"The curfew was implemented on the advice of multinational forces to the prime minister because they felt violence would increase today," interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf told AFP Saturday.

A US military spokesman would not say why it had recommended a curfew but only that "intermittent curfews have been an effective means of reducing violence in the past"......

On Friday, US forces arrested a security guard of Adnan Dulaimi, a leading lawmaker and head of the main Sunni bloc in Iraq's parliament and fragile coalition government, the National Concord Front.

"The detained individual is suspected of involvement in the planning of a multi-vehicle suicide operation inside Baghdad's International Zone," a US military statement said, alleging the suspect was a member of al-Qaeda.

Dulaimi demanded the release of his guard,

So, AFP is reporting that the Total Curfew came specifically at the recommendation of the US? That runs counter to all earlier reporting of "complete surprise" and then "no comment" from the US. Is this true, or is the US offering after the fact cover?

(On the plus side, that's some pretty good intel development by the US from deep inside the Sunni structure.)

(And, I don't think Engel lied. I do believe that Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister did tell him of a disrupted coup plot. It is very plausible that this big attack in the green zone was intended to tie up US forces in a coup, or the Deputy PM could've been wrong. Neither the US or Maliki's gov't has an interest in the coup story gaining legs, so we may never know.)

Hastert, Boehner, Republican leadership knew about Foley.

Reality-Based Educator stayed up late and pointed me to this WaPo article which says that Boehner admitted that he, Hastert, and other Republican House leadership knew about Foley's "improper contacts." (And note how the WaPo frames Boehner's guilty backpedaling.)
House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

Now, I would wager that they had some vague description of an inapropriate relationship, not the lurid details of the IM conversation, but even so.... To me this echoes the Catholic priest story. Certainly not the same thing, but the coverup, the "warning and transfer" may echo that scandal in the public eye.

I have often been let down by the media and its coverage of what I think is important. I don't think this story is all that important to the fate of the nation, but I do have every faith that the media is going to drive this sucker into the ground. This is their kind of story. No facts, no policy, just lurid innuendo.

I awoke this morning wondering if they're going to do a graphic.

(And, is this Dems playing hardball? The NIE leak was obviously timed, is this too? Was this held until now? I think so.

The Dems seem to be coming down the homestretch throwing every elbow they've got. I really want to know who is running this campaign. They are playing for keeps.)

Picture of the Day

The Maine National Guard is giving life-size from-the-waist-up pictures of soldiers to the families of deployed guard members. Guard officials and families say the cutouts, known as Flat Daddies or Flat Soldiers, connect families with a relative who is thousands of miles away. The Flat Daddies are toted everywhere from soccer practice to coffee shops to weddings.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Coup plot in Iraq?

See the post below the picture for context, but Richard Engel of NBC news is reporting that the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister told Engel that he had "evidence uncovered that the Iraqi military had been planning to stage a coup," and this was the reason for the unprecedented total curfew. (Link - the video on the right of this page.)

This story is moving, so it may change, but it has big ramifications. There will have to purges which will likely fracture Iraq further. What group was behind this? Is it the Sunni leadership in the military trying again?

Supposedly this coup "never got past the planning stage," but if that's the case, why the complete lockdown? Are they expecting sympathy violence? Or is the "planning stage" comment saying it was planned for tomorrow? Too many questions right now.

Coup plot in Iraq? Part II

The NYTimes is proposing a wholly different cause for the Total Curfew. (We've had no confirmation of Engel's report that this was a coup plot, and no confirmation of CNN's the US military was "taken by surprise.")
American forces detained an Iraqi working for one of Iraq’s most prominent Sunni Arab political leaders on Friday on suspicion that the man was helping to plan a multiple-car suicide bombing inside the Green Zone, the military said.

Shortly after Iraqi television channels began Friday night to broadcast news of the detention, the Iraqi prime minister’s office took the unusual step of banning all vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Baghdad until Sunday morning.

The government declined to give a reason for the curfew and did not say whether it was linked to the detention.

I don't buy this connection. If the curfew was just to stop bombers, certainly the US would've been consulted.

I see three reasons this total lockdown would be announced without US knowledge.

1) Time sensitivity. (But really, it's a phone call.)
2) Fear of a US refusal. (Does the US want this headline?)
3) That it was a coup plot, and Maliki wasn't sure if he could trust the Americans. (Think about that for a minute.)

We'll probably have alot better idea tomorrow morning.

One more thought as this spins out. If Maliki didn't trust the US, his natural reach for more support will be to the main Shia powers, Sciri and Sadr, meaning more reluctance to go after their militias, less cooperation with the US, a shakier Sunni/Kurd participation in the government, and, of course, still more violence.

Picture of the Day - 4

A woman looks at the body of her husband at the hospital morgue in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad September 28, 2006. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ)

Total Curfew in Baghdad

As bad as things have been in Baghdad, I wonder what threat spawned a 36 hour TOTAL CURFEW. All vehicles and pedestrians prohibited from the streets, citywide.
The Iraqi government has declared an immediate curfew in the capital, Baghdad, to run until Sunday morning. The move affects both vehicles and pedestrians, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister said.....

An unidentified official at the interior ministry told the Associated Press news agency that "intelligence information on the security situation" had made the announcement necessary.

This is a big step. There have been car bans periodically, but I don't ever remember a total curfew banning pedestrians.

UPDATE: CNN just reported that the US military was "taken by surprise," and knew nothing about it. Also CNN, the Sunni leadership and internal police had no prior knowledge either.

I would think if it was operational intel either the US or the police would know. A coup threat? But you would think Maliki would run to the Americans in that case.

I have no idea what's going on.

Foley resigns - Dems down to 14 needed House seats.

Republican Rep. Foley resigned today, a few days after those creepy emails to that 16 year old boy became public.

OH MY, I'd read some of the emails and they didn't sound that bad, but ABCNews has some of the IM's and they're pretty damn bad.

"In Congress, Rep. Foley (R-FL) was part of the Republican leadership and the chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children."

(Foley's name will stay on the ballot?, GOP knew months ago?)

Later: Even more and it's still worse.

Political quickhits

The new Abramoff revelations (485 contacts between 2001-2004) are telling, but the juicy details are starting to come out. Pretty telling indications of Tit for Tat. Laura Rozen links to the .pdf of emails and documents.

Politicalwire points out that Bush's "just a comma" comment was code aimed at his non-reality-based community. "The Christian proverb Bush was evidently referring to is "Never put a period where God has put a comma." (God isn't done with Iraq yet.)

Hillary Clinton lights up the Republicans.

Alberto Gonzales greenlights judges against executive powers.

Later: If you're a fan, Tony Snow was beating them off with a stick today, primarily Woodward, but also Abramoff and Iraq.

Picture of the Day - 2

These are the mountains that stretch for hundreds of miles along the Afghanistan Pakistan border. The US has 12,000 troops operating "in the east" from Kabul up into these mountains.

Iraq - Together Forward is already failing as Baghdad descends into the Maelstrom.

Operation Together Forward is failing. (Together Forward was predicated on a joint US-Iraqi "clear and hold" strategy. The US would focus forces on the worst neighborhoods, "pacify" them, and then hand them over to Iraqi troops for stability and maintenance.)

Tuesday, there was the announcement that the US had completed sweeps of Shaab and Ur and was turning them over to Iraq security forces. There was a bombing in Shaab yesterday, and now we're getting reports,
The fighting raged on as a coalition intelligence official told reporters that illegal armed groups were returning to Baghdad areas once deemed to have been secured by a massive joint US and Iraqi security operation.

Worse, he said there is evidence that the Iraqi police units left behind after military forces move through the areas are collaborating with death squads, whose victims' corpses lie scattered through Baghdad every morning.

"The pattern we have tended to see is that as we've cleared areas, the numbers of murders and executions have decreased in most sectors," the officer said. He admitted, however. that in some places the violence has returned.

"We would ascribe that to probably some measure of some elements in MOI (Ministry of Interior) facilitating the re-entry of folks into the secure area," said the intelligence official referring to militia death squads.

(The NYTimes has a larger, non-specific piece citing US military complaints that the Iraqi government is shielding Shia militias. Worth a read just for context, but what caught my eye was this odd inclusion,
U.S. officials are anxious for Iraqis to take a stronger role in their country's security because of mounting pressure to withdraw American troops as soon as possible. Rising public discontent in the United States with the war, tired troops on their third and fourth rotations in the Middle East and huge expenditures by American taxpayers are all driving U.S. officials to press the government of Maliki, a Shiite, to quickly take more responsibility.

Interesting, eh?)


First let me say that I am not predisposed towards Woodward's criticism if only because of his previous work with/for this White House, but the pre-press on this book is worth a read as it contains some nuggets.

There're a number of revelations of past mistakes in the Iraq conflict, ignoring calls for more troops, the firing of Garner for same, the frightening power of Rumsfeld, (He got Powell and Card fired?) crazy Cheney, but I think the two things that jumped out most, are the pre-9/11 Osama ignoring,
Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda.

On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.

And, the CBS pre-press bit yesterday about the current state of Iraq, the real level of violence, the administration's efforts to hide that, and the prospects of even more violence going forward.
Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward tells Mike Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year.....

According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret.

Woodward sells books. That's what he does. He likes to paint himself as the great chronicler of presidencies, but in the end, he is no different that a high priced, political Kitty Kelly. Whatever details will sell the book....

The opportunity costs of Iraq

This is just one example of the opportunity costs imposed by the poor decisions which stranded US military forces interminably in Iraq. I would add that the same toothless threat problem also affects US policy in North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela, etc.
"The megaphone diplomacy coming out of Washington and London: 'you damn well are going to let the U.N. deploy and if you don't beware the consequences' isn't plausible," he said in an interview published on Friday.....

"The Sudanese know we don't have troops to go in against a hostile Khartoum government; if Sudan opposes us there's no peace to keep anyway; you're in there to fight a war," he added. "It's just not a credible threat."

Current estimates are that 200,000 people have been killed so far by the government backed Islamic militias.

Picture of the Day

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Let's talk about those bodies in Baghdad.

The bodies found around Baghdad have become so ubiquitous, blind folded, hands tied, signs of torture, that their reality is no longer really discussed. There were 60 such bodies found in this state just in Baghdad, just on Thursday.

That these are sectarian killings often goes as an assumed fact, but do you ever hear much about the torture? From anecdotal reports, a power drill to the "joints" (knees) or hands seems to be the primary means of torture. (A hammer and nail occasionally substituting.) But recently there has been a rise in the reports of acid being used as a slow torture item. At the endm the victims are then shot in the back of the head.

I mention the disturbing details to make a point. Rarely in any article will you see it discussed why they're inflicting these horrors on bound, blindfolded, defenseless captives.

Primarily, I would assume the torture is an effort at information gathering, however I can't imagine the quality of information being gained. I would think that a power drill to a knee would create an endless chain of the innocent, one naming the next.

I have also read several anecdotal accounts of "trials" being held. Often the beheaded bodies are the victims of these trials. Tortured to confession in front of howling militiamen, and then dragged down and beheaded.

I don't really know what I'm saying here, or what the grand point is, but tonight I got to thinking about the last hour of the 60 men's lives today, the grotesque reality that was the process of their deaths.

There will be 40 or 60 more tomorrow, knees drilled, acid burned, some beheaded, and 40 to 60 the day after that.

That is the reality of Iraq.

Picture of the Day - 3

Agnes J. Raymond, left center, hugs her daughter Jaclyn Raymond during a military funeral for Jaclyn's son, Army Spc. Jared Raymond, in Swampscott, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006. Raymond was killed Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006, when the tank he was driving was hit by an improvised explosive device in Taji, Iraq. (AP Photo - Bizuayehu Tesfaye)

(Two a day.)

Quotes from the MOD paper alleging ISI support for Taleban/Al Qaeda

Here's a link to the BBC's key quotes from the document. In concert with the recent US NIE, it's worth a read. (It's short.)

Short summary, the "war on terror" is not going well. Iraq is acting as a "recruiting sargeant." But this is what brought me up.
"The West will not be able to find peaceful exit strategies from Iraq and Afghanistan - creating greater animosity...and a return to violence and radicalisation on their leaving. The enemy it has identified (terrorism) is the wrong target. As an idea it cannot be defeated."

Also interesting, beyond the ISI supporting the Taleban/Al Qaeda, is the section on the stability and future of Musharraf's government.
"Pakistan is not currently stable but on the edge of chaos."

This is the big fear as both Iraq and Afghanistan drag on. Their unresolving chaos spreads to influence neighbors. Think the Saudis are building that wall for aesthetic reasons? Or the Pakistanis signed that Waziristan peace deal because they wanted to cede control?

This is how a localized power vacuum turns into a regional civil war like Congo or Angola.

Iraq and Afghanistan's neighbors also want "to fight them over there, so they don't have to fight them here." Only their definitions of "them" and "here" are different.

The future of Habeus Corpus

For just a minute, as we consider the torture/detainee bill currently passing through Congress, step away from this administration and the politics of this moment.

Imagine if Nixon had come to office imbued with the ability to detain whoever he wanted, for however long he wanted without any judicial review. As the paranoid hunt of those that were "unAmerican" led him into the many sins of Watergate, is it at all that unthinkable that the Nixon administration might have snatched up an SDS leader in an effort to break that effort?

Would that individual have been detained? Questioned? Kept awake? Made "uncomfortable?"

Because that's the Constitutional issue at stake here. The entire underpinning of the US Constitution is aimed at limiting executive power recognizing that grants of this kind of power will inevitably be abused.

Picture of the Day

That purple fingered victory was always out of his grasp.

What are Condi's secrets?

This is one of those cryptic things that piques my curiousity. At a recent meeting at NYTimes headquarters, while Condi Rice was criticizing the Times for for not keeping confidentiality,
QUESTION: Well, that’s taking it to extremes.


QUESTION: And we – this paper has kept some of your secrets for you, too.

SECRETARY RICE: I understand that and I appreciate that. But I think that when it comes to – you know, I’m speaking to the leaks problem. I know this is a major, major issue in the journalistic community. But I can tell you from the point of view of somebody who has to (inaudible) security (inaudible), it’s a problem.

Are you curious? I sure am.


(Boston Globe) "A new congressional analysis shows the Iraq war is now costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week." (20% more than last year.)

(WaPo) "The Baghdad Police College, ($75 million) hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks."

(Stars and Stripes) The story of a police station that has been rebuilt for the third time. “This is the third station we’ve built there. The first two were blown up and this one’s going to get blown up too.”

(NYTimes) The US military is echoing Washington complaints about the Maliki government. (Agreed, but what's the alternative? Hold elections now and get a very "effective" Sadr? Put in a dictator?- mike)

(AP) The Saudis are builing a 560 mile border fence with Iraq "another sign of growing alarm that Sunni-Shiite strife could spill over and drag Iraq's neighbors into its civil conflict.

And, why do I have to go to the international version of the NYTimes to see a headline on US soldiers who died serving their country?

(AP) 40 tortured bodies in Baghdad, and bombs all over the city. (Reuters) 80+ killed throughout the country.

Picture of the Day

Did anyone else notice during this "awkward encounter" that there was no handshake between the Karzai and Musharraf?

(The WaPo has a good summary piece on that border.)

Kissinger's Back?

Drudge "flash" so judge it for what it is.
WOODWARD BOOK: Kissinger is secret, regular visitor to President Bush. The president likes to receive visits from Nixon's former and most famous aide... MORE... 60 MINUTES/Woodward interview set for Sunday...

(The Woodward book is titled "State of Denial.")

Later: CBS story confirming. It also says "the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Blogger is still acting funny, so I'm going to pile it all in this post.

(AP) Giuliani defends Clinton's conduct on Al Qaeda. (McCain has the White House 2008 backing anyhow, so not much loss for Giuliani.)

(Related: Crooks and Liars has the Olberman segment tonight looking at what the Bush administration didn't do about Al Qaeda pre-9/11. There's alot there.)

(Reuters) A second UN report concludes that the Iraq war is helping Al Qaeda and fuelling the Jihadist movement.

(NYTimes) "Democrats Cite New Hope in Bid to Retake Senate." Still a longshot, especially if Menendez doesn't hold, but still. One NIE leak and we're back to the previous pro-Dem conventional wisdom.

(CQ) Harold Ford moved to tossup in Tennessee. I don't really expect him to win, but I really want him to. I like his positive energy. Stabenow gets some distance. Cantwell gets some distance. The brief Republican momentum from the post-9/11 push seems to have gone.

(And probably add Chuck Todd's top 30 House races.)

Foreign policy heresy

I think it is in Musharraf's interests to keep the Afghanistan conflict going in its present state. So long as the Pashtun, Taleban, and Al Qaeda spend their energies in Afghanistan they won't turn them towards his regime.

I think that's the game our "ally" is playing.

Picture of the Day - 4 - Afghanistan attacks triple since Pak/tribal peace deal

Think they'll talk about this tonight?
American troops on Afghanistan's eastern frontier have seen a tripling of attacks since a truce between the Pakistani army and pro-Taliban tribesmen that was supposed to stop cross-border raids by militants, a U.S. military officer said Wednesday.

I think Musharraf is trying to keep the Afghanistan conflict going in its present state. So long as the Pashtun, Taleban, and Al Qaeda spend their energies in Afghanistan they won't turn them towards his regime. I think that's the game our "ally" is playing.

The two radical trends in megachurches: cultural sequestration and self-centered Christianity

I'm writing this post for those of you who live in an area without a Protestant/Baptist megachurch. We have four megachurches in Houston including the largest in the country (Lakewood) which took over the old pro basketball arena. (Of course, I've got pictures.)

The megachurch is at the forefront of two major cultural waves.

First, they represent an effort to build cultural gated communities within the larger city of Houston. Second Baptist, the local mega with the probably most enveloping "community" has within itself itself a complete social structure carrying its members from cradle to grave. They have daycare, a school, mixers, singles functions/matchmaking, exercise facilities, job assistance, social functions, counselling, right up to senior care.

Effectively, a church member can live their life totally within that "Christian" context. It does have a lure primarily among families with children in that it allows those kids a "safe place." But, interestingly to me, that "safe place" isn't only objects in the real world; the megachurch culture also works to construct a safe virtual world, movies, TV, music etc. An entire industry has grown up to serve Christian rock, literature, and Veggie Tales to this "safe community."

The megachurch fully engaged has the effect of segregating church members in a self reinforcing belief system that extends well beyond Christian tenets. So, when you hear wacky polling or absurdist comments around the "culture war" understand that there are people who live within this self reinforcing reality.

Second: The other major shift that has taken place within the structure of the Megachurch is the actual deemphasis of traditional Christianity. The "traditional" Christian virtures, mercy, charity, humility, and love, have been replaced with a narcissistic philosophy of Christian self improvement.

The whole thing is underpinned by a Christian backbone, but if you look at the sermons and products of Joel Osteen as example (the main guy at Lakewood,) they actually have very little to do with Christianity.

This, I think, is one of the reasons for the growing popularity of the megachurch. Listening to bible verse is boring, but "Living at my Full Potential," that has zazz.

I would argue that this populist new Christianity represents a fundamental shift in values from "what would Jesus do?" to "What can Jesus do for me?"

That's not an absolute shift by any means, but I do think it's big and historic change in the interpretation of Christianity and the relationship of God to the individual. I'm not yet sure what the long term implications of this are.

(A little busy this PM, so I threw up something I wrote awhile back. Normal service will resume tonight/tomorrow.)

Unknown saver of the world.

I liked this story about Soviet Colonel StanislavYefgrafovich Petrov who made the decision single handedly not to start a nuclear war on Sept. 26, 1983.

Picture of the Day - 3

From this survey of Iraqi opinions (pdf.)

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi mourns the death of his relative outside the morgue of a hospital in the restive city of Baquba northeast of Baghdad. The Iraq war has become a "cause celebre" for global terrorists, fuelling recruitment and hostility to the United States in the Muslim world, according to declassified intelligence findings.(AFP/Ali Yussef)


(AP) The first phase of Operation Together Forward is complete. Now the US forces are going to pull out of those neighborhoods and turn them over to Iraqi forces as the US takes aim at the outskirts of Sadr City. Now we'll see the test of the strategy.

(WaPo) The story of how Baghdad neighborhood of Tobji erupted into violence from virtually nothing. The monsters are due on Maple Street.

(WaPo) "A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers." (Full .pdf report here.)

(LATimes) The House attached an amendment prohibiting the construction of permanent bases in Iraq.

(Reuters) "U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday that American operations in Iraq would end when Iraqi security forces were able to take over the job, but he would not estimate when that might be."

(Reuters) The violence continues.

Later: Reuters has this piece that describes some sort of arrangement between Sunni tribal leaders and Maliki's government agreeing to fight Al Qaeda. Two problems:

1.) It's only al Qaeda, that small slice of foreign fighters, not the Sunni insurgency.
2.) "We agreed to cooperate," Buzayi told Reuters. "We haven't agreed to anything specific, but we agreed to cooperate."

But it's not torture, right?

The WaPo headline Iranian ex-lawmaker alleges torture is certainly wrong. The US congress has said that this isn't torture. Right?

The massive unstated assumption on Iraq

In all the "whether we should stay in Iraq" rhetoric either from the White House or the media, there is always the unstated assumption that staying in Iraq will eventually make things better.

In the NIE, this line, "Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight," is being presented as some sort of proof that the US presence in Iraq should be maintained. But that argument rests on the assumption that a continued US presence will in fact produce a situation where the jihadists will have been perceived to have "failed."

The entire "stay in Iraq" argument is predicated on two beliefs, 1) That if the US stays for an extended period, we will get a better outcome. 2) That Iraq is the best use of resources at this time. But are both of those suppositions true?

What actual evidence is there that a continued US presence using the current strategy for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years will produce a situation in which the jihadi's self perception will be that they've failed? In the current situation, what proof is there that Iraq will emerge a unified, peaceful country?

Would the US be better off pulling back from the direct role in fighting the Iraqi insurgency, and instead focus its efforts on resolving Israel/Palestine or Afghanistan/Pakistan?

I don't know, but as I look at the results of the Iraq thus far, I find it difficult to accept that staying the course is the best option. (More worldwide terrorism, more regional terrorism, a greater threat to the US from Iraq as anti-American terrorists train there, greater regional instability, greater threats to US oil supplies, an ascendant Iran, a diminution of US standing and influence around the world, the crippling of the US Army, the inability to place credible military threats against N. Korea/Iran or elsewhere, a gap in our focus that has allowed China to strengthen its worldwide ties.)

Iraq is possibly the largest policy decision facing the US right now, and the entire debate seems to be misinformed by the assumption that "staying the course" will eventually produce a more positive outcome.

If we've learned anything from the counter example of the Bush presidency, it is that fully informed decisions are usually far more effective than binary decisions, and the debate right now doesn't seem to be fully informed by the complex reality.

(Just for context, I'm not an advocate for immediate total withdrawal. I support a "modified Murtha" plan. Over 12-18 months transfer provinces 2 or 3 at a time. Reduce the in country force to about 20,000 fighting men (probably 50,000 total,) pull those forces back to bases way out in the desert, way away from anybody and work solely in a support role when requested. Then, over an extended time phase out those troops as well. The Iraq war must be won by the Iraqis. Not just for the practical reasons, but because the Iraqi government must win the battles, not the US, in order to establish a stable long term government. )

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Partially declassified prechewed NIE bits - Now with Retsin.

Here's a PDF link to the NYTimes host. It's a partial declassification.

The early lead seems to be Iraq is the "cause celebre" for terrorists. The question being posed now is "How much has the Iraq war helped the terrorists?"

I stand by what I said earlier today, that this NIE leak/partial declassification shifts the entire election narrative.

(Later: Also, notice the subtle way that this story line separates the Iraq war from the "war on terror." True or not, this runs directly against the administration's summer/fall effort to retie Iraq to the "war on terror.")

Wednesday: Very odd. The wire reports have gone totally neutral, largely painting this as a political conflict and moving it down off the top story. The major papers, NYTimes, WaPo, LATimes, and USAToday all paint this "Iraq war causes terror." I don't know what's going on. My theory may well be wrong.

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U.S. soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment search through homes for a sniper who had fired on them in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2006. (AP Photo/Antonio Castaneda)

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A girl cries in a hospital after she was wounded in a suicide bomb attack in Samarra, 96 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad September 20, 2006. Nine residents were killed and 37 were wounded in the attack, police said. REUTERS/Nuhad Hussin (IRAQ)

Pakistan's ISI still helping Al Qaeda/Taleban

Buried way down at the bottom of this lenghty McClatchy article, "Afghanistan, 5 years later: U.S. confront Taliban's return," is this bit.
They (the Taleban) also received money and weapons from al Qaida and from sympathetic current and former officers of Pakistan's powerful military intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), according to current and former U.S., European and Afghan officials, commanders and experts.

U.S. intelligence has significant evidence of ISI complicity, said Seth Jones, an expert at the RAND Corp., a think tank that advises the U.S. government. Middle- and junior-level ISI officers are providing the Taliban with intelligence and have foiled several U.S. operations by tipping the insurgents off in advance, he said.

This isn't a huge surprise, but it's the first time I've seen it in credible print.

(Also: In a long context piece, the Christian Science Monitor reports that Musharraf's Waziristan border deal was largely a domestic political deal brokered to gain support from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.)

Quickhits - Catch up

(AFP) Don Rumsfeld is trying to squeeze troops for Iraq and Afghanistan out of "tiny Montenegro."

(BBC) "Fifty-six Kurdish mayors have gone on trial in Turkey, charged with aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation."

(AFP) Musharraf "war gamed" a conflict with the US before joining the "war on terror." (I think this is for his domestic consumption.)

(Washington Note) It looks like the Bolton nomination is really, finally dead unless Bolton opts to continue serving without pay.

Laura Rozen notes her source says that Manuchar Ghorbanifar in back in the intelligence stream probably to the Pentagon.

(And blogger is finicky today, so posting may be irregular and unedited.)

The Dems finally play a little dirty pool, and it feels good.

I keep talking about how that NIE reframes the terror debate inserting the NYTimes narrative that Iraq has created more terrorists. Well, Bush announced a declassification of the executive summary, and take a look at the early press. (All first paragraph.)

AP: "President Bush on Tuesday said it is naive and a mistake to think that the war with Iraq has worsened terrorism, disputing a national intelligence assessment by his own administration."

Reuters: "an intelligence document that analyzes the Iraq war's effect on terrorism."

AFP: "after news reports said it found that the Iraq war fuels terrorism."

CNN: An angry President Bush Tuesday said he would declassify an intelligence document that reportedly finds that the Iraq war increased the terrorist threat to the United States, saying the American people should come to their own conclusions.

Stepping aside from the facts of the NIE, look at the insertion of that idea into the narrative. Although previously present in the public conscience (shown in polling,) it wasn't in the media narrative at all.

Instead of Iraq being positively framed as essential to the "war on terror," as it was coming off Bush's 9/11 political push, the debate, argument, and subtext of the coming weeks will all be about just how badly Iraq has affected the "war on terror."

The talking head shows will ask their guests,"How big of a mistake was Iraq?" "Is Iraq fuelling terrorism?" "Should we have done things differently?" Editorialists will chime in on both sides.

The thing is, the Republicans cannot win the greater debate, because every voter who has any doubts over Iraq will linger thoughfully over every mention of this. Even if they somehow won the technical argument, they will be losing voters with every point they make.

This is how the Swiftboating worked; this is how they killed McCain in South Carolina. Charges from outside the candidates, outside the party, so that the opponent spends their strength fighting ghosts.

I think this story will fade a bit before the election. The White House response to declassify is an effort to avoid the drip, drip, drip, of further revelations. But in the meantime, it has served to undercut the campaign strategy and momentum the Republicans were carrying.

I think this also kills the "conventional wisdom" shift that had been going on that maybe Republicans aren't in that much trouble.

You know, it's kinda fun when it's your side playing the dirty pool.

And the knockout blow.

We should build a shrine to whoever is running this campaign.
There's a second damning Iraq report floating around the intelligence community.

At least, that's according to Rep. Jane Harman (CA), the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. At an event this morning, Harman disclosed the existence of a classified intelligence community report that gives a grim assessment of the situation in Iraq, and called for it to be shared with the American public -- before the November elections.

The report has not been shared with Congress, although sources say a draft version may have circulated earlier this summer......

The declassification of one NIE will spawn demand for this one. And she waited until this morning (concurrent with Bush's announcement) to make this call.

They must be reeling in the White House.

Bush just now

Referring to the Torture/Detainee legislation in the Karzai press conference.
Bush: "If somebody has information about a potential attack we need to be able to, uh.... (HUGE PAUSE)

.... ask them some questions."

Finish your thought, Mr. Bush. "Need to be able to...." what?

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Afghan women in the Shomali plains, north of Kabul. The assassination of a top women's official in Afghanistan throws the spotlight on the precarious situation of women in the country. (AFP/Shah Marai)

This is the administration's defense on the Iraq/Terror NIE?

The "non-political" Director of National Intelligence seems to be leading the NIE rebuttal thus far.
US intelligence czar John Negroponte admitted the Iraq war was shaping a new generation of terrorists, but denied claims that a secret report said America was in more peril than in 2001.....

"The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives," Negroponte said, using a previously scheduled dinner speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center to discuss the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

"However, should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight," Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, said.

The Iraq war did create more terrorists, but we can somewhat dispirit them if we "win" in Iraq? Okay, but are we "winning" Iraq?

Another line of defense coming directly from White House,
"One thing that the reports do not say is that war in Iraq has made terrorism worse," said Snow.

(That's a pretty minimal claim. It wouldn't be surprising if that question is left open in the NIE because of the political implications, but I'm guessing by the White House phrasing, that the NIE clearly doesn't say Iraq has made terrorism better or we'd be hearing that.)

Another minimizing defense that I've seen in several places,
In an interview with Fox New Channel, Bartlett said the war in Iraq was merely "the latest grievance" exploited by extremists to recruit followers.

See, those crazy islamofacists are always mad about something. (US support for Israel. US bases in Saudi Arabia. US support for repressive non-democratic regional governments. They're just irrational.)

Then there's the "context" argument being advanced by Pat Roberts, that this claim that Iraq has spawned more terrorists is just one small bit in a much larger report.

Bottom Line, There has been do direct contradiction of the NYTimes story. Negroponte and Bartlett indirectly confirmed that Iraq has created more terrorists. Tony Snow indirectly confirmed that Iraq has not made America more safe.

This is now the primary narrative on Iraq and terror, and I don't see a good way out for the Republicans. Their "national security" election strategy has been turned around and stuck back in their eye.

The media has their "conflict" for the talking head shows.

Is this a coordinated Democratic Plan?

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They were giving away free soup at a Sunni mos que in Bagh dad.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Let's ask the big questions of the last three days.

The Iraq/Terrorism NIE, Iraq hearings pre-equipped with high ranking military personnel blasting the administration, Clinton's outburst about Bush and Bin Laden,
"That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t…I tried,"

All scheduled and released within two days.

All properly distanced from the Bush 9/11 national security push. All seeming to whack at the knees of the entire Republican presentation and campaign strategy.

Is this a coordinated action or a coincidence? Are the Dems finally playing extra-political hardball? Writing a campaign narrative outside the candidates? (as the Republicans have done so effectively in the last few elections.)

Two of these require high ranking military and intel folks cooperating. Is the situation so dire that the career folks are helping the Dems? (Yes.)

I guess the critical question would be who is running the national show now. I know Howard Dean has the "stones" to play this kind of hardball, but I wonder if he could inspire the party discipline. So, if this is being orchestrated, who is pulling the strings?

One more: Is the NIE leak a trap for the Republicans? If they declassify it, it will be spawning front page stories for a week or more, all with a subtext comparison and reference to the original NYTimes story that then becomes the central debating point of the argument. "Did Iraq cause more terror?" This would reframe the entire national security debate one month before the election.

If, on the other hand, they don't declassify, the charge is left standing, unchallenged.

(Just random thoughts that have been in my head all day.)

"I don't want to pull a Kanye up here."

That's how Spike Lee just responded on ESPN's football broadcast when asked about the state of the New Orleans rebuilding effort.

Heads up

In a post on ABC's The Blotter firmly denying the Bin Laden is dead rumor (cocktail party rumor!) there was this,
Pakistani intelligence sources say they have been receiving reports for the past 12 months that some al Qaeda militants are leaving Pakistan for Sudan, Yemen and now Somalia, but certainly not on the scale suggested by the "middleman".

So, is Al Qaeda secure enough with Pakistan/Afghanistan that they are dispatching excess personnel to other "hot" battlefields?

(And while at the Blotter, Dozens of Foreign Pilots Training Illegally at US Flight Schools. Yeah, it's that bad.)

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I love it when the photographers get bored.

(U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld departs after speaking at a town hall meeting at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia September 22, 2006. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst)

Iraq Quickhits

In a bit of a hurry,

(AFP) Iraqi President Talabani asks for a "long term" US presence in the country. (Talabani is a Kurd, so his request for two permanent airbases is probably to keep the Turks out over the long term.)

(USA Today) Army explores issue of living wills as more return from war in comas.

(AP) Iraqi Soldiers hinder US efforts. It's a litany of sins from not supporting US troops to actively working against them.

(NYTimes) "the Third Infantry Division is preparing for the likelihood that it will go back to Iraq for a third tour. Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense."

And, out of Afghanistan: "The fugitive Taliban commander Mullah Omar has emerged as the key player behind the movement's controversial peace deal with Pakistan."

(Later: I forgot to include Gen. Schoomaker refusing to sign off on Rumsfeld's underfunded budget. Unprecedented.)

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Brilliant blogging - Newsweek covers

You gotta see this. It's just four pictures and a sentence. It'll take less time than you've already spent reading this post.

Rewriting Bush on the front page

On the front page of the WaPo, there is an article recasting President Bush as silently suffering for all the (US) deaths in Iraq.

That "Bring'em on" statement, the "Mission Accomplished" appearance in military gear and full swagger? That was another guy. This pre-election Bush feels.

(I'm sure this recast, sourced largely to aides, friends, and families, has nothing to do with the Republican loss of "security moms.")

The devil is in the house of worship and she's wearing a GOP button

Buried down in this NYTimes article on evangelicals waning enthusiasm for the Republicans is this gem.
Even in this crowd of nearly 2,000 Christian conservative activists, some balked at one tactic recommended to turn out church voters. In a workshop, Connie Marshner, a veteran organizer, distributed a step-by-step guide that recommended obtaining church directories and posing as a nonpartisan pollster to ask people how they planned to vote.

“Hello, I am with ABC polls,” a suggested script began.

Some attendees complained that the script seemed deceptive, Ms. Marshner said in an interview afterward. She said that such disguised calls were a common campaign tactic, that it was just a suggested script and that she never recommended answering a direct question with a lie.

Saudi/Israeli secret meeting?

Question: If the Saudis held a "secret meeting" with the Israelis on the Iranian nuclear program, why are the Israelis now removing the "secret" part? (AFP version.)

Army considering going over 147,000 in Iraq

This article is a little cryptic, but I read the second and third paragraphs to say that the Army is considering moving forward deployments to increase troops in Iraq.

Update: Within hours we get news of anther deployment extension. 3,500 Army will be extended in Ramadi.

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US President George W. Bush(L) speaks with Rev. Louis Leon after church services at St. John's Episcopal Church, Sept. 24, 2006. (AFP Tim Sloan)

(Why do I see this picture so much? When Bush leaves a campaign fundraiser is he pictured at the door? Or when he gives a speech? Or a factory visit? Photo op? Rosa Parks funeral? UN? Anywhere else?

No, the only time the Secret Service allows "patterned" outdoor time is so Bush can have this picture with his minister, and it tends to show up only when he's under political challenge.

He is wearing his bulletproof vest to church though.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

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Meanwhile, at a church in Iraq... a comma.

A resident stands at the scene of a car bomb attack targeting a police patrol outside a Roman Catholic church in Baghdad September 24, 2006. REUTERS - Namir Noor-Eldeen.

George Allen uses the "n-word"

So, we've gone from an obscure racial epithet used in North Africa, to the bizarre, "I'm not Jewish, I eat pork on Saturdays," to.....
"Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,'" said Dr. Ken Shelton, a white radiologist in North Carolina who played tight end for the University of Virginia football team when Allen was quarterback. "He used the N-word on a regular basis back then."

There's alot more in the article and two other teammates confirmed, but both requested anonymity because one "feared retribution from the Allen campaign," and the other "spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of being attacked by the Virginia senator."

What the hell is that? Is Virginia still a place where outing a closet racist costs money, friends, connections, etc? Is the racist machine still the man behind the curtain?

Peter Watkins?

To give you an idea of the radioactivity of the NYTimes story on the Terrorism NIE, the administration response was handled by White House spokesman Peter Watkins, not public face Tony Snow, or inside the loop Dana Perino.

When faced with this massive story, the White House didn't want to put their real spokesmen on record in any way until they see how this plays out. Says a whole lot, eh?

(Or maybe they have to go back through all the old statements.)

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Wrong on Iraq. Wrong on Terror - President Bush version.

All of Bush's rhetoric on Iraq, "stay the course," "finish the mission," etc, is predicated on the unstated assumption that Iraq, watered with enough blood, will eventually reach his vision. Today, we have another candidate. (With Wolf Bitzer)
BUSH: Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people…. Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there's a strong will for democracy. (emphasis added)

The assumption of "the comma," beyond minimizing the death of 2,700 and wounding of over 20,000 thus far, rests firmly on that belief that the middle east will suddenly emerge as Bush's fantasy.

But there is another possibility.

If Iraq eventually represents the loss of the middle east, that "comma" will instead be the long paragraph on the corrupt Roman rulers and how their incompetence and graft in the face of a failing situation led to the humbling of a great empire. We're 1600 years from those Roman emperors and it's not a comma yet, Mr. President.

Don't misunderestimate your role in history.

You are indeed historic.

Wrong on Iraq. Wrong on Terror - Bill Frist edition.

I don't have a transcript, but did Bill Frist really say that he hasn't read the NIE on Iraq? The head of the Senate who has been dealing with legislation around Iraq and terror all summer, and he hasn't even read the collective judgement of the American intelligence community on those issues?

Snuffleupogus asked him directly and Frist said "it has not been given to me." If the man pushing torture/detainee legislation, pushing eavesdropping legislation, pushing legislation on Iraq, hasn't bothered to ask for the NIE on Global Terrorism, that says all you need to know.

Iraqi Federalism Legislation coming soon.

The Sunnis have removed their obstruction to the federalism legislation which would allow autonomous Shia and Kurd super regions with their own revenue and military. The trade off is that the process to amend the Constitution is back on.

The thing that gets me curious is the non-concurrent timing. The federalism legislation will be presented, amended, and voted on in about two weeks, while the amendment process will not see fruit for a year or more.

: This Reuters article left out one key point that answers my question. The federalism law will be voted on in two weeks, but it's implementation will be held for 18 months. So, it'll still probably be a big issue, but it will be an issue in a year.

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Less safe, not more - Thoughts on last night's NIE story

In light of the NIE story below (the war in Iraq has made terrorists stronger and terrorist attacks more likely (READ IT!!!!),) a couple quick thoughts.

1) On this day when "the compromise" was the top scheduling story, not one administration official is scheduled on any of the Sunday shows? When was the last time that happened? Almost like they knew the story was coming, eh?

(I really want to know the details of the NYTimes/White House interaction on this story. Did the administration ask them to hold/not print the story? Did the Times tell them they were going to print? I'm really curious.)

2) Somebody needs to ask Bush/Cheney/Lieberman and the rest about their repeated statements (issued after they saw this NIE) that "if we had it to do over again, we'd do exactly the same thing." (Cheney on Meet the Press - Sept. 10, 2006)

(Interesting: I did a brief google search, and it appears that right around March 21, Bush stopped issuing this type statement and replaced it with the "going forward" version of Iraq defense. Funny, that!)

3) As the NIE specifically cites US detainee policies not only in Abu Ghraib, but also Guantanamo as "stoking the jihadist movement," maybe the questions should be raised again about the administration's insistence on its detainee policies.

4) Wrong on Iraq. Wrong on terror. That should be the Dem message. And I'm not saying that for politics, I am saying that for the security of our nation. This Republican Congress has allowed these poor policies that have bred more terrorism to be enacted without any critique, and America is less safe because of it.

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