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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I smell disinformation - I smell Rove

Two press placements in the last two days both affirming the "confidence" of the White House towards the upcoming midterms. First was the quiet placement in the Inside Washington column in US News,
Some Republican strategists are increasingly upset with what they consider the overconfidence of President Bush and his senior advisers about the midterm elections November 7–a concern aggravated by the president's news conference this week.

"They aren't even planning for if they lose," says a GOP insider who informally counsels the West Wing.

Followed by this in tomorrow's Washington Post,
Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are bracing for losses of 25 House seats or more. But party operatives say Rove is predicting that, at worst, Republicans will lose only 8 to 10 seats.

I'm assuming that both these stories are plants. So, what's going on?

I think they're trying to force a turning point in the momentum. Foley is starting to fade and the clock is ticking down, only three weeks to election, so if the Republicans are going to build any real momentum that will show up consistently in polls and change the national narrative, it'll have to start this week.

Both of these are placed such that only political junkies and other media will see them. This is an effort to to pass the message, "Karl isn't worried," both to reframe the operatives, but more importantly to force a media reexamination. Can't you just hear Chris Matthews asking a question around this?

But, I'm not taking it at face value. The fact that I'm seeing this message passed at all tells me Karl is very worried about the perception trend.

(I may be wrong, but notice all the sourcing in both is to unnamed Republican operatives. In the past, any article describing Rove's thinking has always been propagated with intention.)

Picture of the Day - 3

(Blogger is really rough today, so posting and pictures may be sporadic.)

The White House trots out the evangelical loyalists

The White House has trotted out evangelical loyalists Dobson and Colson, et al to try to tamp down the fallout from Kuo's book according to the WaPo.

They scheduled a major Sunday "broadcast" at "hundreds of churches" which just happens to be at the same time as Kuo's first public appearance on 60 Minutes. (What a coincidence.)

Bush keeps revising war justification

Number three on the "AP: Top Stories" list. It wouldn't have even made print 6 months ago.
Bush keeps revising war justification

President Bush keeps revising his explanation for why the U.S. is in Iraq, moving from narrow military objectives at first to history-of-civilization stakes now.


Political bits

The Hotline/National Journal has expanded their competitive House races list to 60. (Not one of the first 30 is a Dem seat, and only 7 of the 60 are.)

(NYTimes) "As to Mr. Sherwood, Mr. Snow said the president “believes that we are all sinners and we all seek forgiveness.”
(As you may recall, Sherwood's "sin" is beating his mistress to the point she called 9-11.)

(TPM) Bob Ney's stint in Rehab may shorten his jail time.

(Hotline) "President Bush has logged far fewer public campaign appearances with GOP candidates during this election season than he did during the previous midterm cycle in 2002."

(Weekly Standard) Fred Barnes jumps off the Republican Titanic.

Later: Jim Kolbe's spokeswoman, Korenna Cline, "abruptly resigned Friday "to pursue another job opportunity." (You'll remember that she and Kolbe directly contradicted each other on Kolbe's contacts with Mark Foley in 2000.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Julia Wilson, 14, was taken out of class and questioned by the Secret Service for 45 minutes after temporarily posting a picture with "Kill Bush" scrawled across the top on her MySpace page.

Here's the story.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

N. Korea sanctions wither with objections from China and Russia

As I wrote Thursday, it is not in the broader Russian or Chinese interest that the US/Iran or the US/N. Korea situations resolve quickly. Both Russia and China are benefitting as the US finds itself overextended in Iraq and spending the remainder of its global energy on these two trouble spots.

Take a look at the limited sanctions on N. Korea that are now being discussed. Unless I'm missing something, it's looking like a "cooperative" limitation of nuclear and missile import and export which I thought we had before.

There is still strong dispute as to how this would be enforced, (framework for ship searches?) and the Russians are insisting that "Sanctions on North Korea should not even hint at a use of military force."

All this despite Bolton's cocky rhetoric,
It would also ban countries from selling luxury goods to North Korea.

Asked why, Bolton said, "I think the North Korean population has been losing average height and weight over the years and maybe this will be a little diet for Kim Jong Il," North Korea's leader.

Now there's a diplomat, eh?

(The Chinese are challenging this provision, too.)

UPDATE: Sanctions passed as detailed above. (AP, Reuters, AFP, NYTimes, WaPo) Missile and Nuke tech, heavy weapons, foreign financial ban, limited "luxury" ban, with no military "stick" behind it. There still seems to be some question over ship searches.

I don't see how this resolves much of anything. None of these sanctions seem to really put any significant pressure on the N. Korean leadership for years unless the ship searches are used as a form of harrassment. If they are, there may well be an "incident" coming.

There are good militias and there are bad militias - Bolani

The lines of the Shia war have been drawn by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al Bolani.
Bolani .... also said three of the country's biggest militias -- those of the country's two main Kurdish parties and that of a leading Shiite religious party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- were among those that had been lawfully integrated into the country's security forces.

He said that a fourth major militia, the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, along with Sunni insurgent groups, were "outside the political body and structure."

"We do not approve of the existence of these militias,'' Bolani said of the Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgents.

See, SCIRI affiliated milita elements that have penetrated the security forces and are killing and torturing people in uniform are legitimate. The Kurdish, whose votes are necessary for the SCIRI to push through legislation, are legitimate as well.

Political rivals the Mahdi and his enemies the Sunnis are not legitimate. Funny how that works out.

(By far, the largest portion of militia penetration into the Iraqi Security Forces is by SCIRI/Badr. Maybe that's what he means when he says they have been "lawfully integrated.")

Also: Col. Mamuri, the leader of the one effective Iraqi brigade, was assassinated. Bolani's in charge of the investigation. Wanna bet he's not going to blame SCIRI/Badr? (Mamuri had been refusing pressure to accept SCIRI/Badr militia personnel into his unit.)

And, I don't know the blog, but this is a very good post on the questionable legality and the divisions on the Federalism vote. Loosely, Sunni and Sadr political groups boycotted it. The "legitimate" SCIRI and Kurdish blocks supported it.

There are big questions about quorum, the vote totals, and why the room was sealed and electronic transmissions cut off.

Picture of the Day

A detainee in an outdoor solitary confinement cell talks with a military policeman at the Abu Ghraib prison in this June 22, 2004 file photo.
(AP Photo/John Moore)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bob Ney still hasn't resigned

Convicted felon Bob Ney still hasn't resigned!!!! Ney plead guilty today to influence peddling, to taking bribes, and he's still a Republican member of Congress.

The Republicans have come out with a forceful statement saying they will run him out. (In a month a half.)

Ney, on the other hand, wants to collect at least one more check.
Having now appeared in court, I need to close up my congressional office. I want to make sure that my staff members are okay and that any open constituent matters and obligations are taken care of. Once I have done these things, I will be resigning from Congress. This will be done in the next few weeks.

What the hell is going on, Republicans? You're already under fire for not running Foley out, and now you've got a CONVICTED FELON who is going to stay on as a Republican Congressman for at least a few more weeks?

Michael Monsoor - Hero

This is one thing I agree with the administration about. We don't talk about this enough.

A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said......

Prior to his death, Monsoor had already demonstrated courage under fire. He has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them.

Curt Weldon under investigation

The Justice Dept. has picked up the FBI's investigation into Curt Weldon. The FBI investigation has been ongoing for several months, so, why is it coming out now? The sources for McClatchy are FBI personnel, so I would downplay the political likelihood.

The only indication I see is that the FBI has recently "formally referred the matter to the department's Public Integrity Section for additional scrutiny."

So, does that mean more incriminating evidence was found which prompted the referral and the leak, or were the previous FBI folks involved in the case afraid it would die after being transferred to the Justice Department? Don't know.

Picture of the Day - 4

U.S. Marines and Army Soldiers take cover from small arms fire after a suicide car bomb explosion in Ramadi, August 10, 2006. (U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock / Handout / Reuters)

Tony Snow has his McClellan moment

It sounds like Karl Rove lied to a press secretary again. When asked about David Kuo's book,
MR. SNOW: When you're talking also -- I know Karl Rove, we've asked Karl, did you say the things attributed to you? He said, no. ....

Q Is it possible that Karl Rove called them nuts, the evangelicals?

MR. SNOW: He says no.

(Notice that Tony Snow never actually puts his credibility into the denial. Instead, he very intentionally repeats "He says no.")

Also, just generally, Tony Snow handled the whole David Kuo section sounding dismissive, but without ever actually denying any of it. Are there internal documents? I'll bet they're looking.

Questions about Kolbe's conduct

I'd read about Rep. Kolbe's camping trip, but this is new, "an unidentified source made allegations about the congressman's behavior on the expedition."

(If you read the whole piece, there may be nothing there, but with the recent confusion over his knowledge/contact with Foley stretching back to 2000, and the odd coincidence that he offered the use of his Washington house to one of Kolbe's IM targets, it's worth mentioning.)

Also: Why did the White House start snubbing Foley in 2004? Tony Snow was asked that today in the press briefing. Snow said he'd have to look into it.

And, Foley's cryptic message to Jeb Bush about the time the page went to Rep Alexander?

Picture of the Day - 2

A Kurdish woman from the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) secures an area situated on the foothills of the Qandil Mountains near the Iraq-Iran border in September 2006. Washington welcomes a ceasefire decision by these Iraq-based separatist Kurdish rebels, but still sees the militants as a security threat to NATO ally Turkey.(AFP/File/Safin Hamed)

Iraq - more violence, more deaths

(USAToday) "The number of sectarian killings each month in Baghdad has more than tripled since February, and the violence has not slowed despite a major offensive in the capital."

(Reuters) "U.S. military casualties have surged in Iraq in recent weeks, with U.S. troops engaging in perilous urban sweeps to curb sectarian violence in Baghdad while facing unrelenting violence elsewhere. At least 44 U.S. troops have been killed so far in October. At the current pace, the month would be the deadliest for U.S. forces since January 2005......The number of U.S. troops wounded in combat also has surged."

(Guardian) The commonplace nature of violence in Iraq.

The Iraq Survey Group Rules Out Victory in Iraq.
(The ISG is James Baker's group set to advise the president on an Iraq strategy after the election.)

Bush's prepared statement before the press conference, "that will enable the United States to achieve our objective, which is an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in this war on terror."

Not Democracy, Not Freedom. Stability.

Also: Just to put it out there, because it was mentioned, the mandate for US troops in Iraq is set to expire in December unless the Iraqi parliament votes to extend it. Think about the politics of that for an already wobbling Maliki government.

Political bits

Wall Street Journal survey finds Dem control might help economy.

McCaskill distances from Talent (51-42,) Sherrod Brown distances from Dewine (54-40) in new SUSA poll.

Larry Sabato speaks of a "Deep Blue Sea."

WaPo has an interesting article on Bush's increasing use of the word "unacceptable."

Bob Ney plead guilty today, and still hasn't resigned. (Maybe later today, maybe in a few weeks?) The Republicans have taken a firm line, though, vowing "to expel convicted Rep. Bob Ney "as our first order of business" after the elections unless he resigns."

(And, just from me, what does it say that in this massive political year we're still only talking about 40 House seats, less than 10% of the total? Gerrymandering, incumbency advantages, PAC's, lobbyist monies..... The system is broken.)

Picture of the Day - 3

President Bush stands with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., before the start of a campaign fundraising event Oct. 12, 2006. (AP Photo / Charles Dharapak)

"This country is better off with Denny Hastert as the speaker, and it will be better off when he is the speaker" in the next Congress, Bush said.

Baghdad humor

(I'm clipping this whole post from NBC's Richard Engel.)

"So Muqtada al-Sadr goes to Japan…" the barber tells his customer who was already smiling, bracing himself in the chair for a laugh. The barber tells the best jokes in Baghdad.

"So Muqtada is in Tokyo and meeting with officials and all of the top Japanese people and it’s a very big deal," the barber continues, as the customer’s hair falls on the floor in tufts.

"So Muqtada asks for a meeting, you know with who? No, you don’t know," he says. "It wasn’t with Japanese arms merchants or the army, but with the Toyota company. Do you know why?

"No," says the customer, ready for the big punch line.

"Because he wanted them to make the trunks of their cars bigger."

Like a good comedian, the barber laughs, enticing the customer to laugh even harder.

Toyotas are very common in Baghdad, and especially popular with Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. They often stuff bodies in the trunks.

No laughing matter
But another customer in the barbershop didn’t laugh. He was quietly having a haircut in another chair. He was one of those Mahdi Army men who kills people and stuffs them in the trunks of Toyotas.

The next day he went to visit the barbers and his customers to discuss their "inappropriate humor."

The conversations went like this:

The Mahdi army fighter tied the barber up, took a knife and plucked out both of his eyes. He was only left alive because he was Shiite, like the Mahdi Army.

The customer who laughed at the joke, a Sunni, was killed and stuffed in the trunk of a car, although the friend of the barber who told me the story this morning didn’t know if the car was a Toyota.

Picture of the Day

Thursday, October 12, 2006

ISG rules out victory in Iraq

Bush's own handpicked Iraq Survey Group is ruling out American victory in Iraq, and advising against democracy.
WASHINGTON — A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

And they're holding this plan until after the election.

How would you like to be the last soldier to die for a Republican majority?

Later: So, the plan is to abandon democracy in Iraq in place of something termed "representative." Sadly, probably the best answer for geoplolitical "stability" although not necessarily for the Iraqi people.

Maybe the "stability option" confirms the story below about Condi Rice's threat to Maliki to install a "National Rescue Government."

I've been thinking alot about the potential "breakup" under the Federalism legislation passed last night, and it's a nightmare scenario. A poverty stricken Sunni west incubating terrorists, a Kurdish north devolving into open war with the Turks, and indirect Iranian control of the combined Iranian/Iraqi oilfields.

So, instead, we're going to replace Saddam with an Iranian influenced Shia strongman sitting right north of the Saudi oil fields.

Tell me again about the freedom. Tell me again about the "shining beacon" that will ripple democracy throughout the middle east. Tell me again how this war has made us safer for generations.

The head of the British army says withdraw from Iraq

The head of the Army is calling for British troops to withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk catastophic consequences for both Iraq and British society.

In a devastating broadside at Tony Blair's foreign policy, General Sir Richard Dannatt stated explicitly that the continuing presence of British troops "exacerbates the security problems" in Iraq.

UPDATE: Supposedly he backed off his comments, although reading this article (2nd section,) the only "backing off" I see, is making it clear that he supports Blair.

Picture of the Day - 3

Iraqi medics treat a wounded man at a hospital in the restive city of Baquba. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

Red Cross meets with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, others

I'm not exactly clear on the process going forward. Often, the Red Cross attempts to resolve prisoner issues confidentially with the detaining government, but since this is much bigger than simple "conditions" issues, I don't know.
A Red Cross delegation has met at Guantanamo Bay with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and 13 other "high-value detainees," a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

A statement by the Red Cross will be issued "in coming days."

ALSO: It should also be noted that the "Detainee Treatment" bill that was rushed through Congress on the final day of its session, offers retroactive immunity to all US government personnel involved in the torture of these individuals, including the President.

(Once this legislation is signed, it would be constitutionally impossible to make those past acts of torture retroactively illegal, although the bill itself will have to stand up to judicial review.)

As far as I can tell from a quick Google, Bush is yet to sign this bill, but it is waiting on his desk.

What the Russians and Chinese are doing.

We're seeing so very little "macro" reporting around the Chinese and Russian intransigence on both Iran and North Korea.

After 9-11, the Bush administration made massive political intrusions into the former Soviet Republics and China's oil supply chain. Neither of these countries really wants an open conflict with the US at this point, so they are using the intractible situations of Iran and N. Korea to bog down the US's foreign policy.

I don't think we can term Russia and China as enemies, but they should certainly be classed as rivals who are taking advantage of the Iraq overextension.

It is in the Chinese and Russian interest right now that the current situations be prolonged not resolved. Without a significant US offer, Taiwan as example, Iran and North Korea will be kept festering for the forseeable future despite all the forceful talk that the administration may spew forth.

(I just thought someone had to say it.)

Later: Voila!!!

Picture of the Day - 2

How dare they ask!!!

(Milbank: "Thank you for your interest," the president said curtly, skipping the usual pleasantries. As he walked back into the Oval Office, he shot a glance in the direction of his aides that showed he was not pleased.")

"National Rescue Government" in Iraq discussed by Condi Rice?

I haven't seen this anywhere else, so treat this as very unconfirmed, but still.....
Baghdad: The fate of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki hangs in the balance, as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad.

This development comes in the wake of increasing talk in Iraqi political circles about the near departure of Al Maliki, because of the collapsed security situation......

It is also said in Iraqi political circles that Rice mentioned the establishment of a National Rescue Government if sectarian strife continues to escalate.

This is a recurring rumor in Iraq, but this is the first time I have seen it directly attributed to an American source. It should also be noted that there are rumors saying that Iyad Allawi may be the center of such a "National Rescue Government." He's even mentioned in this article.

Rumors, but they seem to be growing.

Also: (WaPo) Gen. Casey said the current violence is "leaving U.S. commanders and the Iraqi government "not comfortable" with the current situation there." He expects the current level of violence to continue for the forseeable future.

David Kuo - How the Bush administration manipulated the Religious Right.

David Cuo, former second in command and the Office of Faith Based Initiatives has written a book detailing the manipulation of the religious right by the Bush administration.

Crooks and Liars has the first segment I've seen on this book.

The thing to note is that the publicity tour for this book, which is due out Monday, will stretch through the election with the main appearances being in the second half of October.

How will this fold in with Foley and the already present disaffection of the Christian Right? Who knows. I think the real question will be how big is the book promotion and where. If he hits all the Fox shows, and they're sympathetic, it could be huge. (This guy is a religious conservative who seemingly wrote this book out of disgust.)

(This is the book I mentioned a week ago.)

NATO to duplicate Musharraf's tribal deal?

That's what Musharraf is saying.

Also: A new weapon that blasts Tungsten powder?
(allegedly used by the Israelis but of US design.)

Picture of the Day

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iraq latenight

(AFP) "At least six bombs exploded around Baghdad as the death toll from a brutal civil conflict continued to rise steeply and a top UN official warned that Iraq is spiralling out of control."

And, the Washington Post is reporting that the Federalism legislation passed by 4 votes 141-0 in a 275 member parliament after a mass walkout. After an earlier agreement with the Sunnis, there is an 18 month delay on this legislation that would allow the breakup of Iraq.
But opponents of the bill -- including not only Sunni Arabs but secular parties and the bloc of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- expressed fears that the federalism plan could increase sectarian tensions and push the country further toward civil war.

"This is the beginning of the plan to divide Iraq," said Adnan al-Dulaimi.

Reality on North Korea

All day long I've been thinking about Bush's press conference this morning and one of his answers on N. Korea.
Q: I'm wondering if you -- what is different about the current set of warnings, and do you think the administration and our government runs a risk of looking feckless to the world by issuing these kinds of warnings regularly without response from the countries?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a fair question. First of all, I am making it clear our policy hasn't changed. It's important for the folks to understand that we don't continually shift our goals based upon polls or -- whatever.

What about reality, Mr. Bush? Is it ever possible that you might change your policy based upon reality or - whatever?

The reality is that for the last three years this policy has not yielded positive results, that's inarguable, and yet you are still not changing that policy.

Sir, you may be able to live in a world without reality, but the rest of us are at greater risk because of your decisions.

(Ditto for Iraq.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Iraq, now without democracy

In the prepared statement section of the press conference, did anyone notice that Bush dropped democracy from the "US objective in Iraq?"
"that will enable the United States to achieve our objective, which is an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in this war on terror."

Again, this is from the prepared statement, so the absence is fully intentional.

Political bits

"Moderate" Republican Chris Shays reaches back to Chappaquiddick to defend Hastert, "I know the speaker didn't go over a bridge and leave a young person in the water, and then have a press conference the next day," .... "Dennis Hastert didn't kill anybody," he added.

ABCNews is reporting a second visit by Mark Foley to the page dorm.

(CNN) President Bush meets with the Southern Baptist Convention Leadership in the Oval Office today at 1 pm ET. (Think he's worried about the base?)

Was the press conference the fiasco it appeared?

Army planning to have 145,000 troops in Iraq through 2010

I believe Schoomaker's argument that this is just a planning function, but the fact that the Amry believes that it may need to maintain current troop levels through 2010 should be noted.

Picture of the Day - 2

DHS develops software to track the media

Should it frighten me that they won't even say why they're developing this?
The US Department of Homeland Security plans to develop software that analyzes and summarizes opinions expressed in articles, providing a possible tool for better monitoring what is written about the United States in the global press. ....

The researchers and DHS officials decline to discuss the possible uses of such software.

"It's just too early to speculate about what it would evolve into," Kelly said.

Iraq descends

At least 50 bodies, riddled with bullets and many bearing signs of torture, were discovered across Baghdad a Ministry of Interior official said. About 60 bodies were discovered the day before.

Meanwhile, a troubled neighborhood at the center of the American military’s push to secure the capital (Dora) was hit by three deadly bomb blasts, , including one at a busy bakery that killed at least 17 people and injured a dozen others, authorities said.

(AP) US military deaths hit 2,750.

(NYTimes) More than 100,000 US soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have claimed disability so far.

(AP) A minimum of 1.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes.

(USAToday) A new study estimates 655,000 Iraqis have died since the US invasion. (The methodology may be up for questioning, but Juan Cole makes a reasonable argument that it may be true.)

(Rasmussen) Who is winning the war on terrorism?
--------------------US - 31%, Terrorists - 36%.

The basic flaw in Operation Together Forward

The premise of the tactics of Together Forward is an extension of the overall "stand up/stand down" strategy. The theory was that the US forces would "clear" a neighborhood of militants and weapons and then turn that pacified neighborhood over to Iraqi forces to maintain security.

Because of limited troop numbers, the "commanders on the ground" have been forced to attack the neighborhoods of Baghdad serially, several at a time.

Beyond the problems of the Iraqi forces inability or unwillingness to keep those neighborhoods peaceful, often aiding the militants, there are other flaws imposed by the "serial" nature of the plan. The mobility issue, the "whack a mole," is the first and most obvious, but I would like to offer a second flaw.

If I live in Sadr City, for instance, and my neighborhood is not targeted in the first round, it is in my interests to create as much violence elsewhere in the city as I can.

If the US "clears" Dora, or Shaab, or Ur, it is in my interests to immediately create as much bloodshed there as possible the moment the US forces pull out.

This will serve to undermine overall confidence in the strategy possibly terminating it, and, at the very least, force the US to go back into those neighborhoods stalling the approach to mine.

In other words, by "clearing" a neighborhood, the US recreates it as a prime target for further bloodshed without the local militia forces to protect it.

(To allow those neighborhoods to fail would be a political diaster for the US undermining their credibility and any future cooperation they might receive.)

The logical US solution to this would be to go next to Sadr City, which they are currently doing in small pinpoint raids, but to openly attempt the type of roadblock, house to house searches against the Mahdi militia that have been done elsewhere would lead to US casualties unlike anything we've yet seen.

I don't have an answer. In the end, the only answer is going to be a political solution. The US will have to accept the dual government/militia factional power structure and the civil war that has already evolved from that.

I know that doesn't win an election, but that's the reality.

(And let me say very clearly that I don't fault the generals and commanders on this. They are enacting the best possible strategy with the hand they've been given. They have been asked to impossibly pacify the 5 million people of Baghdad with 15,000 US troops.)

Picture of the Day

Thaier Aziz cries over the bodies of his 6 year old niece and the girl's mother Rahima Kadim, covered by blanket on the left, in Baqouba hospital, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006. Drive-by shooters opened fire Sunday on a minibus carrying a Shiite family, killing the woman, her six-year old daughter, the van's driver and injuring the woman's husband and his brother. (AP Photo/Adem Hadei)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Foley emails shopped around for a year

I found this very interesting. Ken Silverstein at Harpers tells of his experience after being handed the Foley emails back in May. If you're following the Foley story, it's worth a read.

Reality Based Educator points towards this WaPo article in the comments which also sheds some light on the non-political nature of the revelations.

Picture of the Day - 4

President George W. Bush walks past Craig Scott, a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting, as Bush arrives at the Conference on School Safety, October 10, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Young

Flashback - 2003

July 10, 2003.
Gen. Tommy Franks said Wednesday that violence and uncertainty in Iraq make it unlikely that troop levels will be reduced "for the foreseeable future, " and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sharply increased the estimate of military costs there to $3.9 billion a month, almost double the $2 billion per month figure issued by U.S. officials in April......

On Capitol Hill, Franks told the Senate panel, "We have about 145,000 troops in (Iraq) right now."


Stray thought on a guest worker program.

President Bush's "guest worker" program is a corporation's dream, not only because it will depress wages across a secondary tier of industries, but also because the companies will bear no long term liabilities for those workers.

They will only employ them during peak productive years, and then will face no long term liabilities for retirement, healthcare, etc.

What do you think happens to a guest worker who is hurt on the job and can no longer work?

Picture of the Day - 3

Do you know what an instant message is?

- or -

Barney? Do you like Barney? Barney thinks we should stay in Iraq.

(And check out the kid who is stuck staring into Bush's butt.)

Kolbe's twisting tale on Foley and pages (Foley catchall)

Let's start with the Monday story in the WaPo where it was reported that Rep. Kolbe (R-AZ) knew of Mark Foley's of elicit exchanges with a page, even seeing the text, and his spokesman said he "personally confronted Foley about his communications." (Would a spokesman just make that up?)

Then, we get the NYTimes on Tuesday where the same spokesman said "it was unclear if Mr. Kolbe had forwarded the complaint to House leaders."

Today, contradicting his spokesman, Kolbe said he never saw the messages. "I was not shown the content of the messages and was not told they were sexually explicit. It was my recommendation that this complaint be passed along to Rep. Foley's office and the clerk who supervised the Page program. This was done promptly."

He also outright denied ever having a conversation with Foley. (Again, why would his spokesman just make that up?)

And, just as an ugly complication, it now turns out that one of the four pages Kolbe offered the use of his Washington house, just happened to be one of the pages involved in the salacious IM's with Foley.

I don't really know what any of this means, but it seems apparent from the circumstances and his shifting story that Rep. Kolbe knows far more than he has admitted.

Also: Did you notice how Hastert is setting up a firewall, claiming the coverup was at the staff level below him? (In front of a graveyard?)

(CNN) Rep Reynolds has gone into hiding.

(And what's going on with ABC's Brian Ross? They were posting 3+ items a day for the last month, now only 1 this week? Something big coming?)

Picture of the Day - 3

(This was in a soldier's photo album titled "Worst Day of my Life.")

True or not, think how this will play in Iraq

Top Sunni politician Tariq al-Hashimi's brother was killed in his home. 20-25 men arrived in uniform and "chased him onto the roof, and then to the roof of a neighbor, Abu Amar, residents said. It was there that the attackers shot him in the head."
The men then seized two neighbors, their children, one of their wives and an elderly man, a baker. All had witnessed the attack.

The men sounded as if they were speaking Arabic with foreign accents, residents said. After they took Mr. Hashemi’s guards, one was heard shouting to another, “Go, go,” in English.

I don't know if this is true, but amidst all the rumor, misinformation, and hatred in Iraq, how does this play?


(Reuters) "Iraqi police found 60 bodies dumped across Baghdad in the 24 hours until Tuesday morning." (blindfolded, bound, tortured.) (AP version.)

(AP) A number of arrests around the mass poisoning. 11 policemen kidnapped from a checkpoint in Sadr City.

(Reuters) 13 killed, 46 wounded in Baghdad bombing.

(Reuters) "The deaths of the four soldiers brought to 33 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the beginning of October."

Dahr Jamail finally writes the story I've been waiting to see. on the degenerating situation in Baquba/Diyala.

(WaPo) US Gains in Parts of Iraq in Jeopardy.

(BBC) Iraq issues new "digital camoflage" uniforms to the police to "stop death squads dressing up as members of the security forces." Two problems. First, I think the Iraqis are capable of making fabric. Second, this article presumes that the killings are not being done by the security forces.

(CBSMarketwatch) The Iraqi ambassador is hanging out with the oil companies down here in Houston issuing his best soup-Nazi "no oil for you" if the US withdraws. "Any reconstruction efforts would be impeded by a U.S. retreat from Iraq."

Picture of the Day - 2

The Green Zone, 2003 or 2004.
(No editorial comment intended, just something you don't see.)

Political bits

(NYTimes) Rep. Jim Kolbe's spokesman, who admitted that Kolbe met with Foley in 2000, says "it was unclear if Mr. Kolbe had forwarded the complaint to House leaders." Later: Kolbe now says he passed it along "to Hastert's office."

(NYTimes) On the bright side of last night's post, "83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Mr. Bush was personally aware of pre-9/11 intelligence reports that warned of possible domestic terrorist attacks using airplanes."

(WCBS) Take a look at this local reporting looking at the Kean/Menendez Senate Race in New Jersey. The report outlines step by step how Menendez tried to trap Kean on Iraq, but I have to wonder if the bones of the story itself wasn't constructed by Kean. Very interesting.

Mark Foley trickles down to the local

My current Republican state rep. (the lower of two state bodies,) is facing a strong challenge from an extremely qualified Dem candidate Ellen Cohen.

The reason I bring this up is the current rep., Martha Wong, is now running a campaign ad calling for mandatory life sentences for all child predators complete with a montage of barbed wire and prison walls.

In a giant media market like Houston, small races can only afford one ad, it's just interesting to me that the Foley scandal has reached all the way down to this obscure state race.

Picture of the Day

(Wounded in Iraq.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

The administration strategizes to lie to America and that's not the story

This is awful. WaPo, Page A01.
GOP officials are urging lawmakers to focus exclusively on local issues and leave it to party leaders to mitigate the Foley controversy by accusing Democrats of trying to politicize it. At the same time, the White House plans to amplify national security issues, especially the threat of terrorism, after North Korea's reported nuclear test, in hopes of shifting the debate away from casualties and controversy during the final month of the campaign.

Doesn't it seem strange that on the front page above the fold in one of the nation's top newspapers, the administration is openly planning to lie to America to win an election?

Regardless of any reality, the GOP strategy is to hype the threat of terrorism solely for political gain and to exploit its own failure in North Korea to hide the bodies piling up in Iraq.

The Washington Post is telling me on its front page that the President of the United States is going to make speech after speech for the next month intentionally misinforming the country.

And that isn't the story.

The morality of such a thing isn't even challenged; the entire policy is covered as if it were a coaching strategy at a sporting event. "That administration team sure was clever the way they fooled people to win the game." Doesn't that seem really wrong?

Isn't there more than that?

In the eyes of Vandehei and Cilizza, this passes without comment.

Foley isn't the first questionable character shielded by Rep Tom Reynolds

For Republicans, it's all about the winning.

Foley isn't the first questionable character NRCC head Rep. Reynolds has tried to keep around.

You may or may not have come across the story of Rep. Don Sherwood who, at 64, is accused of choking and beating his 29 year old mistress to the point that she called 9-11.

How does this relate to Foley?
The party has shown loyalty in return by retaining Sherwood as the chairman of the Incumbent Retention Committee, the chief fund-raising arm of the Congressional Republicans, despite the publicity over his relationship with Ore.

Sherwood has shown a knack for helping his GOP colleagues win elections.

That post is held under the DRCC which just happens to be chaired by Rep. Reynolds. So, Reynolds stomached a mistress beater and a cybermolester and both just happened to be notoriously good fundraisers. Funny that.

(Huge credit to Americablog (which has been on fire throughout Foley) for digging this out.)

Picture of the Day - 4

A man's body lies dumped in Baghdad's al-Khadra neighborhood Sunday Oct. 8, 2006. Baghdad police said they found more than 50 bodies in the 24-hour period into Sunday morning, all apparent victims of the sectarian death squads that roam the capital, with many showing signs of torture. (AP Photo/Asaad Mouhsin)

New polling

New polls out, and they are all bad for the Republicans.

USA Today/Gallup

ABCNews/WaPo (or raw data .pdf)



(It should be noted that all of these were taken well into the arc of disgust over the Foley scandal.)

Picture of the Day - 3

President Bush walks away from the podium after he made a statement to reporters at the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 9, 2006 regarding North Korea's announcement of a nuclear test. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

North Korean nuclear test

I'm not all atwitter over the N. Korea nuke test for a number of reasons.

1) We knew North Korea had at least 6 nuclear weapons.

2) Although a successful test would offer a slightly greater availability for offensive use, with N. Korea's conventional forces, they really have no need for nukes except for defensive purposes and as a bargaining chip with the international community.

3) I do not believe that their command structure is crazy or suicidal. Any use or sale would lead to guaranteed destruction.

4) The device was reportedly 12,000-15,000 pounds, way too large for missile delivery. (assuming the missile works.) It will take them years with their early 60's technology to shrink the warhead down to a usable missile size.

5) Japan and S. Korea may eventually decide to arm themselves, but, frankly, I think it's naive to present these two technological powerhouses with civilian nuclear programs as if they haven't already done design and computer modelling since the first Yongbyan crisis in '94. It would only take them months to "go nuclear." There is still lots of time to negotiate this situation away.

6) Then there's the very real possibility that this was a "fizzle." (Also here.) (Jane's Defense, too.)

This test is really big diplomatically, but the question to ask is why North Korea did this?

North Korea isn't after nuclear weapons to attack the world. They have said quite clearly that they want economic concessions out of the West and the US and security guarantees. (A US promise to leave the current leadership in control.)

That is the point of this nuclear test, much like the July 4 missile test. It is a diplomatic move attempting to draw the US back to the table. After the Bush administration renegged on the "agreed framework" and eventually terminated all negotiations and contact, North Korea proceeded down this course of escalation all in an effort to restart talks.

As a country, North Korea is starving, both literally and figuratively, and this nuclear program is the one bargaining chip they have in trying gain stability and aid without "opening up" as would be demanded by the "sunshine policy" of the South Koreans or similar overtures by the World Bank.

This is not about nuclear doomsday and it doesn't have to be about an arms race in East Asia. This entire thing is an effort by the N. Koreans to drag the US back to the table looking for a way to maintain their power and preserve their country.

(Maybe I'm missing it, but that's what I see.)

(To me, a wobbly Musharraf government with 50-70 nukes and medium range missiles represents a far larger threat, and on proliferation, poorly secured and corrupt Russian facilities. If nothing else, I think we can agree that N. Korea will maintain security on their weapons.)

Picture of the Day - 2

"Probing for Mines in Afghanistan."
(A soldier photo and picture-metaphor.)

Rockets in Pakistan/Desperation by Karzai

On Saturday I was asking about the curious details and behavior surrounding the two discoveries of rockets in Pakistan near the ISI headquarters and Parliament.

The ATimes seems to confirm my guess in the comments that these rockets were a symbolic threat to Musharraf from the Taleban/tribalists along the Afghan/Pak border.
Asia Times Online has learned that the incidents were a clear show of disapproval in Waziristan over Musharraf's basking in "Washington's charm", and that he had not implemented a key aspect of the peace accord - the release of al-Qaeda suspects - despite numerous promises.

In other words, the Pakistani Taliban are using their own stick to keep Islamabad in line.....

The upshot of all this, according to signals reaching this correspondent, is that Musharraf has been put on notice. The first two incidents this week caused no damage. That was possibly the intent. This is unlikely to be the case with the next ones.

Musharraf's thin line between the conflicting US desires and those of the Taleban/ISI/tribalist elements is getting narrower.

Also in this article:
Last month could prove to be pivotal in determining the ultimate fate of the Taliban and Afghanistan, and even the United States' "war on terror".

The Taliban, after the success of this year's spring offensive, have drawn up a blueprint for an Islamic intifada in Afghanistan next year in the form of a national uprising and an internationalization of their resistance.

And, just a heads up, the Telegraph is reporting that Karzai will soon be travelling (with Afghani security only?) to the Pashtun region along the Afghan/Pak border in an attempt to convince tribal leaders to cut support for the Taleban.

"It is a long shot but Mr Karzai is desperate, as are most Afghans, to end the violence."

(I would assume this is part of the same diplomatic effort that is taking NATO Commander Richards to meet with Musharraf. This follows Richard's explosive statements yesterday that Afghanis would likely flip allegiance to the Taleban in the coming months.)

Picture of the Day

A woman cries as her son receives treatment at a hospital in Baquba October 6, 2006. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The ISG is Bush's way out, but soldiers will have to die through the election

(Reposted - two new posts below the next picture)

I've talked alot about how Bush's rhetoric has forced the narrow "course" to which we've "stayed." He couldn't lower troop levels or he'd "cut and run," and he couldn't raise troop levels without admitting it was a mistake going in with Rumsfeld's lean "quick and agile" force.

So, since the campaign of 2004 when Bush formally crafted Iraq as a political wedge issue, our troops have been forced to follow the current policy. "Stand and Bleed." Undermanned, without the resources to do the job.

The appointment of the Iraq Survey Group, headed by James Baker, is Bush's way out. You can guarantee that even in recommending a radical change in course, Baker will construct that recommendation such that it doesn't criticize the years of poor policy on Iraq.

Baker was apparently on This Week
James A. Baker III .... said today that he expected the group to depart from Mr. Bush’s call to “stay the course” and strongly hinted that he would embrace a significant change of direction after the Nov. 7 Congressional elections. .....

Even while heading the commission, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush regularly and is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved.

Two points to note. First, the entire charade of the ISG is being coordinated by the White House as an "independent" shell organization through which they can implement advice that centrist Dems and outside analysts have been pushing for years.

Second, most disgustingly, Baker has said all along that the recommendations would come only after the election. A possible solution, a better answer for Iraq, has been slowrolled because it might negatively affect the Republican campaign.

The White House is more than willing to let US soldiers die on the current course rather than adopt a change that might negatively affect their chances in this election.

This is a crime. Of all the other bullshit this administration has pulled, this is the one that angers me the most. They have taken the honest patriotism of 325 young Americans just this week and poured their blood on the desert in their pursuit of politics.

That one month political delay has real world costs.

October currently projects 124 dead and 1,300+ wounded.

I've said it before, I wish I believed in Hell.

Picture of the Day - 4

Newsweek puts first Fordham/Hastert's office contact in 2002 or 2003 about Foley: WaPo says Jim Kolbe knew in 2000

So, it seems that rumor about Mark Foley getting drunk and trying to get into the page dorm is more than a rumor. Kirk Fordham is going to tell the FBI that it was that incident that led to the 2002/2003 contact with Hastert's Chief of Staff. (Newsweek)
On one night in 2002 or 2003, an allegedly inebriated Foley showed up at the pages' dorm after a 10 p.m. curfew and tried to gain entry, according to an account provided by two congressional sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter. Foley was turned away by a guard. It is not known if the pages were ever aware that Foley lurked outside their door, but word of the incident reached the House Clerk, who notified Foley's chief of staff, Kirk Fordham.

This was not the first time that Fordham had learned of his boss's behaving, in that modern all-purpose euphemism, "inappropriately." Fordham decided that it was time to go to a higher authority, so he went to see Scott Palmer, chief of staff to the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

(I'm guessing the source is the attorney or someone helping Fordham's side.)

Also: The WaPo has a story saying that Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) had knowledge of "sexually exlicit" messages from Foley back to 2000. Kolbe "personally confronted" Mark Foley about this.

Hundreds of Iraqi police poisoned

Oh, it was intentional. 11 dead so far.
Hundreds of Iraqi policemen fell sick from poisoning Sunday at a base in southern Iraq after the evening meal breaking their daily Ramadan fast, and officials said they were investigating whether the poisoning was intentional.....

Some of the policemen began bleeding from the ears and nose after the meal......

Between 600-700 policemen were affected to varying degrees, and 11 who had the heaviest amount of the food had died, al-Atwan told The Associated Press.

Some of the soldiers collapsed as soon as they stood up from the meal, others fell "one after the other" as they headed out to the yard in the base to line up in formation, al-Atwan said.

Update: The government story is shifting. 3 dead according to the Interior Ministry, none dead according to the Defense Ministry. If this was an intentional poisoning, the Iraqi gov't and US military have an incentive to play it down.

Later: Okay, let's add "Other police sources at the base said seven people had died," and the Maliki government announced th arrest of the 4 cooks. (Reuters.) Early Health Ministry tests showed, "a chemical substance was used that caused difficulty in breathing and severe pain in limbs."

Top NATO commander says Afghanistan at tipping point

This is a big statement for him to make, but put it in the broader context of the challenges he faces, NATO's absolute struggle to meet troop needs and Richards' scheduled visit to see Musharraf in the next few days.
NATO's top commander in Afghanistan said Sunday the country was at a tipping point and warned Afghans would likely switch their allegiance to resurgent Taliban militants if there are no visible improvements in people's lives in the next six months.

The NATO leadership is desperately seeking support from anywhere (to not be forgotten) as the Taleban and Afghani resistance grow stiffer. This is a diplomatic "cry for help."
Take heed.

Picture of the Day - 3

President George W. Bush listens to Senator George Allen (R-VA) speak during the Christening ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush October 7, 2006. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Political bits

(AP) Sen. George Allen faces questions over his finances, Senate disclosure, and "ask(ing) the Army to help another business that gave him similar options." (And the "N word claimants continue to amass.)

(LATimes) A former page did have sex with Foley. He was 21 at the time, but the "electronic correspondence with Foley began after he finished the respected Capitol Hill page program for high school juniors."

Another page has come forward (while serving in Iraq) to talk to the FBI about Foley.

And, new polling has Foley figure Rep. Tom Reynolds trailing by 15%. He's the head of the RNCC and responsible for coordination and money for all the House races. That's a distraction.

Picture of the Day

Helping Karzai stand up.


Don't miss the WaPo's article on the rising casualties in September and October. I posted on it last night, but notice how much of this comes directly (or indirectly through analysts) from the military.

It's interesting. Suddenly, I'm seeing lots of descriptions of the multi-sided conflict that Iraq has become. (LATimes) Just an interesting shift from the simple white hat/black hat narrative that survived long after the reality moved away.

Dahr Jamail reported on rumors of the US paying tribal leaders in Anbar to use their militias as mercenaries against foreign fighters. I don't know if that's the reason they're fighting, but they're claiming kills. (AFP) "an important sheikh from the western province of Al-Anbar said tribal fighters had killed 34 mostly foreign Al-Qaeda fighters and arrested 40 more in a week-long drive against militant infiltrators."

(AFP) The US fully backs Maliki, but he only has a short time to resolve the situation. Then what? What's the backside of that threat, Bush administration?

(TimesOnline) The ISG recommendation may be to split Iraq into three parts. (The Biden Plan?) The ISG will be the way Bush absolves himself of "changing the course," after the election, of course. What's another month of US casualties for a Republican Congress, eh? Isn't that what they're dying for?

(AP) "The Bush administration is bumping up against the limits of military and political power to influence what happens next in Iraq, four years into an increasingly unpopular war that has not gone as planned."

(BBC) Bush's Iraq options limited.

28 US soldiers died in the first week of October. Almost 300 wounded. A half battalion in a week?

An inexact parallel

Alot is made of corruption in Iraq and in other divided countries, about how certain sects or groups benefit when their person is put in charge of a ministry.

But, really, how different is that from the $2.2 billion in taxpayer money given to "faith based organizations" last year? Or the placement of key evangelical favorites at the FDA? Or former industry lobbyists in charge of the energy policy?

(And I didn't know this: (CSM June, 12, 2006) "Though Mr. Bush's faith-based initiative, first announced in 2001, has never received congressional approval, the program has been expanded through executive order,")

Did you ever?

Did you ever think you'd see this headline?(AFP)

More Americans look to Democrats to fight terror, lead morally

Facts aside, it just tells me how far things have come.

(That Newsweek poll is interesting, but it was Thursday and Friday (Hastert's press conference day,) so I don't think we can take it as a "true" poll. Let's see what the numbers show later this week.)

Picture of the Day

An Afghan refugee women holds her child as she come out after registration at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation center on the outskirts of Peshawar in Pakistan, July 2006. Up to 90,000 Afghans have been displaced by fighting.(AFP/File/Tariq Mahmood)