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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Too late

Every "strategic" move by the US in Iraq has been too late. From the response to the looting to the abandonment of Jay Garner's 90 day elections, every response has come too late.

Operation Forward Together only began after ethnic cleansing had already begun, about five months too late to have the desired inertia changing effect.

The current effort to involve the regional neighbors will take at best months to bear fruit. Six months too late.

Reading tomorrow's WaPo front page story on the Sunnis girding themselves against the coming reprisals, I've lost hope.

The reality is becoming even worse than I'd imagined.

Picture of the Day - 2

The coffin of a victim lies on top of its hearse during a funeral for some of the residents who were killed during Thursday's bomb attacks in Baghdad's Sadr City November 24, 2006. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Why do I need to know this now?

A classified report was leaked to the NYTimes showing the Iraq insurgency is "now self-sustaining financially" and outlining the various criminal activities financing the violence. What intrigued me was this description of the sourcing,
A copy of the report was made available to The Times by American officials in Iraq, who said they acted in the belief that the findings could improve American understanding of the challenges facing the United States in Iraq.

American officials. Plural. So is that an official leak/release, but then why is it not declassified? Maybe some lower officials who wanted this out there, but plural? A coordinated leak? Maybe it's the military trying to stave off blame?

How does this "improve" my "understanding of the challenges?"

Somebody is trying to accomplish something specific here targeting this to appear in the Sunday NYTimes, but I don't have a feel for who or what they're trying to accomplish.

It's a ripple in the water, but I can't read it.

Also: I forget where I saw it, but by the time politicians begin positioning for blame, the policy/program has already failed.

Chuck Hagel blasts the Bush doctrine and calls for phased withdrawal.

In whose self interest is peace in Iraq?

Off the cuff, which of the combatant groups in Iraq see "peace" as in their own self interest. Definitely the Kurds(for now,) maybe SCIRI, but Sadr, the Sunni insurgency, or the foreign fighters?

If Sadr seriously makes moves to abandon violence, he will drift towards the irrelevance of Sistani and his militia will likely fracture and reform under new leadership. The Sunni insurgency is fighting for their political and economic survival. The foreign fighters are fighting what they perceive as a Jihad.

Their self interest is to continue fighting. What is being offered to them to change their self interest?

(SCIRI is not in the main of the fight right now becaue their needs are being met through their use of the Iraqi Police as their forces.)

Picture of the Day

(President Bush calls troops from Camp David, Maryland on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006. REUTERS/Eric Draper/The White House/POOL)

How does this conversation go?

"Yes, it's really me. They wouldn't let me go to Iraq this year because it's considered too dangerous for me to... Hello? Hello?"

Friday, November 24, 2006

Self Defense

It's come to this.

By nightfall, the imams of mosques in three Sunni neighborhood, Ghazaliya, Ameriya, and Adhamiya, made a joint announcement to their followers.

"We would like to ask you to take care and be careful for the next hours of tonight," they said. "Open fire towards any gunman who enters the city, such as the Mahdi Army, except the Americans because they will come to protect the people from the death squads and guard the neighborhood."

The imams gave one more piece of advice to their followers: Open fire on any members of the mostly Shiite police forces. What happened in Hurriyah, the imams alleged, was done with their help.

Iraq longer than WWII

Looking back at the broad sweep of history, as Mr. Bush likes to do, long US wars are losses.
The US involvement in Iraq will pass another sad milestone on Sunday, when it overtakes the length of America's engagement in World War II.

Anything but a Civil War.

But I thought they were being violent to affect the US election.
The Bush administration charged yesterday that the escalating violence in Iraq committed by both Shiites and Sunnis over the past two days is a "brazen effort" to bring down the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Or was it Ramadan? Or was it because of the naming of Defense and Interior Ministers? Or was it because of the the arrival of Maliki? Or was it for their elections?

One rationale after another, we've had a year of blaming the violence on something. Why not recognize it for what it is, a civil war for power and influence?

So long as we misdiagnose, the patient will continue to get worse.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi mourns the death of his relatives outside the morgue of a hospital in Baghdad. A round-the-clock indefinite curfew locked down Baghdad after more than 150 people were killed in the deadliest attacks in war-torn Iraq since the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye) (The death toll is now 215. - mike)


(AP) "Shiite militiamen doused six Sunni Arabs with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by..."

(NYTimes) "Rumors spread quickly throughout the day, fanned by fear. In the evening, a resident said in a telephone interview on Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, that gunmen had doused some people with gasoline and set them on fire. But other residents contacted by telephone denied this."

(AP) "in Sadr City a U.S. helicopter shot back at Shiite militiamen who opened fire on it from the ground, residents said."

(Reuters) "After dark, a U.S. helicopter fired on Sadr City after ritual shooting from one of the dozens of funeral parties taking place after the bombings, an Interior Ministry source said."

My point here is that the situation has gotten to where no one knows what's actually going on in the streets anymore. Rumors are running rampant, and the government has lost all control.

I wrote a post 12 days ago regarding 50 Shia workers who were kidnapped near Latifiyah. This attack was before the Education Ministry attack and the bombings of yesterday.
Probably the best observation I can offer is that we've reached a point where these massive events happen so frequently that there is no longer time to figure out what really happened in any of them. There is no more attempt to establish blame. It is just blood for blood.

That's where we are. The inertia of the conflict has taken over, and no Baker/ISG plan, no Pentagon plan, no administration plan can substantially alter that inertia. It's inarguably civil war.

("The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad." George Bush, address to the nation, Sept. 11, 2006.)

Picture of the Day

A man grieves outside a hospital morgue as he waits to claim the body of his wife, who was killed during Thursday's bomb attacks, in Baghdad's Sadr City, November 24, 2006. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

The eyes

I just flipped on CNN as I was getting ready to go out, and the magnitude of events in Iraq really hit me.

None of the CNN "field" people look like they've slept. I don't find it surprising that the folks in Baghdad were up all night, but when they cut to White House correspondent Malveaux and she had obviously been working all night....

It shows the level of alarm within the administration.

Which side will Maliki choose

I don't know how serious this threat is, but it's forcing Maliki to make a big choice.
One of Sadr's top political aides in parliament told Reuters it would pull out of the U.S.-backed national unity government and from parliament if Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki went ahead with next week's meeting with Bush in Jordan.

"We have asked Maliki to cancel his meeting with Bush as there is no reason to meet the criminal who is behind terrorism in Iraq," Faleh Hasan Shanshal told Reuters. "We will suspend our membership in parliament and the cabinet if he goes ahead."

Sadr did not say this directly in public, but AP references this threat in the plural, "followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned they would suspend their membership in parliament...."

Also: In his Friday sermon, Sadr issued a call to Harith al Dhari to issue fatwas telling the Sunnis to abandon violence.

(And any hope of a near term crackdown on Sadr's militias by Maliki's government is now gone.)


(AFP) Hamas conducted its first suicide bombing since Jan. 2005.

(AFP) "Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said his country has completed preparations for war with neighboring Somalia's powerful Islamist movement, alongside faltering peace efforts." (BBC version.)

(Reuters) Chad has extended its State of Emergency as Sudan's ethnic conflict continues to spill over. "Humanitarian workers say hundreds of Chadian villagers have been killed in recent weeks in fighting between Arab and non-Arab communities and in attacks by Arabic-speaking armed raiders on horseback, often striking across the Sudan border."

(AP) AP/Ipsos shows Chavez with a huge lead ahead of Venezuela's Dec. 3 election with the poor supporting Chavez 70-16. Also, in Ecuador, (AP) a very leftist candidate has a shot at winning the presidency by, partially, running against George Bush.

(AP) "Russia has begun delivery of Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran." (Reuters) "The Tor-M1 is a low to medium-altitude missile fired from a tracked vehicle against airplanes, helicopters and other airborne targets."

After the US came away from the APEC conference largely empty handed, the Chinese have announced a free trade pact with Pakistan. This comes just a day after Hu was in India announcing steps towards a similar deal.

Stories from Anbar

Three rare news stories about Anbar province.

Al Jazeera has a piece on the growing "hot" battle between the secular ex-Baathists and the Islamic/Al Qaeda groups.

The NYTimes has a story about a Sunni training camp whose soldiers are now trying to fight "stand up" battles with US forces. (Probably the same resurgent ex-Baathists, although I would question the wisdom of taking the US head on.)

Last, a CSM piece on the 300 dispirited Marines left in Fallujah before a handover.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Iraqis wheel a body away from a vehicle after a car bombing in the Sadr City area of Baghdad in this image taken from TV Thursday Nov. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/AP Television)

Picture of the Day - 2

The bodies of victims are seen at hospital morgue, following car bomb explosions in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006. In the deadliest attack since the beginning of the Iraq war, suspected Sunni-Arab militants used three suicide car bombs and two mortar rounds in three different areas of the capital's Shiite Sadr City slum to kill at least 144 people and wound 236, police said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

A major attack on Sadr City

It's not Thanksgiving everywhere.
Police report that suicide bombings and mortar attacks on Sadr City, Baghdad's Shiite slum, killed 144 and wounded 236.

The bombs and mortar shells struck at 15 minute intervals beginning about 3 p.m., with the first suicide bombing killing about 10 people in a vegetable market.

More from Reuters,
A further 201 people were wounded, police said, and the Health Minister said the toll could rise. "Many of the dead have been reduced to scattered body parts and are not counted yet," Ali al-Shemari told Reuters.....

Six parked vehicles each packed with as much as half a metric ton of explosives, as well as mortars landing in the area, devastated streets and a crowded market in the sprawling Sadr City slum in east Baghdad, Major General Jihad al-Jabori of the Interior Ministry told Iraqiya state television.....

The Sadr City blasts destroyed whole streets, leaving bloodied remains amid mangled vehicle wrecks. Fierce fires were left blazing after the attacks.

As the US has been conducting raids in Sadr City for the last few days forcing the militia off the streets, the anger will first be cast on the Sunnis and then on the US.

Calls for the militias to be disbanded are now off the table for awhile, and the rumored talks with Sunni insurgents may be off as well.

(Remember, this horrific death toll is just in Sadr City, not Baghdad or Iraq as a whole. A total curfew has been called. Friday prayers tomorrow.)

Later: These attacks are all aimed at Sadr. Strikes within his Sadr City Base, a strike on his Health Ministry, and a car bomb detonated behind his headquarters.

Also: Notice who is missing.
Top officials held an emergency meeting at the home of Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim apparently to discuss deteriorating security. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni; and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad attended, an aide to al-Hakim said.

Afterward, the three Iraqi officials appeared on national television, with al-Hashimi reading a statement urging calm and calling on politicians to work hard to reduce tensions that have brought a surge in sectarian bloodshed over the past year.

No Maliki? His choice or theirs? Khalilzad was there. Very odd.

Picture of the Day - Plan your nuisance lawsuit now

Plan your nuisance lawsuit now. Retailers are training for you this year, so take the extra time today to case your target.

Be sure to pick a "hot" location with a news crew so that your trampling will be replayed breathlessly around the country. It will substantially increase your settlement.

(Caption: Corey Womack, with Nesha Brooks, left, and Donna Strickland, plays the role of frantic customer in Best Buy's Black Friday training at Potomac Yard. (Carol Guzy - Washington Post))

Seriously, if it's illegal to throw money into the street to create a riot, how are retailers not criminally responsible for the environment they're creating?

(Light blogging today and tomorrow.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

I'm sure the effort is appreciated, but, a doll cake....?

(A Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) worker puts the finishing touches on cakes in preparation for the U.S. military's Thanksgiving Day celebration in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, November 22, 2006. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen))

(And anybody want to lay odds that a KBR kitchen worker isn't from the US and has never heard of Thanksgiving?)

Cheney takes a straight shot to Saudi

Cheney is headed to Saudi on Friday to have talks with King Abdullah about Iraq and the region.
The vice president's office said Wednesday that Cheney would meet with Abdullah on Saturday to discuss developments in the Middle East, then return to Washington with no other stops planned.

It just struck me as odd that he would fly all that way for one meeting and then fly straight back. And why Cheney and the King? Something big in the works?

Later: This meeting will come days before Bush meets with Maliki, and rumors of a deal with the Sunni insurgents are in the air.

Update: The WaPo adds "hastily organized" this to the mystery. "The White House said Cheney will discuss regional issues but provided no details about the hastily organized mission to Riyadh"

One More: Iraqi media reports Cheney in Iraq. It's being denied by Baghdad embassy, US military, and Cheney's office, but the denials could be security.

Nope. No Cheney in Iraq unless the Iraqi reports blew security and cancelled the stop.

Condi Rice still without a Deputy

I find this so hard to believe.
Secretary of State Rice continues to struggle to find anyone to replace Robert Zoellick as her deputy, leaving many to wonder why an otherwise plum job offers so little attraction. Zoellick, who is now at Goldman Sachs, left the department in July, and Rice has since approached at least four candidates to take the post; all have turned her down, according to several knowledgeable sources....

There is now talk that Rice is reaching out to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, with some suggesting that the offer has been sweetened with a promise to give Negroponte the top job should Rice leave the State Department before the end of the administration.

Under normal circumstances, Seputy Secretary of State is a plum job. Serve a couple of years, build your Rolodex and contacts, then parlay them into the job of your choice at a think tank, international law firm, investment bank, globalizing corporation, etc.

What does it say about her position and relative strength in the White House that she can't find someone who wants to do that?

(And, why is Hadley now doing her job in Iraq?)

Picture of the Day - 2

The annual turkey pardoning at the White House today. Funny, funny, ha ha ha.

But what I found more interesting were the non-photo-op moments. Below find the entering and exiting shots from today's event.

With Iraq, Lebanon, the poor Asian trip, the Dems in Congress, you can see the weight on him.

The contortionist Iraq politics of "kneepads" McCain

McCain staked out the "more troops" position awhile back thinking it was politically strong, would never happen, and allowed him to explain his previous support for the war.

Now, hidden in the holiday weekend, he adds a brilliant new wrinkle.
"I believe victory is still attainable," the Arizona Republican says. "But without additional combat forces we will not win this war."

In carefully scripted language, McCain then adds: If the country does not have the will to do what it takes to win in Iraq -- send in more forces -- then U.S. troops should not be made to serve more tours of duty.

"As troubling as it is, I can ask a young Marine to go back to Iraq," he said last week. "What I cannot do is ask him to return to Iraq, to risk life and limb, so that we might delay our defeat for a few months or a year. That is more to ask than patriotism requires.

"It would be immoral, and I could not do it," the former Vietnam prisoner of war added.

If we win, "I was all for more troops, I told you it would work," but if we lose, "I would never have sent the troops in. It was immoral."

(By the way, I am unilaterally imposing the nickname "kneepads" on McCain after watching him get down on his knees to court the same people who knifed him in 2000.)

Picture of the Day

(From the funeral of Cpl. Carl Johnson killed by a roadside bomb in Mosul. Arlington.) (Bigger if you click it.)

Declining Security in Iraq

Bush and Mailiki are scheduled to meet in Jordan next week. Certainly the purpose of the meeting is to try and derail the recent Syrian and Iranian overtures. But in Jordan?

After Condi Rice's last "surprise trip" was delayed from landing in Baghdad for 35 minutes because of mortar fire, I guess it's no longer considered safe.

Iraq is no longer safe enough for even a "surprise" visit. (But what will we do with all the $34.99 Turkey Dinner George Bush action figures?)

A bit more on the car bombs discovered in the Green Zone yesterday. They were discovered after a bomb partially went off in an armored car being driven by an American security guard. Another vehicle in the convoy was found to be rigged.

It may well be Sunni on Sunni in the Green Zone. The apparent target, Sunni Parliamentary Speaker Mashhadani, "On Nov. 1, al-Mashhadani had to be physically restrained from attacking a Sunni lawmaker."

And the deaths continue to pile up. Over 120 a day in October.
Iraq's civilian death toll has reached a new monthly high of more than 3,700 in October, a UN report said, as US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki prepared to meet next week to review the situation in the war-torn country.

("The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad." George Bush, address to the nation, Sept. 11, 2006.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4

A protester wears a mask during a protest against President Bush's visit to Indonesia, in Bogor, November 20, 2006. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

What do the Iraqis want?

As I argued yesterday morning, amid all the politician/pundit discussions of a new US strategy in Iraq, the Iraqis seem to be no more than a backdrop, almost a part of the landscape. No one is asking what the Iraqis want or how they define victory.

If 74% of the Shia and 91% of the Sunni want the US to withdraw within a year, "surging" troops may well be the worst possible option as it would undermine the Maliki government. Maliki is on the record after all, like Abizaid, saying no more troops. How weak would Maliki appear and how much less influence would he have with the militias and infiltrated security forces we're supposedly trying to shape with this "surge?"

Iraq has become politicized, and the solutions being discussed are being chosen more for their appeal here than their applicability in Iraq. We will not find a resolution by trying to fight Iraq's inertia. We no longer have that level of influence.

(Also: Hagel speaks out against the insanity of more troops.)

Bad day to be around Bush.

The director of the White House Travel Office, Greg Pitts was beaten and mugged in Wakiki. He's still in the hospital.

Three Honolulu policemen crashed in Bush's police motorcade. Two of them in the hospital in serious condition.

Daughter Barbara Bush had her purse stolen despite being guarded by a detail of Secret Service agents.

Even former president Bush was challenged about his son in what used to be adoring UAE. The"hostile audience" was a group of young, educated students and business leaders at a leadership conference who, three years ago, would've constituted the the most pro-American possible in the middle east.

"Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval."

Then there's the next picture.....

Picture of the Day - 3

Jeb Bush (not running for President.)

(AP/The Tampa Tribune, Julie Busch - Lifted from WaterTiger.)

Car bombs defused in the Green Zone

This is a near miss.
U.S. troops blew up two cars Tuesday inside the heavily fortified Green Zone after dogs indicated explosives were inside the vehicles that were used in the motorcade of the parliament speaker, an adviser to parliament said.

It's good news that the countermeasures work. It's bad news that they had to.

UPDATE: A very different version from the AP. One of the bombs went partway off inside the green zone, kind of a fizzle, that led to the discovery of more explosives beneath it. So, it was a nearer miss than first presented.

Lebanon in crisis.

An anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbullah Lebanese cabinet minister was assassinated, shot at point blank range in his car.

This comes just two days after Hezbullah leader Nasrallah called for his followers to prepare to bring down the government through protest. "We cannot have any confidence in this government because it answers to the decisions and wishes of the American administration," he said.

This is not good.

Later: Just to add fuel to the Hezbullah fire,
A team of United Nations investigators has concluded that Israel engaged in “a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force” against Lebanese civilians that amounted to “a flagrant violation” of international law during its war against Hezbollah last summer.

Picture of the Day - 2

A boy cries after his nephew was killed after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad's Sadr city November 21, 2006. (REUTERS/Kareem Raheem)

(I saw a number of staged propaganda photos around this event, but this one isn't. It's just too "little boy," trying to find a hidden little place to cry.)


(AP) "Walid Hassan's slaying came as the Iraqi death toll rose to more than 1,300 for the first 20 days of November — the highest for any month since The Associated Press began tracking the figure in April 2005..... The actual totals are likely considerably higher...."

(LATimes) "At least 140 people were reported killed around the country Monday, according to Iraqi security forces, witnesses and other sources." (60 bodies found in Baghdad. Or 75 - AP.)

(Al Jazeera) "We are in a state of war and in war all measures are permissible," Abd al-Qader Jassim, Iraq's defence minister, said on Monday."

(AP) Maliki blames Iraq's problems on politics, not a lack of security. (So, there's no need to go after the Shia militias....)

(Al Zaman, via Juan Cole) Running street battles in several districts of Baghdad.

And, the Maliki government and the Sunni run Education Ministry still cannot agree on how many were kidnapped last week. A joint newsconference was held,
"At the news conference -- delayed for three hours while the ministers met in private -- each pledged their commitment to tracking down the kidnappers. But when asked to simply say how many people were kidnapped, there was no agreement.

Both sides have political motivation to shade their numbers, but, seriously, if the two sides cannot agree upon a hard fact, ....?

Smart politics

Democrats in the House are doing something very smart on ethics reform (assuming they can maintain control of the process.) The plan is to build the various elements of an ethics reform bill one by one, allowing open debate on each issue, gifts, earmarks, trips, etc.

But the really brilliant part is that each element is to be introduced by a new 2006 Congressperson and they will be featured/ prominent in the debates. Logically, they would have the weakest seats for reelection so allowing them to take the now multiple lead positions on ethics issues will give each of them something to show the folks back home. "I said I was about cleaning up Congress, and here's what I did."

Very smart. (assuming they can control the process.)

AND, Notice how Hillary Clinton's ridiculous spending in this election (although alot of it was spent with and eye on 2008,) is already being used against her.
"Donors, like voters, increasingly expect candidates to exercise fiscal discipline,” said Mark McKinnon, an adviser to Senator John McCain,..."

Also: The Republican lame duck will likely leave $500 billion in contentious spending bills for the new Dem Congress, "Other stuff may get pushed off the table," said GOP lobbyist Hazen Marshall, a former longtime Capitol Hill aide. "It kills (Democrats') message."

Picture of the Day

Democratic Senator Joe Biden listens to testimony on on Iran's nuclear ambitons during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in September 2006 in Washington. (AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Monday, November 20, 2006

How Iraq has cost us

I didn't recall this. (Also on BBC)
Before U.S.-Iranian relations deteriorated further, Iran made some conciliatory approaches to the Bush administration. In May 2003, Tehran offered to rein in Hezbollah, cooperate against al-Qaida and open its nuclear program for inspection, but was reportedly rebuffed at the insistence of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Post Iraq invasion, the Iranians, certainly cowed watching their neighbor so easily overwhelmed, wanted to talk, to ease the relationship, to reconcile. They were the supplicants.

Now, with the US in an Iraqi quagmire, the US is forced to go to Iran to ask for help with the Iranians defining the terms.

Enough said?

The hole in the new Iraq strategy

Consensus seems to have settled on a surge and train kinda strategy for Iraq, but the whole thing is premised on a pretty big assumption.
Though a temporary increase of about 20,000 American troops is under consideration, the plan envisions the additional troops staying only until security conditions improve. After that, troop levels could come down, as better-trained and equipped Iraqi units took on a larger security role.

What happens if security conditions don't improve? To accomplish this "surge," the already overstretched military is going to have to use some troops scheduled for future deployment. What happens six months down the road when the situation is the same (or worse) and we've already spent those troops?


I don't want to get too far into '08 yet, but an observation. Six months ago, I looked around the presidential field and thought Hillary Clinton, then who. Now, I'd be reasonably happy with any of the top polling four.
New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton 33%
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 15%
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards 14%
Former Vice President Al Gore 14%

After that, not so much. Kerry, Clark, Biden, Richardson, Bayh, Vilsack.

And, while we're playing in '08,
Some of Rudy Giuliani's fiercest city critics are set to launch "swift boat"-type strikes to inform voters around the nation about the former mayor's behavior before 9/11, The (NY)Post has learned.

So, by the time the general election rolls around, it'll be those four Dems against "kneepads" McCain, a swiftboated Rudy, or Mitt Romney?

Picture of the Day - 3


The post 9/11 Saudi flights

Judicial Watch announced today, "A U.S. district court judge has ordered the FBI to correct disclosures regarding the US government's evacuation of Saudi royals and bin Laden family members after the September 11 attacks in 2001." Apparently, the redactions were overbroad.

No conspiracy, but it would be interesting to know the level of contacts and favors that enabled Saudi family members to evacuate when every other plane in the country was grounded.


The Iranians have invited the Iraqis and Syrians to Tehran for a weekend meeting to discuss the security situation in Iraq. (The Iraqi representative will be president Talebani who is a Kurd.) The Syrians have refused as both countries fighting for influence in Iraq. The US response is to dismiss the overtures as "words not actions." (Ummm, as I said below, isn't it supposed to be the Iraqis' decision?)

(AP) Duncan Hunter calls for Iraqi troops to be deployed to the front lines. "We need to saddle those up and deploy them to the fight." Sounds tough, but if it could've been done, it would've.
(I wonder how "saddle up" translates culturally?)

(AP) A "unity government" is looking decreasingly likely as the Sunnis threaten to walk out of Maliki's government. "The largest Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, called the (al-Dhari) arrest warrant "a mercy bullet" that killed a flawed reconciliation plan."

(LATimes) "Yet with Iraq near chaos 3 1/2 years later, a key Army manual now is being rewritten in a way that rejects the Rumsfeld doctrine and counsels against using it again." Short version: You cannot invade a country without an active stability program ready to roll.

And, (AP) "President Bush said Monday he isn't ready to decide between rival calls to increase or scale back U.S. troops in Iraq." (I thought troop levels were to be determined by "commanders in the field"? Abizaid said flat out the other day that more troops would not be helpful. Politicization now has the war in its talons, and the "strategy" will now begin to drift further and further from the reality. This is the beginning of the end phase.)

Picture of the Day - 2

"Look, we're going to hold your dad until you tell us what we want to know..."

(President Bush (R) speaks with a school girl during a Drop-By Education event at Bogor Palace in Bogor November 20, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Young)

The unasked question on an Iraq "surge"

Thomas Ricks has a big article on the WaPo front page about the options being considered by Gen. Peter Pace's strategic review. Frankly, it simply reiterates the Guardian report from last Thursday that there will be a "short" surge of US troops in an attempt to "shock" Baghdad into security before a shift of roles to training and deployment outside the cities.

The key question I have not seen addressed in any of these "strategy" articles, is how such a surge would affect the Iraqi government. With 70-80% of the Iraqis wanting a US withdrawal, how would this surge be received?

Does Maliki call for it? Is it imposed on him? What does it mean for the legitimacy of his government with the Iraqis if he has no choice?

Despite the fact that this entire effort would be aimed at staunching the violence and better training for the security services, if it undermines the government it will only lead to greater devolution towards illegitimate power centers.

The idea of "training" as a solution is based upon a mistaken understanding of the conflict. The US is attempting to convince the Iraqi military and security forces to fight for an American vision of Iraq, but in reality, the Iraqi conception of the conflict is focused on sect and tribe. They view themselves as currently fighting for their own people, and I don't see how six months of training will change that. The problem is not poor tactics or ill-trained leadership, but idea.

So long as we continue to approach Iraq as an imperial problem to be "won" or "lost" by the Americans, the solutions will continue to stretch farther out of reach. The question that's never asked is, "What do the Iraqis want?" "What do they consider "winning"?"

A euphemism for innocent?

What does this mean, that we held three innocent men for years in Guantanmo on mistaken suspicion?
Three detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects have been released to Albania, months after authorities determined they were no longer "enemy combatants," officials said yesterday.....

"Our key objective has been to resettle these detainees in an environment that will permit them to rebuild their lives. Albania will provide this opportunity."


Picture of the Day

A boy looks at blood, clothes and footwear belonging to bakers after an attack by gunmen in Baghdad, November 16, 2006. (Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud/Reuters)

Men look through the glass window of a bakery after an attack by gunmen in Baghdad, November 16, 2006. (Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud/Reuters)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quickhits - Embers across the Islamic world.

US Marines have arrived at a small village in Kenya just south of the Somali border. It could be that they're there to "rehabilitate and construct 10 bore holes," but with the recent threats by the ICU of terror attacks across that border, they may be there for more. It's not Army Corps of Engineers, after all.

(Reuters) An Ethiopian military convoy in Somalia came under attack by Islamic militants.

The Sudanese and Janjaweed have launched new "ground and air attacks" in Darfur. 70 killed as of yesterday.

(UPI) "Israel's ambassador walked out on the United Nations session that resulted in a strong call to Israel to end its military operations in the Gaza Strip." The nonbinding resolution passed 156-7.

(AFP) Hezbullah leader Nasrallah has called for massive street protests to topple the Lebanese government if they don't establish a "unity government."

(WaPo) ""Death to America" has now become an expression so common in the culture that it's practically the Iranian equivalent of "Have a nice day.""


In another indication of Iraq spiralling out of control, in the last two days, there have been attacks against senior political officials. It's unclear whether it's Sunni or inter-Shia.

Yesterday, Ali al-Adhadh, one of the leading members of SCIRI, was shot dead along with his wife as they were driving through Baghdad. The Science and Technology Minister's house was also attacked.

Today, "Ammar al-Saffar, 50, a member of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party, was taken away by gunmen wearing uniforms who were accompanied by three men in suits, a neighbor, who declined to be identified, said." (Men in suits?)

Also: Yesterday, there was the report, sourced to the Syrian ambassador, that James Baker had had multiple recent contacts with Syria over Iraq. Today, the Syrian Foreign Minister arrived in Baghdad to hold talks with the Iraqi government.

So, why did the Syrians want yesterday's James Baker story out right before this visit? To help the talks by showing US support? To tell Iraqi Sunnis that the Syrians are doing this for political reasons and not to pay attention? I don't know, but I think the two are tied together somehow.

(At least 112 died today in Iraq from the violence.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Dressed in traditional 'ao dai,' U.S. President George W. Bush, 2nd from left, chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin, 4th from left, and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Standing between Bush and Putin is Chinese President Hu Jintao. (AP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam, Pool)

Kissinger gives up on victory in Iraq

In Woodward's latest book, there was the much discussed reappearance of Henry Kissinger as one of Bush's top outside advisors. The Woodward book states that Kissinger's advice to Bush was approximately this from an Aug. 2005 Kissinger editorial, "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy."

So, imagine my surprise this morning,
Military victory is no longer possible in Iraq, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a television interview broadcast Sunday.....

"If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi Government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he said on the BBC's Sunday AM breakfast show.

Carefully parsing what he's saying, it seems to be a much more nuanced version of Bush's "we only lose if we quit," laying out the argument that "democracies" (US, UK) will give up in less time than it would take the Iraqis to build a functioning government.

(It's the public's fault that a semi-functional government in Iraq grows farther and farther away.)

Even with this questionable interpretation as to cause, it is still quite notable that Kissinger has moved to the victory "is not possible" camp.

Something you don't see reported

I haven't seen this before.
The US military says Syrians make up the second largest group of foreign fighters entering Iraq after Egyptians.

With all the focus on the regional neighbors, the Iranian and Syrian governments, and the Saudi and Jordanian inputs, Egypt is never mentioned.

Certainly, it's individuals and organizations, not the Egyptian government, but still, I would think thousands of Egyptians fighting US troops in Anbar might get mentioned somewhere.

Picture of the Day

Iraqi hospital workers wheel a wounded man into a hospital in the restive city of Baquba. (AFP/Ali Yussef)