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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 09, 2006

If you didn't see it

NBCNews had a video tonight from a US sniper about his experience there and back here.

(The video is in the box on the right. 3 minutes. The photo gallery is pretty good, too.)

Rumors about the Pentagon's Iraq plan

ABCNews reports that the Pentagon's plan for Iraq will feature no troop withdrawal and an embedding of company sized units within the Iraqi forces.

Also in the plan, using US Spec Ops to go after Sadr's deputies.

Picture of the Day - 3

Photo op as self image.

Bush as Truman as martyr

The White House, and Bush specifically, have been pushing the Truman analogy hard over the last week, and alot of people have been talking about the Durbin exchange, but I think this is the most perceptive analysis.
Bush's wartime role model is President Harry Truman. On Friday he opened a meeting with congressional leaders by noting that Truman's Korean War leadership was scorned late in his presidency, but vindicated by history.

"Mr. Bush, I think, is attracted to the martyrdom of Harry Truman's presidency and the enormous reversal of his status amongst historians 20 years later," said Richard Kohn.

Martyrdom. It fits with his religious philosophy, his inflated sense of "place in history," and recreates him as morally vindicated regardless of any reality. It is a self-serving belief.

I'm try not to put Bush too far "on the couch," and I'm not trying to say that Bush has gone insane, but something about this just horrified me. If Bush really does view his presidency through a Truman/martyr lens, negative changes will only reinforce his "resolve."

And, at this point, who would he listen to to tell him that he's gotten it all wrong?

Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq

It's going on all the time, but rarely in broad daylight.
Bands of armed Shiite militiamen stormed through a neighborhood in north-central Baghdad on Saturday, driving hundreds of Sunni Arabs from their homes in what a Sunni colonel in the Iraqi Army described as one of the most flagrant episodes of sectarian warfare yet unleashed in the capital..

This particular event was about 100 families, 500-600 people, but I think the specific geography of some of these actions is not being talked about enough.
Sayed Muhammad (a Sunni cleric) described the aim of the Shiite attacks on Saturday as creating a Sunni-free corridor across northern Baghdad that would run from the Shula district on the city’s northwestern edge to Kadhimiya, a Shiite stronghold on the west bank of the Tigris river.....

“It’s part of a much wider plan,” the cleric said. “What we’re experiencing here is the Shiite groundwork for a civil war.”

Ethnic cleansing represents only the first phase of the civil war.

Supplying the civil war

An eyeopening article in the NYTimes on the Iraqi arms blackmarket. US supplied Glocks, RPG's, and AK's in their original packaging, even Iraqi police vehicles, all available on request straight from Iraqi forces.
The weapons (American issued to Iraqi forces) are easy to find, resting among others in the semihidden street markets here, where weapons are sold in tea houses, the back rooms of grocery kiosks, cosmetics stores and rug shops, or from the trunks of cars. Proprietors show samples for immediate purchase and offer to take orders — 10 guns can be had in two hours, they say, and 100 or more the next day.....

Tracing American-issued weapons back to Iraqi units that sell them is especially difficult because the United States did not register serial numbers for almost all of the 370,000 small arms purchased for Iraqi security forces, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

I guess the question is, as we plan to significantly increase the Iraqi forces weaponry, what percentage will end up on the black market, and, in turn, aimed at American troops?

(and should I ask who is buying 100 weapons at a time?)

Picture of the Day - 2

I normally don't show these "display" photos because alot of them are intended for propaganda, but that's exactly why I'm showing this one today.

It goes with the next post on "Hearts and Minds."

(Iraqis look at a body of a youth killed during an air raid in a village near Thar Thar Lake in Salahuddin province northwest of Baghdad, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006. U.S.-led coalition forces killed 20 insurgents, including two women, Friday in an attack targeting al-Qaida in Iraq militants, the U.S. command said. (AP Photo/Hameed Rasheed))

"Hearts and Minds" and the al-Ishaqi raid

How long has it been since you've heard the phrase "Hearts and minds "from this administration? I guess that battle, the real battle, can be more easily pushed under the rug because it doesn't cause the visibly apparent lumps that piles of bodies do.

I mention "hearts and minds" today because there is a prime example of the action/counterreaction nature of the Iraq conflict. Yesterday, US special ops ("There are some units we don't talk about...") conducted an attack within the Sunni village of al-Ishaqi killing "20 alleged "Al-Qaeda terrorists", including two women."

Today, the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, al Dhari's group, came out with claims that the majority of the dead were civilians.

Frankly, I don't know what the truth is, but I think it sums up the the impossibility of the Iraq situation. How do you "go after" violent Sunni groups in Sunni territory while winning hearts and minds? How do you "go after" Shia groups in their strongholds without creating more hostility?

(This is also the raid that prompted the military spokesman to say, "If there is a weapon with or next to the person or they are holding it, they are a terrorist.")

Also, while I'm venting, another form of violence that is getting seriously downplayed is the neighborhood to neighborhood mortar fire. The language around it is very minimizing, "lobbing" mortars, "mortar wars," but the reality is that alot of people are dying in these attacks.

Yesterday, 25 people died in one "volley" of mortars fired into a Shia neighborhood.

A split or a shift in Saudi Iraq policy?

In late October,
"Since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited," said Prince Turki, in comments which came against a rising tide of calls ahead of next week's legislative elections for US troops to leave Iraq.

Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud called for a timetable for a US troop withdrawal from Iraq, warning their presence was breeding terrorists.

"There is no question that the continuation of the foreign presence, including in Iraq, will give a push for instability and mainly contribute to create more terrorists," he told a Gulf security conference in Manama.

He added: "I don't think it's the right time for the Americans to leave now, but there should be a timeframe."

So, is it a split or a shift in policy?

(Or was it Saudi support for Bush's policy before the election?)

Why was Rumsfeld fired?

Rumsfeld's defenders posit a theory of his firing in this morning's NYTimes: President Bush did not fire Rumsfeld because of any judgement about capability in his job, but instead because of his political liability in dealing with a Democratic Congress.
He was not surprised by President Bush’s decision to replace him the day after the midterm elections, several current and former aides said. He and Mr. Bush had talked several times about whether Mr. Rumsfeld could still operate effectively, especially if the Democrats took control of both the House and Senate, they said.

This defense does match the facts of the "day after the election" firing, and, apparently, no major changes coming in Iraq policy. I guess we'll have to wait and see whether Gates represents real change or just a new face.

Picture of the Day

What goes around comes around, John.

(U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks to the press in Washington December 6, 2006. REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Republicans eat their own - Romney edition

The next year in the Republican Presidential race could be so much fun to watch. With the three frontrunners, McCain, Giuliani, and Romney, all considered "impure" by the "Christian" right, there's going to be a lot of mud thrown and blood spilled.

Reading about today's attack on Romney, I find myself wondering how much of this is going to be propagated from one campaign to another.
The circulation of the letter by gay rights groups in recent weeks has set off a storm of outrage among social conservatives, and by Friday was looming as a serious complication to Mr. Romney’s hopes.

“This is quite disturbing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who had praised Mr. Romney as a champion of traditional values at the group’s conference in late September. “This type of information is going to create a lot of problems for Governor Romney. He is going to have a hard time overcoming this.”

C'mon, Mitt. Fire back. You have to have an old McCain speech on abortion lying around.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraqis near an oil deal?

The NYTimes has a long, expository piece reporting nearness on an oil revenue sharing agreement in Iraq. However, I think I might be a bit more convinced if the article contained a quote (and possibly sourcing) from more than one Kurdish Deputy PM.

He is the chairman of the committee, but somehow, I would think if a deal was in the offing, there might be an available quote from somebody else.

So, I'll put it in the "I'll believe it when I see it" category.

Picture of the Day - 3

It's over.

David Peebler of the Capitol Chief Administrative Offices, pushes desks down the hall of the Longworth House Office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006, to waiting offices as members of Congress relocate prior to the start of the new Congress next month. (AP Photo/Chris Greenberg)

(Of course, the Republicans had to pass one more budget busting bill ($40 billion) with an added perk to the oil companies, opening up 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.)


Not really in the mood to dig through it all, but here's some Foley links.

The TPM collection from today.

If you're looking for something less opinionated and more "source," the AP has this collection of excerpts from the report. (Associated story: Panel blasts Hastert in Foley scandal.)

The bottom line seems to be that there should have been red lights going off everywhere some time before, especially with Hastert and Kolbe, but they were "willfully ignorant."


House Ethics news conference on Foley at 2PM. (Any bets that they won't find anything?)

(WaPo) The Pentagon is delaying their Christmas party because they don't want the image of a party on Rumsfeld's last day.

(CNN) Sen Gordon Smith (R - Or) made a very emotional speech calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. (Very short. Worth a read.)
(Later: Full speech here.)

(AP) Brownback puts the Republican interest squarely to the Iraqis. "I'm saying, and I hope the Iraqi leadership is hearing it: We will not face the American public in 2008 with a situation that looks anything similar to where we are today." (Who's we?)

And, how exactly are they going to "evaluate" Ted Haggard's "gayness?" Do they start with a picture of Wilford Brimley and slowly work their way to Taye Diggs? They're threatening to hook him up to a polygraph.

Picture of the Day - 2

I have no reason to doubt that these people were Al Qaeda, but how "Vietnam" does this sound,

"If there is a weapon with or next to the person or they are holding it, they are a terrorist," he said.

(Iraqi residents look at the bodies of victim killed in an overnight U.S. raid and air strike in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, December 8, 2006. (Nuhad Hussin - Reuters))

There's a reason the Middle East is on fire

There's an interesting article in the NYTimes on Condi Rice's "public tutorial" being conducted by James Baker through and around the ISG report release. (Best quote "She has not responded to Mr. Baker’s argument, delivered in a tone that drips with isn’t-this-obvious.....")

But, what I found more interesting was her own staff's outlining of her regional "plan," which seems solely based upon stoking division and fear in the region.
She has advocated “deepening the isolation of Syria,” because she believes much of the rest of the Arab world condemns its efforts to topple Lebanon’s government, they said; and in seeking to isolate Iran, they said, she hopes to capitalize on the fears of nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan that Iran seeks to dominate the region, with the option of wielding a nuclear weapon.

If the majority of conduct is designed to isolate the players, stoke their fears, and prompt a "conflict" which can then be "resolved," is it any surprise we are looking at the possibility of a regional war?

Perhaps, this is an offshoot of the "transformational" philosophy most publicly discussed around democracy promotion, but it seems to rest upon the supposition that conflicts can be raised and resolved in a controlled manner. History both generally, and specific to this administration, seems to suggest that controlling and shaping crises is far more difficult once you're in them.

(For some reason I find myself paraphrasing a quote from that mediocre 1980 movie Simon. "Happy scientists don't conceptualize black holes."

I would argue that healthy Sec States don't construct their foreign policy on increasing conflicts.)

On "the tutorial," the USA Today has this flash graphic with each of the regional players outlining specifically item by item what the ISG says regarding negotiations. It is a very clear step by step "Middle East for Dummies" kind of negotiating strategy Baker has passed to this administration.

Iraq polling

AP-Ipsos - Overall approval for the war is down to 27%.

Even so, Americans are not necessarily intent on getting all U.S. troops out right away, the poll indicated. The survey found strong support for a two-year timetable if that's what it took to get U.S. troops out. Seventy-one percent said they would favor a two-year timeline from now until sometime in 2008, but when people are asked instead about a six-month timeline for withdrawal that number drops to 60 percent.

Yes, support simply plummets for a 6 month withdrawal. Only 60%!

Picture of the Day

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Saudis are funding Sunni insurgents who are killing US soldiers

Another of the ISG findings that has been downplayed,
Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash. .....

But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.....

Some Saudis appear to know the money is headed to Iraq's insurgents, but others merely give it to clerics who channel it to anti-coalition forces, the officials said.

In one recent case, an Iraqi official said $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including Strela, a Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The missiles were purchased from someone in Romania, apparently through the black market, he said......

Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

I've been desperately waiting for someone to say this out loud. This is how Al Qaeda was funded and formed in Afghanistan in the 80's. This method of funding allows the Saudi government complete deniability while wealthy citizens and Saud family members launder their money through these charities.

(In this article there's also the loose allegation that one of those Strela missiles mentioned above was used to shoot down the f-16 a little over a week ago.) Even if that is untrue, the majority of the medium and heavy weaponry wielded by the Sunnis right now is targeting US forces in Anbar.

$25 million in just one of the transfers.

The AP found and talked to "several truck drivers."

15 of the 32 US soldiers killed in the last 6 days were killed in Anbar.

(The next two photos are US personnel whose aircraft "crashed" in Anbar. One in an F-16 and one in the helicopter crash.)

Picture of the Day - 4

In this undated photo provided by the Air Force, Maj. Troy L. Gilbert is shown. Gilbert an American pilot whose F-16 crashed in Iraq earlier this week was described by military members and his family as a husband and father of five who always did what it took to get the mission done. At the time of the crash, 34-year-old Gilbert, was supporting troops fighting in Anbar province, the area of Iraq where many of the country's Sunni-Arab insurgent groups operate. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force)

Picture of the Day - 3

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps shows Cpl. Joshua Sticklen. Stricklen, 24, of Virginia Beach, Va., was killed along with three other servicemen when a helicopter he was in plunged into a lake in Iraq's volatile Anbar province Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006. (AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps)

Nothing's changed on Iraq policy except the language

Since receiving the official briefing of the ISG, Bush has made it clear that there will be no discussion with Iran, and, now, a reiterated stance that there will be no troop withdrawals.

The White House has already abandoned two of the three topline proposals out of hand.

(And he pretty much punted the third main proposal today, an Israel-Palestine solution, blaming "radicals" and the Palestinians' inability to form a government for the current situation.)

So, nothing's changing except we've added more trainers.

At current levels, another 1,000 US soldiers and 70,000 more Iraqis will die before the next US election.

Also: The word of the day is "prevail." Bush used it 12 times in the brief appearance with Blair.

Worst example: "I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail. Not only do I know how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail. I understand how hard it is to prevail. "

The other word was "succeed." (10 by Bush, 11 by Blair.)

(And, the very creepy joke. Bush: It's bad in Iraq. How's that? HaHaHaHaHaHa.)

The "repudiation" narrative

It was interesting to watch yesterday as the ISG's report was slowly digested through the 24 hour media how the narrative slowly changed. Immediately after the release, most of the discussion was on the top line proposals and whether the Bush administration would take them on.

But slowly throughout the day, the "repudiation" narrative grew, probably most epitomized by this 9PM AP article, Panel: Bush's Iraq policies have failed.
WASHINGTON - President Bush's war policies have failed in almost every regard, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group concluded Wednesday, and it warned of dwindling chances to change course before crisis turns to chaos....

Nearly four years, $400 billion and more than 2,900 U.S. deaths into a deeply unpopular war, violence is bad and getting worse, there is no guarantee of success and the consequences of failure are great, the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats said in a bleak accounting of U.S. and Iraqi shortcomings. The implications, they warned, are dire for terrorism, war in the Middle East and higher oil prices around the world.

The late announced visit by Tony Blair is accomplishing the White House's goal by, at the very least, forcing the Bush/Blair meeting into the headline space. They're trying to reset the news cycle away from "repudiation" and "failure." I'll be very curious to see how successful they are.

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqis remove clothes of victims from the site where a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus traveling through Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City. (AFP/Ali Aol Saadi)

Pakistani intelligence behind bombings?

I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but it caught my eye. If you like a mystery....
A Pakistani civilian intelligence agent accused of planting a bomb at the house of North West Frontier Province's chief minister has been handed to police....

According to the arresting policemen, the metal object recovered from the rubbish bin outside Frontier House was seven inches long, one inch thick and labelled "high explosive."

The detainee, later identified as agent Tufail, was taken to a nearby police station and charged under the explosives act.

But within an hour of being taken into custody, agent Tufail was released when Intelligence Bureau (IB) joint director Zafarullah Khan came and took him away, provincial police officials on duty said.

Mr Khan also removed the alleged explosive device and later tried to play down events in an interview with a local paper.

Political bits - Don't count on Specter

(McClatchy) Specter is joining the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to try and restore Habeus Corpus. But don't put too much faith that Specter will be there if it gets heated.

(A warning from the past, "In the past, Democrats have been frustrated by Specter, who they say raises their hopes with tough talk against the White House but dashes them with disappointing action. In April, Senate minority leader Harry Reid labeled Specter a "moderate Republican . . . whenever you don't need him." Gay marriage, NSA, NSA, Gonzales testimony, immunity for detainee treatment.)

(NYDaily News) "President Bush and some of the most vocal Capitol Hill backers of the Iraq war from both parties gathered yesterday for what an insider described as a group therapy session." (Lieberman, Harmon, McCain.)

(LATimes) A symbolic antiabortion measure "
that would have required women seeking abortions to be informed that some fetuses feel pain" failed in the House.

(AP) The EPA, supposedly tasked with protecting the environment, is considering dropping lead emissions standards.

And, if you didn't see it, two rightwingers have formed a "crisis management" group to help Republicans called in front of Congressional committees. Business looks to be booming.

Israel doesn't like being thrown under the Iraqi bus

I was wondering how long this was going to take.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that he disagreed with a U.S. advisory group's linkage of efforts to stabilize Iraq with new moves to end Israel's conflict with its neighbors.

I'm often not very happy with Israeli government actions, but I really can't blame them here. I think the ISG's analysis is right in the broad view (US/regional,) but if I were the Israeli government, I sure wouldn't like having my negotiating position undermined like this.

(Side Note. Because of the often passionate response around Israel, I was hesitant to publish this very innocuous post. I didn't really want to get sucked into the larger debate. Israel has become such a taboo subject in America.

But you know what, screw that. Self-censorship is just wrong. So here it is. )

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4

Armed militants drive through Ramadi, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006. It has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents. (AP Photo)

(A very rare picture from inside Ramadi.)

(And, I'll bet they're identical because they're ministry cars.)

US "systematically" underreporting violence in Iraq: ISG

Amidst all the debatable points, I didn't want this to get lost. The frequency of low level violence is, in fact, far worse than what is being reported.
U.S. military and intelligence officials have systematically underreported the violence in Iraq in order to suit the Bush administration's policy goals, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group said.....

The panel pointed to one day last July when U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. "Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence," it said.

"The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases." It said, for example, that a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack, and a roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count, either. Also, if the source of a sectarian attack is not determined, that assault is not added to the database of violence incidents.

By the fact that this reform is included as a recommendation, I would gather that the systematic underreporting continues to this day.


Does anyone have any idea why Santorum would be one of the only two "no" votes on Gates as Secretary of Defense? I mean Bunning is certifiably insane, but why did Santorum vote "no?"

(Later: Santorum voted "no" because he objected to Gates' previous statements espousing engagement with Iran.)

10 US soldiers died TODAY.

(Reuters) - Ten American soldiers have been killed in four incidents in Iraq on Wednesday, a U.S. military spokesman said.

(That makes at least 29 this month.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Residents look at a burnt minibus after a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr city, December 6, 2006. A suicide bomber blew himself up inside the minibus in Shi'ite Sadr city, killing three people and wounding 16, Interior Ministry sources said. REUTERS/Ali Jasim


(CNN) Pentagon employees can't replace the Rumsfeld photos fast enough. Not that there's any message there.

(CBS) "But this president may not be in much of a hurry to accept Baker's ideas about that — or much else. Asked if Baker would help implement the report, a spokesman for Mr. Bush said, "Jim Baker can go back to his day job."

(ThinkProgress) Gore goes on the Today show and urges the President "separate out the personal issues of being blamed in history for this mistake and instead recognize it’s not about him."

(Reuters) The UN pulled nonessential staff out of a town in Darfur where it looks that there may soon be an attack on the AU military post there.

Every administration figure I've seen speak today has reinforced the "unity behind the president" line that was pushed early this morning by the White House. They're not going to take on the recommendations, but are more than happy to use this report as a political bludgeon. Tony Snow even accused the first questioner (David Gregory) of partisanship.

And, I think we can all agree that today's announcement of Mary Cheney's pregnancy was very intentionally hidden beneath the ISG release. It would be talk show fodder on any other day.

ISG Questions

Just how is Condi Rice, already ineffectual and overwhelmed by Iran and North Korea, supposed to launch this major regional diplomatic mission without a Deputy since July, and soon to be without a Counselor or UN ambassador?

Her head's barely above water and we're expecting her to negotiate a regional middle east peace?

Also, with McCain's 20,000 more troops to Iraq DOA at the ISG (WaPo,) how does his Iraq position look going into '08? This panel of experts has summarily said that he was horribly wrong.

Iraqi troops to take over all of Iraq by mid-2007:US Army

(AP) "The U.S. military expects all of Iraq to be under the control of Iraqi forces by mid-2007, the top American military spokesman in the country said Tuesday."

(This was Maliki's primary request at the Bush meeting. "Let me, at least, appear independent.")

Picture of the Day - 2

So, it's Bush, not the country, who is hated...

(DEC 5, 2006) Former US president Bill Clinton greets the crowd as he walks the streets of Hanoi. Clinton was greeted by cheering crowds on an AIDS campaign stop in Vietnam, where he is fondly remembered as the first US leader to visit the communist nation.(AFP)

Early ISG spin from the White House

CNN has the first ISG leak. Perhaps the most interesting bit was this,
Sources said a major theme in the report by the group, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, is a blunt assessment that the mission in Iraq will fail unless the Bush administration and the newly elected Democratic Congress come together to deal with the declining support for the war within the United States.

However, I would point out that this CNN leak, coming almost immediately after the White House/ISG breakfast, would likely be the White House trying to put an early frame on the day's news.

How much would they like the today's debate to be "Iraq will fail if the Democrats won't work with the President?"

So, take this "leak" in its context.

Later: Bush's very brief statement after the meeting echoes the "Democrats must work with us" line.
While they (members of Congress) won't agree with every proposal -- and we probably won't agree with every proposal -- it, nevertheless, is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue.

The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington, and they understand that on this important issue of war and peace, it is best for our country to work together. And I understand how difficult that is, but this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country -- not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country.

Umm, Mr. Bush? That "bickering" you're trying to put to the side is your 59.5% average disapproval rating and your 60+% disapproval on Iraq.

Quote of the Day

The WaPo has an article about the Democrats' plans to institute a 5 day work week. Check out this quote from a Republican rep.,
"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

Amidst his complaining, did you notice that he really only worked one full day a week?

Suck on that religious right

Mary Cheney is pregnant. That's right, Richard Bruce Cheney's gay daughter, who is involved in a longterm monogamous lesbian relationship, is pregnant.

(By the way, congratulations to Mary and Heather. They must be ecstatic.)

Picture of the Day

(AP) Former President George H.W. Bush broke down in tears as he cited his son, Gov. Jeb Bush, as an example of leadership.....

"I'm the emotional one," Bush said later. "I don't enjoy breaking up, but when you talk about somebody you love, when you get older, you do it more."

(Funny he's talked about George Jr. quite a bit, and I don't remember so much as a misty eye.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Catch-22 - Iraq

If so many Iraqis want US troops to leave, and US troops don't leave, doesn't that pretty much cement that the US are occupiers?

And, if the US's sole reason for staying is to prop up a Maliki government, doesn't staying/occupying/training automatically create Maliki's government as a US puppet?

I guess the bottom line question is, isn't the US staying actually undermining the government we're supposedly trying to support?

Musharraf asks for a restart on Kashmir

After years of the militants attacking Indian controlled Kashmir with no real result, Musharraf's offer for both sides to step away to allow local governance would seem to me an effort to prise Kashmir into a less protected independent status.

The end result would seem to be the same militants attacking a much smaller less stable local government.

(Not feeling too bloggy today. Maybe tomorrow.)


(Newsweek) Jose Padilla's interrogation is on videotape. I wouldn't ever expect it to see the light of day (national security,) but how do you think seeing that tape would shift the American debate?

(BBC) "The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth....the poorer half of the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth."

(RollCall) Pelosi gives Hastert prime offices. Odd considering that he's no longer in the leadership. Maybe she's trying to set precedent for herself?

(Vanity Fair) A lenghty article on Foley implying that the leadership knew more than has been presented.

(Vanity Fair) The article about Neocons distancing themselves from the Iraq war that was excerpted so publicly before the election.

And, everybody's linking to Robert Gates' statement that we're not winning Iraq, but I found the little bit where he was criticizing the previous Defense Secretary for going around the "mainline intelligence analysts" pretty interesting, too.

The ex-CIA chief backhandedly blasting Rumsfeld for Feith and the Office of Special Plans constructing the intelligence that led us into Iraq? (If I get inspired later, I'll dig through the transcripts.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Sophy T. Haynes and her mother Sophy P. Q. Haynes mourn as the Army Honor guard folds the flag covering the casket of her brother Sgt. 1st Class Schuyler B. Haynes during his funeral service Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 in Menands, N.Y. Haynes died Nov. 15 in Baquba, Iraq, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Al Hakim's plan for Iraq

So, should I be surprised that the nominal militia leader, whose forces have deeply infiltrated the Iraqi police and completely controls the Interior Ministry, wants those same infiltrated police units and Interior Ministry to receive tons more heavy weapons and equipment and a freer hand?
In talks with US officials, Abdel Aziz Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), demanded his country be given the means to fight the Sunni rebels targeting his community and the US-backed government.

Iraq needs "American forces to remain in Iraq while transferring more authority to Iraqi officials and forces to enable them to deal with terrorism", the leading cleric said after talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.....

Iraqi government officials often complain that the security forces being trained and equipped by US forces are not receiving the right weapons to take on insurgent forces equipped with heavy arms such as rockets and mortars.

The Iraqi army is largely restricted to light weapons, such as assault rifles and machine-guns.

This is where SCIRI/BADR's longer term plans to infiltrate the state security apparatus will begin to pay off. Sadr's strength derives solely from his popularity with the people. SCIRI/BADR has created this second leg of sustained legitimacy.

(Al Hakim also said the US wasn't doing enough to "fight the insurgency." In other words, hit our Sunni enemies in the civil war harder.)

Another sectarian flash fire in Iraq

I don't know how big the town of Siniya is.
U.S. troops have sealed off an Iraqi town after militants forced its mayor and entire police force to resign, and residents said the Americans were preventing aid convoys from entering and people from leaving.....

Police in the neighbouring oil refining city of Baiji, 15 km (10 miles) east, said the entire council and police force quit on Wednesday after receiving leaflets threatening them with death unless they resigned.

A day later, militants had destroyed the police station, cut off communications and were now in effective control of the town, they said. Reuters could not contact anyone in Siniya, 80 km north of Samarra.

Iran outlines its plan for the region

Iran's Foreign Minister Larijani told a conference in Dubai,
"The security and stability of the region needs to be attained and we should do it inside the region, not through bringing in foreign forces...."

"We don't accept the relationship between the U.S. and the countries of the region," Larijani said. "If you talk to Arab leaders here, you can sense that they aren't happy with the current situation. They feel the Americans are bullies. They don't want the U.S. ambassador ordering them around."

Certainly, the Sunni governments in the region would not be happy with this Iran tilting shift in regional forces, the Saudis have said as much in their statements about US forces in Iraq, but, I'm curious whether this Larijani statement was aimed more at the people of the region than their governments.

For instance, the Saudi government wants the US to stay in Iraq to prevent it becoming an Iranian client, but I wonder whether the increasingly anti-American Arab street feels the same way.

Are these statements aimed at creating pressure on the Sunni governments of the region?

A breaking Army

After all the discussion of repair/replacement costs, I'm not all that surprised by the jawdropping number. In Iraq, "An estimated $17 billion-plus worth of military equipment is destroyed or worn out each year."

It was two other bits in this WaPo frontpager that caught my eye.

"The Army and Marine Corps have sunk more than 40 percent of their ground combat equipment into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," (and)

"For example, a brigade of 3,800 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division that will deploy to Iraq next month has been passing around a single training set of 44 Humvees, none of which has the added armor of the Humvees they will drive in Iraq."

Picture of the Day

"You're not really gonna run are you? It'll make me look old and I've spent the last 9 months positioning against Clinton."

(Obama has fired a Clinton warning shot meeting with Soros and other big Dem donors on Clinton's home turf Monday night.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mars, Bitches!

With the report that NASA is going to try establish an international "base camp" on the moon against all the other bad things going on, I can't help but think back to Dave Chapelle's "Black Bush" sketch. It's years old, but it's still funny as hell.

If you've never seen it, look here. "M-A-R-S, Mars, Bitches!"

(By the way, unmanned space program, good investment. Manned exploration, a waste of money.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, of the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., stands for the National Anthem Monday, in this Oct. 31, 2005 file photo, during a welcome home ceremony for the unit at the Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The 23-year-old sergeant became the first female soldier to receive the Silver Star the nation's third-highest medal for valor since World War II for her actions is assisting a convoy that was ambushed on March 20 in Iraq.

(AP Photo/Brian Bohannon)

$350 billion for what?

The war in Iraq has now cost $350 billion. Even in a best case scenario when adding in repair/replacement, we're not going to get out of there for less that $500 billion. (***and that's leaving out longterm healthcare.)

For some reason reading this article this morning, I harkened back to a post I wrote almost a year ago focusing on overall defense spending, but looking at the $350 billion Iraq pricetag, I think it applies there, too.
Just for examples' sake, let's cut my numbers above significantly and put together a mix of doctors and teachers. Let's say that the US made a worldwide commitment to send 50,000 American doctors abroad, and trained another 100,000 local doctors(figuring half the cost of US personnel.) And let's pick a random number of 125,000 US teachers with another 250,000 local teachers trained.

For $37.5 billion, about 7.5% of current military spending, our country could transform the world increasing world health substantially and also increasing the futures of hundreds of millions of children. The US, I would argue, would end up far more secure deploying 150,000 doctors and a 375,000 teachers around the world than we would be spending that 7.5% on a couple of weapons programs.

Seriously, forget about all the other cost/benefit around Iraq, if the US had dropped 150,000 doctors and 375,000 teachers throughout the Muslim world, wouldn't we be safer today?

Wouldn't the Arab middle have long ago seen America differently?

And, that's for about 1/4 of what Iraq has cost us so far each year.

Bush meets with terrorist

As Bush meets with Al Hakim today, I am simply astonished at the downplaying of the fact that Al Hakim is, at the very least, nominally in charge of the 25,000 strong, Iranian trained and supplied, Badr Corps, SCIRI's militia.

The accounts of militia infiltration of the Iraqi police, most of the killings in police uniform, and almost all the atrocities committed under the Interior Ministry are directly tied to Badr. Badr has engaged in hostilities against US troops.

Certainly, the goal of this meeting is to try to counterbalance Sadr, which frankly is part of the right course, but the near total blindspot to Al Hakim's ties to militia violence in the media is truly astounding.

(Bolton's headline stealing resignation couldn't have come on a better day, eh?)

Picture of the Day

Iraqis mourn over the coffin of a relative outside the morgue of a hospital in the restive city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim is to make an unprecedented call on US President George W. Bush amid reports Washington is to adjust its strategy in Iraq to counter mounting Iranian influence.(AFP/Ali Yussef)


The Nation has an article written by Major Bill Edmonds, a US Special Forces soldier who spent a year working with local Iraqi forces. I found it compelling.

Everybody but Bush sees it

You would think that Iraq's neighbors probably have the best contacts and sense of what's really going on, so their "panic" should be viewed quite seriously.
WASHINGTON — President Bush and his top advisors fanned out across the troubled Middle East over the last week to showcase their diplomatic initiatives to restore strained relationships with traditional allies and forge new ones with leaders in Iraq.

But instead of flaunting stronger ties and steadfast American influence, the president's journey found friends both old and new near a state of panic. Mideast leaders expressed soaring concern over upheavals across the region that the United States helped ignite through its invasion of Iraq and push for democracy — and fear that the Bush administration may make things worse.

Bolton to resign

And the diplomats of the world danced.
WASHINGTON - President Bush has accepted the resignation of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton when his recess appointment expires.

(The White House talking point is that Bolton was blocked by a Democratic filibuster, not mentioning the fact that it is/was Lincoln Chafee's key vote that blocked Bolton.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The "US backed" government

Has anyone else noticed that the Lebanese government is increasingly being referred to in media reports as the "US backed government?"

That's quite a different presentation.

Picture of the Day - 2

U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Mary Prophit poses at her home in Glenoma, Wash., Oct. 18, 2006 next to a video image on her computer made during her tour of duty in Iraq that shows her providing rifle cover near a mosque where a small truck that was hit by a roadside bomb burns, right. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The end result

From an article on the likely coming Iran/Saudi proxy fight in Iraq,
In Teheran, Iranian leaders have made clear that they believe they are the big winners from America's involvement in Iraq. "The kind of service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us — no superpower has ever done anything similar," Mohsen Rezai, secretary-general of the powerful Expediency Council that advises the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, boasted on state television recently.

"America destroyed all our enemies in the region. It destroyed the Taliban. It destroyed Saddam Hussein… The Americans got so stuck in the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan that if they manage to drag themselves back to Washington in one piece, they should thank God. America presents us with an opportunity rather than a threat — not because it intended to, but because it miscalculated. They made many mistakes".

Iran also watched with pleasure as America, Britain, France and Germany failed to persuade Russia and China to sign up to a package of sanctions against Iran in a draft United Nations Security Council resolution. The West wanted to punish Tehran for pushing ahead with banned uranium enrichment for its nuclear programme. The US is now drawing up plans for a diplomatic "coalition of the willing" to pursue sanctions outside UN auspices.

Into the black.....

There have been reports of this in the past, but it still affects me.
EVERYONE seems to be desperate for money to cope with the insecurities of life in Baghdad these days, so Dr Salim Jawad was not surprised when a hospital porter took him to one side and asked whether he would be interested in making some cash.

Jawad, a busy surgeon and a Sunni, thought he was going to be urged to smuggle drugs out of the building so that they could be sold on the street. But the brutal proposition from the porter Ali, a Shi’ite from the Sadr City suburb of the capital, was far more shocking.

For every patient the doctor identified from the predominantly Sunni provinces of Diyala and Anbar and from the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, he was told, he would be paid $300 (£151).

Jawad realised that he was being invited to pass death sentences on patients at the Medical City hospital in return for swift and surreptitious payments.

"Inkblots," "superbases," and the intractible failure in Iraq

Back in May, I ran across a very interesting William Lind piece discussing a change of US tactics in Iraq. (article link is dead, sorry.)

At the time, the US was abandoning the "inkblot" strategy of daily patrols and localized counterinsurgency activities and was pulling back into "superbases" to undertake a more "reaction force" role. (In this post, I briefly describe the two strategies.)

In late July, in the face of what we then thought was unimaginable violence, the superbase strategy was abandoned for a return to a slightly newer more focused version of the "inkblot" approach which eventually turned into Operation Forward Together (which has since failed, and now we're talking again about withdrawing back to superbases and border protection.)

We're down to repeating strategies that haven't worked before. In the last year, we've gone from inkblots to superbases to inkblots, and now, back to superbases, and each time the violence has only gotten worse.

I'm just saying, the Baker commission, partial withdrawal, what seems to be the current administration plan..... You can march the troops up and down the hill as much as you want, but the flaw is more fundamental than the tactics.

And on training those Iraqi troops, the WaPo has a pretty hopeless piece on an American trainer's experience with one of the better Iraqi units.

Picture of the Day

This undated family photo released by the Dunham family shows Cpl. Jason Dunham, 22, who died in 2004, after throwing himself on a grenade. President Bush said Nov. 10, 2006 that Dunham of Scio, N.Y. would receive the Medal of Honor, becoming the second person to be decorated with the award for service in Iraq and the first Marine since the Vietnam War. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Dunham family)

Is Bush the worst President? The WaPo debates

With Bush's approval mired in the 30's, I guess this isn't too surprising, but how do you think the Bush administration feels about the WaPo turning over its B01 Outlook frontpage to historians discussing whether Bush is the worst president ever?

Move over Hoover - Douglas Brinkley

He's only the fifth worst - Michael Lind

He's the worst ever - Michael Foner

Time's on his side - Vincent Cannato

(There's even a Monday online chat.)

I find this particularly sharp because of Bush's increasing reliance on the perspective of "future historians" to defend his failures.

(As Washington sits down with its paper, will this question penetrate onto the morning shows?)

Negroponte turns down Rice, again

The WaPo has an article that Negroponte intends to stay in his current job. It only makes a passing mention that the reason this is a story is that he, too, has turned down Condi Rice.

The surprising fact is that nobody wants to take Deputy Secretary of State job under Condi Rice which has been vacant since July. This is unbelievable because Deputy Secretary of State is a plum job for rolodex building and future private sector employment.

That job is a career maker potentially worth millions. So why does no one want to take it?