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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 23, 2006


The Mahdi is simmering and waiting to explode.

On Friday, checkpoints were set up outside mosques in Samawa as the police and other security forces tried to find militiamen. The effort caused tensions that soon escalated from fistfights to brawls and finally exchanges of gunfire, according to the authorities and witnesses.

When a leading supporter of Mr. Sadr, Sayed Muhammad Khaqani, was wounded, the situation deteriorated further. At least 13 supporters of Mr. Sadr were killed, the head of the Sadr organization in Samawa said. At least five policemen were killed and three others wounded, an Iraqi official said.

On Friday night, a curfew was imposed in Samawa but was widely ignored. On Saturday, the Mahdi Army appeared to be in control of the northern half of the city.

Go visit the Right's acid dream

I don't know if this is real, but if it is, this is how I imagine the crazy right's bad trip looks.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Bigger if you click it. Recommended.)

President George W. Bush shares a moment with U.S. Army Cpl. Shane Parsons after presenting him with a Purple Heart Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where the Fostoria, Ohio, soldier is recovering from injuries received in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (White House supplied photo by Eric Draper.)

The battle lines of the Iraqi civil war

Reading this NYTimes article on the Shia's "remaking" of Baghdad, (perhaps the most polite euphemism for ethnic cleansing ever used,) I got to thinking back to a Patrick Cockburn article from October as to how the battle lines in Iraq are being drawn.

Cockburn's contention at that point was that the Sunni efforts were not to try to take territory in Baghdad, but instead to work to control the countryside around the city with the intention of controlling the roads and traffic as well as electricity in and out of the capitol.

This scenario does explain the outsized efforts of the Sunni in the smaller towns and cities around Baghdad, Balad, Baquba, Mahmoudiya, and really, if you think about it, it would fit into a broader strategy.

The periodic Sunni terror bombings occupy significant numbers of the Shia militias into checkpoints and defensive duties, and, as the militias draw their popularity from their "protective" abilities, they find themselves tied to this role, all at a relatively small cost to the Sunnis.

Again, I don't know if this Cockburn interpretation right, but I think it may be, and it's an interesting counterthesis to the way the conflict is being portrayed in most of the western press.

The surge is on, or is it?

Suddenly, the troop "surge" is approved by commanders in the field. Odierno's not a surprise, but Casey is after his previous reluctance. The Joint Chiefs and the soon to be retired Abizaid are still not on this "approval" list.

I wonder what sort of bargain Gates struck with Casey to change his mind. (Did he promise him Abizaid's Centcom job?)
Top U.S. military commanders in Iraq have decided to recommend a "surge" of fresh American combat forces, eliminating one of the last remaining hurdles to proposals being considered by President Bush for a troop increase, a defense official familiar with the plan said Friday.

The approval of a troop increase plan by top Iraq commanders, including Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, comes days before Bush unveils a new course for the troubled U.S. involvement in Iraq. Bush still must address concerns among some Pentagon officials and overcome opposition from Congress, where many Democrats favor a blue-ribbon commission's recommendation for the gradual withdrawal of combat troops.

Second point: Further on, this article indirectly ties the "surge" to the political efforts to "marginalize" Sadr. All indications are that Maliki and the other constituents of the Shia block are not going to let that happen. So does the US go after Sadr and ignite a Shia insurgency? Does it try to simply multiply the current tactics?

The Joint Chiefs main objection is that this "surge" must have a mission for those extra troops, a military purpose, but, maybe, this whole surge conversation predicated on pressurizing Iraqi politics? Maybe the discussion has a political purpose.

That would grant alot more subtlety to this administration than their past record would recommend, but I just want to introduce the idea.

(Oh, and if the purpose was to reinforce the moderates and marginalize Sadr, it appears not to have worked.)

(Thanks to Reality Based Educator for the article pointer.)


(AP) The UN Security Council has scheduled a vote on Iran today.

(Reuters) In response, the Iranian Parliament Speaker said "parliament will reconsider the nature of its relationship with the IAEA." (Notice this threat is not from Ahmadinejad.)

(AP) Sudan has grudgingly accepted UN peacekeepers, however any deployment will likely be only 10,000 or so. ((BBC) Right now, it looks like western logictical support on top of the current AU presence.) (WaPo talks about the US imposition of a no fly zone.)

(AFP) Somali Islamists appear to have broken through a major Ethiopian position south of Baidoa.

(Reuters) The US claims to have killed the Taleban's Kandahar regional leader Osmani.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Picture of the Day - 4

Holiday posting

I will be posting through the holidays, probably irregularly, at least a couple times a day. If there's no driving news, I'll probably just post pictures.

So if you do come by, I'll try to have something new.

Merry, Merry to those that do, and to those that don't, enjoy your long weekend.

(And, let's all hope there's no news, eh?)

Picture of the Day - 3

(And all KBR's third world low wage contract employees.)

Quiet day reading - Tensions with Iran

Laura Rozen has a piece in Prospect where she describes the rising US-Iran tensions.
Interviews with U.S. officials and knowledgeable Iran watchers indicate the stepped up measures are meant for now as a message to Iran to step back from an alleged up-tick in its recent efforts to destabilize Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, and to prevent Iran from taking retaliatory actions against the anticipated sanctions like, for instance, closing off the Straits of Hormuz....

A U.S. official indicated that one reason for the perceived need to demonstrate a show of force towards Iran now is to counter the perception in the region, generated in part from coverage of the Iraq Study Group report, that the Bush administration was coming under increased domestic pressure to offer concessions to Iran and Syria. “People in the region read the ISG report and thought the Americans are surrendering,” this official said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” ....

In the same area, but in specific, the US is training Fatah for its civil war against Hamas. (SFChronicle)
Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth after news of the training sessions leaked out that since Iran is helping arm and fund Hamas political and military activities, the United States wants to prevent "moderate forces" in the Palestinian territories from being eliminated.

So, the US/Iran proxy battlefield has now spread to Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, and right now the US has a loss and two draws.

Picture of the Day - 2

(I try really hard not to use pictures more than once, but for Christmas I may reuse a few from last year.)


(BBC) Condi Rice: Iraq is "worth it" in the investment of lives and dollars "because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilising factor, you will have a very different kind of Middle East."

(Reuters) "The U.S. military reported the deaths of four more soldiers....." (Now it's 5 - AP.)

(Reuters) U.S. to maintain long presence in Gulf region: Gates

(Stars and Stripes) New guidelines allow troops with traumatic stress disorders to redeploy

(WashTimes) "Some 20 percent to 25 percent of the leadership of Iraqi national police units may need to be replaced because of their militia ties and activities, a top U.S. official said Tuesday."

AND, the US (Hadley memo) plan to undermine Sadr by building a new cross sectarian governing alliance is foundering.

(NYTimes) Iraqi Factions Try to Undercut a Plan to Isolate Extremists.

It seems the US keeps making the same mistake of underestimating the political talent/guile of the Iraqis, treating them like children or objects in a table top excercise.

Politics is bloodsport in Iraq where mistakes mean death. These aren't amateurs we're dealing with.

(AFP) "According to our information, there were 250 political murders last week, including five tribal sheikhs who came to last week's reconciliation conference ... there are 200 armed groups, each with their own agenda," Ambassador Mukhtar Lamani, the Arab League representative in Baghdad.

Picture of the Day - 2

Coffins of Iraqis killed in a suicide attack are loaded in the trunk of an Iraqi police vehicle outside a hospital in Baghdad. Radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement is in talks to rejoin Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, in an apparent defeat for US attempts to sideline him.(AFP/Wissam Al Okaili)

Is America ready for a black president?

I don't know. I really think the vast majority of America is ready. However, from the media's extremely clumsy efforts thus far to discuss Obama's race, I wonder if the media is grown up enough to give a black candidate a fair shake.

Even if the media are open to the idea, an awkwardness in their coverage will convert into image problems for the candidate.

(And, while I'm in the area, Republicans discussing religion is principle and closely held belief. Democrats discussing religion is "spin?")

It's not Christmas everywhere

(Reuters) "Ethiopian tanks rolled to the battlefront on Friday as Somali Islamists and Somalia's pro-government troops pounded each other with artillery and rockets in a fourth day of clashes edging closer to all-out war...."Our troops have not started to attack. From tomorrow the attack will start," Islamist deputy spokesman Ibrahim Shukri told a news conference."

(AP) "A fierce gunbattle broke out between Hamas and Fatah militants in Gaza City early Friday, underscoring the fragility of a two-day old truce that had largely ended factional violence there."

(AP) N. Korea nuke talks end without deal

The Russians and their oil

Russia's efforts to reclaim control of their oil should be noticed.

(AFP) "Moscow has savoured victory after state giant Gazprom ousted Royal Dutch Shell from control of the Sakhalin-2 energy project, ending a struggle highlighting changing rules in Russia's bare-knuckle business environment."

(Telegraph) After Shell, Russia now turns on BP

(Related: The NYTimes reports on a previously withheld Interior Dept study that those huge oil company tax breaks passed in the Bush energy bill, are having very little of the desired development effect, but are instead just tens of billions of dollars in giveaways.

You're surprised, aren't you?)

US confirms regime change in Syria

Another gamble.
The US government confirmed Thursday morning a Time magazine report that it was working to secretly strengthen factions opposing the Assad regime in Syria.

"A comprehensive test of the military draft machinery"

This is only a test. In the event of a real draft....
The Selective Service System is planning a comprehensive test of the military draft machinery, which hasn't been run since 1998.

The agency is not gearing up for a draft, an agency official said Thursday. The test itself would not likely occur until 2009.

Meanwhile, the secretary for Veterans Affairs said that "society would benefit" if the U.S. were to bring back the draft and that it shouldn't have any loopholes for anyone who is called to serve. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson later issued a statement saying he does not support reinstituting a draft.

How fast do you think Jim Nicholson got the call to retract his comments?

Picture of the Day

A Palestinian youth uses a sling-shot to hurl stones at Israeli troops, not seen, during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bilin, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, Friday Dec. 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Surge or Escalation and the Shia response

There's a decent argument at TPM making the point that the Iraq strategy under discussion is not so much a surge, but an escalation against the Shia militias likely to trigger a Shia insurgency.

But, I think it's critical to add that the Iraqi Shia themselves see this, and are taking steps to circumvent US efforts to go after Sadr.

Maliki has made a US surge conditional on the idea that it only goes after the Sunnis and that he alone is allowed to deal with the militias. (Legally, Maliki could block a surge, however I don't know if he would be honored.)

Second, this morning's report that Sadr's group will likely self impose a ceasefire until after Bush announces his "new way forward" making a direct assault on Mahdi much less politically viable.

The Shia want the US to fight their side of the civil war by degrading the Sunnis while leaving the Shia militia apparatus untouched. If the US does choose to go after Sadr, it will also be taking on the other Shia groups and the Iraqi government, and that would definitely be an escalation, not a surge.

Sooner or later, there will be a real wolf

After all the political abuse of the terror warning system, like so many other Americans, I'm numb. So, is this a real wolf?
British intelligence and law enforcement officials have passed on a grim assessment to their U.S. counterparts, "It will be a miracle if there isn't a terror attack over the holidays in London," a senior American law enforcement official tells ABCNews.com.

Generally, I believe "you don't hear the one that gets you."

Just how much of a show was Gates' meeting with the soldiers?

I don't know the mechanism for reporting Gates' meeting with soldiers today which just happened to support the administration's "surge" position, but I'm highly skeptical.

First, all the articles use the exact same quotations (AP, Reuters, NYTimes) which suggests they all source the same primary article or press release. (Later: Here it is from the DoD.)

Second, the only photos are being released by the DoD which suggests there weren't news photographers or reporters there.

Third, if you look at the photos, the are no reporters in sight.

Fourth, we don't know the process by which these "average" GIs were selected to sit down with the Defense Secretary.

So, what we've got is the Secretary of Defense, meeting with handpicked soldiers, with the only first hand account of what was said coming from the military news service which is employed by the Secretary of Defense.

(NYTimes) Gates, in Iraq, Hears Support for More Troops
(AP) Troops to Gates: Extra forces would help
(Reuters) U.S. soldiers in Iraq urge Gates to send more troops

I have no doubt that there are a ton of soldiers who believe this, but my point is that the press should not reprint this raw propaganda without noting its provenance.

(Second point, if Gates is willing to conduct this pro-"surge" photo op, his contention that he is beyond politics is utter bullcrap.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Remember this propganda trainwreck? I think this is how genuine Gates' meeting was today.

Bush's "army increase" a bribe?

NBCNews had an exchange where Jim Miklaszewski reported that the Bush request for a larger army was inteded as a bribe to the Pentagon top seek an endorsement for the "surge."

Also: The story of the Iraqi ex-minister who escaped is getting stranger and stranger. He's an Iraqi American expat from Chicago who supported the invasion, was appointed by Bremer, and has donated to the Republican party.

I don't think his political donations are in and of themselves incriminating, but this guy is sounding more and more like a Chalabi style opportunist.

Picture of the Day - 2

Sadr considering cease fire

This is a major part of the Maliki plan iterated yesterday.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads a militia feared by Iraq's Sunnis, is considering a one-month unilateral cease-fire and may push his followers to rejoin the political process after a three-week boycott, officials close to him said.

Maliki's plan appears to be to get Sadr to go quiet until the US "surge" has begun. The idea seems to be to get the US pointed solely at the Sunnis, leaving a "quiet" Mahdi fully intact and available for future activities.

This ceasefire is in both Sadr and the broader Shia movement's interests as they're trying to cajole the US into doing their fighting in the civil war.

(If all the "surge" talk was just to generate this ceasefire, hats off, but I don't think that's the case.)

Also, the WaPo has an article on the Hakim/Sadr Shia split painting Hakim as a political creature, and Sadr drawing his support from the slums and streets. It also asks the question about the big gamble of the Hadley strategy.
They question whether Hakim can counter Sadr's growing street power without worsening the chaos. As President Bush ponders limited alternatives in forging a new approach in Iraq, some wonder whether the United States is overestimating Hakim's ability......

Hakim, he said, made a fatal mistake by meeting Bush. In today's Iraq, credibility and power are measured by opposition to the United States.

President everything

Lost amidst all the Iraq talk at the Bush press conference yesterday was the effort through his "agenda setting" section, to pre-claim alot of the likely Democratic issues. Earmark reform, job training and education, energy independence, minimum wage, and immigration.

He listed them during the prepared section, then repeated them in the last answer just to make sure it gets out there.

I mean, really.... He's now for a minimum wage increase after six years?

Shell pulls families out of Nigeria

I haven't written much about Nigeria, but the violence has been getting more substantial over the past year. It's hit another threshold.
The largest oil operator in Nigeria, Royal Dutch Shell, evacuated expatriate staff dependants from the Niger Delta on Thursday after militants planted a car bomb in a residential compound, the company said.


(Reuters) Bush's signing statement on the India nuclear deal raises Congress concerns.

(AFP) Sen. Pat Leahy is going use the rendition of innocent Canadian Maher Arar to dig into the larger issue.

(WaPo) The US threatens the Sudanese over Darfur. ("Move along to our own strategic process"?)

(WaPo) The new Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, seems to be a pro-western fixer.

Picture of the Day

Marine Corporal Jesse Hassell grieves next to the casket containing the remains of Marine Lance Corporal Brent E. Beeler following Beeler's funeral in Napoleon, Michigan December 19, 2006. Beeler was killed in combat near Fallujah, Iraq. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

History is gaining on you, Reagan officials

The NYTimes reports on the first 25-year automatic declassifications which happen on Dec. 31. Certainly, alot will be protected, but circumstantial evidence and lower level reports will reveal alot of new detail.

So many current administration officials were also in Reagan I. Think Elliot Abrams is holding his breath? The Central American dirty wars started in '81 and Abrams was already in conflict with Amnesty and Human Rights Watch by '82.

(Just as an update, Mr. Abrams is now in charge of "democracy promotion" on the NSC and is currently involved in funding groups hoping to unseat the current Syrian government.)

Maliki is still protecting Sadr

Maliki (remember him?) has a few conditions for the "surge."
Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has created a two-pronged security plan for Baghdad in which U.S. forces would aggressively target Sunni Arab insurgents instead of Shiite militias. At the same time, Maliki would intensify his efforts to weaken Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and contain his Mahdi Army militia, Iraqi officials said Tuesday.

Under these conditions, Maliki would accept a surge in U.S. troops in Baghdad, according to two Maliki advisers with knowledge of the plan.

So, Maliki's condition to allow the surge is that the US forces must fight exclusively on the Shia side of the civil war while he talks Sadr into pulling back, leaving the Mahdi's apparatus intact.

(And, all indications are that the promised Maliki "cabinet reshuffle" will be toothless including only the heads of Health, Transportation, Culture, Women's Affairs and Tourism.)

Picture of the Day - 4

Iraqi soldiers bit the heads off frogs and ate the heart of a rabbit as signs of courage on Wednesday at a ceremony to transfer Najaf province, home to one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines, from U.S. to Iraqi control.

(photo: Ali Abu Shish/Reuters)

Maybe there's more to Abizaid's retirement?

There have been rumors running around that with Gates coiming in, there might be a shift in some of the top military positions,
A shuffle of top American generals in Iraq is likely to accompany the shift in U.S. policy that President Bush is considering.

Abizaid leaves in March, Casey in January per this story. Rumors in the WaPo a week ago that Gates may force Pace out. Chiarelli being replaced in the number 2 Iraq spot by the "more aggressive" Odierno.

It's almost like all the active generals who are speaking out against a "surge" are all leaving/being replaced.

Funny coincidence that.

Picture of the Day - 3

Feel free to make the usual comments, but I want to point out that it appears Bush is wearing his bullet proof vest in a closed press conference in an executive branch office building.

(President George W. Bush holds his traditional year-end news conference in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House complex in Washington December 20, 2006. (credits: Reuters/Larry Downing, AP/Ron Edmonds.))

"I encourage you all to go shopping more"

Bush just said that in the prepared remarks before his press conference. Not be happy. Not love your family.

"I encourage you all to go shopping more."

It's the least you can do for your country.

Blame in Iraq. Failure in Iraq.

Does anyone else appreciate how this reflects on the hopelessness of the Iraq situation?

The politicians are proposing a military solution in Iraq, while the military is proposing a political solution.

Picture of the Day - 2

Openly in the streets of Ramadi.

A militant armed with a rocket launcher patrols central Ramadi, a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006. (AP Photo)

The press war between the military and the White House

There is a real battle going on in the press over Bush's intention to surge troops to Iraq.

Yesterday morning in the top story in the WaPo, the Joint Chiefs let it be very publicly known that they were against the idea of a surge. One of their main complaints is that it would hasten the breaking of the force.

By midafternooon, the White House had responded, by making public that Bush has asked Robert Gates about expanding the Army. (Meaningless to the idea of an immediate surge, but politically, it undermines the "broken army" argument.)

Today, in the NYTimes, Abizaid gets himself a flattering article, countering, in the reporter's analysis not his words, that his objections rest on a broader regional argument, that a surge would undermine the greater war on terror.

We live in a very different political/media world than they did, even in Vietnam, but I would say this very public press driven argument is unprecedented. Occasionally in the past, you might see an ex-general speak for the military, like Colin Powell did this weekend, but an open argument in the press with active generals going on the record against a president's plan?

It's not "a general's revolt" in the traditional sense, but instead, we are seeing a totally new "media war" for the opinion for the American people.

(Perhaps this is happening because of the gap between Rumsfeld and Gates. This time represents the only space where the uniformed military can speak without a Secretary drowning them out.)


So much today, right before Christmas.

(LATimes) Abizaid to leave his post in March.

(Time) The Bush administration is trying to topple Syria. (That will gain alot of cooperation, eh?)

(WaPo) "U.S. soldiers serving repeated Iraq deployments are 50 percent more likely than those with one tour to suffer from acute combat stress, raising their risk of post-traumatic stress disorder."

(NYTimes) Military Role in U.S. Embassies Creates Strains, Report Says

(AP) Rumsfeld resisted increasing the size of the military.

Rumsfeld, Kagan said, "saw soldiers as detracting from the transformation program he wanted the military to go through."

Heavy fighting in Somalia, Darfur

The fighting in Somalia has finally gone hot between the Islamists and the Ethiopian forces defending the Somali government's last redoubt, Baidoa. (Reuters, BBC, AFP)

Described as "heavy fighting," rockets, mortars, small arms fire, it is said that the Ethiopian troops are waiting for reinforcement.

Also, the militias in Darfur have attacked aid workers' compounds in Gereida forcing them to evacuate. This has been a consistent pattern among the militias there to drive out international observers in an area before the killings, massacres, and rapes begin.

(And, a very interesting WaPo article on the Ethiopian politics of this war. Ethiopia needs this war to distract its people and maintain US funding and support.)

The new boss comes to town

I had this job where I had a number of out of town big bosses, and evertime someone new would take over one of those jobs, their first move was to travel out to survey all the territories.

Standard practice was to stage some large sale or other fantastic event when the new boss came through for the first time.

I don't know why I got to thinking about that.

New Pentagon boss Gates visits Baghdad

U.S. forces say seize a top al Qaeda leader in Iraq

(Back to back Reuters headlines.
Same on the AP.)

Picture of the Day

Iraqi police load bodies of Shi'ites killed by gunmen into a truck in front of Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital December 10, 2006. Gunmen stormed into the homes of two Shi'ite families in a predominantly Sunni Arab district of Baghdad on Sunday, killing nine people, police said. (Ali Jasim/Reuters)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Maliki not in on the new coalition?

The Hadley memo, presumably reflective of current US policy, proposed recrafting the Iraqi governing coalition away from Shia sectarian lines by trying to include one major "moderate" Sunni party with the intention of cutting Sadr out of Maliki's ruling block.

But here's what's really weird. Maliki's own party, Dawa, and its leader Allawi, are skeptical and not participating.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and his Shiite party, Islamic Dawa, are hesitant about signing on to the coalition. Dawa members say they are concerned that rival Shiite parties are trying to oust Mr. Maliki. They also suspect the Sunni Arabs’ real goal is to erode Shiite power.

“I think it’s a leap into the unknown,” said Sami al-Askari, a Shiite legislator who advises Mr. Maliki. “The negative things are clear, but no one can explain exactly what the positive things are.”

So, I guess the questions are, does Maliki have enough power to scrub this effort? What are the prospects if he doesn't sign on? Will Maliki turn Mahdi loose to torpedo this deal? If it does break down, will there be any credibility in the next cross sectarian proposal?

And, will Maliki, in fact, be ousted by SCIRI?

The Bush administration is taking gambles right now, and the downside is pretty big.

Bin Laden in sights: "There was a hesitation in command."

I don't know the credibility of this. It could be crackpot.
(Reuters) A documentary says French special forces had Osama bin Laden in their sights twice about three years ago but their U.S. superiors never ordered them to fire.

The French military, however, said that the incidents never happened and the report was "erroneous information."

The documentary, due to air next year and seen by Reuters on Tuesday, says the troops could have killed the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan but the order to shoot never came, possibly because it took too long to request it. ".....

Razavi said the soldier told them it took roughly two hours for the request to reach the U.S. officers who could authorize it but the anonymous man is also quoted in the documentary as saying: "There was a hesitation in command.".....

Afghans questioned in the documentary said they believed the United States was not interested in finding bin Laden, despite the $25 million price Washington has placed on his head.

The documentary stopped short of that conclusion but raised questions about the U.S. hunt for bin Laden, such as whether Washington is more concerned about preserving stability in Pakistan, where many support bin Laden, than in finding him.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi man hangs an anti-American sign near the U.S. military post in Al Fallujah. (May, 2006?)

How crazy are they?

With the news of a second aircraft carrier group possibly being deployed to the Persian Gulf, should we reconsider the "surge" as some sort of precursor to action on Iran?

My gut says no, but I think this was leaked specifically to create that impression.

This deployment leak is merely posturing designed to cow Iran before the "surge," because this "surge" is a huge gamble of overextension.

However, having not seen the idea elsewhere that the extra US troops are being sent to Iraq to brace for an Iranian response after a US bombing campaign, I thought I should introduce it.

I don't think it's true, but it needs to be out there.

(On the other hand, according to CNN, the AEI “has the president’s ear and is influencing his thinking.” The AEI is advocating an 18-24 month escalation of at least 30,000 more troops, and has advocated action on Iran for quite awhile.)

Sometimes the news cycle forgets.

As I'm watch the daily coverage of climbers stranded on a mountain, I find myself wondering why the media has forgotten about Ahmed al-Taayie, the US soldier who was captured in Iraq almost two months ago.
The Pentagon confirmed today that a Michigan soldier missing in Iraq since late October probably was captured by the enemy.....

It's believed that an anti-American Shiite militia snatched him off the street while he was visiting his Iraqi wife in Baghdad on October 23rd.

The last surge in Iraq - Forward Together

As the debate swirls around a troop "surge," the Pentagon finally releases its report on the number of attacks in Iraq since August.

Critically, August was more or less the start date for the last "surge" into Baghdad, Operation Forward Together, which quite obviously failed.

So, with the Pentagon objecting to the administration's idea for a new "surge," is the Pentagon releasing these statistics now, after holding them three months, to make that point?

(Again, the collection method seriously underreports the violence.)

Picture of the Day

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signs a Baghdad road sign at the request of a US soldier April 30, 2003 during his visit to US troops at Baghdad's international airport. Rumsfeld paid a flying visit to Baghdad on Wednesday, 40 days after Washington went to war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. REUTERS/Pool/Luke Frazza

You don't hear "commanders on the ground" much anymore

Front page, so you saw it, but I thought it deserved highlight.
The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

There's alot in this article. Read it deep.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pictures of the Day - Google

Just out of curiousity, I Googled "Picture of the Day" and this site.

They're in no real order, and the first several aren't really the best, but if you're curious for a browse, here it is.

Depending on your mood, you might prefer the subset Bush, (not all Bush,) or maybe Iraq.

(They tend to be weighted by date, so skip in 20 or 40 pages.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Giuliani, Tuesday Nov. 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

WAPO frontpager today on Giuliani: "If the Republican Party wants to send the social conservatives home for good, all they have to do is nominate Rudy Giuliani," said Rick Scarborough, a Southern Baptist minister and president of Vision America. "It's an insult to the pro-Christian agenda. . . . He's going to spend a lot of money finding he can't get out of the Republican primaries."

Iraq is worse than they're telling you

As you read the coverage of the newest Pentagon report on violence in Iraq, attacks up 22% to 1,000 per week, keep in mind that the ISG actually looked into the compilation of those "metrics."
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.


The Press Briefing reads like a doozy today, Colin Powell, a growing number of questions on the growing number of bodies, but the jump out was, how safe is Iraq?
Q Tony, when does Secretary Gates go to Iraq, tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: One thing you never do is announce when somebody is going to go to Iraq.

Says alot, doesn't it?

Another shift in the coverage

In the middle of this AP piece on Gates,
But advocates of the "victory-still-possible" approach received a bucketful of cold water Sunday from one of the chief architects of the allied victory in the 1991 Gulf War, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.

Do you like that? "Victory-still-possible" approach.

The Iranians elect their own Democrats

The Iranian election went against Ahmadinejad, but I would expect him to be about as chastened as Bush was by the 2006 midterms.

Picture of the Day - 2

Callie Bergeron 6, watches as the flag from the casket of her uncle and God father Army Sgt. Jay Ryan Gauthreaux is presented to her mother Monique Bergeron by Army Brig. Gen. Mike Rounds in Vacherie, La., Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006. Sgt. Gauthreaux was killed in Iraq Dec. 4 when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle while on patrol. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"Guilty.. No, that's not it... GUILTY!!!.... There we go."

If you're going to hold kangaroo courts, it's very important that they appear as legitimate as possible.
The U.S. military is rehearsing for hearings on whether 14 top terror suspects can be held indefinitely without charge as enemy combatants, but defense lawyers say the outcome is preordained.

The Saudi leverage

This is around the BAE slush fund investigation, but take a minute to notice that the Saudis are now using their position of "access" as a bartering chip.
A British investigation into a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia was stopped because Riyadh threatened to withdraw all co-operation on security and intelligence, a newspaper has reported.

The British have been hit by terrorists, so, this isn't just some play threat.

Rumsfeld's Legacy - failed intel operations, Somalia

The LATimes reports on the increasing use of military spec ops for intelligence operations traditionally carried out by the CIA and the problems that has caused. This is Rumsfeld's legacy. He and Cambone, covered by CIA-hating Cheney, tried to move most of the anti-terror intel operations into the Pentagon.

I don't think this is a small deal either. One of the mistakes cited is "the exposure of a sensitive intelligence operation in East Africa" that I would argue is the massive US intel failure in Somalia.

The US got caught giving money to Somali warlords in an effort to stop the, then small, Somali Islamic movement. When this was exposed, the ICU's popular support shot up and the conflict began in earnest.

Now, we're looking at a regional conflict in the Horn of Africa and probable terrorist safe havens in Somalia. I consider that more than an "embarrassing incident."

(One thing I left out of that old argument from June, was this bit from Newsweek,
But officials with the Red Cross and other aid groups in Mogadishu report seeing "many Americans with thick necks and short haircuts moving around, carrying big suitcases," says one aid official whose agency does not permit him to speak on the record.

Certainly the CIA is capable of handing out money, but "thick necks and short haircuts?" That's military men tromping around, exposing the operation.)

UPDATE: It must be said that the WaPo front page says the failure was CIA. It's a really good article on the Somali failure.

It seems the "who lost Somalia" battle is quietly beginning.

Picture of the Day

FILE ** An Iraqi man celebrates on top of a burning U.S. Army Humvee in the northern part of Baghdad, Iraq, in this Monday, April 26, 2004, file photo. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, file )

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bush: My daughters are serving America.

Unbelievable. (From the People interview.)
This year, we invited readers on our Web site to ask you questions. Here's one:
Nina Frazier of New Braunfels, Texas, asks: If you believe in the war, why didn't you encourage your own daughters to fight for your country? Or did you?

THE PRESIDENT: I believe Americans can contribute to the security and well-being of our country in a variety of ways. That's why we have a volunteer army. What we say to young people is that if you want to serve your country you can do so in the military, or you can do so by teaching children in inner-city Washington, D.C., like one of our daughters did. Or you can help form education programs in New York City, like our (other) daughter. There are all kinds of ways to serve.

I guess Bush's dad covered for his screw up kid....

BUT, further down in the interview,
Are your daughters coming home for Christmas?

Mrs. Bush: They are. Jenna is working with an international organization in Central and South America about education policy. And Barbara is working for a museum in the education department.

I guess they've already finished "their service" to our country. They both graduated in May 2004.

It could happen to you

The NYTimes has a front page article tomorrow on American security contractor David Vance who was held in a US prison in Iraq by mistake for 97 days. He got the full treatment, sleep deprivation, stress positions, etc.

It's Kafkaesque.

The Coalition of the Billing

This article isn't too much of a surprise if you've watched US diplomatic operations and aid over the years, but it's still something to see it in black and white.
The US uses its aid budget to bribe those countries which have a vote in the United Nations security council, giving them 59 per cent more cash in years when they have a seat, according to research by economists.....

When there is a controversial vote in prospect, the premium for countries with a security council seat is even higher. US aid surges by as much as 170 per cent, bringing in a £23m windfall, while the UN spends an extra £4m.

Picture of the Day

Oury Goodwin, 6, of Jacksonville, N.C., poses with his patriotic face paint during Snowball Express, a party for hundreds of children, spouses, parents and other family members of U.S. military service people killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Foothill Ranch, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006. Oury's father, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony L. Goodwin, was killed in Iraq on May 8, 2005. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

The wrong war

In 2004, the US tried to disable the Sunni insurgency through acts of naked force, most notably in Fallujah. It didn't work largely because the tactics used were "invasion" tactics rather than rooted in counterinsurgency.

So, now, when I see the US has finally published their new counterinsurgency manual, I find myself thinking that we are about to repeat the same tactical mistake.

It's no longer an insurgency. Across most of the country, it's a civil war.

Christian sectarianism in the view of history

Martin Luther reshaped history when he nailed his 95 thesis to the door of a church in Wittenberg. His critique of the Catholic church was fundamental in the eventual blossoming of the entire Protestant faith.

How do you think this will look in a hundred, or five hundred years from now?
Two of the biggest Episcopal parishes in Virginia are poised to break from the denomination to join overseas Anglicans forming a conservative U.S. rival to The Episcopal Church.....

The feud erupted in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. ....

If they vote to leave The Episcopal Church, the Truro and Falls Church parishes will become a major U.S. foothold for Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a fierce conservative who has called growing acceptance of gay relationships a "satanic attack" on the church.

The archbishop hopes to create a U.S. alliance of disaffected parishes called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

"So, mommy, why did our church split from the Episcopalians?" (The NYTimes has more.)