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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, right, gestures as she talks with Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

Everybody's talking about Iran

Regardless of the accuracy of the Bush administration's efforts to pin Iraq failures on Iran, the effort is bringing them sweet fruit. Bush presented his Iraq policy, escalation, and it was roundly criticized, panned in the press, and rejected by the American people.

So, the administration has gone with a two stage response. 1) Deny any possibility that the Iraq plan can be changed, making any discussion of it moot, and 2) Tossing the media the shiny ball of Iran for them to get excited about instead.

It is a classic manipulation of the media's tendency to "cover the controversy" and puts the conversation on a topic where the administration has better footing.

They want Iran to be the conversation right now rather than Iraq, and it's working.

Sam Gardiner on bits of the Iran media operation.

US Military Spokesman Caldwell will present evidence against Iran next week. (That's a clever way to use the military's authority to get around the administration's intel credibility problem.

Wouldn't you expect that a case against Iran would be made from the national security structure?

Is 21,500 a toe in the water?

Leaving aside the argument that there aren't more troops available for Iraq, this worries me.
With a growing edge in his voice, McCain explained that he had sat down with General Petraeus. "He looked me in the eye," said McCain, "and told me 'I can do it with 21,000. And if I can't, I'll ask for more.'"

Funny, this part of Petraeus' position isn't being made public, eh?

Pakistan's getting warmer

Yesterday, there was a suicide bombing outside the Marriott in Islamabad, 2 killed, 6 wounded.

Today, in Peshawar(NW Pakistan,) a second suicide bomber killed at least 11 and wounded at least 35.

(The Marriott is frequented mainly by foreigners, an Indian delegation was due later, and the Peshawar bombing appears to be aimed at Pakistani security forces trying to protect/manage Shiites during Ashoura.)

The violence in Pakistan is ticking up.

Picture of the Day - 2

A man is brought to al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday Jan. 26, 2007 after being hurt in an explosion at animal market. A bomb hidden in a box carrying pigeons struck a crowded animal market in central Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens, officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Ali Abed)


(MarineCorpsTimes) Sec Def Gates calls for an end to stop-loss.

(WaPo) Part of Petraeus' implementation will be to beef up the Iraqi Facilities Protection Force, well known as some of the most corrupt, infiltrated sectarian forces in Iraq, reversing previous US efforts to rein them in. (He's struggling to find bodies to make up the numbers for his counterinsurgency strategy.)

(WaPo) Did anyone else notice that Maliki reiterated his desire for the US to withdraw 50,000 troops by the end of the year?

(Reuters) "Iraqi security forces briefly prevented Sunni Arab political leader Adnan al-Dulaimi from boarding an international flight on Friday."

And, I don't know the source so treat this with some skepticism, but in the vote for Maliki's "security plan," possibly the biggest vote in some time, only 160 of 275 Iraqi parliamentarians showed up? That's barely a quorum.

Meanwhile, In what history may someday call "The Other War," US and NATO allies are having great difficulty finding troops for Afghanistan, despite the fact that 2007 is expected to see a major "Spring offensive" by the Taleban. (The US has already extended 3,200 soldiers and the Italians want their 1,800 out.)

The comedians step in when the media abdicates

What does it say that the most eloquent criticism of the State of the Union came from a comedy show? (Rob Riggle, The Daily Show)
"An empty spectacle, a kabuki ritual of power, a president cloaking his impotence in the trappings of office, a congress masking it's seething contempt behind a façade of statesmanship…and the clapping…always the clapping. To paraphrase T.S. Elliot, John, this is how the world ends, not with a bang, not with a whimper, merely with a deafening roar of hollow applause."

Picture of the Day

Brigadier Gen. Robert M. Radin, left, presents a U.S. Flag to Conroy Wright, father of Sgt. Gregroy A. Wright, from Boston, Mass., at burial services at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 in Arlington, Va. Sgt. Wright died Jan. 13, in Muqdadiyah, Iraq and is the 298th person killed in Iraq War to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(I'm so goddamned sick of these pictures.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The sliding rationales for targeting Iranians in Iraq

I may be overdissecting the language here, but this has troubled me all day. When faced with a question today about targeting Iranians in Iraq, (one of only two he took,) Bush responded with this structure.
I made it very clear, as did the Secretary, that our policy is going to be to protect our troops in Iraq. It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them. That's an obligation we all have, is to protect our folks and achieve our goal.

As I read this, he's giving three justifications for when Iranians can be terminated in Iraq. 1) "trying to harm our troops." 2) "stopping us from achieveing our goal." 3) "killing civilians."

I don't think anyone would have a serious argument against numbers one or three, although there are sliding levels of culpability that may cloud that certainty, but let's look at number two, "stopping us from achieving our goals."

What does that mean? If an Iranian in country is advising the Shia not to work with the Sunnis on the budget, or maybe advising delay in the implementation of the oil law, are they "stopping us from achieving our goals?" What if they are encouraging the Shia to unite with the Kurds and cut the Sunnis out of the government?

It just seems a very open expression to justify such an inflammatory policy.

Also: The silence from the Iraqis today has been nearly deafening. The Foreign Minister was on CNN today, dancing like crazy to not really make a statement, but I think that was about it.

Picture of the Day - 3

Residents gather outside a damaged building after clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents in Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad January 20, 2007. Coalition Forces' press office said seven separate exchanges of gunfire took place in Ramadi. REUTERS/Stringer

70 Senators opposed to the surge?

It's Vandehei, so this isn't some crank.
A top GOP staffer says more than 70 senators would oppose the surge if their vote matched their comments in private meetings. "The White House is trying to but they really don't know how to handle this," said a senior GOP aide involved in the talks.

More on the Karbala attack - US soldiers were captured alive

I've been watching for details on this highly unusual attack in Karbala (1, 2, 3), and I'd read a rumor to this effect, but hadn't lent it creedence. Now AP is picking up that story, adding more detail.
Contrary to public statements by the U.S. military, four U.S. soldiers did not die repelling a sneak attack at the governor's office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad on Jan. 20, was conducted by nine to 12 militants posing as an American security team.....

One Iraqi official said the leader of the assault team was blond, but no other official confirmed that.....

The U.S. accounts did not say where the soldiers were killed. Iraqi officials said the four were captured alive and shot just before the vehicles were abandoned.

There's more detail in the article if you're interested. Supposedly four suspects have been detained.

Two hours later: American officials confirm, offering their (second) version of what happened in Karbala.
Within hours of the AP report that four of the five dead soldiers had been abducted and found dead or dying about 25 miles to the east of Karbala, the military issued a long account of what took place.

A few more details, but still no information who was behind this.

(I discount the growing rumor that these were Iranians, because thus far, the Iranians have been very judicious in their actions.)

Picture of the Day - 2

This is Sadr City.

Population: 2,000,000.

(Top photo bigger if you click it.)

Picture of the Day

Drinking the Koolaid. (Read next.)

(White House senior staff members drink water together before the arrival of President George W. Bush, January 25, 2007. (REUTERS/Larry Downing))

Thursday, January 25, 2007

They want "conflict" with Iran

WaPo - Page A01 - "The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program.....

For more than a year, U.S. forces in Iraq have secretly detained dozens of suspected Iranian agents, holding them for three to four days at a time. .....

Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority."

"This has little to do with Iraq. It's all about pushing Iran's buttons. It is purely political," the official said. The official expressed similar views about other new efforts aimed at Iran, suggesting that the United States is escalating toward an unnecessary conflict to shift attention away from Iraq and to blame Iran for the United States' increasing inability to stanch the violence there.

Also, a concerted plan by Cheney and Elliot Abrams to lie to the American public to justify their effort.
Officials said a group of senior Bush administration officials who regularly attend the highest-level counterterrorism meetings agreed that the conflict (Israel-Lebanon) provided an opening to portray Iran as a nuclear-ambitious link between al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and the death squads in Iraq.

Later: Did the Iraqis know about this?

In Iraq, hatred in the streets, hatred in the government

After the most recent bombing in Karrada today, "Angry Karradah residents took to the streets chanting "We want the Sunnis out!" after the blast." (AP) But that's nothing.
Iraq’s Shiite prime minister and Sunni lawmakers hurled insults at one another during a raucous session of Parliament on Thursday, with the prime minister threatening a Sunni lawmaker with arrest and the Sunni speaker of Parliament threatening to quit......

The confrontation erupted after Mr. Maliki described the outlines of the new Baghdad security plan and pledged there would be no “safe haven” for militants.

The leader of a powerful Sunni bloc, Abdul Nasir al-Janabi, provoked Mr. Maliki, saying over jeers from Shiite politicians, “We cannot trust the office of the prime minister.”

His microphone was quickly shut off, and Mr. Maliki lashed into him, essentially accusing him of being one of the outlaws he had just said would not be granted sanctuary.

“I will show you,” Mr. Maliki said, waving his finger in the air. “I will turn over the documents we have,” implying that the legislator was guilty of crimes.

Maliki also accused al-Janabi of involvement in the kidnapping and execution of 150 Shia near Al Bairaat.

It then devolved into a nasty conflict between Maliki and Speaker of the Parliament Mashhadani where Mashhadani threatened to resign and Maliki's leadership threatened to dismiss him.

Won't someone tell me how 20,000 troops solves this?

Picture of the Day - 3

Petty Officer Second Class Nathan Thomas, of Hollywood, Fla., listens to President Bush's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

BBC covers Iraq

I don't know about the editorial comment, but you're not seeing this on American TV.

The Republicans' way out

So, the White House pushback against the Senate resolutions condemning the surge is to press the claim that "showing division" somehow emboldens "our enemies" in Iraq.

Even if it's no longer believable, this unconvincing chestnut reintroduced by Petraeus at his hearing, is once again useful as political cover for Republicans not to sign onto the resolutions condemning "the surge."

Lugar and Voinovich pulled this new tack yesterday,
Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich said he was more skeptical than ever about Bush's plan but he voted against the resolution because he thought it could be characterized as a "political attack."

The committee's senior Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, said he was not confident Bush's plan would succeed, but also opposed the resolution. "This vote will force nothing on the president, but it will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray," Lugar said.

The strategy is, apparently, to protect the White House by voting against these resolutions on "political grounds," and yet still get in the claim for the next election that they were critical of "the surge." It allows them to have it both ways.

(Plan B seems to be to have loyalists (Boehner, McCain) propose a number of alternate resolutions to fracture support.)

This is really sharp politics by the White House. I just wish it wasn't leading to more dead US soldiers.

(By the way, most of "our enemies in Iraq" are only our enemies because we are there fighting them. They're fighting for their country, and they are "our enemies" because we are getting in their way.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A lunchroom altercation at a university escalated into all out rioting and gunfire, raising fears that Lebanon’s political crisis has entered a decidedly violent phase. (AFP - Anwar Amro)

Evidence of Iran in Iraq

Newsweek takes a look at the evidence of Iran supplying Iraqi militants, and it seems to come down to three main points.

1) Iranian brokers buying passive infrared sensors.
2) The appearance of Hezbullah bomb designs.
3) Evidence of smuggling at the borders.

It seems pretty clear that the Iranians are extremely politically active with the Shia and the Kurds, but none of these points marks a hard link to the Iranian government. (especially since almost all of the IED's are from the Sunnis who are not working with Iran.)

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormick says the US will soon make public information showing the Iranians recently arrested in Irbil were in fact involved in violence. I look forward to that.

Also: AFPC(?) will soon be running ads on CNN, Fox, etc. "aimed at educating the American public about the growing threat posed by a nuclear Iran." (I'm kinda curious who is funding them since all their previous work and publications seem to be focused on Russia and China.)

It looked so easy on paper

On Countdown last night, Richard Wolfe pointed out that when this Iraq misadventure began, many of the war's proponents saw Iraq as merely the first step in a broad agenda to "remake the middle east."

Now, America is struggling to gain control of just one city.

Picture of the Day

Buffeted by recent criticism, Condi Rice returns to her affirmation tapes.

"You are a strong and confident woman....."

(15 January 2007 - AFP/Goran Tomasevic)

Maliki outlines the security operation.

Maliki spoke today on the new security operation in Baghdad, Operation Imposing Law. (Maybe it loses something in translation.)

A couple of quick points:

1. (AP) Maliki's said the crackdown "aims to disarm all groups and only leave weapons in the hands of the government," but at the same time, the mayor of Sadr City, Rahim al-Daraji, claims to have presented "Western Officials" with a plan to keep Mahdi off the streets in exchange for letting them keep their weapons.

2. (Reuters) Another troubling aspect of this, "Maliki said Iraqi security forces would start to remove squatters from Baghdad homes they have illegally occupied since the owners fled sectarian intimidation and ethnic cleansing."

(The intention clearly is to stop ethnic cleansing, but how popular (and how successful) is the Iraqi government going to be throwing refugees out on the streets?

We're talking about tens of thousands in Baghdad alone, does the Iraqi government have somewhere for them to go? Are they expected to return to the neighborhoods they were chased out of at threat of torture and death?)


(AP) The Afghan government refuses to spray the poppy crop this year.

(BBC) Sudan's leader admits his government has been bombing Darfur.

(AFP) "Japan's defense minister has said US President George W. Bush was wrong to invade Iraq and warned that Tokyo could not automatically renew its air force mission to the war-torn country."

(GQ) In an interview, Chuck Hagel states that the original 2002 war resolution submitted by the White House was not specific to Iraq, "It said they could go anywhere in the region."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Have you ever read someone involved in a joint US-Iraqi operation below the rank of Major say one positive thing about the Iraqi forces?

(Thought of this reading the NYTimes' latest report on the disastrous Iraqi forces involved in the "joint operation" on Haifa street today. Tell me how this gets sorted out in three months.)

What a difference a year (and an election) makes

As I was listening to Chuck Hagel say that every Senator should go on the record as to where they stand on Bush Iraq plan, I found my mind drifting back to just 14 months ago.....

Let's go back to Nov. 2005, when the Republicans forced that acrimonious House vote on immediate withdrawal. (Remember, Jean Schmidt, Murtha?)
The idea was to force Democrats to go on the record on a proposal that the administration says would be equivalent to surrender.

What a difference a year and a shift of majority makes.

Picture of the Day - 4

Hospital staff check bodies who were recovered by the police around the capital in front of Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan 20, 2007. At least 27 people were killed or found dead as a result of sectarian violence across the country on Friday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed )

A little peek inside George Bush

He's made statements like this before, but today's jumped out.
But first I want to thank all the good folks at DuPont for really leading with your brains. And as the Secretary of Energy, Sam Bodman, told me coming in -- he said, when he was -- see, he's like a graduate from MIT, which -- so he's a smart guy and I'm the President. But anyway -- (laughter.) It's the way it works sometimes, you know.

Translation: I'm better than all you smart guys.

(Forget the fact that his father was president, and he was carried into office by his father's large donor/fundraisers in 1999.)

A little counterevidence for Bush's "worst case"

It's funny that with Condi Rice out of the way, the Iranians and Saudis are talking and appear fairly close to a resolution to the current strife in Lebanon.

Really makes you wonder what might happen if the US got out of the way on similar regional talks regarding Iraq.

None of the regimes in the region is rock solid, and none of them really want the massive destabilization that may occur without such talks. So, why is the US blocking them? Oil? Israel? Nukes?

Picture of the Day - 3

(From the State of the Union last night. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

The reason the Iraq NIE has been delayed

The National Intelligence Estimate on the current state of Iraq has been slowrolled, but Pincus may provide the outlines of why this has been so, it's content.
The draft of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq says it will be "very difficult" but "not impossible" for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to succeed in providing better governance in that war-ravaged country, a top intelligence official told a Senate committee yesterday.....

Fingar added that in the NIE, there are "a lot of conditional statements, but it is not impossible."

Imagine the politics for Bush's "surge" if this NIE was already out saying Maliki has, at best, a slim chance of success.

Picture of the Day - 2

(From the State of the Union last night. (Larry Downing/Reuters))

Well, the president didn't mean it literally....

Yesterday, I looked back at the 2006 SOTU promise to cut mideast oil exports by 75%, which was retracted the next day by Bush's Energy Secretary who said, "the president didn't mean it literally."

Well, we've already got the foundations of the same claim from last night's SOTU. Remember the bold, headlining claim that we're going to cut US gas use by 20%? Well, that's not exactly true.....
The fine print: Administration officials said that the goal is 20 percent below projected annual gasoline usage, not off today's levels.

And that's 20% off whose projections?

(There's a furniture store nearby where you get "50% off every day," but amazingly, their prices are no better than anywhere else. You know?)

SOTU reaction shots

Did anyone notice the less than convincing look on Condi Rice's face as Bush was talking about her diplomatic efforts?

She looked guilty and very tired.

Picture of the Day

This undated Haller family photo shows Command Sgt. Maj. Roger W. Haller. Haller, 49, of Annapolis, Md., was one of 12 soldiers killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed northeast of Baghdad, family members said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Haller Family)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps"

I think I'm going to have to see more details on this, but doesn't this sound like a "nation building" National Guard equivalent?
A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them.

(After all the involuntary callups and deployment extensions, I think I would read the fine print on that contract pretty damn close, you know?)


Blogger's publishing very irregularly. I'm not in the mood to fight it, so we'll catch up tomorrow.

N. Korea is helping Iran prepare for a nuke test?

The Telegraph is usually pretty good, so I believe they're reporting what they've been told, however, I question the veracity and motivation of what they're being told. (Single sourced?)
North Korea is helping Iran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year.....

A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October's underground test to assist Teheran's preparations to conduct its own — possibly by the end of this year.

Related: The USS Stennis, the second carrier battlegroup heading to the Gulf, is expected to arrive in late February.

Picture of the Day - 4

Flames rise from the site where a US military convoy was targeted by a roadside bomb in the restive city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. US President George W. Bush's prime-time televised address, set for 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Wednesday), comes as his poll numbers were mired at their all-time lows and US forces in Iraq faced some of the worst violence since the March 2003 invasion.(AFP)

Something to watch for in tonight's speech.

With Bush speaking before a Democratic, and now more aggressive, Congress tonight, watch for the construction of phrases to force applause lines by following an unpopular or controversial statement with a guaranteed applause getter.

Something like:

"Those who speak against my plan to send more troops are aiding Al Qaeda, but as these troops go into combat I want to assure them that America stands behind them."

(Forced applause from Congressmen he just called traitors.)

Last year's Gerson written speech was loaded with these.

LATER: Not too many, but this is a prime example, "Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way. (Applause.)"

Anybody remember "addicted to oil?"

AP Flash - "In his first State of the Union address to a Democratic-controlled Congress, President Bush will urge that gasoline consumption be slashed by 20 percent, the White House said." (by 2017)

I just want to take everybody back one year to when Bush uttered the phrase "addicted to oil" and all the pundits wet themselves over his "boldness." The crux of his SOTU plan was to cut mideast oil exports by 75%.

But what seems to be forgotten is that the very next day the Energy Secretary and National Economic Advisor came out and said, "the president didn't mean it literally."

He has done almost nothing he discussed in any of his SOTU speeches (Mars, bitches,) so why does he still get credible coverage of this 20% pledge?

Picture of the Day - 3

Despite all the press focus, I'm actually more interested in what this guy has to say.

Later: Pat Buchannan just said he's seen excerpts from Webb's speech and he said it's really great.

(Senator James Webb, D-Va., during a rehearsal for the Democrat's response to the President Bush's State of the Union speech, Tuesday, Jan 23, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook))

The Libby defense offers up Rove

It appears the Libby defense will be "that White House officials had sought to make him a scapegoat in the investigation of the leak of a C.I.A. operative’s name to protect Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff." (That could be juicy.)

(Guardian) "They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,'' Wells said, recalling the conversation between Libby and Cheney. "I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected."

(Shuster via Kos) "There was other information that was damaging to the Vice President concerning the State of the Union and the false claim that was made. The prosecutors say the evidence will make it clear that VP Cheney asked the Director of the CIA George Tenet to take complete responsiblity for the mistake and to make it clear that the VP and the president were not involved..."

(Shuster via ThinkProgress) "Cheney personally “wrote out for Scooter Libby what Libby should say in a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.”

(Hullabaloo) "CW mouthpiece" Norah O'Donnell "is asking Andy Card and Leon Panetta if the president is going to have to ask Dick Cheney to resign as a result of what's being alleged at the Libby Trial."

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi woman holds a sign reading, "We demand Maliki's government to work hard in order to release our kidnapped children" during a protest in December 2006. Dozens of Baghdad residents are kidnapped almost daily, after leaving their houses, their offices or just finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.(AFP/Sabah Arar)

Sometimes I wish I could draw

I think the editorial cartoon for the State of the Union will be Bush standing in the middle of a burning house labelled Iraq with beams falling all around him while he points to a small lump in his hand saying, "I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about my domestic agenda."

Also: Fareed Zakaria: By associating himself with democracy, Bush is actually making democracy wane. (BBC world opinion poll.)

(We now have a poll with Bush approval in the 20's. An outlier, but still.... The center seems to be around 32-33.)

Is spinning hard part of the "new plan" in Iraq?

The US forces appear to be spinning hard. I guess the idea is to create the impression of success to change the momentum.

(WaPo) The plan is to start with the easy neighborhoods to show success: "The battle for Baghdad will start in mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods chosen by military strategists as being the least likely to offer stiff resistance, raising the odds of early success, according to military planners and officials familiar with the thinking of the incoming Iraq commander, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus."

(AFP) 600 "Sadr fighters" arrested. (Only 56,400 to go.)

In a teleconference to the Green Zone because Baquba isn't safe for reporters, the local US and Iraqi commanders say that Baquba is stabilized, and any other statements are "rumors."

(AP) The residents call "stable" Baquba a "ghost city."

(The mayor of Baquba was kidnapped on the same day. (WaPo) "After seizing Mayor Khalid al-Sanjari, one of the armed men grabbed a loudspeaker from a police car and taunted the chief of police." The Iraqi press is saying "Before leaving the building, the gunmen placed explosives in the municipal hall and demolished it.")

(LATimes) Mosul is promoted by the US military as an example of stability and Iraqi troops taking charge. (Yet he and others blanch at the possibility of American troops leaving the region..... "It is not a good idea for them to leave right now," said Mosul's police chief, Gen. Mohammed Wathiq.)

(Reuters) Mosul is plagued by violence, too.

I understand the strategy here, we have to change Iraqi minds, but I wonder how effective that effort will be when the Iraqis see the counterevidence every damn day. (Or is it just aimed at us?)

Semi-related: Is Petraeus a spotlight seeker?


If you haven't seen the NYTimes piece on the first "joint security station" in Ghazaliya, you've got to give it a read. There's too much to even excerpt it.

This is the Bush plan, and they want 20 more. Read it.

Picture of the Day

A boy stands next to the bodies of bombing victims lying outside the al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad January 22, 2007. (Kareem Raheem/Reuters)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Releasing when convenient.

ABC has this "BREAKING" story that Sunni insurgents considered coming to the US on student visas to attack the US.

If you read beneath the headline, this evidence was discovered six months ago but will happen to lead the morning papers on a day when Bush is to deliver the SOTU that reportedly tries to relink Iraq with terrorism.

What an amazing coincidence.

(I think the real story is that they decided it wasn't in their interests to attack the US. No?)

Picture of the Day - 3

Condensation leaves the mouth of U.S. President George W. Bush as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, January 22, 2007. Bush returned from a weekend at the Camp David Presidential retreat where he worked on his annual State of the Union address that he is scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Bush's legacy will be defined by the right, not the left, and it doesn't look good.

If you look back through recent history, a president's legacy is primarily defined by his side of the aisle. The "major achievements" that build the legacy are generally cited and repeated by his supporters who project their opinions on those legs of support.

(As example, Gerald Ford's Nixon pardon was rewritten as emblematic of this "honest midwesterner who unified the country.")

That's why this unpopular escalation will play a huge part in the assessment of Bush's legacy.

I would argue that in the longer view of legacy, Bush will be judged not so much be on the characteristics of his Iraq policy as the amount of long term political damage that his "persistence" will cause his party.

Iraq/War on Terror will certainly constitute the bolstering evidence of any assessment of the Bush presidency, but I think the tenor of that assessment will be defined more by the personal feelings of those Republicans who may well be out of power for a decade because of him.

When Trent Lott gets to play "wiseman" on the 2016 version of Hardball, how do you think he will assess this presidency?

(I'm still thinking there's going to be a Nixon-like intervention by "respected" Senators, but the fact that John Warner is introducing legislation rather than meeting behind closed doors, tells me that if any such overture has been attempted, it has been rebuffed.

House Republicans are pushing for "more accountability" trying to force monthly reports from the White House. (It's tied to Bush's "bipartisan (Lieberman) committee" so it may just be a ploy.)

Can anyone stop this president? Will his party ever forgive him?)

Today's (not so) fun fact

(NYTimes) "At its height, the Soviet deployment to Afghanistan was over 100,000 troops, more than double the current American and NATO force level in Afghanistan, and yet the Soviets still retreated in defeat."

(With an administration filled with the same people who armed the Afghanis against the Soviets, you would think that they might have known that.)

Picture of the Day - 2

The bodies of bombing victims lie outside al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad January 22, 2007. Two simultaneous car bombs blasted a busy market in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 75 people in fresh violence that came as Iraqis awaited the start of a planned U.S.-backed offensive in the capital. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

Still more on the Karbala attack and other rumors

The latest rumor on the Karbala attack that specifically targeted 5 US soldiers is that it might have been carried out by Sunnis.

This was a military style raid, and the Sunnis do have the majority of Saddam's former elite forces, and it would make sense that the Sunnis would try to draw the US into conflict with Mahdi, but I just don't know.

There's just something unusual about this attack I can't pin down. (Previous posts.)

(Later: The latest is that the attackers passed through three Iraqi checkpoints and that their unifoms, trucks, and English were good enough to fool the Iraqi forces at each one. Also, everyone from the police chief down are being interrogated.)

(UPDATE: McClatchy reports that they had US ID's, and "The force stopped at the police directorate in Karbala and took weapons but gave no reason." Mahdi denied the operation.
The police commandos discovered the vehicles (7 GMC Suburbans) and found three dead men inside, a wounded man and five others, Ahmed said. He said they all spoke English. Iraqi police took the men back to the police station and American forces retrieved them by dawn.

Also inside the vehicles, Iraqi police found a bag filled with American military uniforms. They also found flak vests, American weapons and American ID cards that had allowed the gunmen to maneuver through the city, Ahmed said.

The US does now have a number of captives, so, although we may never know what happened, the US military will. ("They all spoke English!?!?!?")

While I'm repeating rumors,
Anonymous sources inside the Defense Ministry had told the Fatihoon website that the Badr Brigade is on high alert under orders from Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim in anticipation of a U.S. assault after the detention of two Iranian officials in Erbil and the closure of the Shalamcha border crossing. The sources alleged that dozens of Iranian Intelligence officers were taking positions around Baghdad, in Salman Pak, Hilla and Kut, in preparation for an attack to drive out the remaining Sunni population from districts on the Rusafa side, east of Baghdad, in order to assume full control by Shi’ite political parties loyal to Iran.

And, (AP) Three more Iranians were arrested in Mosul

A polling turnaround

Think back to 2004 when Cheney was running around the country playing scary death man and appreciate just how much things have changed.
The (WaPo-ABC) poll also finds that the public trusts congressional Democrats over Bush to deal with the conflict (in Iraq) by a margin of 60 percent to 33 percent.

(Bush approval 33%. - "Only two presidents have had lower approval ratings on the eve of a State of the Union speech." Nixon before he resigned, and Truman in 1952.)

Also, the villainizing didn't stick, on Pelosi - "A majority (54 percent) approves of the way she is handling her new job, with 25 percent disapproving and 21 percent undecided."

Picture of the Day

(Refugee flows per the latest UN report.)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More on the Karbala attack

Last night, I was commenting on the unusual and unclear nature of the Shia attack that killed five US soldiers in Karbala yesterday. The WaPo has more. This was a very sophisticated, targeted operation.
After arriving at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, 60 miles southwest of Baghdad, the attackers detonated sound bombs, Iraqi officials said. "They wanted to create a panic situation," said an aide to Karbala Gov. Akeel al-Khazaali.

The men then stormed into a room where Americans and Iraqis were making plans to ensure the safety of thousands of people expected to visit the holy city for an upcoming holiday.

"They didn't target anyone but the American soldiers," the governor's aide said.

After the attack, the assailants returned to their vehicles and drove away. It was unclear how many people participated, and the men's identities and motive remained unclear, but the attack was particularly striking because of the resources and sophistication involved, Iraqi officials said.

This was a very discreet operation specifically targeting these five US soldiers. They killed them and got out. It was "a hit."

It was well planned, executed, and scouted (probably someone inside the Iraqi Security Forces.)

But as to the why...? Was this meant as a warning to the US that the Shia militias have teeth?

There's something here I'm still not getting.

Picture of the Day - 2

Luke Murphy of Palm City, Fla., throws the discus during competition in the Paralympic Military Summit at Air Force Academy Oct. 20, 2006. Murphy, 25, is an Army sergeant. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Taleban think long term in Afghanistan

The Taleban are talking about opening their own schools in the southern Afghanistan areas where they have consistent influence and control.

Very definitely a PR move and a design to "educate" the children towards their viewpoint, but it also tells me that their presence there is secure enough they can plan for years ahead.

The Iraqis are in the lead, after all.....

Congress, the American people, military leaders, greybeards, and even the Iraqis themselves were against the idea of a surge, but "Bush relied on his own judgment."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a surprise for President Bush when they sat down with their aides in the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Firing up a PowerPoint presentation, Maliki and his national security adviser proposed that U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of Baghdad and let Iraqis take over security in the strife-torn capital. Maliki said he did not want any more U.S. troops at all, just more authority.

The president listened intently to the unexpected proposal at their Nov. 30 meeting, according to accounts from several administration officials. Bush seemed impressed that Maliki had taken the initiative, but it did not take him long to reject the idea.....

So Bush relied on his own judgment that the best answer was to try once again to snuff out the sectarian violence in Baghdad, even at the risk of putting U.S. soldiers into a crossfire between Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. When his generals resisted sending more troops, he seemed irritated. When they finally agreed to go along with the plan, he doubled the number of troops they requested.

(I hate the way modern sourcing has degenerated. If these anonymous "administration officials" are trying to defend the president with this explanation, that should be disclosed.)

Picture of the Day

Bush "redrawing" the middle east.

"Number 6 is red... Number 6 is red...."

(Or: "George Bush struggles to stay within the lines on Iraq.")

(U.S. President George W. Bush helps paint a mural at a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday volunteer day at a high school in Washington January 15, 2007. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters))

"Plan C" - Laying the groundwork for the coup

Senior administration officials are fuelling the rumor.
The result is that some members of the administration are already discussing what one called “Plan C,” even as the administration publicly expresses support for Mr. Maliki. Some senior officials, insisting on anonymity, are discussing alternative leadership for the Iraqi government, including throwing American support behind another Shiite leader, Adel Abdul Mahdi......

Administration officials maintain that there is no American plan afoot to encourage a removal of Mr. Maliki from power, and several senior officials said that if Mr. Maliki does not follow through on his promise to deploy Iraqi Army and police brigades in Baghdad to quell sectarian violence, the Iraqis themselves will move to replace him as prime minister.

So, the US is strengthening Maliki by threatening to overthrow him. They are encouraging him to disarm "his" militia by threatening him with a coup.

Picture of the Day

Iraqi police stand around the lifeless body of a man who they say was a foreign militant from Afghanistan, in front of Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan 20, 2007. The man was killed during clashes with Iraqi police at Baghdad's troublesome neighborhood of Dora Saturday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed )