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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 10, 2007


E&P and Rawstory do a pretty good takedown on the NYTimes frontpage article unquestioningly reporting Iranian involvement in supplying IED's in Iraq. (The reporter was once second on the byline beneath Judith Miller on the "aluminum tubes" story.)

(BBC) "The Bolivian government has seized control of the country's largest, privately-run tin smelter complex."

(BBC) After blasting the US earlier, Putin sets off on a trip to Saudi, Jordan, and Qatar. (AFP - discussing arms sales.)

Later: (Telegraph) "Leaders of Sunni Arab states are embarking on a military spending spree in an attempt to contain the growing threat from Iran."

(AP) Why in the hell is Australian PM Howard blasting Obama? Is he afraid Obama's message will affect his own election chances?

Picture of the Day - 2

Unidentified soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division depart for Iraq from Craig Gym at Fort Riley, Kan., Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Iraq - Petraeus: "it's not hopeless."

(AP) Inspiring words from the new commander in Iraq, "The way ahead will be hard but it is not hopeless." (Nothing fires morale like the new boss saying, "well... it might work.")

(Reuters) "In a letter to U.S. troops in Iraq, Petraeus said "in the end, Iraqis will decide the outcome of this struggle. Our task is to help them gain the time they need to save their country." (Hoo boy, saddle up. Let's take some losses to buy the Iraqis time that they will surely not waste.)

(Reuters) "Three U.S. soldiers were killed and four others wounded in an explosion at a building in Iraq's Diyala province, the U.S. military said on Saturday. (It sounds like a boobytrapped building.)

(WaPo) A very interesting article on the powerless Sunni Deputy Prime Minister who has been effectively cut off from any power within the Shia government.

(LATimes) Only 20% of the "surge" force is in place.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said he is investigating whether he can speed the pace of the troop buildup. But a senior Pentagon official said this week that it was unlikely that U.S. troops could be sent to Baghdad any faster than planned. The five brigades going to the capital are due to arrive one per month, with the last coming in May.

(AP) "Iraqi commanders are urging the Americans to go after Sunni targets as the first focus of the military push to secure Baghdad, displaying a sectarian tilt that is delaying full implementation of the plan to drive gunmen from the streets, U.S. officers say." (A lot of good underneath detail in this article.)

Now, wait just a second, Al Qaeda and Iran?

I just reread that excerpt in the post below and this jumped out,
That assessment comes at a time when the Bush administration, in an effort to push for further U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic, is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating with and harboring al-Qaeda suspects.

Are you kidding me? Trumping up evidence of Al Qaeda/Iran while Pakistan, a country whose intelligence services work closely with Al Qaeda to this day, is considered an ally?

The assets to attack Iran will be in place by spring.

Picture of the Day

(My compliments to the fine people of Seattle. They got it in 2004.)

The CIA leaks to the WaPo to undercut Iran hostilities

A very interesting WaPo article on the Iranians and Al Qaeda.
Last week, the CIA sent an urgent report to President Bush's National Security Council: Iranian authorities had arrested two al-Qaeda operatives traveling through Iran on their way from Pakistan to Iraq. The suspects were caught along a well-worn, if little-noticed, route for militants determined to fight U.S. troops on Iraqi soil, according to a senior intelligence official.

The arrests were presented to Bush's senior policy advisers as evidence that Iran appears committed to stopping al-Qaeda foot traffic across its borders, the intelligence official said. That assessment comes at a time when the Bush administration, in an effort to push for further U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic, is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating with and harboring al-Qaeda suspects.

The strategy has sparked a growing debate within the administration and the intelligence community, according to U.S. intelligence and government officials. One faction is pressing for more economic embargoes against Iran, including asset freezes and travel bans for the country's top leaders. But several senior intelligence and counterterrorism officials worry that a public push regarding the al-Qaeda suspects held in Iran could jeopardize U.S. intelligence gathering and prompt the Iranians to free some of the most wanted individuals.

So, I'm guessing someone opposed to the Iran hostility got on the phone to the WaPo.....

We may have witnessed history today in Putin's comments

Putin made a major speech today at an international security conference that blasted the US for its foreign policy. (AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, WaPo.)

Quotes assembled from the articles:

"The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres -- economic, political and humanitarian and has imposed itself on other states."

"One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way," .... "This is very dangerous. Nobody feels secure anymore because nobody can hide behind international law," he said, speaking through a translator. "This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons."

"One-sided illegitimate action hasn't solved a single problem and has become a generator of many human tragedies, a source of tension."

"Local and regional wars didn't get fewer. The number of people who died didn't get less but increased significantly."

The United States, he said, had gone "from one conflict to another without achieving a fully-fledged solution to any of them."----

"It has nothing in common with democracy because that is the opinion of the majority taking into account the minority opinion. People are always teaching us democracy but the people who teach us democracy don't want to learn it themselves."

(The US delegation and Germany's Merkel were shocked, outraged, blindsided and responded by lashing back. More later, I'm sure.)

Line of the Day

In an otherwise mediocre LATimes editorial criticizing the media's near fetish in covering Anna Nicole Smith,
"Who knew? This is the way the world ends — neither with a bang nor a whimper but with cleavage."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Questioning the President

(UPI - bottom) At a farewell reception..... the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi. A grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers, Soroush said, "Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."

"I know," President Bush answered.

"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.

The president chuckled and walked away.

Picture of the Day - 3

This photo shows Charles 'Chuck' Timothy Hagel while serving in the Vietnam War. During the worst year of the war, Hagel served side-by-side with his younger brother Tom as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army's 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong River Delta area. He was awarded two Purple Hearts. (AP Photo/Library of Congress)

Mitt Romney, the strength to do the wrong thing

I still don't understand how this "even a blind hog finds an acorn" argument, rearticulated by Romney today, isn't just torn apart in the press.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney conceded that the war in Iraq has been poorly managed and may hurt Republicans again next year, but he refused to oppose the course President Bush has charted.

Paraphrase: Yes, "mistakes have been made" in Iraq, but the best plan is to listen to the guys who have made all the mistakes.

This is the kind of thinking that has led us to where we are. This is the kind of thinking that kept Michael Brown in his job as people were dying in New Orleans. This is the kind of thinking that kept Rumsfeld in his job. Or Bremer. Or Rice.

This kind of thinking costs American lives. We've seen it.

Romney should be disqualified for the presidency based solely on this position.


A moving editorial by a former contract interrogator in Fallujah.

$18,500 per Iraqi

Something in my head snapped as I was driving around.

US expenditures in Iraq thus far: Roughly $500,000,000,000

Poupulation of Iraq(prewar): Roughly 27,000,000

That means we've spent about $18,500 per Iraqi.

Using the UN estimate of 6 per family, it's $111,000 per family.

In Iraq today, people are setting IED's for $5 to $20.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi Army soldier enjoys a Valentine's Day lollipop before setting out on a foot patrol with the U.S. Army near Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

"including women and children"

(AP) "A U.S. airstrike Thursday killed 13 insurgents in a volatile area west of Baghdad, the military said. Local officials said 45 civilians, including women and children, died in the attack."

(Reuters) "Three U.S. soldiers died on Thursday of wounds sustained in combat in the western Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Friday."

Yet, Anna Nicole Smith, much like Barbaro before her, gets the news.

Feith admits he lied about prewar intel?

Check out this response from Feith on the IG's report saying Feith and the OSP's actions were "inappropriate, but not illegal."
In a telephone interview yesterday, Feith emphasized the inspector general's conclusion that his actions, described in the report as "inappropriate," were not unlawful. "This was not 'alternative intelligence assessment,' " he said. "It was from the start a criticism of the consensus of the intelligence community, and in presenting it I was not endorsing its substance."

Read that last sentence carefully. Isn't Douglas Feith admitting he knowingly forced bad intel into the stream? What exactly does that phrase "not endorsing" mean?

Later: Reading this AFP version, it sounds like the legal/illegal split is based almost solely on whether their actions were "authorized."

Has the White House already won the politics around "the surge?"

With the House preparing for a massive three day debate starting Monday over "the surge," I got to wondering, is it too late?

The Republican efforts to stall the Senate referendum were successful enough to delay any such debate until after the newsmedia had reported that "the surge" has begun.

Now that "the troops are on the ground" the politics have changed. That doesn't mean that Bush's escalation is necessarily any more popular, but I do think it changes the footing of the debate. Instead of opposing an unpopular Bush policy that is coming, that they can stop, the Dems will now find themselves speaking against a policy that is ongoing.

I'm not saying don't do it, I definitely think they should, but the underlying dynamic feels different now. You know?

(Also: I think the House strategy of automatically assigning 5 minutes to every congressman is brilliant tactically. If a Republican Congressman doesn't use their time, they are open for attack. If they do use their time, they have to politically dance between the Bush position and public opinion.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pentagon finds Pentagon innocent

What a surprise. The DoD IG's report on Feith and the prewar intel finds that the manipulation was "inappropriate but not illegal."

So, just where did the Africa-Uranium intel enter the stream?

(And, "not illegal" is the high standard we expect out of intel that takes us to war.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A man sits in his destroyed room after a car bomb attack in Baghdad February 5, 2007. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)


(TPM) Condi Rice conveniently forgets Iran's attempted conciliation in 2003.

(ABCBlotter) "For the second time in two years, responses from DHS workers have shown them to be the least satisfied employees in the Bush administration. DHS employees showed low confidence in their superiors, doubted their leadership and felt they did not adequately reward creativity or address poor performance." (These are the people tasked with preparing for disaster and terror strike.)

(CNN via Rawstory) Want to know how the war against Islamofacism is going? In an open poll (choices supplied by respondents,) George Bush surpassed the Prime Minister of Israel as the most disliked person in the middle east.

BUT what's really telling is that the "most liked" person is Hezbullah leader Nasrallah.

So, Bush surpasses Israel, and a terrorist leader is now the most popular figure across the middle east. Now, that's a plan for victory. (Wasn't Karen Hughes supposed to take care of all this?)

But I thought the president said we didn't discuss failure

Blumenthal reports that the Pentagon is planning for the failure and fallout of "the surge," and nobody involved thinks "the surge" will succeed.

The planners, the guys responsible for projecting, join the intelligence community in judging that "the surge" will fail, and yet it still goes on....
Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush's escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.

(Question: Did this come to Blumenthal from a Pentagon source? A dissenting administration official? Just curious.)

Picture of the Day

Deputy Secretary of State-designate John Negroponte looks on as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. introduces him to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jan. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Painting schools over there so we won't have to paint them over here.

I was thinking about the Bush proposed budget yesterday, and that title popped into my head.

Nothing is lighting me up this morning, so here's some quickhits.

(Vanity Fair) A long read outlining the neocon push for Iran.

(AP) Four more US Marines were killed in two incidents in Anbar, a Mahdi Deputy Health Minister was arrested, and the bombings in Shia areas of Baghdad continue.

(Reuters) An article pointing to Giuliani's 9-11 decisions and asking how much they'll be attacked. (Welcome to the race Mr. Giuliani.)

(Reuters, AFP, BBC) The Israeli and Lebanese armies trade fire across(?) the border.

(Reuters) Iraqi police selling their weapons on the black market.

And, if you're looking for stuff to read, the CFR has issued a report(.pdf) titled "After the Surge: The Case for U.S. Military Disengagement from Iraq." A few bullet points from Laura Rozen.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sometimes it's what you don't hear.....

Has anybody else noticed that around the Libby trial, there is no winger defense? No "it's a political witch hunt," no "she wasn't really covert," no "Scooter Libby has served his country...."

I haven't seen a single talking head on TV defending him in any way, and this from a group that contains people who deny global warming, believe the earth is 8,000 years old, and still maintain that Saddam's WMD's were smuggled out through Syria.

They can't find one wingnut to go on TV to defend Libby even just for old time's sake?

UPDATE: Reality-Based Educator mentioned in the comments that Matalin was on Imus this morning sort of defending Libby. A couple of fragments here.

Picture of the Day - 3

An Iraqi holds his mother after she suffered a panic attack following the questioning and near-detainment of her son by US Army soldiers from the 5-20 Infantry Division. (AFP/David Furst)

"Forcible relocation" by the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi/Shia government appears to be dealing Kirkuk to the Kurds in order to buy their cooperation. The Sunnis are the ones paying the cost.
An Iraqi government committee has decided to relocate tens of thousands of Arabs currently living in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi Higher Committee for the Normalization of Kirkuk ruled that Arabs descended from those who moved to the city after 1957 would be returned to their original home towns and given compensation.

I know about Saddam's "Arabization," but forcibly ejecting tens of thousands who have lived there for 50 years..... It's government ordered "cleansing." (Of every male under 50.)

(And where exactly are they supposed to go?)

Later: Slightly different version here, and wasn't the fate of Kirkuk supposed to be decided by a parliamentary referendum in late 2007?

Deep Crooked

And it's coming our way
"A senior Justice Department official acknowledged yesterday that a top federal prosecutor in Arkansas was removed to make room for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove, but he said that six other U.S. attorneys were fired for "performance-related" issues."

Hmmm.... So, let's see. Not only is there an admission that Karl Rove's "former aide" is being placed in a US attorney's office with all the prosecutorial and investigative powers vested in it, but, of all the patronage posts out there, Rove's "former aide" also just happens to be placed in Arkansas, the former home state of the most likely Democratic nominee for 2008.

It displays intent that they had to fire the sitting US attorney for no reason to make that specific job available for Rove's man.

Related: GOP Views Clinton As Virtually Unbeatable.


(UPI) Peter Pace said there will not be enough equipment for US troops involved in "the surge," and that the solution will be the Army and Marines sharing equipment.

(AP) "More U.S. troops were killed in combat in Iraq over the past four months — at least 334 through Jan. 31 — than in any comparable stretch since the war began."

(McClatchy) A long article outlining doubts about Maliki and his current political position. (Most interesting to me was the mention that the Iraqi PM position was designed to be weak for US purposes, and now it's causing difficulties.)

(BBC) An interesting informal blog-type item discussing the difficulties faced by the Iraqi stringers.

And, if somehow you didn't see it, the NYTimes piece on the lack of State Dept personnel going into Iraq is pivotal. "The surge" is actually just a tactic designed to create a lull (if it works.) The theory is that in that lull, politics and development can take place changing momentum, BUT, if that component is missing, there's no point in the surge.

So, the US military is showing up in full, trying to do their job, but Iraqi forces are not showing up, Iraqi politicians are not showing up, and now, elements of the State Dept are not showing up. US soldiers are taking bullets and IED's waiting for Godot.

Picture of the Day - 2

US Army soldiers from the 5-20 Infantry Division take up positions to provide cover for fellow soldiers in the Shaab neighbourhood of northern Baghdad. (AFP/David Furst)

Report of Feith's OSP due out Friday

There's another Friday afternoon release coming. The Pentagon IG's report on Douglas Feith and the OSP and the Iraq prewar intel is set to be released Friday.

Even if this report is hollow, this may allow Rockefeller and the SSCI to restart the Senate investigation into the Pentagon's intel manipulation before the Iraq war. (Sen. Pat Roberts and the Republicans had put this part of the investigation on hold pending the Pentagon's report.)

What happened to the NIE?

How did the NIE disappear so fast?

"It is the gathered judgement of all 16 intelligence agencies that Iraq is a steaming pile of crap, likely to only get worse, and the president's plan is likely to put US soldiers at risk for, at best, a marginal chance of improvement."

And, it disappeared in four days.

Internet was down

My internet connection was down all morning, and now I've gotta go. More later.

Picture of the Day

Sen. John Warner, R-VA, listens to Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, during a January 2007 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sellout, thy name is McCain

With Giuliani in the GOP '08 field as the most likely challenger to McCain I see a huge historical repitition coming with a bizarre twist.

In 2000, McCain had won New Hampshire and was leading in South Carolina, but had no support from evangelicals so he just decided to rail against them on the stump. George Bush, who was the evangelicals' candidate, gathered together a team for an extremely dirty anti-McCain campaign. It worked, Bush won and McCain lost.

Forward to 2008. Giuliani is derided by the evangelical right, and has no support among them, and may well try to run a "centrist" primary campaign appealing to the relative social liberals in the Republican party. He's leading in the polls.

Meanwhile, McCain is trying to position himself as the evangelicals' candidate, and he has hired the core of the same team who ran the extremely dirty campaign against him in South Carolina.

So, we have the makings of a complete McCain turnabout.

How long until Giuliani has an illegitimate black baby?

Picture of the Day - 3

(AFP/Jim Watson)

Did Exxon buy the Iraq war?

There was a big bloggy splash a couple days ago that the AEI offered $10,000 to any "scientist" willing to challenge the recent IPCC findings on climate change. Next it was pointed out that one of AEI's big donors was Exxon. (Exxon contitutes just over 1% of AEI's funding.)

But my question is this: Since there was no group more vocal and instrumental in leading the charge for the Iraq war (and now Iran) than the AEI, shouldn't someone maybe question which of the AEI's donors (like Exxon) might benefit from that?

How is it that, in effect, paid spokesman for corporations are allowed on "news programs" without divulging their funding?



It takes 30 days to go through drug or alcohol rehab, but Ted Haggard is "completely heterosexual" in three weeks. (I like the fact that his former supporters are asking him to leave town.)

(Reuters) Yet another suicide bombing in the Pakistani capital. (Only the bomber killed.) (ABC) He was trying to get into the VIP lounge.

(ABCBlotter) Pictures of contractors in Iraq with "crates of cash" are brought out in Waxman's hearing today.

(WaPo blog) The Democrats just don't do stuff like this, flying a private plane over John Edwards' new house and posting pictures and rumors about its extravagance.

Picture of the Day - 2

Slipping Morale?

I just want to make a quick empirical observation. More and more in the articles from embedded reporters patrolling with US units, you are reading some version of this,
"Whatever new plans they come up with, it won't work out here. It's getting worse and worse," the soldier said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he worried about a reprimand from his superior officers. "I was here last time, in the beginning. Now it's totally changed. They don't even respect us anymore. They spit at us, they throw rocks at us. It wasn't like that before."

Higher-ranking officers with the task force said they see encouraging signs that cooperation with Iraqis will improve as the new security initiative in Baghdad begins.

What catches my eye is not so much the lack of hope from the infantry soldier, although that's definitely not good, what I see as important is the growing distance between the way the soldiers and the officers see the war. More and more we're reading foot soldiers expressing hopelessness about their efforts while their officers talk of optimism and positive signs. (McClatchy had another clear example on Sunday.)

I am not a military expert, but it would seem to me that this growing gap in perception will likely lead to a disconnect between officers and soldiers which could mark the beginning of serious problems.

If you're an infantry soldier seeing little point in your patrols, how do you respond to being sent out, being shot at, seeing comrades wounded and killed, day after day at the hands of officers who you don't think have a grasp on the reality.

How does that clash not affect you?

(This is just a speculative post based on a few tidbits, but I'm growing worried by what I'm reading.)

What is real in Iraq?

(NYTimes) An Iranian diplomat was seized by men carrying Iraqi Defense Ministry identification. (Defense Ministry may mean Sunni, but who knows?) A second car involved was stopped, but the other car with the diplomat got away.

At this point, the Iraqis themselves are unsure whether the men still work for the Defense Ministry or whether this was a government operation, amilitia/insurgent operation or both.

(AP) "One Iraqi government official also said the diplomat was detained Sunday by a special Iraqi army unit that reports directly to the U.S. military. But a military spokesman denied any U.S. troops or Iraqis that report to them were involved."

Also, we're getting more "information" on the Sadr aide killed in Diyala on Sunday. The US maintained that Khazim al-Hamdani had gone rogue from Sadr's movement, but a Sadr spokesman says that isn't true.

In the NYTimes today, the US claims that he had been supplying information on other militia bombers with the intention of lowering US-Mahdi conflict. (In a statement Sunday, the US military said he was responsible for attacks on US troops and "kidnappings and assassinations.")

The Iraqi police report says he was shot trying to flee, but Sadr's people say he was bayonetted. So, which faction dominated the unit that killed him, Sunni, Shia? Sadr's faction? Another Shia faction?

(Another local Sadr leader was killed in a driveby shooting. Who was behind that? Are we seeing another Shia militia taking advantage of Sadr's militia being off the streets?)

And, do we know what happened to the five soldiers killed in Karbala yet? Do we know who was behind that?

My point in all this is that we have no idea what is happening day to day even on the level of fairly basic events. Who is on what side? Where the Iraqi government forces end and militias/insurgents begin?

US forces are trapped in this hideously complex political-war environment far more difficult than Vietnam's Vietcong/civilian distinction. Tribalism, sectarianism, factionalism, local militia group, shifting loyalties..... Who the hell are American soldiers supposed to shoot at?

Anyone that shoots at them? That's hardly a way to win a war no matter how many troops you "surge."

(NYTimes) "Also on Monday, the United States military reported that two American soldiers had been killed the day before."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tomorrow's hearing

One of the hearings I have been most looking forward to takes place tomorrow. Paul Bremer takes his place at the table in front of Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Picture of the Day - 3

Iraqis search for their missing relatives at the Al-Yarmuk hospital morgue in Baghdad. (AFP/Wisam Sami)

No parade for the soldiers coming home. No training for the soldiers shipping out.

If you want a real thermostat on the condition of the military,
In response to continuing financial strains, U.S. Army Europe has canceled all welcome home celebrations for units returning from deployment through this fiscal year, halting the tradition of free food, rides and other community festivities for returning soldiers and their families.

Or maybe this:
Soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division had so little time between deployments to Iraq they had to cram more than a year's worth of training into four months.

Some had only a few days to learn how to fire their new rifles before they deployed to Iraq -- for the third time -- last month. They had no access to the heavily armored vehicles they will be using in Iraq, so they trained on a handful of old military trucks instead. And some soldiers were assigned to the brigade so late that they had no time to train in the United States at all. Instead of the yearlong training recommended prior to deployment, they prepared for war during the two weeks they spent in Kuwait, en route to Anbar, Iraq's deadliest province.

Wasted time on Joe Wilson

Everytime I watch the coverage of the Libby trial, I keep thinking the same thing. How much time did the White House waste fighting the politics around Iraq rather than actually spending that time trying to win the war?

If they'd fought the war as hard as they fought the politics......

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi man outside the morgue of al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad. (AFP - Wissam Al-Okaili)

So, when are they getting to the "oil law?"

Iraqslogger has a rather complicated recap of another complete breakdown in the Iraqi parliament yesterday.

The issue that started the row was a demand for an investigation into the massive killing/battle outside Najaf last week. (The Iraqis didn't just dust their hands with the "cult" story and move on.)

But what is more symptomatic is the way the "debate" then careened out of control, heading next to the massive market bombing on Saturday that killed at least 140.

From that "discussion," came a call that all "Arab residents" be deported from Iraq, followed by a call that all Iranians should be expelled as well. Then there were charges that Syria was behind all the bombings followed by countercharges against Iran, Saudi, Jordan, and Turkey.

And, of course, there was a walkout, pushing the meeting below quorum.

So, when do they get to the oil law?

The times they are a-changin'

Does anyone else appreciate the complete irony of the politics around the Senate resolution against the President's unpopular Iraq strategy?

Right before the Congressional election in 2002, roughly a year after 9-11, with Bush and the Republicans at their highest point in the polls, Democrats found themselves facing up to the politically difficult vote authorizing the war in Iraq. With at least one eye on politics, a significant number of them, (no names here,) voted to authorize the Iraq invasion.

Now, here we are a little over four years later, the same war still going on, and another vote/referendum is coming up in the Senate. Now it is Republicans who find themselves on the political underside worrying about the political implications of not voting against the war.

Also: How different would the politics be if the Dems didn't control the Senate? A couple thousand votes in Virginia and we have Cheney as the tiebreaker,

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How very Vietnam.....

McClatchy has an article.
Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily. The soldiers cited a variety of reasons, including incompetence or corruption among Iraqi troops, the complexities of Iraq's sectarian violence and the lack of Iraqi public support, a cornerstone of counterinsurgency warfare.

"They can keep sending more and more troops over here, but until the people here start working with us, it's not going to change," said Sgt. Chance Oswalt, 22, of Tulsa, Okla.....

Their officers were more optimistic.

If there's enough progress during the next four to six months, "we can look at doing provincial Iraqi control, and we can move U.S. forces to the edge of the city," said Lt. Col. Dean Dunham, the deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade, which oversees most of east Baghdad.

Maj. Christopher Wendland, a senior staff officer for Dunham's brigade, said he thinks there's a good chance that by late 2007 American troops will have handed over most of Baghdad to Iraqi troops.

"I'm actually really positive," said Wendland, 35, of Chicago. "We have an Iraqi army that's actually capable of maintaining once we leave."

The farther up the chain, the farther from the fight, the more positive the response. From the guys doing it every day who don't have any desire to climb the ladder, the truth.

Picture of the Day - 3

U.S. Army Master Sergeant Daniel R. Robles holds hands with his daughter and wife after being awarded the purple heart and the bronze star at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas January 28, 2007. Robles was injured in Improvised Explosive Devices explosion in Iraq and lost both of his legs below the knee. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

If B is untrue, should I believe A

I smell a PR campaign.
A U.S.-Iraqi campaign to stabilize Baghdad will begin soon and the offensive against militants will be on a scale never seen during four years of war, American officers said on Sunday.....

"It's going to be an operation unlike anything this city has seen. It's a multiple order magnitude of difference, not just a 30 percent, I mean a couple hundred percent," he added, referring to previous offensives that failed to stem bloodshed.

And why am I skeptical?
All three officers sought to talk up the ability of Iraq's forces to perform better than in previous crackdowns.

These are the same Iraqi forces that are showing up in Baghdad at 55-65% of their full compliment?

(Also interesting, this meeting was with "foreign reporters". Technically, US military officials are not allowed to lie or place propaganda in the US press, but the foreign press....)

This is amazing.

I don't know why I find this so riveting, but on the NYTimes editorial page today they ran a map/graphic of the deaths in Iraq in January. (If you right click - view image, it's smaller.)

And, that's without alot of the 1,000 killed in Iraq this week.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi wounded in a bomb blast sits inside the Imam Ali hospital in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007. A suicide truck bomber struck the busy outdoor Sadriyah market in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 82 people and wounding dozens, police and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

"Going for broke" in Iraq unlikely to work.

The article of the day is this WaPo piece
The success of the Bush administration's new Iraq strategy depends on a series of rapid and dramatic political and economic reforms that even the plan's authors have little confidence will work.

It does outline the political/economic side of the strategy a bit.
The strategy's political component centers on replacing deepening Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish divides with a new delineation between "extremists" and "moderates." Moderates are defined as those of all religious and political persuasions who eschew violence in favor of safety and employment.

With the help of outside Iraq experts, the administration has compiled lists of active and still-untapped moderates around the country.....

As American and Iraqi combat forces focus on cooling the cauldron of violence in Baghdad, U.S. military commanders and State Department teams plan to funnel "bridge money" toward moderate designees in outer provinces and in the capital to create jobs, start businesses and revitalize moribund factories. Iraqi money would come in behind to make it all permanent.

Iraqis with physical and economic security, the thinking goes, will give their political support to the government that produces both. Closing the circle, the Iraqi government will see non-sectarian moderates as the central support for a new political coalition.

So, the plan is to try to create rival money flows emphasizing "moderates" to compete with the patronage corruption through which the Shia militias draw so much of their money out of the current government. The idea is that somehow this will empower those moderates enabling a "Hadley memo" moderate center.

(But make a note that little to no real effort is being made to disrupt the militias' money flows.)

I think the skewering comment is this.
Many experts believe that the administration's effort to build a new political center, supported by "moderate" Sunni allies in the region that fear Shiite Iranian expansion, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, is hopelessly outdated. "Our struggle may be between moderates and extremists," Brookings Institution scholar Martin Indyk said last month. "Their struggle is between Sunnis and Shias."

American troops are being risked for this. A program that even the authors don't really think is going to work.

Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated?

Rumor at this point, but did the Israelis assassinate a top Iranian nuclear scientist? (TimesOnline)