Saturday, February 17, 2007
Picture of the Day
Catherine Hearn, the mother of Lance Cpl. Brandon Van Parys, second from right, clutches the flag from her son's casket during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007. Van Parys, 20, of New Tripoli, Pa., was killed in Al-Anbar Province, Iraq on Feb. 7 while on patrol. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
A request for 7,500 more troops to Iraq (Maybe more than that)
The U.S. general commanding the security crackdown in Baghdad said Friday that he has asked for reinforcements beyond the 17,000 U.S. combat troops already committed to the Iraqi capital as part of President Bush's emergency build-up.
Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, told a Pentagon news conference that he has requested additional forces to provide attack helicopters and combat engineers to bolster efforts to regain control of the capital city of 5 million.
Maj. Gen Fil commenting in other articles,
(AP) U.S. officials sounded a note of caution. Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, said militias and insurgents have apparently decided to lie low at least during these early days of the security crackdown. "They're watching us carefully," Fil said Friday. "There's an air of suspense."
(WaPo) "We do expect there are going to be some very rough, difficult days ahead.".... "This enemy knows how -- they understand lethality, and they have a thirst for blood like I have never seen anywhere before."
Losing the "other war"
Taliban-led insurgents are winning ever-greater public support in Afghanistan for a struggle that is taking on the character of a "liberation war" against foreign troops, a senior Pakistani official claimed Friday......
"Today, they've reached the stage that a lot of the local population has started supporting the militant operations and it is developing into some sort of a nationalist movement, a resistance movement, sort of a liberation war against coalition forces," Aurakzai told reporters at a news conference.
Condi Rice in Iraq
"I certainly can't, and I don't believe the U.S. government can, give you chapter and verse about the involvement of the leadership of the Iranian government. But I think you have to hold the Iranian government as a whole accountable for the activities of its constituent parts," Rice said.
Also, it sounds like "breathing space" is the talking point.
"They are off to a good start," said Rice, referring to Operation Imposing Law. "How the Iraqis use the breathing space that might provide is what is really important," she told reporters.
And, Look who's back to try to massage the image (WaPo.) She's only used for the US audience anymore.
Among the officials accompanying her was Karen P. Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant who currently serves as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
((USAToday) "Insurgent violence remains a concern. Rice's plane circled the (Baghdad) airport for 30 minutes before landing because of military action in the city.")
Friday, February 16, 2007
The pressure to declare victory.
Expect the surrogates to be out on Sunday trumpeting success and blasting the Dems as "too negative" and "nervous nellies."
(The NYTimes prints the headline the administration wants, "Baghdad Plan Is a ‘Success,’ Iraq Prime Minister Tells Bush," but the AP is hewing a little closer to reality, "Jury remains out on Baghdad crackdown.")
Picture of the Day - 3
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gestures during an interview in Richmond, Va., Monday, Feb. 12, 2007. McCain said he fears an offensive by Iraqi insurgents similar to the Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
But it's not Vietnam, right?
(PS: McCain is skipping the Senate's Iraq vote. On his schedule over the long weekend, courting the religious right in Iowa on Saturday, preaching abstinence to teens in South Carolina on Sunday, and on Monday, a "meet and greet" with Jerry Falwell at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention.
I think I'm going to have to bring back the "kneepads" nickname.)
Bush lies. (I know, I know)
"Bush said al-Maliki is making strides in almost every area,"
"by providing extra Iraqi troops on time" (Froomkin disputes this pointing out that only two of the three promised brigades have shown up by the second deadline, and the last reporting we saw was that Iraqi units were showing up at 55-65% of their full strength.)
"making sure that no ethnic or religious factions are ignored in the security operations" (The majority of violent operations thus far have been primarily aimed at Sunnis, and the Iraqi generals are pointing the operation towards the Sunnis.)
"and approving $10 billion for reconstruction projects" (True) "and working on a oil revenue-sharing law." ("Working on." I'm "working on" a unified theory of physics.)
It seems every time Bush talks to a leader, Putin, Musharraf, Karzai, Maliki, whoever, he comes out praising them and endorsing everything they say. Is he lying for impact or is the president just that gullible?
House vote on anti-escalation resolution
Nay: Total - 182, Democrat - 2, Republican -180.
Boehner's (and Bush's) great lie about Iraq and Al Qaeda
That is utter and complete bullshit.
If the US were to withdraw completely, the highest priority of the Shia majority would be immediately expunging all Sunni radicals from the country. Even if the Saudis and Egyptians, Syrians and Jordanians were to support the Sunni resistance, the efforts of the Sunnis in Iraq would be focused almost exclusively on staying alive.
And, while I'm at it, who exactly is "the enemy" that is supposedly being emboldened? Iraqi Sunnis or Shia who are facing a civil war? We are only their enemy because we have interposed ourselves.
Iran who is already winning in Iraq?
Al Qaeda who has recreated a functioning command structure, reestablished a better protected safe haven in Pakistan, and seen recruiting and growth they had only dreamed of?
Who is the "enemy" who is not already "emboldened?"
Picture of the Day - 2
Quotes that say alot
- Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker
(McClatchy) "A general stopped me one day to say, `I read that our soldiers are doing nothing here but building schools and planting trees, so please explain, how do my boys keep dying?'"
- A Soviet Vet from their Afghanistan war. (good article.)
(AFP) "If the Iraqi parliament sees in me a prime minister, at the proper time, as an alternative, in a constitutional way, in a democratic way, I've served my country, I'll continue serving my country, that's all."
"I am one of the political players on the scene," he said, adding: "I am not a coup d'etat man."
- Iraqi vice-president Adil Abdul Mahdi, the man most rumored to take over for PM Maliki in an Iraqi coup.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
In the category of Jesus effin' Christ
An al Qaeda figure who escaped from a U.S. military prison 18 months ago has re-emerged as a field commander leading attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, ABC News has learned.
And that's not all,
"There are indications that from that central al Qaeda headquarters inside Pakistan on the Afghan border, orders are going to cells in places like the United Kingdom," said ABC News consultant Clarke.
But the problem is the Iranians, not that Pakistan is providing safe haven to Al Qaeda and the Taleban.
Because neither Al Qaeda or the Taleban have ever attacked Americans. Right?
A brief word on Democratic party discipline
Not a single breathless story or talking point. Not one step out of line. That's pretty impressive message control.
Credit to Pelosi and Hoyer.
In response to this, The White House decided to try and change the subject by holding a press conference on Iran yesterday, and a speech on Afghanistan today. (9/11 tomorrow?)
Picture of the Day - 3
What they're saying
WaPo: (The key word is today.)
"We've been very careful in what we've said over the last few weeks," Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, the administration's point man on Iran, said in an appearance yesterday at the Brookings Institution.
And, Atrios takes on the "all options are on the table" rhetoric.
The only reason to state that war is on the table is because you feel it's advantageous to make a threat..
We don't hear leaders saying, "we hope to come to a trade agreement with El Salvador, but until we do all options are on the table," because we're not trying to threaten them with war.
Iraq (Links on Sadr in Iran)
(AP) The 173rd Airborne brigade has been diverted from Iraq to Afghanistan. (Not needed for "the surge?" Desperately needed in Afghanistan.)
(NYTimes) The militias and insurgents have mostly melted away in the face of the long announced Baghdad security plan. (The Iraqis are still coming in under force!!!!)
(Iraqslogger) (Treat this one as rumor) "Muqtada al-Sadr may have left Iraq without the knowledge of even his closest aides."
(Iraqslogger) "Az-Zaman commented on this information by saying that they confirm previous rumors regarding a “deal” to “smuggle Sadr and a number of the Mahdi Army leaders” into Iran." (Same report says that a Sadrist in US custody said that Sadr himself had ordered violence and Sadr fled out of fear of being on an arrest list.)
(Per Juan Cole) The US did hand an arrest list to the SCIRI controlled Interior Ministry, "so essentially the US is helping SCIRI remove its rivals among the Sadrists and Sunni Arabs."
(AFP) The Iraqi government "plays down" Sadr's trip; Sadr's aides still deny he is out of the country saying he might appear for tomorrow's prayers. (LATimes) Sadrist legislator claims to have seen Sadr in Najaf four days ago.
Update: Copy Editor points to two articles framing Sadr in Iran as a regrouping effort.
Picture of the Day - 2
Shaping the argument
Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have questioned whether the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq gave political advantage to the Bush administration by making "rapid withdrawal" of U.S. troops the only alternative military option the NIE explored.
Also, did anybody notice how Bush yesterday tried to support his escalation by saying it was the road to Baker Hamilton? As he has thus far not endorsed any of bit of the ISG, is this just an effort to cut off the Baker-Hamilton option/criticism from critics?
Why a vote on defunding the war is a bad idea for the Democrats
In fact, because of the way defunding legislation would likely split off Democratic votes, I would argue that defunding legislation would be far less effective than the current non-binding measures.
If whatever is passed is to be vetoed and does not have any real impact anyway, a non-binding resolution that gains broad cross party support is actually the more effective strategy.
I understand that that's not what we want to see happen in the world, but if the choice is a non-binding resolution with political impact or an ineffective defunding measure that splits support, I think the current path is the right one.
(Why do you think the pro-Bush forces keep trying to move defunding into the center of the debate?)
The "anonymous" Baghdad briefing on Iran-Iraq is disowned
That was precisely what the military asserted in its Baghdad briefing for reporters Sunday, a secretive session in which no cameras or tape recorders were allowed and no names were given for the speakers.....At another contentious White House briefing, Snow said that he would "push all evidentiary questions to the DNI" -- the director of national intelligence.
The intelligence community, still licking its wounds over faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq, displayed an air of "I told you so" this week and insisted that the Baghdad briefers had gone beyond vetted information.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
It sure is a good thing our President can tell jokes
Picture of the Day - 3
Welcome to your future, Iraq. "Relative Peace"
How do you now define victory?
Bush: First, the _ Iraq will be a society in which there is relative peace. I say relative peace because if it's, like, zero car bombings, it never will happen that way.
(Think about what we've done to these people.)
Also note the timing of this press conference. They must've been quite unhappy with the news coverage of yesterday's Congressional debate. They're trying to grab the headlines.
Later: TPM has a decent quick response takedown of the intentionally ambiguous "we don't know if Iran is involved."
So far, that ambiguity is getting the headlines he wants.
NYTimes: Bush Says Iran Is Source of Deadly Bombs
WaPo: Bush Says Iran Is Supplying Weapons in Iraq
AP: Bush: Iran supplying weapons in Iraq
Since the Congressional Repubs have been unable to take the debate off the actuality of the Iraq war as outlined in their strategy memo, Bush had to step in and do it for them.
Walking back the Iran intel
The reason this makes my head explode is that Caldwell is reported to have been one of the anonymous briefers who led the press to that connection in the first place. At the very least, he was certainly involved in setting the briefing up.
And, Joint Chiefs Chairman Pace's position that this is all nonsense is confirmed by his spokesman.
"The long-term threat to campaign success . . . is the potential irretrievable loss of legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan," he said.
"The accumulated effects of violent terrorist insurgent attacks, corruption, insufficient social resources and growing income disparities, all overlaid by a major international presence, are taking their toll on Afghan government legitimacy," he said. "A point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people, and the goal of establishing a democratic, moderate, self-sustaining state could be lost forever."
Yes, the Iraq parallel is obvious.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Wednesday the kingdom does not see any obstacle to cooperating with Russia on developing a nuclear energy program.
(It appears the major short term purpose of Putin's speech blasting US policy was to act as political backdrop for his current middle east trip where the goal is to sell Russian weapons, nuclear technology, and an alternative partnership to the Sunni nations.)
(AP) The Bush budget increases VA spending for next year followed by four years of cuts and freezes. (Support the troops, my ass!!!)
(NYTimes) The EU Parliament has approved a report outlining European cooperation in US renditions.
(Reuters) Chavez is nationalizing quickly.
(AFP) I wonder how Republican '08 candidates feel about Bush administration officials predicting '07 as an economic down year followed by growth after that? This year will determine the entire economic argument in the '08 race.
And, Don't miss Milbank as he discusses the Republican tactics around the House resolution on Iraq.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Baiting al Sadr and the Mahdi
What I'm finding far more interesting is the way the US military is trying to play this by timing the release of weeks old information and by painting Sadr as a coward.
ABCNews who "broke" the story (was given the story for release) includes this:
Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house."
Sources say some of the Mahdi army leadership went with al Sadr.
Do you hear that Mahdi fighters? Your leadership is afraid of the Americans and has abandoned you.
It's a little obvious isn't it? (Reuters, AP)
Later: The intent appears to be to use Sadr's absence to separate his more radical followers. Once they're clear of him, the US can go after them without upsetting the Maliki/Sadr relationship. The end result would be a diminished Sadr who is more reliant on the political for his influence.
Later still: (AP) Representatives claim Sadr is in Najaf and met with government officials yesterday. (I'm sure they can find government officials who will corroborate that whether it's true or not.)
They also claim that he was not going to make any appearances for the month of Muharam and that the story is a result of their own disinformation designed to hide Sadr's location from attackers.
A spokesman for the Sadrist bloc said the assertion that al-Sadr had fled was part of a "psychological war" by U.S.-led forces to try to prod the cleric into the open.
However, I'm tending to believe that he and some of his staff are in Iran. Whether it was the Iraqi intention or simply US opportunism, this dovetails too conveniently with the unexplained closing of the Iranian border.
Picture of the Day - 3
Gen Pace says again, "No proof of an Iran link."
A top U.S. general said Tuesday there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials.
So, is this preemptive CYA by Pace or an effort to short circuit the administration's politics against Iran?
Tony Snow got hammered earlier over yesterday's comments, I would guess Pace's reiteration today won't calm the furor.
The questionable presentation of the Iran-Iraq link
We were ordered to leave everything outside except a pen and notebook when we went into the briefing. Shortly after it started, my pen failed. An Iraqi journalist gave me his - he wasn't using it. Several of the Iraqi journalists got up and left before the briefing was over.
That's the difficult thing about this story -- without having access to information the U.S. government says it can't give us, it's impossible to evaluate the accusations that these weapons are coming only from Iran in operations authorized by the Iranian government.
Does this sound like any kind of briefing you've heard of before?
Picture of the Day - 2
All they have left is stagecraft.
(U.S. House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) wipes tears from his face as he listens to fellow rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) speak about his time as a prisoner during the Vietnam war, following a Republican conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington February 13, 2007. Before the House began debate on an Iraq war resolution Tuesday, Johnson said 34 years ago when he was a prisoner of war, opposition to the conflict from within America hurt the morale of troops on the ground in Vietnam, just as the current resolution may hurt the morale of troops currently in Iraq. REUTERS/Jason Reed)
(Reuters) The Iraqi General chosen to be "in charge" of the latest Baghdad security operation was himself chased from his home under sectarian threat two months ago.
Reuters reports fatal bombings in Lebanon and Algeria.
The BBC asks the question, since the British have been complaining about Iranian IED's since October 2005, why is the US making it a major issue now?
That article also makes an interesting point on the language, "Previously they ("EFP's") had been lumped in the generalised description of IEDs - improvised explosive devices. The implication is that now they are less improvised and more planned."
(BBC) Italian police say they have broken up a major arms trafficking ring that was planning to supply thousands of weapons to insurgents in Iraq. (But the Iranians are shipping in serial numbers?)
(CNN via ANN?) The US military says the CH-46 helicopter downed in Anbar last week was likely "brought down by some sort of surface-to-air-missile."
(FT) "Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded."
And, no one is willing to go on the record to support the Iran weapons in Iraq claims. No one wants to attach their name to this rock solid analysis. That says a whole lot.
Picture of the Day
Polling on Iraq.
There is majority support for congressional action on Iraq: 51% back a non-binding resolution, 57% a cap on troop levels and 63% a timetable to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2008. However, 58% oppose denying funding for the additional troops.....
Seven of 10 say their representative's vote on the war will affect their vote in the next congressional election; more than four in 10 call it a major factor. However, nearly two-thirds aren't sure where their representative stands on the issue.
That last bit is why the Dems are forcing a vote. Even if it's non-binding, they want every Republican on the record.
In 2008, they want no question of who stood where.
(Bush approval 37%. USAToday/Gallup.)
And the administration wanted to keep Bolton
But what grabbed me was this bit by John Bolton,
Already before its adoption, the deal drew strong criticism from John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., who urged President Bush to reject it.
"I am very disturbed by this deal," Bolton told CNN. "It sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world: 'If we hold out long enough, wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded,' in this case with massive shipments of heavy fuel oil for doing only partially what needs to be done."
Let's, remember that the previous stable situation deteriorated after a North Korean official at a cocktail party reportedly told a US diplomat they were enriching uranium. The rumor at the time was that that US diplomat was John Bolton.
So, crazy boy Bolton condemning this plan was the reason the North Korea situation "went nuclear" in the first place.
If this administration had their way, he would still be working for them.
(From a first read, isn't this new deal more or less a more expensive version of the Clinton plan?)
Monday, February 12, 2007
Picture of the Day - 3
Need something lighter?
And, does anyone appreciate the humor in the fact that the Republicans have finally reached their true base as their front running candidate for the Presidency Rudy Giuliani actually did marry his second cousin?
You might be a redneck if......?
Would the Iranians leave a trail?
The English character markings on the Iranian weapons are required by international law, however, if the Iranians were going to supply them to target the US, wouldn't you expect them to "scratch off the serial numbers?"
I can understand if they were smuggled back from Hezbullah where such markings would grant Iran political benefit in the Muslim world, but if "weapons to Iraq" was sanctioned by the top Iranian officials what benefit do they gain by shipping clear evidence into Iraq?
Why wouldn't they do what private Sunni groups are doing out of Saudi, Egypt, Jordan, etc, and work through arms brokers to obtain untraceable ex-Soviet bloc munitions?
I mean, Iran has pretty good intelligence services.
Picture of the Day - 2
More on the Iraq-Iran "evidence"
Also: Matteo points to this VOA piece where Gen. Pace refuses to endorse the anonymously given press briefing.
"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se (specifically), knows about this," he said. "It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."
Also: TPM has the powerpoint slides from the presentation.
And, Don't miss this one via ThinkProgress.
(WaPo) "One ambassador in Washington said he was taken aback when John Hannah, Vice President Cheney’s national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 “the year of Iran” and indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility."
(HuffPo/CNN) Gen. Eikenberry, the commander in Afghanistan says "The intelligence has gone cold on Osama bin Laden."
And, I've said it a dozen times. If the Republicans had fought the war as hard as they've fought the politics of Iraq, we'd be hip deep in flowers and sweets.
Picture of the Day
(AP) Other people in the area screamed, "Where is the government?" "Where is the security plan?" and "We have had enough!"
(A man runs down a street warning people to flee shortly after a twin car bomb attack at Shorja market in Baghdad February 12, 2007. Three bomb attacks at markets in Baghdad killed at least 80 people and wounded 150 on Monday as Iraqis marked the first anniversary of a Shi'ite shrine bombing that pitched the country to the brink of civil war. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz.)
Metatstatizing Iran impressions
The Army is working to fill a shortfall in Iraq of thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs -- including a rising threat from particularly lethal weapons linked to Iran and known as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFP) -- that are now inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in the country, according to U.S. military and civilian officials.
Doesn't this seem to imply a far greater role for Iranian made EFP's than there really has been? Thus far, according to yesterday's briefing, 170 US soldiers have been killed by these Iranian EFP's.
Thumbnailing thate 70% number, 2,000 US soldiers have been killed by non-Iranian IED's, and yet this article leaves a very different impression.
This stuff is far more dangerous when it's written into the context of an article than when it's presented into a briefing. It adopts a "truth of consensus" which separates it from the intellectual questioning of a briefing.
Thought for the Day
Yesterday, the Bush administration claimed that the Iraqis don't have the machining capability to produce the moderately technical EFP's they claim are coming from Iran.
That's quite a shift in estimates, eh?
(I'm not arguing that IED's aren't coming from Iran, but these two statements really say alot about the manipulation of intel. Stolen from Patrick Cockburn.)
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Picture of the Day - 2
Let's destabilize Pakistan while we're at it...
Asserting a right to self-defense, American forces in eastern Afghanistan have launched artillery rounds into Pakistan to strike Taliban fighters who attack remote U.S. outposts, the commander of U.S. forces in the region said Sunday..
Sunday reads - Odom and Newsweek
What the hell is this? Why anonymity?
The experts, who spoke to a large gathering of reporters on condition that they not be further identified, said the supply trail began with Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, which also is accused of arming the Hezbollah guerrilla army in Lebanon.
Why? Why are these "experts" given anonymity, and why does a "large gathering of reporters" play along?
As the information has been vetted for public release, there's no reason that a military spokesman or an administration official can't be out in front making the presentation on the record.
(And, How exactly does this take place? Reporters attend the normal press conference, and at the end, the speaker points to a door and says, "anyone willing to play by our rules can go through that door and get the story of the day. If not, sit out here and get balled out by your superiors.")
This is just very wrong, and there's no reason for it.
Later: The NYTimes tries to explain, and we find out the reporters were asking the same question I am.
During the briefing, the senior United States military officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops. A senior military official said that without anonymity, for example, the military analyst could not have contributed to the briefing.
Again, give the declassified info to a public source, or, refer to the analyst as "an analyst whose identity is protected."
I know this seems a small point for this much electronic ink, but there must be accountability for intelligence used to justify attacking agents of Iran and risking war with Iran. If it's wrong, again, and we get into an unnecessary war, again, we deserve to know who shoveled the fertilizer.
Later still: (WaPo) "Reporters' cell phones were taken before the briefing, and the officials did not allow reporters to record or videotape the proceedings."
Picture of the Day
(Rumors of a Stephen Colbert Ben and Jerry's flavor.)