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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 24, 2007

But the British were 'fighting them over there'

I'm not amazed that the terror threat to Britain has gone up, but the numbers being bandied about are noticeable.
The terrorist threat facing Britain from home-grown al-Qaeda agents is higher than at any time since the September 11 attacks in 2001, secret intelligence documents reveal.....

The number of British-based Islamic terrorists plotting suicide attacks against "soft" targets in this country is far greater than the Security Services had previously believed, the government paperwork discloses. It is thought the plotters could number more than 2,000.

Of course, it should be remembered that the Blair government is trying to justify a troop increase in Afghanistan which "is expected to supersede Iraq as the location for terrorists planning Jihad against the West."

So, this might be a government leak for purpose.

US Iran quickhits

(Telegraph) American armada prepares to take on Iran

(via Reuters) Sy Hersh has an article in the New Yorker.

(TimesOnline) US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

(Telegraph) Israel seeks all clear for Iran air strike

(Reuters) Any U.S. strike might not destroy Iran nuclear sites

(Arkin) Plans, But No Intention for War With Iran

(NYTimes) Sunni Gulf countries spending like crazy at the IDEX arms show.

No answers. Just thought I'd throw them all together.

Picture of the Day - 2

U.S soldiers of 2nd Battalion 87 Infantry Regiment 10 Mountain Division patrol with soldiers of Afghan National Army at a forwarding base in Orgun-E in eastern Afghanistan, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007. NATO-led forces will face 'hard fighting' this spring in Afghanistan's volatile south and west, where the Taliban is gearing up for increased suicide and roadside bomb attacks, an alliance spokesman said Wednesday.(AP photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Al Qaeda in Iraq pushes back

For two and a half years, the US has been trying to threaten, bribe, and cajole Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar to assist them in going after Al Qaeda. You know those tribal leaders noticed this.
A fuel tanker rigged with explosives killed 40 people when it blew up near a Sunni mosque in western Iraq on Saturday, a day after the mosque's imam had criticized al Qaeda militants, police and residents said.

Also: An interesting article on Sadr using the US crackdown to thin out the disloyal from his ranks.

The Bush administration tries to move past Iraq

The last two weeks have seen a classic Bush administration media strategy.

After the House resolution condemning the surge and the Senate vote that focused attention back on the actualities of Iraq, the Bush administration felt the pressure to "close" that media conversation and move on.

The process by which they did this was to introduce the secondary but not directly related story of Iran and the EFP's. Admittedly, the argument wasn't as kind to them as they would have liked, but they did utilize it to drown out the conversation about the surge. Then, once everyone was talking about Iran, they allowed that conversation to "close."

It's actually fairly deft media management. Transfer the Iraq surge discussion to an Iran EFP discussion, take the small hit on the EFP's to avoid the big hit on the unresolved Iraq discussion.

Then, quickly, try to move the conversation on.

Wednesday - Healthcare. Thursday and Friday - Alternative fuels. Saturday - Healthcare.

The one hitch is that with the Dems now in charge of the House and Senate agenda, they can bring the conversation back.

Picture of the Day

A man stands amid cars destroyed in a car bomb blast in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007. Two parked car bombs struck the southern Baghdad Dora neighborhood, killing at least four civilians and wounding 15, police said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

On the al Hakim arrest

The arrest of al Hakim's son is a political ignition in the US Shia relationship in Iraq. The NYTimes has decent coverage.

But, I thought Juan Cole's take was far more interesting:
Al-Zaman says that al-Hakim's cell phone was confiscated, and hints broadly that the real reason for the arrest was to get access to his telephone records and the documents he had with him. The US suspects the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq of getting aid from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Washington wants it stopped.....

....there was not good reason to doubt al-Hakim's passport, and it can't have taken 12 hours to call al-Maliki. There is also the question of why US troops were even in the area, since it is a Polish sphere of operations. They had to have come over for some specific purpose. The likelihood is that it was an intelligence operation of some sort.

We will probably never know the truth, but no one seems to believe this was an accident. So, what "greater purpose" was accomplished by straining the critical US-SCIRI relationship?

Was it intelligence? A warning to Iran? To SCIRI? To al-Hakim?

Not making the same mistakes in Iraq. Except we are.

One of the more curious elements of the "new" Iraq strategy is that in many regards, it's really an effort to try to go back to 2003 and start the whole process over. (Michael Hirsch reported as much in Newsweek, and as did Gen. Keane's comments that we're going to sideline the Iraqis and not focus on their preparation and training.)

There's one little problem. The idea of "starting over" only works if you fix the things that went wrong the first time.

Yet here we are again. Reconstruction posts are unfilled or filled by unqualified personnel.

Our soldiers can fight day and night, they can be heroes, but if the civilians let them down, they will lose. They will die in a hopeless mission.

The military leadership has made mistakes in Iraq, but those mistakes pale in comparison to the failures of "the civilians." Rebuilding/reconstruction, cronyism in the CPA, political reconciliation, disbanding the army, the sectarian nature of the government, building a security force(2003, 2004.)

These are not mistakes of the military, but they are alot of the reason that soldiers are still dying.

(Condi Rice was in Baghdad last weekend "urging" Iraqi leaders to meet "benchmarks." What did she accomplish?)


(AP) Madeline Albright,"I think that Iraq is going to go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy."

(Kurtz) The Army breaks "press protocol" in an effort to preemptively defuse the Walter Reed story.

(NYTimes) Blast (in Pakistan) That Killed U.S. Diplomat Tied to Qaeda

(Carpetbagger) Cheney in 1991, "The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we’d have to do once we got there. You’d probably have to put some new government in place. It’s not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you’d have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who’s going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire.”

(HuffPo) After the speech, McCain was asked by an audience member if he was "sucking up to the religious right." He drew laughs by responding: "What's wrong with sucking up to everybody?"

Friday, February 23, 2007

A new kind of politics

Top AP headline for the last 4 hours....?

Obama ridicules Cheney's Iraq comments.

I don't know what that says exactly, but after watching the Dems for the last six years I just wonder who else could pull that off.

On a broader level, let's look at the last week or so. First Obama eviscerates Australian PM Howard, and then responds to a Clinton attack by twisting the Lincoln bedroom/cronyism knife.

Why is it I'm liking him more and more?

(Josh Marshall's "bitch-slap" theory of politics. Then and now.)

Picture of the Day - 4

A U.S. Army soldier secures the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

EFP's are being manufactured in Iraq!!!!!!!

After all that falderol and effort trying to pin the EFP's on Iran, now we find out that EFP's are also being manufactured inside Iraq!!!!
Officials say the EFPs are being machine-tooled in Iran and then smuggled across the border usually in component form. Some senior U.S. military officials, however, say although it has not been previously announced, U.S. forces have been finding an increasing number of the advanced roadside bombs being not just assembled but manufactured in machine shops here. "It (the impact) isn't as clean but they are almost as effective," one official said.

Think about this for a minute. Just two weeks ago, the administration was trying to use these EFP's that "couldn't possibly be manufactured in Iraq" as a pretext for escalating against the Iranians.

Now, we find out that at the time they were making that argument, "senior military officials" and presumably the intelligence people making the case, knew, for a fact, that was a lie!!!!

Happy, Friday Dump.

(Clarification: There do appear to be EFP's both complete and in parts coming from Iran, but that does not justify the intentional effort to say that all of them are coming from Iran.)

We stand up so the Iraqis can sit down?

According to Jack Keane, primary military author of the current Bush strategy in Iraq, the Iraqi forces have been benched.
In another part of Iraq, an emissary for the U.S. commander in Iraq also delivered a sobering assessment of what it would take to defeat insurgents.

Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, a top Pentagon envoy touring areas northeast of Baghdad, said the security clampdown in the capital has pushed militants out of the capital. But he conceded there weren't "enough forces to secure the population" and said Iraqis are not ready to handle the battle alone.

He was the latest official to outline the Pentagon's new approach: Instead of training Iraqi forces to take over national security on a fast-track timetable, U.S. forces plan to throw more troops at the resourceful and adaptable insurgents.

"The violence is too high," said Keane, who was sent on a fact-finding mission by Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. "So our new strategy is to bring the violence down so Iraqi forces can deal with it."

So, in the words of its own author, the current plan has abandoned all pretense of Iraqi forces and "Iraqis in the lead."

We're back at the beginning, only this time the battle space is so much worse.

Picture of the Day Bush Display

"Wait, wait, wait, back it up. I want to play that one. Global Thermonuclear War." (or)

"Is that Frogger?"

(U.S. President George W. Bush tours Erlanger Hospital-Baroness Campus in Chattanooga, Tennessee, February 21, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young)

Day to day for the soldier in Iraq

Two good articles on US troops operating in small neighborhood outposts that are the heart of the Petraeus' strategy.

(AP) Iraq's 'Three Block War'

(WaPo) U.S. Unit Shoulders Burden At Police Station in Baqubah

(Notice that US forces are carrying all the burden.)

The ghost of Colin Powell presents the Iran evidence to the UN

So, here we are again.....
Much of the intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by US spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded, diplomatic sources in Vienna said today.....

However, most of the tip-offs about supposed secret weapons sites provided by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies have led to dead ends when investigated by IAEA inspectors, according to informed sources in Vienna.

"Most of it has turned out to be incorrect," a diplomat at the IAEA with detailed knowledge of the agency's investigations said.

"They gave us a paper with a list of sites. [The inspectors] did some follow-up, they went to some military sites, but there was no sign of [banned nuclear] activities.

The ridiculous irony in this is that under the Cheney "one percent doctrine" this very lack of knowledge is a reason to go to war.

Picture of the Day - 2 - A Walter Reed "Fixer Upper"

The sequence is as follows. Wounded US soldiers found living in squalor. The Army rapidly rushes painters and plumbers to cover the visual evidence. Only then do they attack the article as unfair.

(Milbank) "It's not every day one gets to witness a whitewash in action, but Walter Reed Army Medical Center provided just such an opportunity yesterday."

(The same room that was featured in a recent newspaper article about the squalid conditions in Building 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center undergoes repairs, February 22, 2007. REUTERS/Mannie Garcia)

Strange things in Iraq and Afghanistan

How is it possible that a Sunni on Iraq's most wanted list for fundraising and recruiting for Al Qaeda was captured alive in the Shia stronghold Basra? The only way I can figure it is they must've picked him up accidentally and only later found out who he was.

"Recruiting for Al Qaeda" in the Shia heartland doesn't make it to the police station, you know?

Also: 25,000 Taleban fighters from the Soviet war gather in a stadium in Afghanistan's capital?

(In the BBC version, "Youths later marched through the streets of the city, shouting "Death to the enemies of Afghanistan!" and "Death to America!")

One More: Chalabi has been placed as arbiter for Iraqi civilians seeking reimbursement from the US? No opportunity for cronyism or graft there.

Picture of the Day

Marilyn Adams talks about the loss of her husband, Pennsylvania National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Brent Adams, while in the family room in Wexford, Pa., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007. 'I'm torn,' she said about the war in Iraq. 'Should we finish the job? And then I go to the funerals of the local guys and I'm like, this is just stupid ... I don't think we're going to finish it there. I don't think there's a finishing point. They're getting more efficient at killing us, that's a direct quote from the president.' (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Israel-Syria. Saudi-Lebanon-Iran.

The gut reaction to this story is so negative. How could they?
The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.

In meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter.

But I think it's important to put this in a little context.
"Recent developments have led to a conflict between the priorities of Damascus and those of Tehran," according to former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab.....

The rift has been exposed by a flurry of recent diplomatic initiatives by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, aimed at preventing further escalation of Sunni-Shiite conflicts.

It's a little complicated, but through Lebanon, the US and Saudis are attempting to pry apart Syria and Iran.

The Saudis have almost convinced Iran to get Hezbullah to rejoin the Lebanese government with the proviso that the inquiry into the Hariri killing will go ahead. Most evidence seems to indicate that the Syrians were involved in the Hariri killing, so they want no part of this deal. So, what you have is the two parties who influence Hezbullah, Iran and Syria, working at cross purposes.

I don't know how "real" this split between Iran and Syria is, but, more than likely, the Syrians were trying to broker a separate deal with the Israelis that would be more to their advantage.

That's why the US told the Israelis to knock it off.

I find myself wondering what the Israelis were trying to do.

Is it real?

The British Times has a story indirectly suggesting that Tony Blair is trying to get British troops out of Iraq before the US launches an attack on Iran.

But probably the most interesting bit is the layout of the sides, pro and con, for attacking Iran. On one side Bob Gates, Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley. On the other side, Cheney.

(Or, is this story/leak an elaborate message to Iran who refused to stop enrichment today? Even the British are afraid, so....)

Picture of the Day - 4

A woman with her son in a hospital, after he was wounded in a car bombing Tuesday in southern Baghdad. (NYTimes)

British in Basra: Analysis and reading

Two interesting analysis reports on the British experience in Basra.

If you want to wonk hard, WINEP: The Calm before the Storm: The British Experience in Southern Iraq, and CSIS: The British Defeat in the South and the Uncertain Bush "Strategy" in Iraq.

Came across both in this brief summary blog post in the WSJ's Washington Wire. (I'd start there.)

Later: Another look from the LATimes via ThinkProgress.

Also: Michael Hirsh in Newsweek outlines the realities of the Petraeus plan. (Short version: It's a complete starting over of "inkspots," "strategic hamlets," or whatever you want to call it that will last ten years and dispenses with the fallacy that the Iraqis are in the lead.)

Best news report on Iraq I have ever seen in the US

On CNN International, Michael Ware just did a several minute look back at the bombing of the Askariyah mosque in Samarra and the sectarian civil war that followed. It is perhaps the best coverage of the Iraqi violence I have seen in the US to date.

I'm just mentioning it now so if you see the teaser so you'll stay to watch it. I don't know if regular CNN will show it because it is gut wrenchingly graphic. (Not the Arwa Damon piece.)

Later: Okay, this is not a direct link. Go to the CNN Video page. Select the "World" subsection by clicking on the small picture to the right of "World." Scroll down the available videos to the one titled "A Grim Milestone."

It's hard to watch, but it's the Iraqi on Iraqi side of this war.

Update: In the comments, Cyn has directions to a quicktime version.

Picture of the Day - 3

(Freeway Blogger.)

Tying Iran to 9-11: The Condi Rice version

The Russians have been throwing fits over the US's placement of antimissile batteries around its borders in Poland and the Czech Republic. Condi Rice's explanation,
"Everybody understands that with a growing Iranian missile threat which is quite pronounced there need to be ways to deal with that problem.

"These missile systems are for purposes having to do with post-9/11 threats," Rice said.

Excuse me, Ms. Secretary, but would you mind fleshing that out just a little bit?

How does non-state, Sunni, Al Qaeda, which has no access to missiles, relate to the Iranian government?

Is it your contention that Al Qaeda may conduct a brazen operation to break into Iranian facilities and then spend five or ten years enriching uranium?

Perhaps what you're really trying to say is that these missile systems are for threats coming from US policy since 9/11. No?

The Iraqis say goodbye to the British, with a bullet.

The Iraqis are so happy the British are leaving, they gave them an explosive sendoff.
An Iraqi security source said Thursday that two British military bases in Basra, which has a predominantly Shiite population, had been bombarded with rocket-propelled grenades in the past 24 hours.

Of course, understand that this is not unusual,
But the 7,200-strong British contingent has nevertheless clashed with political and tribal militias. Its bases still come under almost daily mortar and rocket fire and more than 130 soldiers have died in four years.

I guess that's what Tony Blair meant when he said,
“What all this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be,” Mr. Blair said, “but it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis.”

(I feel the need to add that despite the coverage, the British aren't really pulling out. They're really just pulling back.)

Picture of the Day - 2

"We don't really know what it does, but we can charge a fortune for it."

(U.S. President George W. Bush tours Erlanger Hospital-Baroness Campus with Dr. Donald Chamberlain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, February 21, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young)

Russia making hay, arming Syria, Iran, Saudi, building relationships and diminishing the US

This morning the AP has a story on Syria arming up.
Syria has embarked on an "unprecedented" effort to bolster its armed forces with Iranian and Russian help, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported Thursday.

Damascus has large numbers of surface-based missiles and long-range rockets, including the Scud-D, capable of reaching nearly any target in Israel, the report said, and the Syrian navy has received new Iranian anti-ship missiles.

Haaretz also said Russia was about to sell Syria thousands of advanced anti-tank missiles, despite Israeli charges that in the past Syria has transferred those missiles to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

But what caught my eye is that once again, there are the Russians. Adding this to previous reporting, it really makes me wonder about Russian policy.

(Russia sending TOR-1 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, rumors of a deal on longer range S-300 AA missiles (as well as other small weaponry,) Russia's continued support for the Iranian nuclear program, Russia's effort to sell weaponry to the Sunni gulf states, and even its efforts to begin discussion on a Saudi nuclear program.)

I see several overlapping possibilities in all this. The simplest would be the profit motive, but I also think it's interesting that Russia, one of the largest oil suppliers in the world, is making these diplomatically friendly overtures to the other major oil suppliers of the world.

Probably the worst possible analysis is that the Russians are attempting to make the middle east "ungovernable" to remove US influence from the region. (This would be a much larger and subtler version of what the US did to the Soviets in Afghanistan.)

Following on Putin's major anti-US speech two weeks ago, I just find myself wondering at the Russian efforts and motive.

This is a purely speculative post but the prospects of a significant return of Russian influence in the middle east could be a serious challenge to the US. What happens if the Russians begin influencing middle east oil policy?

The Iraq war was a huge mistake of empire. The Baker-Hamilton proposition for regional talks was about far more than simply resolving Iraq. It was about reengaging and reinvolving the regional oil powers. It was about renegotiating the US's involvement in the region before those relationships are redefined for us.

(Here's our current representative in the region: Condi Rice on the Israel-Palestine situation: ""It takes hard work, it takes patience, it takes perseverance, it takes getting up, you know, after a bad day and trying to make a better day. And that's what I'm going to do. So as long as I'm Secretary of State, that's what I'm going to do.")

(Sorry for the long rambling post, but something is going on here on a far larger level than Iraq with massive implications. I don't have the firmest of grasp on it, so I thought I'd just throw out what was on my mind.)

Picture of the Day

Iraqi policemen secure the site where a suicide bomber attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. (AFP/Qassem Zein)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another "chemical" attack in Iraq and more dangers

Short version, three times in the last month insurgents (presumably Sunni by the targeting) have blown up a truck loaded with chlorine gas. Chlorine is not explosive, but is seriously fatal if inhaled in concentration.

Thus far, the attacks have not been as effective as they could be, but if they figure it out, this could be a particularly nasty and incendiary addition to the killing.

Today's attack follows a nearly identical attack in Taji yesterday.

Also: A carbomb went off at an Iraqi police checkpoint in Najaf while it was being inspected. The nearest "target" was a Shia marketplace, but I think it's worth noting that "the explosion occurred about one-half mile from the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest shrines."

It is not at all unreasonable to think that was the target. Such an attack would be similar in results to the attack on the Askariyah mosque in Samarra. ("Golden Mosque of Samarra" to George Bush.)

So, we may have dodged a very big bullet here.

Picture of the Day - 3

Does anybody else find it kinda creepy that sixty-two year old Chris Dodd has two daughters aged 5 and 22 months?

SA-14 or SA-16 brought down Marine helicopter

This is a big deal. Not just that this helicopter was shot down by a missile, but that it was shot down by a fairly sophisticated missile that didn't come from Saddam's stockpiles.
The Army's senior aviation officer in Iraq said yesterday that Sunni fighters probably used a sophisticated SA-14 or SA-16 shoulder-fired missile to shoot down a Marine helicopter on Feb. 7, killing all seven people on board.....

The Russian-manufactured SA-14 or SA-16 probably would have been brought into the country from abroad relatively recently, Simmons said in an interview.

Let's remember that this missile was fired by Sunnis and did not come from Iran. The Sunnis are bringing in sophisticated weaponry, and that requires funding and well established smuggling routes.

So, who is supplying the Sunnis to kill Americans? Why am I not seeing Baghdad briefings and Washington news conferences on that?

Also, another Blackhawk down in Baghdad?

Picture of the Day - 2

Look how thrilled they are.

Remember when the military backdrop was a guaranteed friendly audience?

(Before the speech and after on the USS aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, February 21, 2007. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon, AP/Shuji Kajiyama

Very Funny Political Videos

I have never watched the show, but this Conan O'Brien bit made me laugh out loud.

For a second laugh, watch Romney in 2002 very clearly defend his pro choice position. It's worth a watch to see the political Everest Romney has in front of him.

And, after McCain absolutely blasted Cheney and Rumsfeld, Cheney claims McCain "Ran Over To Me And Apologized." Now there's that fearless maverick.

Look what the Democrats are doing!!!!!!!!

I find it very curious the way the media focuses on Democrats fundraising in "Hollywood." I sort of understand why it happens with the confluence of politicians and media known stars, but at the same time, where is the parallel coverage of Republican funding?

Is it really more important to know who Eddie Murphy supports than Exxon or the flat earth society that is the American Christian Taleban?

Haven't the political actions of oil companies, banking interests, Christian crazies had far more impact on American government than Clooney, Sean Penn, and all the Baldwins put together? Where's the coverage on their donations?


(CNN) A horrible new tactic in Iraq as a chlorine turck was exploded outside a restaurant in Taji.

(Reuters) While hiding in Japan, Cheney calls up the language of Vietnam saying the US must win in Iraq and "return with honor."

(BBC) Denmark is leaving Iraq, too.

(LATimes) An article on the military weighing an incursion into Sadr City.

(NYTimes) Marc Santora reports on the rape/non-rape of the Sunni woman at the hands of Shia Iraqi forces. On page 2, he speaks with a Sunni nurse who says there was evidence. (I don't know if this specific allegation is true or not, but if this didn't happen often, the story would have no resonance, so it is important.)

(Newsweek) The Iraqi government is taking down Saddam's iconic "crossed swords" monument.

(AP) The Lebanese fire on Israeli planes over their airspace. (All those years of uncontested Israeli overflights. This is a significant change.)

Picture of the Day

A Marine Honor Guard carries the casket containing the remains of 19-year-old Marine Pfc. Tarryl Hill into St. Paul Tabernacle Church in Detroit, Michigan February 16, 2007. Hill was killed in Fallujah. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oh my!

Did CNN just lead off Anderson Cooper with a 5 minute segment explaining the war in Iraq has actually increased terrorism?

(Yes, and here's the Peter Bergen article they talked about.)

(While I'm asking questions, isn't it coincidental that with the Libby verdict due soon, Dick Cheney is just about as far away from Washington as he can get (somewhere they don't even want him)?)

And then there was one.....

The terrorists finally won over Tony Blair.
Tony Blair is expected to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq. The prime minister is due to make an announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday in which he is expected clarify the details.

And then there was one.....

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi girl eyes US soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment of the Second infantry Division as they search her family's home in the Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Kneepads McCain doin' his thang.

So, let's see, McCain blames Rumsfeld for losing the Iraq war. Then he flips on a 20 year old position saying Roe vs. Wade should be overturned. And now at a convention of religious broadcasters,
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said after McCain's private meeting in Orlando that he helped repair damage with Christian conservatives.

"He recognized he cannot be president of the United States without reaching out to the evangelicals," Mahoney said. "There definitely is an uneasy relationship between McCain and people of faith, but he is reaching out and he is breaking down those walls. He helped himself in that room tremendously today."

What do you think he offered them?

Tell me again about "the maverick" and his "courage."

US/Iraqis "bombard," surround Sadr's Baghdad compound

Kuwait News Agency, so wait for confirmation, but....
BAGHDAD, Feb 20 (KUNA) -- A joint force of the Iraqi Army and US troops Tuesday bombarded the office of Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr in Al-Shula area, west of Baghdad, a security source told KUNA.

The source said some 14 military vehicles are now surrounding the office and Iraqi and US soldiers could be seen confiscating material and documents.

As there has been no confirmation, I would guess this was bunk.

Freakin' Rockstar

WaPo video: Obama in Virginia.

(I don't know if the star will fall, but if it doesn't, I don't see how McCain, Giuliani, or Clinton compete with this. (I'm a sucker for a populist.))

(and Jackie Wilson.... "Your love is liftin' me higher....")

Picture of the Day - 2

U.S. Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) looks at a model of the U.S. Capitol Building, presented to her as an award, during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

US to Iran: "Stop hitting yourself"

As you read the BBC article laying out the existent "triggers" for launching an attack on Iran, keep in mind that the US is currently engaged in a strategy of "pinpricks" toward the Iranian regime.

Asia Times has an article writing around US "black ops" in Iran. Frankly, they produce nothing concrete, but US "support" for "anti-government ethnic minority groups" is certain.

So, as the US sets this hard trigger for an attack on Iran, understand that this administration is also poking Iran in the eye and daring them to cross that line.

Picture of the Day

"And.... would you like to report any psychological symptoms that could delay your return to your family by a few months?"

(A US soldier in Tikrit, Iraq, answers a US Army psychiatrist's questions in 2004 as part of the psychological support provided by the army for soldiers before returning to the US. (AFP/File/Daniel Mihailescu))

Monday, February 19, 2007

Setting the contingencies for attacking Iran

The BBC has an article claiming to outline (loosely) the US targeting for a potential attack on Iran. However, what caught me was the reporting of existent "triggers" for such an attack.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.

Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

I understand the presence of both, but I would like to point out that either one of these contingencies would have support only from intel, and at this point I think we can all agree that this administration cannot be trusted in that regard.

Of more specific concern is that second contingency. A month ago, Bush administration officials were reportedly preparing a powerpoint presentation claiming the weapons in Iraq were coming in on the orders of the Iranian government. Now, they're backing away from that claim.

Once it's started, you cannot walk back an attack on Iran.

Picture of the Day - 3

President Bush, waves as he departs in his armored SUV after participating in ceremonies honoring the 275th anniversary of George Washington's birthday at his estate in Mount Vernon, Va. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Compare this picture to the next post.)

A little Monday evening heroism

It's difficult to tell for sure from the current press accounts, but it sounds like amidst the hot battle today in Tarmiyah the medevac helicopters performed with great courage.
According to their accounts, at least one car — and possibly others — rigged with explosives was driven on a kamikaze mission at dawn into the concrete outer barriers around the Army base, a former Iraqi police station taken over by American troops late last year.

The blasts ignited stored fuel, they said. Soon, parts of the base were ablaze and under gunfire, but the size of the insurgent force was unclear. It also was not known whether the militants suffered casualties.

U.S. helicopters evacuated wounded soldiers from the compound — located in the center of the town of more than 20,000 residents — while the fight raged, according to the local accounts. By nightfall, U.S. troops had cordoned off streets around the post.

I know they train for this, I know it's their duty, but, with all the recent helicopter downings, coming in under fire into an unknown situation with an unknown number of assailants to evacuate the wounded really does deserve mention.

We'll probably never know who these men and women were, but still, they deserve mention.

Tone and tenor around Sadr City

(AP) "U.S. soldiers pressed closer to Sadr City and the reception changed noticeably. In previous days, Shiite families opened their doors to welcome the troops — feeling that the American presence would be a buffer against feared attacks from Sunni militia.

On Sunday, in areas closer to Sadr City, parents slapped away the candy and lollipops given by American soldiers."

Picture of the Day - 2

It has been said that much of Japan's collective postwar angst was captured in the film creation of Godzilla......


"Sometimes Democracy is up on that high shelf and you have to reach for it, reach for it."

(U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gestures as she addresses the U.S. embassy staff in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Sabah Arar, Pool))

My niece, the Girl Scouts, and Iraq

A couple weeks ago, I was visiting my sister and one of my nieces came up to me and asked me for money for a Girl Scout project. Being an uncle, you always expect to be hit up frequently to buy some crappy candy or something, but this time was decidedly different.

Her Girl Scout troop had been visited by an Iraq war vet. I'm not exactly sure how it came about, but her troop was raising money to buy Silly String (that weird aerosol foam toy) to send on to this guy's unit in Iraq.

She got this shadowed look on her face as she described how they use the Silly String to spray around doorways looking for trip wires. She couldn't look me in the eye as she told me the soldier was missing most of his right hand.

I kicked in my $20, but something about that has been hanging with me for weeks.

An attack on a US base north of Baghdad

A frontal attack. This is pretty unusual.
Insurgents launched an attack on a U.S. combat post on Monday, sending in a suicide bomber and clashing with American troops, the military and residents said. Two U.S. soldiers were killed and 17 wounded, the military said.

Is this a specific response to something local? A response to the current Baghdad plan? A new tactic?

More: From the NYTimes,
Shortly before dawn, two suicide bombers drove cars filled with explosives into the outer perimeter of the outpost. As American soldiers tried to assess the damage and help the wounded, a third bomber drove his car into the building.

There was a heavy exchange of gunfire after the explosions and as the firefight raged, at least four American helicopters swept into Tarmyia to evacuate the wounded soldiers.


Iran claims US connection to bombings

I would greet these claims with a healthy dose of skepticism (mainly because if the US were involved, they would not leave these big plodding footprints,) but the politics are still interesting.

Both the NYTimes and LATimes carry these claims.

(Later: After long term US support for the militants in Afghanistan, it certainly be easy to lay hands on US made ammo.)

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi man holds the body of a boy after a car bomb explosion at a market in the neighbourhood known as New Baghdad, February 18, 2007. Two car bombs tore through a busy shopping area of a mainly Shi'ite district of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 55 people and wounding scores as militants defied a military offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Al Qaeda is back and stronger than ever and it's largely because we invaded Iraq.

While George Bush has American forces bogged down in Iraq,
Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

This, I would argue, is what Iraq has cost us. The decision to divert a majority of forces and focus into Iraq has allowed the situation in Afghanistan to fester.

The Taleban and Al Qaeda were rocked in the overthrow of Afghanistan, and this administration then chose to take the pressure off, allowing them time, irreplaceable time, in which they have relocated, restructured, restaffed, and managed the politics.

In 2002, they could not have convinced Musharraf to take on this "tribal peace" which has allowed them a new safe haven in which to operate. In 2002, the anti-US sentiment was not anywhere close where it is in the current environment.

We had them disorganized and falling back, and a decision was made to pull key special forces out of Afghanistan (and Pakistan) so that they could be staged for Iraq. We had them, and this President chose to let them go.

Iraq has made the terrorists stronger. Iraq has made the terrorists stronger. Iraq has made the terrorists stronger.

What the hell is going on?

Richard Scaife, the huge Republican donor who largely funded the "vast right wing conspiracy" against the Clintons, is now reported to feel this way.
Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, “Both of us have had a rethinking.”

“Clinton wasn’t such a bad president,” Mr. Ruddy said. “In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.”

Perhaps that revised assessment is more a measure of the current occupant of 1600?

Picture of the Day - 3

Happy Tet, everybody.

(A U.S. soldier from Delta company of the 1st Battalion-504th Parachute Infantry Regiment walks after a car bomb explosion at a market in the Shia neighbourhood known as New Baghdad, February 18, 2007. Two car bombs tore through a busy shopping area of a mainly Shi'ite district of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 55 people and wounding scores as militants defied a military offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops. REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Progress thus far

Another major bombing in the Shia area of New Baghdad that killed at least 63 and wounded somewhere around 150 (and a third smaller bomb targeting an Iraqi checkpoint in Sadr City.)

But what really caught my eye this morning as a measure of progress was this quote from US spokesman in Baghdad, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bleichwehl.
"Nearly 20,000 security patrols were conducted this week," ....

"We are out in the communities, conducting our clearing operations and meeting with local residents across the city to improve the security situation here," Bleichwehl said, reporting the seizure of 15 weapons caches.

Am I reading this right? Coming into this now week old operation with all the intelligence and planning and only 15 weapons caches?

I remember when Operation Forward Together was going on, the US only seized something like 1,200 weapons in three months. The weapons, like the insurgents, appear to have melted away.

Picture of the Day - 2

A poster featuring an image from the iconic World War 1 Uncle Sam military recruitment campaign sits behind a foggy display window, outside the government buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington February 16, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Real life for Iraqis

This is on the McClatchy blog where the Iraqi stringers and staff post about their experiences.
We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over.

When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. “We identified him by the cell phone in his pants’ pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don’t know what he looks like.”

Now begins a horror that surpasses anything I could have possibly envisioned .We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all round it were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side; complete bodies; on that side halves; and EVERYWHERE body parts.

We were asked what we were looking for, “ upper half” replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. “Over there”. We looked for our boy’s broken body between tens of other boys’ remains’; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.

We found him millennia later, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony.

Can Hollywood match our reality?? I doubt it.

The real reason for Condi's trip to Iraq

Condi was sent to Iraq to remedy that little problem I was talking about yesterday, the "nonsectarian" security plan that has an Iraqi Shia general beholden to Maliki "in the lead" just happens to be cracking down only on Sunni areas. (Link)
The official, who was familiar with the discussions, said Rice told Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the initial stage of the crackdown, which began Wednesday, appeared to focus on Sunni areas and had left Sadr City, stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia, nearly untouched.

As predicted, the Shia are taking advantage of their "breathing space" to further their aims in the civil war. That's what US troops are now dying for.

Politics '08

I found the NYTimes "frontrunner" articles pretty interesting on Clinton and McCain, but I think the "don't miss it" article is in the LATimes,
Old enemies of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are out in force. Just weeks after she joined the Democratic Party's flock of presidential contenders, Clinton is being targeted by conservative and Republican-allied activists intent on derailing her campaign before the start of next year's primaries.

They have surfaced with a flurry of planned projects: a Michael Moore-style documentary film, book-length exposes, and websites such as StopHerNow.comand StopHillaryPAC.com.

Conservative admirers of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth media blitz that helped torpedo Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential candidacy in 2004 are now agitating to "Swift-boat" Clinton.

Update: Clinton urges start of Iraq pullout in 90 days.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi Sunni boy performs the weekly Friday prayers at a mosque in Baghdad. (AFP/Ali Yussef)