.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The walls come falling in on the US Attorneys story

Check this out. (Forwarded by Reality Based Educator.)
Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction in part with his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.

In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Allen Weh, the party chairman, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.

"Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event that month.

"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh.

I'm not an expert on the legalities in these firings. As I understand it, they can fire them at any time without reason.

However, any actions taken to influence their prosecutions may well be illegal, and the evidence is mounting that Rep. Heather Wilson, Sen. Pete Domenici, the chairman of the New Mexico Republican party, and elements in the White House were all attempting to exert pressure to get indictments against Democrats before the 2006 election.

And, take a look at how the original case against the Democrats in New Mexico was introduced,
On Sept. 30, nine donors were summoned to Weh's house for a $5,000-a-plate luncheon with Rove.

Among them was Paul Kennedy, a former state Supreme Court justice who had advised state lawmakers on whether to impeach the state treasurer.

Kennedy also represented the accountant who went to the FBI and U.S. attorney's office with the initial evidence implicating Democrats in the courthouse corruption case.

He acknowledges that he thought indictments of Democrats would help Wilson's re-election, and possibly hurt Democrats all the way up to Gov. Bill Richardson. But he also insists that's not what was driving his impatience - that it was a matter of the serving the public interest.

Also, the NYTimes adds more. A coordinated effort,
Mickey D. Barnett, another top Republican lawyer in the state, who once served as an aide to Mr. Domenici in Congress and represented the Bush campaign in New Mexico in the 2000 and 2004 elections, said he had also complained.

“I would say to Pete (Domenici) and Heather (Wilson): ‘Look, you guys have some influence; I don’t have any influence. Can we get something done?’ ” Mr. Barnett said.

(In the grand scheme of the breakdown of a coverup, we're at the point where secondary characters begin to tell their stories for self protection, ("I only did this, but he did THAT,") and just beginning the section where primary characters offer partial revelations of truth in a desperate attempt to make it go away. ("What I did was unethical, but not illegal")

These things break open when someone from Group A, in an effort at exculpation, throws a member of Group B under the bus.)

Hearings next week.

Picture of the Day - 4

Relatives identify the body of a boy, recovered from the rubble of houses destroyed during clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents in Ramadi, February 22, 2007. Residents in Ramadi said three buildings were destroyed in the clashes. A civil defence official and an ambulance driver, both of whom declined to be identified, said as many as 26 people were killed, including some women and children. REUTERS/Stringer

The surge is up to 26,000

(Reuters) Bush approves 4,400 more troops for Iraq.

Then he tried to hide it, "He (Bush) signed it on Friday night and released it on Saturday while on a Latin America tour."

Saturday media coverage, and no questions from the US press.

Later: Also, 3,500 more troops for Afghanistan, plus the already announced deployment extension of another 3,500.

This is not diplomacy

The point of diplomacy is to find common ground whereby the parties can move forward on areas of agreement even as larger issues remain unresolved. As example, the Russians and US agreeing to arms limitations during the Cold War.

In the case of Iraq, a successful diplomatic initiative between the US and Iran might focus on areas of common interest such as cooperation in repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, working together to get the water, sewers, and power flowing to improve the conditions for all Iraqis.

Instead, we got this:
During the talks, U.S. envoy David Satterfield pointed to his briefcase which he said contained documents proving Iran was arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq.

"Your accusations are merely a cover for your failures in Iraq," Iran's chief envoy Abbas Araghchi shot back, according to an official familiar to the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, only said that American delegates exchanged views with the Iranians "directly and in the presence of others" during talks, which he described as "constructive and businesslike."

But Labid Abbawi, a senior Iraqi Foreign Ministry official who attended the meeting, confirmed that an argument broke out between the Iranian and American envoys. He would not elaborate.

It sounds like this took place at the big table in front of everyone. Tell me how this bullying approach improves the US position. Tell me how this benefits anyone.

(Satterfield is normally very levelheaded, so either he was somehow provoked or this confrontation was planned.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Sgt. Tawan Williamson, who lost his leg as the result of an IED blast in Iraq, visits the prosthetics center at the new Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Thursday, March 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


(BBC) The Russian journalist that "jumped" from a five story window the other day, was looking into Russian arms sales to Syria and Iran.

(AP) The US has hired Dyncorp contractors (just call them mercenaries) to operate in Somalia.

(WaPo) Very quietly, the sanctions push against Iran is being defanged by the Chinese and Russians.

Picture of the Day

"I got a birthday coming up... I wonder if I could convince Laura...."

U.S. President George W. Bush watches dancers performing to a drum-driven Brazlilian musical beat during his visit to Meninos do Morumbi, a youth community center, in Sao Paulo March 9, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

More on the "missing" Iranian General

The Independent reports that the "missing" Iranian General "appears to have defected to the West with vital documents."

They claim that he is providing information on Iran-Hezbullah, and for the first time I've seen, information on an Iran-Mahdi link. Also, a repeat of the claim that the Israelis did it.

Doesn't it hurt when your pants are on fire like that?

Remember last week when it appeared a US unit in Afghanistan shot up everything in sight after they were attacked, and afterwards, the soldiers on the scene deleted photos from a number of news photographers?

Well, the military has issued an explanation.
The U.S. military asserted that an American soldier was justified in erasing journalists' footage of the aftermath of a suicide bombing and shooting in Afghanistan last week, saying publication could have compromised a military investigation and led to false public conclusions.....

He added that photographs or video taken by "untrained people" might "capture visual details that are not as they originally were."


Friday, March 09, 2007

Admit thy sins and be forgiven

Check this out:
The nation's top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions.

(Okay, so we robbed all those banks, but, you know, now that you've caught us, we just want you to know that we're really, really sorry and won't do it again.)

I've seen several bits today where they actually praise these guys for "taking quick accountability," but it's not accountability if nothing happens.

If accountability means no recriminations, I might as well admit I was behind the Niger forgeries. I was playing Playstation with Bush while New Orleans went under. What the hell, I shot JFK.

Now, praise me for my courage and responsibility, and I'll promise to never do it again.

"The nation's two top law enforcement officials" admit their agency broke the law, and nothing happens.

What have they done to my country?

Picture of the Day - 3

Cindy McCain, wife of presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a fund raising event, Thursday, March 8, 2007 in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

Angry shell groups against candidates

(BostonGlobe) A group calling itself "Massachusetts Republicans for Truth" is going to launch a website (and supposedly national TV campaign) designed to highlight "flip-flops in the record of.... Mitt Romney."

(Rawstory) A group calling itself "Vietnam Veterans Against McCain".....

And, How long until we have "NY Firefighters against Giuliani"?

The International Association of Firefighters issues a scathing letter explaining their decision to not invite him (and only him) to address their membership.
Many people consider Rudy Giuliani "America's Mayor," and many of our members who don't yet know the real story, may also have a positive view of him. This letter is intended to make all of our members aware of the egregious acts Mayor Giuliani committed against our members, our fallen on 9/11, and our New York City union officers following that horrific day.....

Regrettably, the situation with former Mayor Giuliani is very different. His actions post 9/11 rise to such an offensive and personal attack on our brother and sisterhood — and directly on our union — that the IAFF does not feel Rudy Giuliani deserves an audience of IAFF leaders and members at our own Presidential Forum.....

Our disdain for him is not about issues or a disputed contract, it is about a visceral, personal affront to the fallen, to our union and, indeed, to every one of us who has ever risked our lives by going into a burning building to save lives and property.

Of all the candidates, a real attack on Giuliani's conduct around 9-11 could have the greatest effect. His primary voters would never support him except for that mythical image.

(CNN) Giuliani's camp responds.

(Just on cue, "Firefighters for Rudy" pops into existence.)

Later: It gets worse. The executive director of "Firefighters for Rudy" is a Giuliani campaign aide. The phone number for the group is the Giuliani press office.

Quickhits - Busy Friday

(AP) The tape of Jose Padilla's final interrogation is "missing." (This "top American terrorist" held three years without rights in a Navy brig, and the tape comes up "missing"? Like I believe that.)

(BBC) "Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo say they have dismantled an international network set up to illegally use uranium mined there." (16 words on Iran?)

(Nat'l Journal) Robert Gates is reportedly "rolling back" Rumsfeld's efforts to create a CIA rival in the Pentagon.

(BBC) Pakistan's top judge, their chief justice, has been suspended by Musharraf for "misuse of authority."

(WSJblog) "By 46%-28%, Americans say trade deals with other countries have harmed U.S.; a 42% plurality of conservatives agrees." .... "77% of Democrats are satisfied with their presidential choices; just 56% of Republicans are content with theirs."

Note to Ed Henry

Dear Ed Henry, CNN,

The youth of South America are not rioting in the streets "primarily" because they feel that Bush's visit is "too little, too late." They are not rioting in the streets because they want more US involvement.

Also, it is not particularly ethical to allege to a worldwide audience that Hugo Chavez is "paying the protesters" based on "one US official told me."

You are what's wrong with modern journalism. (See comments.)

Picture of the Day - 2

"Do you want me to spell potato? They gave me a whole briefing." (or)

"Those are some broad shoulders. You will be a fine fighter in the generational war."

(U.S. President George W. Bush talks to a kindergarten student during his visit to Silver Street Elementary School in New Albany, Indiana, March 2, 2007. Bush visited the school to make remarks on the reauthorisation of the 'No Child Left Behind' education plan. REUTERS/Jason Reed )


(IraqSlogger) Sadr appears in the streets of Karbala. (Puts to rest rumors of him being in Iran?)

(AP) Maliki also walked the streets on Friday. (Obviously to "show security," but they wouldn't even say where he visited after he was gone. Fear of attacks on those who greeted him? There are only two photos on the wire, and they could be anywhere.)

(Later: The AP is now reporting it was "a mostly Shiite area of south Baghdad.")

(AP) Georgia is doubling its troop commitment in Iraq to 2,000.

And, (AP) The political lines are being drawn ahead of tomorrow's regional conference. The Sunni countries are, unsurprisingly, pushing for more Sunni control, even threatening to go to the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, the Shia government is pushing back.

How does the US play this? Side with the Saudis and alienate Maliki, or stay neutral and anger the Saudis who are acting as go between on Palestine and Lebanon.

Excuse me, sir, my tracking device seems to have come loose

Everybody's covering the WaPo front page story citing "pervasive errors" in the FBI's use of National Security Letters as outlined by the Patriot Act. "
The inspector general's audit found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations.....Fine's audit, which was limited to 77 case files in four FBI field offices....

But, as that's getting good coverage and discussion, I thought I'd mention something else that's not. It's back again.
Homeland Security officials are testing a supersnoop computer system that sifts through personal information on U.S. citizens......

The system uses the same data-mining process that was developed by the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project that was banned by Congress in 2003 because of vast privacy violations.

Picture of the Day

Protests in Brazil against the Bush visit.

And, smaller, but more violent in Columbia.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Who wants to keep Gingrich out of '08?

Okay, big ironic revelation: Newt Gingrich was having an affair at the same time he was trying to impeach Clinton.

Leaving all that aside, look how this came out in response to a direct question from James Dobson.

My question is, who gave Dobson the info? Or, who was Dobson trying to benefit by highlighting Gingrich's affair which is bound to make big headlines?

Sounds like Romney to me. Gingrich and Romney would target the same "moral values" supporters who would not like an affair.

(Another theory: This is part of Gingrich "testing the waters.")

Beyond Quagmire - A thought provoking read

Rolling Stone asked a panel of big time experts(all of whom are critical of current policy) some fairly basic but fundamental questions about the Iraq war.

The answers are one short paragraph each, and they don't all agree, but I found it a thought-spawning read. As example,
Michael Scheuer: No matter what happens now, the Islamists will have beaten both of the superpowers -- first the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and now the United States in the heart of Islam. The impact of that in Islamic civilization is going to be enormous.

Interesting, no? (Start on page 2.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A photograph of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is seen pinned on the shirt of an Iraqi policeman at a checkpoint in Tikrit, 175 km, March 2, 2007. REUTERS/Nuhad Hussin

(The non-sectarian Iraqi forces.)

What it takes to get an award from the AEI

At his speech accepting the AEI's Irving Kristol award, frighteningly influential Princeton professor Bernard Lewis, "described Muslim migration to Europe as an Islamic attack on the West," and "also gave a ringing endorsement for the ill-fated Crusades, which spanned two centuries starting in 1095, when various European armies tried to regain the “Holy Land” for Christendom. "

He "warned in his lecture that the West — particularly Europe — was losing its fervor and conviction in the face of an epochal challenge from the Islamic world. The Islamic world, he said, was now attacking the West using two tactics: terrorism and migration."

Dick Cheney was there.... applauding.

A majority thinks we're losing in Afghanistan

I thought this was interesting from an NBC/WSJ poll (.pdf).
From what you have heard or read, do you think the war in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban is going extremely well, fairly well, not that well, or not well at all?

Extremely well .................................... 2
Fairly well............................................ 26
Not that well........................................ 28
Not well at all ...................................... 41
Not sure ............................................ 3

69% think Afghanistan isn't going well. 28% think it is.

The 69% number on Iraq doesn't surprise me, but for some reason the Afghanistan number does.

That "missing" Iranian General has turned up

I find it interesting that the US official who leaked/told this story explicitly didn't say they were getting information regarding Iran supplying weapons to Iraq, only Hezbullah.
A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

I mean, you know the reporter asked that question, right?

Later: On the other hand, a different "senior US official," "told ABC News today the United States doesn't know where he is."

So, is the first one a lie aimed at the Iranians, or is the second one a cover for the leak, or does official B not know the truth?

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi woman and her infant wait in line to be seen by U.S. Army medics at a one-day clinic set up in Qargouli village, about 10 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq Friday, March 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

"The surge" is going to be bigger, longer, broader, and more violent than promised.

In the last 12 hours we have reporting that "the surge" is going to be bigger (US approves more troops for Iraq,) longer (Buildup in Iraq Needed Into ’08, U.S. General Says,) broader ("additional U.S. forces will be sent to areas outside the capital,") and more violent (U.S.: Iraqi insurgent attacks intensifying) than promised.

Not that I'm surprised by any of these, but the real story is that all of these represent a planning recognition that what was proposed will not work.

Nobody wrote that story.


(AFP) Petraeus says there's "no military solution" to Iraq. (This is just a less subtle rehash of the "breathing space" talking point.)

(FT) Fadhila pulls out of the ruling UIA Shia alliance.

(As Juan Cole points out, this Basra based group has never been fully committed to the Shia alliance because of disputes over oil. (I would point back to the Basra oil disputes in May as evidence.))

(AFP) Iraqi forces have recaptured 42 of the 140 prisoners who escaped in the Mosul jailbreak yesterday. (Earlier reports had them recapturing 100.)

(Slate) Read the last two paragraphs of this.

(ThinkProgress/CAP) 72% of Army brigades have served multiple tours.

(PressTV?) "Shmoel Avivi, an Israeli retired officer, had established a firm in Iraq 2 years ago, which secretly sold arms to terrorist groups in Iraq, Ma'ariv reported."

(FT) Does anyone find an irony that after all the "freemarket" BS that Paul Bremer chased instead of building a country, the US is now attempting to "revive Saddam's state industry?"

Two rough stories on the children of Iraq,

(Reuters) Dreams of bombs, bad guys haunt Baghdad's children

(NBCblog) Allawi's Story

Also: Here comes that train.
Iraq's Parliament is to be asked to strip immunity from several of its members to allow them to be investigated for various alleged crimes, senior lawmaker Abbas al-Bayyati said Wednesday.

This is going to be a really big deal. If Maliki begins arresting top officials and parliamentarians of other political factions, it will exacerbate the already impossible politics of Iraq.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Picture of the Day - 4 - McCain is desperate

On CNN, Wolfie just reported that McCain is pulling the "Straight Talk Express" out of mothballs for trips to Iowa and New Hampshire.

It was not planned and smacks of flailing about. Not only are they desperate, but they don't know what to do.

Somebody needs to tell McCain, it's not the bus that's the problem.

Ipso Facto Fuck You

An exchange from today's press briefing.
Q And it does relate to the Libby verdict yesterday. The President has said that he expects everyone on his staff to uphold the highest ethical standards. Does the President believe that everyone involved in this has upheld the highest ethical standards?

MR. SNOW: Again, look, I'm not going to go back and sort of re-litigate it, but he does insist on the highest ethical standards in this White House.

Q Well, then, excuse me, the fact that he hasn't taken any action against anyone, does that, indeed, mean that everyone has acted ethically --

They were all over Tony Snow about why no one has been fired.

Picture of the Day - 3

President Bush looks on as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks before the ceremonial swearing-in of Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Tuesday Feb. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The US-Pakistan-Iran relationship.

An extremely thorough look at the prospects of US "support" for minority ethnic groups in Iran and the complex politics between the US, Pakistan and Iran.

I am far more educated having read this.

Political bits

(CNN) The head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention blasts Giuliani over his divorce and treatment of ex-wife and kids.

(Hotline) Newt Gingrich sounds like he's campaigning, "asking god to forgive his sins" on James Dobson's radio show.

(Politico) Romney's plan to get out of the single digits and really get into the race. (Romney needs to make a move up to a "competitive" polling position to keep the money flowing and the machine running.)

One of Romney's recent successes is converting the now early California primary from winner take all to district by district.

(WashTimes) McCain responds by trying to get independents allowed to vote in those same California primaries. (Doesn't that help Giuliani?)

And, as Libby walked out of the courtroom, "Are you willing to go to prison to protect Vice President Cheney?" shouted NBC's David Shuster.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi boy injured in a car bomb attack in Baghdad holds a picture of Muslim Shiite Imam Hussein as he recovers from his wounds on 6 March. Iraqi insurgents killed nine more Shiite pilgrims as the toll from the previous day's suicide attack rose to 117, amid fears that a backlash could undermine the US-led Baghdad security plan.(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)

(AFP) Brandishing flags and chanting religious slogans, marchers forged on through Sunni districts of Baghdad in the face of sniper attacks, while police gave covering fire and pumped their fists in the air, television footage showed.

(AP) Abbas Ghatie Ali, a 32-year-old pilgrim walking from Baghdad to Karbala on Wednesday, tied a list of emergency contacts around his neck in case he was hurt along the way.

"I'm wearing this card to identify me if I'm killed during the journey to Karbala," Ali said.....

He said he would continue to walk despite attacks on fellow pilgrims, because Shiites are "the majority and will defend our ideology and doctrine."

(Reuters) "These acts will not stop us," said Jabar Ali, who walked for eight days with his family from the southern Iraqi city of Basra to Kerbala.


(Reuters) "Dozens of gunmen stormed an Iraqi jail in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday and freed up to 140 prisoners in one of the biggest prison breaks since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, police said." (Sunnis. According to AFP, "including foreign Arab fighters.")

More: (AP) "By late Tuesday, all but 47 of the prisoners had been seized, police said."

(UPI) An insurgent video profiles US armored vehicles and gives tactics for attacking them.

Later: (AP) 3 American soldiers killed by a roadside bomb. 30 Iraqis killed in a cafe NE of Baghdad.

(Reuters) The surge grows to 30,000.

(AP) Headline: Dems to add billions to Iraq war bill. (Yeah, those tax and spend Democrats, wasting money on troops suffering from brain injury and PTSD, mine resistant vehicles, training and readiness.....)

And, There's a very quiet train coming down the Iraqi tracks. As part of his "crackdown," PM Maliki has an "arrest list" of those suspected of connections with insurgents or militias. This list reportedly contains the names of top level politicians and parliamentarians.

When it is published, it will surely face charges of sectarianism and political oppression as certain groups opposed to Maliki are singled out.

I have no idea if those on the list are or aren't involved in the violence (very probably are,) but I don't see how this goes down without major repercussions.

Later: (NYTimes) "15 people were killed in the suicide car bomb attack in Saidiya...Seven people were killed in a blast at a market in southwest Baghdad, and three people were killed in separate attacks using explosive devices and in a drive-by shooting."

Picture of the Day

George gets an idea?

(U.S. President George W. Bush makes remarks to the American Legion in Washington, March 6, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young. (This is an unaltered photo. (Lifted from RH.))

The sinking McCain whale

Radar Magazine so grains of salt,
John McCain's Obama-esque remarks about our "wasted" resources in Iraq weren't the only comments that landed him in hot water after a recent appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. Many of his staff were blindsided by his campaign announcement. And several aides were so outraged that they've quit, say Republican insiders....

Another insider, a guru to the conservative movement, says that McCain himself is growing increasingly desperate in the wake of his downward slide in the polls..... "One of the top aides to the Republican leadership told me that McCain has lost so much support, he's simply beside himself. He's wringing his hands. Things are sinking fast—in two or three weeks, we'll know if there is any recovery."

These may be minor league staffers, however you would have to figure they're "inside" enough to care about the national strategy.

And, let's not forget, at CPAC, "And the crowd didn't attempt to hide its disdain: The announcer mocked McCain when noting his dismal showing, and participants booed every time they heard his name."

So Obama's corruption was to take a $13,000 loss?

Now, let me get this straight. Obama's front page corruption was to take a $13,000 loss?

Boy, those Democrats don't know how to do anything.

Later: Obama responds. There's nothing here.

(I would be very curious who pointed this reporter towards this line on the financial disclosure. It showed a fund and a loss, but it didn't show the specific "questionable" investment or any connection to potential legislation. This story was handed prepackaged.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Picture of the Day - 4

Senator Barack Obama walks to a news conference with Senator Claire McCaskill where they introduced the 'Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act of 2007' on Capitol Hill in Washington March 1, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

I Lewis "Scooter" Libby was found guilty on four counts of perjury and obstruction today, and all I keep thinking is how nice would it be to have Valerie Wilson still operating since 2003, burrowing out information on clandestine nuclear programs? Let's remember, that's the assignment that was blown.

Not only did this burn Valerie Wilson, but it also likely burned anyone associated with her cover and anyone she had contacts with. Now, those sources into the nuclear blackmarket and Iran are likely gone.

That intel sure would be useful for those trying to assess the reality of the Iranian nuclear program. Maybe with Plame still in her job, we wouldn't be tricked/lied/manipulated into another war.

Oh, wait.....

Blaming Walter Reed on "modern medicine."

I am so sick of reading variations of this argument,
I will say this: I have no doubt that most of those in the Army and VA want the best for wounded soldiers. The system in some ways is overwhelmed, in part because modern medicine saves so many more lives. In this war, there are many badly injured survivors who would have died of their wounds in earlier wars.

No. Absolutely Not.

The problem is not that more soldiers are surviving their injuries, it's that far more soldiers are being injured and killed than were ever prepared for.

The problems throughout the entire war from the wounded to armor and equipment to personnel shortages all root from the same cause, an absolute denial about how serious this war was going to be and now really is.

We cannot foist off blame on "modern medicine" or survival rates.

Preparations were not made because those responsible didn't prepare.

That's the blame.

Picture of the Day - 3

A man grieves over a coffin with the body of a policeman in a morgue in Najaf, Saturday, March 3, 2007. The bodies of 14 policemen were found Friday northeast of Baghdad after an al-Qaida-affiliated Sunni group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq said it abducted and killed two groups of Iraqi security forces. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)


(AP) 9 US soldiers killed and 4 wounded in two roadside bombings.

(AFP) 27 Iraqis reported killed in multiple attacks and bombings.

Later: (AP, BBC) A major pair of suicide bombings in Karbala killing at least 90.

CNN is funding a website/program to help journalists who have served in Iraq deal with PTSD.

(AFP) Jalal Talabani "may not" be healthy enough to attend the international "neighbors conference" in Baghdad on Saturday. (No direct statements since Feb. 25, and no visitors for the next 48 hours. That's alot of "exhaustion.")

(USAToday) Only 28% of Americans think the US will "win" in Iraq. (The question didn't define "win.")

Same Poll: "Six in 10 people said they want Congress to set a timetable to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of 2008. Three-quarters said Congress should require that U.S. troops come home if Iraqi leaders don't keep pledges to reduce violence."

(NYTimes) Sadr's followers vow not to be pushed out of the cabinet.

And, mindboggling koolaid drinkers in the WashTimes,
Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will give speeches in the next few days on the war on terrorism, to the applause of Republicans who say the White House needs to be more aggressive in selling the successes in Iraq.

Picture of the Day - 2

Mrs. Annette McCloud , wife of a wounded U.S. Army Cpl. Wendell 'Dell' McCloud, comforts him during a U.S. House subcommittee meeting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center March 5, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing


The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that it appears Iran has temporarily suspended its enrichement program.

Gonna have to wait a day or two to see what this means.

While you're waiting, how about a semi-credible story of a top level Iranian general defecting to Europe and cooperating with the US?

Later: Reuters has a little more on the general. While the Iranians claim he might have been kidnapped,
Turkish daily Hurriyet said last month two foreigners had gone to the reception of an Istanbul hotel on February 6 to make a room reservation for Asgari for three nights. They paid in cash. He checked into the hotel on February 7 and later disappeared.

That sounds like a defection to me.

(And, if you're looking for cloak and dagger, Russia is the place.

(BBC) Another Russian reporter dies after "falling" from a fifth floor window, and (BBC) an American mother and daughter(?) (check the ages, 42 and 26) are being treated in a Moscow hospital for Thalium poisoning.)

Later: Also an allegation that the General was kidnapped by the Israelis.

Fired US attorneys

Talking Points is the place to be on US attorney's story, but this deserves broader mention.

According to McClatchy, one of the fired attorneys relates that he was threatened by Al Gonzales' DOJ if he went public or testified. (Wouldn't that be witness tampering or something?)

Also add the earlier firing of the US attorney from Maryland to the mess.

Picture of the Day

That little girl sums up more than a month's worth of blogging.

(U.S. President George W. Bush waves to students in a kindergarten class during his visit to Silver Street Elementary School in New Albany, Indiana, March 2, 2007. Bush visited the school to make remarks on the reauthorisation of the 'No Child Left Behind' education plan. REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Monday, March 05, 2007

A positive Bin Laden story? Discomfiting Musharraf?

After all the Bin Laden sightings, I'm at "believe it when I see it," but how do you think Musharraf feels about the mention of a permanent US CIA presence in Pakistan?
Armed with fresh intelligence, the CIA is moving additional man power and equipment into Pakistan in the effort to find Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, U.S. officials tell ABC News."....

People familiar with the CIA operation say undercover officers with paramilitary training have been ordered into Pakistan and the area across the border with Afghanistan as part of the ramp-up.

There seems to be an intentional effort over the last week or so by unnamed "US officials" to show US operations in Pakistan, but these revelations are hugely unsettling for the Musharraf government.

First, there was the scolding Cheney visit, followed immediately by the arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund which was also leaked by "US officials." (I keep wondering if this "Pakistani arrest" is like the Pakistani airstrikes that keep turning out to be US missiles.)

The arrest made Musharraf look very weak and a puppet of the US.

Then there was the statement before Congress that the US is pursuing Taleban fighters into Pakistan that the Musharraf government had to "vehemently deny."

Now, "US officials" make public a long term CIA presence and mention building it up with paramilitary forces?

Are "US officials" are trying to upset Musharraf's political situation? Are they trying to force a political conflict to force Musharraf to pick a side?

Or is all this just for US consumption after the Al Qaeda regrouping stories? That's alot of weight to put on Musharraf for domestic politics.

Later: Probably should add this:
Former ISI Chief, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul has said that the Untied States is paving the way to use Pakistan's territory for its expected attack on Iran in order to shift the blame of its failure in Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Talking to a private TV Channel, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul said that NATO forces have intensified their activities on Pak-Afghan border as they are frustrated due to their failure in Afghanistan.....

General (retd) Hamid Gul said that its an American policy to use different tactics to pressurize Pakistan and the main objective of recent visit of US Vice President Dick Cheney to pressurize Pakistan as US would need Pakistan's support and Balochistan land to attack Iran. He said that it may be the possibility that Pakistani government is refusing the United States to given permission to use its land.

I don't know, but it does seem to fall into the same argument.

Picture of the Day - 4

Ursula Pirtle cries as she talks about her husband, Heath, during a meeting with war widows at a help center for families of fallen soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The Democratic play on Walter Reed and the broader effect

I really can't say I'm surprised that the Dem House Caucus wants to push the Walter Reed story local and keep it in the news. It certainly accomplishes what Greg Sargeant and the Dems say, it shows the Dems are more concerned about the troops, but it also accomplishes something much more subtle, and probably more significant, within the larger debate.

For four years the Bush administration has gone to fairly extensive lengths to try to hide the war's casualties from the eyes of the public.

Whether it's barring photographers from Dover AFB (remember all the foofarah when The Memory Hole published those pictures?,) publicly lambasting Ted Koppel for reading the names of the dead on Nightline (it was just over 700 at the time,) or shipping the wounded into Walter Reed in the middle of the night to avoid photographers, this administration has done everything it could to keep the human costs of the war from the public's eye.

Now, with this shame at Walter Reed and at so many other military hospitals, tonight on every newscast there will be real wounded soldiers on my television. Real human beings wounded in the very real war, not these two dimensional cardboard cutouts used as backdrop and obscured through flags and jingoism.

Separate from Walter Reed, this is very bad news for the administration. The last thing they want is for America to begin to understand the human costs of this war, and the longer this story goes on, the more human those costs will feel.

(This is one of those cold analytical posts looking at the politics of this tragedy. I'm sorry to do it this way, but this could be a real turning point in what remains of the Bush/war support.)

Picture of the Day - 3

"Bend over America. This will go alot easier if you relax."

(Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney puts on a rubber glove before serving himself a piece of fudge at the Hollis Pharmacy in Hollis, New Hampshire, March 1, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Iraqi shepherds bring in a new crop - landmines

If you need another reason to support the landmine treaty....
Risking their lives, Iraqi shepherds are increasingly venturing into these deadly fields to dig up mines planted during the Iran-Iraq war two decades ago, according to U.S. soldiers, who say insurgents then use the mines to fashion roadside bombs that kill American troops.....

"They're going out there and farming them," said Capt. Jesse Stewart.... "Shepherds are digging them up and selling them on the black market."

One of the great unreported fiascos of this extended war is that the US has allowed a training ground and test bed for guerilla tactics and technology.

There has been a ton of press about the EFP's, but what's getting severely underreported is that their development, application, and tactical use were greatly hastened by Hezbullah's use of them against the Israelis last summer, and now that knowledge has spread into Iraq.

Similarly, Iraqi style IED technology is beginning to show up in Afghanistan and attacks against Pakistan. Even the tactical applications are spreading. Look at the "complex" two stage attack yesterday in Afghanistan.

Going back a little further, it was the IRA that "perfected" the car bomb and many other improvised explosives, and much of that technology has since shown up in other conflicts around the world including Iraq.

We will be facing the technologies and tactics honed in Iraq for decades, and we can only expect them to metastatize into other regions and conflicts.

So, when I read about "farming" land mines for IED's, I can't help but thinking about the 50-80 million landmines spread across some 80 countries.

And, the US still refuses to sign the landmine treaty.

"The Warden of Fallouja"

Wow. Just wow.

I don't often directly recommend reading articles, but Wow.

(Mike Carlson writes about the 12 things he learned being the warden of the prison in Fallujah.)

Picture of the Day - 2

People gather near the scene of a suicide car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, March 5, 2007. A suicide car bomber struck near the well-known Mutanabi book market in central Baghdad Monday, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 50, in a first major blast in the city in several days, police said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)


(NYTimes) The British raid a major official Iraqi intelligence office in Basra and find detainees and torture.

(HeraldSun) Maliki reacts with outrage. (His special forces were involved in the raid!!!)

(WashTimes) A British report will say that an Iranian SA-14 was used in a helicopter shootdown. (Of course, it's the Moonie Times.)

(USAToday) 10,000 Interior Ministry employees have been reassigned or fired. (About half for militia ties. The rest for bribery?)

Afghanistan: (BBC) Reportedly, nine more civilians killed in an airstrike on a house including five women and three children.

And, an Al Jazeera story on the city of Hit.

Picture of the Day

One of the things that has really made an impression on me is the very different, more modern way that the Obama team is crafting the images of their candidate.

While the Clinton team tries to show her supporters constantly, adoringly behind her, "the tried and true method," the Obama team seems to prefer to have their candidate surrounded and walking among the people. Notice how often you see Obama thronged while the Clinton events, even the handshakes, are orderly lines.

It's a very interesting presentation that coveys a different feeling towards the subject. In the visual metaphor, Clinton is a leader who we should listen to and follow while Obama is more "of the people."

Just something I've noticed. Something to watch.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Afghans look at a car, damaged by bullets after an incident involving foreign troops, in Spin Pul village in the eastern province of Ningarhar March 4, 2007. Afghanis say that after the bombing, the US soldiers shot everything that moved along the highway. (See post below.)

(REUTERS/Rafiq Shirzad)

Entering Sadr City without a single shot fired

The AP has a pretty good article on the "major" US operation in Sadr City.
U.S. and Iraqi troops poured into Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold Sunday, encountering no resistance in the one-time Sadr City combat zones but testing the Shiites' commitment to the U.S.-promoted campaign to drive militants from the capital.....

The quiet but dramatic advance in Sadr City — involving nearly 1,200 U.S. and Iraqi forces who didn't fire a shot — marked one of the most significant developments in the security clampdown in Baghdad since it took effect nearly three weeks ago.

But it only received the green light after drawn-out talks between U.S. commanders and political allies of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his powerful Mahdi Army. Both sides are watching each other for any wrong moves on the same streets where they battled in the past, including intense urban warfare in 2004.

Makes "cooperation" me wonder about my thesis in the next post.

Is this the US plan for dealing with the Mahdi and al-Sadr?

Juan Cole reports on an al-Hayat article that has Iyad Allawi heading to Kurdistan trying to form a new government alliance. Adding weight, reportedly Khalilzad went with him. (Shouldn't Khalilzad be gone by now? Wasn't he replaced?)

But I would guess, as Cole imples, this is all a feint to force Maliki to complete his cabinet shakeup in two weeks that reportedly will cut Sadr out of the government.

This sets up a very interesting situation.

For months the US has been announcing the planned "surge," giving Sadr and the Mahdi Army ample time to evacuate Sadr City and remove their weapons. Many in the leadership even going to Iran.

(AP, WaPo) Today, the US is conducting it's first big security operation in Sadr City since 2004.

Part of the near term plan is to set up a "joint security station" within Sadr City and checkpoints all over the place.

So, the US gets Sadr and the Mahdi to remove their fighters and weapons, "clears" Sadr City, establishes a presence, and only then looks to cut Sadr out of the government.

I don't know if all this is true, but that would be a very subtle strategy designed to draw Mahdi fighters out into the open. The US would certainly be fighting on "their ground," but it would also have the advantage of tracking them as they come back in.

If direct conflict is coming, this would create about the most disarrayed Mahdi organization you could hope for.

But, I wouldn't want to be posted in that joint security station.

More stray thoughts: This would presume that the Mahdi response would be focused primarily on "retaking" Sadr City not spreading chaos elsewhere to draw the US away.

Also, is part of it to establish "security" while the Mahdi is gone and then blame them when the violence rises again? Could you really propagandize the residents and citizens away from supporting Sadr?

This would also presume that Maliki is fully on board with the US plan. How would Maliki continue to govern if Sadr pulled out taking away his majority? Could another majority be formed? Does Maliki stay in power by default?

Just thinking out loud. Comments?

Picture of the Day - 2

A medical worker inspects bodies of six Iraqi Sunnis in a hospital morgue in Mahmoudiya, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 3, 2007. The dead men had received death threats for meeting with local Shiites were killed Saturday in the nearby town of Youssifiyah in execution-style slayings, police said. (REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan)

What is heroism?

I "couldn't put down" this WaPo article on Sgt. Jeremiah Workman who won the Navy Cross.

Very different views of the same incident in Afghanistan

This is all early reporting, but take a look at the wide gulf between the AP and Reuters as to what happened around a suicide bombing in Afghanistan today. The Reuters article was written based on Afghan police accounts before a US statement; the AP was written off the US statements.

First, the Reuters version based on Afghani input:
"After a suicide bomber attacked their military convoy in Afghanistan on Sunday, U.S. troops opened fire and killed eight civilians and wounded more than 30, Afghan police said.....

There were no reports of casualties among the U.S. troops and it was unclear why they opened fire on civilians.....

Several people who identified themselves as residents of the Sangin district said up to 30 civilians had been killed in NATO bombing in the area.

They said women and children were among the dead....

After the shooting, hundreds of people staged a protest and blocked the road, residents and officials said.....

A spokesman for NATO in Kabul, Colonel Tom Collins, confirmed there had been fighting in the area but said he had no reports of civilian casualties.

NATO says it does everything it can to make sure civilians are not in the area of their operations, and it will call off attacks if there are any doubts. Nevertheless, accidents happen.

Now the AP version based on US officials:
A "complex" ambush involving a suicide car bomb and militant gunfire killed 16 Afghan civilians and wounded 25 people during an attack on a coalition convoy in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said.

The suicide bomber hit the American convoy with an explosives-packed minivan, said Noor Agha Zawok, the spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, and militants then fired gunfire from several directions. Coalition forces returned fire in defense of the attack, the U.S. military said.

It wasn't immediately clear if the Afghans were killed by the militants gunfire or that of the U.S. soldiers. One U.S. soldier was injured in the attack.

Hundreds of Afghans gathered to protest the violence, blocking the road and throwing rocks at police, with some demonstrators shouting "Death to America! Death to Karzai," a reference to President Hamid Karzai.

Maj. William Mitchell, a U.S. military spokesman, said the suicide attack was a "complex ambush," with militants firing guns at the soldiers from three different points, meaning Afghan civilians could have been killed or wounded by militants.

"We certainly believe it's possible that the incoming fire from the ambush was wholly or partly responsible for the civilian casualties," he said.....

U.S. soldiers at the scene deleted photos taken by a freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and video taken by a freelancer working for AP Television News. Neither the photographer nor the cameraman witnessed the suicide attack or the subsequent gunfire. It wasn't immediately known why the soldiers deleted the photos and videos. The U.S. military didn't immediately comment on the matter.

What really happened? I don't know, but that's two very different descriptions of one event.

A little later: The WaPo has a rewritten third version, different reporter, but also AP. (I'm just excerpting the new elements.
U.S. Marine Special Forces fleeing a militant ambush opened fire on civilians on a busy highway in eastern Afghanistan, wounded Afghans said. Up to 16 people were killed and 34 wounded in the violence, officials said.....

Mohammad Ishaq, 15, who was recovering in the Jalalabad hospital from two bullet wounds, said he and his father had pulled their vehicle over when they saw an American convoy approaching.

"When we parked our vehicle, when they passed us, they opened fire on our vehicle," said Ishaq, who was wounded in his left arm and his right ear. "It was a convoy of three American humvees. All three humvees were firing around."....

U.S. soldiers at the scene deleted photos..... It was not immediately known why the soldiers deleted the photos and videos. The U.S. military did not immediately comment.

The freelance photographer, Rahmat Gul, said he took photos of a four-wheel drive vehicle with four bodies that had been shot to death inside.

An American soldier then took Gul's camera and deleted the photos. Gul said he later received permission to take photos from another soldier, but that the first soldier came back and angrily told him to delete the photos again. Gul said the soldier then raised his fist as if he was going to strike Gul.....

Lt. Col. David Accetta, a coalition spokesman, said the attack demonstrated the militants' "blatant disregard for human life" by attacking forces in a populated area. NATO officials repeatedly say that suicide bombs aimed at international and Afghan forces kill far more civilians than soldiers.

I don't know why this is grabbing my attention, but it is.

Later: Last one, I think. (AP, by the same reporter as the one right above this.)
U.S. Marines fleeing a suicide bomber and militant ambush on Sunday opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians on a busy highway in eastern Afghanistan, wounded Afghans said. Up to 10 people were killed and 35 wounded in the chaotic violence, officials said.....

As the Americans sped away, they treated every car and person along the highway as a potential attacker.....

"They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway," said Tur Gul, 38, who was standing on the roadside by a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand. "They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot."

According to this version from Afghani sources, the soldiers fired on parked cars, pedestrians, everything. (The NYTimes covers the differences in the stories using the word "indiscriminately.")

All is not well in the happy, happy middle east......

The Saudis are acting as a self interested go between for the US and Iran on both Lebanon and Iraq, and the meeting yesterday sounds like a disaster.

A statement was issued, but notice its terseness, and the fact that it was only issued by one side. No joint appearance.
Without elaboration, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told Reuters, “The two parties have agreed to stop any attempt aimed at spreading sectarian strife in the region.”.....

Mr. Ahmadinejad departed late Saturday night, the Saudi Press Agency reported, after about eight hours on the ground, despite initial plans for him to leave on Sunday.

Not good.

Picture of the Day

Joelen Mulvaney of Barre, Vt. holds her fallen husband's flag during a committee meeting at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt., Friday, March 2, 2007. The Vermont Legislature's resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq was discussed in a hearing Friday that drew a throng to the Statehouse despite a snowstorm. Mulvaney's husband, 1st Lt. Jay Jensen, was killed in Vietnam. She says supports the resolution. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)