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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Red Squads

This NYTimes piece is horrifiying. In a method very reminiscent of the "Red Squads" of the sixties, NYPD conducted nationwide undercover surveillance supposedly because of the 2004 Republican convention. They then coordinated and desseminated that information to police departments throughout the country.

As atrocious as that is, they also went undercover into groups not tied to the convention whose sole "crime" appears to be that they were against the administration.
In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

“Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. “Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event.”....

In its preparations, the department applied the intelligence resources that had just been strengthened for fighting terrorism to an entirely different task: collecting information on people participating in political protests.

Who needs the Feds when the NYPD can coordinate nationally?

(Are they legally allowed to conduct surveillance out of state?)

Picture of the Day - 2

Vice President Dick Cheney awaits the arrival of Jordan's King Abdullah to address a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, to speak about peace in the Middle East, March 7, 2007. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Our Grandchildren and their inflatable rafts

President Bush often rhetorically postulates that our grandchildren's main preoccupation will be whether we "stood strong" in Iraq.

I tend to think they might have other questions for us...
Rising sea levels and melting polar ice-sheets are at upper limits of projections, leaving some human population centers already unable to cope, top world scientists say as they analyze latest satellite data.....

"Observations are in the very upper edge of the projections," leading Australian marine scientist John Church told Reuters.

"I feel that we're getting uncomfortably close to threshold."

Past this level, parts of the Antarctic and Greenland would approach a virtually irreversible melting that would produce sea level rises of meters, he said.


Bad things by soldiers

As always, these are the exceptions, but all three of these revolve around acts of misconduct so I'm grouping them together.

(AP) "Nine officers, including up to four generals, should be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, a Pentagon investigation will recommend." (The key finding to me is that, unbelievably, this report will "not conclude there was an orchestrated cover-up in the investigation.")

(AP) "Marines accused of shooting and killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan are under U.S. investigation, and their entire unit has been ordered to leave the country, officials said Friday." (This was the free fire incident where the photographers had their photographs destroyed.)

(Wired) An unbelievable description of US soldiers trying to deceive UAV surveillance to create the impression of a "good kill." The lengths they went to......

Picture of the Day

"Somebody tell Al Gonzales that I need to see him."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Look what the Friday dump dragged in

This may be the final cut for Gonzales. (From the AP)
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.. The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was crafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson

Notice in this story that both "Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos" and "Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse" used almost the exact same words.
Scolinos also said Gonzales was not involved in the process of selecting which prosecutors would be asked to resign.....

Roehrkasse said. "He was not, however, involved at the levels of selecting the particular U.S. attorneys who would be replaced.

This far in, I don't think that explanation is going to fly.

ThinkProgress points out that this meeting took place in the 18 day email gap. (I'm sure there were no emails right after the meeting where Gonzales authorized the plan for the firings, right?)

The NYTimes also backhandedly adds one detail. At the meeting in question were Gonzales, McNulty, Sampson, Battle, and Goodling. Sampson and Battle have "resigned" and Monica Goodling "has taken a temporary leave of absence."

(Also: It's no coincidence that all of this was released the day Kyle Sampson agreed to testify before Congress. Come next Thursday, he would have had to answer under oath, "Did you ever discuss this with the Attorney General?")

Later: (AP) "Six of the eight prosecutors who were ultimately ordered to resign are named in the plan." (But Gonzales didn't read that far?)

TPM points to an email from the dump pretty much showing that the "lack of immigration enforcement" was a dreamed up excuse for the firings.

"John Doe" on the National Security Letter he received

The Washington Post carried a piece today written by John Doe about his experience with a National Security Letter he received.

He is anonymous because even mentioning that he received one of the 140,000 NSL's issued between 2003 and 2005 is a crime.

Picture of the Day - 3

The casket of Army Sgt. Michael Peek, who was killed in Iraq on March 3, 2007, is carried by an honor guard during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday, March 20, 2007 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

I think this is important

I have this feeling that this McClatchy article is saying something important about the US Attorney firings by tying them into the far larger efforts against "voter fraud" by Karl Rove and the Voting Rights section of the Justice Department, but I can't really put my finger on what it is.

It suggests that the firings are part of a much broader effort than has been previously reported, but at the same time, there's nothing that makes me say "Aha!"

Judge for yourself.

Reading the diplomatic leaves on Iran

On the eve of the Security Council coming to a deal on Iran sanctions, the Iranians choose to detain 15 British soldiers.

(It's still not clear whether they were in Iranian waters or not, we'll probably never know, but they had likely been to that exact same spot several times before, and the Iranians chose this moment to grab them.)

Now, after lobbying so hard for a huge number of visas so that Ahmadinejad, security, and staff could come to the UN to plead their case against the sanctions, Ahmadinejad suddenly pulls out saying he won't address the Security Council.

So, what's the play here? Feeling a loss of protection from Russia and China, the Iranians detain the British to send a more direct threat/message of Iran's potential to complicate Iraq?

I don't see how this works, but it's definitely a ratcheting up.

Quote of the Day

In a closed mandatory meeting for Democrats preparing for the 218-214 vote to authorize a timetable on the Iraq deployment.
After at least a half-dozen episodes of clapping, Representative David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat who is guiding the Iraq bill as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, had an outburst of his own.

“I don’t want your applause, I want your goddamn vote!” he screamed, his voice perfectly audible to the scrum of reporters waiting outside the room.


Picture of the Day - 2

A woman cries as she sits on a pavement during a funeral in Baghdad March 12, 2007. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

Sharp elbows

One of the most intriguing quotes this morning comes from the front page NYTimes story claiming that new Sec Def Robert Gates lobbied hard for the closing of Guantanamo.

The internal politics pitted Gates and Rice for the closure against Cheney and Gonzales who wanted to keep Guantanamo operational. Needless to say, Cheney won the argument, but it was this little bit that caught my eye.
Even so, one senior administration official who favors the closing of the facility said the battle might be renewed.

“Let’s see what happens to Gonzales,” that official said, referring to speculation that Mr. Gonzales will be forced to step down, or at least is significantly weakened, because of the political uproar over the dismissal of United States attorneys. “I suspect this one isn’t over yet.....”

One official made it clear that he was willing to discuss the internal deliberations in part because of Mr. Gonzales’s current political weakness.

My point is this. Washington can be a very vicious town. When someone wobbles, anyone with a policy difference may jump in for their own reasons.

I'm not saying that someone in the White House staff is going to tank Gonzales because of this Guantanamo dispute, but, there was an attempt here to send Gonzales a very loud message through the NYTimes that he might find more support if he softened that stance. (And I think it's highly likely that Gonzales knows the "senior administration official" behind this quote.)

We have already seen some indications that some of career folks in the Justice Dept and National Security apparatus leaking and quietly pointing the Dem Congress towards problems for their own political reasons, but if the White House has come to this point of working out their dirty laundry in public, the divisions must be very strong.

And if they're to the point where "senior administration officials" are threatening each other on the front page of the NYTimes, this is a White House in a whole lot of trouble.

(Also in "sharp elbows," a WaPo frontpager outlining the extraordinary months long effort by Karl Rove to get his unqualified assistant, the 2004 Bush campaign's opposition researcher, placed as the Arkansas US Attorney. (Hillary Clinton, Whitewater, the 2008 campaign, and Rove's attack man with subpoenas and the investigative power of a US Attorney.))


(AirForceTimes) "An Iraqi air force colonel who fled from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where he was in training, is the subject of a wide-reaching manhunt, according to federal officials."

(WaPo) "The U.S. military's faulty war plans and insufficient troops in Iraq left thousands and possibly millions of tons of conventional munitions unsecured or in the hands of insurgent groups after the 2003 invasion.....Some weapons sites remained vulnerable as recently as October 2006."

(Bloomberg) Pre-War Assumptions Led to Flawed Iraq Plan, U.S. Report Says

(Reliefweb) Three US soldiers killed. Not a headline anywhere.

(TPM) House liberals back off and agree to support the deadline setting Iraq funding bill. (Notice the Lynne Woolsey quote. Quite a change from what she said earlier in the day on Democracy Now.)

And, don't miss the very blunt threat from the Turks about attacking the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

Also Breaking: Sunni Deputy PM al Zubaie seriously wounded

(AP) "Iraq's Sunni deputy prime minister was wounded Friday in a suicide bombing at a mosque in the courtyard of his home that killed six people, including one of his advisers, authorities said."

(Reuters) "Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie was undergoing surgery.... and his condition is "not stable."

Iranian navy detains 15 British soldiers

(AP) According to the Pentagon, 15 British soldiers were conducting anti smuggling operations in inflatable rafts along a disputed territorial waterway and were detained by Iran.

(Later: More detailed AP version.)

(Reuters) More detail from witnesses. The whole thing went down without shots.

I would imagine this is all posturing by the Iranians and they will be released in a couple of days.

Picture of the Day

Pakistani lawyers march during a demonstration .... (AFP/Aamir Qureshi)

Activists of Pakistan's main alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), shout anti-Musharraf slogans as they march.... (AFP/Aamir Qureshi)

Women activists of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz chant anti-Musharraf slogans.... (AFP/Asif Hassan)

Activists of the Pakistan People's Party shout during a demonstration.... (AFP/Asif Hassan)

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf waves to a crowd during the inauguration of the Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea, 20 March. Thousands of protesters have urged Musharraf to quit over his removal of Pakistan's top judge, as the new acting chief justice flew back home and into the eye of the storm.(AFP/Press Information Department)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Turkey openly threatens US/Iraq

The Turks are nearing their limit as very little has been done about the PKK by the overextended US force in Iraq, but if this is more than a new round of threats, this could get very complicated very quickly.
The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration.

Senior Bush administration officials have assured Turkey in recent days that US forces will increase efforts to root out Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) guerrillas enjoying safe haven in the Qandil mountains, on the Iraq-Iran-Turkey border.

But Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, MPs, military chiefs and diplomats say up to 3,800 PKK fighters are preparing for attacks in south-east Turkey — and Turkey is ready to hit back if the Americans fail to act.

The reason the Turks have come to this point,
The firm Turkish belief that the US is playing a double game in northern Iraq. Officials say the CIA is covertly funding and arming the PKK's sister organisation, the Iran-based Kurdistan Free Life party, to destabilise the Iranian government.

Interestingly, the Turks have timed this threat for the day after Nowruzuz, a day traditionally used as an opportunity to highlight separatists demands by Kurdish rebels.

(For background, take a look at this excellent Asia Times article from last week on the simmering tensions between Turkey, Iran, and the Kurds. In it, the PKK were predicting an imminent attack by Turkey.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Somebody contact the White House. When they can no longer find friendly crowds, they can just paint them in.

Republican presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani addresses a crowd of supporters during a fundraiser in New York March 14, 2007. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)

Arrests around the Karbala kidnapping/killings

This is a very quiet release of information after all the press about the killing of four US soldiers in Karbala. (20th paragraph.)
The U.S. military announced that it had captured the leaders of a Shiite insurgent network "directly connected" to the killing in January of five American soldiers in the holy city of Karbala by gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons.....

On Wednesday, two senior Mahdi Army commanders told The Associated Press that Qais al-Khazaali was the leader of up to 3,000 fighters who defected from the militia and were now financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal to firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

And, I would guess there's no direct link between that specific operation and Iran or this would be headline.

Picture of the Day - 2

"If we drive this thing into a ditch, you gotta make sure they know I wasn't driving."

President Bush sits in a hybrid Ford Escape with worker Barbara Neal (R) during a tour of the Ford Motors plant in Claycomo, Missouri, March 20, 2007. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Metapost on the US Attorneys

All I keep thinking as I watch the White House struggle into their politically costly defensive crouch on the US attorneys is that whatever truth (or appearance) they fear coming out must certainly be worse than the damage they are taking now.

The White House "looks guilty" in what they're doing, and they must know it, but I would argue they're doing what they're doing out of a political calculation not out of some vague principle of executive power.

Their willingness to take all this damage on this US Attorney story tells me that there definitely is a discoverable "horrible truth" out there somewhere, a truth which would cause far worse than the damage they're taking now, and they believe that "horrible truth" could in fact be discovered, so they're stonewalling.

My antennae are tingling.

The "preponderance of the evidence" on US Attorney firings

Here's a broader list of allegations in the US Attorney scandal outside the better known allegations involving (Lam (San Diego,) Iglesias (New Mexico,) Cummins (Arkansas,) and McKay (Washington,)):

(WaPo) Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case ("He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony.") (I know this isn't US Attorneys, but it hits the pattern.)

(LVSun) Did Gov. Jim Gibbons, while serving in the U.S. Congress, influence the Justice Department - directly or through intermediaries - to intervene in a civil dispute on behalf of his friend Warren Trepp?

(Arizona Republic) Serious questions about the firing of the Arizona US Attorney who was fired precipitously and was investigating Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Az.) and a dodgy land deal.

(TPM) Questions about Abramoff and the NH phone jamming case.

(This is by no means a complete list, but I thought a "preponderance of evidence" post might be useful.)

I keep thinking back to this Sampson (fired) to Miers (fired) email:
"We’re a go for the US Atty plan. WH leg, political, and communications have signed off and acknowledge that we have to be committed to following through once the pressure comes."

Heads up. Here comes the pressure.

(And, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo tries to push this story over the top. Because of his influence on the media in this story, it is definitely worth a read.)

Later: The only US Attorney fired for actual incompetence, they really didn't want to fire and did so only grudgingly.


(JuanCole) Some 200 Sunni Arab guerrillas in Muqdadiya (Diyala Province) stormed a jail and freed 33 prisoners. (His link is dead, but I trust him.)

(AP) In Basra, a curfew is declared after local Fadhila police arrest a Madhi leader and fighting ensues. (Fadhila recently split from Maliki's government which Mahdi supports.)

(AP) Iraqi government negotiations with Sunni insurgents break down again on the requirement of a US withdrawal timetable.

(BBC) Not only did Maliki free a senior Sadr aide from two years of US custody, but he met with him for handshakes and statements.

(AP) More reports of Mahdi splintering. (Some Mahdi officials also claim that Iran is training and arming the violent splinter groups.)

(AFP) "Reports of sexual assaults involving members of the US military increased by 24 percent in 2006 over the previous year, the Pentagon reported Wednesday."

And, I don't know if you've noticed, but alot of the pictures recently have been from Kirkuk. Two reasons for this: 1) As the Independent points out, Kirkuk is definitely heating up, but 2) at the same time, it's still safe enough for reporters to walk around unlike, Baquba, Anbar, Baghdad.

In "the other war," the swap of 5 Taleban prisoners for an Italian journalist has been pretty much confirmed. (AP, NYTimes)

One of the Bushes actually signed up for the military

Needless to say, the Bush that signed up for military service came from Jeb's loins, and he's doing Navy reserve intelligence analysis, but it is something.

(It should also be noted that George P. Bush is the nephew with the very obvious political aspirations.)

Picture of the Day

This is why the Turks are worried about the Kurds.

(Tens of thousands of Turkish Kurds, some of them holding flags of an outlawed separatist rebel group and posters of its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, shout slogans during the Nowruz celebrations in southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, Wednesday, March 21, 2007. The Nowruzuz has traditionally been used as an opportunity to highlight separatists demands by Kurdish rebels. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici))

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shielding the President

Doesn't the last answer sound like a prepared response? A prepared response often means sticky ground, and Snow didn't even let the questioner finish the assertion
Q There is one email from November 15th from Mr. Sampson to Harriet Miers, I believe, "Who will determine whether this requires the President's attention?"

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q And then there's a gap in emails. Was there any -- perhaps any emails about the President in there? And did the President have to sign off on this? Because the question was raised --

MR. SNOW: The President has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.

Is that why the DOJ can testify under oath and the White House can't? Bush discussed it with his White House staff, but not with DOJ? Is that the reason for the firewall?

(And, notice while they're trying the Nixonian Watergate "executive privilege" defense, they're also laying the groundwork for the Reagan Iran-Contra "I don't recall" defense.)

Ed Henry of all people gets to the nub of it.
Q But aren't you having it both ways? If you're saying the President wasn't in the loop, but we need to cite executive privilege for the President's communications --

MR. SNOW: No, what you're -- what you are saying is, are conversations that didn't take place privileged? Well, no -- they didn't take place.

Q So what are you protecting, if they didn't take place?

Next Question, eh?

Picture of the Day - 2

New York to move primary up to Feb. 5

New York is joining the primary rush by moving their primary up to Feb. 5 along with California and other states.

Now that the two most expensive media states are so early, the only realistic candidates are those who have already raised huge national money before the primaries even begin.

We have come to the point where the wealthy of our nation prechoose the acceptable candidates, and of course the political parties play along.

It's no longer about building a political coalition, it is about building a fundraising coalition, finding positions which will garner enough corporate support.

In their efforts to make their states more relevant in the primary process, New York and California have given the people of the US less say in who becomes our president.

The only primary that really matters anymore is the first primary, the silent fundraising primary in the state of oligarchy.

The small idealistic ember in my heart just died.

Picture of the Day

Through this new technology, we are now able to distill official statements to 99.57% pure bullshit. This is a tremendous advance from the days when the bullshit content was uncertain.

(President Bush speaks to reporters while observing ethanol production, Feb. 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))


(McClatchy) "On the fourth anniversary of the war he peddled as a historic liberation campaign, Ahmad Chalabi on Tuesday sat in his fortress-style villa in Baghdad and pondered what might have been and how it all went wrong."

(BBC) "An Iraqi police chief cannot trust one third of his officers because they are loyal to illegal militias, he has told the BBC."

(BBC) More on that same interview/trip. Infiltration and hiring illiterates up to colonel because they have connections.

(MSNBC) A restatement of the finding that 1/3-1/2 of all Iraqi soldiers aren't there, "ghost troops."

The 18 day gap in the US attorney emails and no emails from Gonzo

18 days of emails from just after the 2006 election loss, November 15th to December 4th, appear to be missing from the document dump. I saw it first at Politico, but the key paragraph is excerpted here.

What's the White House answer to this? We forgot a box?

If you're wanting to put down the smell of coverup by an "unprecedented" document release, leaving out the key period is not the way to do it. (Dodging the question doesn't help either.)

Also: Not much has been written on the fact that Alberto Gonzales didn't use email. The reasons unexplored, I would guess that like several other Bush officials, Gonzales chose not to use email to avoid a paper trail like the one were seeing now.

BUT, unlike Cheney, or Rumsfeld, or even Bush himself, (all email avoiders,) Gonzales is the AG. I could understand if as President's counsel, he feared leaving emails, but as AG his job is definitionally to uphold the laws of the land. He should have nothing to hide in his official business, and yet he still refused to use email.

And, in that same Politico piece, Mike Allen reiterates that the Bush admin is lining up Gonzales replacements. His story is that the "search process" has gone into lockdown, but all the inquiries have already been made and they're just waiting for answers.

More chaos in Pakistan

(WaPo) The "lawyer protests" are continuing and it's becoming more and more about Musharraf's legal mechanisms of holding onto power.

And, (AFP) There's a growing conflict within the tribal regions.
Tribesmen loyal to the Pakistani government exchanged mortar and rocket fire with foreign Al-Qaeda militants for a third day Wednesday, leaving at least 106 people dead, officials said.

Pakistani troops also shelled the Uzbek militants sheltering in the mountainous tribal area of South Waziristan, security officials and residents said, although a military spokesman denied the army was involved.

The group under attack is Uzbek hiding in Pakistan's tribal regions. The Pakistani government is still standing by its peace deal and not putting its military in, but doesn't that first paragraph sound like government backed paramilitaries?


Chiquita executives may be sought in Columbia

For a decade it has been alleged that multinational corporations have been using the AUC for its own ends. Now, finally, it seems some of the dirty details are starting to come out.

In his extensive comments, Iguaran also said his office has made significant progress in an investigation of Drummond Co. of Birmingham, Ala., which is facing trial in the United States after Colombian workers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alabama accusing the company of paying paramilitaries to murder three union organizers. The company denies the allegations.....

Iguaran said that among the issues the attorney general's office is investigating in the Chiquita case is the November 2001 unloading of Central American assault rifles and ammunition at the Caribbean dock operated by the firm's Colombian subsidiary, Banadex. The smuggling operation was detailed in a 2003 report by the Organization of American States......

This article has more details. It sounds like the Columbians have quite a file.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Yesterday, Bush "commemorates" the 4th year of the Iraq War standing in front of the "Rough Rider" Teddy Roosevelt to give him that warlike feel. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Today, trying to make an argument about executive privilege, he casts himself in front of George Washington (an attempt to give some nobility to his efforts to protect his political hacks.) (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

It's the little things that are the slimiest.

Wow! The White House is reeling

Watching the Presidential statement right now, and I think it really tells the politics of the situation that the White House felt they had to utilize the president to try and make the case against Rove and Miers testifying under oath.

They felt they had to have the President "go to the American people" on the stance, presumably because they don't think they can get support elsewhere and the politics have gotten out of control.

It feels very desperate.

Also: How much of the statement was "supporting" Gonzales versus how much was protecting Rove?

And, is Bush repeating the "Democrats trying to score political points" an attempt to try to mitigate the damage when they lose? Is he laying out the political frame for when Rove and Miers are eventually forced to testify?

Is the "executive privilege" line an effort to cut the heart out of Congress' investigation? If the firings were political engineered by the White House, drawing a line at the door only gives us the people who executed the firings.

I'll be curious to see how the media frames Bush's statement.

(Oh, and check the timing. It's early enough to make the nightly news, but late enough they don't really have time to dig into it.)

White House "allows" Rove, Miers interviews

The White House will "allow" Miers and Rove to talk to the Hill. Notice the agreement is for "interviews," which I assume means not public and not under oath.

Why would they need to be not under oath?

Also: Tancredo calls for Gonzales' resignation in a desperate bid for attention.

Picture of the Day

Children cry next to a person injured in an attack that lays in a hospital in Kirkuk, Saturday, March 10, 2007. A rocket hit an open market in central Kirkuk Saturday afternoon, killing two persons and injuring another 35, police said. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)


(WaPo) Police Yield to Sunni Insurgents' Ultimatum: In Town North of Baghdad, Five of Eight Stations Are Destroyed.

(I think it should be noted that the more violent Sunni elements still have free reign in Anbar. They are able to gather outside a police station, stand there, threaten, and blow up the building without any real response. They did this 5 times, more or less openly in the streets, and then walked away.)

(USAToday) If you strip out the Kurdistan where there is no appreciable US military presence, Iraqis where US troops are stationed overwhelmingly want US troops out.
In all, 83% of Shiites and 97% of Sunni Arabs oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq; 75% of Kurds support them. By more than 3 to 1, Iraqis say the presence of U.S. forces is making the security situation worse.

And we're supposedly fighting for them.


(Reuters) Pakistan's politics are getting tougher as lawyers and justice officials continue to resign in the wake of the Chaudry removal.

(ABCBlotter) "At least two captured Taliban officials have been released in exchange for the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist, Afghan intelligence officials tell ABC News." (The exchange was carried out by Afghani intelligence.)

(Australian) Tony Blair "struck a secret deal with the king of Saudi Arabia" over the BAE slush fund.

(AP) Chiquita admitted in court that it paid $1.7 million to the village killing AUC in Columbia. Chiquita claims that the payments were for "protection of their workers," however, you have to ask why they didn't just pull out rather than funding the one of the bloodiest militias in the world.

"But federal prosecutors noted in court Monday that from 2001 to 2004, when Chiquita made $825,000 in illegal payments, the Colombian banana operation earned $49.4 million and was the company's most profitable unit."


There is no cavalry coming over the hill. Their horses are in Iraq.

Of all the readiness issues we've seen, this one may worry me the most.
For decades, the Army has kept a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on round-the-clock alert, poised to respond to a crisis anywhere in 18 to 72 hours.

Today, the so-called ready brigade is no longer so ready. Its soldiers are not fully trained, much of its equipment is elsewhere, and for the past two weeks the unit has been far from the cargo aircraft it would need in an emergency.

Instead of waiting on standby, the First Brigade of the 82nd Airborne is deep in the swampy backwoods of this vast Army training installation, preparing to go to Iraq. Army officials concede that the unit is not capable of getting at least an initial force of several hundred to a war zone within 18 hours, a standard once considered inviolate.

The "ready brigade" is absolutely critical to the way the military plans contingency response. Almost every pre-packaged contingency plan for a crisis situation includes this "ready brigade" as a main body of the first response.

China attacks Taiwan, Pakistani coup, Venezuela attacks a neighbor, an attack on a US ally, Israel, the plans are remarkably similar. Respond with theater and carrier air assets immediately. Try to buy time and "prepare the ground." Then deploy the quick reaction Marine and Army units.

Only there's no Army unit ready to go.

In the extra two days it would take to deploy a response, we would lose alot of ground and alot of time.

This is really dangerous.

Monday, March 19, 2007

White House Seeking Gonzales Replacements

Time Magazine's Mike Allen blogs at Politico (why not Time?) that the Bush administration is beginning to feel around for replacements for both Gonzales and McNulty.
Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales... according to party sources familiar with the discussions....

Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales.

If you're juicing on this story, it's worth a read.

Also, Notice how support for Gonzales faded over the weekend as they were gathering the documents for the big document dump coming tonight. This tells me we may get something good.

Elsewhere: AP: Gonzales' hold on job grows uncertain

Later: And, McClatchy, "Support for Gonzales appears to collapse," which includes the line of the day.
"Congressional investigators took delivery of a new batch of Justice Department documents Monday. Their release was not expected to help Gonzales keep his job."

Why is that the line of the day? ABCNews:
New e-mails released this evening by the Justice Department reveal the depth of White House involvement in the discussions to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year. The thousands of pages of e-mails suggest the White House was involved in the plan from the beginning.

The e-mails detail conversations about attorneys targeted for dismissal. There are no e-mails from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who reportedly does not use e-mail, though the Justice Department says messages show some indication that Gonzales' former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, kept the attorney general apprised.

Later: TPM has some of the early reporting on the dump.

Later: (WaPo) Bush affirms support for Gonzales, but Ed Henry reports that "The White House is going to protect Karl Rove before they're going to protect Al Gonzales."

As Ed Henry has a reputationg as WH stenographer, I'm prone to believe him on this one.

Picture of the Day - 3

"C'mon now, Willie. You've got to stop saying we're pro-gay rights. We've changed positions now.

'Homos are bad,' Willie. Say 'Homos are bad.'"

(Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to 'Willie' the parrot during a campaign stop at the Hollis Pharmacy in Hollis, New Hampshire, March 1, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

US Attorneys - Fire! Fire! Fire!

Okay maybe this isn't quite fire in the US Attorney thing, but it's a whole lot of smoke, and it smells like candy.
To recap, the White House awarded a one-month, $140,000 contract to an individual who never held a federal contract. Two weeks after he got paid, that same contractor used a cashier’s check for exactly that amount to buy a boat for a now-imprisoned congressman at a price that the congressman had pre-negotiated.

I would add to the mix that MZM who got the office furniture contract was a DHS/Defense contractor with no past experience with office furniture.

(And, need I add that the office furniture was for Dick Cheney?)

Seriously, take a look.

John McCain's false choice

John McCain has said it so many times, "I know it's trite, but I'd rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

You know what, John. Those two aren't mutually exclusive.

Picture of the Day - 2

A woman who became ill after a suicide bombing attack involving toxic chlorine gas lies in a hospital in Falluja, March 17, 2007. REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal

Maliki declares war on the Sunnis

If you're a Sunni in Iraq, how does this sound?
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki insisted sectarian killing had come to an end in his country, blaming ongoing daily violence on Al-Qaeda in a television interview Monday.

"I would say that the sectarian killing is over," Maliki said, in comments to be broadcast Monday on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the United States-led and British-backed invasion of Iraq.....

"We have accurate intelligence information that Al-Qaeda and the remains of the former regime are being scattered and chased and losing the secure conditions under which they used to operate....

And he added: "Everyone agrees on this. It is not a threat towards only one part of the population.

In effect, Maliki is clearly declaring that the "sectarian killing" (Shia death squads) are over and will no longer be a focus of the government. All state violence will now be openly focused on the Sunnis.

(I should probably also mention the "breathing space" talking point reiterated yesterday by Sec Def Gates.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the US military's role in Iraq is to buy time for a political reconciliation among Iraqis.

From Maliki's statement, does it sound like political reconciliation is on the horizon?

Does it sound like US soldiers are dying for an achievable goal?)

Iraq - (Despondently: "Four more years. Four more years.")

(Reuters) Police found the decapitated and bound bodies of nine policemen near Ramadi.

(WaPo) An Iraqi army post was blown up in Fallujah.

(BBC) Eight bombs went off in half an hour around Kirkuk.

(AP) A Shia mosque near Shorja in Baghdad was bombed. ("When I arrived, I saw several wounded people being taken by ambulances and they were screaming from fear and injuries. There were bloodstains on the wall and some carpets were burned.")

(AP) "The idea of living alongside Iraqi units has been tough for many U.S. troops to swallow. They are keenly aware that Iraqi security forces here have been infiltrated by Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.

Giant concrete blast walls often separate U.S. and Iraqi units on large garrisons they share."

(AFP) An Al Qaeda "financier" was arrested in Iraq. "In a video of the suspect's interrogation shown to reporters, ....admits he received money from outside Iraq to fund insurgent attacks." (But they didn't show the reporters the part about where the money came from? Al Qaeda, Saudi, Jordan, Syria?)

(NYTimes) A Sunni parliamentarian's compound was raided by Iraqi forces.

(WaPo) "Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge."

The WaPo, BBC, and others paid for a poll of Iraqis.
Only 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in U.S. and coalition troops....

Slightly more than half of Iraqis _ 51 percent _ now say that violence against U.S. forces is acceptable _ up from 17 percent who felt that way in early 2004. More than nine in 10 Sunni Arabs in Iraq now feel this way.

While 63 percent said they felt very safe in their neighborhoods in late 2005, only 26 percent feel that way now.

(NYTimes) For Many Iraqis, Hunt for Missing Is Never-Ending

(AP) Bush to ask for patience in Iraq war

Suicide bombings in Afghanistan

There's a moderate amount of press about a suicide attack in Afghanistan against a US embassy convoy which killed three Afghanis (AP, AFP, Reuters,) but what caught my eye were two little bits down in the coverage.
There have been nine suicide bombings in Afghanistan in the past week but most have caused few casualties.

Were you aware there had been nine suicide bombings in the last week in "the other war?" The fact that we haven't heard tells me they have not been "successful." Is this the terror component of the dreaded "spring offensive?"

Also, I find it surprising that the tactical "advances" in Al Qaeda in Iraq carbombings don't appear to be crossing over to Afghanistan.

Second point: After all the coverage of the photographs being destroyed after a recent bombing/response, this caught my eye.
U.S. Embassy security teams initially prevented Afghan police, NATO soldiers and journalists from getting close to the vehicles.

Afghani journalists and soldiers I can understand, but NATO soldiers?

Picture of the Day

U.S. army soldiers from B Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment rest on a rooftop after a foot patrol in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The smell test

Again, thus far we have nothing concrete showing the US Attorney firings were a response to prosecutions related to Republican politics.

But that position is getting harder and harder to hold.
Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday.

And, I would offer this as a macro observation: I just don't see the Democrats pushing this hard on this issue if they didn't think there was enough yet to be revealed that they could crack open in hearings.

Why are we fighting them over there if they don't want to fight us over here....

As this skewers the remaining prowar justification, I have to ask why it's back on page A20.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is the United States' most formidable enemy in that country. But unlike Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization in Pakistan, U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts believe, the Iraqi branch poses little danger to the security of the U.S. homeland.....

AQI's new membership and the allied insurgents care far more about what happens within Iraq than they do about bin Laden's plans for an Islamic empire, government and outside experts said. That is likely to remain the case whether U.S. forces stay or leave, they added.

Seems like a pretty major point to me.....

Picture of the Day - 2

Prosthetic limbs of wondered soldiers are stored during a therapy session at the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation center at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in these February 9, 2007 file photos. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas.

Drug Resistant Terrorists

As I was driving yesterday, I heard a local news story on Tuberculosis and how it's still present in Houston. Regular TB is easily treatable by a long course of antibiotics, but a new "drug resistant" TB has evolved which is leading to deaths in my city.

As TB often strikes/spreads in "difficult" populations, drug addicts, homeless, jails, very frequently, those exposed begin but don't finish the full treatment.

Over time, these partial treatments have led to a "drug resistant" form of TB. (As the treatment is not completed, the bacteria that survive develop an immunity to the drugs.)

For some reason, perhaps it was the next story on the radio, I got to thinking about the insurgency in Iraq.

In a broad metaphorical sense, the partial treatment of "not enough troops" and poor execution post invasion has created a very similar problem. After the fall of Saddam, there was very little "infection" of the type of sectarianism and civil war that we see today.

But after being allowed to survive for years, the insurgency has evolved. They have found new reservoirs of protection and support, found more effective means of attacking their host and its American immune system.

Their means of communication, their transport, their control structures, and their methods of attack have all adapted.

Within the new military leadership in Baghdad, you often hear about the new "cunning" enemy, a "thinking enemy," but really, what did they expect?

Faced with a threat, the insurgency that was not wiped out has evolved. It has developed a resistance to American methods and tactics.

Now the infection looks likely to spread, and the version that will spread will be the new version, the "American resistant" version.

By poor policy, half measures, and incompetence in Iraq, the US has evolved an enemy that it can't "cure," and, like drug resistant diseases, we will be facing that enemy we created for the foreseeable future.

Later: Came across this reposted at Juan Cole, an interesting History of US counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq that I think describes the "partial treatment" phase that allowed the insurgency to evolve.

7 US soldiers died Saturday

The AP reports Five US soldiers killed in Iraq on Saturday, four in one roadside bombing in western Baghdad, one soldier died in "a non-combat related incident."

Unfortunately, Reuters adds two more. One soldier killed by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, and one soldier shot dead in Baquba.

Despite all the media touting success, US soldiers are still dying at about three a day.

Picture of the Day

A child cries next to a person injured in an attack that lays in a hospital in Kirkuk,, Saturday, March 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)