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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Picture of the Day - 4

Pamela Landry, mother of U.S. Army Pfc. John Landry, Jr., salutes with her husband John Landry, Sr., as her son's flag-draped casket is carried into St. Thomas of Villanova Church in Wilmington, Mass., Tuesday, March 27, 2007. Pfc. John Landry, Jr. was killed with three fellow soldiers by a roadside bomb in Baghdad March 17. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Political bits

A month ago, the Republican '08 candidates were at CPAC so each had to explain why he hated gays more than the next. This week, it's Club for Growth, so it's all tax cuts, all the time. Romney talks tax cuts, Giuliani talks flat tax. (McCain didn't show for CPAC, and now, didn't show for Club for Growth.)

(WaPo) Bernie Kerick may face a raft of federal charges including lying to the Feds for the DHS job Giuliani recommended him for.

(E&P) David Broder seems to back off his predictions of a "Bush bounce" in his poll ratings.

(AP) A Republican congressman from Nebraska calls for Gonzales to step down. (Rep. Lee Terry.)

And, (CNN) GOP Pres. hopeful Mike Huckabee effuses praise towards Hillary Clinton and then hits all the soft spots on his Republican rivals.

(WashWire) I think we should emphasize "hopeful" for Huckabee because he only raised $500,000 in the first quarter.

Maliki's government gives Kirkuk to the Kurds

Maliki's cabinet today endorsed a relocation plan aimed at moving Sunni Arabs out of Kirkuk. Importantly, this is not a forced relocation, as some of the earlier discussion indicated, but a "voluntary" relocation of all Sunnis who settled in Kirkuk since Saddam's efforts to Arabize the town began in 1968.

But, on a larger scale, this would certainly seem to indicate that the Shia parties in government fully intend to back the Kurds'claim on Kirkuk overriding any hopes the Sunnis might have had.

(The Shia are using Kirkuk and Kurdish autonomy as bargaining chips to keep the Kurds in a political coalition that allows the Shia to steamroll the minority Sunnis.)

Officially, a formal permanent settlement on Kirkuk is scheduled by the end of this year.

(I will say it again: So long as the Sunnis have no redress but violence, the civil war will continue.)

Picture of the Day - 2

U.S. President George W. Bush walks behind Sgt. Joel Kalka during a visit to the Physical Therapy Unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington March 30, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young

Bush's 2/3 commitment to Walter Reed

The plan for Bush's Walter Reed visit per Dana Perino:
"We worked hard to find time on the President's schedule where he could spend three hours up there, which he's going to do today...."

The reality per the Washington Post:
"President Bush yesterday paid his first visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center since the uproar over shoddy conditions at the facility and emerged after a two-hour tour to publicly apologize....

As the president wrapped up his visit
an hour earlier than scheduled, his administration moved to improve care."

And, if you want the real flavor of the trip,
Journalists were allowed to take pictures and watch for only a few minutes before being ushered out, though not before Bush told photographers to take pictures of Sgt. Mark Ecker's tattoo of a naked woman. Reporters were not allowed to interview patients in Abrams Hall, hospital officials said, citing logistics. The hospital instead made available two doctors, who spoke glowingly about the president's visit and had no information to provide about the facility's problems.

I blame his parents.

(Not my find, Tip to RH.)

Picture of the Day

(Slightly bigger if you click it.)

3 carrier groups in the Persian Gulf

For a brief period of overlap in early April when the Nimitz relieves the Eisenhower, the US will have three carrier groups in the Persian Gulf.

Related: (AP) Iran claims it is withholding information from the IAEA because it fears that information given to the IAEA might be used by the US or Israel in an attack.

Heads up, Sadr City

Yesterday there were reports that Muqtada Al Sadr, in a statement read at Friday prayers, called for mass protests on April 9 marking the fourth year of Baghdad's fall. The statement was inflammatory, but, as with recent statements, only called for peaceful measures of protest.

This morning, the NYTimes reports that that statement was joined by "militiamen loyal to Mr. Sadr engag(ing) in street battles against Iraqi Army soldiers in southwestern Baghdad."

I assume this assessment is based upon a statement by a "Mahdi official" that militiamen opened fire on an Iraqi government/Kurdish run checkpoint as they were seeking "to avenge the killing" of a militia leader.

I'm yet to see anything that clearly indicates that the Mahdi is returning to the streets in force, but after all the bombings, the pressure for that return seems to be rapidly building.

Also, after watching Iraq for awhile, I've noticed that discrepancies like this often point to something we should notice.
(NYTimes) "Iraqi police officials said Friday that American helicopters had conducted strikes in the early morning against a gathering of Shiite militiamen in an area east of the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City..... At least 20 people were killed and wounded..... But a spokesman for the American military, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, said she had no reports of such an incident."

(AP) "The U.S. military, meanwhile, denied that it was involved in airstrikes over Sadr City on Friday after local officials said 20 suspected militants were killed and 14 others wounded, along with seven civilians, in an airstrike targeting a Shiite militant base in eastern Baghdad."

It may be nothing, just putting it out there.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Picture of the Day - 4

Medics help nine year old Shaheen Ahmed in Kirkuk, Iraq, Tuesday, March 27, 2007. Ahmed and another boy were injured when a road side bomb exploded outside their school Tuesday. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

Bush administration trying to "unsettle" Assad in Syria

What is it they say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
The Bush administration has launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad, using parliamentary elections in late April as a lever, according to State Department officials and Syrian exiles.....

The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda.

Let's look at the recent history. (All within the last 5 years.)
Forced elections in Lebanon with US assistance to "reformers" - War with Israel, a break down in state, a near civil war.

Forced elections in the Palestinian territories with US assistance to "reformers" - Terrorist Hamas elected, near civil war, increased hostility towards Israel.

US aid to "reformers" in Iran's elections - Moderate government thrown out, Ahmadinejad in. Increased hostility towards Israel and the US.

Iraq is unique, but elections there brought a sectarian government, and a hot civil war. (and I'm sure they'll openly hate Israel as soon as we leave.)

So, that's the history, and yet one of its main proponents, convicted felon Elliot Abrams, has been put in charge of implementing the same policy in Syria.

It's unlikely Assad would be unseated in the rigged elections, but I'm willing to bet right now that US "assistance" into the election process will not be to our benefit.

Anybody want to take the other side of that bet?

Waxman calls Rice to appear to explain Niger-Uranium claim

Enough of this piddling DOJ stuff, Henry Waxman wants to know how we got into Iraq and is calling Condi Rice before his committee to answer questions about the Niger-Uranium claims.

(Waxman is also calling for a Susan Ralston a deposition in relation to the Abramoff investigation, and for Karl Rove to answer a letter of questions related to Lurita Doan and the possible Hatch Act violations at the GSA.)

Picture of the Day - 3

This is a picture they wanted out and they wanted it out today.

Why? It seems strange he'd bring Walter Reed up now, six weeks after the stories broke.

(President Bush shakes hands with the prosthetic arm of 1st Lt. Scott Quilty during a visit with patients at the physical therapy wing of Walter Reed Army Center in Washington, Friday, March 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

Later: I think I've got it. Bush met with the Congressional Republicans yesterday to try and gain their support for the battle over funding/withdrawal. I'll bet dollars to donuts that the Congressmen told Bush that he had to remediate the Walter Reed impressions if he expected support on Iraq.

If you think about it, you can imagine that conversation, "Mr. President, we want to support you in this war, but we are getting battered by our constituents over Walter Reed. Unlike you, we are worried about the 2008 election."

Later: Pentagon hires PR firm in aftermath of Walter Reed.

Later: Veterans groups were not so kind. (AP)
Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, among retired military officers who took part in a conference call before Bush's visit, praised the president for seeing wounded soldiers. But, he added: "I'm convinced he would honor them more if he would refrain from using soldiers as props in political theater."

"I would be very happy to see him do the Walter Reed visit more like the commander and secondarily as an inspector general, rather than as a politician," he said.

Bobby Muller, president of Veterans for America, said Bush wasn't seeing areas of the hospital most in need of change. He cited Ward 54, where soldiers are suffering from acute mental health conditions, and outpatient holding facilities where soldiers see long waits to get processed out of the Army.

"Walter Reed is not a photo-op," Muller said. "Walter Reed is still broken. The DOD health care system is still broken. ... Our troops need their commander in chief to start working harder for them."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called it "an unfortunate characterization" to say Bush was using Walter Reed as merely a picture-taking opportunity.

I tend to side with Bobby Muller, president of Veterans of America, rather than Dana Perino. I just don't see Bush visiting the PTSD wards. This was a photo op.

They're political props. Wounded soldiers used as political props.

Gonzales talks to the press.

I think you're going to have to do better than this, Mr. Gonzales.

Picture of the Day - 2

A mortar attack on a school was too small an event to make the news yesterday.

I doubt it was small to them.

(Iraqi students try to save what is left from their books inside their classroom at Fatima al-Zahraa school, which was targeted by a mortar attack in Baghdad's Jamila neighborhood. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye))

The new "hostile" Saudis

There's alot of talk about a new, less US friendly Saudi Arabia (I linked a couple of stories a few days ago,) but I think this WaPo piece hints at the actuality behind the new distance in the relationship. The Saudis blame the US for the rise of Iran, both in Iraq and throughout the region.

That's why they're pushing an Israel/Palestine settlement, not to help the US as the State Department is desperately spinning, but for their own self interest to try and diffuse Iran's influence in Gaza and Lebanon.

As to why now, maybe it's because they were promised a new solution in Iraq and what they got is "the surge" which will solve none of their concerns. Just speculating.

Before you get too excited about Gates' call to close Guantanamo

There's alot of excitement among its critics that new Sec Def Gates has argued for the closure of Guantanamo, but before we praise the man, perhaps we should take a look at what he really wants.

According to the AP, Gates does want to close Guantanamo, but he is asking Congress to find another means of achieving the same goals, incarcerating the detainees "forever, but (in a way) that doesn't get them involved in a judicial system where there is the potential of them being released."

Frankly, I don't know what the right answer is, but before we praise Gates, I think it's important to note that he's not really challenging the concept or the system. He just wants to paint over the Guantanamo sign for PR purposes.

Political bits - The First Primary

With the first '08 presidential fundraising deadline tomorrow, '08 politics have rocketed to the surface again. You have all of the campaigns scrambling to lower expectations and raise money.

On the Dem side, the Clinton camp looks set to blow out everyone else. There's even talk of them "lapping" the field. Everyone's expecting a huge number, and the Clinton camp isn't even bothering to lower expectations. (although I love Terry McAuliffe's tongue in cheek $10 trillion in the first quarter.)

Obama on the other hand, knowing that he can't compete with Clinton head to head, is trying to emphasize the number of donors (targeted at 75,000) to portray himself as the man of the people.

On the Republican side, the stuff I've been reading seems filled with the McCain campaign lowering expectations claiming they got a "late start." (like August 2004 is a late start?) I think they're going to turn in a number that reflects their floundering campaign.

Romney is expected to turn in a big number, although in the big picture, he is spending tons and falling in the polls. (He has even taken the unprecedented step of allowing his college volunteers to take 10% of all the money they raise.)

And, I would guess that Giuliani is probably doing very well. He's held a ton of fundraisers, but it's all the negative hit pieces in the last two days that tells me he must be doing well. (Giuliani faces questions about 9/11, Testimony by Giuliani Indicates He Was Briefed on Kerik in ’00, and more.) Somebody's trying to tar him right before the reporting deadline.

None of this should really matter all that much this far out, but it does, not because fundraising 10 months before the first primary substantially affects the race, but because the media will use this to determine the characterizations of their coverage.

The unstoppable Clinton machine, McCain's floundering campaign, Romney's inability to gain traction despite money, Obama, man of the people. Before the candidates begin national advertising, these characterizations will define them.

This far out, it has little to do with actual votes. With the media's collusion, the weathy get to hold the first and arguably most important US primary. We should know the results in a day or two.

(PS. No early word on the Dodd behemoth.)

Picture of the Day

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bush takes his party down with him

It's Politico, but I trust Jim Vandehei.

Republicans across the country are warning that increasing public discontent toward President Bush, the Iraq war and the GOP brand in general threatens to send the party's 2008 campaign planning into a tailspin.

Already, the problems are having tangible effects. Some of the party's top recruits in key races from Colorado to Florida are refusing to run for Congress. Business executives -- the financial backbone of the GOP -- are sending more and more money to Democrats. Overall Republican fundraising is down sharply from the same time frame during the past two presidential elections.

If you're intrigued, there's alot more in this article.

Speculation on the bombings in Iraq today

With the death toll continuing to rise in the Sunni bombings targeting Shia across Iraq, I feel compelled to ask whether today's onslaught is a response to the government's actions in Tal Afar.

If the Sunnis see no justice but blood.....

Picture of the Day - 3

A man looks at bloodstains left by his brother in a hospital in Baghdad March 29, 2007. Suicide bombers killed nearly 130 people in a crowded market in a Shi'ite district of Baghdad and a mainly Shi'ite town on Thursday in an upsurge in the sectarian violence that threatens all-out civil war. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

The tactics of questioning a witness

The big blogs are covering all the twists and turns today, so, I'm just chipping in what I find interesting. Here's something that caught me.
Feinstein asked Sampson today, "And are you aware that on May 10 Carol Lam sent a notice to the Department of Justice saying she would be seeking a search warrant -- of the CIA investigation into Dusto Foggo and Brent Wilkes?" And Sampson carefully responded, "I don't remember ever seeing such a notice." The obvious follow-up: "Are you saying you specifically remember that you never saw such a notice? Or are you saying it is possible you saw it and now you just don't remember?"

Now, take a minute and watch how Chuck Schumer does it right. It doesn't result in a substantively different answer, but, it does undermine the dismissive certainty of "I don't remember" and forces "a lean" and a different characterization.

Gonzales has to be gone, right?

You can use whatever sugarcoated euphemisms you want, "appear to conflict," "misstated the facts" or whatever, but Alberto Gonzales' Chief of Staff went up on Capitol Hill today and said that Gonzales lied in his press conference on Mar. 13.

This isn't some little accidental flub or game of gotcha. It was the central premise of the entire press conference held specifically to outline the facts of his involvement.

And Gonzales lied. Just straight up lied.

He's gotta be gone, right?

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life?

Picture of the Day - 2

(Take a minute to notice Pelosi's smile in the second pic.)

President George W. Bush reacts as he listens to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner at a hotel in Washington March 28, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Tal Afar - Our shining example

When the bombings took place in Tal Afar, and the following retributional rampage by the Shia police and militias, I didn't point out that this small town had been referenced by Bush as a shining example of success. Yes, the contrast of Bush statement and reality was there, but I still didn't make that statement.

However, today, with these newest revelations, I think it's time, because not only is there sectarian violence, but also the broader and far more important evidence of governmental sectarianism that is the true fuel of the Iraqi civil war.

The bombings and death squads are horrible, but, in the end, they are simply the symptoms of why the Bush administration's Iraq policy is failing. The true disease of Iraq's civil war is the inequitable distribution and application of governmental power.

So, today, with this, I point out the failure in George Bush's shining example.
Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, an independent Shiite in the Shiite-dominated government, confirmed that the perpetrators were policemen, of whom an overwhelming majority are Shiites.

"We will take legal action against a group of them. An order has been issued by the prime minister to investigate the violations caused by elements of the police in Tal Afar," Bolani told Iraqiya television.

An Iraqi army source speaking on condition of anonymity said 13 policemen had been detained for the mass killings.

But later an Iraqi military spokesman in Mosul said the detained policemen were released as many of them had lost relatives in the truck bombing prior to the brutal ramapage.

"We released them on the undertaking that they will be questioned later. The decision was taken because of their psychological state," he said without giving his name.

Shia policemen whose identities are known to the government rampage through a town, shooting men, women, and children, dragging men into the streets, shooting them in the back of the head, killing "up to" 70. Shia policemen whose identities are known are captured and detained by the government and then released.

This is Iraq. There is no hope for the Sunnis to gain real justice from their government. This is why they fight. This is why they bomb. This is why there is a civil war.

This is our shining example.

"Welcome to the shit" in Afghanistan

Canadian NATO forces arriving at a highway checkpoint in Kandahar are greeted by opium stoned, flip flop wearing Afghani government troops who tell them, "There will be no clashes. The Taliban know you are here."



(Reuters) Insurgents with two chlorine truck bombs attacked a local government building in Falluja in western Iraq on Wednesday....15 Iraqi and U.S. soldiers were wounded in the blasts and many more suffered chlorine poisoning.

(Juan Cole) 7 US wounded in the bombing. (How many more by the chlorine?)

(WaPo) The Green Zone has been hit by rockets 6 of the last 7 days (2 killed.)

(WaPo) An article on Sadr's fracturing militia with the surprisingly realistic conclusion that these divides will make it easier now but far harder later.

(LATimes) I warned you not to buy the spin that DeBaathification was a done deal.

The final nail on McCain?

So, how does this go down with the Republican faithful?
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

....in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

McCain denies this of course, but his former staffer Weaver, who made the approach and "who changed his party affiliation to “Democrat” several years ago,"
McCain consistently shot down the rumors, though Weaver acknowledged this week that the senator did talk to Democrats about leaving the GOP.

Excuse me, Mr. McCain. Would you like me to take that knife in your back?

Rove was neck deep in the Justice Department, the politics, and the US Attorney firings

Two clips from NYTimes articles point to a far deeper Rove involvement than the White House has previously stated.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department released more than 200 additional pages of e-mail messages and other documents and sent a letter to lawmakers saying that it had given Congress inaccurate information in an earlier letter that asserted that Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, had played no role in the removals.

See, they just forgot he was involved. They didn't lie to Congress. They "provided inaccurate information." It's an understandable mistake. It's not like Rove "exercises unusually broad influence."
Political advisers have had a hand in picking judges and prosecutors for decades, but Mr. Rove exercises unusually broad influence over political, policy and personnel decisions because of his closeness to the president, tenure in the administration and longstanding interest in turning the judiciary to the right.

For example, Mr. Rove reprimanded a Republican senator from Illinois for recommending the appointment of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a star prosecutor from outside the state, to investigate the state’s then-governor, a Republican. In New Jersey, Mr. Rove helped arrange the nomination of a major Bush campaign fund-raiser who had little prosecutorial experience. In Louisiana, he first supported and then helped scuttle a similar appointment.

In the months before the United States attorneys in New Mexico and Washington State were ousted, Mr. Rove joined a chorus of complaints from state Republicans that the federal prosecutors had failed to press charges in Democratic voter fraud cases. While planning a June 21, 2006, White House session to discuss the prosecutors, for example, a Rove deputy arranged for top Justice Department officials to meet with an important Bush supporter who was critical of New Mexico’s federal prosecutor about voter fraud.

And in Arkansas, newly released Justice Department e-mail messages show, Mr. Rove’s staff repeatedly prodded the department’s staff to install one of his protégés as a United States attorney by ousting a previous Bush appointee who was in good standing.

Bring him in. Put him under oath.

(All these examples "came out" right before the hearings tomorrow where Sampson is to testify. This is an awful lot of specific detail for either a leak or emails. I would think that this is the White House trying to immunize before tomorrow. They may know what the Dems are bringing to the hearing.)

UPDATE: The AP has different euphemisms for lying. "erred in asserting," "certain statements... appeared to be contradicted by department documents included in our production."

We wouldn't know about any of this if the Dems had "taken their word."

Bring 'em in. Under oath.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi police commando secures the site where a car bomb exploded at Baghdad's al-Bayaa neighbourhood, killing two people. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Swiftboating David Iglesias

Holy Crap. Take a look at this. There's an attack ad from a proxy group running in N.M against fired US Attorney David Iglesias.

Iglesias holds no office, is not running for one, and is in effect a private citizen, and yet, an astroturf outfit run by one of Heather Wilson's donors is smearing him with radio ads.

What the hell kind of radio station sells time for that?

Questions from the Press Briefing

I don't think the press corps likes Dana Perino as much as they liked Tony Snow.
Q The President emphasized al Qaeda in Iraq, and if they don't -- we'll fight them there. Before the war, he indicated -- he not only indicated, he said that there were no ties with Saddam. Is he responsible for bringing al Qaeda into Iraq?....

Q This morning you said that if the funds stop for the troops in Iraq, that will be the fault of the Democrats, not the President. But in point of fact, it would be the President who is denying this funding from going through. So does the President really want to halt funds to our troops?....

Q But it's not -- it's the mechanical way this works. It would literally be the President who's stopping this. Is he comfortable being the person stopping the funding?....

Q In his speech today, the President also quoted from a blogger in Iraq as an example of positive developments there, people who see positive developments. Is this really representative of what's going on in Iraq, one blogger? Is this what the White House is relying on?..... (The Blogger was from "Iraqthemodel." He met with Bush in a "success photo op in '04)

If you're bored, there's alot more there.

Picture of the Day - 3

Turn out the lights.... the party's over......

President Bush walks away from the podium afters addressing the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, March 28, 2007, in Washington. (AP Photo - Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Boehner booed down for his Iraq position

As we've learned, you can't always trust Politico, but, wow.
Politico's Ben Smith reports that he was attending the Building Trades Legislative Conference this morning, and House Minority Leader John Boehner addressed the group.

Boehner brought up Iraq, and he said that if we weren't fighting the terrorists there, they'd "follow us home" to the United States. .....

But this time, it produced a huge, noisy wave of boos and catcalls, and Boehner had to stop his speech. He tried the line again, was booed again, and then union officials gaveled the crowd to silence. Boehner said, "I appreciate the dialogue," and moved on.


Political bits

(USAToday) At a Republican Senate Caucus meeting, Arlen Specter tried to encourage GOP Senators to give Gonzales some slack. "Specter's appeal to the caucus received "a lot of head shaking, a lot of eye-rolling."

(NYDailyNews) There's a growing battle within the Justice Department. "It's unreal - it's open warfare over there." (It sounds like McNulty doesn't like being the scapegoat.)

(TPM) Rep. Braley tore apart Lorita Doan over the illegal use of the GSA for political purposes. (10 min. video.)

(CNN) EPM pointed me to Pelosi telling Bush "to calm down."

(CNN) Teve Torbes endorses Giuliani.

(ABC) Republicans support cockfighting.

(USNews) In an interview, James Dobson says of Fred Thompson, "I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression."

And, Watch this McCain clip where he calls the media on his bus "jerks." He's trying to mask it as humor, but he's quite obviously not having fun anymore.

It's little wonder, really. Imagine trying to maintain his positions while being trapped in a small enclosed space with reporters for hours.

I can't let this go.
"The consequences of failure are catastrophic because if we come home, bin Laden and Zarqawi, they are going to follow us.”

Um, Mr. McCain, Zarqawi's dead.

Covering ass and risking the country

Washington Whispers reports that in an effort to avoid Congressional scrutiny,
At least two aides said that they have subsequently bought their own private E-mail system through a cellular phone or Blackberry server. When asked how he communicated, one aide pulled out a new personal cellphone and said, "texting."

I'm sure those personal devices meet national security standards.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi policeman runs for cover as an alleged sniper opens fire at people in central Baghdad. Gunmen have massacred 45 men in an overnight rampage in apparent revenge for bombings that killed 75 people in a mixed Iraqi town once hailed by President George W. Bush as a beacon hope.(AFP/Ali Yussef)

(And, I rarely say this, but go ahead and read down to the ITT story. There's alot today that's important and it won't take long.)

Our "ally" Saudi Arabia

Three nasty bits from Saudi King Abdullah just today.

(AFP) "Saudi King Abdullah, whose country is a close US ally, on Wednesday slammed the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq in an opening speech to the annual Arab summit in Riyadh."

(The NYTimes translates it as "illegal foreign occupation.")

(AFP) At the Arab League meeting, the Saudis brought back the mideast peace settlement that that the US and Israelis have repeatedly shot down. (A step back from the last negotiations.)

(WaPo) King Abdullah, without explanation, cancels his attendence at a White House gala scheduled specifically for him in mid-April.

So, what's going on? Why now? Why today?


(AP) Shia policemen in Tal Afar went on a killing spree, killing as many as 60. "The hospital official.... said the victims were men between the ages of 15 and 60, and they were killed with a shot to the back of the head."

(NYTimes) "Hundreds of Iraqis detained in the Baghdad security crackdown have been crammed into two detention centers run by the Defense Ministry that were designed to hold only dozens of people."

(AP) Two Americans killed in a rocket attack on the Green Zone.

(Reuters) "U.S. Army Maj. Charles Miller suspects members of the Iraqi police unit he was advising of killing, kidnapping and beating Sunni Muslims and leading him into an ambush." (Note: This is the "Wolf brigade" which was held up as a model.)

The importance of Monica Goodling

The decision by Monica Goodling, the top Justice Department official who has decided to try to claim her fifth amendment protections not to testify before the Senate, is a significant blow to those who would want to explore White House political involvement in the US Attorney firings.

Goodling is not just some high level functionary, she was the Justice Department's White House liason. It was her job to carry messages and coordinate actions between the Justice Department and the White House, of specific interest in this case, to Rove and Miers. More than anyone, she knows the level of White House political involvement.

With the White House's stance that Rove and Miers will not testify, and with Goodling now off limits, the main avenues into the allegations of political involvement in the firings are shut off.

Although Kyle Sampson could certainly offer some bits about White House communications, without the full picture provided by Monica Goodling's testimony, Sampson may not be asked the questions that would evoke the pertinent details.

Goodling's fifth amendment claim is the firewall protecting Rove, Miers, and any other White House officials.

Maybe it's time to ask how civil servant Goodling is paying her top flight Washington lawyer.

(The AP helpfully offers this list of people who similarly claimed their fifth amendment rights before Congress. Not a list that screams innocence.)

Also: Don't miss Gonzales fleeing from a 15 minute press conference just 2 1/2 minutes in.

And, an FBI agent who alleged politics in the Lam firing was told by the FBI to keep quiet.

Later: Monica Goodling "was involved" in the call where Sen. Pete Domenici complained about Iglesias.

Torture is proven in a US court, but Rumsfeld skates

(BBC) A US court has dismissed a lawsuit against former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld over claims prisoners were tortured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The court accepted that the nine men who sued had been tortured - and detailed the torture in its ruling. .....

The nine men suffered abuse including being:

  • hung upside-down and slapped until they lost consciousness
  • stabbed with knives
  • subjected to electric shocks
  • deprived of sleep by loud noises and bright lights
  • grabbed by aggressive dogs
  • They also were subjected to sexual humiliation.
None was ever charged with a crime. All were released after detentions of one month to one year.

Committing espionage and landing on your feet. - ITT

It's a bit convoluted, but the short version is that ITT, in an effort to outsource production and save money, knowingly violated the technology export list giving highly classified night vision technology equipment to the Chinese.

The thing that kicked me was this: The company faces a $100 million fine, BUT, the government has allowed ITT to "offset" the cost of the fine by investing money into new technology.

So, ITT knowingly ships away technology that allows us "to own the night," gets caught, and is allowed to take half the fine and invest it in their own R&D for products that will eventually be sold back to the US government.

That's some sweet settlement, eh?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Sgt. Thomas Bishop, who was hit by a roadside bomb blast in Iraq visits a job fair at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, March 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A carefully crafted talking point should always raise questions

Whenever I see exact wording repeated by a spokesperson, it tells me there's something there. From today's press briefing, Dana Perino talking about the US Attorney firings.
Q Once again -- and I asked Tony this last week -- was a crime committed in firing --

MS. PERINO: There is absolutely no indication that there was any crime committed, nor was there anything improper done.

Q You're saying, "indication;" you're not giving me a flat-out no.

MS. PERINO: I'm telling there's absolutely no indication that would point to that. Absolutely no indication to point to that.

Make note of the wording, "No indication" not "no crime." In other words, there's no proof yet, but the White House is leaving open the possibilty. That says alot.

A linguistic gamble by the Pro-War Republicans

In a desperate attempt to stave off today's 50-48 Senate vote installing a timeline for withdrawal in the Iraq funding bill, the Republicans brought out a new talking point and a new word: "surrender."

Now, certainly "surrender" is intended to draw the same cowardly evocations on the Democrats that were so successfully cast by "cut and run," but "surrender" has very different reference points and associations.

One of the reasons that "cut and run" was so successful as a bludgeon was that it focused solely on the individual, and as it became mantra and was stripped from its context, it lost its referential meaning becoming no more that a euphemism for the politically unacceptable "coward."

(The unstated implication being that regardless of the situation, the "cut and runners" would flee in the face of danger.)

Surrender, on the other hand, has a very different evaluative application. When the word surrender is brought forth, attention turns to the situation, not to the surrenderer. As "surrender" represents an action, a decision, a moment in time, it naturally invites an assessment.

When you hear the word surrender, your mind does not immediately turn to the individual surrendering, but instead to the situation in which the surrender took place, the destruction, the odds, the balance.

(As example, think of the Japanese surender in WWII.

You do think of the battleship ceremony, but only after a brief consideration of their destruction and loss. Do you view the Japanese as cowards?

How about the US withdrawal from Vietnam, or Somalia, or Lebanon? Cowardice or judgement?)

When confronted with the concept of surrender, it's rarely viewed as cowardice without a long campaign to portray it so (the French in WWII,) instead, the mind normally inquires about the existing situation, the quality of the decision, and the wisdom exercised.

Certainly "surrender" has alot of negative connotations and has some use politically because of that, but I wonder if they really want to invite that sort of evaluation of the current situation in Iraq or an examination of the individual ultimately making the decisions to fight on.

(Not a rant, but it's been bouncing around my head all day. Hope it makes sense.)

I think they're finally figuring it out

(AP) "The administration contends that setting a timetable on the war assumes failure in Iraq."

That's the whole point. You've lost this war, and even if you're not willing to admit it, 60% of Americans favor a timetable because they see no attainable victory in Iraq.

There's a reason the Republicans in the Senate are crumbling.

(I'm stopping here because I feel a rant coming on.)

Picture of the Day - 2

What have we done to these people?

A woman cries over a blood stain on the ground after her husband and two sons were killed by gunmen in Mahmoudiya, March 24, 2007. REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan

Mitch McConnell in the minority

The headline is that Senate Monority leader Mitch McConnell is now saying that he expects a Democratic "withdrawal version" of the Iraq funding bill to pass the Senate forwarding such a bill to the president's desk.

That's big news, but take a look at McConnell's language.
House and Senate negotiations, managed by Democrats, likely would result in a compromise bill with a "surrender date," McConnell said. Urging Democrats to promptly finish this first legislative round, McConnell said, "We need to have time to repass the bill without the offending language" after a veto.

So, is that nastiness or desperation from being on the wrong political side of the issue?

Read the WaPo's characterization of the Republican position,
Unwilling to do the White House's heavy lifting on Iraq, Senate Republicans are prepared to step aside to allow language requiring troop withdrawals to reach President Bush, forcing him to face down Democratic adversaries with his veto pen.

So, has the withdrawal position reached critical mass in the Congress with Sununu, Collins, and other "at risk" Republicans unwilling to support an endless war?

Or, has the whole thing become personal?
"We have toed the line enough for the president, and we have gotten no thanks or gratitude. By and large, Republicans are sick of defending an ungrateful president," the Republican House member said.

The White House is sinking.


Let's start with a question: Is it coincidence that as Al Qaeda attacks on other "cooperating" Sunni groups are increasing (Reuters), Zalmay Khalilzad very publicly discusses several of those "cooperating" Sunni groups (BBC) putting them in the crosshairs?

(Khalilzad tried to bring them in, negotiations broke down, and now Khalilzad is sending Al Qaeda after them? To pressure them back or is he ass covering, "I tried?")

(WaPo) New Ambassador Ryan Crocker arrives tomorrow.

(NYTimes) A new deBaathification plan has been announced. (Note that this is a plan and still has to be passed into law. Like the oil law plan which was so heralded but still, a month later, has not been brought for a vote.)

(AP) "The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran."

(BBC) "The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt."

And, The whole Iran/EFP thing was a tactical lie. "Our intelligence analysts advised our leaders that the historical Quds Force pattern is to pull back when their operations are exposed, so MNF-I leadership decided to expose their operations to save American lives,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV.

Another Bush loyalist turns on Gonzales

Rep. Ted Poe is a Bush loyalist from Houston, raised up by the Texas/Bush machine and elected in 2004 after the highly argued Congressional redistricting.

Much like the statements by my state's shame, Sen. John Cornyn, this represents a serious rot within the most loyalist support.

"His word is tarnished," Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said of Gonzales.

Picture of the Day

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter confer during a hearing in Washington, DC, 21 March 2007. (AFP/Getty Images/Win McNamee)

(And, I'm warning you again, don't count on Specter. Gay marriage, NSA, NSA, Gonzales testimony, immunity for detainee treatment.)

"In April, Senate minority leader Harry Reid labeled Specter a "moderate Republican . . . whenever you don't need him."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sampson's going to burn Gonzales

US News reports that on Thursday when former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson tesitifies to Congress, he's going to burn Gonzales.
But Sampson will set off some fireworks by contradicting a key assurance that Gonzales made to Congress and the American public last Tuesday that he was not in the loop during the long deliberations leading up to the firings.

Should I be surprised that this contradicts the interview Gonzales gave NBC this very day?

(Maybe that's why Sampson is telegraphing his testimony.)

If George Bush had had his way.....

For some reason tonight, I'm remembering that if George Bush had had his way, Harriet Miers, who is so deeply implicated in the US Attorney scandal, would be a Supreme Court Justice for life.

Is Goodling's lawyer admitting she perjured herself?

Reading from the letter from Monica Goodling's attorney (see last post,) I came across this little goody.
Fourth, it has come to our attention that a senior Department of Justice official has privately told Senator Schumer that he (the official) was not entirely candid in his report to the committee, and that the official allegedly claimed that others, including our client, did not inform him of certain pertinent facts.

Somebody (McNulty) has gone to Schumer and told him that he and others have lied. So, now, if Goodling goes up to testify and tells the truth, evidence of her earlier lies will be evident.

I think we've found that "perjury trap."

(As I said in the last post, it's only a perjury trap if you lie in the first place, and you can't blame Schumer for that.)

It appears that Monica Goodling has shifted from explanations of her actions into preparations for a criminal defense.

Later: A "disappointed" Sen. Leahy strikes back by adding to the appearance of guilt.
Mr. Leahy said this afternoon he was disappointed in Ms. Goodling’s decision, “but everyone has the constitutional right not to incriminate themselves with regard to criminal conduct.”

“The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling’s concern that she may incriminate herself,” Mr. Leahy added.

This American is wondering.

If it looks like a duck.....

Tell me again how the US Attorney thing is all a political witchhunt.
Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," said the lawyer, John Dowd.

"One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," he said.

Notice the odd use of Libby as precedent, that testifying truthfully (with the bizarre implication that Libby did so) automatically attaches a risk of perjury because "the environment can be described as legally perilous for Ms. Goodling."

This is particularly ironic since the main charge that brings her before Congress is that Republicans were trying to manipulate the "legal environment" against Democrats.

I guess it's a better excuse than the truth.

Later: Reading that lawyer's comment again, isn't he saying that any truthful testimony given now would contradict earlier testimony? Isn't he saying that she's already perjured herself?

(There is no "perjury trap" if you aren't trying to cover past lies.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Just a standard photo op, right?

Look at the eyes.

President Bush, right, kisses 10-week-old Eve Schilling, from Cincinnati, Ohio, March, 25, 2007. (Both photos: AP/Charles Dharapak)

Are there security issues around White House personnel using RNC email accounts?

This is speculative at this point, but with the revelation that Karl Rove does 95% of his emailing off RNC and Bush campaign accounts and other White House personnel have used outside email, Laura Rozen wonders about the security implications.

I mean, are the RNC or Bush campaign servers rated to carry classified information? Has anyone at the White House ever sent classified info over RNC servers even by mistake? Do you think foreign intelligence operations might have tried to take a look at those RNC servers?

Obviously they've been using the RNC and other servers to try to keep information out of Congress' immediate discovery, but in their concern over self preservation did they ever risk national security?

Just unbacked speculation at this point, but interesting, no?

(Related: ABC's Blotter adds this little bit pointing to broad use of outside emails including in the Abramoff case.
But Waxman also pointed to e-mails his committee received last year in connection to convicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, which show White House aides sending and receiving work-related e-mails from domains like "georgewbush.com" and "rnchq.org".

E-mail conversations uncovered by Waxman's investigators suggest that some White House staff and outsiders believed such e-mail, which evaded official ".gov" systems, could be kept private.

"...[I]t is better not to put this stuff in writing in their e-mail system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us," one lobbyist wrote Abramoff, citing advice from a White House aide, "especially since there could be lawsuits, etc."

Another stone to turn over.

Picture of the Day - 2

Not to be too snarky here, but are the guys running the "big three" US Auto companies really the experts we want to rely on?

(President Bush is joined by chief officers of the big-three automakers to promote alternative fuel vehicles, on the South Lawn of the White House, March 26, 2007. From L-R: Chairman and CEO of General Motors Corporation Rick Wagoner, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company Alan Mullally, Bush, and President and CEO of DaimlerChrysler Corporation Tom LaSorda. REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The backward progress of the Iraqi forces

In an article reporting that the recent assassination attempt of Iraqi Deputy PM Al-Zubaie was "an inside job" conducted by one of his bodyguards comes this revelation:
The assassination attempt, at least the third major security breach involving a top politician in four months, prompted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to order a government-wide security shake up, including plans to hire a foreign company to guard the Green Zone building where parliament meets, the security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

The Iraqi forces cannot even muster enough "clean" forces to guard their own parliament building inside the green zone.

You gotta figure that the Iraqi soldiers working that duty are about as good as they've got and are also the most vetted to be able to operate inside the American controlled space.

And even they can't be trusted.

Picture of the Day

A U.S. soldier salutes in front of the pictures and boots of late Sergeant Ed Santini, Sergeant John E. Allen, Private First Class William N. Davis and Private First Class John F. Landry during a memorial service in the forward operating base of Liberty camp in Baghdad March 23, 2007. The four soldiers were killed on March 17, 2007 by a roadside bomb. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Sunday, March 25, 2007

New York City's novel legal argument

Is there an actual legal argument in there, Mr. Attorney?
Lawyers for the city, responding to a request to unseal records of police surveillance leading up to the 2004 Republican convention in New York, say that the documents should remain secret because the news media will “fixate upon and sensationalize them,” hurting the city’s ability to defend itself in lawsuits over mass arrests.

In papers filed in federal court last week, the city’s lawyers also say that the documents could be “misinterpreted” because they were not intended for the public.

So, the defense is that the documents might be "misinterpreted" to show wrongdoing therefore they shouldn't be made public?

Think about the future uses of that precedent.

Our democratic ally in Pakistan

At this point, the protests in Pakistan do not represent a real threat to Musharraf's regime, but if he keeps pouring gasoline on the fire.....
The police detained hundreds of political opposition members in an attempt to thwart nationwide protests planned for Monday to denounce Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s suspension of the chief justice, opposition leaders said Sunday.

They may think they're breaking down the symbolic leadership, but at the same time, they're igniting the mob. The existing Pakistani opposition has been looking for incremental change, but if they create a vacuum, proponents of radical change may step in.

5 more

(AP) Four U.S. soldiers were killed and two others were wounded, according to a statement, when an explosion struck their patrol in Diyala province, a religiously mixed area that has seen fierce fighting in recent months.

A roadside bomb also killed a soldier and wounded two others as they were checking for bombs on a road in northwestern Baghdad, the military said.....

Sunday's deaths raise to at least 3,239 the members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003 — 114 of those since the security operation started on Feb. 14, according to an Associated Press count. In comparison, 123 U.S. troops deaths were reported in the 40 days preceding the start of the plan.

Picture of the Day - 3

Shi'ite worshippers chant slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City March 16, 2007. Thousands of residents attended a protest opposing U.S. military checkpoints in Sadr City, protesters said. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

Gonzales Lied

The NYTimes dances as far around the word "lie" as they can, but their statement is clear,
An accumulating body of evidence is at odds with the statements of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that he played little role in the deliberations over the dismissal of eight United States attorneys.....

Mr. Gonzales also said, more explicitly: “I never saw documents. We never had a discussion about where things stood.” This directly conflicts with documents released late Friday

And, despite the president's statement yesterday, support for Gonzales is sliding among Republican lawmakers and among Republican bloggers.

The politics on this is still going the wrong way for this administration. How long will they continue to let themselves bleed?

Also: Bush taped his message of support for Gonzales before the Friday document release. Sure, he could have changed it, but that would have been news, too.

Picture of the Day - 2

An elderly Iraqi displaced woman lights a paraffin stove inside her tent at a camp for displaced people in Baghdad, January 2007. About 730,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the beginning of 2006 and are facing increasing hardship inside Iraq. (AFP - Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

What the Iranians want......

As the Iranians are upping the stakes in their seizure of 15 British soldiers by charging them with espionage, what they want seems to be becoming a bit more clear.

As far as I can tell, there's no direct statement of the Iranian wants, but the consensus seems to be coalescing not around the UN sanctions, but around the 5 Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized in Iraq and still held by the US.

And, USNews adds a report of a US/Iranian border clash in September, but it was well before the US began openly seizing Iranians in Iraq.

(Has anybody noticed that the policy of arresting Iranians in Iraq appears to have stopped? Either the Iranians pulled their people back, the intelligence ran out, the US stopped arresting them, or the Iranians got better at hiding.

Interestingly, The "Iranians are behind everything bad in Iraq" rhetoric has also faded, at least as the top level headlining claim. It was always a claim of utility, but has that utility changed?)

(I probably should note one more possibility, that the seizure of the British soldiers is part of a larger effort to exert pressure on the Brits to fully withdraw from the Iraqi Shia south. Since the Brits announced their partial withdrawal, violence in Basra and elsewhere in the Shia south has gone up, and pehaps this seizure may also be intended to generate political pressure for the Brits at home. Just speculation.)

Picture of the Day

When asked, 50% of America identifies itself as Democrats.

That's half of America for the NYPD to spy on.