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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Allana Swiger, widow of Army Sgt. Jason Swiger, watches as the casket is loaded into a hearse following the funeral, Wednesday, April 4, 2007, in Portland, Maine. Swiger was killed by a suicide bomber March 25 in Baqubah, Iraq. (AP Photo/Joel Page)


(AP) "Infiltration of arms and fighters from Syria into Iraq has slowed, but a major reason is that the terrorists of al-Qaida in Iraq now need less foreign help, a senior U.S. general said Friday."

(AP) Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish region, contradicts the US story on the seizure of the 5 Iranians in Irbil, adding that the US was after top IRG officials who were visiting Kurdish leaders on invitation.

(Reuters) The US attack against Shia militants in Diwaniyah is continuing.

(CNN) A gutwrenching story of a Sunni woman whose sons were taken by the death squads.

(TimesOnline) US prisons in Iraq are becoming recruiting centers.

Picture of the Day

Angry Obeidi residents, in south east Baghdad, Iraq, display what they claim is a part of an U.S. missile during a protest Tuesday, April 3, 2007. Some 500 residents protested recent American bombing in the area that killed 17 people. (AP Photo/Ali Kadim)

How do you solve a problem like Sharia?

Hardline Islamic violence is threatening to spread to Pakistan's capital.
A hard-line cleric said Friday that he was setting up a religious court here in the country’s capital, and threatened suicide attacks if the government did not enact Islamic law and close down brothels and video stores within a month.

Hard to tell how real this threat is, but with Musharraf already under assail by the centrists for the firing of Justice Chaudry, this is another very sticky problem for a very wobbly Musharraf.

I finally found McCain

John McCain disappeared after being torn apart by the Baghdad press corps last Sunday for his ridiculous statements about the current state of Iraq. Since then, he has been in hiding, not making any appearances or doing any interviews.

Well, it sounds like he's ready to "relaunch."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will launch a high-profile effort next week to convince Americans that the Iraq war is winnable, embracing the unpopular conflict with renewed vigor as he attempts to reignite his stalling bid for the presidency.

Look. I would argue that it's not McCain's prowar stance that's gotten him into trouble. Although not broadly popular, when he was running around shouting "whack a mole," endorsing the war while aggressively criticizing the Bush strategy, he was doing okay with the primary voting Republicans.

It was his endorsement of this specific plan that got him into trouble. It was tying himself to President Bush, getting wrapped into becoming the last Bush defender that got him beaten up.

So, I guess the question is, can he navigate back to the previous position?

After all the "surge" endorsements, I don't think so, and that leaves him making the exact same argument George Bush keeps making.
With the Virginia Military Institute as a backdrop, McCain plans to argue in a speech on Wednesday that victory in Iraq is essential to American security and that President Bush's war machine is finally getting on track after four years, aides and advisers said.

John McCain is going to try to run for President on George Bush's platform on the Iraq war.

Mindboggling. I think he should be disqualified just on that decision.

Picture of the Day

Imagine if this was your day, every day, working with shortages of everything but wounded.

At any time, you could be killed for treating the wrong patient, and your family is a target for kidnapping because you are perceived to have money.

And, this is your day, every day.

(Medics help a wounded man in Kirkuk, Iraq, Monday, April 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Emad Matti))

Friday, April 06, 2007

This is Iraq

The US is conducting a sweep of Diwaniyah, a Shia stronghold south of Baghdad,
Pamphlets dropped by U.S. helicopters warned police, who are suspected of being infiltrated by the militia, to stay off the streets. Any found carrying weapons would be shot.

Doesn't that just say it all?

Are the US forces going to stay there forever, or will they put those same militia infiltrated police back on the streets in a week or two? What is the longterm point of this operation?

Also, notice in this article that the US/Iraqi forces "discovered a factory that produced EFPs" (Not manufactured in Iran,) and that the fatal British attack was not an EFP, but a "new type of bomb," maybe a commercial landmine.

Later: An AP article on the operation in Diwaniyah.

CNN reporting that Monica Goodling is "resigning"

I guess with it being Friday and the holiday, we should have expected something.

AP version. WaPo version. NYTimes version.

Picture of the Day - 2

I love this guy's shirt.

Everyone else was in uniform and this was his statement.

I would love to hear what he has to say.

Army Sgt. Aeron Rimando, of Carson, Calif., wears his Purple Heart medal on his T-shirt during a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, Friday, April 6, 2007. Rimando was wounded in Iraq. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Clinton, McCain burning money, building organizations

This Washington Wire piece references political insiders speculating that both McCain and Clinton are burning money much faster than opponents primarily by trying to buildout their nationwide networks in an effort to "tie up" state level political figures to prevent them later going to rivals.

However, there's also a second level to this. A couple days ago, I stated my impression that Clinton was spending alot of money "buying" endorsements. What I was implying is that the Clinton campaign is taking on state level political operatives tied to key politicians to obtain the politician's endorsement.

In other words, she "engages" key people on Governor X's (Senator X's, Congresman X's) political staff as state consultants and then the Governor endorses Clinton.

I can't provide cases, but that's the impression I have, and if that's what they're doing, it's very expensive because they'll be paying that staff for years.

This is all part of the politics of inevitability, but it makes for a very "front end" spending strategy, and if "inevitability" doesn't scare off the challengers, that money committed now may be seriously missed in November, December, and January.

Just thinking out loud on a quiet day.

(AND, as far as I can tell, there has still been no McCain appearance since he was depantsed by the Baghdad press corps on Sunday. (He is still running for President, right?)

5 days later, and the watch continues....)

Update: McCain is on 60 Minutes, but it sounds like the interviews were before the Baghdad stroll, so the watch continues.

Something to read

This is just a long blog post by an NBC reporter in Aghanistan who got stranded overnight with a patrol after their vehicles were disabled by IED's. It's not dramatic or meaningful, but it had a raw honesty that I found compelling.

If you're looking for something to read on a slow day.....

Picture of the Day - 2

Okay, maybe I'm not current on my ethanol technology, but do you really need safety glasses when handling corn?

(Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney looks at ears of corn as he tours a lab at the Pioneer Hybrids research facility, Wednesday, April 4, 2007, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))


(Reuters) In response to arrests in Diwaniyah, "An official in the local office of the movement of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who controls the Mahdi Army milita, confirmed its fighters and US troops were clashing around Salim Street and Al-Askari."

(AP) A chlorine bomb in Ramadi kills 27.

(AP) The British claim that yesterday's deaths were from an Iranian EFP.
"Now it is far too early to say that the particular terrorist act that killed our forces was an act committed by terrorists that were backed by any elements of the Iranian regime, so I make no allegation in respect of that particular incident," Blair said.

He added, however, "This is maybe the right moment to reflect on our relationship with Iran."

(CNN) The US is still allowing safe haven in Iraq for the terror group MEK even protecting supply convoys to their base. (They target Iran, of course.)

(WaPo) "Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq......"

"The report's release came on the same day that Vice President Cheney.... repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq "before we ever launched" the war..."

Minneapolis US Attorney's office collapses under unqualified appointment

Wow. If you want to get a real sense of the type of appointments Gonzales knew nothing about but signed off on, take a brief minute to read these two posts over at TPM.

Apparently, in Minneapolis, the top four officials in the office requested voluntary demotion to get away from the new appointment, a 34 year old, Federalist Society member.

Also: The WaPo has an article on hundreds of pages the Justice Department is refusing to release related to the firings. These "holdbacks" have only been discovered by the Congress in the last two weeks.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like they contain conversations and deliberations regarding US Attorneys who were not fired. The Justice Department is holding them back on a claim of privacy for the individuals involved, but I would guess there's something there, because Dems have reviewed these documents and want them public.

What would Jesus do?

(ABC (Aussie)) "Police in the United States city of Florida have arrested an activist for feeding the homeless in downtown Orlando."

(Reuters) Children will increasingly bear the brunt of global warming.

(AP) Pelosi's is accused of "bad behavior" by Dick Cheney as she attempts to negotiate an Arab Israeli peace.

(By the way, you'll be relieved to know, "Police have collected a vial of the stew Mr Montanez was serving as evidence.")

Picture of the Day

A U.S. soldier scans the area during a patrol in Baghdad's northwest Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliyah March 26, 2007. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

America's Broken-Down Military

Time Magazine has a comprehensive (cover?) story titled "America's Broken-Down Army" laying the blame squarely on Bush for truncated training, poor equipment, and the rush of soldiers facing with endless deployments out the door.

To give you a sense of its tone,
Bush warned that if Democrats in Congress did not pass a bill to fund the war on his terms, "the price of that failure will be paid by our troops and their loved ones." But they are already paying a price for decisions he has made, and the larger costs are likely to be borne for at least a generation.

If you want the full detail and have the time, it's a good article.

12,000 more National Guard to Iraq

NBC is reporting that an order for deploying 12,000 more National Guard troops to Iraq is sitting on Robert Gates' desk. No word yet on the units or whether they have previously served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I'm sure they and their families are thrilled.

Update: Yes, it would be their second deployment.

Picture of the Day - 2

A man kisses his daughter, who was wounded during a bomb attack, after she received treatment at a hospital in Kirkuk, April 2, 2007. REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed

Quickhits - It's too pretty a day to hang out inside.

(HuffPo) Paul Wolfowitz feathers a nice little nest for his squeeze at the World Bank giving her a "promotion [that] clearly does not conform" to bank procedures and a raise "more than double the amount allowed."

(AFP) US Naval Chief Michael Mullen said in an interview aired on CNN that US soldiers would have fought if the Iranians had tried to capture them. (Clearly a message intended for the Iranians, but how do the British feel about being called wimps?)

(ThinkProgress) Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is in Syria meeting with Assad today, but only Pelosi deserves White House condemnation.

(WashWire) This is an awful story about a career Army lieutenant being forced out because he doesn't meet the new officer educational requirements. They are letting him serve out his time in Iraq though before throwing him out of the Army.

(Reuters) If the Pope writes a book saying that rich countries have "plundered and sacked" the poor nations of the world and the media doesn't cover it, does it make a sound?

(Politico) Generic Presidential ballot Democrat 47%, Republican 29%. (Closer with names, but it encapsulates the Bush stigma on the Republican brand.)

(Politico) In the same vein, someone should notice that the Dems are substantially outraising the Repubs for the first time in forever.

(WaPo) Gonzales madly preparing to testify. (Notice the Republican political consultants, not defense attorneys.)

And, still no McCain sighting since the Baghdad press corps depantsed him. Shouldn't he be making appearances somewhere?

Is there any position Romney hasn't flipped?

Mitt Romney has flipped positions on stem cells, gay marriage, tax cuts, gun control, abortion, and gay rights. (That I can think of off the top of my head.)

Now, he gets caught lying about hunting.
The Republican presidential contender has told audiences on several occasions, most recently this week in gun-savvy — and early voting — New Hampshire, that he has been a longtime hunter. But it turns out he has been on only two hunting trips.

I understand the argument several of you have made that Romney is the likely Republican nominee because somebody has to win and McCain supports the surge and Giuliani is endorsing public funding of abortions, but it's just unbelievable to me that with all these patently political position changes(lies) Romney could win.

(Yesterday on NPR, Newt Gingrich offered "advice" to the candidates that sounded like a blueprint for his run....)


One of the hardest problems I have blogging is transitioning posts from the political/gossipy post of the type above to the reality of Iraq like the pictures below.

Often I don't use certain pictures at certain points because the transition seems somehow wrong, or maybe even evil. That I could be talking gossipy, gossipy about Mitt Romney while the real horrors of Iraq unfold RIGHT NOW.....

But, this is the reality. This is America. This is what war looks like through the small carefully crafted windows of my television. One minute it's the horror of a bombing in Kirkuk that kills schoolgirls and a baby, and the next it's a story about American Idol.

It's no wonder that Americans are separated from this war. It's presented to them in this weird hyper reality where celebrity is just as real as death.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi calls for medical assistance as he stands next to two wounded girls at a hospital in the oil rich city of Kirkuk. A truck bomber carrying food supplies killed eight Iraqi schoolgirls and a baby wounding dozens in the northern oil city of Kirkuk on Monday. (AFP/Marwan Ibrahim)

Girls in school uniforms lie at a hospital bed in Kirkuk, Iraq, Monday, April 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

Medics help an injured child in a hospital in Kirkuk, Monday, April 2, 2007. A suicide truck bomber targeted a police station in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk on Monday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens, including many children from a nearby school, police said. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)


(AP) Five US soldiers died in three separate attacks.

(AP) Four British soldiers killed in a combined IED ambush.

(E&P) Regarding the two soldiers recently reported as friendly fire deaths "One of the soldiers died just hours after arriving in Iraq -- and was one of those troops rushed to the country in the "surge" who did not receive full training."

Army Lt. Col. Donald Robinson, the head of the Army Trauma Training Center, talks about preparing medics for "the superbowl of trauma." "Robinson says he can't remember how many amputations he performed.... "They were too numerous to count."

(Reuters) Another helicopter down.

Committing fraud looking into fraud

It's the very "meta-ness" of this that blows my mind.

The company contracted to look into waste and fraud in Iraq produced no usable product. The contract was awarded to the "newly formed consulting firm" on a sole source contract. "Mazur could not comment on the firm's qualifications because he was unable to find a copy of its proposal.

And, while I'm talking about corruption in Iraq, unsurprisingly, the top Iraqi corruption official has been threatened with death. But what caught my eye was the reintroduction of the name al-Samarraie.
In perhaps the most publicized recent case, an estimated $2 billion disappeared from funds to rebuild the electricity infrastructure.

Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samaraie, who holds both U.S. and Iraqi citizenship, was convicted in that case and sentenced to two years in prison. He escaped from an Iraqi-run jail in the Green Zone on Dec. 17 and turned up in Chicago on Jan. 15. Al-Samaraie has said the Americans helped him escape.

You may remember that al-Samarraie's "escape" from Iraqi custody was carried out by contractors of Dyncorp. $2 billion in rebuilding money that might have helped stem the tide disappears, and he is now safe and free in Chicago.

(If I remember right, he was a Republican donor.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Is Pelosi's trip to Syria part of the Bush admin Israel rift?

Perhaps rift is too a strong word, but there has been a growing dissonance between the Bush administration and Israel that seems to have come about after Israel lost/stalemated its invasion of Lebanon.

The "hook" that got me thinking about this tonight is the NYTimes article "Israel’s Protests Are Said to Stall Gulf Arms Sale." I emphasize that the rift is between the Bush administration not the US because the actual stall on the arms sale to the Saudis is expected to come by US Congressional vote.

Leaving aside the obvious question (Just how much influence should Israel have?,) I think it draws more clearly that the Bush administration has found itself navigating between its "allies" Israel and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in relation to regional policy towards Syria.

About two months ago the US in the form of Condi Rice "demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria." At the time, the US and Saudis were attempting to pry apart Iran and Syria over Hezbullah's role in the government of Lebanon. The Israelis on the other hand, were trying to cut a different peace deal with the Syrians (preferring Syrian influence in Lebanon to that of the Iranians.)

Since Cheney's Thanksgiving trip to Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration has largely gone along with the Saudi side of this Saudi/Israeli strategy rift. (Of course, the Saudis got off that bus a week ago.)

So, maybe the real significance of Pelosi's trip to Syria is not just that she's going to Syria, but instead that she met with Olmert first and "carried a message of peace" to the Syrians.
Pelosi also said she brought a message to Assad from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria. However, an Israeli government official later said this would only be possible if Syria abandoned terror and stopped assisting terror groups.

Just speculative, but maybe something to watch.

Also, Check out this very weird "clarification" from the Israeli government issued after Pelosi's meeting.

Picture of the Day - 4

Men cry over the body of a relative, who was killed in a roadside bomb attack, outside a hospital morgue in Kirkuk, March 16, 2007. (REUTERS - Slahaldeen Rasheed)

Occasionally, the truth about Iraq trickles out

Buried in an AP article.
Police reported finding the bodies of nine bullet-riddled torture victims in Baghdad, the second-lowest total since the security operation began Feb. 14.

Yes, that does represent a significant decline from the days when there were 40 killings a day, but take a minute to think about this "second lowest total."

There have been only two days out of 50 with less than 10 death squad killings in Baghdad, and that's with the Shia militias ordered to stand down.

That sets a minimum of 270 a month, just killed by death squads, just in the capital, and that's making the assumption that every day is a best case day. (in Baghdad!!!!)

Giuliani endorses public funding of abortion

Wow. Giuliani comes out and says he would endorse public funding for abortion because it's a Constitutional Right. It's not as clear in the article as it is in the video starting 1/2 way in. Public funding for abortion. Wow.

Obviously this is a planned position. I guess they figured they'd never convince anyone if they tried to pull a Romney so they've gone with the "skate by" position "I personally don't approve of abortion, but will accept the law of the land."

But, endorsing public funding is even a step farther.

I hope Rudy doesn't need any volunteers in the South.

Later: In Iowa, "The couple hundred people listening in the high school gymnasium gave him a polite but hardly rip-roaring reception. A partition divided the gym to make it appear better attended than it was.....

Just before the candidate took the stage, a few in the audience tried to start a "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy" chant. It was a halfhearted effort that died quickly."

Picture of the Day - 3

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., waves while taking part in the traditional walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, Sunday March 4, 2007 in Selma, Ala. (AP Photo/Kevin Glackmeyer)

Obama pulls in $25 million, but look at the details

The delay in reporting did mean a banner result.

Of significant note, $23.5 million of his money is for the primary making it highly likely that he outraised Clinton for the primary.

Also, he had an eyepopping 100,000 donors which means there's alot of people out there who have already contributed but can still add more.

This is a wave.

(Later: I'll be really curious on the 15th to see the cash on hand numbers between Clinton and Obama. Clinton has been running a cash heavy, staff and consultant campaign. (My sense is that she's been "buying" some endorsements.) I have no sense about Obama's spending.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A girl looks out from the window of a vehicle as it passes a protest in Baghdad's Sadr city April 2, 2007. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

(Look at the mother's eyes.)

Iraq - Heavy Politics

Maliki's allies claim the Kurds threatened to collapse the Iraqi government if they were not granted Kirkuk.
Shiite lawmakers, meanwhile, said the government decision that likely will hand Kirkuk to Kurdish control was forced on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when Kurds threatened to walk out of his ruling coalition and bring down the government.

The threat and al-Maliki's capitulation dramatically outlined the prime minister's tenuous hold on power and further emphasized the possibility, some say the likelihood, that Iraq could break into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni regions with little or no central government control.

"The Kurdish coalition exerted enormous pressure on us. One of them was a threat by Kurdish lawmakers to boycott parliament and by ministers to quit the government," said Haidar al-Abbadi, a member of al-Maliki's Dawa party. He described the Kurdish pressures as "blackmail."

I think this is big within Iraqi politics. Either the Kurds really did threaten or, more likely, Maliki is trying to cast Sunni anger away from him and onto the Kurds. (Kirkuk could lead to Sunni-Kurd conflict which would draw the Kurds into the civil war.)

(Reuters) Two Sadr officials were dismissed for talking with the Americans. (The Transport Minister and a parliamentarian.)

(AP) It sounds like the US is about to lay siege to Samarra. "Police in Samarra, however, said U.S. and Iraqi forces had taken up positions around the city, 60 miles north of Baghdad, and imposed an indefinite curfew starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday."

(WaPo) A good analysis of the deaths in Iraq debunking some claims of progress. (Note: "the numbers of unidentified bodies found across Baghdad are rising again, suggesting an increase in sectarian-motivated death squad killings.")

(ATimes) A very deep article on the Sadr/Sistani relationship and how it reflects tectonic shifts within the Shia factions of Iraq.

(NYTimes) Leon Panetta lists the unmet benchmarks.

Picture of the Day

Dick Cheney lurks in the bushes at yesterday's press conference, (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

What's particularly odd about this is that usually officials gather in the back behind the press.

Where is John McCain?

In a number of the articles covering McCain's "progress" statements and the rebuttal from Iraqis and unnamed US military officials there is some version of this statement, (NYTimes) "Neither Mr. Pence nor Mr. McCain was available Monday to comment on the Iraqis’ remarks in the article."

McCain's visit and the ugly press conference were now almost three full days ago, and McCain has yet to be available for comment.

The WaPo adds this, "McCain, who left Iraq on Monday but remained in the region."

Three days McCain has been hiding. Three days without a comment.

In the words of so many mothers, "What, they didn't have a phone there?"

(Since Sunday McCain is "revamping his fundraising," but, more importantly, he is delaying his official announcement of candidacy until after an Apr. 11 "major speech on Iraq.")

Protest against Karl Rove at American University

A protest against Karl Rove at American University turns a little ugly with a dozen students throwing things at his car and then laying down in front of the car delaying his departure.

I mention this because I'm willing to bet that by noon, this becomes a rampaging mob in the national media coverage.

There were no arrests.

Later: Reality Based Educator theorizes it was a feud between Rove and some other rapper. (Ha!)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

A man comforts his friend at a hospital in Kirkuk, Iraq, Tuesday, April 3, 2007. The man was among 11 civilians hurt in a road side explosion in central Kirkuk. (AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)

US supports terrorist group attacking Iran

ABC is reporting as fact that the US has been encouraging and advising the Baluch terrorists that have been attacking southern Iran. This has been suspected since the attack that killed 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen in February.

One of the more interesting elements to the story is that, although the US is directly involved with the leadership,
U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.

Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.

I believe they call that deniability.

How much you want to bet that some of the money is coming out of Saudi or Jordan?

(Under the new international standard of pre-emptive war laid out by the United States, is Iranjustified to militarily attack any country that knowingly and at a state level supports these terrorists?)

The CIA denied involvement to ABC.

Mutually Assured Destruction (on a planetary scale)

Watching the Bush press conference, there was nothing surprising to me on the Iraq front. This was a "shaping" effort towards the funding bill and the president spoke accordingly.

What did catch my ear was the response to the question on the landmark Supreme Court decision that CO2 is a pollutant. Bush made a very clear point that he values prosperity over any concerns about global climate change, but it was the clear expression of his rationale that echoed to me.

According to Bush, so long as the Chinese refuse to limit greenhouse gasses, the US will make no effort to do so. The funny thing is that the Chinese use the exact same argument in reverse.

The true crime is that those making the decisions and reaping the profits will not be around to pay the true costs.

John McCain's photo op killed 21 Iraqis

You can't say for sure that this wouldn't have happened without McCain's market photo op, but I am pretty damn confident in saying that 21 Iraqis were killed by insurgents to debunk McCain's ridiculous claims of progress in Iraq.
21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital.

The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.

Let's remember that McCain's main claim of success was a reduction in death squad killings, and now there are 21 bodies bound and shot from the market he visited the day before.

McCain's photo op got these people killed.

(Later: Now McCain's giving "exclusive" video rights to 60 Minutes.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqi policemen run for cover after a sniper opened fire in Baghdad.
(AFP/Ali Yussef)


(Rawstory - DPA) A questionable report that the Kurds turned down a Saudi offer of $2 billion "for giving up demands to have oil-rich Kirkuk as the capital of Kurdistan."

(Independent) Patrick Cockburn alleges that it was the US raid attempting to capture high level Iranians in Irbil that led to the British hostage crisis.

(GlobeandMail) British and US officials diverge on the British hostages with the British seeking their release, and Bush administration officials wanting to be "tough."

(Reuters) 4 US soldiers died on Monday.

(AP) The Army is sending troops back to Iraq after short changing them on their year at home.

(AP) "
Suicide bombings against civilians in Iraq have increased dramatically since the start of the year and are deadlier than ever."

(Reuters) Sunni politicians begin to talk about fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. (no names, please.)

Bush Press Conference at 10:10 AM Eastern

Just a heads up. Bush press conference at 10AM.

CNN is saying the focus is on the Iraq funding legislation.

Interesting that the White House feels it's necessary at this point to try and shape the timetable politics what with all the other uncomfortable questions he's likely to face.

Bush will have to take some damage today on other topics, which tells me that they feel they are not winning their position in the withdrawal debate.

Maybe the White House is afraid of how Congressmen will react after spending a week listening to constituents in their districts? (EPM speculates it's an effort to fill the sound bite void.)

Later: I would guage that the point of this press conference was to put charges out while the Democrats were out of town. (And before Bush goes out of town.)

Yet Elliott Abrams still has a job....

Democracy promotion is officially debunked, as the last remaining effort, Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" goes under after 28 months.

(Also: (AFP) Anti-Musharraf protesters in Pakistan were chanting, "US has a pet dog, it wears a uniform.")

Picture of the Day

A Pakistani lawyer holds a placard as others chant slogans during a rally to protest against the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in Lahore April 3, 2007. More than 2,000 lawyers and flag-waving opposition supporters rallied outside the Supreme Court in Pakistani capital on Tuesday in support of the country's suspended top judge who appealed for a public hearing. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

The Obama campaign had better deliver

By delaying the announcement of their fundraising total, the Obama campaign has really opened the speculation and attention towards their results. The longer they wait, the bigger the expectations become.

How big a surprise is coming?

The Niger forgeries back on the front page, but why?

The WaPo has a front page article partially describing the journey of the Niger forgeries from the hands of Rocco Martino to the "16 words" in the 2002 State of the Union, the most egregious presidential lie that led us into the war in Iraq.

This article is a rehash of the known, so the question in my mind is why rehash this on the front page now? Is this supposed to be framing for Condi Rice appearing before Waxman's committee?

It is a huge story, forgeries being used to justify this disastrous mistake of a war, but it seems odd to put it on the front page with nothing new to report.

Oh, and perhaps what set me off was the last line.
It remains unclear who fabricated the documents. Intelligence officials say most likely it was rogue elements in Sismi who wanted to make money selling them.

Seriously. You expect me to believe that?

(Later: the writer of this piece has a book on the subject, but still, why front page?)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

President George W. Bush listens as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington on 28 March. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Political bits

McCain reports only $12.5 million in campaign contributions after he has spent almost a year and a half developing a nationwide "ground team." Even his own campaign calls it a disappointment. (I keep thinking of the phrase "too big to fail.")

No word from Obama yet. Guesses are around $20 million. Is he delaying for effect or are they still counting the money?

(BTW, credit to Bill Richardson who raised $6 million without any media exposure at all.)

(CNN) 154 Republican Congressmen signed a letter claiming to support Bush's veto threat of the Iraq funding bill. (Where are the other 45 Republicans who voted against the legislation?)

(AP) Gonzales tries to get his testimony moved up. Dems refuse.

(CNN) Gonzales will begin "prepping" for his testimony next week.

(WaPo) After Cheney was booed last year throwing out the first pitch at the Nationals season opener, Bush refuses the invite to do the same. Notice Cheney's not going this year either. (That's pretty thin skin for a guy who shot a man in the face.)

(WashWire) Extending the rumor from Sunday's MTP, Sen Leahy says that Hatch is "actively running" for Gonzales AG spot. That would explain why Hatch is the only one supporting Gonzales. It would be unseemly not to.

(WashWhispers) George Tenet's book comes out in less than a month, and there will be huge prepress before that. (I really don't expect much, but he will have to do interviews.)

McCain press conference video

Rawstory has the McCain press conference in Baghdad yesterday (it looks like a raw feed,) and surprise, surprise, Drudge lied. Michael Ware didn't even get to talk.

Later: A very sad series of comments from merchants who sell in the market and don't have 100 American soldiers, snipers, and five helicopters protecting them.

Picture of the Day - 2

A skull is painted on the helmet of an Iraqi army soldier patrolling in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Baghdad's Haifa street.(AFP/Patrick Baz)

The Iraqis are failing their benchmarks and there's nothing the US can do.

For how significant it is, this article got very little exposure,
Iraqi politicians have made little headway in months of backroom wrangling on the so-called benchmarks for continued U.S. support, and observers say it is unlikely they will ever agree on some of the most difficult problems.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has promised to ensure passage of two measures that the Bush administration considers critical to stabilizing Iraq: a deal on sharing the country's oil wealth and relaxation of rules barring members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from the government and military. Yet neither step has made it to the floor of parliament.

Other measures also have languished, including discussion of a plan to disband militias, partial amnesty for insurgents, scheduling of local elections and action on constitutional amendments.

Despite the military emphasis from the US side, these benchmarks are the entire point of "the surge." The entire "surge" strategy is predicated on the "breathing space" concept, that the US would commit forces with the intent of establishing a temporary "peace" during which the Iraqi government could resolve its political problems.

But that's not happening.

ore significantly to me, it appears that the Bush administration has almost no leverage left to force the Iraqis to undertake these political reconciliations.

From the Iraqi Shia/goverment side, ask yourself this, if I don't do these things, what are the Americans going to do?

Is the Bush administration going to withdraw from Iraq? No, for domestic reasons, the Bush administration will not withdraw.

Is the Bush administration likely to pull troops back into bases? No, not likely, because of all the political capital spent on selling the forward operating bases in "the surge." Even if the US does pull back, the Shia militias simply return to the streets where they win the civil war.

Will the Bush administration unilaterally crack down on Shia militias? No, because they don't have the manpower to open a Shia front and because it would put them in direct opposition with the Iraqi government.

Would the Bush administration attempt to back a coup or replace the government through political means? No, not likely, because of the huge downside risk of either no government or a Shia strongman emerging in opposition.

So, what's the risk to the Iraqi government? What's the Shia incentive to meet these benchmarks which would only dilute their power? If the civil war breaks into full open combat they would win in a rout.

In fact, as the US military actions in Iraq right now are focused primarily on the Sunnis, the Shia majority have every incentive to string along the current US operation as long as possible as it is degrading their Sunni foes.

In the current situation, the US military is doing the Shia's fighting for them.

Why would they move forward on benchmarks and upset that?

Later: (NYTimes) Sistani puts the brakes on the new de-Baathification law that Bush was hailing as an accomplishment just a week ago.


(Click it to make it bigger. I promise it'll make you laugh.)

White House criticizes Pelosi trip to Syria

The White House is making alot of noise about Pelosi going to Syria and how that represents some grave breach.

Funny how they don't even mention the Republican Congressional delegation who were there meeting with the very same Syrian officials yesterday.

(By the way, if Israel's PM Olmert is meeting with Pelosi after Syria, and Israel's acting president Itzik is endorsing the trip, you really have to ask what the Bush administration's complaint really is.)

Picture of the Day - Kirkuk is on fire

Kirkuk is heating up.

Much like Diyala six months ago, the pictures out of Kirkuk are showing a significant increase in violence before the consensus reporting.

The bombings and major events are coming daily now, "Truck bomb in Iraq's Kirkuk kills 12, wounds 137," and, the decision by the Shia led government to support Sunni relocation out of Kirkuk may be the gasoline on the fire.

Kirkuk has become a strategic target for the Sunni bombers which means the civil war has finally come to the Kurds.

The US has virtually no presence in Kirkuk.

(Bodies of victims of violence are seen on the floor of a hospital morgue in Kirkuk, about 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, April 1, 2007. REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Al Qaeda 3.0

The NYTimes has a major story on the emergence of a newer younger class of leaders in Al Qaeda leading to this frightening conclusion.
Although the core leadership was weakened in the counterterrorism campaign begun after the Sept. 11 attacks, intelligence officials now believe it was not as crippling as once thought.

Good thing we went into Iraq then.

Also notable, "American officials say they still know little about how operatives communicate with Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri."

(But of course if they did, they probably wouldn't say so.)

The Saudis get off the Bush bus, too.

An interesting article in Newsweek describing Saudi King Abdullah finally giving up on the Bush administration's middle east policy, and taking it upon himself to wade into the problems.

It paints a complicated picture of the Saudis agitating for the Israel Lebanon war, and Cheney's Thanksgiving visit to Saudi as the Bush administration's effort to sell a US attack on Iran.

Also, I agree fully with the analysis that the Saudi efforts at an Israel Palestine peace is solely about removing the agitation that allows the Iranians to maintain influence in Palestine and Lebanon.

However, I think the key question in this article is left open: How do the Saudis' different priorities in regional settlements affect US goals in the region?

Later: AFP jumps on the wagon. (I don't think it can be said clearly enough that these Saudi moves are based on a clear judgement that "the surge" will fail to meet its goals and Saudi interests. The current US surge is focusing mainly on the Sunnis, further empowering Iran in Iraq.

McCain's Iraq

Seven US soldiers killed today. Six in IED's and one non-combat.

(AFP) "The monthly death toll in Iraq rose 15 percent in March."

McCain says the media isn't giving "the surge" enough credit.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about this whole McCain stance of a better Iraq is that for two years, you couldn't get McCain to talk about Iraq without him nonsensically saying "whack a mole" over and over. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ...aw hell, google it yourself.)

But, now that he's staked his presidential ambitions on the current policy, he seems to have abandoned that talking point, even though the policy he is blindly endorsing is creating that exact same problem.
While the capital has seen a recent dip in violence as extra U.S. and Iraqi troops have flooded the streets, an Iraqi military spokesman said that militants fleeing the crackdown have made areas outside the capital "breeding grounds for violence," spreading deadly bombings and sectarian attacks to areas once relatively untouched.

Can "whack a mole" be stated any more clearly?

Picture of the Day - 2

A man cries as he waits to claim the body of his wife, killed in Thursday's bomb attack, outside a hospital morgue in Baghdad March 30, 2007. (Kareem Raheem/Reuters)

If anybody sees video of the McCain press conference in Baghdad

Apparently it got kind of nasty when McCain repeated his "everything is going well" delusions in front of the US reporters who have been working in Baghdad.

He responded "testily" when asked about his comments a few days ago about Americans safely walking the streets of Baghdad.

In a different AP version, McCain made the point that they drove from the airport rather than flew, so Iraq must be getting better. The AP reporter included this clarification.
The delegation was accompanied by heavily armed U.S. troops when they were not in the Green Zone, site of the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government. They traveled in armored military vehicles under heavy guard.

I'd be curious, so if you see the video, let me know.

(CNN debunks McCain's and Graham's claims of progress.)

Later: Drudge reports that it was Michael Ware. (It's one of his "flashes" so someone sent this to Drudge to create a characterization of the interaction without attribution. This will be up for awhile to trash Michael Ware and then it will disappear.)

More: A Newsweek blogger points out that their in trip to the market, "McCain and his fellow senators were accompanied to the market by a small army, upwards of 50 soldiers...."

Later: NBC does a pretty good take down on McCain. (It wasn't Michael Ware that first asked the "walk around" question.)

MONDAY: Rawstory has the press conference. Michael Ware didn't say a word.

Also: Snipers back at Baghdad market after McCain visit

Andrea Mitchell says Republicans will pull the plug in August

I don't know about this as time goes forward (what is success in "the surge?",) but this morning on the Chris Matthews' show, Andrea Mitchell "reported" that the Congressional Republicans met with Petraeus and gave him until August to show real progress or they would pull the plug.

All kinds of questions.

What is Petraeus doing meeting with Congressional Republicans mapping legislative strategy?

Why would Mitchell reveal this here, and not report it as a real story? (I mean, if true, that's a huge freakin' story.)

You're telling me that nobody, not staff, has leaked this?

I'm dubious, but take a look and judge for yourself.

Dodging a bullet

In the car, I just heard on NPR that two undetonated suicide vests have been found in the Green Zone.

Picture of the Day

A man cries as he looks at the body of his brother who was killed in a bomb attack, 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

How many more have to die?

I think the presentation in this AP piece is deceptive. Yes, more US soldiers died in March that Iraqi Army, but the Iraqi army is only one piece of the pie.

However, reading that 81 US soldiers died in March, with the consistent promises from "commanders in the field" that this new strategy will yield higher casualty rates and not be assessable for six months to a year, I think it's time to ask again, how many more must die?

Thumbnailing off current casualty rates, which is a horrible practice when talking about human lives, six months means roughly 500 more US soldiers dead, 3,300 more wounded. A year would mean 1,000 more US soldiers killed 7,000 wounded.

All of this for a strategy referred to as "a chance of success."

I would really like to ask the president his feeling for the odds of this gamble. Is it his sense that this "chance of success," now pared down to a definition of victory that says that a future Iraq will never be free of car bombs, is worth 500 or 1,000 lives?

Forced to make a one time choice, is President Bush willing to gamble those lives on what he sees as the current odds?

More broadly, is there any point or any odds where he is not willing to continue, or, like a compulsive gambler, will he continually throw more lives on the betting table?

This is what the Dems are trying to accomplish in their legislation. They are trying to force an assessment, a stop point. They are trying to get him to look up from the game and realize the losses, to look at the real costs of what he's doing.

(Not that I'm implying the President has an addictive personality.)

Russian rumors of a US attack on Iran

I don't put much creedence in the Russian based rumors of a US attack on Iran in early April, but it's slowly bubbling up all over the place, so I thought I'd mention it.

(The one note would be the "overlap" of three carrier groups in the Persian Gulf in early April.)