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

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Vice President Dick Cheney appears for a taping of CBS's 'Face the Nation' in Washington, Saturday, April 14, 2007 to be broadcast Sunday morning, April 15, 2007. (AP Photo/CBS Face the Nation, Karin Cooper)

A sad commentary

This depresses me. 1,319 items as of today.

How bad is Alberto Gonzales that he makes John Ashcroft look good?

A long but intriguing interview with Daniel Metcalfe, a senior attorney at the Department of Justice who retired in January.

McCain's political strategy similar to his Iraq strategy.

I found this interesting. Not only did McCain underfundraise, but he also spent way too much. $5 million cash on hand.

If his inflow doesn't pick up, his top heavy campaign is in big trouble.

Picture of the Day - 2

“I have no Plan B,” Mr. McCain said in an interview. “If I saw that doomsday scenario evolving, then I would try to come up with one. But I cannot give you a good alternative because if I had a good alternative, maybe we could consider it now.”

(Bodies of victims of violence are seen on the floor of a hospital morgue in Kirkuk. REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed)

Picture of the Day

Drudge is running this Clinton picture in an attempt at insult.

Frankly, I don't see this picture as bad at all. That young woman looks bright and engaging to me.

Where's that War Czar? Mr. Cheney needs some coffee....

I'm certainly not surprised by the second paragraph,
In a move likely to irritate Tehran, the government has decided not to release five Iranians captured in Iraq, a newspaper reported on Friday.....

The Post said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had wanted to free the men because she judged them no longer useful but went along with the decision to retain them in custody that was strongly supported by Vice President Dick Cheney.

At some point, the blame needs to be shifted from Cheney to the weak president who, after all this time and all these mistakes, continues to allow Cheney into the process.

Bush cannot fire Cheney, but he could certainly banish him from meetings and policy.

Cheney's continued influence is this failed president's choice.


(AFP) Two US troops killed, seven wounded in an attack on one of the small operating bases that characterize the new plan.
The US military announced the deaths of three American soldiers killed south of Baghdad on Friday, two of whom died with two Iraqi interpreters when their patrol base was ambushed in an attack that saw combat helicopters scrambled.

The helicopters and a quick reaction force raced to the scene to repel the attack, which left another seven US troops wounded, the army said.

This is the danger of these isolated neighborhood bases. We haven't seen many direct attacks on these bases yet. This is new.

(AP) A major bombing in Karbala killed at least 56. This bombing was at a checkpoint on the road to the Shia holy site, the Imam Hussein shrine. As a target it is particularly inflammatory.
Hundreds of people swarmed around ambulances, crying out and pounding their chests in grief. Police fired into the air to disperse crowds and clear roads for emergency vehicles, but angry mobs attacked them and set two police vehicles on fire.

Rioters surrounded the Karbala governor's office and demanded his and provincial council members' resignations — blaming them for lax security. Mobs threw stones at the governor's office and set fire to the building.

A curfew was imposed in the area, and the city's entrances were sealed off while police and soldiers patrolled the streets.

Same article, there was another bombing attempt against another major bridge spanning the Tigris. 10 killed. (Are they trying to cut the city in half? Limit ethnic cleansing? Limit US mobility?)

(AP) Civilian deaths are down in Baghdad, but deaths outside the capitol have gone up. Roughly the same number are dying. (I question the numbers in this article. This article cites Iraqi police numbers, whereas the Ministry of Health numbers and Red Cross numbers are roughly twice that. It doesn't mean the trend isn't there, but the base numbers are very low.)

(NYTimes, WaPo) The disastrous Osprey heads to Iraq.

US Attorneys

Frankly, I'm a little surprised they're going to let Gonzales testify on Tuesday knowing what was in yesterday's document dump.

First, there's the chart outlining the "political activism" by the US Attorneys. (What groups they belong to, what (Republican) campaigns they worked for.....)

But as bad as that is, this comment by Monica Goodling is far worse for Alberto Gonzales who claimed no knowledge of the process.
"This is the chart that the AG requested," Monica Goodling, Justice's former liaison to the White House, wrote in a Feb. 12 e-mail to two other senior department officials. "I'll show it to him on the plane tomorrow, if he's interested."

Gonzales requested a chart with the Attorney's political histories.

McClatchy reports that Wisconsin US Atoorney Biskupic appears to have been removed from the firings list after he carried out that very political prosecution.

Also, there's a report from NPR that the whole thing started on Rove's desk,
According to someone who's had conversations with White House officials, the plan to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys originated with political adviser Karl Rove. It was seen as a way to get political cover for firing the small number of U.S. attorneys the White House actually wanted to get rid of. Documents show the plan was eventually dismissed as impractical.

Now, Mr. Gonzales, we need you to go on the Hill and convince the country that these firings weren't politically motivated, and that you didn't lie in all your previous statements.

(And, big credit to the Washington Post for their sense of irony. As a substory underneath the 5 million lost White House emails and Karl Rove's "I didn't know I was deleting emails when I was deleting emails," the Washington Post sticks a story about the administration's efforts to massively expand their electronic surveillance.

I'm sure the administration would be totally understanding if a Muslim charity claimed they lost 5 million emails.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

A woman cries while holding her husband, who was wounded during a bomb attack, in a hospital in Kirkuk, April 12, 2007. A roadside bomb attack targeting a police patrol killed six civilians and wounded 19 others in Kirkuk on Thursday, police said. (REUTERS Slahaldeen Rasheed)

I can almost hear her. Can you?

Robert Luskin is back

Separate from the lawyerly claim that Rove didn't really know he was deleting emails when he was deleting emails, I'm finding it very funny that Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, is back again.

(Rob Kelner RNC lawyer says 4 years of Rove emails missing.)

Is Luskin number 2 or number 3 on the speed dial?

More Documents, more proof of lies on the US Attorneys

Only 1 full business day left for Alberto Gonzales to "practice his testimony" before he goes to the Hill on Tuesday, and there are even more contradictions springing up today for him to practice.

(NYTimes, WaPo) Despite all previous claims to the contrary, there was a list of potential replacements for the fired US Attorneys bouncing between DoJ and the White House a year before they were fired. Arguable proof that the plan was to replace "non-loyal" US Attorneys with "loyal Bushie" White House insiders.

(TPM) A chart in Monica Goodling's handwriting that appears to be notes from a brainstorming session where the group was trying to think up justifications for the "non-political" firings.

(ThinkProgress) In rating the 93 USAttorneys, the DoJ tracked who was in the Federalist Society.

(ThinkProgress) Justice Department plan to "muddy the coverage" on the day US Attorneys testified before Congress. (Hard to conduct a coverup/spin operation when your emails go public.)

(Politico) Documents the DoJ is still trying to hold back.

Picture of the Day

In this undated photo released by Norwich University, U.S. Army Sgt. Adam Kennedy of Norfolk, Mass., is shown. Kennedy was killed Sunday, April 8, 2007, when his unit was hit with indirect fire while conducting combat control near Diwaniyah, Iraq. (AP Photo/Norwich University)

Iraq - The difference between the bottom and the top

Both the WaPo and NYTimes have big articles about US troops unhappily hearing the news on their deployment extensions.

Funny, but Robert Gates told me just two days ago that the soldiers would welcome this because it would offer them "predictability" and "clarity."

The other point of interest today is the reaction of the Iraqis to the Parliament bombing. Within the political structure, this bombing may have killed any "momentum" that may have been claimed by "the surge."
"The security plan is dead. If they are able to reach inside the parliament, then we should not talk about the security plan anymore," said Sunni legislator Saleh al-Mutlaq.

"Nowhere is safe," said Ridha Jawad Taqi, a Shiite member of parliament.

Not covered by the American press, but probably far more interesting to me is the reaction of the average Iraqi.
The sad fact is that, had this bomb not gone off in parliament and killed MPs, it would barely have been reported internationally in a country where such outrages often claim scores of lives, in crowded streets and markets and mosques.

That is why many Iraqis reacted with indifference to the bomb in parliament.

"What have they ever done for us?" was the answer of one when he heard the news. "What I care about are all the ordinary people who get blown to pieces every day."

Apart from those who live in the isolated bubble of security that the Green Zone normally is, most of Baghdad's residents would be much more affected by the destruction, just a few hours earlier, of the Sarrafiya bridge.

The bottom line is that the parliament bombing is perceived as a major blow to the US effort in Iraq, but, to average Iraqis, it doesn't mean too much. They already know they're in a civil war, and they had no belief the US plan would work anyhow.

I think this really shows that the US strategy of creating security and political "breathing space" never really penetrated below a small segment of of Iraq's political class. It was based upon the idea of changing momentum, but the vast depths of "the street" never bought in.

McCain's new campaign strategy - Embrace Bush

It's a slow news morning, so I thought I'd flesh out an idea that's been bumping around my head the last couple of days.

John McCain is losing his primary bid. I recognize it's way to early to take "horse race" polling too seriously, but overall trending is important. If a candidate drops twenty or thirty points in a month, that's important, and that's exactly what John McCain has done. In the latest LATimes/Bloomberg poll, He polled 12%, and, perhaps more troublingly to his campaign, he's now looks to be third in the "outsider/maverick" category.

So, when I see McCain defending Bush's Iraq plan over the top and meeting with Bush and Condi Rice very publicly yesterday after years of criticizing them both, I have to wonder if we're seeing a new McCain primary strategy, embrace Bush.

Within the context of the Republican primary, such a strategy may make some sense. Everybody on every side is running against Bush, so there may be a whole lot of political space running with Bush.

A significant majority of Republicans still approve of Bush's job, and of those crazy ones that do, they are far more likely to vote in primaries. (and I feel quite sure that independents will turn out for the Dem primaries.) You figure that Republican primary voters will probably "approve" of Bush higher than even the Republican polling.

So, why not try to take advantage of that "pro Bush" space that no one else wants? Certainly it won't pan out in the general election, but for a flailing primary candidate whose losing on the anti-Bush side, why not take the shot?

(PS. I would encourage McCain to run and win the primary on a pro-Bush strategy.)

I don't know if there's anything to this. Just thinking out loud.

Doesn't he have something better to do?

I don't know why, but the extraordinary effort being undertaken by Gonzales preparing to testify next Tuesday seems wrong.
Gonzales, meanwhile, has been preparing for a pivotal appearance on Tuesday before the committee, including mock testimony sessions lasting up to five hours a day, officials said.

I mean, really, if he's so far in the s**t that he has to prep this hard for a week and a half (ostensibly to tell the truth,) he should just submit his resignation. It's a disgrace to the office.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodling immunity?

Two reports tonight that the Senate Judiciary Committee may extend Monica Goodling immunity for her testimony. MSNBC, Time.

You figure she's got to be offering something if they're considering immunity.

Also: Fred Fielding is trying to keep the Congress out of the RNC emails. (Funny, the White House wants to try and claim executive privilege, but the RNC is not so keen.)

NYTimes frontpager on the topic. And, a WaPo frontpager.

Picture of the Day - 3

Okay, on one hand, I have to compliment Romney for making fun of himself, but on the other hand, if he's trying to be tough hunter guy, maybe he should have used a real squirrel rather than a stuffed animal.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney holds a plaque with a fake squirrel mounted on it as he speaks at the Reagan Day Dinner Gala in Dallas, Wednesday, April 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

More US Attorneys and missing emails

CREW (partisan) claims there are over 5 million different "missing emails" than the ones in immediate question on the RNC servers. These are apparently off the White House servers. (The missing emails from the Plame investigation.)

And, the RNC's counsel Rob Kelner,
According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove's account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.

Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove's emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove's ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns.

So, a speculative description from the RNC lawyer of Rove deleting his own emails in the face of legal proceedings that constitued enough of a problem for the RNC to set up special archiving to keep Rove from doing that.

Yet another document dump coming.

(This is the third updating post in 24 hours. (Previous 2.) The revelations are coming fast.)

Closer to conflict between the Turks and Kurds

This morning the Turkish government announced it would be launching several large scale offensives against "Kurdish rebels" in southeastern Turkey, now we have this,
Turkey's military asked the government Thursday to approve attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, signaling growing frustration over a lack of action against the guerrillas by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Again, I don't think we're at the point of no return, but the situation has reached a point where it could rapidly escalate if something triggers an open conflict.

If something does open up, what does the US do? Go to war with Turkey? Try to attack only the PKK? (You and what army?) Sit idly by?

(It should be noted that Turkish elections take place in May, so that may be affecting both this statement and any response by Erdogan. Turkey's military plays a huge role in their domestic politics.) Other versions: AFP, BBC.

Picture of the Day - 2

So, is this the new McCain strategy for the primary? Try to win over the Republicans who still support President Bush?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Senator John McCain shake hands after meeting at the State Department in Washington, April 12, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Also today, (AP) "Sen. John McCain's troubled presidential campaign is eliminating some non-senior staff positions and cutting some consultants' contracts."

US Attorneys and missing Emails

Froomkin talks at length about the rambling, inconsistent missing email defense offered by Scott Stanzel in a press conference call.

Pat Leahy tears into the administration and the DoJ. (Full video and transcript.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee followed up with more subpoenas.

Rumors of a Sen. Domenici retirement denied by his office as they point to his campaign funds. (But, let's remember that campaign funds can be converted into defense funds, so fundraising doesn't really mean much. Cunningham, Ney, and Delay all fundraised after their scandals came out.)

Kyle Sampson is quietly heading back to the Hill for followup interviews. (New questions about new documents?)

Gonzales is set to testify next Tuesday. If they're going to pull the plug before that, it'll probably be tomorrow.

(I've got a big post on the missing emails below.)

And, Worse than Nixon. Many people are comparing these missing emails to the missing 18 minutes of White House tapes, but Isee a different and even less flattering comparison.

In Watergate, the Republicans in office broke into the Democratic Party Headquarters to steal information.

This current group of numbnuts have created a situation where they might have to turn Republican Party servers over to the Democrats in Congress passing more information than Nixon could have ever dreamed of.

I don't see a server seizure as likely, but how incompetent is that?

Picture of the Day

The bloodied boots of a policeman who was killed while on guard duty at the al-Sarafiya bridge are seen at Karkh hospital yard in Baghdad, Thursday, April 12, 2007. The policeman tried initially to diffuse the bomb after a driver parked the truck in the middle of the bridge and ran away. At least 10 people were killed and another 26 were injured. (AP Photo/Asaad Mouhsin)

Turkey launches an offensive against the Kurds

Amid all the recent tensions between the Turks and the Kurds in Iraq, this news that the Turks are launching several large scale offensives against "Kurdish rebels" in southeastern Turkey should be noticed.

This brings the conflict right to the Iraqi border and will likely draw in Iraqi Kurdish support.

Explosion in Iraqi Parliament building in the Green Zone

UPDATE: Latest AP version. 8 killed, 30 wounded. Also, more explosives were found. "The officials also said two satchel bombs were found inside the building near the dining hall."

AP: "Apparently concerned that an attack might take place, security officials at the parliament were using sniffer dogs earlier Thursday as people entered the building — a rare precaution."

Reuters: "We heard a huge explosion inside the restaurant. We went to see what was going on. We saw lots of smoke coming from the hall, with people lying on the ground and pools of blood," the parliamentary official told Reuters by telephone from the scene..... "There was a big blast, I saw the fire. There were many, many wounded. Windows were shattered."

(This comes after two suicide vests were found in the green zone on Sunday Apr. 1.)

More scattered details in a later AP version. "A television camera and videotape belonging to a Western TV crew was confiscated by security guards moments after the attack."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RNC emails disappear - Do electronic shredders make a noise?

I would assume this is why one of the definitional elements in the recent subpoenas issued by John Conyers is that the electronic documents subpoenaed must contain all header and addressing information.
Some White House staff wrote e-mail messages about official business on Republican Party accounts, and some may have been wrongly deleted, the administration said on Wednesday in an embarrassing disclosure tied to the probe into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

The White House said it could not rule out the possibility that some official e-mails relating to the firings had been deleted and are lost.

So, maybe Conyers will at least be able to establish some of the communications that are missing.

However, the key communications, those between the state level political operatives and White House political flacks, Rove, Miers, etc, may well be lost.

(And, yes, there's a big issue regarding the Presidential Records Act.)

More: Politico - "The Crypt also wasn't invited to a private White House briefing on the situation given to some reporters, but I know the general gist of the situation, and it's really bad for the White House."

And, From within a longer and more thorough AP piece,
Before 2004, for instance, e-mails to and from the accounts were typically automatically deleted every 30 days along with all other RNC e-mails. Even though that was changed in 2004, so that the White House staffers with those accounts were excluded from the RNC's automatic deletion policy, some of their e-mails were lost anyway when individual aides deleted their own files, Stanzel said.

He could not say what had been lost, and said the White House is working to recover as many as they can. The White House has now shut off employees' ability to delete e-mails on the separate accounts

So, reading between the lines, if the only way for emails to go missing since 2004 was for a user to delete them, and if the White House admits emails are missing, isn't that also an admission that somebody deleted emails? Who and when?

Is this an oblique admission of sombody's effort at coverup?

Later: ThinkProgress links to a subscription National Journal piece claiming Pat Leahy is going to request a "raft of subpoenas" tomorrow.

Thursday Morning: The WaPo adds this,
Administration officials said they could offer no estimate of how many e-mails were lost but indicated that some may involve messages from White House senior adviser Karl Rove, whose role in the firings has been under scrutiny by congressional Democrats.

And, the LATimes says it could be thousands of messages from 50 White House aides.

And, "The White House has informed congressional investigators that it will not be able to meet the committee's deadline of Friday to turn over the communications."

Picture of the Day - 2

A wife weeps by her husband, who is set for deployment after a ceremony for approximately 180 soldiers of the Kansas National Guard. The Pentagon will call up 12,000 National Guard soldiers for service in Iraq to fill gaps in the overworked army, a news report said Thursday(AFP/Larry W.Smith)

Deep reporting from Richard Engel with an ethical question

Richard Engel has a very interesting post on the NBC blog about a 30 year old "polite and soft-spoken" Sunni woman who has made the decision to become a suicide bomber. Her motive is not political or religious, but instead, revenge.
Maha is a Sunni. Until a year ago, she was living with her husband and extended family in Baghdad. Her life quickly collapsed. Her husband moved to Syria, like many here to look for work and safety. Then a Shiite militia group -- she says the Mahdi Army -- killed her two brothers and burned her home. Maha became a refugee and moved in with other relatives in another Baghdad neighborhood. That’s when she was recruited.

"A neighbor saw that I was depressed and I told him I was so angry I could blow myself up," she said.

"There are groups that can help you do that," the neighbor said.

And he introduced them to her.

Now, the ethical question: Does a reporter have a responsibility to turn this woman in?

Just curious for thoughts.

McCain supports Imus. Giuliani too.

I'm really beginning to think that McCain's plan is to tie himself to every sinking ship there is.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, whose presidential candidacy has been backed by Imus on the air, said he would still appear on Imus' program.

Or maybe you prefer Giuliani,
Giuliani also said he would appear on his radio show again, since he believed Imus was sorry for his comments about the team.

Look, I'm staying out of this Imus thing, but why in the world would you as a candidate tie yourself to this sinking ship?

Is it because you score points within a section of the Republican Party? And what does that say?

(Also: Harry Reid's response to McCain's speech. “I’m not going to get into a word fight with Sen. McCain…. What did the pope say on Sunday about it? The war is going well? The pope says it’s continual slaughter. The pope says nothing good is coming from Iraq. So let Sen. McCain challenge the pope, but not me.”)

Picture of the Day

Students check their classroom after a rocket landed at a schoolyard in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, April 10, 2007. A Katushya rocket hit a basketball court at the boys school in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday afternoon, killing a 6-year-old boy and wounding 17 others, 15 students and two teachers, police said. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)


First off, don't miss last night's story that Secretary Gates is considering extending deployments for every soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Related to that, (USAToday) Army Reserve Falters on Recruitment, and (BostonGlobe) West Point grads are leaving the military at the highest rates in 30 years.

(AP) Following their successful anti-US protest, followers of Sadr threaten to quit the Iraqi government "to protest the prime minister's lack of support for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal."

(Technically, a Sadr withdrawal does not bring down the government, however, with so many non-Sadr MP's hiding abroad, there is no parliamentary quorum without Sadr, meaning nothing will get done. No benchmarks, no oil law, nothing.)

(Independent) Robert Fisk claims the US is about to start a campaign of "gated communities" in Baghdad. The plan would involve barricading entire neighborhoods and issuing ID's for entry and exit. Fisk claims this is modelled on Petraeus' experience with Tal Afar.

(LATimes) Reporter recalls the layers of truth told in Iraq (Fascinating read.)

(AP) The US now says the Iranians are training Iraqis to make EFP's. (I thought they were so technical they could only be made in Iran or am I reading a month old paper?)

(NYTimes) Heavy fighting in Sunni Fadhil in Baghdad. (There are reports that it didn't initiate in the mosque, and 13 of 16 US wounded were back on duty the next day.)

(AFP) The Red Cross warns on the plight of Iraqi civilians, "It's clear for us that the humanitarian situation is steadily worsening and affecting in one way or another, directly or indirectly, all Iraqis today."

Who would want to be "Iraq Czar"?

Who would want this job?
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.....

"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job.....

Besides Sheehan, sources said, the White House or intermediaries have sounded out retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and retired Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, who also said they are not interested.....

In the course of the discussions, Sheehan said, he called around to get a better feel for the administration landscape.

"There's the residue of the Cheney view -- 'We're going to win, al-Qaeda's there' -- that justifies anything we did," he said. "And then there's the pragmatist view -- how the hell do we get out of Dodge and survive? Unfortunately, the people with the former view are still in the positions of most influence." Sheehan said he wrote a note March 27 declining interest.

How would this job work? It's a non-delineated position above cabinet level brought in late so the individual would have no established allies within the administration.

This person would have little to no control over either policy (from above) or tactics (from below) but would carry all the responsibilty.

In the past, this role has been put on both the Sec Def Rumsfeld, and Sec State Condi Rice, but both ended up abdicating the role because in the end, Cheney overwhelmed them.

(And, I think it should be noted that Gen. Keane, the man who supposedly designed this "surge" strategy in conjunction with the administration, wants nothing to do with this.)


(Seattle PI) In a clear delineation of priorities, the FBI under the Bush administration has shifted away from prosecuting white collar crime, fraud, etc.

(LATimes) A majority of Americans in an LATimes/Bloomberg poll say Gonzales should resign (53/29,) and even more think Rove and Miers should testify under oath (74/20.)

(AP) 17 dead in Algeria as bombs target the PM's office.

(MSNBC) National Intelligence Director Mitch McConnel seeks to vastly expand/alter FISA law. (Notice the immunity clause for telecoms who participated in the wiretapping.)

(Guardian) US and European companies have signed dubious contracts for logging rights throughout Congo. "To gain access to the forests for the next 25 years, the European companies have made agreements with village chiefs, offering bags of salt, machetes and bicycles, and in some cases promised to build rudimentary schools, the report states."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Possible extended deployments for every soldier in Iraq

Tell me again how well things are going.
ABC News has learned that the Pentagon is considering extending the tours of duty for every active duty soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Forget small extensions and trickles of National Guard troops. Under the proposal, deployments for active duty soldiers would be extended from the current 12 months to 15 months. Senior Defense Department officials say the idea has already been presented to Defense Secretary Gates. A decision is expected as early as this week.

This, on the same day Bush tries to blame Democrats for possible future deployment extensions.
"The bottom line is this: Congress' failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines," Bush said. "Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated. This is unacceptable."

So, Bush makes this ridiculous assertion this morning, then, only hours later, someone in the military wants to make sure ABCNews knows that Bush's statement against the Democrats is a lie.

Interesting, eh?

Later: Or is it that someone high up in the Army wants us to know how badly the Army is overstretched or broken?

(This is not the first ABC/Johnathan Karl leak of deployment extension/early deployment, waiting for signature, off Gates' desk.)

Picture of the Day - 3

A woman looks at the portraits of Iraqi journalists who lost their lives in the four year of the war in Iraq, during a commemoration in Baghdad, Thursday, April 5, 2007. Drive-by shootings and explosions have claimed the lives of 207 Iraqi journalists and media workers since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

Treating the Democrats like Iran

Reading about the President's offer to the Democrats to come to the White House to "discuss" the standoff on the war spending bill, I'm struck by the similarity to the failed policy in dealing with Iran.
On one hand, Bush extended an offer to meet with lawmakers next Tuesday. On the other, the White House bluntly said it would not be a negotiating session.

Democrats questioned the point of a meeting if the president won't negotiate.

By accepting the meeting, you are conceding every point. How's that policy working out with Iran?

Has the US Attorney investigation moved to another phase?

I'm beginning to get that strange "iceburg" feeling that something bigger is going on than what I see.

The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas for all documents, unredacted, related to the US Attorney firings. (Interesting details on the subpoena at FDL.)

Next, we've got the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting everything related to the Wisconsin US Attorney's prosecution of what now seems a very shaky case against a Dem right before the 2006 election.

Third, (sometimes it's the things you don't hear) has anyone noticed that the effort to get Rove and Miers under subpoena has gone quiet?

It's funny, the battle for Rove and Miers to testify stopped right about the time that "a Senior Department of Justice official" started cooperating with Schumer. Remember Monica Goodling's first 5th Amendment letter on Mar. 26th?
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.

That unnamed official was later revealed to be Paul McNulty.

I may be very wrong, but I can't shake this strange feeling the Dems are no longer just on a fishing expedition, but are instead looking for specific information. And if McNulty is cooperating in some way, he may be telling them where to look.

Treat this as pure speculation.

Forgotten - Why I'm not willing to give "the surge" a chance.

The Republicans are gaining some traction with their "give 'the surge' a chance to succeed" talking point, but for this to work, they have had to disconnect the current Iraq debate from the actions of President Bush just six months ago.

Has everyone already forgotten that Rumsfeld was kept on the job for months because President Bush didn't want to upset the 2006 elections?

Has it already been forgotten that a strategy that wasn't working was kept in place out of a concern for Republican political fortunes?

I'm not willing to grant the administration six more months, because they've already had them.

In the summer of 2006, recognizing that the Iraq strategy was failing, this White House put political concerns ahead of changing personnel and strategy.

By the White House's own admission, this administration delayed changes in strategy because they thought even discussing changes would impact the 2006 midterm elections.

In those months of delay in the fall of 2006, hundreds of US soldiers died and a thousand were wounded.

They forfeited all rights to "patience" with that decision. They've already had their six months.

But it seems everyone's forgotten.

Picture of the Day - 2

Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, right, awards the Purple Heart medal to Army Spc. Joseph D. Bacani, from Tusgin, Texas, Friday, April 6, 2007, during a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Bacani was wounded during a sniper attack in Iraq. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Raising tensions between the Turks and Kurds

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan raises tensions yet again,
"A northern Iraq which neighbours Turkey is gravely wrong in the way it is currently acting and this could result in a very heavy cost for them afterwards," Erdogan told reporters.

Barzani has "overstepped the line", he said. "I advise them not to say words they cannot live up to and to know their place because they could be later crushed under those words."

His warning came after Massud Barzani, the head of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, reportedly threatened to interfere in Turkey's affairs if Ankara continued to oppose Kurdish claims on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

This is pretty threatening rhetoric. The President of Kurdistan obliquely threatened violence in Turkey, and the Turkish PM threatened to "crush" the Iraqi Kurds.

Iraq never happened

Dana Milbank points out that the White House did not in any way recognize the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Not even a mention.

They were talking about the Easter Egg Roll and Immigration.

(The White House is trying desperately to "move on," to portray the withdrawal debate as over.)

Rumor - Sistani in Intensive Care

Definitely treat this as rumor, because, with the Sadr protests yesterday, intra-Shia politics is at its peak, but with such dire implications, it's worth watching. (Iraqslogger)
Meanwhile, unsubstantiated rumors were abound in Najaf that the life of senior Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani was in danger and that he was transferred in an ambulance to the general hospital of Najaf after he complained from chest pain and lost consciousness twice, according to the Al-Badeel Al-Iraqi and Al-Melaf Net websites. An anonymous Iraqi physician told the Iraq News Agency that Sistani’s bureau is attempting to prevent the news of Sistani’s health deterioration from leaking out to the media for “internal Shi’ite considerations,” adding that Sistani is in intensive care with full medical supervision. Other residents said that the government smuggled the aging cleric out of the city for fear that he would be attacked by Sadrist followers who were rallying in the hundreds of thousands in Najaf, while other senior clerics were placed under close protection.

Picture of the Day

A boy plays war games next to a member of the Iraqi National Police at a checkpoint in Baghdad on March 17. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Deployment extensions and Guard callups

(AP) "The Pentagon is considering a plan to extend the tours of duty for up to 15,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq, a defense official said Monday."

(AP) "Some 13,000 National Guard troops are receiving notice to prepare for possible deployment to Iraq, which would be the second tour for several thousand of them."

But, military leaders insist, the military is not broken.

It's not so much the Christians I'm worried about...

There's been some press describing Pat Robertson's Regent University having outsized influence in the Department of Justice, but what I'm finding far more troubling are the multiple small revelations that seem to indicate that the Justice Department might have been a nest of the Bush campaign's opposition research team. (Goodling and Griffin, Comstock.)

I mean, the ultimate charge in the US Attorney's scandal is that the administration was trying to place partisans in DOJ positions to build flimsy but inflammatory cases for political ends, and who is more suited for that political wetwork than opposition research folks.

Just a few so far, but worth watching.

The Republican's double super secret plan for Iraq?

On Hardball this PM, Georgia Rep Phil Gingrey (R) rather assertively stated that if the current Iraq strategy has not yielded results by August '08, the Republicans have a secret plan. (Miraculously timed to the '08 Republican Convention.)

"This president, and the Republican majority from the last Congress, we do have a 'Plan B,' but we're not going to give it to the enemy."

It's the last 35 seconds of the video.

Is this the newest effort to stall the debate?

What did $23 million buy Mitt Romney?

Mitt Romney raises a bunch of money from the investment crowd, and suddenly he's treated to headlines for his "rise" in the polls. He's "risen" all the way up to 10%.

That's a headline that only money can buy.

The metaphor at the Easter Egg Roll

Laura Bush at the Easter Egg Roll. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

But who chose the book? Did she?
After her welcome, the first lady sat in one of the area's designated reading nooks and read "Duck for President," by Doreen Cronin. It's a story of a duck who gets sick of farm chores and decides to run for office — first for head of the farm, then governor and, finally, president. In the end he decides running the country is too much work and goes back to the farm.

A farm animal overwhelmed by the duties of the presidency. I don't think that's a comparison they want out there.

(Also: USAToday - Bush below 40% approval for 7 straight months. His average approval across the entire second term is 41%. Only Truman and Nixon scored lower.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Traumatic Brain Injury.

His life changed forever in that IED explosion.

A Purple Heart is seen on the uniform of Army Sgt. Jerald Gragg of Granite Falls, N.C., Friday, April 6, 2007, during a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Gragg was wounded by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(A horrifying article on TBI in the WaPo yesterday.)

US Attorneys

The NYTimes calls for an investigation into the US Attorney in Wisconsin for a highly questionable preelection political prosecution.

(This Wisconsin case hints at the core of the US Attorney firings. If US Attorneys were fired for not prosecuting political cases, were some US Attorneys not fired because they did prosecute election affecting political cases?)

And, Newsweek has a piece questioning Gonzales' "preparations."
At a recent "prep" for a prospective Sunday talk-show interview, Gonzales's performance was so poor that top aides scrapped any live appearances..... Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant ..... His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added. "He's not ready," Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales's public-affairs chief, told the A.G.'s top aides after the session was over.

Gonzales' performance in the current pre-testimony "preparation" sessions may decide whether he resigns.

(PS: someone in the White House is leaking against Gonzales.)

Then and Now

I was struck by the juxtaposition of these two articles.

The AP has an article outlining the various ways '08 candidates avoided Vietnam, and the NYTimes has an article on the Army cracking down on unauthorized absences.

Picture of the Day - 2

Estimates between tens of thousands (US press) and hundreds of thousands (BBC) in the Sadr called anti-US protests in Najaf.

(Demonstrators wave Iraqi flags during an anti-U.S. protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad April 9, 2007. (Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters))

Again, I think it's notable that this day, once honored in Iraq as a national holiday of "liberation," was abandoned as that holiday but has now been reinstated to try to keep violence down.

The rebuttal to McCain's Iraq "happy talk"

The NYTimes offers a broader context to all the "happy talk" about Iraq.
But there is little sign that the Baghdad push is accomplishing its main purpose: to create an island of stability in which Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds can try to figure out how to run the country together. There has been no visible move toward compromise on the main dividing issues, like regional autonomy and more power sharing between Shiites and Sunnis.

This is the bottom line. Even if the US were to completely succeed in securing Baghdad so that there were no deaths, it would not mark "victory" unless the intention is to maintain these unsustainable force levels forever.

The violence in Iraq will not resolve so long as the underlying political conflict lays unresolved, and thus far there has been no change in that, not one realized "benchmark." No legislatively passed oil law, no provincial elections, no change in deBaathification, no real power sharing, even though the most recent set of deadlines for all those benchmarks has once again come and gone.

To try and phrase the success of the current operation solely in military terms reflects either an intentional disingenuity or a severe misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict in Iraq. It is an effort to hide the reality with metrics of progress. Throughout the entire Vietnam war, even at the end, there were metrics which showed the US winning.

The effort to supply this evidence of early success has nothing to do with the reality of the Iraq war itself. This "proof" of success is being propagated solely to influence US domestic perception by those who want to continue the war.

The reality is that success or "victory" in Iraq will never be measured in statistics, it will be measured by the willingness the three sectarian groups to work together, and thus far, there are no signs of that.

Picture of the Day refugee girls

Girls look through a fence at a refugee camp in Mosul April 5, 2007. About 250 families moved from Tal Afar town to camps in Mosul since last weeks' violence attacks. REUTERS/Khaled al-Mousuly

Sunday, April 08, 2007

6 US troops die in Iraq today, 24 hour vehicle ban in Baghdad

(AP) "Three soldiers killed by a roadside bomb while patrolling south of Baghdad; one killed in an attack south of the capital; and two who died of combat wounds sustained north of the capital, in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces."

Of significance in the same article,
Security remained so tenuous in the capital on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad that Iraq's military declared a 24-hour ban on all vehicles in the capital from 5 a.m. Monday. The government quickly reinstated Monday as a holiday, just a day after it had decreed that April 9 no longer would be a day off.

April 9th is recognized as the day when US troops arrived in Baghdad "liberating Iraq." In previous years this day had been installed as a national holiday to celebrate, but, understandably over the years, that enthusiasm has waned until the holiday of liberation was abolished.

Now, they're reinstating that national holiday not as a day of celebration, but instead as an effort to keep people off the streets to try and prevent violence.

I think that says a whole lot about the trajectory of Iraq.

(The ban on motor vehicles is certainly intended to disrupt carbombings, but it also has the consequence of limiting the anti-American Shia demonstrations set to take place tomorrow.)

Earlier today, one of the anchors on CNN made the statement, "In Iraq, the war goes on despite the Easter holiday."

Really, the Iraqi fighters aren't taking Easter off? There are times I understand why Elvis shot his TV.

Loyal Bushies are out to get Gonzales

It's worth noticing that the pressure on Gonzales is coming from inside the White House, too.

Reading this WaPo piece, notice how Gonzales is the only White House official named in the disaster that was the Kerik nomination.
A reconstruction of the failed nomination, assembled through interviews with key players, provides new details and a fuller account of the episode -- how Giuliani put forward a flawed candidate for high office, how Bush rushed the usual process in his eagerness to install a political ally and how Gonzales, as White House counsel, failed to stop the nomination despite the many warning signs. "The vetting process clearly broke down," said a senior White House official. "This should not happen."

Whether the intention was to take down a drowning Gonzales, or just an attempt to sink responsibility as Gonzales is going down anyway, somebody wanted his name on Kerik. Interesting.

Also: Two pieces on the ascension of Pat Robertson's Regent University and Monica Goodling. (Boston Globe, WaPo)

(NYTimes) Gingrich calls on Gonzales to resign.

Also: Two looks at the shenanigans around politics and the US Attorney in Wisconson. (Milwaukee Journal blog, Carpetbagger)

7 NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan

(AP) 7 NATO soldiers were killed in two roadside bombings. As is practice, neither the locations or nationalities of the soldiers was revealed.

Update: (AP) 6 were Canadian killed in one event.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi man is questioned by US soldiers after they found an illegal ammunition magazine in his house in Baghdad April 4. Reuters/Bob Strong

Sadr calls for his followers to focus attacks on the US

Sadr cannot directly call for attacks because of the risk to his political organization, but that is how this will be understood.
The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqi forces to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate their attacks on American troops rather than Iraqis, according to a statement issued Sunday.....

In the statement, al-Sadr — who commands an enormous following among Iraq's majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government — also encouraged his followers to attack only American forces, not fellow Iraqis.

"God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them — not against the sons of Iraq," the statement said, in an apparent reference to clashes between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters and Iraqi troops in Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. "You have to protect and build Iraq."

It's difficult to tell from the statement whether this indicates a nationwide call to arms or is merely a rallying cry. The Sadr inspired demonstrations tomorrow will give a good sense of the temperature.

Later: A newer version by the same writer is much more toned down saying Sadr's focus is to "push American forces out of the country." That's a pretty big walk back from the headline this morning.

Picture of the Day

Iraqis hold a British soldier's helmet and pieces of a British military Warrior fighting vehicle as they cheer after a road side bomb on British patrol in Basra, Iraq, Thursday, April 5, 2007. Four British soldiers and a Kuwaiti interpreter were killed Thursday in an ambush in southern Iraq, the British military said. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

Traumatic Brain Injuries

The Washington Post has a good (and scary) article on TBI's.
About 1,800 U.S. troops, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, are now suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by penetrating wounds. But neurologists worry that hundreds of thousands more -- at least 30 percent of the troops who've engaged in active combat for four months or longer in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are at risk of potentially disabling neurological disorders from the blast waves of IEDs and mortars, all without suffering a scratch.....

"TBIs from Iraq are different," said P. Steven Macedo, a neurologist and former doctor at the Veterans Administration. Concussions from motorcycle accidents injure the brain by stretching or tearing it, he noted. But in Iraq, something else is going on. "When the sound wave moves through the brain, it seems to cause little gas bubbles to form," he said. "When they pop, it leaves a cavity. So you are littering people's brains with these little holes."

At this point, we just don't know.


(AP) "Separately, the U.S. military on Sunday announced the deaths of four American soldiers, killed a day earlier in an explosion near their vehicle in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad."