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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Satterfield blames the Kurds

It looks like through all their threats and bluster, the Turks are getting at least the US language they want.
David Satterfield, senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya that Iraqi Kurds are not doing enough to stop violence on Iraq's northern border with Turkey. He said the U.S. was mediating in talks between the Iraqis and Turks over the feud.

But this has been said before. The question is, will the US really do anything about the PKK? Can they?

Torture is good.

The NYTimes wants you to know that a little torture is A-OK.

It doesn't sound like this NYTimes reporter was stationed with these troops which means that someone in the military pointed her to this torture success story.

They never cover the good news......

Picture of the Day

From Lew: "I think this is how I saw the maid do it."

First lady Laura Bush helps Chef Emeril Lagasse prepare a breakfast dish in New Orleans, Thursday, April 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

The Turks set a timetable?

I'm normally pretty suspicious of KUNA (Kuwait's state news org,) but as it is referencing something on Turkish TV, I give this a little more weight.
The Turkish military has set a "specific timetable" for trans-borders operations including intrusions into northern Iraqi, Turkish NTV news website reported Friday.....

The plan, envisaging the intrusion of thousands of Turkish troops into northern Iraqi areas to hunt rebel Kurds, is about to be a realty, according to the report.....

The army will keep following up closely the developments of the situation till the end of April, then it will start moving in, it noted.

Since March, the army is carrying out a large-scale campaign against the PKK bases and militants in Turkey's southeastern provinces.

US envoy David Satterfield arrived in Ankara on Friday.

It's the one you don't hear that gets you

These may be nothing, but for some reason, both these warnings are hanging with me.

(BBC) "The US and Australia have warned of an imminent terrorist attack in the Philippines...."

(WaPo) "The U.S. Embassy in Berlin warned Friday that Germany faced an increased threat of terrorism and that Americans in the country were particularly at risk."

(NZ Herald) "Neither US nor German officials would provide specific details, but one diplomat said the steps were taken to guard against a particular threat and two newspapers reported that Iraqi militants were scouting US facilities in Germany."

(Just as a thought experiment, how would an Iraqi tied terror attack play out in domestic US politics? Would it support Bush's "fight them over there so we don't fight them here" argument, or would it make the argument that Iraq has increased terrorism?)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Now, I'm really curious.....

Check this out.
Pentagon lawyers abruptly blocked mid-level active-duty military officers from speaking Thursday during a closed-door House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee briefing about their personal experiences working with Iraqi security forces.

The Pentagon's last-minute refusal to allow the officers' presentations surprised panel members and congressional aides, who are in the middle of an investigation into the effort to train and organize Iraqi forces.

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Martin Meehan, D-Mass., called the Pentagon's move "outrageous" and left open the possibility of issuing subpoenas.

This was at a closed door meeting. How bad is that testimony likely to be? How much must it undermine the Bush/Pentagon position? (Is it horror stories about the Iraqi forces or revelations of poor efforts from the US side?)

If I were guessing, I would say the Pentagon doesn't expect to win this fight in the longer term, but is just trying to stall until the Iraq supplemental funding bill goes through. But as to what they're trying to hide, I'm really curious now.....

Oh, and definitely tie this with the earlier McClatchy piece saying that training Iraqi troops has "dropped in priority."

(This is a second hand link. I don't have a National Journal subscription, so for now, this is all I've got. If I see more, I'll update.)

Picture of the Day - 3

An Iraqi woman mourns the death of her son outside a hospital in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Even inside the White House, people want Gonzales to go

All yesterday, all the talk was about how significant it was that the Republican Senators did not defend Gonzales, but, I think the pressure coming from inside the White House is even more damning.

Earlier today there were a number of very unkind "candid" assessments by "senior level aides" and "White House insiders." The takeaway line was "going down in flames."

Now, a little later, we get administration officials telling CNN that "they believe the attorney general should and may be convinced to step down."

The fact that this argument is being brought out into the public tells me that even now Bush doesn't want to let Gonzales go, and people inside the White House are running a campaign to try and shame Gonzales into stepping aside himself.

Oh my, oh my, oh my....

At the press briefing today, after spokeswoman Dana Perino fended off repeated questions about Gonzales and Wolfowitz.
Q Does the President ever get tired of having to express his full confidence in the people around him these days?

Oh my, oh my, oh my.

Picture of the Day - 2

This photo provided by IntelCenter purports to show 20 members of the Iraqi military and security forces that a group had been holding hostage. A Sunni insurgent coalition posted Web videos on Thursday, April 19, 2007, naming the head of al-Qaida in Iraq as 'minister of war' and showing the execution of 20 men it said were members of the Iraqi military and security forces. (AP Photo/Intel Center, HO) (Other photos 1, 2)

No more stand up/stand down. Now it's the US's fight all the way.

Stepping aside from the politics of the obvious failure of yet another Bush strategy in Iraq, think about what this means. It is now official policy and plan that the US is fighting a war of occupation.
Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said......

But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq.

Although this will be frequently played as some version of "gotcha" because it represents the repudiation of an overworn and long inaccurate talking point, the underlying message is significant.

The unwritten subtext in this article is that the Iraqi government is dead. They exercise no influence and are not moving in any way towards reconciliation. The Bush administration and the military have given up on the Iraqis, and all that's left is to fight.

The last paragraph should scare the hell out of you because of its truth.
One State Department official, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, expressed the same sentiment in blunter terms. "Our strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something," he said.

This whole article is worth a read.


(Independent) "Death squads are returning to the streets of Baghdad despite the security plan for the capital launched with great fanfare by the US two months ago." (This is the question. Is the Mahdi coming back to the streets? Is this coordinated or splinter groups?)

(WaPo) "At a news conference today in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who took over as the top U.S. commander in Iraq in February, said the security situation in Baghdad lost "a bit of traction" after yesterday's bombings."

(NPR/Reuters) Iraqis think the security plan is failing.

(CSMonitor) Iraq falling behind on 'benchmarks': The US buildup has not been matched by an equal uptick in Iraqi political action.

(Reuters) "We are seeing some indicators of Iranian support to the Sunni extremist groups in Iraq, which is a development," Barbero said.

(LATimes) Iraqis turn to tattoos as indelible IDs. (so that their bodies can be identified.)

(AP) The Islamic State of Iraq released a video showing the execution of "20 men it said were members of the Iraqi military and security forces."

(AP) There's alot of talk about the US walling off the Baghdad Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah.

(Reuters) ICG warns about Turkey and the Kurds.

(AFP) Another attack on the son of Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim.

(AFP) "Simultaneously, US losses are mounting in Iraq as the death of another marine was announced on Friday, taking the military's losses in this month alone to 54 and to 3,314 since the invasion."

Picture of the Day - 2

A protester hold up a sign with marks for the number of times Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified that he didn't recall an event during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the U. S. Capitol in Washington Friday, April 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

This is their tragedy

One of the things that seems to have been forgotten in the Va. Tech shootings is that this is their tragedy, not ours. This may be a story of some national interest, but in the end, this tragedy has been suffered by the students, their families, and others directly associated with these shootings.

It is not about gun control, it is not about what the students and university should or shouldn't have done, it is about a tragedy, a local tragedy.

I understand that there's national interest, but can some one tell me how having CNN personalities (or Fox or NBC or whoever) poking around the campus, doing standups, and interviewing students really benefits anyone?

There has been the despicable "the students should have fought back" editorial angle from some on the right (nothing like national syndication to prop up your survivor's guilt), and a rather quick and tasteless appropriation of the tragedy by gun control advovates on the left.

There has been the bizarre fetishization of the killer, his history, and his video. (We're not going to understand why. The killer may not understand the real why. The coverage of the video is merely digging around in his rationalizations, not the real why.)

But in the end, the cameras and lights are going to leave Virginia Tech in a week or two, and the students and professors are going to be left alone with this tragedy.

This was not a reality show. This was a horrible thing that will haunt many of these people for the rest of their lives. Even decades from now, when those bizarre killer fetishization shows on cable worship these killings the way they do Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, or Charles Whitman, those close to this tragedy will have to witness themselves at 20 years old, in shock, trying to make some sense of all this on camera in front of a national audience.

We had no right to do this.

Today we start the funerals, and the cameras will be there, too.

This was their tragedy, and we did not keep a repectful distance.

Has anyone seen a positive Gonzales review?

Just perusing the major papers and news sites, I haven't seen a single positive review (hell, a single positive comment,) about Gonzales on the Hill yesterday. Anybody?

You would think it's over.

(Watch Dana Perino rush through "The President has full confidence in him" talking points this morning. It's not convincing.)

Picture of the Day

Do you ever wonder who that 30% are that support Bush no matter what?

Take a look at these people as their president drops a microphone. Look at their joy. "He walks among us!!!"

(President Bush gestures as he drops a microphone after being introduced by Steve Bruns, president Emeritus of Tipp City Chamber of Commerce, left, at Tippecanoe High School gymnasium Thursday, April 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato))

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Another Republican wife, another FBI raid

"In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker."

Voter Fraud!! Voter Fraud!! Voter Fraud!!

(Reality Based Educator points to this line: "according to media reports the Justice Department has been running a two-track investigation into Renzi..... It was not immediately clear which investigation the raid pertained to.")

Picture of the Day - 2

It's the look on his face that got me. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Also: The very Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma just told Gonzales he should resign. (TPM has a bunch of clips.)

A little more. The backroom reviews of Gonzales from Republicans are amazingly bad, "like clubbing a baby seal."

The White House released a statement, "President Bush was pleased with the Attorney General's testimony today," but, of course, "the President has not seen any of that testimony."

Doolittle and more corruption

(AP) "Republican Rep. John Doolittle of California has decided to give up his seat on the House Appropriations Committee in the wake of FBI agents searching his house in a congressional influence-peddling investigation."

The search was apparently targeting his wife's "business." She received a 15% commission on donations to her husband's campaign. That's right. Jack Abramoff donates $100 to Doolittle's campaign, and $15 goes directly into the Doolittle family purse.

So, this question in today's Air Force One press briefing is particularly titilating.
Q Dana, is the President at all concerned about reports concerning Doolittle and his fundraising? Specifically, the President spoke on his behalf at a fundraiser in October, and Mr. Doolittle's wife apparently received tens of thousands of dollars as commission. Is there any concern from the White House or the President?

(Oh, and the corruption has gotten so bad, that even the Inspector General at NASA is about to be thrown out.)

Harry Reid raises the stakes in the funding standoff

According to the AFP, Harry Reid finally lays it on the line.
"I believe ... that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week," Reid told journalists.

Separate from the truth of that statement, this is a major event in the domestic politics of Iraq. It certainly carries the risk that Democrats might be labelled defeatists, but it also substantially shifts the foundation of the argument.

Suddenly, in the midst of it all, the White House will be asked to show some evidence that the war is not, in fact, past tense, permanent case, lost.

Of course, the personal attacks should soon follow.

(This comes just a day after Reid and Pelosi met with Bush. In that meeting, Bush reportedly "bristled" when Reid compared Iraq to Vietnam in the emperor's presence, so, I think it's no surprise that Reid brought up Vietnam today, too.)

It's getting nasty. Who's on the better footing here?

Later: This AP article has a taste of a Republican response.
"I can't begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader in the United States Senate has declared the war is lost," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi mourns over the coffin of his brother after taking him from a hospital morgue in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

At the Imam Ali hospital morgue in Sadr City,
Around 200 anguished relatives choked back tears and anger as they swarmed past him, frantically trying to distinguish loved ones from a grotesque pile of charred bodies, many burnt beyond recognition.

For many, a ring, tattered remains of clothes ripped to shreds in the blast or their teeth was all there was to pick out their fathers and sons.

Some were unsure, dithering over whether the putrid remains really were their flesh and blood. Some came back later to retrieve the doubtful corpse for burial, desperate to end an agonising trawl through city morgues.

"We will bury him even if he isn't our son," said one man. His brother Ali Mohammed was one of those killed in Sadriyah, when a giant car bomb incinerated shop fronts, human flesh, cars and mini-buses.

(AP) "Abdullah, whose shop was damaged by flying shrapnel, said he took part in 18 funerals Thursday morning. "I cried a lot," he said."

(As Republican Rep. Mike Pence said, "like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.")

The root of the Attorneys scandal is disenfranchising minority voters

McClatchy gets to the heart of why the US Attorney firings are significant by looking at a broader pattern within the Bush administration's DOJ, an abrogation of the basic ideals of America.

The voting rights section of the DoJ, historically the guarantor of minority voting rights, has been used by this administration to disenfranchise minority (read black) voters.
Since President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, launched a "Ballot Access and Voter Integrity Initiative" in 2001, Justice Department political appointees have exhorted U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, and the department's Civil Rights Division has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights.

On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

One Man, one vote. Only if you agree with the ruling party.

The NYTimes points to the more specific case for today's hearings. Iglesias became a top level issue because he wouldn't play along.
Administration officials have confirmed that Mr. Gonzales also spoke with President Bush and Karl Rove, the president’s chief political adviser, about the perceived lack of enthusiasm in Mr. Iglesias’s office, among others, for prosecuting voting fraud cases, a top Republican Party priority. And investigators know that Mr. Iglesias’s name was among the last to be added to the ouster list.

Think about the century of struggle to guarantee minority voting rights. That's what we're talking about here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The surge is more than halfway implemented

We're often hearing from the Iraq strategy's defenders that "the surge" is still only half implemented. What exactly does that mean?
Two American brigades — a total of about 7,000 soldiers — are still scheduled to arrive in Iraq and join three other brigades that have poured into the capital and surrounding areas, he said.

Only 7,000 more troops left to be deployed, and "surge" troops are already being siphoned out of Baghdad to Baquba and other outlying towns.

The glass is already more than half full.

Gonzales to testify tomorrow

Although there amazingly seem to be no articles about it, Alberto Gonzales is still testifying tomorrow. Man, has alot gone on in that two day delay.

(I like the "invitation-style" anouncement on the Committee's site.)

Later: Peter Baker says over and over that, even in the White House's eyes, it's Gonzales last chance, and Dan Eggen gives the pre-game scouting.

Picture of the Day - 4

The news has been so bad the last couple days, so.... bunnies.

(AP/Charles Dharapak)

A first read on the Bush/Pelosi/Reid meeting today

Despite the media focus being elsewhere, Dem Congressional leaders did meet with Bush today regarding the war funding bill. I'm sure both sides will be leaking and spinning for tomorrow's papers, but Greg Sargeant has a little on it right now.
"Reid talked about a recent conversation he had with a retired general where they talked about the similarities between the current situation and Vietnam," the source relates. "He talked about how the President and Secretary of Defense [during Vietnam] knew that the war was lost but continued to press on at the cost of thousands of additional lives lost."

"The analogy to Vietnam appeared to touch a nerve with the President. He appeared a little sensitive to it," the source continued. "And he clearly didn't like to hear people in the room say that the war couldn't be won militarily."

From the AP version:
Several officials said the session was polite. But they said it turned pointed when Reid recounted a conversation with generals who likened Iraq to Vietnam and described it as a war in which the president refused to change course despite knowing victory was impossible. Bush bristled at the comparison, according to several officials..... One quoted him as saying, "I reject" the comparison.

Sadr pulled out because Maliki broke the deal

Richard Engel is reporting on the NBC blog that Sadr withdrew from the government because Maliki broke a deal to leave Sadr's militia alone by arresting militia members.

"I expect Sadr will soon return to the armed fight," Engel was told.

This is bad news in the wake of today's bombing.

Picture of the Day - 3

Residents and rescue workers gather at the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad April 18, 2007. (Ali Jasim/Reuters)

There are some really hard photos out there of this attack (1, 2, 3, 4,) and these are the pictures that made it to the American wires. I cannot imagine the images bouncing around Iraqi sites and cell phones.

This attack is a big deal not just for the horrible tragedy of it, but for the effect it will have inciting the Shia street, provoking the Mahdi militia, and undermining the Maliki government.

And the photos from the hospitals and morgues haven't even come in yet.

157 killed in 4 bombings in Baghdad

(AP) 4 bombings in Baghdad at least 157 killed.
(Later, AP, 4 bombs at least 183 killed.)
From Reuters: "I saw dozens of dead bodies. Some people were burned alive inside minibuses. Nobody could reach them after the explosion," said a Reuters witness at Sadriya, describing scenes of mayhem at an intersection where the bomb exploded near a market.

"There were pieces of flesh all over the place. Women were screaming and shouting for their loved ones who died," said the witness who did not wish to be identified, adding many of the dead were women and children.

One man waving his arms in the air screamed hysterically: "Where's Maliki? Let him come and see what is happening here."

After the ministerial withdrawal, Maliki has little direct leverage on Sadr and the Mahdi militia. I still don't think Mahdi want to fight the US, but if their plan is to return to the streets, this could be the pretext.

Later: The targets of these bombings were not just Shia areas, but Mahdi areas. This is intended as a provocation to pressure Mahdi back out onto the streets and into conflict with the US.

Earlier today, Maliki had said that by the end of 2007 the Iraqis would take control of all of Iraq.

Later still: (AP) "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of the Iraqi army colonel who was in charge of security in the area around the Sadriyah market where at least 127 people died and 148 were wounded in the deadliest bombing of the day."

Picture of the Day - 2

A resident with bloodstained clothes stands at the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad April 15, 2007. The attack which targeted a police patrol killed five people and wounded 10 others, police said. REUTERS/Ali Jasim

Assuming the primaries were held today....

As you look at all the polling on the '08 candidates and on specific issues like Iraq, keep this in mind: With the current political situation, independents will likely be voting exclusively in the Democratic primaries.

So, when you talk about a McCain and his untenable prowar position, remember that in a Republican primary without independents, you get Iraq polling like this,
Among Republicans, 76 percent said it was the right thing to do and 20 percent said the U.S. should have stayed out.....

Among just Republicans, 62 percent thought the war was going very or somewhat well, compared to 36 percent who said somewhat or very badly.....

Among Republicans, 72 percent said success is very or somewhat likely,

Also, you have to figure the pro war folks are about the deepest of the koolaid drinkers, so they will probably overrepresent from this polling in the primaries.

Now, it's a long way between here and there, and I would expect further erosion, but if you look at Republican primaries without any independents, pro Iraq war is still a very winning Republican position. (Of course that would leave a Dole-like candidate for the general election.)

I don't have as good a sense of what this would mean on the Democratic side. Does it make the overall primary base more centrist, or, because these independents have come over for the war, does it make the antiwar position ascendent?

(I've said it before, I'm really beginning to think that this is the new McCain primary strategy.)

Tarring Iran by allegation by guess who at the NYTimes

So, here we are again. Michael Gordon (of the infamous aluminum tubes) in the NYTimes.
A shipment of Iranian-made weapons bound for the Taliban was recently captured by allied forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top officer said Tuesday.

It was the first time that a senior American official had asserted that Iranian-made weapons were being supplied to the Taliban. But Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was not clear if the Iranian government had authorized the shipment.

Gordon includes more cautions than his previous recent breathless articles about Iranian EFP's (that were just torn apart,) but again he gets into some very loose reporting in an effort to show the Iranian government is behind this.
But as relations between Iran and the United States have become more confrontational, some intelligence reports have indicated that the Revolutionary Guards might arm the Taliban in order to weaken and tie down the American military in Afghanistan.

intelligence reports indicated they might....

I am not debating the facts. I'm debating the presentation.

If you want to see the way this article should have been written, take a look at the AP version. Sure it doesn't put Michael Gordon on the front page, but it's a far better and less speculative article.

All of the claims are sourced. There is no vague connecting framework by the reporter to try to add meat to the claims. Just look at the difference in tone. (Or this Bloomberg version.)

(Also notice the way Gordon uses the Iranian relationship with the Shia militias in Iraq to imply a similar relationship with the Taleban. Iran has been an active Taleban enemy for over a decade, unlike the Iraqi Shia militias who it has been supporting for 30 years.

And, of course, there's no mention of the possibility that these armaments come from the black market.)

Sorry for the rant, but this is evil reporting.

Picture of the Day

Veiled students of an Islamic seminary 'Jamia Hafsa' hold bamboo sticks as they chant anti-government slogans during a protest demanding the release of their teachers in Islamabad March 28, 2007. (Mian Khursheed/Reuters) (Associated Reuters article.)

I haven't seen too much about this group in the US press. It's from a giant Islamic school in central Islamabad. Over the past month, the women pictured above have raided a brothel, holding the madam and two other inside their school for days. The women have also seized and occupied a local library since January.

The men in the group have been roaming the adjacent neighborhoods raiding video stores destroying videos and threatening other neighborhood businesses in an effort to enforce sharia law.

This is a big mosque with adjacent schools for men and women. The leader of the mosque has threatened suicide bombers if there's a raid, and there are students with guns positioned on the roof.

This is not a giant threat to Pakistan, but it does represent the extension of extreme Islam into Pakistan's capital.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

White House tries an Executive Privilege claim on the RNC emails

(Crypt, TPM) The White House is attempting to claim executive privilege applies to the emails on the RNC servers, however, such a claim would require an admission that the White House violated the Presidential Records Act which says that all executive communications should be preserved through set protocols (that do not include unsecure RNC servers.)

I would think that the very fact that these emails were sent on accounts outside the White House would invalidate any executive privilege claim, but, fighting this battle into the courts would definitely slow the investigation.

Interestingly, this leaves the RNC trapped in the middle of the struggle between the White House and Congress, political interest on one side, possible obstruction of justice on the other.

Later: The RNC has chosen to honor the White House's request and is refusing to turn over the emails.
"Recognizing the unique and significant nature of the potential privilege issue raised by the committee's requests, the RNC has agreed to the White House's reasonable request," Robert K. Kelner, an RNC lawyer, wrote to Conyers.

(Sorry if the blogging was a little loose today. Like everyone else, I have been affected by yesterday's tragedy. Better tomorrow.)

Picture of the Day - 4

Iraqi police chant during anti-US protest in front of their station in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Mashtal Sunday, April 15, 2007. Dozens of Iraqi policemen demonstrated in front of their Baghdad station Sunday, accusing U.S. forces of treating them like 'animals' and 'slaves.' (AP Photo/Ali Kadim)

This article has the longest description I can find (at bottom,) and it's just three sentences repeating the caption. The only addition is that the Iraqi Police Officers shouted, "No, no to America! Get out occupiers!," and that US troops watched from distance.

I have no idea of the history of the situation or the basis of their complaints, but how enthisiastic would you be about going on patrol or living in a JSS with these guys?

Picture of the Day - 3

A lone Jewish settler challenges Israeli security officers during clashes that erupted as authorities cleared the West Bank settlement of Amona, east of the Palestinian town of Ramallah.
February 1, 2006. (AP - Oded Balilty)

This picture won the Pulitzer Prize this year. (Bigger if you click it.)

Politicization of new hires at the Justice Department

A group of longtime DoJ employees are claiming that even new hirings have been politicized. Extremely qualified applicants chosen by departments were refused interviews after Paul McNulty intervened in a process that historically did not involve him.

It appears the "common denominator" of those scrubbed from the interview list by McNulty's office is that they had associations with Democratic politicians or causes.

A vote on immunity for Goodling

The House Judiciary Committe is scheduled to consider granting immunity to Monica Goodling. Two questions:

1) If the House gives her immunity and the Senate doesn't, what does that mean? If she's granted immunity could they then compel her to testify?

2) Needing two thirds of the committee, it's going to require Republican votes. Do Republicans protect the administration by not granting her immunity? That seems a very awkward straddle.

UPDATE: NPR reported that the vote on immunity has been put off for one week at the request of committee Republicans. (Notably after Gonzales testifies.)

Also in legal, Check out the argument being used for excluding the Denver Three from that event in 2004.
Casper and Klinkerman's lawyers said the government has the same rights as a private corporation when its officials speak.

"The president may constitutionally make viewpoint-based exclusionary determinations in conveying his own message."

Picture of the Day - 2

White House political adviser Karl Rove uses his wireless e-mail device while accompanying President Bush, in Long Beach, Miss., in this March 1, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

He looks guilty using that blackberry, doesn't he? Like he's been caught.

Is anyone else feeling it?

I don't know if I'm in shock, or depression, or what, but I'm just not feeling very bloggy this morning.

I'll try again later.


(McClatchy) "Over the past six months, American troops have died in Iraq at the highest rate since the war began..... March also marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities. April, with at least 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the conflict for American forces."

(AP) "Nationwide, at least 51 people were killed or found dead Monday. And the U.S. military reported the deaths of seven more American service members: three soldiers and two Marines on Monday and two soldiers on Saturday."

(Newsweek) The logistical nightmare of withdrawing 9 million tons of equipment.

Picture of the Day

Kirkuk, April 1, 2007.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A leak of utility. Does it clear or burn Gonzales?

I'm fascinated by this very subtle, very strategic leak.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' assertion that he was not involved in identifying the eight U.S. attorneys who were asked to resign last year is at odds with a recently released internal Department of Justice e-mail, ABC News has learned.....

Gonzales has insisted he left those decisions to his staff, but ABC News has learned he was so concerned about U.S. attorney Carol Lam's lackluster record on immigration enforcement in San Diego that he supported firing her months before she was dismissed, according to a newly released e-mail from his former chief of staff.

The first part, the attention grabbing headline that Gonzales lied, gives credibility to the second and more important claim that Lam's firing was legit and all about immigration.

I see two ways to read this: 1) It offers a bit of support for Gonzales defenders, "Yes, maybe he lied, but there's no underlying transgression. This is all a Democratic witch hunt." -or-

2) It throws Gonzales under the bus gaining it credibility, but at the same time stops the truly damaging part of the investigation, political interference in prosecutions, clearing Rove and the White House of any wrong doing.

Thinking about it, I'm favoring number 2.

Now, about those emails Karl Rove deleted.....

(This is a very clever leak for the day before a hearing. I'm willing to bet they leaked it before they knew the hearings were delayed until Thursday.)

Later: Josh Marshall points out that despite this exculpatory email, nobody ever actually talked to Carol Lam about immigration.

Picture of the Day - 4

Bundled against the wind and rain, Pam Whiteman, left, holding Ryanne Whiteman, 3, Meghan Grady, 6, bottom, and Renee Chidiac, right, watch the passing funeral procession of Cmdr. Philip A. Murphy-Sweet in Camp Hill, Pa., Monday, April 16, 2007. Murphy-Sweet, 42, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., was killed in a vehicle that struck a roadside bomb in Baghdad, officials said. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Gonzales postponed til Thursday

The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed Gonzales' appearance until Thursday out of respect for the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Good for them.

Imagine 3 or 4 a day

I debated writing this post, but I feel that I need to. I'm not trying to minimize the tragedy that took place this morning in Virginia, but I think that this horror might offer some scale to the daily suffering in Iraq.

What happened this morning was truly tragic, but imagine if it happened two or three or four more times just today.

Imagine if the same happened multiple times tomorrow, and the day after that, and every day for a year.

Literally a thousand of these tragedies in a year with 30,000 dead and untold wounded flooding a country 1/10th the size of ours, leaving no family untouched.

That's what's going on in Iraq.

My thoughts are deeply with the wounded and the families of those involved today, but I thought this needed to be said.

Picture of the Day - 3

An unidentified person is carried out of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. on Monday, April 16, 2007, after a shooting incident. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Alan Kim)

Gonzo Parsing

Check out this section from an AP story looking at Gonzales' opening statement for tomorrow.

But Gonzales indicated he could not definitively say whether he was involved in decisions on selecting which prosecutors would be targeted. The few, brief updates on the firings he received from Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff, "focused primarily on the review process itself," Gonzales said.

"During those updates, to my knowledge, I did not make decisions about who should or should not be asked to resign," Gonzales said.

"To my knowledge, I did not make decisions"? What the hell is that? Are we to the point where Gonzales claims a psychotic break? Multiple personalities?

Also, make note of the White House stepping back from the previous and more definitive statements about the President's involvement.

The Bush involved in the firings story broke yesterday, so, when the White House spokesman says "Not that I -- I don't believe so," on something she knew would be specifically asked, we should take notice of that wiggle room. (Later: She didn't even ask about the reported conversation, and she's "not ruling it out.")

(And, everytime a spokesman says "refer to earlier statements on this date," it means that statement was very carefully crafted.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A man lies wounded in a hospital after a car bomb blast in Karbala, Iraq, Saturday, April 14, 2007. A car bomb blasted through a busy bus station near one of Iraq's holiest shrines in Karbala Saturday, killing at least 37 people and wounding 168. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

Sadr's withdrawal

The top story is unquestionably the Sadr block giving up its ministries.(AP, AFP, WaPo) However, I'm fascinated at the selectiveness of the move. Sadr's block is maintaining their full presence in the parliament while openly saying they will not bring a no confidence vote.

(When Sadr withdrew his parliamentarians in January, the parliament ground to a halt because, with so many MP's hiding out of the country, without Sadr they couldn't hit a quorum.)

So, although dropping the ministries certainly poses immediate political problems for Maliki and a loss of graft and patronage for Sadr, Sadr is neither giving up his influence in parliament or attempting to bring down the government.

This is just a very public political move that will allow Sadr to position himself once again as an outsider, separating his political movement from any unpopular decisions by the government while not wholly giving up his political bartering power.

He can once again return to the nationalist, anti-government position that fuelled his original rise. I think he's consolidating by giving up these ministries.

We should also probably recognize this an indication of the growing anti-US sentiment among the Shia community in the face of the increased bombings.


(WaPo) "Almost a full brigade" of US soldiers will "surged" out of Baghdad and sent to Baquba. (Linking to a similar NYTimes story last night, I outlined why Baquba represents an indictment of the entire "surge" strategy.)

(AP) U.S. military deaths in Iraq at 3,300

(USAToday) "About 70% of primary school students in a Baghdad neighborhood suffer symptoms of trauma-related stress such as bed-wetting or stuttering, according to a survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health."

(AP) 13 Iraqi soldiers were killed and four wounded when their checkpoint near Mosul was ambushed. (That's a big coordinated attack.)

(Reuters) U.S. forces kill 3 Iraqi police in friendly fire

(LATimes) "Suspicious of Iraq's CIA-funded national intelligence agency, members of the Iraqi government have erected a "shadow" secret service that critics say is driven by a Shiite Muslim agenda and has left the country with dueling spy agencies."

(NYTimes) Six bombs kill 34 in Shia areas of Baghdad, and "Even the hopes generated by the falling numbers of unidentified bodies found daily around the capital, the main bright spot in the new security plan so far, were dimmed on Sunday when the police reported finding 30 bodies, the highest daily number in a month."

(AP) Air Force personnel filling convoy and other ground combat duties.

(WaPo) Gen. Sheehan explains why he wouldn't take the "war czar" post. (He diplomatically tears apart the current lack of strategy.)

And, if you want a laugh, Hadley says he wants to fill the war czar post "yesterday," but look at the process,
He said he wants to invite two or three candidates to the White House to talk about the job with Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs chairman, and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten.

Really, no meeting with Cheney? Oh, I guess he has nothing to do with Iraq policy, right?

A weak Musharraf or a strong Islamist movement

To get a sense of the weakening power of Musharraf, or perhaps the growing power of the Islamists, take a look at this article outlining the rumors of a political powersharing deal between Musharraf and former PM Benazir Bhutto.

Such a deal would certainly act to contain one side of the destabilization coming from the centrist People's Party, but it is significant that both Musharraf and Bhutto used to be strong enough to tamp down the Islamists on their own. Now, they're having to unbelievably work together to do so.

Also: One of the main tribal leaders in S. Waziristan has asked the Pakistani government to abandon the earlier peace deal and reintroduce troops to the region. This follows weeks of fighting between the tribalists and foreign fighters, primarily Uzbeks.

It sounds like the traditional tribesmen, with whom the deal was signed, are losing out in a power struggle with the Taleban and have asked the government to intervene to help them.

Picture of the Day

A girl and her other relatives cry as they wait to claim the body of her father, who was killed in a roadside bomb attack, outside a hospital morgue in Kirkuk March 16, 2007. REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Whack a mole in Baquba

The NYTimes has a good story on the "surge" of Sunni militants and foreign fighters into Baquba. They really moved into Baquba during last summer's "surge" in Baghdad, Operation Forward Together, but have since extended their control over the city.

I mention this because it is a textbook case of the "whack a mole" criticism that John McCain used to incoherently repeat about previous security efforts focused on Baghdad. (He blindly supports this one though, although it presents the exact same problem.)

The current situation in Baquba came about from Forward Together, it looks like Kirkuk and others may collapse from the current effort.

Wanna see something fun?

Take a look at this NYTimes graphic outlining donations for some of the '08 presidential candidates. Right now, they only have some of them up, but with the three Republicans, it's still fun.

In the left column pick one of the candidates, Romney, Giuliani, or McCain. Then go over to the box on the right side and enter your zip code (or like me, enter the code for the rich area one zip over.)

And, bango, there are people I know giving money to Romney, Giuliani, and McCain.

Picture of the Day - 2

An opposition protester shows a copy of the Russian constitution to a police officer during a demonstration in Moscow April 14, 2007. REUTERS/Konstantin Koutsyllo

Bush intervened in the firing of N. Mex US Attorney Iglesias?

Holy crap.
In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.

Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.

At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.

Domenici and Bush subsequently had a telephone conversation about the issue.

The conversation between Bush and Domenici occurred sometime after the election but before the firings of Iglesias and six other U.S. attorneys were announced on Dec. 7.

Iglesias' name first showed up on a Nov. 15 list of federal prosecutors who would be asked to resign. It was not on a similar list prepared in October.

So, Iglesias wan't on the October firings list. Gonzales told Senator Domenici he wouldn't fire Iglesias. Domenici talks to Bush. Then, Iglesias is on the November firings list.

Seems worth a few questions to me.

Picture of the Day

People say I'm (airquotes) "losing" my campaign. They say my pronouncements about Iraq are (airquotes) "crazy" and (airquotes) "delusional....."

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain addresses the 3rd Annual Ronald Reagan Memorial Dinner at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield, Mich., Thursday, April 12, 2007. McCain will be in the state for a two-day swing he hopes will tap into the goodwill that helped him win the state's 2000 GOP primary. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)


(AFP) A summary article looking at Turkey's recent threats to the Kurds. Takeaway: "Turkey is not bluffing."

(I'm really not sure of the underlying politics. In May, you have the Islamic backed Erdogan likely to rewin PM, but the powerful generals and much of the population (300,000 protest) want a return to more secularism. So, is the growing talk about Iraqi Kurds a preelection ploy to undermine Erdogan?)

(Iraqslogger) Petraeus' letter to the troops about the deployment extensions.

(WaPo) US holds 18,000 Detainees in Iraq. ("The average stay in these detention centers is about a year.")

(WaPo) A long article on a contractor's shooting of civilians and the questions of what law, if any, cover contractors.

(Reuters) A senior Sadr official, "Our withdrawal from the government is now inevitable and might take place in a matter of days."

(AP) Two British helicopters crashed in midair killing two Brits north of Baghdad near Taji. "I can't talk about the particular mission they were involved in, but we do have units operating as part of the coalition across Iraq."

Gonzales tries to frame his testimony

Alberto Gonzales has an oped in the WaPo, "Nothing Improper."

He doesn't even try to explain his previous statements.

Also: Gonzales' opening statement for his Tuesday testimony.