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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Did Roosevelt do a goofy dance in the middle of WWII?

Okay, maybe a bad example....

(George W. Bush shouts as he dances with Senegalese performers from the West African Dance Company April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed)

And, for a bonus point, who's the "whitest" guy in the room?

Note: A dozen US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since these photos were taken Wednesday. Three killed Thursday (Hostile Fire - Anbar,) Five killed Friday (in "fighting" in Anbar,) Four killed Saturday (roadside bombs in Baghdad.) No reporting on the wounded.

The Sunnis bomb the Imam Hussein Mosque.

The early reports of the bombing near the Shia Imam Hussein mosque in Karbala identify at least 40 killed and 80 wounded. This is one of the most sacred sites of the Shia.

This will put more pressure on the government, and apply even more pressure for the militias to return to the streets. This will be a real test.
An angry crowd gathered near the site of Saturday's explosion, many of them searching frantically for missing relatives. Some threw stones at the police, accusing them of failing to protect the people.

Police fired weapons in the air to disperse the group.

There's no word yet how close to the mosque the bombing was or the level of damage.

(Note: Just to give you an idea of the significance of the target, this mosque has been unsuccessfully targeted several times, most recently two weeks ago.)

Later: It's now up to 55 dead.
Saturday's explosion occurred a few hundred meters yards from the Imam Abbas shrine, setting several cars on fire and causing chaos. The explosion took place as the streets were filled with people heading for evening prayers at the Abbas shrine and the adjacent Imam Hussein shrine, two of Iraq's holiest Shiite sites.

Also in Iraq, the US captured elements of a suspected smuggling ring accused of smuggling weapons and EFP parts from Iran.

And, (NYTimes) "inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight (reconstruction) projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed."

Picture of the Day

A US soldier walks past a wall with writing on it that reads in Arabic, "Iraq is only for Iraqis." (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

The folly of the surge: The Iraqis say "screw you."

The big story last night,
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September...

Today we get part of the reason why.
(Reuters) "Ten weeks into the Baghdad crackdown, seen as a last effort to avert Iraq from sliding into civil war, there are few signs parliament will pass the laws before it recesses in July."

(NYTimes) "But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates found himself pressing Mr. Maliki last week to keep Parliament from taking a two-month summer break."

The US imposes "the surge," originally designed to start drawdown in August, with the primary purpose of allowing the Iraqis "breathing space" to enact political reconciliation, but the Iraqis say, "No, we're not even going to start until mid-September."

(As Eric Cartman says, "Screw you guys, I'm going home.")

Friday, April 27, 2007

No evidence of improvement in Iraq

If you read between the lines, it's clear that there's no reportable progress coming out of "the surge."
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bush’s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.....

The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year.

If they had anything positive to report, they would be shouting it on the front pages. The "benchmarks" appear to be dead once again, and the political vector, if headed anywhere, is headed towards either an irrelevant or collapsing central government.

This is an attempt to stall judgement at the price of US soldiers' lives. 90 so far this month, and Petraeus is assuring us it's going to get worse before it might get better. (Update: It's 99 now.)

Remember just a few weeks ago there were "promising signs." Now, they don't want to talk about it at all.

And, is this new? George Bush personally threatening to depose Iraq's democratically elected leader?
In January, Mr. Bush characterized Mr. Maliki as an architect of the troop increase plan, even while telling visiting Congressional leaders that “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” according to two officials who were in the room.

Bush official linked to call-girl probe

I can't improve on that headline.

The State Department official who resigned earlier today, the head of Foreign Assistance and USAID, resigned after "his name came up" in the DC Madam investigation.

His story is that he did call the girls, and they did come to his condo, but he only got massages. Sure.

(Let's remember that in his previous job Tobias was responsible for the highly ridiculed US global AIDS policy which pushed abstinence and monogamy before condoms. (And he's caught with hookers.))

DOJ official resigns as Abramoff scandal gets close

The Deputy Chief of Staff in the DoJ for the Abramoff investigation has resigned (not recused himself) after investigators started looking into his friend, a "key associate" of Abramoff.
A senior Justice Department official has resigned after coming under scrutiny in the Department’s expanding investigation of convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to a Justice Department official with knowledge of the case......

He stepped down effective April 6 as investigators in Coughlin’s own division ratcheted up their investigation of lobbyist Kevin Ring, Coughlin’s long-time friend and a key associate of Abramoff.

There's going to be more to this story.

(I really like the part later in the article where Coughlin wants "it made clear" that he left voluntarily, then refers all questions to his likely defense attorney who had no comment.)

Also: The Foreign and USAID director steps down suddenly.

And, Another DoJ document dump.

Picture of the Day - 3

They really love each other.

John and Elizabeth Edwards after the debate, April 26, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young

The Bush administration "made" Al Qaeda

By using the language and framing the response to 9-11 as "the global war on terror" the Bush administration lifted Al Qaeda up from a small group of radicals and gave them legitimacy.

Core Al Qaeda is in actuality fairly small, but, in its necessity for a worldwide enemy, the Bush administration has annointed Al Qaeda as the figurehead of the "global jihad," and given them a role far beyond anything they could have accomplished on their own.

They inflated Al Qaeda as an enemy for their political purposes, but then lost control of that image.

Now, as the US is failing in Iraq to quell the sectarian civil war, the annointed enemy, Al Qaeda, appears to be winning.

If we had treated them as criminals, they never would have ascended to this level of influence.

Of course, then the Bush administration couldn't have invaded Iraq.

Just a stray thought.

Some bombs don't count

If this bomb had been found outside an office building, CNN would be breathless with the possibilities.
(Austin, Texas) Authorities on Thursday confirmed they had found an unexploded bomb outside an abortion clinic in the state's capital.

Is your workplace safe? Could it happen to you? Maybe even a question as to whether the bomber might be caught or might be running around planting more bombs? Maybe? Anybody?

Picture of the Day - 2

A woman cries near the body of her son, killed by gunmen, outside a hospital morgue in Baquba April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi

Why we fight

Take a minute (really it's worth it,) to read Josh Marshall's take on exactly what we're fighting in Iraq. We are no longer fighting Sunnis or Shia or Al Qaeda, but, in fact, a core denial.
This is the key point: right near the beginning of this nightmare it was clear the sole remaining premise for the war was false: that is, the idea that the Iraqis would freely choose a government that would align itself with the US and its goals in the region. As the occupation continued, anti-American sentiment -- both toward the occupation and America's role in the world -- has only grown.

I would submit that virtually everything we've done in Iraq since mid-late 2003 has been an effort to obscure this fact. And our policy has been one of continuing the occupation to create the illusion that this reality was not in fact reality. In short, it was a policy of denial.

It's often been noted that we've had a difficult time explaining or figuring out just who we're fighting in Iraq. Is it the Sunni irreconcilables? Or is it Iran and its Shi'a proxies? Or is it al Qaida? The confusion is not incidental but fundamental. We can't explain who we're fighting because this isn't a war, like most, where the existence of a particular enemy or specific danger dictates your need to fight. We're occupying Iraq because continuing to do so allows us to pretend that the initial plan wasn't completely misguided and a mistake.

An incisive description of why George Bush will never leave Iraq.

Active Duty Lt. Col. Accuses Iraq Generals of Failure

Wow. An active duty Lt. Col. ripping into the US Army leadership. (Notice this comes right after the "brilliant" Petraeus was all over Congress and TV. No coincidence, I'm sure.)
For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

This is a huge statement from an active duty officer. For the dissent to get this public, I'm guessing that this dissatisfaction is fairly broad. More and more like Vietnam.

(It's a little long, so here's two prechewed versions. WaPo, AP.)

Worrisome parallels

The Ethiopian occupation of Somalia is looking like a mistake. They pushed into Somalia promising to defeat the Islamic militants and restore the democratic government. They rapidly took the capital, but now they find themselves bogged down, with order breaking down, fighting a bloody insurgency with no real hope of exit.

In Chechnya, the Russians are still fighting Islamic militants. A helicopter was shot down today killing 17. Giant Russia first sent troops into tiny Chechnya (population: 1 million) in 1994. This current Putin war in Chechnya has been going on since 1999.

In Afghanistan, the Taleban seized control of a district headquarters today killing the mayor, the police chief, and three others. The US and NATO have been fighting in Afghanistan for over 5 years.

But in Iraq, by far the best equipped and most complex militant problem, the US leadership is expecting an answer by August.

Picture of the Day

Biden so wants to be taken seriously.

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Renzi out tomorrow?

From the Phoenix Business Journal,
U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., could soon step down in the wake of a federal investigation into his involvement in a federal land swap deal and FBI raids of an insurance agency owned by his wife.

His resignation could come as early as Friday or soon after, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Top Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, have been meeting to discuss what they will do if Renzi resigns and his rural congressional seat opens up.

Republican leaders also are starting to encourage Renzi to resign, saying a prolonged investigation will hurt the party's chances of holding onto his Arizona seat, according to knowledgeable sources.

Also: (WaPo) Frist will not be charged for insider trading.

And, the Abramoff investigators are circling Florida Rep. Feeney.

UPDATE: Friday: Renzi says he does not plan to resign.

I got bored with the debate

I watched the debate for about 10 minutes wondering if anything would be said. Then I stuck around for 5 more because I felt like I ought to, but, in the end, I turned it off.

I can't be the only one.

Tenet tries to blame Cheney

Tenet has a book coming out so he has to offer something that will make it in the press.
But Mr. Tenet largely endorses the view of administration critics that Mr. Cheney and a handful of Pentagon officials, including Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, were focused on Iraq as a threat in late 2001 and 2002 even as Mr. Tenet and the C.I.A. concentrated mostly on Al Qaeda.

Mr. Tenet describes helping to kill a planned speech by Mr. Cheney on the eve of the invasion because its claims of links between Al Qaeda and Iraq went “way beyond what the intelligence shows.”

But he talks all sweet about George Bush, "a kindred spirit."

I guess a Medal of Freedom does buy you something.

Picture of the Day - 3

Army Spc. Michael D. Rivera's mother Joycelin Diaz-Perks mourns over his coffin during his burial service Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at Greenwood cemetery in New York. Rivera died March 7 in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A sign of the times

I don't know why this surprises me, but imagine this "endangered, underfunded Republicans" subtext being expressed just a year ago.
Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he expects to put together as many as 30 joint fundraising events around the country for the four most vulnerable senators of 2008: Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John Sununu of New Hampshire.....

The tour underscores the pressure on Senate Republicans to keep up with Democrats, who out-raised the GOP in the first three months of the year.

(I think it also points out that the large political donors are largely beyond party, paying for the influence of those in power.)

Picture of the Day - 2

We have a special technology on these cameras that allows us to see the undead.

(U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is seen through the viewfinder of a video camera while speaking to the Edward R. Murrow Journalism Program participants at the State Department April 10, 2007. REUTERS/Molly Riley)

Her almighty competence called the Russians "ludicrous" today.


(WaPo) A front page status report on each one of "the benchmarks" and how every single one of them has completely stalled. (Remember that US troops are dying right now to allow the Iraqis "breathing space" to pass these stalled benchmarks.)

(AP) "Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday offered a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki...."

(HuffPo) Ariannia Huffington has a post examining the war supporters' deification of Petraeus, pointing out that "Petraeus wrote the book on counterinsurgency," but the book he wrote would not support the current plan.

(Iraqslogger) Saudis snub Maliki.

(AP) Two (Sunni) bombing attacks against KDP (The Kurds' party) since Monday, both around Mosul.

(AFP) The commander of Camp Cropper is being investigated for a series of offenses.

Later: (ABCNews) "This effort may get harder before it gets easier," Petraeus told a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon.

Hatch Act violations at 15 agencies

This is crooked on an institutional level.
White House officials conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity, a White House spokesman and other administration officials said yesterday

Step back from the unbelievable revelation of this article to note its sourcing.

The White House, seeing this story coming, is trying to get out in front to get their version as the first narrative. (The White House's "defense" appears to be, "We told our appointees where they could help and what they could do to help, but never directly ordered them to help.")
By the end of yesterday afternoon, all of those describing the briefings on the record had adopted a uniform phrase in response to a reporter's inquiries: They were, each official said, "informational briefings about the political landscape."

They know it's about to come out, and they're desperately trying to spin this.

Oh, and I think my skepticism towards the White House IG's investigation was justified. When the investigator mirrors his bosses obviously coordinated talking points, it should raise questions.
Scott J. Bloch, director of the Office of Special Counsel, alluded to the multiple briefings in an interview Monday, saying that "we have had allegations" and "received information" about similar talks that were held elsewhere besides GSA.

"Political forecasts, just generally . . . I do not regard as illegal political activity," Bloch added.

Your move, Mr. Waxman.

Later: White House spokesman Dana Perino says that there was "Not a violation of law, or of ethics."

Picture of the Day

Tell me that barrier doesn't make those people targets.

Residents walk past concrete blocks brought by U.S. soldiers on the outskirts of Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, April 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)

Take the gloves off on Giuliani's speech.

So, Giuliani makes this speech two days ago in New Hampshire very clearly saying, "vote for a Democrat and you will die in a terror attack."

The Democratic presidential candidates have all responded in one way or another, but none of them has directly attacked the core of Giuliani's statement in the American mind.

The answer to Giuliani is to look America in the eye and say:

"You've had a Republican President for SIX YEARS. Do you feel safer? Do you think the Iraq war, which Mr. Giuliani fully supports, is making us safer?

Al Qaeda recruiting is up. Al Qaeda has reestablished safe haven in Pakistan, and now, thanks to the decisions and policies of the current Republican administration, Al Qaeda has a foothold in Iraq and growing influence in countries across the middle east. Bin Laden and his deputies are still on the loose, reorganized and coordinating activities. Under this Republican president, Iraq has become a "cause celebre" driving Al Qaeda recruitment, fundraising, and activities from London to Algeria to Riyadh to Islamabad to Malaysia and the Phillipines.

I would say to Mr. Giuliani, 'really, you think a Republican president has made America safer?'

Port security. Air Cargo security. Border Security. Chemical Plant Security. Nunn Lugar efforts to secure Russian nuclear material, failed diplomatic efforts on Iran, North Korea, the Pakistani tribal areas.

I feel quite secure that Americans can see the reality past the rhetoric. The answer to Mr. Giuliani's stipulation is clearly no.

A Republican president has clearly not made our country safer.

Mr. Giuliani is making these statements in an effort to politically appeal to the ever shrinking minority of Americans who support this president.

So, no, I don't take Mr. Giuliani's statements seriously, because I like most Americans see that they are plainly not true."

That's the response I'd like to see.

Related: (NYTimes) "In a somber and wide-ranging assessment of the threat facing Britain, its top counterterrorism police officer, Peter Clarke, said Tuesday night that Al Qaeda had survived “a prolonged multinational assault” and that its supporters had established “an inexorable trend towards more ambitious and more destructive attack planning.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An observation from someone one who watches Iraq

I go through the wire photos from Iraq every few days, and in my last search I noticed that there were very few photos from on the ground and in the streets at least since the massive market bombing last week.

Almost all of the "field photos" coming out of Iraq right now are from photographers with US troops.

There aren't even independent photographs from the hospitals and morgues which are usually fairly safe shots for Iraqis working within their sect's hospitals.

This is definitely not an exact indicator, but on the back of the giant bombings over the last few weeks, the reports of a collapse of support for Maliki, and the withdrawal of Sadr from the government, this makes me think that the feeling in the Iraqi streets is becoming very tense.

This may not mean anything, but those Iraqi photographers who work independently and alone have about the best "sense of the streets" as anyone.

My gut tells me that the sectarian tensions are growing again.

Just an observation.

Picture of the Day - 4

U.S. military personnel with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group treat a trauma patient in the emergency room of the Air Force Theater Hospital on Balad Air Base, Iraq in this U.S. Air Force handout file photo from February 23, 2007. (Master Sgt. Scott Reed/U.S. Air Force/Handout/Reuters)

Hiding the bodies in Iraq - Part II

This LATimes piece offers some rough numbers on the Iraqi dead since the Iraqi government stopped releasing figures.
However, numbers obtained from various ministries by the Times indicated that already this year, 5,509 civilians had died violently in Baghdad province alone, which includes the capital.....

The numbers obtained by the Times indicated that civilian deaths, which had been 1,991 in January, dropped to 1,646 in February -- the month the security plan began -- then rose to 1,872 in March. That could be a reflection of what U.S. and Iraqi military officials acknowledge has been a rise in bombings targeting crowded public areas since the crackdown began.

The figures also showed that Iraqi police were dying at a far higher rate since the security plan began. In January, 59 police died. The number for February was 132, and it was 165 in March.

By my loose math, the LATimes estimate of 5,509 civilians dying in Baghdad province means approximately 1,460/month in Baghdad province alone.

Generally, I would expect the Baghdad numbers to be the more inclusive, which would mean that the countrywide estimates are probably very low. (I don't believe there have been only 200-500 deaths/month outside Baghdad.)

But in the end, despite the math, all you need to know is that key explanation given to Ivana Vuco, a U.N. human rights officer,
"We were told they were concerned that people would misconstrue the figures, to portray the situation very negatively, and that would further undermine their efforts to establish some kind of stability and security in the country," Vuco said.

They can try to hide the bodies, but the Iraqi people will know this as a lie. This effort is not aimed at them, it is aimed at us. It is an effort, a favor, for the Bush administration.

And just to turn your stomach, from today's press briefing:
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that what we're seeing is the modest signs of hope, little seeds of hope, amongst the destruction and the challenges that we have in Iraq that the Baghdad security plan is starting to have some effect and some success.

I don't know why that phrase rubs me so wrong, but it does.

(Also, McClatchy reminds us that the Bush administration doesn't count carbombs, suicide bombs, and IED's in their civilian counts.)

Subpoena talk

(NYTimes) Waxman gets authorization for a subpoena for Condi Rice regarding the bogus Niger-Uranium claims. (The vote passed 21-10 along party lines. Where were the other 10 Republicans?)

(Huffpo) The Senate Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for Sarah Taylor, a former Rove aide who resigned when her name came up too many times in the US Attorney emails.

(TPM) But probably most interesting today is that six Republican House members voted not to grant Goodling immunity. (I'm sure it's a principled stand about law and order, not about allowing her to stonewall the investigation.)

(Huffpo) Waxman also issued subpoenas to the RNC to send personnel to explain the missing emails.

And, Check out the nasty language by Leahy and Specter to Gonzales today,
Meanwhile, the chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Mr. Gonzales to provide additional information on the firings within a week. .....

“We believe the committee and our investigation would benefit from you searching and refreshing your recollection and your supplementing your testimony by next Friday to provide the answers to the questions you could not recall last Thursday,” the senators said in a letter.

In other words, they're not going to let him get away with "I don't recall."

And, Schumer wants answers on why documents weren't produced related to the Charlton US Attorney firing.

(Add in that Renzi was being wiretapped as early as October.)

Picture of the Day - 3

What an odd photo. Obviously, it's not "casual" inside an elevator (with no McCain security.) So the McCain folks dragged the pool photographer for pictures of McCain meeting Kissinger the day before he "announces" for president. Weird, huh?

(McCain 2008 Campaign CEO Rick Davis, left, rides in an elevator up to the office of Dr. Henry Kissinger with U.S. Sen. John McCain in New York Tuesday morning April 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia))

McCain's announcement

Who the hell planned this thing? It's no wonder he's struggling in the polls.

A small, very old, crowd, outside, with tepid applause, and an unconvincing delivery.

I'll be very curious to read the color pieces.

(Later: On NPR they interviewed a woman who was there who said she hadn't decided on McCain but was holding a sign to "be nice" because the campaign people were "kind of desperate.")

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi boy slips through a US security wall.


(McClatchy) The US now negotiating (indirectly) with Iran.

(WaPo) The US cannot even manage an Iraqi debt relief plan.

(WaPo) The WaPo looks at the tactical risks associated with the smaller, scattered "operating bases." The bottom line is that the insurgents are now probing attack methods.

(LATimes) A split within the Baathists? (No one's really clear on what this means or if it's a good thing.)

(KansasCityStar) Barry McCaffrey gave an interview about Iraq. Short version: "We're in trouble."

(HeraldSun) "Withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq would humiliate the US and weaken its prestige as a major world power, Prime Minister John Howard said today." (They're staying in Iraq for nothing to do with the war.)

(AP) "The Air Force's top general expressed frustration on Tuesday with the reassignment of troops under his command to ground jobs for which they were not trained, ranging from guarding prisoners to driving trucks and typing."

Monica Goodling granted immunity

(TPM) "The House Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 32-6, just authorized a subpoena for Monica Goodling's testimony and an offer of immunity."

And from Iglesias interview on Hardball last night,
I think Monica Goodling is holding the keys to the kingdom. I think if they get her to testify under oath with a transcript, and have her describe the process between the information flow between the White House counsel, White House and the Justice Department, I believe the picture becomes a lot clearer.

I'm not sure how this plays out. Does she stand on her 5th Amendment claim until the Senate also grants her immunity? Can she do that?

Hiding the bodies in Iraq

Iraq is not even as good as the reporting.
The Iraqi government withheld recent casualty figures from the United Nations, fearing they would be used to present a grim picture of Iraq that would undermine the coalition's security efforts, U.N. officials said Wednesday.....

"While government officials claimed an initial drop in the number of killings in the latter half of February following the launch of the Baghdad security plan, the number of reported casualties rose again in March," the UNAMI study said.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Picture of the Day

Rudy Giuliani speaking before the National Newspapers Association, Mar 22, 2007. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Elect a Democrat and Die - Giuliani

Giuliani joins the song.
Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

But if a Republican is elected, he said, especially if it is him, terrorist attacks can be anticipated and stopped.....

“This war ends when they stop coming here to kill us!” Giuliani said. “Never ever again will this country ever be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense!”

Giuliani said terrorists “hate us and not because of anything bad we have done; it has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine. They hate us for the freedoms we have and the freedoms we want to share with the world.”

Giuliani continued: “The freedoms we have are in conflict with the perverted, maniacal interpretation of their religion.” He said Americans would fight for “freedom for women, the freedom of elections, freedom of religion, and the freedom of our economy.”

Addressing the terrorists directly, Giuliani said: “We are not giving that up and you are not going to take it from us!”

The crowd thundered its approval.

I'm not calling Giuliani Hitler, but reading that excerpt, I feel real echoes of a rally.

However, as to how the Iraq plan is going, "I don't know the answer to that."

Later: Obama responds.

Rep. Renzi (R - AZ) looks like he's going down.

From Politico,
A week after FBI agents raided his family's business, Republican Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona has asked to be dropped from his party's top campaign program to protect vulnerable incumbents, a clear sign that he is considering a resignation from Congress.

Also intriguing, from TPM, why would the DoJ not release properly reported contacts between Renzi's spokesperson and the AZ US Attorney's office? Why would they hold that back from the document request when it clearly applies?

Rahm Emanuel to take off the gloves tomorrow.

The WaPo has a teaser on a Rahm Emanuel speech tomorrow and it sounds like quite an indictment of the administration.

The Dems are fighting back this time.

(TPM has some advance excerpts.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Iraqi men walk on concrete blocks that were placed by US military at an area in the outskirts of Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City. A suicide truck bomber attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint on Tuesday and killed 13 people, a day after a similar bomb attack on a US military patrol base left nine soldiers dead.(AFP/Wissam al-Okaili)

Building walls in Iraq

AJ at Americablog has a decent post pointing out the longer term failures of past efforts at building security walls and berms in Iraq. He talks about Tal Afar and Mosul, but I would also add the citywide sequestration of Fallujah.

But separate from that broader argument, I wanted to point to a much more recent counterexample. The massive Sadriya market bombing last week that killed 140.
It was placed at the entrance to a set of barriers put up around another part of the market where a previous single bomb, in February, claimed more than 130 lives.

The market blast "did not penetrate the emplaced barriers" a later US military press release helpfully pointed out, ignoring the fact that the bombers had yet again adapted their tactics with vicious perfection - setting off their device at the point where crowds congregated outside and at the very moment when they were busiest.

Part of this "barrier plan" is the installation of permanent entrance checkpoints with ID checks, biometrics, and all sorts of other time consuming searches. As entrance will only be allowed to those who reside inside, those target rich waiting lines will be almost all one sect.

The access points themselves will become targets.

(The barrier garnering the most attention is the barrier at Adhamiyah, a Sunni enclave, so suicide bombers are not likely there, but these barrier "chokepoints" are popping up all over Baghdad.)

Fighting Viruses

Got hit with a whole spate of unwanted spy and other programs. Back when I get it all cleaned up.

Picture of the Day - 2

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

Al-Maliki support eroding in Iraq

Good morning.
A broad range of prominent Iraqi lawmakers say they have lost confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ability to reconcile the country's warring factions. A leading Kurdish lawmaker said al-Maliki should resign.

Legislators from several parties told USA TODAY that al-Maliki lacks the support in parliament to push through laws, such as a plan to distribute oil revenues, that could reduce tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Iraq's parliament has failed to pass major legislation since a U.S.-led security plan began on Feb. 14.

I think the most troubling aspect is that Maliki's support is collapsing on all fronts within all blocs. Even the Shiites within his coalition are now talking about his imminent fall.
"The present government is not competent," said Dawood, a Shiite legislator (and member of al-Maliki's coalition.) "It's more or less paralyzed, inactive. I doubt very much that this government can continue in power much longer....."

"(Al-Maliki) must do something to make this government stronger," said Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker loyal to al-Sadr. "If not, this government will expire within a few weeks."

But the question is, what can he do? The US has pinned all their hopes to Maliki, and now his government is floundering.

(Also: This BBC analysis piece on the Baghdad security plan.)

White House, Investigate thyself

Call me skeptical. Scott J. Bloch who launched this investigation is the "head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee."
the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.

No, Mr. Waxman, we can't do that because we're already cooperating with an internal investigation.

And, "We cannot comment because of an ongoing investigation."

Picture of the Day

U.S. soldiers give first aid inside their joint security station to wounded Iraqi army soldiers following a roadside bomb explosion in Baghdad's northwest Sunni neighbourhood of Ghazaliya March 29, 2007. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Monday, April 23, 2007

Forward Operating Bases are brought into the battle - 9 US soldiers die.

9 US soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in one incident today when a car bomb was set off at a US "patrol base" somewhere in Diyala. (CNN reported that 5 of the soldiers still remain in the combat hospital.)

This is a horrible attack, but brace yourself, because this is just the leading edge of a new tactical confrontation between the insurgents and the US troops.

Make note that this is the second attempt at a direct attack on one of these small forward bases. 9 days ago, there was an attempted assault on a JSS south of Baghdad that left 3 US soldiers dead and 7 wounded that was only repelled by the arrival of helicopters and a reaction force.

Although the deaths of so many US soldiers is very significant, I find myself far more worried by the apparent shift towards direct attacks on these outposts. Mortar fire, rockets, and random small arms fire have been put upon these small bases fairly constantly, but, in the last two weeks, it looks like the insurgents have shifted from watching and waiting to scouting and testing out tactics against these scattered bases.

They've tried both a direct assault and a carbombing, and, as they look at their tactics, I would certainly expect more.

This response was always coming, but I'm still not happy it's here.

The ghouls are searching for bodies at CNN

There was a shooting today in Houston. There are often shootings in Houston, but this one involved a fairly high rent area of town (read rich and white,) so, of course, it garnered attention. CNN kept "cutting in" to local Houston coverage.

The only problem is that there really was no local Houston coverage. Down here in Houston, all the channels, even the "local affiliate" that CNN claimed to be "cutting in" on, were showing midday soap operas. CNN completely hyped it up.

(CNN wasn't cutting to Houston coverage, they were cutting to a feed from a helicopter.)

I think this says alot about the "national local news station" that comprises about a third of CNN's coverage. (I don't know if MSNBC or FoxNews featured this story.)

It also says alot the cable network values. Since the Virginia Tech story and it's vast national attention (read ratings,) they keep searching for another similar tragedy. In the last week, they were also "live" on the NASA workplace shooting down here as well.

It's really very ghoulish.

(And, I'm sure that somewhere in this nation there was a multiple homicide that didn't involve upper middle class whites, but watching CNN, how would I know?)

Picture of the Day - 3

Flags of the U.S. and the Marine Corps are seen on a name plaque by a door inside the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre near Kaiserslautern, April 19, 2007. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

McNulty to testify Friday

The Crypt reports that former DoJ number 2, Paul McNulty, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday.

This is significant because of McNulty's previous meeting and apparent cooperation with Sen. Schumer as referenced in Monica Goodling's 5th amendment letter. (Page two, 2nd paragraph.)

So, is McNulty being called to "contrast" Gonzales testimony?

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi police officer inspects the scene following an explosion in central Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

US not trying to stop an Israeli/Syrian war

The bottom line is that the Bush administration sees politics as an extension of war by other means.
The gist of the Israeli message in its recent talks with United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is that Syria is preparing for a military confrontation with Israel.

The U.S. message to Israel on Syria, in contrast, remained unchanged: Israel should at present avoid diplomatic talks with Damascus because President Bashar Assad plans on using such talks to extricate Syria from its isolation. Israeli talks with Damascus would be a knife in the back of the government of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon.

No tangible evidence exists, Israel told the U.S., that Damascus is planning an all-out war with Israel. But it is believed that Damascus has concluded that Israel might respond to various Syrian actions and that would be the cause of a full-blown confrontation."

I don't know what this means, but I find myself remembering that the Bush administration very publicly stopped the Israeli/Syrian initiative in February.
The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.

In meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter.

The Bush administration seems dead set on removing "the red phone" between the Israelis and Syrians making a conflict far more likely.

This idea of "not talking to our enemies" flies in the face of the modern history of global relations. If this Bush policy had a track record of success, then the break with conventional wisdom would at least be arguable.

Picture of the Day

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf salutes to a crowd west of Islamabad, April 7, 2007. (Stringer/Reuters)

Harry Reid plays hardball

Bush is meeting with Gen. Petraeus and is then going to make statement today. Harry Reid's office made sure to release excerpts of Reid's speech so that they would be included in the coverage.
"The military mission has long since been accomplished. The failure has been political. It has been policy. It has been presidential."

"I understand the restlessness that some feel. Many who voted for change in November anticipated dramatic and immediate results in January," he said.

"But like it or not, George W. Bush is still the commander in chief — and this is his war,".....

"The White House transcript says the president made those remarks in the state of Michigan. I believe he made them in the state of denial,"

I'm impressed by this. A "dig" embedded in every quotable line, but they're not the center of the soundbite. The "digs" are added in a very derisory manner. It's very Republican.

Later: Here's a video chunk of the speech. It's pretty good.

Weed your way through this terror threat.

The British Sunday Times has an article supposedly outlining a new terror threat that supposedly involves cooperation between the following relationships:

Global Al Qaeda and the Iranian government (enemies)
Secessionist Kurds and the Iranian government (enemies)
Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iranian government (enemies)
Secessionist Kurds and Al Qaeda in Iraq (enemies)

But the attack itself is being referred to as on “a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

It's awfully coincidental that with Bush in trouble in the war funding debate that we're suddenly seeing all these mentions of Iraq based terror threats.

Gotta fight them over there.....

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

US soldiers fighting in Ramadi. (AP photo/Todd Pitman)

Petraeus flying over Baghdad, searching for hope

I know I mentioned this in a previous post, but I think it deserves a little more emphasis.

What does it say, that Gen. Petraeus periodically has to jump in a helicopter and fly around Baghdad looking for some sort of hope to carry him forward?
The commanders search for signs of success. On Friday night at dusk, Petraeus boarded a helicopter to look for scenes of normalcy and progress from above the maelstrom of the capital.

"On a bad day, I actually fly Baghdad just to reassure myself that life still goes on..."

It's very Shakespearean.

(Also in this article, there are a number of very less than optimistic quotes from Fallon, Petraeus, and Odierno. You've just got to wonder about the spirits of the soldiers if the top leadership are at this point.)

But will they go?

(WaPo) "Virginia Tech's student government has asked that all journalists leave campus by 5 a.m. tomorrow, according to a statement issued by a spokeswoman."

A little Iraq

I'm having one of those points where the disaster of Iraq is overwhelming me. The White House often makes the point that the media tends to just highlight the large violent events (often mocked as "they never cover the good news.")

But it's not just the "good news" that's obscured by this. It's also the vast scale of the disaster. For some reason today, I'm remembering that scale. Somewhere in the details today, it hit me anew.

(AP) Maybe it was the 23 Yazidis who were separated on a bus, taken to Mosul, lined up against a wall and shot. Maybe it was the fact that this was a response to a woman being stoned to death by the Yazidis for falling in love with a Muslim.

(AP) Maybe it's the fact that in Ramadi "White flags are carried by shoppers and school children in desperate attempts to show neutrality."

(Reuters) Maybe it's that not only were 12 killed in today's headline bombing, but 95 were wounded.

(WaPo) Maybe it was in this hopeless story about the Sunnis fighting in Diyala.

(WaPo) Or, maybe it's the revelation that Gen. Petraeus frequently flies around Baghdad looking for something, anything positive to keep his hopes up.

(AP) Maybe it's that 3 more US soldiers were killed yesterday, and it's still not getting any better.

Picture of the Day

Jenna Grassbaugh clutches the flag during burial services of her husband, Army Capt. Jonathan D. Grassbaugh, at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, April 19, 2007. On his second tour in Iraq, Grassbaugh, 25, was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Zagabiyah April 7.

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)