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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

A man cries while arranging the coffins of his relatives on a vehicle outside a hospital morgue in Mahmoudiya, May 13, 2007. Five victims were killed by gunmen who opened fire to civilians who were claiming the body of a teacher earlier killed by the same gunmen on a road near Baghdad's Doura district. Four others were wounded in the attack. REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan

So, what's going on with SCIRI's Al-Hakim in Houston?

The WaPo has a bit more about SCIRI leader al Hakim's medical visit to the US.
In a reflection of Hakim's stature, President Bush authorized immediate transportation to get Hakim from Iraq to the United States, an administration source said yesterday. Vice President Cheney played a role in arranging for Hakim to see U.S. military doctors in Baghdad, who made the original diagnosis, and for the current medical treatment in Houston, the sources said.

That's alot of involvement for a medical visit. I'm still guessing that Al-Hakim is coming for a clandestine meeting. Houston is about 4 hours from Crawford by car, much less by air.
The Bushes are spending the weekend in Crawford, Texas. On Sunday and Monday, they will host NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and his wife, Jeannine.

And, I'll ask again: although we do have a top flight medical community here, there's not another medical facility between Iraq and Houston without the political implications for the SCIRI leader?

(A pre-meeting for the Iran talks?)

LATER: Now it's Talabani coming to the US. However, as Talabani has significant, established health problems, I would guess his three week trip to Mayo is required.

But, how will the politics in Iraq go on without him? He is about the only major figure that commands respect from other factions.

Scattershot political bits

Rush Limbaugh is freaking out that his racist "Barak the Magic Negro" song is going to be taken apart on the Today Show Monday. (Rush Limbaugh link.) (Poor Rush. Those racist jokes were meant only for his audience.)

O'Reilly maintains the FoxNews tradition, bemoaning the increase in minority population.

(I can't help but remember that almost exactly one year ago today FoxNews' John Gibson said white people need to do their duty and have more babies.)

(WaPo) Al Gonzales got an earful meeting with US Attorneys.

(TPM) More on the Iglesias story.

Picture of the Day

U.S. Army Spc. Alex Jimenez, from Lawrence, Mass., of Delta Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment lifts weights near Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq in this Feb. 5, 2007 file photo. Jimenez has been identified by the Pentagon as among those whose whereabouts are unknown after a May 12, 2007 ambush in Iraq. The attack near Mahmoudiya, in a Sunni stronghold 20 miles south of Baghdad, left four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator dead, and three other soldiers missing. The Pentagon has acknowledged that it believes the missing soldiers are in terrorist hands. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

Update: (AP) "As of this morning (Saturday,) we thought there were at least two that were probably still alive," he said. "At one point in time there was a sense that one of them might have died, but again we just don't know."

Iranian influence in Basra

I found this Guardian piece a gripping read as it gives an inside look at the militia movement and Iranian influence in Basra. This exerpt is the significant takeaway, but the color and detail throughout the article are important.
"They [the Iranians] don't give us weapons, they sell us weapons: an Iranian bomb costs us $100, nothing comes for free. We know Iran is not interested in the good of Iraq, and we know they are here to fight the Americans and the British on our land, but we need them and they are using us."

Despite this scepticism about Tehran's motives, he said some Mahdi army units were now effectively under Iranian control. "Some of the units are following different commanders, and Iran managed to infiltrate [them], and these units work directly for Iran."


The buildup along the Afghan/Pakistan border

Another "good read" out of the British press this morning about the Afghani army buildup along the Pakistani border and now fairly constant conflicts.
Afghanistan’s 46,000-strong army is in no position to take on the military might of Pakistan, besides which diplomatic pressure on both countries makes it extremely unlikely that the scope of fighting will spread between regular forces. However, the fighting has sparked antiPakistani sentiment among the Afghan border tribes at a time when the fortunes of every foreign player trying to stabilise Afghanistan are dependent on the two neighbours cooperating.

“Only this morning I have had tribal elders offer me 400 men to fight the Pakistanis,” said Captain Aziz. “I have to keep ordering them to stay in their villages. Man, woman and child, in this area they are all ready to give their blood in a fight with Pakistan.”

And, it is notable that this Afghani buildup is taking soldiers out of the fight against the Taleban.

(Is Karzai more popular "fighting" the Pakistanis rather than the Taleban?)

"The Devil has come to collect"

He's a bit late to the party, but the fact that Andrew Sullivan has taken to publishing things like this (written by his readers, not him,) tells me he's finally seeing at least bits of the light.
What American 'conservatism' has become fits closely within the definition of fascism: an intensely nationalist movement intent on defining membership in the 'nation' on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria, accompanied by an unquestioning loyalty to (male) authority, enshrined in family leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, and especially, the leader of the nation, who is seen as embodying the Nation. Loyalty to the Party or Movement and its ideology is of great importance. Violence is the preferred means of accomplishing goals. Diplomacy, compromise, negotiation, are all identified with (feminine) weakness. The rule of law is also despised, because it lacks the immediacy of (violent) action, and its emphasis on balance and its concern with proper procedure is also seen as a sign of (feminine) weakness.

This is the outcome of the bargain the GOP made with the Devil back when it decided to go for the Wallace voters after the ’68 and ’72 elections. Kevin Phillips has repented a hundred times over for counseling the Southern Strategy, but too late. The GOP has discovered that when you sell your soul to the Devil, the only question is when does the Devil come to collect? Well, he's come.

(The reader comment that spawned this is interesting as well.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Right blows a gasket on immigration, and other "Political Bits"

OK, it was predictable, but I'm still finding it funny. The FreePi folks are calling for Bush's impeachment, and the righty big blogs are all damning McCain.

Other "Political bits:" It's no wonder McCain hates Giuliani. McCain owns a ferret.

And, Giuliani paid his current wife $125,000/year for "speechwriting help." (Honey, How does this sound?) He started paying her $10,000/month before they were married.

(Oh, and there's that mention again that Giuliani's first wife was also his second cousin.)

Later: McCain drops the F-bomb on my state's shame, Sen. John Cornyn. (And take a minute to scan down the comments for the McCain bashing.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A protester chants slogans near burning tyres during a demonstration in Basra, May 16, 2007. Iraq's government has lost control of vast areas to powerful local factions and the country is on the verge of collapse and fragmentation, a leading British think-tank said on Thursday. (Atef Hassan/Reuters)

Really? High Blood Pressure? That's the best you can do?

I'm finding this a pretty unbelievable cover story.
The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political party has left for the United States for medical checkups, an official at his office said Friday....

Al-Hakim, re-elected last week as leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, is not known to be suffering any health problems.

A week after al Hakim's SCIRI party (now SIIC) underwent a major restructuring defining its independence from Iran, it stands facing increasing interShia clashes with the Mahdi, and stands as the last major supporter of Maliki's government.

Now, it's top leader suddenly has to come to the US for blood pressure related tests?

What requires al Hakim meeting with someone so high profile they can't meet quietly or through proxy in Egypt, Jordan, or London?

"The Forgotten War"

A 1 minute AP video of the soldiers in Afghanistan talking about being in "The Forgotten War."

Picture of the Day

Sgt. James David Connell, Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tenn., is seen at Strongpoint Inchon, where he was stationed with Delta Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment near Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq in this Feb. 2, 2007 file photo. According to family members, Connell was one of four Americans killed on May 12, 2007 in an ambush in Iraq. The attack near Mahmoudiya, in a Sunni stronghold 20 miles south of Baghdad, left four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator dead, and three other soldiers missing. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

A Reorganized Enemy outside Baghdad.

I don't know if anyone's noticing, but, after a brief lull as "the surge" came into place, we're beginning to see large unit operations by insurgents and militias outside of Baghdad.

Today, (AP) "About 50 suspected insurgents attacked a U.S. base in the center of a city north of the capital Friday." (Baquba)

Yesterday, there was a large scale (Sunni) assault on a Mosul Jail, and two substantial Mahdi/Iraqi Forces clashes in Diwaniyah and Nasiriyah.

It would appear that the militants have now fully reorganized their operations outside of Baghdad.

I believe John McCain used to call this "Whack a Mole."

(Related: IraqSlogger points out the irony(?) that as the Mahdi is returning to the streets, it is doing so in the southern cities as part of the Shia power struggle, not as death squads or protectors of the Shia civilians against the Sunnis.)

Add Norm Coleman and Kit Bond to the anti-Gonzales list

I think this brings us to eight(?) Republican Senators calling for Gonzales to resign. (Spector, Smith?, Hagel, Sununu, Coburn, McCain.)
"I would hope that the attorney general understands that the department is suffering right now, and he does the right thing, and that is allows the president to provide new leadership," Coleman told reporters on a conference call.

And Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., usually a staunch GOP ally, suggested Thursday that Bush consider ejecting Gonzales.

"The president might decide that the current leadership remaining at DOJ is doing more harm than good," Bond told The Associated Press.

And, there are several others who have suggested it,
Pat Roberts: "When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it."

Olympia Snowe said Bush "should obviously seriously consider" firing Gonzales over the 2004 (Comey/Ashcroft) incident.

Jeff Sessions and Lindsey Graham
have all made it clear that they wouldn't exactly be unhappy if the attorney general decided it was time for him to go.

Joining Hagel in demanding Gonzales' resignation are GOP Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona, who is a presidential candidate.

While a no confidence vote may be made to appear political and peel off some of these votes, with this many Republican Senators on the record, you must imagine the depth of the not on the record sentiment.

On Wednesday, "MR. SNOW: Well, again, Jim Comey gave his side of what transpired that day. The President still has full confidence in Alberto Gonzales."

You just have to wonder how long this can go on.

(Question: Would the White House rather have the focus on Gonzales or risk having the focus turn to Rove or the war?)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

A list of the US Attorney firings.

The WaPo has a list of the US Attorneys considered for firing and the additions/removals as the list evolved through time.

James Dobson comes out against Giuliani

On the crazy Republican, but widely read, World Net Daily, (home of the Bush 30%'ers) James Dobson wrote this, "I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008."
My conclusion from this closer look at the current GOP front-runner comes down to this: Speaking as a private citizen and not on behalf of any organization or party, I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision. If given a Hobson's – Dobson's? – choice between him and Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama, I will either cast my ballot for an also-ran – or if worse comes to worst – not vote in a presidential election for the first time in my adult life. My conscience and my moral convictions will allow me to do nothing else.

Giuliani's camp has been trying to spin the argument that he can win the primary without the religious right. It looks like they're going to get their chance to try and prove it.

Drugs and recruiters

Radar Magazine makes some prank calls to recruiters.

As a sample, try this one. I found it funny.

(Related: NBC has a hidden camera piece showing recruiters trying to "coach" potential recruits through drug testing.)

Political bits

Sens. Feinstein and Schumer just said they will push for a no confidence vote on Alberto Gonzales. (Later: Video.)

(AP) Arlen Specter predicts that Gonzales will have to quit. "I think when our investigation is concluded, it'll be clear even to the attorney general and the president that we're looking at a dysfunctional department which is vital to the national welfare."

The LATimes suggests that McCain is too old. Probably as importantly, the story is reprinted in New Hampshire's top paper.

(CNN) Responding to a Senate subpoena, the DoJ says they don't have Rove's emails, Rove's lawyer must have them.

(AP) Supposedly, a deal has been reached on immigration. (I'll be curious how the Republican candidates' respond.) (LATER: McCain for it, Romney against.)

Hotline has some bad polling for Giuliani. Romney is climbing in NH and Iowa and most of that is coming out of Giuliani's support.

How close was Bush to calling Tony Blair a "poodle" today?
I do congratulate the Prime Minister for being a -- when he gets on a subject, it's dogged.

Picture of the Day - 2

A relative of a mortar attack victim grieves outside Imam Ali hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, May 15, 2007. The attack killed four and wounded 11 at a market on the edge of Baghdad's Sadr City Shiite district. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Iraq - Just another day in paradise

(FT) "The committee in charge of reviewing Iraq’s constitution has asked for a weeklong extension to complete its work - an indication that the legislature is having difficulty meeting self-imposed deadlines set in May."

(NYTimes) "Sprawling street battles between militia gunmen and Iraqi security forces erupted in three cities on Wednesday on a day of wide-ranging violence that underscored the grave security situation across much of Iraq."
Sunni insurgents in Mosul mount several attacks on a jail, a bridge, and the homes of two government officials. In Diwaniyah, "scores of militiamen loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr fought street battles against Iraqi soldiers as government security forces swept into militia strongholds." Iraqi police and Mahdi also battled in Nasiriyah.....

"In Diyala Province, insurgents fired at a police brigadier’s house in Baquba, killing three police officers and wounding two....In Ghalbiya, a town in eastern Diyala Province, gunmen stopped a bus traveling from Iraqi Kurdistan and kidnapped 21 passengers.....

Several ied's in Baghdad, another outside Kirkuk, mortars killing Iraqis inside the Green Zone, a suicide bomber in Ramadi, and "Gunmen killed a police colonel in the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Amariya. An insurgent lobbed a hand grenade in Mustansiriya Square, in central Baghdad, wounding four people. And at least 30 corpses were found dumped on the streets of the capital."

Oh, and of course the chlorine bombing.....

(AP) Iraqi police fired shots in the air to prevent journalists from covering a bombing in Baghdad in accordance with the new Iraqi government policy.

And, it looks like the Saudis have threatened regional war to prevent a US withdrawal.
"Saudi Arabia has threatened direct interference in Iraq to protect Sunnis in case [coalition forces] suddenly pull out," (a US diplomat told the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm.)....

Al Masry Al Youm added that the source close to the United States State Department revealed that there was a letter sent to Washington concerning this development. According to the source, American Vice-President Dick Cheney's recent Middle East tour was related to this matter.

What is going on along the Afghan/Pakistan border?

There have been a number of incidents of violence in the last week along the Afghan/Pakistan border (Afghan, Pakistani forces exchange fire, four dead, Three U.S., 2 Pakistanis hurt in Afghan border firing,) and frankly, I'm not really clear as to what's going on, but when I read something like this.....
Tension gripped Kurram Agency on Wednesday as the Pakistan Army sent reinforcements to the Pak-Afghan border following reports that the Afghan National Army had deployed in significant numbers on the Durand Line along with extra artillery and mortar guns.

The situation became even more serious in the evening when the political administration decided to make announcements from mosques and through vehicles fitted with loudspeakers about the possibility of outbreak of firing on the Pak-Afghan border. It advised the people not to become scared due to intense firing because this would be due to the situation on the border and on account of external factors. It said the firing should not be construed as a new outbreak of violence due to any internal conflict.....

Reports from across the border spoke of a similar evacuation from the Afghan villages near the Durand Line. There were reports that villagers were evacuating from the border areas in the Jaji and Chamkani districts, both part of Paktia province.

Earlier, reports from Paktia said the Afghan tribal and village elders had held a big meeting in the Alikhel Garrison and overwhelmingly pledged to retake the land allegedly annexed by Pakistani forces on the border.

I don't know, I'm just putting it out there....

"Mr." Krulak on torture

I rarely read editorials, but I read this one because I went to college with the author's son. I had the privilege of meeting "Mr." Krulak long before he became the commandant of the Marine Corps, and he is brilliant with a very unique way of expressing complex issues directly.

Take a read of this editorial on why the US shouldn't torture, and tell me I'm wrong.

(Later: This editorial is getting big repetition on other blogs, so, it's not just me. If you've got a minute......)

Picture of the Day

British army soldiers backdrop a cross, part of a monument in the memory of fallen comrades in Helmand province, Afghanistan.(AFP/File/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Give that woman immunity (No, not Monica Goodling)

Susan Ralston the former Abramoff aide turned former Rove aide is seeking immunity from Henry Waxman's Government Oversight Committee. (She resigned suddenly over Abramoff related gift giving.)

Before you get your hopes too high,
Ralston was deposed behind closed doors prior to her request for immunity. According to her friends, she has nothing to say that would cause problems for Rove.

Looking back, Waxman's deposition request for Ralston was related to "lobbying contacts between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House."

(PS. Monica Goodling is scheduled for next Wednesday.)

Petraeus can't take the pressure

After a month of the Bush administration and its Republican allies staving off today's political pressure by transferring all that weight to Petraeus' report in September, Petraeus says "Don't put this on me."
Three months into the job, General David Petraeus says it is difficult to predict how well the surge of troops in Baghdad will succeed before the full number of troops arrive and that he would not have a definitive answer about prospects for stability by September, when he is to report back to Congress.....

Come September, I don’t think we’ll have anything definitive in September (although) certainly we’ll have some indicators on the political side in Iraq.”

So, Petraeus is now engaging in Friedman units.

(I always had my doubts about this "See you in September" rhetoric.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Sorry, but this is the only picture I've seen of Giuliani visiting the VonSprecken's farm.

The things candidates do to be President.

Political bits - Giuliani, Wolfowitz, and Hagel, Oh my.

(WSJ) The Giuliani camp is trying to frame up how they can win without the social conservatives. (I'd love to see the polling that spawned this spin.) The social conservatives seem to be saying, "not so much."

(Personally, I don't see the divorces, even the messy one, as that politically objectionable, but the strangement from his own son is a whole different kettle of fish.)

ABCBlotter is reporting "Wolfowitz to Resign This Afternoon?" (Does it count as reporting if there's a question mark?)

The WSJblog seems to have a better (no question mark) report, "Wolfowitz is now negotiating over the conditions of his resignation..."

(TPM) Chuck Hagel states unequivically that "Alberto Gonzales should resign now."

Picture of the Day - 2

Children collect bullet shells following an attack in Sadr City slum of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, May 13, 2007. A U.S. military helicopter opened fire at a family sleeping on their rooftop, killing a mother and two children and injuring two other children, Iraqi police said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Another attack on the Green Zone

Really. We expect the Iraqis to form a "untiy government" with the Green Zone under near daily indirect fire.
Ten mortar rounds slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone on Wednesday, killing at least two Iraqis and wounding 10 people, officials said.

The explosions occurred shortly before 4 p.m., about the same time the heavily guarded enclave was hit on Tuesday.

We expect them to exert security and control over the country when there isn't even security in the most highly guarded Green Zone.

It's a deadly farce.

Attacks in Iraq down slightly in "the surge"

The NYTimes has a long source article, but the AP sums it up more briefly.
A U.S. government report released Tuesday showed that the recent U.S. troop increase and security crackdown has had little effect on the high number of attacks in the country.

The average number of attacks rose from 71 a day in January 2006 to a high of 176 per day in October, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office. In February, when the troop increase began to take effect, daily attacks dropped slightly to 164. Daily attacks averaged 157 in March and 149 in April, the report said.

The report, which cited the U.S.-led forces in Iraq for the figures, did not measure the numbers killed and wounded in the attacks.

Just eyeballing the graph, it looks like most of the small drop is in the number of attacks against US troops, but the rate of US killed and wounded is up over the last four months.

(Oh, and notice that's 157-149 attacks per day!!!!)


(AP) A chlorine bomb in Baghdad kills "at least" 32. (This number will go higher.)

Same article: (AP) Clashes in Nasiriyah between the Mahdi and the SCIRI supported local government forces kill 9 and wound 75.

(Reuters) Basra, the richest city in Iraq and gateway to the Gulf, could erupt into all-out war between rival Shi'ite groups seeking control of its vast oil wealth as British forces prepare to draw down.

And, a very interesting but vaguely sourced article claiming that new Centcom commander Adm. Fallon "vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM," even hinting he would resign if ordered to such an option.

Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."

(In "the other war" The NYTimes has a very interesting article on the corruption and failure of the poppy eradication program in Afghanistan.)

Picture of the Day - Fox distinguishes itself

Would any other network (I hesitate to say "news") put a candidate's religion in their introductory fact box? At the top?

(PS. How much did the set look like a gameshow?)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

War Czar

So, the best person they could draw into the position of war czar was a three star general for whom this is a promotion?

This terminally weak appointment is expected to walk in and order around Four Star Generals, Robert Gates and the Defense Department, Condi Rice and the State Department, and Cheney's office? This guy is what's been missing?

I guess if the job of war czar is simply to absorb blame, then the more powerless and ineffective, the better.

Picture of the Day - 3

56 soldiers have died so far this month in Iraq.

(Mary O'Haire, mother of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew O'Haire, receives the flag which draped her son's casket from a member of the U.S. Marine Honor Guard in Duxbury, Mass., Tuesday, May 15, 2007. O'Haire, 20, died May 9, 2007, in Iraq. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia))

Comey tells an ugly story

If you didn't see it, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey told a very ugly story today at the House Judiciary Committee, telling how Al Gonzales, then chief counsel to the President, and Andy Card went into John Ashcroft's intensive care room after pancreatic surgery in an effort to get him to sign forms overruling acting AG Comey's refusal to sign off on the NSA program.

We knew this had taken place, but in its description, it's a very ugly story.

Here's a transcript. If I can find the video, I'll put it up.

Articles: NYTimes, WaPo, TPM.

Justice at Guantanamo

(NYTimes) "The military system of determining whether detainees are properly held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, includes an unusual practice: If Pentagon officials disagree with the result of a hearing, they order a second one, or even a third, until they approve of the finding."

Picture of the Day

A wounded U.S. soldier is transferred by a medevac helicopter to the military hospital in Balad, Iraq, Tuesday, May 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Thomas Wagner)

Six Soldiers killed yesterday

Six soldiers killed yesterday. Tell me, did you see that headline?

The news media must consider six deaths, to quote George Bush, "an acceptable level of violence."

Iran takes a step forward on enrichment

The IAEA may be bureaucratic and slow, but the facts they assert are generally borne out, so, when they say Iran is on the verge of capability for large scale enrichment, I think we should take that as fact.

They still have not crossed over some of the hurdles, but this would mark a substantial step forward. Right now they're enriching to 5%, not the 90% for weapons grade material. They would need to "throw out the inspectors" to do weapons grade enrichment.

Perhaps as troubling in this article is the revelation that the Iranians are working off bomb design plans probably provided by Pakistani Abdul Kadeer Khan.

The policy positions are outlined, to bomb or not to bomb.....
Some Bush administration officials and some nuclear experts here at the I.A.E.A. and elsewhere suspect that the Iranians may not be driving for a weapon but the ability to have sufficient stockpiles of low-enriched uranium that they could produce a bomb within months of evicting inspectors, as North Korea did in 2003. That capacity alone could serve as a nuclear deterrent.

One senior European diplomat, who declined to speak for attribution, said that Washington would now have to confront the question of whether it wants to keep Iran from producing any nuclear material, or whether it wants to keep it from gaining the ability to build a weapon on short notice.....

But hawks in the administration say that the only position President Bush can take now, without appearing to back down, is to stick to the administration’s past argument that “not one centrifuge spins” in Iran. They argue for escalating sanctions and the threat that, if diplomacy fails, the United States could destroy the nuclear facilities.

And that policy of threat has worked so well so far....

(Also, Bush meets with hawkish "Christian" leaders and gets James Dobson to talk hostility towards Iran.

Funny how this radio message to the "faithful" just happens to come out coincident with the Iranian enrichment news........)

Pakistan gets worse, not better

I am not an expert on Pakistan, but the situation there seems to be rapidly degrading. (Clips from Reuters, two AP articles, and the NYTimes.)
A bomb killed 24 people in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, while in the capital opposition politicians walked out of parliament, forcing the house to postpone a debate on weekend violence in Karachi.....

On Monday, a nationwide opposition protest strike against the violence in Karachi virtually shut it and other major cities down. Karachi is Pakistan's biggest city and its business hub.

Opposition politicians walked out of parliament chanting "Go Musharraf Go," forcing the house to postpone a debate on weekend violence.

The bombing appears to be related to the Afghan/Pakistan tensions rather than Pakistan's other current internal strife.
Provincial police chief Sharif Virk said investigators had found the legs of the suspected suicide bomber, with a message taped to one leg that spies for America would meet such a fate.

The charges against Musharraf related to Chaudry get worse. Imagine the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court "held against his will" and "pressured to resign."
With Chaudhry himself absent, his lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan told the 13-judge bench Tuesday that the chief justice had been summoned to Musharraf's army office in Rawalpindi on March 9 and held there against his will for several hours.

Ahsan said Chaudhry had been pressured to resign — but didn't say by whom.

"He sought several times to leave. ... He was physically prevented from leaving," Ahsan said in the cavernous, marble-walled courtroom, where the public gallery was packed with reporters and lawyers.

Finally, there's this "mystery" killing that took place yesterday.
In another twist in the case, presiding judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday said the court had "taken cognizance" of the mysterious shooting death of a Supreme Court official, Syed Hammad Raza, at his Islamabad home before dawn on Monday.....

Police blamed robbers for the killing, but several relatives of Raza claimed it was a target killing as nothing had been stolen from the house.

From the NYTimes version,
Syed Hammad Raza, 37, an additional registrar of the Supreme Court, was killed under mysterious circumstances at 4:30 a.m. local time at his home, relatives and police officials said.

Islamabad police officials speculated that the killing was tied to a robbery. But relatives and lawyers called it politically motivated.

“It was targeted killing,” said Munir A. Malik, an aide to the chief justice. “He was shot near the temple.”.....

Mr. Raza “was asked to provide evidence against the justice, but he refused,” Mr. Malik said.

Again, I am not a Pakistan expert, but the situation appears to be spiralling out of control.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"The Suck" reaches into the Green Zone and the military is intentionally hiding it

I've often wondered about the farce that is the Green Zone. The Iraqis are expected to form and run a "unity government" while under fairly regular rocket and mortar fire. So, I can't say I'm too surprised at this.
U.S. Embassy employees in Iraq are growing increasingly angry over what they say are inadequate security precautions in the heavily fortified Green Zone....

But this is the kicker.
The officials also complained that important security precautions appeared to have been set aside during highly publicized official visits. During a March 31 visit from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a high-profile presidential candidate, the embassy lifted a requirement that bulletproof vests and helmets be worn at all times. When a rocket landed outside the U.S. Embassy while Vice President Dick Cheney and several reporters visited last week, no warning sirens were sounded.

Did you get that? Anytime someone wants to go to Baghdad for a little pro administration happy talk, the defenses are lowered to show a prettier picture. Lives are endangered so that we can have more positive photo ops.

Picture of the Day - 3

Let's not annoint St. Rudy just yet......

The questions about the saint of 9-11 are finally starting to come up. In the last few days, we've seen major articles examining the conduct of Giuliani Partners Consulting, Houston law firm Bracewell Giuliani, and Giuliani the post-9/11 "benevolent dictator" risking first responder lives on the pile.

He was even challenged on FoxNews Sunday about the decision to put the city's emergency response center in the WTC complex.

Scrutiny will not be Giuliani's friend. He is far more effective as a myth than a man, a twice divorced, not talking to his kids, wrong for his party on the issues, kind of man.

And we haven't even gotten into Bernie Kerik yet.....

(Former New York Mayor and Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is hooded by Associate Provost Isaac Metts, right, after he was awarded the honorary degrees of Doctor of Public Administration during the commencement ceremony at the Citadel Saturday, May 5, 2007, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain))

Bad news about the captured soldiers

The Al Qaeda front group who claims to have captured the three US soldiers is now saying that they were taken in response to the rape-killing of the 14 year old girl Abeer and her family last year.

If true, this is horrible news because of the horrific deaths dealt out to the two soldiers, PFC Tucker and PFC Menchaca, who were taken last July amid similar claims of revenge for this incident. The degradations and suffering inflicted on Tucker and Menchaca were so gruesome that to this day they have not been described in a major press outlet.

(There was an outstanding claim from July that 8 more US soldiers would be similarly tortured and killed to avenge Abeer and her family.)

Let's all hope that the Islamic State of Iraq is lying on this one.

Pakistan gets messier

The NYTimes has a good overview of the Karachi riots and the instability in Pakistan, but it's this article in the Independent that really caught my eye.
Pakistan's government authorised paramilitary troops to shoot anyone involved in serious violence yesterday as the crisis triggered by the dismissal of Pakistan's top judge took an ominous and bloody turn.....

The BBC's correspondent in Karachi said five of those killed on Sunday were kidnapped and executed. One of them was a worker from the pro-Musharraf MQM party. Two more were reportedly tortured and then shot in the head.

Just who is the President?

With Dick Cheney travelling on what is arguably the most important diplomatic trip of the year, should I be surprised that he doesn't check in? At all?
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said that Cheney had not talked with President Bush during his tour, but would give the president a complete fill upon his return. Cheney was flying home to Washington Monday.

After Cheney meets with the Iraqi principles and seemingly staves off the imminent collapse of the Maliki government, after a meeting with the Saudi King asking for a substantial shift in policy, after the US and Iran agree to direct talks for the first time....

Cheney doesn't even check in with the President?

(I did find it incredibly odd that the Iran talks were announced and discussed almost exclusively by the VP's staff yesterday.)

I guess Bush was busy.

Picture of the Day - 2

President Bush playfully directs an orchestra after making remarks during ceremonies marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in Jamestown, Va., Sunday, May 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

President George W. Bush waves alongside General Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Mel Martinez and Mike Duncan Chairman of the RNC at the end of a Republican National Committee Presidential Gala in Washington, May 10, 2007. The event raised $10.5 million for the Republican Party. REUTERS/Jason Reed

President Bush waves as he leaves after delivering the commencement address at St. Vincent College, a Catholic college in Latrobe, Friday, May 11, 2007.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

President Bush meets with archaeologists and other workers at the dig site of historic Jamestown in Virginia, May 13, 2007. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Rove was very concerned about voter fraud

At this point it's not really a surprise that the US Attorneys were fired because they didn't prosecute Karl Rove's voter fraud allegations, but check out just how detailed Rove was in this,
Last October, just weeks before the midterm elections, Rove's office sent a 26-page packet to Gonzales's office containing precinct-level voting data about Milwaukee.

The second page really gets into it, adding Nevada's Bogden.


(IraqSlogger/AFP) The Iraqi government bans photographers and reporters from bomb sites. (This is desperate.)

(AP) The DoD blocks soldier access to MySpace and YouTube claiming bandwidth problems. (The irony is that this is being done as the Army is planting positive videos on YouTube and using MySpace for recruiting. I guess they don't want a competing message.)

(AP) The Army clamps down on blogs.

(Reuters) Mitch McConnell finds Bush a way out. "I want to assure you, if they (the Iraqis) vote to ask us to leave, we'll be glad to comply with their request." (Now, all the Bush administration has to do is create enough ill will.....)

Yesterday, both the LATimes and Chicago Tribune reported on languishing benchmarks.

(Reuters) Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Sunday he would send more troops to volatile Diyala province.

And, in "The Other War,"
Three American and two Pakistani troops were wounded in firing on the border with Afghanistan on Monday, Pakistani officials said.

The firing came after Pakistani and American troops had ended a meeting on the border in Kurram tribal region. The meeting was aimed at finding ways to end border clashes which erupted on Sunday between Pakistani troops and Afghan soldiers and tribesmen.

"The firing came from the Afghan side. Three American and two Pakistani soldiers were wounded," a Pakistani official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.


The search for the captured soldiers continues

The search for the missing US soldiers continues,
On Sunday, U.S. troops surrounded Youssifiyah and told residents over loudspeakers to stay inside, residents said. They then methodically searched the houses, focusing on possible secret chambers under the floors where the soldiers might be hidden, residents said.

The soldiers marked each searched house with a white piece of cloth.

Soldiers also searched cars entering and leaving the town, writing "searched" on the side of each vehicle they had inspected. Several people were arrested, witnesses said.


Picture of the Day

"It is the honorable way, Sire....."

(President Bush looks at period weaponry during a walking tour of Historic Jamestowne in Jamestown, Va., Sunday, May 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson))

This isn't working. What else you got?

After another round of "the benchmarks are failing" in the LATimes,
It has not even reached parliament, but the oil law that U.S. officials call vital to ending Iraq's civil war is in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers, many of whom see it as a sloppy document rushed forward to satisfy Washington's clock.

Opposition ranges from vehement to measured, but two things are clear: The May deadline that the White House had been banking on is in doubt. And even if the law is passed, it fails to resolve key issues, including how to divide Iraq's oil revenue among its Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni regions, and how much foreign investment to allow. Those questions would be put off for future debates.

The problems of the oil bill bode poorly for the other so-called benchmarks that the Bush administration has been pressuring Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government to meet. Those include provincial elections, reversing a prohibition against former Baath Party members holding government and military positions and revision of Iraq's constitution.

Maybe take a look at the broad brush potential "Plan B's" offered by Warren Strobel of McClatchy.
"The four basic options facing this - and the next - administration are victory, stability, withdrawal and containment. Victory, as defined by President Bush, is not currently attainable."

Here is a look at some of the American options.....


Sunday, May 13, 2007

An adaptive enemy

I'm prone to agree with the Stryker proponents that the problem isn't so much the vehicle as the adaptive enemy and their better bombs.
A string of heavy losses from powerful roadside bombs has raised new questions about the vulnerability of the Stryker....

Since the Strykers went into action in violent Diyala province north of Baghdad two months ago, losses of the vehicles have been rising steadily, U.S. officials said.

A single infantry company in Diyala lost five Strykers this month in less than a week, according to soldiers familiar with the losses......

(I found this an interesting article all the way through.)

A general's revolt in September?

I don't know about this, or Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, but if true, this is a pretty big statement.

Picture of the Day - 2

Bailey Purganan, holding her daughter Isabel, 5-months-old, talks live to her husband, Sgt. Nathan Purganan, in Camp Fallujah, Iraq, via an AT&T Freedom Call for a Mother's Day greeting, Thursday, May 10, 2007, in Los Angeles. Family members of soldiers serving on active duty were able to make real-time visual contact with their loved ones for the first time in months. Purganan, who was with his wife for Isabel's birth, has not seen the baby since she was 2 months old. (AP Photo/AT&T, Susan Goldman)

"Hard Times" for the Republicans

A couple of days ago, I posted on the rather desperate buildup to the Republican's biggest fundraiser of the year, the President's Dinner.

Well, as a comparison, take a look at the falling numbers from another major presidential fundraiser.
An even stronger measure of Mr Bush’s declining sway within his own party came on Thursday night when he addressed his party’s official convention at a gala fund-raising evening in Washington. .....

Mr Bush managed to raise $10.5m for his party at the event compared to $17m last year and $38.5m the year before. For the first time in many years both the Democratic presidential field and the Democratic congressional leadership are out-fundraising their Republican opponents by about 50 per cent.

So, today's question is: How does the Republican machine run without a big money advantage? Will we see a proliferation of 527 groups funded by the richest, or will they sit it out, too?

The WaPo wades into Giuliani Partners

The WaPo casts a rather harsh (front page) light on Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm. It runs through the questionable clients and shady business partners.
On Dec. 7, 2001, nearly three months after the terrorist attack that had made him a national hero and a little over three weeks before he would leave office, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani took the first official step toward making himself rich.

Mark this article as the official beginning of the reexamination of "Rudy the terror fighter."

He's not going to come out of this clean.


(AP) The Iraqi Parliament passes a resolution objecting to the Adhamiyah wall, but what really caught me was the evnt right after,
The house was about to vote on another resolution, this time to ban American forces from Baghdad, when officials announced the house no longer had a quorum.

(AP) Maj. Gen. Mixon's public plea for more troops worked, "With violence on the rise, Caldwell also announced that an additional 3,000 forces have been sent to Diyala province, scene of heavy fighting."

(AP) The US continues to search for the 3 seized soldiers.

Same article, Public executions in Baquba.
The eight gunmen in two cars drove into the bustling market in central Baqouba about 8:30 a.m., opened a trunk, pulled out one handcuffed man and repeatedly shot him in the head, the police and witnesses said on condition of anonymity out of concern for their own security.

The gunmen then drove to a nearby cinema, pulled the other man out of the trunk and publicly killed him, police said.

Three other civilians also were killed execution-style in a market in the city center, police said.

(AP) A second attack in Irbil targeting the PUK kills at least 50.

(NYTimes) A look at poor PTSD treatment at Fort Carson.

And, in "the other war," a major Taliban figure was killed, and Afghani and Pakistani forces traded fire along their border with 3 schoolchildren dead.

Later: (AP) Maliki offers an "agreement" that Sunnis will have more control of Iraqi forces operating in Sunni areas. (According to this article, this staves off the Sunni walkout.)

Cheney's middle east tour

Cheney met with Saudi King Abdullah yesterday. Nothing was announced (or leaked) and the photo op was intentionally empty of message.

However, today it comes out that the US has requested contact with Iran at the ambassadorial level in Baghdad.

This is certainly the right move, but after all the hardline "no talks" posturing, this now looks like a climbdown leaving the US position weaker.

(They could've used the ISG for political cover and done the same thing in a stronger position 6 months ago.)

Also, is this a dig by King Abdullah?
Neither Cheney nor the Saudi king spoke to reporters after their talks, but they did pose for several photo opportunities and made small talk, with the ruler asking after former US president George Bush.

Is it odd that this didn't come up during the greetings or at the meeting, but instead the Saudi king waited until they were in front of the reporters and cameras to inquire about Bush Sr?

The Bush he likes......?

Picture of the Day

Pfc. Thomas Ponce, 19, from Maui, Hawaii is wheeled to a waiting helicopter on his way to Germany for surgery, at the Ibn Sina Hospital in the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq a day after he was injured in a rocket attack on his base in Sadr City, Sunday, May 6 2007. Since the U.S. security crackdown in Baghdad, medics are seeing an increase in the number and severity of wounded American soldiers. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)