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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cheney did it

It took the WaPo 6 1/2 years to produce this series on the evil that is Dick Cheney, and the corruption on the process he has been.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Click to make them bigger)

Complaints about Petraeus

While I'm clipping odd little bits form the big Iraq articles,
Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders’ flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq.

True or not, it does echo the longer standing criticism that Petraeus is a self aggrandizer and attention seeker.

I just wanted to note that for all the "Golden Boy" talk around Washington and in the press, the officer corps isn't as enamored, and you'll see that bubble up from time to time.

Alternate Iraq reports

A very interesting NYTimes article saying that elements within the administration are seeking to obtain alternate September reports to the one to be supplied by Petraeus.

My first instinct is that they are trying to muddy the waters so that there can be no definitive assessment, but the interesting bit comes in regards the expectations from Petraeus.
Little doubt remains that General Petraeus will argue for continuing the troop increase. His deputy, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, told reporters on Friday that Iraqi forces were “getting better,” “staying and fighting,” “taking casualties” and adding to their numbers....

Several officials around Mr. Bush, none of whom would speak on the record about internal White House deliberations, said they wanted to make sure the president was given dissenting viewpoints as he made decisions that would determine whether troop withdrawals began in his last year in office.

In other words, it is fully expected that Petraeus will say anything to keep this boondoggle going, and some people in the White House are so concerned that Bush will be conned by him that they're trying to create some accurate reports in the stream. Wow.

Picture of the Day

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates hugs the mother of U.S. Army Pfc. Travis Sigmon at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, June 13, 2007. Minutes before, Gates presented her son with a Purple Heart medal for wounds received in action in Baquba, Iraq, June 6, 2007. (Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)

Dying for nothing

From an interesting WaPo frontpager about renewed criticism of the force size in Iraq.
A senior commander in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that U.S. plans do not call for holding cleared areas. Rather he said, the "Battle of the Baghdad Belts," as some in the military call the new offensive, is a series of raids designed to reduce attacks on the capital and thus support the main effort, which is to improve the security of Baghdad's population.

I understand that leaving Iraqi forces in place for "the hold" is largely a fool's errand anyhow, but it least it carries the possibility of stabilizing areas.

If this statement is to be believed, we're asking US soldiers to clear a city house by house, block by block, in tough urban combat, only to re-cede that ground back to the very Sunnis we're fighting. (because it will take them so long to find a new house with a garage in which to put together car bombs.)

Nobody talks about the painted schools anymore

In one of those intangible measures of a degrading Iraq, I keep thinking to Peter Pace's comment on Thursday,
"If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?" said Pace, emphasizing that the sentiment of the Iraqi people is a much better measurement than the number of attacks. "So it's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made, in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward."

What strikes me this morning is they're no longer even pointing to "painted schools" as a sign of success, they're asking us to believe in the possibility of "painted hearts" instead.

Really, what signs of progress are the war proponents left holding up at this point? The possibility that maybe one of the benchmarks (the oil law) might be met, maybe, by the end of the year?

No political reconciliation, no rebuilding, no growing Iraqi Army...

If you want a barometer of where we are, think about the "progress" we're being told to see.

Terrorist crossing point?

In yet another article pointing out that Iraq is the new expert training ground for terrorism,
Intelligence sources tell CBS News that under pressure from the United States, the route in through Syria is now largely closed. In some cases jihadists are using European airports with direct flights to northern Iraq.

So, if they're not coming across from Syria, that pretty much leaves Turkey (with the Turks and PKK on the border?) or our allies Jordan or Saudi as the crossing point.

Also, (Reuters) "The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to prohibit any aid to Saudi Arabia as lawmakers accused the close ally of religious intolerance and bankrolling terrorist organizations."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Giuliani employs a priest who covered up child molestation?

I don't know if the allegations are true, but after Giuliani's loyalty to Bernie Kerik after he knew Bernie was mobbed up, you gotta wonder.

(After we saw what it really takes to get thrown out of the Catholic church, can you really doubt there's mud on this guy?)

Later: So, this week the "Rudy abandons the ISG" story comes out, and now this reemerges? (RBE points that out in comments.)

What a week for anti-Giuliani oppo research. Welcome to the race Fred Thompson.

Picture of the Day - 3

A supporter of presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attends a meeting of Cuban-Americans supporters at a restaurant, whilst Giuliani is campaigning, in Hialeah, Florida June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Correction and apology

Yesterday, I made the comment that Bush polling at 26% approval in the Newsweek poll was probably an outlier. Reality Based Educator chimed back with this,
26%/65% in Newsweek
29%/66% in WSJ/NBC News
28%//65% in Quinnipiac
29%/61% in Pew

True, Gallup, Fox, Ap-Ipsos and LA Times/Bloomberg have Bush between 32%-34% approval, but Newsweek's poll isn't that much of an outlier.

Probably should also add the latest ARG 27%/67%.

If you dig into some of these, the erosion appears to be in Republican support (from immigration?,) but I think the case can be solidly made that Bush is now dancing with the 20's.

(Maybe there's a reason that Pres. Bush will need an unprecedented 103 secret service members to protect him after he leaves office.)

Christopher Hill visits N. Korea

But I thought we didn't believe in bilateral talks.

Picture of the Day - 2

These two pictures of Bush and Mitch McConnell are not contemporaneous, the first being taken June 12, the second Oct 20, 2006, but they came up together on a search, and it made me laugh.

Military officials say the darnedest things - Part II

One more. General Petraeus in an interview with the British Times.
“There is a period of omnipotence. There was a period in the beginning when there was a ‘golden hour’. Inevitably, it does not matter how much you were viewed as a liberator, over time you will be seen as an occupier. The interesting dynamic here is that we have been here long enough to become liberators again for certain sectors of the population, those that are affected by extremism.”

Are they going to shower us with flowers and sweets this time? Will they name a square after George Bush?


(Reuters) Iraqi Kurds are beginning to abandon their homes in the face of Turkish artillery across the border.

(Reuters) "Arrowhead Ripper" is expected to last 45-60 days (making it finish before the September report.)

(LATimes) Hundreds of billions in armored vehicles, and the new strategy is to get out and walk to avoid IED's.

(Iraqslogger) Maliki has formed a "vetting committee" to review the Sunni groups the US is arming.

Military officials say the darnedest things

Even in Vietnam they could rely on bodycounts.
Despite military reports to Congress that use numbers of attacks and overall levels of violence as an important gauge of Iraq's security status, Gates and Pace told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that violence is not a useful measure of progress. Setting the stage for mandatory reports to Congress in September, both officials said violence could go up in the summer months as troops try to give the Iraqi government time to set the country on the right track.....

"If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?" said Pace, emphasizing that the sentiment of the Iraqi people is a much better measurement than the number of attacks. "So it's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made, in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward."

Maybe even worse,
More than three-quarters of the senior al-Qaida leaders holed up in Baqouba escaped as American soldiers launched an offensive earlier this week, the U.S. ground forces commander said on Thursday.

During a one day trip to the battlefield where about 10,000 U.S. troops are fighting to oust suspected al-Qaida militants, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said: "We believe 80 percent of the upper level (al-Qaida) leaders fled, but we'll find them."

"We'll find them." The whole difference in this operation was supposed to be the US effort to block those escape routes, and now we find out that it didn't work, but "we'll find them."

And, Oh, how I long for the tactical subtlety of "whack-a-mole."
"It's like jelly in a sandwich — it squirts when you squeeze it," said Maj. Robbie Parke, spokesman for the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "We're fooling ourselves if we think we can hold them in."

This isn't about perception or presentation. It's about reality.

Picture of the Day

Richard and Laurie Baylis, of Holtsville, N.Y., carry the U.S. flag from their son Matthew's casket following his funeral, Saturday, June 9, 2007 at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, N.Y. Baylis died May, 31, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq of wounds suffered on May, 30, 2007 when his patrol encountered enemy small arms fire. (AP Photo/ Edouard H.R. Gluck )

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reviving the ISG

Chris Shays pushed through an amendment designed to revive the Iraq Study Group to produce a competing September report. It sounds unlikely, but at 355 to 69, it seems to have very strong support.

Will it be killed in the Senate? Can it be done quick enough to produce a report by September?

As it seems to assume administration deception, are House Republicans looking to use this as a way out?

Picture of the Day - 3

Why am I getting a Homer Simpson flash? D'oh!

President George W. Bush takes the seat of a reactor operator as he tours the control room at Brown's Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Alabama June 21, 2007. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Was Guantanamo worth it?

With only one clear conviction thus far (Australian David Hicks who took the equivalent of a plea agreement) and courts throwing out key elements of the administration's justifications and policy at Guantanamo (not to mention Congressional moves,) the Bush administration is now magnanimously discussing closing it down.
The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The AP has learned.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday.

Although this is definitely a right step, assuming it comes off, we should not forget the broader question, "Was Guantanamo worth it?" What did we gain(?) vs. what did it cost us?

(I'd be very curious to know the genesis of this story. Obviously somebody on the "shut it down" side leaked this in an effort to isolate Cheney and the DoJ. Should be a rough meeting.)

And, what do you do with Khaled Sheik Mohammed and some of the other "high value" detainees that were fairly inarguably tortured? Do you move them to US military courts? US criminal courts? Haven't you made them untriable?

Also, Please don't miss one of the key bits at the bottom. The "strong women" around Bush are all pushing for the closure.
Officials say that Bush, who also has said he wants to close the facility as soon as possible, is keenly aware of its shortcomings.

His wife, Laura, and mother, Barbara, along with Rice and longtime adviser Karen Hughes, head of the public diplomacy office at the State Department, have told him that Guantanamo is a blot on the U.S. record abroad, particularly in the Muslim world and among European allies.

Update: Maybe I got the leaker's motivation backwards. Within the White House denial it sounds like the exposure has led to the cancellation of the meeting, so maybe the leak was designed to scupper the decision.

Political bits II

(Newsweek) Bush is down to a mindblowing 26% approval rating. (Still have to cast this as an outlier, but still.... 26%. Down to 60% approval among Republicans.)

(WaPo-In the Loop) Mike Huckabee outlines how women should dress. A burqa's too far, but a miniskirt calls attention "to private parts of their body." "Hair, arms, shoulders, legs are an appropriate display of who they are." (How disturbing is that?)

(ThinkProgress) The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena the legal opinions within the White House used to allow the NSA warrantless wiretapping program(s). Of note, the vote was 13-3.

"Not everything we've done has been illegal." - Coming clean on detainee treatment

It's all collapsing, and and the ultimate "buck" stops on one desk. That's the problem with casting yourself as "the decider."
"In private, Bush administration sub-Cabinet officials who have been instrumental in formulating and sustaining the legal "war paradigm" acknowledge that their efforts to create a system for detainees separate from due process, criminal justice and law enforcement have failed.

One of the key framers of the war paradigm (in which the president in his wartime capacity as commander in chief makes and enforces laws as he sees fit, overriding the constitutional system of checks and balances), who a year ago was arguing vehemently for pushing its boundaries, confesses that he has abandoned his belief in the whole doctrine, though he refuses to say so publicly.....

Yet another Bush legal official, even now at the commanding heights of power, admits that the administration's policies are largely discredited. In its defense, he says without a hint of irony or sarcasm, "Not everything we've done has been illegal." He adds, "Not everything has been ultra vires" -- a legal term referring to actions beyond the law.

Political bits

(WaPo) Bradley Schlozman's partisan political operations at the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department reaches the front page. (He has been a bad, bad boy.)

(AP) Giuliani offers his defense on not showing up for the Iraq Study Group Meetings. The only problem is the defense doesn't hold water. Expect this to haunt him for awhile.

(Politicalwire) Second quarter fundraising projections. (Obama by a ton.)

(Politico) Sherrod Brown makes the rare admission that his vote on military trials was "a bad vote."

Picture of the Day - 2

A grieving brother of Mahir Mohammed Ali, Iraqi body building champion, is restrained during his funeral in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City Thursday, June 21, 2007. Ali was killed in Tuesday's bombing of the Khulani mosque in central Baghdad. 87 people were killed and 214 were wounded in the bombing. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Arrowhead Ripper

We're beginning to get a picture of the offensive in Diyala. The idea seems to be to conduct the same types of clearing operations previously used in Anbar with the addition of small "blocking forces" along escape routes.

Where I would put the greatest question on the strategy, "The Iraqi forces will have to hold areas once they are cleared."

Also in Iraq, (AP) A US airstrike in the Diyala offensive "missed" its target and destroyed the local headquarters of the 1920's brigade, one of the Sunni isurgent groups now working with the Americans.

(Reuters) More mortar fire on the Green Zone.

(Reuters) "
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters his government would authorize a military cross-border operation into northern Iraq to crack down on Kurdish PKK rebels if required."

Shiite politics unravelling Iraq

The WaPo has a pretty big story outlining some of the growing fractures between the major Shia groups and the Iraqi government. The headlining revelation is that the SIIC Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi tendered his resignation last week in the wake of the Askariyah mosque bombing.

Abdul Mahdi is the top SIIC politician who has been rumored to be the PM candidate in many of the plots, both legitimate and coup, designed to remove Maliki as PM.

Combining this with the Mahdi withdrawal from the government, and now from the parliament, there can be no argument that Maliki holds any significant support from within the Shia bloc.

The Maliki government is effectively over. Without support from at least one of the major Shia blocs, there will be no legislation (no benchmarks) passed at all.

Now the struggle for power will shift away from the PM's office to intraShia politics and the increasingly violent street battles between the Mahdi, Badr, and the infiltrated security forces in Nasiriyah, Amarah, and Basra.

This also marks a declining influence of top Shia cleric al Sistani.

Picture of the Day


(President Bush hugs stem cell patient Kaitlyne McNamara vetoing a bill expanding funding for embryonic stem cell research, June 20, 2007. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque))

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The 5 Iranians will be held until October

Like I buy this story,
The United States will not release five Iranians detained in a U.S. military raid in northern Iraq until at least October..... The delay is as much due to a miscommunication mistake within the U.S. government as a policy decision, they said.....

They were originally due for review six months after their detention -- or by mid-July. But unbeknownst to the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq, the Multinational Force headquarters reviewed their status in April, which means they are not eligible for another review until October, U.S. officials said. Neither Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, nor Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker was aware that a review had taken place until last week, they noted.

Right, because if the Bush administration is about anything, it's about being sticklers on the technicalities on the rules of detention.

These prisoners are a bartering chip and they are being used to embarrass the Iranian regime. They weren't even the targets of the initial raid.

Another US attack in Pakistan

I'm just amazed that US attacks on camps inside Pakistan get so little mention.
What appears to have been a missile attack killed more than 20 people in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan close to the Afghan border on Tuesday, Pakistani security officials said.

And, of course, the obligatory initial denial that the US is behind the attack.

Later: William Arkin argues that this may be a "secret" new Spec ops weapons system that involves ground missiles guided by drones.

Phrase watch

I'm starting to see the term "anti-Americanism" pop up more and more from the right side. I'm not really sure of the intended or unintended linguistic associations, but I would guess that it's attractive because it implies a binary opposition to all of America, rather than a more compex posture involving a dispute with this government and its policies.

Whereas the sentiments embedded in the phrases anti-globalization, anti-neoliberal or anti-militarist or anti-interventionist are far more specific and imply an author for that negative sentiment and result,"anti-Americanism" is a strangely inclusive phrase implying a collective responsibility.

For obvious reasons, it is better for the Republicans to frame an authorless foreign policy disaster.

I think that's why "they hate us for our freedom."

(Just a new little buzzphrase to watch as it pops around on the right. It seems tailor made for Giuliani and Thompson.)

Picture of the Day

From a contractor's blog decribing the aftermath of an attack: Then we see it. Just like I have seen so many times before. Throngs of people pressed against the gate of an understaffed and overwhelmed hospital. We pull up. I radio to be on the watch for “JUBA” (slang for snipers) and secondary attacks that have accompanied these scenes too many times in the past.

The Iraqi police wave us through the gates and people try and rush the gates like something out of those grainy techno-colored films of Operation Eagles Talon at the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam. Police fighting them back and us driving through this like foreign warships navigating a river of people.

Once inside the hospital it was more of the same, except outside our vehicles the only things stronger than the smell of burnt clothes, flesh and death were the screams and ghastly wailing of old women. Slapping their sun-beaten faces. Tears rarely present in their dark eyes.

(Photo: AFP-Joseph Barrak)

What's Bandar been up to?

There're big questions about the big money flushing around Prince Bandar in relation to the BAE thing, but I'm far more curious as to the operational side of it.
His reason for the low profile, according to diplomats, was that he was already in trouble with his boss, King Abdullah, having delivered diplomatic messages to the US that were not exactly in line with the monarch's wishes.

What does that mean? I'm highly suspicious about all of this.

Again, let's step back a couple days,
They (Cheney, Abrams, et al) have, however, suffered a recent setback in what we have described as their “Sunni strategy” to build support from the US’ conservative Sunni Arab allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States) for a belligerent approach to Iran. This strategy was based on the Sunni fear of an ascendant Iran and of an Iraq falling into the Iranian sphere as another Shia major oil producer. Abrams worked closely with Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, the Saudi National Security Adviser, to push this plan forward. We hear that this has now been shelved at the insistence, we are told, of Saudi King Abdullah. The latter has distanced himself from Bandar who is spending much of his time outside Saudi Arabia at his homes in London and the US.

There's something going on here that I'm not seeing. There's $1 billion that we know about in virtually untraceable money channeled through BAE to Bandar up to 2004. Bandar is doing things in collusion with Iran contra figure Elliot Abrams and Dick Cheney. His current king disapproves of his actions, and Bandar is delivering messages "not exactly in line with the monarch's wishes."

Is that obliquely saying that Bandar is working outside his country's interest? Did all that money end up with Bandar, and if not, where, and to what persons or groups did it go?

A little reminder of history,
He proved of enormous value to the US when he channelled Saudi petrodollars into American-sponsored covert operations, including funding Nicaragua's Contras and the Arab fighters who battled the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (and eventually created the monster of al-Qaeda).

I don't know, but something tells me, something is up. (And it sounds like Bandar is going anywhere but Saudi Arabia right now.)


(AP) "Militants blew up three Sunni mosques south of Baghdad on Wednesday."

(AP) The U.S. military acknowledged ``an increasing pattern of attacks'' against the Green Zone....Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, declined to provide details on the number of attacks against the Green Zone,.... but said they were increasing."

(AP) A War on Rewind. A look at strategies and surges past, similarities to today, and a lack of results.

(Wired) A Frontline clip with Jack Keane saying there was "never a mission" to defeat an insurgency speaking of his earlier days as active duty Army.
"We never even considered an insurgency as a reasonable option. We took down the regime, and we thought what we had to do then was occupy then country, stabilize it, and in the mater of a few months we could reduce the force," says Keane, the former Army Vice Chief of Staff and intellectual co-author of the current troop "surge."

(WaPo) A substantial number of diplomats are developing PTSD serving in Iraq leading to questions about their preparation and treatment on return.

(Oh, and I'm holding comment on the ongoing Diyala operation until we get a better sense of what's really playing out. Although it is interesting that in the southern portion of this offensive that the US is conducting major operations deep in what used to be considered British domain.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Picture of the Day - 4

Senator Hillary Clinton smiles when asked a question from moderator TV personality Chris Matthews at the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees Democratic Presidential Forum in Washington, June 19, 2007. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Bloomberg abandons the GOP

(AP) "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday switched his party status from Republican to unaffiliated, a stunning move certain to be seen as a prelude to an independent presidential bid that would upend the 2008 race."

Iraq forever - Military looks at extending deployments again

For a group of people who love to parade around their "support" for the troops, these guys really don't give a crap about what happens to our soldiers.
The Army is considering whether it will have to extend the combat tours of troops in Iraq if President Bush opts to maintain the recent buildup of forces through spring 2008.

This is just contingency planning, but coming on this morning's story about the military disregarding it's own psych recommendations for deployments, this just has disaster written all over it.

There's inadequate to no treatment for soldiers returning with PTSD and other mental wounds, but the current leadership is ignoring their own military experts' advice on how to limit these injuries.

The homeless Vietnam vets didn't come from nowhere.

(Oh, and if you think this administration will not try to continue "the surge" making this contingency a reality, I have a rapidly decreasing number of bridges across the Tigris to sell you.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Dear Republicans, after reading all the paeans to Romney's "sculpted features" and "shoulders you can land an F-16 on," I would offer this.

He will not be as attractive a candidate when you get a closer look.

Republican presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is interviewed by The Associated Press in Washington, Thursday, June 7, 2007.

Political bits

(Newsday) Giuliani walked out on his position on the Iraq Study Group to make speeches for big cash. He kept not showing up for what most would've considered a fairly important duty to country. (ThinkProgress has excerpts.)

(NYPost) Meanwhile, Bernie Kerik cries over the lost relationship, "I accept the distance created by Giuliani. I understand it, but inside, it's killing me... It's like dying a slow death, watching him have to answer for my mistakes."

(Kerik is conveniently (for the Giuliani campaign) out of the country building a nuclear bunker in Jordan.)

(Politico) Roger Simon tears into Romney for the pardon not given, and the pardon he urges for Libby. "And Romney's true standard seems to be: No pardons for nobodies. Somebodies can catch a break." (What, the man-crush is over?)

And, Sweet Jesus, are you kidding me? Anton Scalia, at a legal conference in Ottawa.
Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

Later: This is interesting. Take a minute to look at this graph. Notably, the top three Republican candidates have all appeared on FoxNews more than the other two networks combined, and the Dems haven't appeared on FoxNews at all.

And, the Giuliani campaign doesn't like the ISG story at all.

Picture of the Day - 2

Lt. General Raymond Odierno, seen here in Mosul in April 2007. (AFP/Mauricio Lima)

"So you have to be mentally and physically tough." - Lt. Gen. Odierno

After being directly warned in the recent major MHAT-IV (Mental Health Advisory Report) that US soldiers face serious PTSD and combat stress issues with the current deployments and combat schedules,
U.S. commanders in Iraq are rejecting a recommendation by Army mental health experts that troops receive a one-month break for every three months in a combat zone, despite unprecedented levels of continuous fighting and worsening risks of mental stress.

Instead, commanders are trying to give troops two to three days inside heavily fortified bases after about eight days in the field, said Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief aide to the ground forces commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno.

"We would never get the job done of securing (of Baghdad) if we went out for three months and came back" for one, Anderson said.....

"Even in World War II and other times … we would pull forces off the line and bring them back on. Here we don't do that," Odierno said. "They (U.S. troops) are out there consistently every single day. So you have to be mentally and physically tough."

Because, you see, those who get PTSD just aren't "mentally and physically tough."

To say I'm filled with rage is an understatement.

Especially after reading this on Saturday,
U.S. troops returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer "daunting and growing" psychological problems -- with nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half of the National Guard members reporting symptoms -- but the military's cadre of mental-health workers is "woefully inadequate" to meet their needs, a Pentagon task force reported yesterday.

(The WaPo series focusing on Walter Reed and broader soldier care has been covering mental health issues this week (1, 2.)


(AP) A major bombing of the Shia Khillani mosque in Sinak, Baghdad kills at least 75 and wounds at least 200.

(NYTimes) The US has launched a fairly major offensive in Diyala (10,000 troops) in an effort to retake the region from Al Qaeda and Sunni radicals. (I can't find the link, but in one of the articles there was mention that the 1920's Sunni insurgent group was fighting alongside the US.)

(AP) The British have also been conducting house to house searches in Amarrah.

(WaPo) "He's panicking." Ryan Crocker screams about his lack of State Dept. staff, experience, and resources in Iraq. "Simply put, we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the Department's best people," Crocker said in the memo.

(AP) Key Republican Senator John Warner says he will "publicly more fully discuss (his) views" after his visit to Iraq in August. (Warner will not go to the floor and lambaste the war, but even subtle shifts from Warner have tectonic effects within the Republican Senate.)

(AFP) "Iraq has overtaken Afghanistan as an ideal training ground for Jihadists to export their battle across and beyond the Middle East, experts say."

(IRIN) A new round of ethnic cleansing in Kadhamiya and Shuala neighborhoods in Baghdad.

And, this very weird Newsweek article describing Bush's sympathetic and friendly relationship with Maliki.

Picture of the Day

U.S. Army Sgt. Johnson sits on his hospital bed with his 3-month-old son at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii, June 5, 2007, as he shows Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace the injuries he sustained while on patrol in Iraq. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Turks target Barzani

The Turks raise the stakes against the Kurdish autonomous government in Iraq,
Turkish state prosecutors opened an investigation on Monday into Masoud Barzani, head of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, whom Ankara suspects of supporting Turkish Kurdish rebels.

The key to all this is that they are seeking "the seizure of any assets, including property and bank accounts, that Barzani may own in Turkey."

This time they're serious

From the press conference today,

Q During the video teleconference (with Maliki, Talabani, and VP's) did the President very directly express his impatience about the lack of political movement?

MR. SNOW: No, what he did is he once again reaffirmed the importance of political movement, but it's something that they've shared -- one of the things that is happening is that this presidential council is becoming, as they expressed, more effective and coherent as an organization, so that you have not only much closer personal, but professional dealings between the foreign members -- at one point calling themselves the gang of four.

So I think it's -- the President was impressed and reassured by the sense of seriousness that he heard in the meeting.


Picture of the Day - 3

Juana Nico Jaurigue is consoled by family during the internment for her son Spc. Michael James Jaurigue at Forest Park East Cemetery in Texas City, Texas, Friday, June 8, 2007. Jaurigue, 20, of Texas City, was one of three Fort Bragg, N.C., soldiers who died May 26 in an explosion in Salahuddin province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran)

Incompetence breeds control - Cheney and Pakistan

Are we really surprised by this?
Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I'm told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney's aides, rather than taken to the State Department.

I think the more notable portion of this article is its indication that the people currently tasked with Pakistan have very little experience in the region.
The problem is exacerbated by a dramatic drop-off in U.S. expertise on Pakistan. Retired American officials say that, for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State's policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney's office.

It's not like Pakistan is a big deal or anything. It's just the safe haven for Al Qaeda.

(By the way, placement of incompetence is sometimes a tactic. People in positions over their heads are far more malleable to pressure and interference on their policy and decisions.

As a different example, would a John Ashcroft have allowed the White House to walk all over his Justice Department?)

Outlining the RNC emails

Still fuzzy headed, so go read about the RNC emails here.

(You know, if they really believed these emails would never be subject to oversight, there could be all kinds of things in them. They could be the Nixon tapes.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Again, that's not his daughter. That's his wife. (USAToday)

(Credit EPM with the find.)

Arming the Sunnis - trying to repeat past success in different circumstances

Let's start with this criticism of the current movement to arm certain insurgent Sunni groups in Baghdad to fight Al Qaeda.
But others contend the program has long-term repercussions that can only be guessed at now. By giving weapons and training to Sunnis in Anbar and Baghdad who've been previously associated with Sunni insurgent groups, the program endorses unofficial armed groups over official Iraqi forces as guarantors of Iraqi security, military officers who oppose the program say.

Those officers also say it abandons the long-stated U.S. goal of disarming militias and reinforces the idea that U.S.-trained Iraqi forces cannot control their country.

At the Pentagon, at least six officers who served in Iraq shook their heads when asked about the idea of arming the Sunnis. They said they had little faith in a Sunni community that was aggressively killing their comrades just months ago.

"Why did we spend all that capital disarming them last year?" asked one military officer who served in Iraq last year under former Iraq commander Gen. George Casey. "As a military man, I cannot fathom the logic of putting more weapons out there." The officer declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.

This effort to arm the Sunnis to fight Al Qaeda is based upon a somewhat similar, somewhat successful effort previously used in Anbar, however, the situation within Baghdad is notably different.

In the fighting in Anbar, the Sunni efforts were led by recognized, historical tribal and governmental leaders. The tension between foreign led Al Qaeda and nationalist Sunnis was really about longer term political control and leadership of Sunni lands. The Sunni groups there were fighting to reestablish traditional (family) control of local government.

In Baghdad, the situation is far more complex. Although the Sunni groups being armed and supported do have neighborhood ties, they don't have that longer tie to local power as they are largely composed of former Baathists. Their fight is not simply for a return of power within their land like in Anbar, but instead, it's a strategic step within a larger struggle against Shia domination.

Within Anbar, there is also not the complication of Shia militias, neighborhood "cleansing," and the larger "hot" elements of the civil war.

My point is that it's not the parallel that it's being painted.

(I'm not thinking very clearly this morning, so I can't tell if this makes sense or is muddled nonsense. If it is garbage, I'm sorry. Tune back in later.)

The Problem of Counterinsurgency.

Will someone tell me how this strategy is supposed to convert an insurgency? Every step in creates more anti-US sentiment.

From an article describing a US raid on an alleged Mahdi weapons smuggling ring around Amarah,
Latif al-Tamimi, head of the security committee on Maysan's provincial council, said 16 people including two women and a child had been killed and 45 wounded in the pre-dawn raids. He said 11 were killed in Majjar al-Kabir and five in Amara.

Tamini called the operation a "catastrophe," accusing troops of firing randomly. Tamini said the Iraqi government should explain why the raids were carried out.

So, in this operation, the US successfully broke up one link of a weapons smuggling ring, but, in that operation, they also further enraged the people in Maysan. ((Reuters) "The suspects were killed by fire from aircraft, it said.")

The same problem is faced in Afghanistan,
In an operation backed by Afghan troops, jets on Sunday targeted a compound that also contained a mosque and a madrassa, or Islamic school, in the Zarghun Shah district of Paktika province. Early reports indicated seven children at the madrassa and "several militants" were killed, and two militants detained, the statement said.

Or maybe this one,
Despite the Taliban's quick claim of responsibility for the car bomb attack on a U.S. convoy that left four Afghan civilians dead, people on the street became enraged only after American bullets landed in the crowd, killing one and wounding two. Some 50 to 100 people chanted, "Death to America."

No, I don't have an answer. I'm just frustrated like everyone else.

Picture of the Day

General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq (L), eats a pastry he bought on a walking tour of the Mutanabi Street bookmarket June 14, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

And there it is.....

We all knew this was coming,
Conditions in Iraq will not improve sufficiently by September to justify a drawdown of U.S. military forces, the top commander in Iraq said yesterday.

This article hits two points I've been making for awhile. 1) The September report will not offer the clear answers that either side seeks. There will be the same "treading water" balance that has kept us in this quagmire thus far.

And, 2) No matter what the report, the answer offered will be to continue "the surge."

Picture of the Day - 2

Basra, IRAQ: Iraqi children play amid the rubble of a Sunni mosque following an attack in the mainly Shiite city of Basra 16 June 2007. Bombers attacked today a Sunni mosque in Basra, defying a curfew imposed on Iraq's second city (AFP/Getty Images)

Quote of the Day

From a pretty good article in the WaPo outlining the multiplying, complex and increasingly interconnected, diplomatic problems the US faces in the middle east.
The United States finds itself active in more Middle East theaters than ever but with less ability to influence events, said Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group. "It is very much now manipulated in places that it once thought it could manipulate."

Maliki struggles and sinks

Alot of this AP story is subjective, but it offers a pretty broad sense of the political threats to the Maliki government.
U.S. officials here must issue progress reports to Congress next month and again in September, and al-Maliki finally may have run up against an implied, if not stated, deadline.

But with parliament likely to take a summer break in August, al-Maliki has only six weeks left to push through the legislation — not an easy task given the slow pace of work and unresolved differences over the draft laws.

Al-Maliki's domestic backers, the Shiites and Kurds, are growing unhappier by the day about the decision-making monopoly the prime minister and close aides have accrued to themselves.

They may not act against him now, but they may be emboldened soon given his vulnerability and the unusually harsh criticism of the government over the bombing by Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose every word is waited on by Iraq's Shiites.

If the US were to reduce the violence to zero for the remainder of "the surge," that still wouldn't resolve alot of the political threats to the Maliki government. The struggle for power is deeper than the violence.

If you're watching the politics of Iraq closely, this is worth a read.

(Oh, and this article doesn't mention some of the longer term problems facing Maliki like the disposition of Kirkuk, the Turks and the PKK on the northern border, and internal Shia struggle for power.)

Picture of the Day

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney sit in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington June 14, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young