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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Do you want to see professional pushback?

If you ever wanted to see an example of a "pushback" article, take a look at this AP challenge to Michael Moore's Sicko.

I haven't seen the movie and I'm not challenging the facts, but this article reads like a point by point release from a PR firm.

Wait and see. Wait and see.

Look, I do believe that Iraq is serving as a training ground, but at this point to try and say the follow on bomb tactic is directly from Iraq is not very honest.

The follow on bomb where there's one detonation followed by another a bit later to target rescue workers and people in the chaos has been around alot longer than the Iraq war.

There is some evidence that tactics and terrorists are flowing out of Iraq, but to try at this point to link the Iraqi tactics to these bombings is way too premature and driven by a larger political agenda.

Just from the descriptions of Friday's bombs in the news (thanks, newsmedia, for telling me how to make a car bomb, by the way,) these devices are substantially below the technical sophistication and effective level of the Iraqi carbombs.

We may later find out that there is some sort of direct connection, but to latch onto one paragraph at this point in a breaking story and promote it as broad proof is fairly disingenuous.

Losing Afghanistan

From here, it sounds like the top issue facing the US in Afghanistan is the growing anti-US sentiment stemming from civilian deaths.
(AP) "U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in southern Afghanistan left at least 30 people, including women and children, killed or wounded, an official said Saturday.... Villagers reported casualty tolls far higher than 30 but those figures were not immediately corroborated by officials."

(NYTimes) "Four civilians were killed early Friday by American and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan, according to the leader of a small human rights group who gave an account of the deaths entirely at odds with that of the United States-led coalition."

There's no question the Taleban are hiding among the population, and with the tools available, I don't know how you handle that tactically, but right now it seems that killing civilians may be costing us more than we're gaining in the strikes.

It's undermining both US and Afghani legitimacy.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi girl looks at the destruction caused to her house during a raid by US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City.(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)


(WaPo) "Members of the leading Sunni coalition in the Iraqi government said Friday that six of its ministers would withdraw from the Cabinet..."

(AFP) A large raid in Sadr city kills 25.

(Reuters) Sadr cancels the July 5th march to Samarra.

(InsideIraq) Boys playing Sunni and Shia in the streets of Baghdad.

And, could we piss off Turkey any more? The resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide is working it's way through Congress yet again.

((Guardian) Turkey continues the threats. (Reuters) Kurdish leader Barzani vows Kurds will "defend themselves.")

Political bits

(AP) Yet another DoJ official resigns.

(NYTimes) Clinton expected to raise $27+ million this quarter. Obama's expected to meet or beat that.

(CNN) John Edwards is about to drop out of the "first tier" because his fundraising total will be near $9 million.

(CNN) Bill Richardson has raised at least $7 million.

(McClatchy) McCain betrays his supposed principles, sucking up to lobbyists desperately trying to stay in the top tier. (Immigration, Iraq, no money, dwindling supporters. It's over, John.)

(CNN) McCain is going back to Iraq this week.

(McClatchy) Fred Thompson gets panned in his first "non-south" appearance in New Hampshire. (I'm tired of hearing what a great actor he is. He has no emotional range. He can't inspire.)

And, New CBS polling. 77 % say the Iraq war is going badly and Bush approval hits another record low at 27.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Several car bombs are discovered in London. There's a concern that there might be a broader threat to the US, and the President goes fishing.

(President George W. Bush casts a baitfish as he goes fishing with his father, former U.S. President George Bush (not pictured), off the coast of Kennebunkport, Maine, June 29, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Strikes me as weird

I understand the situation may be dire, but I find it utterly creepy that top state officials are urging their people to prevail upon the gods for rain.
Two southern governors—in Alabama on Thursday and in Georgia earlier this month— issued proclamations urging citizens to pray for rain.

Think about how differently this would be presented if it were the governors of Uttar Pradesh and Chiapas.

This was hysterical

If you've got a few minutes to kill, The Daily Show last night took aim at one of the more ridiculous and inflammatory anti-immigrant arguments. The segment starts at 4:35 and it's scything.

(While we're doing video, watch the MSNBC morning host, Mika Brzezinski, refuse to read the Paris Hilton story, at one point, trying to light the copy on fire.)

In Iraq, troop morale is iffy?

Not a huge Joe Klein fan, but this is a great article examining the US side of the Iraq situation from 20,000 feet. There's a bunch of good stuff in there, Ambassador Crocker bewailing the hoplessness of the politics, the prediction that Bush will hype the forced "broken army" drawdown as his own to try and put off calls for withdrawal, another expression of the melting away of the fighters in Baquba.

But what really caught my eye was this:
Petraeus and his staff were deeply concerned when rumors of another tour extension, from the current 15 months for soldiers, spread in mid-June. "It would be a last resort," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters — but troop morale is so iffy that Petraeus quietly urged his commanders to "get the word out" to their soldiers that the extension rumors were false.

Theater-wide morale is so "iffy" that's it's risen to Petraeus' level?

Picture of the Day - 2

People wait to buy the iPhone. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Picture of the Day

A girl who was wounded in a car bomb attack walks with her mother to get treatment at Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad June 28, 2007. A car bomb killed 25 people and wounded 40 on Thursday at an intersection in Baghdad where minibuses pick up and drop off passengers.

REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud

Returning Khalid Sheik Mohammed to Pakistan?

Gates and Rice reportedly want to move the Guantanamo prisoners into the US legal system. The Asia Times has the Cheney plan for closing Guantanamo.
Asia Times Online has learned that the Bush administration is considering a plan under which inmates would be returned to special facilities in their countries of origin, where they would be treated on a case-by-case basis. There are an estimated 65 or so Pakistanis in Guantanamo, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

These special jails would be administered jointly by American and local security staff. At the same time, the new jails in allied countries would also house new suspects netted in the "war on terror".

A top Pakistani official told Asia Times Online that a special facility has already been built in the city of Faisalabad, adjacent to Faisalabad Central Prison. Another such facility is under construction in Multan and is expected to be completed within the next few months. Work on a detention center adjacent to Adyala Jail in Rawalpindi, the capital Islamabad's twin city, has just started.

These facilities are being funded by the US and will fall under the jurisdiction of Pakistan's Ministry of Interior. Special staff will be deputed to the centers to work in conjunction with US officials.

The Asia Times Online contact said similar facilities will be established in Afghanistan, Egypt and other countries sympathetic to the "war on terror".

But really, the entire thing shorthands to this,
Washington is reluctant to abandon Guantanamo without arranging alternatives where suspects can be interrogated without the interruptions of "normal" legal procedures.

Caution: Bar lowers without warning.

I didn't notice this yesterday,
The most important form of political compromise in Iraq is not among top Iraqi politicians in Baghdad, but at the local level, President Bush asserted yesterday, in a departure from past rhetoric on Iraqi politics.

"To evaluate how life is improving for the Iraqis, we cannot look at the country only from the top down, we need to go beyond the Green Zone and look at Iraq from the bottom up," he said in a speech at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. "This is where political reconciliation matters most, because it is where ordinary Iraqis are deciding whether to support new Iraq."

In other words, no benchmarks will be met. Instead of framing on something we can objectively observe, they want Iraq to be judged on limited criteria that only they can supply.

And, a remarkably precise AP story as to how past efforts to show "success" have crippled us today.
Since 2003, American officials have pushed the Iraqis to meet schedules set more by U.S. political interests than the realities of a fragmented country.

Rather than solving problems, U.S. pressure has often created a whole new set of issues. In fact, some of the latest U.S.-demanded "benchmarks" are an attempt to correct flawed policies put in place years ago under American pressure.

For example, the battle over a new oil bill boils down to a fight over who controls the oil fields and oil revenues. In the rush to meet a U.S.-driven deadline for finishing the constitution in 2005, the Shiites and Kurds steamrolled through a system of decentralized control, with the Kurds managing fields in the north and the Shiites taking those in the south.

That enraged Sunnis, whose heartland is the mostly oil-dry central and western provinces. They fear they would be cut out of the wealth in the post-Saddam Iraq.

Likewise, the Americans themselves pushed for removing many Baath Party members from government posts, although U.S. officials insist the Iraqis went further in their purge than Washington had expected.

All of this begs the question: Even if the new laws are passed, how long will it take for the violence to cool? That could take years.

(PS. The oil law's not coming for at leat two months.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

They look so comfortable.

U.S. first lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush pick vegetables during a visit to the Dig Development in Gardening, NGO, garden at Fann Hospital in the city of Dakar, Senegal, Tuesday, June 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Holy Crap

Too much.... Too stupid.... Can't even... mock....
President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq, saying Thursday that the goal of the U.S. mission there is not eliminating attacks but enabling a democracy that can function despite continuing violence.

Holy Crap - Part II

Fox always asks "dirty" questions in their polls, but check this one out.
If there is an all-out war between the United States and various radical Muslim groups worldwide, who would you rather have in charge — Democrats or Republicans?

Both the same
(not listed)
Don't know
(not listed)

The '08 Republicans had better take notice.

(Oh, Bush approval at new record low, 31%.)

Political bits

(AP) The Obama campaign draws a jawdropping 242,000 donors.

(USAToday) A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll indicates that Hispanics, by nearly 3 to 1, say they're Democrats or lean that way.

(Politico) A McCain aide in NH flips to Romney and gets nailed.

(AP) Bush encourages people to exercise. "I don't buy that. I think you set priorities in life, and if exercise is one of your priorities, then you do it." (Sure, everybody can order their cabinet to meet around their biking schedule. If not, you just don't care....)

(Bureau of Prisons) I Lewis Libby - Prisoner number 28301-016.

And, (WaPo) I guess black people had their chance at desegregated schooling. (In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts cites Brown vs. Board of Education to justify overturning the affirmative action plans.)

And the SCOTUS screws consumers, too.

Picture of the Day - 2

President George W. Bush talks about a fallen soldier remarks on the war in Iraq at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, June 28, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Reframing the problem of the Iraqi forces

I'm sick and tired of hearing how the Iraqi forces are "unable" to do certain tasks. That phrasing implies that the solution to this is a technical issue involving more training, better equipment, etc to get them up to speed.

The real problem is much more fundamental. From a general's level, the Iraqi forces may be viewed as "unable" like an inoperable part, but in truth, at the ground level, the individual Iraqi soldiers are largely unwilling to fight for the Maliki government.

I think there can be little question that Iraqis are capable of fighting, but, like most Iraqis, they don't see any reason to put this government ahead of their other allegiances, sect, tribe, family, gang.

More training and better toys will not fix that.


It's a single incident, but still....
Police are investigating vandalism at a catholic church. Someone broke in to Christ the Servant Church on Nebraska Avenue.

They stole money, smashed statues, and candles - then they wrote the phrase "Traitors support terrorists" on a wall.

The pastor has been outspoken against the war in Iraq, torture and conditions at Guantanamo Bay.

He also says he stands together with Muslim groups when they are mistreated.

Picture of the Day

(Reuters) A car bomb killed 25 people on Thursday at a busy intersection in Baghdad where minibuses pick up and drop off passengers, while 20 beheaded bodies were found on a river bank south of the capital, Iraqi police said.

Another car bomb in Baghdad killed five people, police said. Mortar bombs also killed four people in two separate neighborhoods in the city.

In Basra, a roadside bomb killed three British soldiers and seriously wounded another in the early hours of Thursday, the British military said.

The latest attacks underscore the strength of militants in Iraq despite the arrival of 28,000 additional U.S. troops. The unrelenting violence is pushing Iraq to the brink of all-out civil war between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.
(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

(NYTimes) Violence appeared to be increasing in northern Iraq, one of the areas to which extremist insurgents are believed to have fled when American soldiers began an offensive against them in Diyala Province 10 days ago.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ugly in Baquba

(AP) "One of Baqouba's main thoroughfares is so packed with IEDs that the U.S. military is considering declaring it ''irrevocably mined,'' said Col. Steve Townsend, commander of the Army's 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

U.S. forces would then build their own road -- right alongside the mined one -- and guard it 24 hours a day, said Townsend, 47, from Griffin, Ga.

''We have yet to clear the roads well enough to penetrate with our vehicles,'' he said. ''We're infantry, and we're comfortable on foot anyway.''

Maliki trying to jettison Sadr

Iraqslogger has an interesting piece discussing Maliki's efforts to build a "moderate" coalition to hold on to power. With a backbone of Kurds and SIIC, it doesn't sound that different from the current structure.

He's trying to build a majority without Mahdi.

Iraq strategy geared to U.S. pullout

A hugely interesting LATimes article reporting that the current US military strategy is being driven by the belief that a US pullback is inevitable.
U.S. commanders plan a summer of stepped-up offensives against Al Qaeda in Iraq as they tailor strategy to their expectation that Congress soon will impose a timeline for drawing down U.S. forces here.

Well worth a read, although I would question the underlying presumption. It's my belief that if the US forces were pulled off the field, the amalgam of Iraqi security forces, militias, and death squads would rapidly and thoroughly sweep through alot of the "mixed" Sunni/Shia areas.

It would be bloody as hell, but it's not like the Shia are helpless. The Iraqi forces may be helpless, but Sadr alone can muster more men under arms than the Sunnis.

Al Qaeda/Salafi extremists might find some protection out west in Anbar, but in the close in and mixed areas, Diyala, Mosul, Baghdad, the Shia death squads would rule.

This would be civil war, ethnic cleansing, and the bloodletting would be horrible(the Saudis and Egyptians might be drawn in,) but to portray Al Qaeda as ruling Iraq after a US pullout is a lie.

They are the mortal enemies of the Shia. Anywhere Al Qaeda popped up, the death squads would sweep in.

The White House tries to stay on the Iraq bull.

It sounds like Hadley's being quickly sent to put out Lugar's fire.
President Bush is sending his top aide on national security affairs to Capitol Hill on Thursday to confront what has become a tough crowd on the Iraq war.

Reading further, it sounds like the visit will be damage control, and the message will be "just keep waiting until September."

Picture of the Day - 2

Somebody check out that big, dumb kid on the end.
I don't think he's legal to play.

(President Bush, left, stands for the National Anthem prior to the start of a tee ball game on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci))

(PS. AP, thanks for using "left" to designate the President. I knew it was either him or that second girl squinting.)

Ann Coulter is partially right.

I know somebody out there is going to come after me for this one, but in yesterday's Elizabeth Edwards/Ann Coulter confrontation on Hardball, Ann Coulter was right about one thing.
Elizabeth Edwards penned a fundraising letter that hit email in-boxes Wednesday morning with a link to a video of her exchange with Coulter.....

Elizabeth Edwards also asked potential donors to “Please give what you can right now to help raise the dialogue and show that Ann Coulter-style politics will never carry the day.”

Dear Ms. Edwards, Your point seemed so sincere as you made it, and yet with this email, you converted your entire argument to the status of a cheap fundraising stunt.

Your chastisement of Ms. Coulter was something the media needed to hear, and now you've tanked it. You burned your credibility racing to beat the June 30 fundraising deadline.

It can't be worth it.

Political bits II

Rasmussen has Fred Thompson surging to the top of the field in a national poll. (Take a look at the historical trending on the right. Giuliani surged in March and faded. Romney surged in May then faded. Now Thompson's surging. You can literally trend the GOP looking around for a favorite.)

(NYSun) Rumsfeld is shopping a memoir trying to cash in. "Mr. Rumsfeld has toured New York publishing houses with an outline of his book in an effort to gauge how much information he would have to disclose in the memoir in order to justify a large cash advance."

(Rawstory) Giuliani repeats
his very odd admission on the Christian Broadcasting Network. As to why he decided not to be a priest,
"I wasn't ready to make that commitment. Frankly in the Catholic Church the vow of celibacy was something I wasn't sure I could keep."

Considering the CBN audience are the main complaintants about his affairs and divorces, this seems a very ill considered comment.

And, (Timeblog) I don't think I'm getting the message I'm supposed to be getting when I read about Mitt Romney strapping his dog to the roof of the car.

Picture of the Day

It looks like Pat Robertson stole another soul.

Rudy Giuliani is welcomed to Regent University by its founder, Rev. Pat Robertson, prior to speaking in the university's Executive Leadership Series in Virginia Beach, Va., Tuesday, June 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(Oh, and no surprise. A Giuliani under so much pressure used the occasion to attack President Clinton.)

Nato defends tactics

Under pressure for civilian deaths, (Afghan civilians reportedly killed more by U.S., NATO than insurgents,) NATO commanders defend their tactics.
U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan believe their procedures for avoiding unintended casualties are sufficient despite a series of civilian deaths in recent weeks, a U.S. commander said on Tuesday....

He said many civilian casualties were caused because Taliban insurgents launched attacks in populated areas and used ordinary Afghans and their homes as cover.

This is becoming a huge political problem for Karzai's government.

In the same article, "U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel also said NATO forces had intentionally fired into Pakistan in one recent incident said to have resulted in the killing of civilians."

Confirmation of what we knew.

I smell an "operation" in Iran

I may be wrong, but in the wake of the recent presidential finding reported by ABC in late May,
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government.

When I read about at least a dozen gas stations being torched "spontaneously" by different groups of protesters across Tehran, I smell coordination.
Angry demonstrators torched petrol stations and long queues formed at heavily-guarded fuel pumps Wednesday after oil-rich Iran announced the start of fuel rationing, triggering nationwide protests....

Shouting "(President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad must be killed," stone-throwing demonstrators set ablaze a car and petrol pumps at a service station in a residential area of northwestern Tehran late on Tuesday.....

Tehran fire service spokesman Behrouz Tashakor said the city's firefighting teams had reported 12 petrol stations ablaze, according to the Fars news agency.

It's one of the great ironies of the Iranian situation that they import gasoline thus leaving them subject to the pressure of sanctions. As Reuters notes,
The United States, which is leading efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear plans, has said Iran's gasoline imports are a point of "leverage."

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this is a spontaneous outpouring, but it does seem to fit a model. A dozen very similar shock value fires (that make good video reinforcing the anger over the rationing) creating an image of a hated government and a city out of control.... All on a topic the US has previously and repeatedly referred to as a point of leverage.

A little later: In the next AP version, "Reports that gas stations in several cities across the country were also in flames could not be independently confirmed."

Political bits

(AP) McCain "dismisses" polls that show him slipping into single digits.

(AP) Rep. Doolittle's chief of staff is cooperating with the Feds, and (TheHill) Rep. Feeney establishes a defense fund. (Need I mention they're both Republicans?)

(Local) Al Gonzales has to abandon a public appearance and and move the location of a meeting after facing protesters in Boise.

Quotes yesterday

Senator John Warner on sponsoring a measure requiring an independent 14 member assessment of Iraq.
Warner said he knows that his push for the measure makes it appear that he does not trust Bush, Petraeus and Crocker to provide an honest report. "I accept that critique," he said in an interview. "But what are we to do? Be totally reliant on the executive branch for their analysis?"

Josh Marshall at the end of a rather interesting post on the Republican politics of Iraq.
The truth is that the president is playing a very high-stakes game of chicken with his fellow Republicans. He's driving a hundred miles an hour toward the cliff, way too fast to jump out of the car without risking serious injury. But as the cliff gets closer, they'll start to jump.

Mitt Romney when asked about his repeated donations to his own campaign,
At the news conference, The Boston Globe reported, Mr. Romney, asked why he was putting more money in, said: “Because I have to, all right? My message is important and critical to get out into this country.”

And, of course, two from our president.
"I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle," The Sun quoted Mr. Bush as saying. "He's bigger than that. This is just background noise, a distraction from big things."

I'm sure Tony appreciates the repetition, and
"You know, I've heard all the rhetoric -- you've heard it, too -- about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you've got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that."

Which, after being seized on by the right, required a prompt and sweeping "correction" from Tony Snow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Everybody wants to talk to Dick Lugar right now, and, curiously, in every photo since his speech, he's been smiling.

(Photos: AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke and AFP/Getty/Mark Wilson)

Dying for nothing.

I've been hitting alot of these quotes one by one, but this AP roundup says it all.
American military commanders now seriously doubt that Iraqi security forces will be able to hold the ground that U.S. troops are fighting to clear — gloomy predictions that strike at the heart of Washington's key strategy to turn the tide in Iraq.

Several senior American officers have warned in recent days that Iraqi soldiers and police are still incapable of maintaining security on their own in the most crucial areas, including Baghdad and the recently reclaimed districts around Baqouba to the north.

Iraqi units are supposed to be moving into position to take the baton from the Pentagon. This was the backbone of the plan President Bush announced in January when he ordered to five more U.S. brigades, or about 30,000 soldiers, to Iraq. The goal is to reduce the violence to a level where the Iraqis can cope so that Americans can begin to go home.

But that outcome is looking ever more elusive. The fear is that U.S. troops will pay for territory with their lives — only to have Iraqi forces lose control once the Americans move on.

Dick Lugar gets called to the principal's office

After Dick Lugar made that major speech yesterday saying that Iraq was unwinnable, the surge had failed, and an immediate change was necessary, I guess it should be no surprise that he got the summons.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), whose comments on Iraq have caused a huge ruckus in the Capitol today just told reporters that the White House called him to ask for a meeting. Lugar would not say who he is meeting with or when it would happen, but all indications are that it will be National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and it will take place later in the week.

Now, some other GOP players are beginning to back Lugar. "Sen. George Voinovich said Tuesday the U.S. should begin pulling troops out of Iraq." John Warner and Jeff Sessions also.

That meeting may come too late for the White House.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Iraqi girls look as the soldiers take positions inside the girls' family house during a patrol in Baquba June 26, 2007. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)


(AP) Sunni clerics beg for Sadr to cancel the July 5th Shia march into Sunni Samarra.

(WaPo) Hidden in a long article about the Baquba operation, "Soldiers are also building concrete walls around the western neighborhoods using a strategy similar to one employed in Baghdad."

(NYTimes) Michael Gordon has a good "day in the life piece" with a unit trying to make progress in Baquba.

(AP) "In a previous assignment, Pittard commanded a brigade combat team in Diyala province for a year. "It was just a few years ago ... where, believe it or not, many people were saying Diyala province was going to be one of the first ... to go to provincial Iraqi control," he said of the thinking in late 2005."

(NYTimes) Col Townsend in Baquba, “When I came here I thought there were 300 to 500 fighters in there because that is what the intelligence told me,” he said. “Does that mean that half or more eluded us? I guess it does.”

And, A rumor that one of the Sunnis leaders "fighting Al Qaeda in Anbar" has skipped town with the US's $75 million.

Oh, Mitt

Mitt Romney got his Vietnam deferment claiming that his missionary work qualified him as a "minister of religion." I really don't have a problem with people who dodged the Vietnam war until they lie about it, or say something like this.
"I really don’t recall thinking about political positions when I was knocking at the door in France" as a missionary, Romney said. "I was supportive of my country. I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam."

Oh, Mitt....

(And, if you're looking for crazy assed quotes this morning, check out Podheretz on the National Review cruise.)

Ousting Cheney?

Republican gadabout Sally Quinn says in the WaPo that there is a growing GOP movement to try and oust Dick Cheney. Her claim is that Fred Thompson would be the replacement.

While I don't doubt that many GOP insiders would like to see Cheney shooting old men in retirement, I find it impossible to believe that Bush would ever let Cheney go.

Read the other, more important Cheney story in the Post today to get some idea of why this won't happen from the Bush side.
When the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, for example, Bush was consumed with concern for the families of the seven dead astronauts. That left Cheney to make the first critical decisions about the future of manned spaceflight.

Frighteningly echoes the Sept. 11 scenario, doesn't it? A President frozen by the challenges of his office, an opportunity seized by VP Cheney to craft things his way.

The Post presents this level of Cheney involvement on almost every issue. Today's piece really is an ugly portrait of an incompetent, overmatched president who enjoys the trappings of office and allows his second to run the government as long the great secret of his incompetence is kept.

And that closely held secret of incompetence is the reason Bush will never let Cheney leave. He would have to trust someone else.

(By the way, what is the one major challenge/issue in which Cheney never apparently involved himself?


Picture of the Day

Wonder why Bush looks pissed leaving what should've been a fluffy little photo op?

It seems the National Scholars weren't happy with just a smile and handshake.
President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said.


(President George W. Bush walks past Presidential Scholars after he speaks in favor of a passage by Congress of the No Child Left Behind Reauthorization Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 25, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dick Lugar jumps off the flaming Iraq Bush bus.

Dick Lugar shifts on the Iraq war. This may substantially move the center of the debate like a shift in a crumbling rock wall.

I do find a certain irony that he's accepting an early recognition of political defeat to manage a better resolution for his side while his president is not taking the same strategy in the real war.

Too far gone

Every once in awhile I snap to just how far outside the norm we are. From Today's press briefing. First from a reporter named Victoria,
Q Does the United States practice cruelty?

MS. PERINO: No. We have gone over this several times. I'd refer you to all the previous comments that we've had in the past. Hadley -- Steve Hadley came and briefed you all in September of 2006, the President has answered public questions about this, so has the Secretary of State on multiple occasions in front of Congress, so has the Attorney General. And we have maintained that we have protected this country in a way that does not involve torture.

Q But there's a difference between cruelty and torture, is my understanding. The cruelty, by definition, is imposition of severe physical and mental pain or suffering, which is different from torture, which is --

MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on any type of techniques or anything else that is used in order to help get us information in order to prevent terrorist attacks on this country. I'm just not going to do it.

Q But you would say that we do not practice cruel --

MS. PERINO: I can tell you flatly, as has been previously stated by the President himself and by members of his Cabinet, that this administration has not used torture.

Q What? You've got photographs.

Later from a reporter named Ed,
Q But does the administration support waterboarding, for example, which is written about again today? It's been considered a war crime since 1901. Do you -- does it --

MS. PERINO: Ed, I appreciate you trying. I'm just -- I am not going to comment.

Q But you said you don't believe in torture, but that's one tactic that --

MS. PERINO: I'm not -- I appreciate it. I am not commenting on it.

Q Are you saying we have not tortured?

MS. PERINO: That's what I'm saying.

Q How can you say that?

In the press room of the President, reporters are exasperated and mocking in challenging the repeated and provable lies over the documented use of torture.

This is the United States of America.

Picture of the day - 2

A young boy seeks shelter behind a soldier with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division after gunshots rang out at the scene where just a few minutes earlier a suicide car bomber blew himself up in a busy commercial district in central Baghdad on Monday, May 28, 2007, killing at least 21 people and wounding 66, police and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed )

Political bits

The TimesOnline continues the Fred Thompson is "so manly" bs saying he could win just by the satisfied grins on his many ex-girlfriends' faces. (This projection of Thompson/Romney sexuality is getting really creepy.)

(Fortune) Fortune Magazine tells us on its cover that Hillary Clinton has received the stamp of approval from big business. (Boy, that's good news. It's been so long since we've had a pro-business president.)

(NYDailyNews) After the Obama campaign gaffe enraged the American-Indian community, Clinton holds a specific fundraiser gathering $2 million from the group.

(ABC) Romney donates to his own campaign. (CNN calls it a loan.)

(Politico) "That amount is going to come out at the end of the quarter," Romney said, noting that a "final decision" about just how much he'd put in has yet to be made. (So he's going to give just enough to be the top "fundraiser?")

(NYDailyNews) Giuliani to speak at Pat Robertson's Regent University.

(WashTimes) The rumors are that Republican Senator John Warner will not run again. (Does that loosen his tongue on Iraq?)

(Examiner?) The White House is desperately trying to stop the declassification of the SSCI's report on prewar Iraq WMD intel.

The party of national security.

It's nice to know they take war so seriously.
Conservative leaders among House Republicans say that President Bush's upcoming showdown with them on immigration could threaten support for the Iraq war as well as for the president's other top policy goals.

Picture of the Day

Yesterday, the Bushes took part in the taping of a Christmas special at Ford's Theater. Check out this quote.
"President Lincoln had a great appreciation for the performing arts," Bush said. "They offered relief amid the agonies of war, and he would likely be pleased that Ford's Theatre continues to bring together talented performers from across our country, including those with us tonight."

Did he really just praise Lincoln's love of Ford's Theater?

(PS. Nothing says Christmas cheer like the presidential lectern and B list stars.) (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Partition is a horrible idea

The LATimes begins this article claiming that the Bush administration is seeking a "compromise deal" on Iraq trying "to find a plan that could satisfy opponents without sacrificing his top goals."

If such a position existed, we'd be there by now.

Then, this article goes on to discuss at length the idea of partition of Iraq (often couched as "federalism") a position laid out most avidly by Joe Biden.

Partition is a horrible idea. Almost every worst case long term scenario comes to pass in partition. The Iranians end up with control of the south, sitting within attacking range of the Saudi oilfields. With the Sunnis in unchallenged control of their land, they can house Al Qaeda without outside challenge, using them to strike against the Shia and Kurd controlled government. The Kurds end up with their homeland destabilizing Turkey and northern Iran.

Oh, and then there's that little matter of ethnic cleansing as millions are forced from their homes to their new borders.

To top it all off, the underlying political conflict will still lay inadequately resolved. Will the Sunnis be happy being cast into the desert without political power, oil revenue, or any natural resources?

Partition solves no problems except to give people like Biden a simplistic, politically saleable answer.

Do you want to tell me how partition works in the neighborhoods of Baghdad or Kirkuk? I'm sure those arbitrary lines will become inviolate.

Hearts and minds in Afghanistan

(AP) "U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces fighting insurgents in Afghanistan have killed at least 203 civilians so far this year — surpassing the 178 civilians killed in militant attacks, according to an Associated Press tally."

This trend is putting Karzai under immense pressure.

Chasing ghosts in Baquba

McClatchy hits on what I've been wondering. The lack of heavy action and the low number of enemy killed and captured suggests in Baquba suggests that the entire "Arrowhead Ripper" operation is just chasing ghosts.

I guess then, it's no wonder the Baquba campaign is about to come to an inconclusive end, (Reuters) "U.S. forces believe the initial combat phase of a major offensive to clear al Qaeda from the Iraqi city of Baquba is nearly complete and any militants left could be confronted in the next 24 hours."

The general sense from the officers in the operation seems to be that the Sunnis were tipped and melted away. Not really a surprise considering that the US was working with Sunni insurgent groups like 1920s brigade.

Then, to make it all worse, once the US pulls back out of Diyala, the insurgents will just flow back in. It costs about $200 to get through an Iraqi checkpoint. (AFP)

(Also today, there was a significant bombing on the Mansour hotel in Baghdad killing Sunni tribal leaders for Anbar who were working with the US. It was one of five major bombings spreading from Mosul to Hillah.)

The dirty dealing of Rupert Murdoch

I don't think Murdoch's manipulation of his papers editorial content to further his business interests are that great of a secret as there are tons of examples from Britain to China to FoxNews, but this bit of loose "allegation reporting" did catch my eye.
One leader of the Congressional movement to limit ownership was Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi. But in the end, he, too, agreed to the compromise. It turns out he had a business connection to Mr. Murdoch. Months before, HarperCollins, Mr. Murdoch’s publishing house, had signed a $250,000 book deal to publish Mr. Lott’s memoir, “Herding Cats,” records and interviews show.....

Mr. Lott’s book sold 12,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of all domestic retail and Internet sales. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, received $24,506 from HarperCollins for his modest-selling book “Passion for Truth,” according to financial disclosure forms. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, got $141,666 for her book “American Heroines,” which has sold better. All sit on either the Commerce or Judiciary Committees that most closely oversee the media business.

I mean really, how many copies of a book by Trent Lott did they expect to sell?

This all took place well after Trent Lott was forced to step down from Senate leadership in late December of 2002.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Iraqi forces failing

I know it isn't a revelation that the Iraqi forces are incapable of "standing up," but to have it said so bluntly by such high level officers is news.
The U.S. commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad, reclaiming insurgent territory day by day, said Sunday his Iraqi partners may be too weak to hold onto the gains.

The Iraqi military does not even have enough ammunition, said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek: "They're not quite up to the job yet."

His counterpart south of Baghdad seemed to agree, saying U.S. troops are too few to garrison the districts newly rid of insurgents. "It can't be coalition (U.S.) forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.

I'm coming to believe that this is why some US commanders are now standing up Sunni insurgent forces, trying to convert them into something approximating Shia militias. It's desperation.

In an effort to control violence now, they're creating the basis for a long term Sunni resistance.

Picture of the Day

Mitt Romney addresses the media prior to a breakfast fundraiser Saturday, June 23, 2007, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Political bits

(HuffPo) "John McCain, who made his name attacking special interests, has more lobbyists working on his staff or as advisers than any of his competitors, Republican or Democrat."

(NYDailyNews) In an interview scheduled to run Monday, Christie Todd Whitman says Giuliani's post 9-11 decisions killed people.
Former Environmental Protection Agency boss Christie Whitman says she urged Ground Zero workers to wear respirators, but then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani blocked her efforts.

She also said city officials didn't want EPA workers wearing haz-mat suits because they "didn't want this image of a city falling apart.".....

And she said she believes illnesses killing first responders can be blamed on the city's lack of action.

And, (Reuters) Republican Congressman Mark Kirk argues that the US should supply contraceptives to Mexico to stem illegal immigration.

Later: (AP) Mitt Romney complained about attacks on his Mormonism, singling out McCain. He also uttered the growing rightwing talking point that campaigns should be allowed unlimited donations. (Because the rich don't have enough say under the current system?)

(ThinkProgress) Giuliani bailing on the ISG makes Meet the Press. It's now a "real" story.

Interview with a Mahdi commander

McClatchy reporter Leila Fadel takes on the immensely risky prospect of interviewing a Mahdi commander in Baghdad.

Take a few minutes of your Sunday to give this a read.


(Reuters) In this current operation involving 10,000 soldiers in Diyala and unspecified thousands in Baghdad, "U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have killed 90 al Qaeda fighters."

(WaPo) "Ten U.S. soldiers died Saturday in Iraq, including seven killed in roadside bombings, the U.S. military said, bringing to 32 the number of U.S. servicemen whose deaths were announced in the past six days."

(AP) Gov't struggles to cope with wounded GIs.

And, (Iraqslogger) The Iraqi parliament decided not to take their July vacation. August is still on the schedule.