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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2










Gen. Peter Pace visits a wounded soldier at Walter Reed. (DoD photo)

One Iraqi clampdown is working

As you watch the coverage of today's horrible bombing in Iraq, notice that there are pictures from the hospitals, but no pictures from the attack site. That's because the Iraqi Interior Ministry banned such photos back in mid-May.

Tell me that doesn't shape perception.

(This photography ban was enacted (not) coincidentally the same day the military announced a number of clampdowns on US soldier's use of YouTube, MySpace, and blogs.)

Another bad day in Iraq.

(Reuters) "A huge truck bomb killed more than 100 people and wounded 250 in a crowded market in northern Iraq on Saturday, one of the deadliest attacks in the country this year, police said."

Separately, (BBC) "22 people who died overnight in Diyala province when a suicide bomber hit a cafe."

From the AP version,
The attack's location suggested it was carried out by Sunni extremists fleeing the three-week old U.S. offensive centered at the city of Baqouba, 60 miles to the south on Baghdad's northern doorstep.....

The U.S. military may be forced to tolerate attacks further north as they focus on pacifying Baghdad and its surroundings, hoping that calm in the capital will give the government time to take key political steps.

Somehow, I think the use of that word "tolerate" really says alot.

(And, I can't get that quote from yesterday out of my head. "According to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior, one quarter of all injuries from the violence in Iraq involves the loss of at least one limb." At least 250 wounded today.....)

Picture of the Day













Another receptive Dodd voter?

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. talks with Ross Nissen, of Webster City, Iowa, right, during a stop at local diner in Webster City, Iowa, Friday, July 6, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Echoes of a different time.

Reading this, I wonder if there were similar articles and "concerns" expressed to the US during the early days of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.
The US has raised concerns with the Chinese government about the discovery of Chinese-made weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Richard Lawless, departing senior Pentagon official for Asia, on Friday said Washington had flagged the issue with Beijing. In recent months, the US has become increasingly alarmed that Chinese armour-piercing ammunition has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq.

A senior US official recently told the FT that Iran appeared to be providing the Chinese-made weapons. He said Washington had no evidence that Beijing was complicit, but stressed that the US would like China to “do a better job of policing these sales”. Mr Lawless said the question of origin was less important than who was facilitating the transfer.

Years before the open transfers of Stinger missiles, the US began its operations to arm and organize the Afghan resistance through Saudi and Pakistani cutouts using the religious schools and the ISI. The premise behind the US effort was not to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, but instead to tie them down in their own Vietnam.

This is not evidence the Chinese are following along the same path as Chinese AK's, ammo, mortars, etc. flow cheaply around the world, but I wanted to introduce the idea as a possibility.

If the Chinese could assist in tying down the US in another Vietnam, would they? Is that in their interest?

The threat

(NewScientist) "Deadly germs may be more likely to be spread due to a biodefence lab accident than a biological attack by terrorists." (With a list of some of the recent incidents.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Excuse me Fred, about that "true conservative" label

What does it say about the stringent litmus tests of the Republican party that they can't find a single major candidate who hasn't run afoul of them somewhere?
Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.


The Thompson campaign denies this in a way that leads one to believe they've been waiting for this,
"Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period," he said in an e-mail.

In a telephone interview, he added: "There's no documents to prove it, there's no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn't happen."


Funny thing is, Fred, there were witnesses,
"I talked to him while he was doing it, and I talked to [DeSarno] about the fact that she was very pleased with the work that he was doing for her organization," said Barnes. "I have strong, total recollection of that. This is not something I dreamed up or she dreamed up. This is fact."....

Corallo, the spokesman for Thompson, was asked Friday about the board minutes and the five people who said they recalled Thompson accepting the lobbying assignment. He responded in an e-mail, saying that Thompson "may have been consulted by one of [his] firm's partners who represented this group in 1991."

I guess it's a question of who the religious crazies want to believe, Fred Thompson or five witnesses and minutes from meetings.

Later: The NYTimes echoes, as does the AP.

Picture of the Day - 2












Carol Barnes, of Oskaloosa, Iowa, listens to Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speak to to local residents during an Independence Day celebration, Wednesday, July 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Political bits

(NYTimes) A Federal Appeals Court threw out a lawsuit against warrantless wiretapping because the palintiffs could not show injury because they couldn't prove they'd been targets. (Because there weren't any warrants!!!!)

(ABC) "Bush has spent more than a year of his presidency at Camp David -- 387 days, either entirely or partially...... Bush has made 65 visits to his Crawford, Texas, ranch, spending all or part of 418 days there."

(WSJ) Joe Leberman agitates against Iran on the WSJ oped page, going after "some of those in Congress who are advocating the immediate withdrawal."

(Reuters) While we're speaking of Droopy, don't miss his comments saying he might support the Republican candidate in '08. (You need him for the chairmanships...You need him for the chairmanships....)

(TPM) Ron Paul has more cash on hand than John McCain.

(Politico) McCain slashes New Hampshire staff. (He already cut Iowa. The first two primary states.....)

(Politico) A look at the "burn rates" of McCain and Romney.

Iraq

(AP) "Turkey's government and military have agreed on detailed plans for a cross-border operation against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, the foreign minister said Friday....."We know what to do and when to do it," he said without providing details."

(DangerRoom) "War costs are up for American operations in Iraq -- way up, more than a third higher than last year. In the first half of this fiscal year, the Defense Department's "average monthly obligations for contracts and pay is running about $12 billion per month, well above the $8.7 billion in FY2006."

(AP) Another tale of Iraqi forces not showing up. "In Tuesday's pre-dawn raid, the lack of Iraqi backup meant a frustrating outcome for U.S. forces. When suspects fled, there was no Iraqi cordon to catch them."

(Reuters) Maliki wants a handover of Basra to Iraqi forces in 3 months. (So, is Maliki's goal to grant Basra to the SIIC? There's been a yearlong hot conflict between SIIC, Mahdi, and Fadhila.)

(McClatchy) The Iraqis will be digging a trench around Karbala.

(Examiner) The US killed the al Qaeda in Iraq military emir of Mosul... AGAIN. The military featured his death last year in a report titled "Tearing Down al Qaeda."

Horrific Quote of the Day

Hala Gorani on CNN just now.
"According to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior, one quarter of all injuries from the violence in Iraq involves the loss of at least one limb."
.

Picture of the Day

















As part of the continuing unsubstantiated "Bush is drinking" conspiracy, let me ask this: Who wraps their entire beverage in a napkin?

It definitely doesn't look like the prominently placed (and unwrapped) bottle of water from elsewhere in the game.















Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

(President George W. Bush is joined by President of the Washington Nationals' Stan Kasten and Nationals' General Manager Jim Bowden as they watch the Washington Nationals' baseball team play in Washington, July 5, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young)

A stray thought on carbombings in Iraq

"Spectacular" carbombings were significantly down last month. I see two contributing reasons.

1) In its current operations, the US is having some success rooting out (or at least dislocating) many of the established assembly facilities in the areas surrounding Baghdad. They can certainly be reestablished elsewhere, but that will take a little time.

2) The carbombers are holding back. With Petraeus' report due in September, a politically savvy enemy would want to load as much mayhem as they can into the 4 to 6 weeks ahead of the report, and conducting bombings now would risk revealing the assembly points and networks to the operations mentioned above.

I would guess that both of this are contributing factors, but here's hoping it's mostly the former.

I'll bet this is the gay marriage of 2008

State initiatives outlawing gay marriage were successfully used to drive Republican voter turnout in 2004 and 2006. I'm going to lay a bet that this sort of measure from Washington State will be the tool for 2008.
A massive last-ditch effort is being made to try to get an initiative to halt government benefits for undocumented immigrants on the ballot this fall, the prime sponsor says.


Anti-immigrant is the new anti-gay.

Playing politics with Lal Masjid in Pakistan

I'm certainly no expert, but each day, the Lal Masjid siege is more and more about the politics of Musharraf. After being battered over the removal of Chief Justice Chaudry, Musharraf seems to have found an issue popular among the secularists in his country. Looking past the dire American headlines, the Pakistani press and people seem to be supporting Musharraf.

On the other hand, it appears that the Islamist hardliners launched another largely symbolic attack on Musharraf, firing two shots from anti-aircraft guns at Musharraf's plane. What sort of anti-aircraft gun fires just one shot?
Two anti-aircraft guns and a light machine gun were found on the roof....

A resident in the neighborhood, Mohammed Asif, 31, said that he heard two loud bangs about ''a minute or less than a minute'' apart and then saw a man firing an AK-47 rifle from an off-white Suzuki car passing by his home.

This echoes the find of rockets across the street from the ISI headquarters and Pakistani parliament in October, a largely symbolic rather than violent statement against Musharraf.

If they wanted to kill Musharraf, you'd think they'd fire more than two shots.

(And it sounds like Musharraf is in no hurry to see the Lal Masjid siege go away.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

William Odom's view

William Odom lays out his rationale (and a politial strategy) for withdrawing troops from Iraq, but what grabbed me was this section.
No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year,....

He later points out that tours are now 15 months, and a good percentage of soldiers are now on their second, third, or fourth tour.

Picture of the Day - 2










Michelle Obama sits with her daughter Sasha as they listen to her husband U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, speak to to local residents during an Independence Day celebration Wednesday, July 4, 2007, at the Smokey Row Coffee House in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A hyperconflict in the Pakistani borderlands

While all eyes are understandably on the siege of the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad, another major shift in Pakistan may be taking place.
Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be.

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf is expected to make an important announcement on extremism during an address to the nation in the next day or two.

I find this claim hard to believe as it would seriously diminish an already weakened Musharraf, but the ATimes is usually pretty good.

This would substantially change the conflicts in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border region. In effect, this would authorize the US to openly go to war on elements in Pakistan on a scale limited by what Pakistani politics will bear.

This was written on July 3, and no announcement as of today, although I would bet the Lal Masjid standoff has pushed such an announcement back, no need for Musharraf to further antagonize the hardliners while the siege is going on.

Quickhits

There's some interesting stuff out there today, but I'm still on holiday time, so, quickhits.

(ThinkProgress) Sen. Pete Domenici bails on Bush's Iraq policy.

(Rawstory) One of the technical journalists who first uncovered AQ Khan's nuclear smuggling ring says that elements of it are still going strong.

(VanityFair) David Halberstam knocks down Bush's repeated comparison of himself with Truman.

(Examiner?) US officials in Baghdad are now trying to get Shiite tribal leaders to turn against Sadr. (So we can have temporary alliances and arm militias for both sides of the civil war.)

(AsiaTimes) The Asia Times has an insighteful piece looking at the increasing radicalization on both sides of the Lebanese civil war(?), pointing out that as both sides radicalize, the center State of Lebanon is increasingly ceasing to exist.

Fred Thompson was the Nixon administration's mole?

I guess we now know how this little known Tennessee lawyer became a big time Republican lobbyist. (Link is now registration!)
The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.

Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions......

"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."


Take a moment to notice that the Thompson response has no comment on the content,
Asked about the matter this week, Thompson -- who is preparing to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- responded via e-mail without addressing the specific charge of being a Nixon mole: "I'm glad all of this has finally caused someone to read my Watergate book, even though it's taken them over thirty years."

(Also, the AP has a slam piece "Thompson Strong on Style, Not Substance.")

Picture of the Day
















No, it's not a peace sign.

President George W. Bush holds up two fingers as he reports on the success of his fishing trip near Kennebunkport, Maine, June 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Movie night at Guantanamo

Reading this, I keep thinking back to "movie night" at summer camp.
A holiday camp it plainly will never be but the American officers running the Guantanamo Bay compound in Cuba are taking steps to make the lives of its detainees marginally more tolerable with recreational treats such as once-a-week film nights and limited access to television.

I have this image of these Guantanamo inmates being chained to chairs and forced to watch Mister Roberts and the Shaggy DA.

(PS. If these guys at Guantanamo are really considered present threats to attack the United States, maybe giving them English classes isn't such a good idea. No?)

The unmentionable truth

On a broader level, how bizarre is it that this statement of Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson generated such "damage control" from his government.
"Energy security is extremely important to all nations throughout the world, and of course, in protecting and securing Australia's interests," he said.

"Obviously the Middle East itself, not only Iraq, but the entire region is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world.

"Australians and all of us need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq," Nelson said.....

But Howard swung into damage limitation mode later in the day, strongly denying that either Nelson or he himself had said securing oil supply was a key factor behind his country's contentious involvement in the war in Iraq.

"We're not there because of oil and we didn't go there because of oil, we don't remain there because of oil," he told commercial radio. "Oil is not the reason."


There's no question that oil plays a huge part in all involvement in the middle east, and yet to say that out loud generates a massive response.

In all the mainstream interviews you've seen with experts, and politicians, and pundits, how rarely is this core reality of "energy security" mentioned?

It is somewhat allowable to speak of threats regarding the Iranians and oil, or more vague threats to the Saudi oil fields or shipping lanes, but, in "polite" discourse, discussion of Iraqi oil is off limits. Why? Why is that deemed a publicly unacceptable comment for even mainstream opposition?

Is it because, despite all their rhetoric, they endorse the broader policy? (See "longer term US presence.")

Is it some sort of an offense to the propaganda, that this admission somehow devalues the deaths of so many honest soldiers and marines?

Has the oil argument been so successfully marginalized that merely mentioning it risks ostracizing the critic as fringe?

I don't really have an answer, I'm just thinking out loud this morning about how rarely this truth is spoken within the "polite" media and political society.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pictue of the Day - 2

















Former President Bill Clinton, and his wife U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, run to the other side of Main St. to shake hands as they walk in the Fourth of July Parade in Clear Lake, Iowa, Wednesday, July 4, 2007. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)


I think this is a Rorschach picture. What do you see?

The Religious Right's influence on my TV

Have you ever noticed that when a character on network television uses the phrase "God Damn" that it's the "god" that gets bleeped, not the "damn?" ("(Bleep) Damnit.")

I assume that censorship stems from the third commandment, "Thou shall not take the name of the lord your God in vain."

I always found that odd, because to me, it would seem the "damn" is far more offensive.

(Just filling space between pictures.)

Picture of the Day






"My little Pushka. Maybe you can talk some sense into them."


Former President George Bush, background, looks on while visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin meets his dog at Walker's Point, the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, Sunday, July 1, 2007. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev)

The hype and lies about the Iraq oil law

Yesterday, there was some coverage hyping an oil law that passed out of Maliki's cabinet towards the parliamentary committee. Today, the truth starts to bubble out, (Notice that today's very negative AP article is written by the same guy who was so overly positive yesterday.)
Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians and a powerful Shiite party said Wednesday they had not agreed to a draft bill to regulate the country's oil industry, raising the possibility of new delays in a major piece of benchmark legislation sought for months by the United States.

And, if you read the articles, the Sunnis, Sadrists, and Kurds are really against it.
"Any draft law that is approved in the absence of the Iraqi Accordance Front (Sunni) only represents the groups that approved it," Khalaf al-Ilyan told al-Sharqiya television. "If there are some who want to cancel the voices of half of the Iraqi people then they take the responsibility."

The head of the Sadrist bloc in parliament, Nassar al-Rubaie, said, "We reject this copy of the oil and gas draft law because it left nothing of Iraq's unity."

The Kurds said they had neither seen nor approved the final text and would oppose it if it made "material and substantative changes" to an outline agreed upon during weeks of negotiations.


Reuters,
Sadr's bloc, which has 30 parliamentary seats, said the law must state that no contracts may be signed with firms from countries with troops in Iraq, an official said.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it had not seen nor approved the draft.

"We hope the cabinet is not approving a text with which the KRG disagrees because this would violate the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region," the KRG said in a statement....

Meanwhile, a hardline Sunni Arab clerical body, the Muslim Scholar's Association, issued a fatwa or religious edict saying the draft was "religiously prohibited" because it would allow foreigners to exploit Iraq's oil wealth.



The kicker is that we're not even discussing the "real" oil law as in revenue sharing. As the NYTimes points out, all we're talking about here is the "foreign component," how contract applications by foreign companies are to be assessed.

The framework law, however, is only one part of the oil package. The second crucial element, the law establishing guidelines for dividing Iraq’s oil revenue, has yet to be approved by the cabinet, but Mr. Maliki and his aides said they hoped that there would be progress on that soon.


The "oil law" has been split in an effort to produce something tangible for the to present for the US debates in September. The real reconciliation piece of this, revenue sharing, will be far more difficult than this measure which is already stalling.

To some degree, I think the US is doing this backwards. The US is trying to force revenue sharing to lead to political reconciliation, but this law is being held up by the "unreconciled." Maybe this should be the last piece(after provincial elections and real powersharing) rather than the first.

The Americanist place on earth

As part of the nationwide July 4 celebrations,
At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., officials plan to pronounce citizenship on 1,000 people at a "Dreams Come True" ceremony near Cinderella's castle. Singers Gloria Estefan and Lee Greenwood are expected to make appearances. Later, new citizens will head down Main Street USA for a parade in their honor.


Welcome to America.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

















This is a picture from the 1998 reenactment of Picket's charge in the Battle of Gettysburg.

This year's reenactment is not until this weekend, but since Picket's charge took place today, July 3rd, I thought I'd post it today.

Do any other countries stage massive reenactments like this? (Especially not sponsored by the government.)

It's always seemed such an odd thing to me.

(Holiday blogging, right?)

Columbian leftists target US military

I've often wondered why there isn't more of this coming from South America.
Colombian police foiled a plot by leftist rebels to attack U.S. military advisers at a popular vacation resort near the capital, a government official and the U.S. Embassy said on Tuesday.

Police said they arrested three men in Melgar with explosives and a photograph of a diplomatic vehicle on Saturday.

Most of the political complaints of the middle eastern terror groups, US military presence, economic/foreign policy, propping up unpopular governments are just as present in South/Central America as they are in the middle east, and yet there really is no South American terror problem.

My guess is that they lack the extra-state region wide structures that the Islamic countries find through their religious identification. The only approximate the Latin Americans ever had were the nascent socialists movements that were targeted and crushed.

(Plus, there's no Israel/Palestine and no effort by the US to build up fundamentalist structures like early Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.)

I've always been curious about this.

A cold day in hell? Dems outraising Republicans

The Romney ($14 million) and Giuliani ($17 million) 2nd Quarter fundraising totals are in.

To get a sense of the difference of election year '08, the Dems are massively outraising the Republicans (Clinton at $27 million and Obama at $32.5 million.)

This sort of gap never happens.Does it reflect a real difference of enthusiasm or are the Republican donors keeping their powder dry until they have a frontrunner?

Everybody's talking Libby

The commutation (and possible later pardon) of Scooter Libby is understandably dominating all the news. I don't really have anything to add except to offer that this might allow a White House "reset" for the news cycle.

In the last few weeks the news has been careening out of the White House's control, immigration, Cheney, Iraq, shutting down Guantanamo, Dick Lugar, etc.

Commutation has a long term cost to the administration, but it's also politically useful. They will try to come out of this hiatus with a tone shift. I'm watching for another round of Iraq success talk.

Picture of the Day
















A four year old Iraq child cries as older boys stage a mock execution in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 2, 2007. Children's games are under a heavy influence of ongoing violence in the country, one of the more popular ones being a clash between militias and police. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

(I may leave this one on top all day.)

Iraq

The eyegrabbing headline this morning is that Maliki's cabinet has approved an oil draft law to be passed on to the legislative committee.

Before you get too excited, keep in mind that this version of the law has been stripped of alot of the key elements in order to get something passed, and that this was "passed unanimously" while both the Sadr and Sunni cabinet members were boycotting Maliki's government.

In other words, Maliki, the SIIC, and the Kurds did the Bush administration a favor pushing through a fairly empty law to allow crowing about "benchmarks." With Sadr and the Sunnis missing, this is not a step towards reconciliation.

(Reuters) Meanwhile, Sunni leader and Vice President Hashemi spoke very frankly about abandoning the political process for violence.
"I will not talk about this matter because the time for talking has ended. I will let our actions do the talking for us," he said. "We started by suspending our participation in cabinet and if there is no real response from our partners in this government over our suggestions and reservations, we as the Accordance Front will take (other) measures."

Let's remember that the goal of "benchmarks" is reconciliation, not scorekeeping in US politics. If bad measures are forced through in an effort to defeat "the Washington clock," we will leave Iraq even worse off.

More fun with Libby headlines

The AP headlines "Bush wipes away Libby's prison sentence," because it was a merely stain, a smudge, a blemish on an otherwise spotless man.

Reuters is going with "Bush spares Libby from prison," because he had to be "spared" after the unfair prosecution by a Republican prosecutor and Bush appointed judge resulted in a sentence within guidelines. What a just and merciful president we have to "spare" Mr. Libby.

The NYTimes in its own piece also headlines with "spares," "Bush Spares Libby 30-Month Jail Term."

Both the WaPo and AFP both headline with "commutes," with the AFP using, "Anger as Bush commutes ex-White House aide's jail term."

Doesn't that have a different feel than Bush "sparing" Libby or "wiping away" a sentence?

(More: This is really weird. Reuters, the LATimes, and the USAToday all have exactly the same "Bush spares Libby from Prison" headline all on individualy written stories. The NYTimes uses a slight variation.

So, I guess I'm supposed to wake up this morning believing Libby was "spared" by a judicious and merciful President Bush.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Libby commutation

I really don't have much to add except to say keep an eye on the coverage. As this thing was sprung as a surprise, the reporters are all now desperately writing anything they're told before deadline.

The White House will have incredible influence over how the president is characterized in tomorrow's papers.

So far, we've got a NYTimes headline telling me this decision was "a test of will," (not coincidentally the phrase attributed to Libby's "conservative believers" later in the analysis,) and the WaPo piece frames it as a decsion Bush made alone, portraying it as a piece of political wisdom carefully weighed on all sides.

Picture of the Day - 3


Villagers are ready to catch relief goods dropped from a Pakistan army helicopter in a flooded hit area Nasirabad near Turbat, Pakistan on Sunday, July 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

AQ Khan is "virtually a free citizen"

I just thought it deserved mention that AQ Khan, the one known nuclear black market proliferator who supplied vital knowledge, technology, and parts to the Iranians, the North Koreans, and god knows who else, is now "virtually a free citizen."

You get caught carrying night vision goggles in Afghanistan, and you disappear into torture and secret prisons. You give the keys to nuclear and missile technology to the most dangerous regimes in the world and you get five years of light house arrest.

Political bits

(AP) Libby will be going to prison while his appeals process goes forward. The decision was unanimous (3 of 3 judges,) and only merited a "one-paragraph order."

(AP) The McCain campaign is dying, firing 50 employees and forcing pay cuts on senior aides. Equally notable, $11 million raised this quarter and only $2 million cash on hand. That's less than a month at the previous burn rate.

(Politico) The McCain campaign has now decided to accept public matching funds, the only major campaign to do so.

(TPM) NYC firefighters stay after Giuliani. (They will give legs to all the 9-11 challenges against Giuliani. Like the Swiftboaters, they will keep bringing the charges back to the surface.)

Correction: Libby will not go to prison. His sentence was commuted by the President. So, Obstruction of Justice is now okay y'all. Go wild.

(Politico) McCain guts his Iowa staff including his state director.

And, Here's the GOP playbook/talking points (pdf) for its Congressional members headed home for the July 4 recess.

A question on the Britain attacks

The NSA operates a massive foreign surveillance effort, supposedly capable of sucking up and analyzing vast amounts of telecom, fax, email, etc.

Outside the US, these efforts operate largely without restriction.

So, how is it that there have been multiple incidents coming out of Muslim communities in Britain, Spain, etc, and the US has seemingly not issued a single warning?

(And, what promise does that offer for similar unrestricted monitoring here in the US?)

Picture of the Day - 2












"Mr. President. Let me be the first to offer condolences on the death of your presidency."



(REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Quote of the Day

President Bush in the middle of the (written?) speech at the Naval War College in Rhode Island on Thursday.
Remember, when I mention al Qaeda, they're the ones who attacked the United States of America and killed nearly 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001.


Because, you know, the guys at the war college might have forgotten.

Iraq

(AP) Maliki claims that provincial elections (a big benchmark and step towards reconciliation) will take place before the end of the year. (If he means it, this would be big for the Sunnis as it is one of their main complaints.)

(AP) In June, the official civilian death count in Iraq was down by about a third.

(I would wager the drop is mostly due to the drop in spectacular carbombings. I see two nonexclusive reasons for this. 1) The US forces have been targeting the carbomb makers, at the very least disrupting their operations. 2) One part of the Sunni/Al Qaeda(extremist) split was over the tactic of spectacular civilian targeting carbombings. They might also be pulling back and targeting symbolic sites like Askariyah and bridges to mend that relationship. We'll have to wait and see.)

(IHT) "A Sunni legislator who says he's joining the "resistance" called Sunday for Arab and international intervention to rebuild Iraq's political system from scratch."

(News24) "Senator Richard Lugar.... has called for an "orderly" withdrawal of US troops in the coming months."

(Reuters) In what sounds like a propaganda stunt, 4 PKK defectors(?) made the claim that "they had seen two U.S. armoured vehicles deliver weapons to the PKK at their camp." (So, why do the Turks want that out there?)

Peter Baker's portrait of Bush

There's a bunch of interesting interpretive bits in Peter Baker's front page piece on Bush.
At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.

Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history have for a president facing the turmoil I'm facing? How will history judge what we've done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?....

Bush is fixated on Iraq, according to friends and advisers. One former aide went to see him recently to discuss various matters, only to find Bush turning the conversation back to Iraq again and again. He recognizes that his presidency hinges on whether Iraq can be turned around in 18 months. "Nothing matters except the war," said one person close to Bush. "That's all that matters. The whole thing rides on that.".....

Bush has virtually given up on winning converts while in office and instead is counting on vindication after he is dead.


You never know how accurate these kinds of articles are, but it's an interesting portrait.

Picture of the Day



President George W. Bush watches as fishing guide Billy Bush tries to pull up the stuck anchor during a fishing trip Sunday, July 1, 2007 in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)


Secret service divers pull up the anchor to former President George Bush's boat. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)


Associated AP article.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bin Laden determined to strike US (and Bush is on vacation?)

You never know about this stuff, but here it is.
A secret U.S. law enforcement report, prepared for the Department of Homeland Security, warns that al Qaeda is planning a terror "spectacular" this summer, according to a senior official with access to the document.

And I was struck by the similarity to the administration's defense regarding the August 2001 PDB.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" that the United States did not have "have any specific credible evidence that there's an attack focused on the United States at this point."

So, what I'm reading is that they expect the possibility of a "spectacular" attack this summer, but have no idea whatsoever what it is.

Sleep tight.

A major capture in Iraq?

Right now, all we have are statements from intelligence officials, but if this pans out, this would be big.
A top special operations officer from Lebanon's Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah has been captured in Iraq, where U.S. officials say he played a key role in a January attack that killed five Americans.

Ali Mussa Daqduq, an explosives expert, was captured in March in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where he was helping train and lead Shiite militias fighting coalition troops, U.S. intelligence officials told CNN.


Daqduq pretended to be deaf and mute when captured, and his identity was not known for weeks, the officials said.


What does it say that they had the guy for weeks and didn't know who he was?

Later: More from an official press conference, AP, Reuters, BBC, NYTimes, WaPo.

Unfortunately, the facts on this one may get lost within the questions of the past overstatements by the military regarding Iran.

(Many of the reports seem intentionally skeptical. Was Bergner one of those at the now discredited Iraq/Iran press conference?

And, funny, Michael Gordon who wote the most friendly piece on the original Iran in Iraq press conference was also the most credulous on this briefing.)

Obama posts $32.5 million

Wow. Not only did Obama post a jawdropping $32.5 million fundraising quarter, but even more impressively, at least $31 million of that is just primary money.

It'll take a few weeks before we get the other campaigns' breakdowns, but I would guess that nobody even comes close on primary money.

With relatively little press, Obama is generating a wave.

Later: (AP) Clinton raised around $27 million, $21 million in primary money.

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I think they're wearing matching "41" and "43" jackets.

Is it Al Qaeda or is it Memorex?

The other day, President Bush received criticism about a speech about Iraq at the Naval War College where he used the phrase Al Qaeda 23 times. This comes on the back of a broader criticism that the US administration and military leadership is now framing all violence in Iraq as coming solely from Al Qaeda.

That's why I found this interesting.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that the U.S. has no "hard evidence" that the Sunni Muslim insurgent group al Qaida in Iraq was responsible for the recent bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, although Bush administration officials cite the attack as proof that al Qaida in Iraq is stoking sectarian violence.

It "seems to me that that's probably an analytical conclusion. I'm not sure whether they have a lot of hard evidence about it," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.


Frankly, I'm willing to go along with that "analytical conclusion," but I find it very interesting that Robert Gates is not.

As it appears that Al Qaeda is the new administration "talking point" source for all violence in Iraq, even being repeated by Petraeus and Odierno the generals beneath Gates, what does it mean that Gates is unwilling to join in?

He similarly refused to endorse the "analytical conclusion" that Iran was the source of all violence just two months ago. I just find it interesting that Gates is so careful in confirming the assertions that the rest seem so anxious to make.

(And, what happened to "Iran as the source of all problems?" They haven't changed their behavior at all. The only difference I see is that military operations are now focusing on the Sunnis again.)

Australia plans withdrawal from Iraq?

Australia has a relatively small presence of 1,500 in Iraq, so this is more about the politics than the actual fight, but, politically, it would be pretty big.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is secretly planning to begin withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq by February 2008, Australian media reported on Sunday."
.

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An Iraqi family sits on the floor as U.S. soldiers search their house for weapons in the town of Al-Meshahda, 32 miles north of Baghdad, June 11, 2007. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic