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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Mitt Romney performs the HMS Pinafore.

(Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, July 3, 2007. AP Nati Harnik)

Also, Romney gets caught unplugged talking about his Mormonism, his beliefs, and his campaign strategy during the break of an Iowa talk show. It's very frank and very revealing. (Starts about halfway through.)

130 degrees and dark

In perhaps a symbol of the shrinking national power of the Iraqi government,
Iraq's power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage of infrastructure, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials said Saturday....

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.....

One of the biggest problems facing the national grid is the move by provinces to disconnect their power plants from the system....

"Many southern provinces such as Basra, Diwaniyah, Nassiriyah, Babil have disconnected their power plants from the national grid. Northern provinces, including Kurdistan, are doing the same," al-Shimari said. "We have absolutely no control over some areas in the south," he added.

But we're making progress, right?


What're the odds of a Maliki led "reconciliation" when this is the talk in the Iraqi papers?
The fact is, Maliki now faces a stiff opposition from major Shi'a parties within his own coalition (the Sadrist Current and Fadhila), an overwhelming majority of the Sunni street and from the neighboring Arab governments (which is reflected in the coverage of Saudi-financed newspapers). To add to Maliki’s woes, Az-Zaman claimed – in its London edition – that Maliki may be losing the support of President Talabani over the IAF crisis.

The obvious question in this case is: who will replace Maliki when his cabinet, finally, falters? Both Az-Zaman and al-Hayat said that talks of a Maliki replacement are already beginning to dominate political discussions in Iraq. Al-Hayat said that four candidates are currently discussed – in Baghdad – as possible successors to the current Prime Minister.

The paper said that the ex-Prime Ministers Iyad 'Allawi and Ibrahim al-Ja'fari are readying themselves to compete over the position, in addition to “the perpetual candidate” 'Adil 'Abd al-Mahdi and the secular Mahdi al-Hafiz who announced his intentions to run for the position.

Just out of curiousity, what's the US reponse if Maliki does fall? Do they pin the blame on him, "weak leader, never really made an effort," and say, "now we can move forward?"

The king is dead, long live the king?

Picture of the Day

U.S. Army soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, talk during their census operation in the Amariyah neighborhood of west Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Aug. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Gonzales "corrects" his testimony

Another Friday dump of sorts by the Justice Department.
Justice Department officials attended at least a dozen political briefings at the White House since 2001, including some meetings led by Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, and others that were focused on election trends prior to the 2006 midterm contest, according to documents released yesterday.

When asked by Sen. Kennedy whether such meetings took place at the Justice Dept. at a hearing July 24, "Not that I'm aware of. . . . I don't believe so, sir," Gonzales said.

Within the larger argument over the politicization of the Justice Department, this could be a really big deal. If these meetings were "district by district" election analysis as some of the other meetings were, the firings of US Attorneys for not helping Republican candidates just reached up into the White House.

We need to know what went on at those meetings.

Friday, August 03, 2007

More weakness for Musharraf

Kind of lost today, the newly reinstalled Chief Justice Chaudry in Pakistan ordered the release of a very high profile anti-Musharraf figure from the previous government Musharraf overthrew.
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday ordered the release on bail of a senior opposition leader who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for trying to incite an army mutiny, a defense lawyer and officials said.

The NYTimes has more.

Newt gains distance

Wow. Somebody wants to be seen as an outsider by '08.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday the Bush administration is waging a "phony war" on terrorism, warning that the country is losing ground against the kind of Islamic radicals who attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001.....

"None of you should believe we are winning this war. There is no evidence that we are winning this war," the ex-Georgian told a group of about 300 students attending a conference for collegiate conservatives.

Of course, Newt always was better in opposition.

Picture of the Day

"Been there, Ted. Hang in there."

President George W. Bush shakes hands with U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) after Bush signed H.R. 1, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, August 3, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The Pakistanis are more worried about US supplied Indian nukes than Obama

It's amazing the way the echo chamber works. Barack Obama talks about conducting operations inside Pakistan, and the whole media turns.

The Pakistanis say they are going to have to significantly increase their nuclear weapons production and build nuclear relationships with China because of the US with India, not a peep.

So, which is more important, a candidate trailing in the primary polls making a foreign policy statement he's not likely to carry out, or the only Islamic nuclear nation rushing to a US rival to quickly increase its nuclear capabilities?

Beneath the NSA legislation debate, McConnell seeks amnesty.

Just like torture, Gunatanamo, and everything else, the administration is now seeking amnesty for laws already broken through the earlier patently illegal NSA program.
Second, those who assist the Government in protecting us from harm must be protected from liability. This includes those who are alleged to have assisted the Government after September 11, 2001 and have helped keep the country safe. I understand the leadership in Congress is not able to address before the August recess the issue of liability protection for those who are alleged to have helped the country stay safe after September 11, 2001.

I would expect this issue to be covered exactly the same as amnesty was for "prisoner treatment." It will be a tiny footnote in the larger discussion, and when it is mentioned, it will always be framed as "protecting the frontline warriors."

However, any amnesty also serves to protect administration officials who ordered the illegal program. But we'll never hear that talked about.

Delivering victory for Al Qaeda

By overemphasizing the role of Al Qaeda in Iraq, hasn't the White House created a situation where Al Qaeda will receive overemphasized credit when the US has to leave?

If the US was stymied in the face of a civil war, there would be no broadly perceived victor. If the US says that it is fighting Al Qaeda, and then doesn't win, doesn't that help Al Qaeda?

(Or is it setting up a post-Bush situation where the next president can be portrayed as capitulating to Al Qaeda?)

(EPM triggered these questions.)

Picdture of the Day - 2

U.S. soldiers from the 2nd battalion, 32nd Field Artillery brigade attend an award ceremony during which the commander announced that their mission in Iraq is extended for another three months at the Liberty camp in Baghdad on August 3, 2007. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj


The Washington Post on their front page finds a way to blame Saddam Hussein for Maliki's failing government. The main source is Ahmed Chalabi. (You can't spell unbelievable without "lie.")

(Reuters) Four U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq

(AP) "Much of the Iraqi capital was without running water Thursday and had been for at least 24 hours..... Residents and city officials said large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days....."

(AP) The US is stepping up air attacks around Baghdad.
"The problem with driving around is it takes too long and you've got to get around IEDs," he said, using the military acronym for roadside bombs. "I've gone as deep into Arab Jubour as I can. Now I want to keep them on the run."

(Stripes) "Iraqi troops supported by an American battalion have begun “clearing operations” in Samarra, isolating the city by sealing a berm that rings the east side of the city."

(CSM) Death tolls often in dispute: Disparities between official and eyewitness tallies lead some Iraqis to charge the government with downplaying attacks.
Iraqiya television and most Western media outlets reported that 25 were killed and 100 wounded in the July 26 attack, of which virtually no images were shown.

But less than a week later, the names of 92 dead and 127 wounded were posted on a list taped to a shuttered storefront. It was compiled by municipal and civil defense crews that led the rescue efforts.

(Not that the heavily enforced government order forbidding the photographing of attack sites was to hide the truth....)

(WaPo) Iraq's feeble oil production may be overstated.

And, (AP) Iraq's soccer team returns home, without several stars who fear for their lives, for acelebration in the Green Zone that almost all Iraqis will be unable to attend.

What's really unpopular?

Two House votes yesterday, both passed, but with very different "on the record" voting.

(Reuters) "The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to require more leave for U.S. troops in Iraq, defying a veto threat from the White House.... passed the Democratic-led House by 229-194."

(AP) "The House passed legislation Thursday effectively permitting the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from places such as Canada, Australia and Europe.....passed by a 237-18 vote."

I find it interesting that House members are still willing to put their name on the record on Iraq, but not on opposing the drug import bill.

That's the political calculus right now.

Later: Not sure, but the descrepancy might have somehow resulted from the chaos around the Agriculture vote. Separate bill, but maybe it passed in the chaos.

"Several hundred" Afghan civilians killed?

At this point, we don't know the real story. The US/NATO in Afghanistan bombed a large gathering of people in Helmand.
The U.S. military said in a statement late on Thursday that coalition forces conducted a precision air strike against two "notorious Taliban commanders" conducting a leadership meeting in a remote area of the Baghran district on Thursday.

But the Afghani witness stories vary,
In the Lashkar Gah hospital, Shokhi Khan, a relative of one of the wounded, said several hundred civilians were killed or wounded in the strikes.

He said people had gathered for picnics and to go to a shrine in Baghran district north of Lashkar Gah on Thursday when the raids started....

Some residents and an official said the bombings occurred as a huge crowd of people had gathered to watch a public execution by Taliban fighters.

A Taliban spokesman said there was no public execution and those killed were all civilians attending a ceremony at a shrine.

There was no independent verification of the reported accounts from either side.

No idea what the true story is at this point or how many were really wounded and killed. Both the US and Taleban have reason to shape the story.

In the current environment with so much hostility towards the US over other civilian killings, the Afghani sentiment is likely to be against the US unless they can supply some serious proof.

Picture of the Day

Take a moment to look at the face of courage. An educated woman, a female doctor, willing to go into Taleban custody to treat the sick South Koreans.

(Doctor Razia Sharifi who will be part of a six-member medical team to be led by doctor Hashim Wahaaj to Gazni on Friday trying reach the South Korean hostages to treat them. Among the 21 hostages still with the Taliban, 2 are supposedly in very bad condition, according to a Taliban spokesman. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das))

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Are you very afraid?

Whether it's hype or not, I don't know anymore. The cries of wolf have become a white noise, but there's two bits out over the last two days regarding threat.
A new al Qaeda propaganda ad, headlined "Wait for the Big Surprise" and featuring a digitally altered photograph of President George Bush and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf standing in front of a burning White House, was posted on the Internet today.

But what does an Al Qaeda message mean anymore either?

A bit more troubling to me,
Capitol Police officials have stepped up the department’s security presence on Capitol Hill in response to intelligence indicating the increased possibility of an al-Qaida terrorist attack on Congress sometime between now and Sept. 11.

The August-to-Sept. 11 time frame was confirmed by a Capitol Police source who said Congressional security officials were recently made aware of the potential threat by federal anti-terrorism authorities.

And, no, it has not escaped my notice that the Iraq reports are due to hit right around the September 11 remembrance.

Picture of the Day - 2

They sure do laugh alot considering they're losing a war.

(AP) 142 Iraqis killed yesterday. 4 American soldiers.

Karl Rove jokes around with White House staffer Ed Gillespie as they walk to a farewell party for former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rob Portman, across from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, August 1, 2007. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Something you don't know about

As you read about the White House's urgent requests to create some sort of warrantless NSA legislation and the Democratic counteroffer, you definitely need to add this to the mix to understand the field they are playing on.
Isikoff - A secret ruling by a federal judge has restricted the U.S. intelligence community's surveillance of suspected terrorists overseas and prompted the Bush administration's current push for "emergency" legislation to expand its wiretapping powers, according to a leading congressman and a legal source who has been briefed on the matter.

The order by a judge on the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court has never been publicly acknowledged by administration officials—and the details of it (including the identity of the judge who wrote it) remain highly classified. But the judge, in an order several months ago, apparently concluded that the administration had overstepped its legal authorities in conducting warrantless eavesdropping even under the scaled-back surveillance program that the White House first agreed to permit the FISA court to review earlier this year.

The primary issue appears to be warrantless tapping of phone switches inside the US on foreign calls.

Chertoff knew Chiquita was breaking anti-terrorism laws and did nothing.

The story is a bit too long to excerpt, but take a quick read of the first 5 paragraphs. Short version: Chiquita officials met with Justice Department official (now DHS director!!!) Michael Chertoff in 2002 asking what to do about their payments to the right wing death squad groups in Columbia.
Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting.....

Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers.

So, our current DHS chief knew that Chiquita was making extortion payments to a terror group, and, not knowing what to do, chose to ignore it?
Chertoff, through spokesman Russ Knocke, refused to discuss the case. "I'm declining all comment, because there is an investigation ongoing," Knocke said.

Oh my.

The regional politics of mideast peace

One of the more interesting things that has developed over the last year in the growing regional struggle bewteen Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been the efforts of the Saudis to claim the Palestinian cause as their project.

After the Israelis were pushed back by Hezbullah and Nasrallah, Iran, through its long time Hezbullah support, became a hero and a rallying point among the mostly Sunni Palestinian groups and, more broadly, among Palestinian sympathetic Muslims across the region. In the regional populist mind, the Palestinian plight reflects the greater sense of Israeli and US dominance/interference in the region.

In alot of ways, this offered Iran a vehicle to take the mantle of protector of Islam's vast oppressed majorities, extending its influence even into deeply Sunni countries.

So, as we now watch Saudi Arabia inserting itself so publicly into the Israel/Palestine negotiations, let's remember that their goal is not so much to garner a middle east peace as it is to diminish Iran.

Right now, this is far more about appearance than result, and so long as they don't have to actually give anything up, the Israelis are more than happy to participate in this Saudi/US charade.

(Question: How much does the Hamas/Fatah conflict reflect the Iran/Saudi split?)

Picture of the Day

(Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, August 1, 2007. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Or, maybe you prefer a more classic Rumsfeld pose from the hearing.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Credit where due

This may be poorly timed, but I want to take a minute to praise the people behind the Minneapolis preparedness plans.

I picked up the story at about 6:50, and by that time, the police were on site in force, rescue crews were setting up and going into action, divers in the water, every ambulance in the system was there or en route, and all of the hospitals were mobilized amd prepared for mass casualty response. All in about 45 minutes.

This was a city facing an immediate unknown that swung into action on very good response plan. Lives may well be saved by this, so, credit to those involved.

Tony Snow tries to spin the Sunni pullout

Tony Snow wanted this explanation out there so badly, he didn't even wait for a question.
Regarding the announcement that some Sunni ministers will leave the government, the Prime Minister explained that he's actively working to address their concerns and find a resolution acceptable to all party blocs. To explain, the Sunni members of parliament have not left parliament. You've had six ministers leaving the government; in addition -- but as I noted also, Mr. Hashimi remains Vice President, and at the same time, the Minister of Defense, who is part of the Sunni bloc, will remain in the government.

See, the collapse of the pretense of reconciliation really is nothing. (There was a later, long exchange where Snow's minimization was challenged.)

Also, in the briefing, Snow didn't even let him finish the question.
Q Going back to the time line for Tillman, what did the President know about Corporal Tillman's death and when did he --

MR. SNOW: I can't answer that. I don't know.

And, the question I keep asking,
Q Tony, the administration has been continually saying to wait until September, and to wait until the testimony of General Petraeus and saying that his testimony will be the clearest sense of how well the surge militarily is working and what should happen going forward. General Petraeus has also made, in the past, assessments about the quality of the Iraqi security forces, in Mosul specifically, and in the country generally, that proved to be overly optimistic by a considerable margin. Given that come September he's basically going to be asked to grade a plan that he, himself, crafted and has implemented, what confidence should the American people have that his assessment of his own work will be objective and honest?

MR. SNOW: You're impugning General Petraeus's ability to measure what's going on?

Q I'm asking how he can give an objective assessment of his own work.

I fear a bloody August

Assuming a thinking and aware enemy who wants us out of Iraq, I fear we can expect a very bloody August in an effort to shape that American debate in September.

(Within the context of violence used to influence political policy, a spike in August violence would likely have more impact if it came like a wave on the tail of a lower violence July.)

So, if you really want to know if "the surge" has diminished the ability of the various groups to conduct violence, rather than simply achieved a reduction in violence, August, I fear, is the month to watch.

I don't think it's coincidental that August begins with 4 bombings killing at least 70.

Picture of the Day

Um Abdullah comforts her son, seven-year-old Younis Muhammad, in a central Baghdad, Iraq hospital after a parked car bomb killed 12 civilians and wounded 17 on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007. (AP Photo/ Adil al-Khazali)


(Iraqslogger) "Twenty thousand US troops have received word that their units will deploy back to Iraq starting late in 2007, with the Pentagon announcing Tuesday the force adjustment was part of regular troop rotations."

(AP) The Sunni Arab bloc officially withdrew (not suspended) from the Iraqi government.

(AP) And let's not misquote likely new Joint Chiefs Chair Mullen.
"I believe security is critical to providing the government of Iraq the breathing space it needs to work toward political national reconciliation and economic growth, which are themselves critical to a stable Iraq," Mullen said. "Barring that, no amount of troops and no amount of time will make much of a difference."

(NYTimes) At least 50 Iraqis were killed and 60 were wounded in a single bombing on a petrol station in Baghdad. (Still early reporting.) At least 17 others killed in another Baghdad bombing. (There have been a number of bomb attacks on Karradah recently.)

(McClatchy) "Despite President Bush's recent insistence that al Qaida in Iraq is the principal cause of this country's violence, senior American military officers here say Shiite Muslim militias are a bigger problem, and one that will persist even if al Qaida is defeated."

(The Shia militias will never go away because they have the utility of nonofficial violence. The real question is whether those efforts will be confined to Iraq. They are Shia Iraq's Hezbullah.)

(NYTimes) The Saudis "consider" upgrading their ties with the Maliki government as Gates and Rice visit, bringing them $20 billion in military hardware. (We're supporting "democracy" in Iraq by arming the autocratic Saudi monarchy. Nice.)

(ABCNews) The State Department still hasn't filled its diplomatic posts in Iraq.

(Iraqslogger) The GAO says that the DoD cannot account for 190,000 weapons given to the Iraqi government. "110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets....." (Certainly not all of this has gone into "insurgent" hands, but just as certainly, alot of it has.)

US deaths down in Iraq/Iraqi deaths near high.

It is undoubtable good news that the number of US troops killed in July in Iraq is the lowest of the year, however, before we start constructing a case that this is victory, perhaps someone should notice that the actual violence that we're supposed to be there stopping, violence among the Iraqis, isn't actually stopping.
American military deaths for July rose to 76 on Wednesday with the report of three U.S. soldiers killed by a powerful roadside bomb in Baghad, but the toll was still the lowest in eight months as the U.S. said it was gaining control of former militant strongholds.

By contrast, July was the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year, according to an Associated Press tally.....

Iraqi deaths rose, with at least 2,024 civilians, government officials and security forces killed in July, about 23% more than the 1,640 who died violently in June, according to AP figures compiled from police reports nationwide. That made July the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year; at least 2,155 Iraqis were killed in May.

To some degree, I accept the Odierno argument that part of the reason for an increase in US deaths in recent months stems from fighting into new areas, but part of the decrease also has to do with the new arrangements working with the Sunni insurgent groups in Anbar.

The bottom line though in looking at success of "the surge" is not a reduction in US deaths, but the number of Iraqis killed, and in July, that number was not good, even without alot of huge carbombings.

(And, probably more importantly, the main violent components in the civil war, the Sunnis and Mahdi, seem to be pulling further away from the weakening government which looks less and less able to enact any real political reconciliation.)

Later: Reality Based points out that US casualties have dipped in every previous July. Sorry, left that out.


There's some big developments on spying this morning I don't have time to get to.

(WaPo) The "Terrorist Surveillance Plan" of 2002 was part of a much broader effort to spy, without warrant (illegally,) on American soil.

And in the present, (WaPo) "The Bush administration is pressing Congress this week for the authority to intercept, without a court order, any international phone call or e-mail between a surveillance target outside the United States and any person in the United States."

Cheney says Iraq is going well

Cheney made a rare appearance on Larry King last night, and so far, I've seen two bits that jumped out at me.
"I think it's going to show that we will have made significant progress," Cheney said, referring to the formal assessment from the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

"The reports I'm hearing from people whose views I respect indicate that indeed the Petraeus plan is in fact producing results," the vice president said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday evening.

People whose views Cheney respects.... They've been right so many times before.

Second, in admitting that "last throes" was a mistake,
"My estimate at the time -- and it was wrong, it turned out to be incorrect -- was the fact that we were in the midst of holding three elections in Iraq, elected an interim government, then ratifying a constitution, then electing a permanent government, that they had had significant success, we'd rounded up Saddam Hussein.

"I thought there were a series of these milestones that would in fact undermine the insurgency and make it less than it was at that point. That clearly didn't happen. I think the insurgency turned out to be more robust."

How serious of a misunderstanding of the "insurgency" does Dick Cheney carry even today? From the Sunni side in 2005, it had nothing to do with elections or Saddam Hussein, then, as now, the battle is about power, economics, and representation.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, stands in an elevator as he leaves the Senate chamber after a vote on Capitol Hill 09 July 2007 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Getty/Alex Wong)

(The blog has felt heavy the last couple of days. I'm not going to force it. I am tired. I'll go to bed and try again tomorrow.)

Political bits

(TheHill) Lieberman escalates attacks on Dems.

(Politico) Fred Thompson's fundraising report: $3.46 million. That's well below the stated goal of $5 million, but I think, far more significantly, this amount comes from only 9,167 donors, 7,534 of them from online. (1,600 total donors not online? No, he's not lazy at all.)

(CNN) Thompson's statement: "The level of support and enthusiasm from people across this country is inspiring....”

(UPI) The Republican National Committee will be considering an immigration resolution on Thursday directly at odds with their President's policy. (Have you ever noticed that the loudest immigration critics are primarily not from the border states?)

Later: (AP) Ted Stevens bookkeeper is working with the Feds.

Picture of the Day - 2

Anti-immigration Mitt Romney looks for votes.

Republican presidential hopeful former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, delivers his remarks at the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Sunday, July 22, 2007, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Fearing the base and the YouTube debate

If you want some kind of idea why the Republicans fear the YouTube style debate, take a quick read of this:
Is there a secret plan being hatched by the federal government to construct a NAFTA super-highway from Mexico straight through to Canada, stopping off in Kansas City?

Alongside immigration and Iraq, it is a question that is being posed with surprising regularity to the leading Republican presidential candidates by people who fear it is the first step toward the establishment of a new mega-country that would merge Mexico and the United States.

Some of the ideas that come out of the Republican base are pretty freakin' crazy, and I sincerely doubt that the Republican candidates want to face them in a closely watched national debate.

Does life begin at conception? Is the eath 6,000 years old? Do you believe in evolution? Support for Israel? What limits on gun control? Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?....

This batch of candidates does not really want to address elements in their base, they want to assuage them, which is best done out of the limelight.


(Iraqslogger) It looks like the Sunnis may fully withdraw from the Maliki tomorrow.
On a different front, the news site Elaph quoted a statement by Tariq al-Hashimi, leader of the Islamic Party, in which al-Hashimi asserted that the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front (IAF) will indeed withdraw from the government tomorrow (Tuesday,) adding that his coalition “has other options.”..... Such meetings are usually linked with rumors claiming that an anti-government coalition may be formed, grouping next to the IAF, the Sadrist movement, the Fadhila party and 'Allawi’s “Iraqi List,” which has been trying to form such a coalition for several months.

(AP) Ex PM Jaafari is trying to build that same coalition.

(WaPo) Here's the Novak article where he talks about US plans to turn special forces against the PKK.

(FT) The Iraqi government has also missed a key deadline for establishing the voter roles for the scheduled December referendum on Kirkuk.

And, (AFP) How little weight is Condi Rice perceived to have that she has to have Robert Gates accompany her on these trips?

Caveat Emptor

On the day President Bush took office, the national debt stood at $5.7 trillion.

Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asked Congress to raise the current debt ceiling above its current $9 trillion level which is expected to be hit in October.

I want my money back.

Picture of the Day

A federal agent takes photos at the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Monday, July 30, 2007. FBI agents executed a search warrant at the home of Stevens an agency spokesman said. The warrant was served with agents of the Internal Revenue Service. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Let's not prejudge Gen. Petraeus' September report....

Because, after all, Petraeus hasn't made up his mind as to what his report will say......
U.S. generals expect to need a large contingent of troops in Iraq until the middle of 2009, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said on Monday......

Asked about media reports that Washington envisioned a substantial American force remaining in Iraq through mid-2009, General David Petraeus told ABC News: "Sustainable security is, in fact, what we hope to achieve.

"It's in our campaign plan. We do think it will take about that amount of time, as you discussed, to establish the conditions for it."

Who better to evaluate Petraeus' performance than Petraeus?

Hiding Gonzales behind classification

As I was saying Saturday,
In a request for information Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers suggested the Bush administration may have leaked classified information on US spying programs in order to rescue embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from perjury charges.

Publicly, the White House said they couldn't defend Gonzales because the information was too critical. Behind the scenes, they were leaking selected portions they think will help them.

Children named Bush

For some reason today, I find myself wondering if, out there in the world, there are a bunch of four and five years olds running around with George or Walker in their names....

Picture of the Day - 2

Red Crescent Society workers survey the ruins of a city block in the Karradah neighborhood of central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 30, 2007, after a July 26 bombing. (AP Photo/Wisam Sami)

(AP) The Iraqi parliament begins its August vacation today.

(No word yet on how much of August Bush will spend in Crawford.)

If his refelction showed in a mirror, he might have to judge himself....

In an answer at the Gordon Brown press conference today,
PRESIDENT BUSH: Look, people who kill innocent men, women and children to achieve political objectives are evil, that's what I think. I don't think there's any need to negotiate with them. I don't think there's any need to hope that they'll change. They are cold-blooded killers, and we better be clear-eyed when we're dealing with them.

Watch this bit of exceptionalism uttered by a president in a war of choice pass right through the media process without even a single notice of its irony.

Political bits

(Politico) In the face of lower fundraising and staff turnover, the Thompson (non) campaign is beginning to lose steam and disillusioned backers. (This article doesn't mention the "heavy influence" of Thompson's wife.)

(Politico) An interesting point: All the Dem candidates are trying to get a presence at YearlyKos, but nobody's appearing at the DLC.

VanityFair has a piece on "Judith Stish Ross Nathan Giuliani." (As you can guess by the use of all her names from previous marriages, it's not too flattering.)

And, Stephen Colbert has been seen around Washington getting his cast signed by Tony Snow and Nancy Pelosi who “cheekily called the comedian a ‘bone-coddling crybaby.’”

Later: (TPM) Dick Cheney comes out in support of Gonzales. (Cheney is a "big fan" of Gonzales.)

And, (NYDailyNews) It's good to know where the priorities are. We're in a "summer of threat" according to one Bush administration official. Meanwhile, the top levels of the DOJ and FBI are not talking to each other over Mueller's testimony.

Picture of the Day

A convenient visual metaphor for new PM Gordon Brown.

(Doug Mills/The New York Times)

(Later: EPM points out the "Golf Cart One" label.)


(WaPo) Novak: "Edelman.... revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years. Edelman's listeners were stunned. Wasn't this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied."

(McClatchy) Regarding Condi Rice and Robert Gate's visit to Saudi Arabia, "Aides to Rice and Gates say the trip has three primary goals, each crucial: to persuade Iraq’s neighbors to do more to help stabilize the country, to counter Iran’s growing ambitions and to try to get real movement on peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

(I find it hard to believe after the recent statements against Saudi Arabia, that this meeting will go too well.)

(Telegraph) Petraeus loudly denies a rift between himself and Maliki. (Wouldn't this have more weight coming from Maliki who hasn't uttered a word of denial on the subject?)

(IHT) The captain of the victorious Iraqi national soccer team will not return to Iraq out of fear for his life. He also calls on the US to leave Iraq immediately.

(AP) "In a break from historic Israeli opposition," Israel backs the massive US arms sale to the Saudis.

And, Iraqslogger has the Iraqi papers' very pessimistic assessment about the Sunni IAF's withrawal from the government. It's worth a read to feel the political trajectory the Iraqis see coming. (Start at the fourth pagaraph.)

The power of the blog

While reading yet another use of the word "technically" in an attempt by a White House insider to defend Gonzales,
Since that controversy was technically about the data mining, however, Gonzales could claim there was not an internal argument about the surveillance itself.

I got to thinking back to how this whole examination of Gonzales began. It really began on Talking Points Memo over a question on the case of Brent Wilkes and the seemingly inexplicable firing of US Attorney Carol Lam.

In the very early days, not really knowing what it had, TPM kept this story alive by slowly collecting small, unconnected mentions of other US Attoney firings from articles across the country. The list slowly built, one, then two, then three....

It really wasn't until New Mexico's David Iglesias got included on the list and began talking that things really got going. A local story in a New Mexico paper outlined Iglesias' claims of interference by local New Mexican politicians in a voter fraud case. This was picked up and promoted by TPM, and then by other blogs, and led major media beginning to look into the firings.

From that, there grew Congressional hearings, met with dissembling by by the Justice Dept, compounded by more media coverage, leading to more hearings, leading to more "dissembling" until the controversy broadened into all the other areas we're hearing about today.

I sincerely doubt that we would be where we are without the early "carrying" of the the US Attoneys story by TPM.

One medium sized blog, asking questions about the possibility of one political firing, led to an entire administration under threat with inquiries ranging from "voter fraud" to Hatch Act violations, to violation of FISA laws, to possible perjury charges and impeachment against an Attorney General.

One blog, following its questions...... and now we're seeing history.

I see this as a very interesting lesson in "the new media."

Look at today's entrant on the front page of the Washington Post, "Gonzales's Truthfulness Long Disputed," (or perhaps the NYTimes board editorial yesterday endorsing the impeachment of the Attorney General of the United States,) and take a minute to appreciate how we got here.

It's a new media world.

(PS. As a "living" example of this, take a look at this TPM post today which reaches into that NYTimes editorial to pull this out.
Unwilling to accept that conclusion, Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.

There may be nothing here, I don't know, but this tidbit could have easily passed below the radar, and with this emphasis, it will prompt questions to the administration over what could be a very salient point to the Ashcroft hospital visit.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quote of the Day

Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday,
“By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales,” said Wallace. “We had no takers.”

Picture of the Day

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates hugs the mother of a wounded soldier at Walter Reed.

Iraq and Pakistan

(TimesOnline) "A SENIOR Downing Street aide has sounded out Washington on the possibility of an early British military withdrawal from Iraq.....

Behind the scenes, however, American officials are picking up what they believe are signals that a change of British policy on Iraq is imminent."

The NYTimes looks at the planned British turnover of Basra to the Iraqis.

(CNN) A look at the "warlordism" that fuels the violence in Basra.

(AP) Gordon Brown meets with Bush at Camp David today.

(NYTimes) The general in charge of training the Iraqi forces, Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, says that he can't build the Iraqi forces right now because of sectarianism.

(Telegraph) Turkey's new government is still talking about military operations in Northern Iraq.

(Iraqslogger) When faced with a list of weapons the Turks have captured from the PKK, the US said "it was highly probable that the PKK got these weapons from Iraqi security forces."

Pakistan: Two reports of a meeting between Musharraf and Bhutto to discuss a possible power sharing agreement. (TimesOnline, CNN)