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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 29, 2007


(AP) Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai offers to meet with US declared terror figure (and Taleban leader) Mullah Omar. Also with warlord Hekmatyar.

(BBC) The UN Security Council has put off any decision about sanctions against Iran until at least November.

And, (BBC) Twelve people have been killed in Turkey after they were taken off a bus by what was reportedly the PKK.

Later: (AFP) The Taleban say they will never negotiate as long as international soldiers are in the country.

Picture of the Day - 3

Gingrich will not run for President.

I was sure he'd at least fake interest long enough to get a mailing list of "true conservatives" uncommitted to any candidate and willing to donate money. You'd think that'd be worth alot to a guy who makes his living off other people's money.

That water must have been pretty cold.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The coming wave that is Freedom's Watch

The NYTimes paints a picture of a small number of deep pocketed "conservatives" bankrolling Ari Fleischer's new group, Freedom's Watch.

It would almost be a caricature of the the evil, old, rich men hatching their plots in secret rooms except that their plans are so serious and the money behind them is so big.
Next month, Freedom’s Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group.....

One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money “will be easy,” the benefactor said, adding that several of the founders each wrote a check for $1 million. Mr. Blakeman would not confirm or deny whether any donor gave $1 million, or more, to the organization.

And, I'm sure this detail will go down well out there in the world,
The idea for Freedom’s Watch was hatched in March at the winter meeting of Republican Jewish Coalition in Manalapan, Fla., where Vice President Dick Cheney was the keynote speaker, according to participants.

Slammin' Rudy - It's just too easy

Remember how Giuliani justified his "phone call from his wife" schtick at the NRA convention invoking 9/11 yesterday? ("since Sept. 11, most of the time when we get on a plane, we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other.")

Well, TPM points out this hilarious fact: On 9/11 Rudy Giuliani was still married to his second wife.

Taking calls from the mistress just because you love her....

How romantic....

Picture of the Day - 2

"Look. 9/11."

(Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, left, speaks with Frances Daniel during a campaign stop as she has lunch at the OK Cafe, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith))

Does the sea change?

A bit of an exaggeration, but, generally, yeah.
While the U.S. has been tied up in Iraq, China is modernizing its military and its air defenses are now nearly impenetrable to all but the newest of American fighters, the senior U.S. military official in Japan said.

PS. Is it good or bad strategy to couch your budget requests as criticisms of the Iraq war?

And, as a broader question, at what point does carefully criticizing the Bush administration start helping your military career? Framed correctly, the current Joint Chiefs may like it. The next administration will likely like it.

At what point is that a good career move, and what are the implications if serving officers start grumbling about Iraq as a mistake?

The folly of the "partition" vote

Partition may be a very popular vote in the US Senate (in a non-binding, "I have an answer, but I'm not going to force it on anybody" kind of way,) but the Iraqis don't want it.
The Iraqi government on Friday firmly rejected a Bosnia-style plan approved by the US Senate to divide Iraq on ethnic and religious lines, saying Iraqis will themselves decide their future.

The regional powers don't want it.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Friday condemned the resolution, saying it would complicate matters further in the war-torn country....

The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

And, frankly, there's no mechanism by which the US could attempt to impose such a solution.

This vote is worse than meaningless in that it allows the "bubble Republicans" to release some of the election pressure they're feeling. It gives them a political out which makes it easier to continue voting for the war.

Picture of the Day

(Boston Globe) "Preying on a weak government and rising public concerns about security, the Taliban are enjoying a military resurgence in Afghanistan and are now staging attacks just outside the capital....

"The Taliban ability to sustain fighting cells north and south of Kabul is an ominous development and a significant lapse in security," .....

(AP) "A suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform set off a huge explosion Saturday while trying to board a military bus in Kabul, killing 30 people, most of them soldiers, officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The blast which also wounded 30 people...."

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

When Bush vetoes SCHIP, do you think he'll have a little sign saying "Ending Children's Healthcare?"

(And, the Dems go dirty on SCHIP, "tomorrow, a 12-year-old boy who receives SCHIP benefits will read the weekly Democratic radio address. The boy, Graeme Frost of Baltimore, who suffered severe brain injuries in a car accident a few years ago, says he may not have survived his injuries and the follow up therapy if he hadn't been receiving the federal health benefits.")

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

But I thought Patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel...

Giuliani tries to hide his personal life behind the bible....
"I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.

"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."

What Giuliani doesn't seem to understand is that those in the "Christian" movement who are criticizing him departed from the messages of tolerance many decades ago. (And I'm sure lecturing them on it will go over so well.)

Same interview, the 9/11 Tourettes reappears as Giuliani tries to explain the phone schtick at the NRA appearance.
Giuliani also addressed a cell phone call he took from his wife, Judith, last week during his speech to the National Rifle Association.....

"And quite honestly, since Sept. 11, most of the time when we get on a plane, we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other," he said.

C'mon Republicans. You can't be serious about this guy.

Political bits

John Edwards campaign is going the public financing route. They claim it's because they want to, not because they have to (estimates at $5-$7 million this quarter.) IF Edwards was to win the nomination, he would have limited funds through the Dem convention leaving him a sitting duck all summer. (Not likely to happen, but he does pick up $21 million in primary money.)

(Caucus) A "leaked" internal Romney campaign memo plays down expectations in the national polls. (Do you get that media? The Romney camp's not worried, so stop writing those stories.)

(BostonGlobe) "Seven on-duty Army personnel participated in a campaign event for Senator John McCain earlier this month in Londonderry, New Hampshire, in an apparent violation of a Pentagon directive against partisan political activity, two military officials confirmed this week."

(USAToday) Sen. Stevens has gotten an earmark for an experimental ferry to travel the same route as the bridge to nowhere. $84 million.

For what it's worth, (Politicalwire) Clinton is stretching her national poll leads. Fox poll: Clinton now leads Rudy Giuliani, 46% to 39%, Fred Thompson, 48% to 35%, and Sen. John McCain 46% to 39%.

And, Gingrich is making more noises about running, (a clear statement that Thompson has failed in reaching "the base") but Gingrich says he has to get $30 million in pledges between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21. (A pretty unreachable goal in $3,500 increments, but he will get a bitchin' mailing list of Republicans willing to donate, but uncommitted to other candidates. That's gotta be worth something.)

Picture of the Day

"It's supposed to be "Children learn...""

President George W. Bush talks with children from Public School 76 after giving a progress report on his Administration's No Child Left Behind program at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York September 26, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The breakdown of the "tribal deals" in Diyala?

The AP hits at the main longer term sticking point in the US's recent deals with the Sunni tribal groups.
A U.S. effort to recruit former Sunni insurgents north of Baghdad — considered crucial to expanding the fight against extremists — is in danger of collapse because the government has been unable or unwilling to accept the volunteers into Iraqi security forces.

In Anbar, there is no Shia or government presence at all, so the US can standup and fund the militia/tribal forces without challenge, but in Diyala where the Iraqi government still has a presence, the pretenses of the tribal deals become more evident.

The "tribal deals" are between the Sunnis and the US, not the Sunnis and the Shia/Iraqi government. The Shia want no part of these deals empowering Sunnis or placing them into the security forces.

Things in the Iraqi government/security forces are the way they are (Shia dominated/militia infiltrated) because the Shia want it that way. The US military is trying to jam these Sunni "tribal deals" down their throat.

Watch this, because if it blows up, the US's promises that have built many of these Sunni peace deals may blow up with it.


(CNN) "A U.S. Embassy in Baghdad document studying how Iraq fights corruption says the Iraqi government "is not capable of even rudimentary enforcement of anti-corruption laws" and the prime minister's office is openly hostile to the idea of an independent anti-corruption agency."

(Telegraph) Washington insider and aspiring Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi says that Maliki is "even worse" than Saddam.

(USAToday) "More than 19,000 militants have been killed in fighting with coalition forces since the insurgency began, according to military statistics released for the first time..... 4,882 militants were killed in clashes with coalition forces this year." (By past White House estimates, that should be just about all of them.)

The GOP can't even manage its shady election goals

The GOP effort to change California's presidential electoral distribution from "winner take all" appears to be dead.

The one major donor pulled out, and with a November deadline for hundreds of thousands of signatures, there appears almost no chance of getting it on the ballot.

Wow. With the huge election tilting benefit this could have offered, who could have imagined the day when a GOP effort like this would die? That somewhere they couldn't find a sugardaddy?

Toying with Kurdish independence

The NYTimes obliquely connects the two main issues in Shia/Kurd politics.

While the Kurdish regional government has signed the well reported "independent" oil deal with Bush friend, Ray Hunt, angering the Shia Iraqi central government, the Shia government has threatened to sign a terrorism agreement with Turkey "that Kurds fear might pave the way for Turkish soldiers to cross into Iraq to pursue Turkish Kurdish separatists."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

(Later: A State Dept official says the Hunt Oil deal "needlessly elevated tensions between the K.R.G. and the national government of Iraq." (And, the State Dept knew about the deal before it was signed.))

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

"Contractors" in Iraq. (Photo: AFP/Marwan Naamani)

What's news?

9 people killed in Myanmar and it leads every newscast. A wave of bombings kills 50 in Iraq, and it's not even mentioned.

I've never understood it.

Quote of the Day

From Doonesbury's little quote box:
"I always wanted to be a reporter -- maybe some TV. Who knows? Some serious news -- but some modeling, too. I just don't want to end up like Katie Couric. I want people to take me seriously." -- Miss USA Rachel Smith

Picture of the Day - 2

With reports that Fred Thompson is failing among evangelicals, Thompson begins feeling around for a VP candidate that will please them.

(No photo credit. Lifted from here.)

The middle east peace deal

If you take a look what the various sides are seeking in the coming Middle East peace talks, you can pretty much guarantee that nothing will get done.


If Russia and China are the main obstruction to further UN sanctions against Iran, how would they feel about an attack on Iran?

At first blush, you'd think they'd be against it, but walk through the post bombing scenario from their side.

With sanctions in place from everyone else, the Russians and Chinese get the reconstruction contracts. The Russians get the critical military reconstruction which would likely keep several of their manufacturers above water, while the Chinese get increased access to Iranian oil.

Although many of the Sunni governments will silently support the US action, the broader centerpoint of world opinion will likely move against the US, and with the likely Iranian reaction, the US's crusade/overstretch into the region is likely to be exacerbated.

Yes, the US is doing the work for the Saudi and Sunni governments, but after another US attack on a Muslim country, how much support could they offer?

I could be wrong, just thinking out loud, but it seems to me that beyond the short term disruptions, Russia and China win the "bomb Iran" scenario.


(You could certainly argue that the US loses in a "nuclear Iran" scenario, too, but let's remember that the Russians are the ones who offered cover as Iran started on the nuclear road.)

Also, what's the US deal with the Saudis on nukes? You know the Saudis and Egyptians will not accept Iran having nukes while they don't, so, what's the back room deal? Protection under the US umbrella, or an offer to flood nuke technology later if they hold off now? Do you give it at all?

Wurmser denies the treasonous plot.

In the NYSun, David Wurmser denies the reports by Steve Clemons and Newsweek (both of whom claim multiple sources) that he ever discussed the VP's office working with Israel to draw the US into a war with Iran.

Picture of the Day

I'm sure he'll soon say something to make me regret it, but Joe Biden gets a cool picture for saying this at the debate:

“Rudy Giuliani doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about” on immigration and sanctuary cities. “He’s the most uninformed person on American foreign policy now running for president.”

(A Biden campaign handout photo from Ramadi, Sept. 6./Reuters)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

They don't even try to hide it anymore

It's like magic. Just as the Bush administration is about to propose a new "cyber warfare center," suddenly we get leak after leak showing the risk.

ABC's Brian Ross tells me the Chinese are preparing for a cyber attack and the AP suddenly gets a leaked government video showing a terrorist collapsing the power grid.

Look, I don't have a problem with the idea of a cyber defense center, experts like Richard Clarke have been hollering about it for 5 years. It's the cheap exploitation to sell it that gets to me.

Picture of the Day - 3

He claimed the smell was WMD.

(Bush waiting to speak at the UN. (AFP/Timothy A. Clary))

Used up

It's been over six months since the Washington Post broke the Walter Reed story and brought the treatment of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to the fore.

Today, the GAO released a report saying that not much has changed.

Meanwhile, The Bush administration is seeking $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year.

Seems like we could spend a little of that on veterans, no?

Giuliani fires chief fundraiser

This doesn't look good days before the 3rd quarter filing.
In a sign of potential money woes, Rudy Giuliani has fired his presidential campaign's chief fundraiser and brought in a top rainmaker for President Bush, The Daily News has learned.

As a second whammy, insiders said, "they remained confident that Giuliani will have the resources he needs to get his message out."

That's code for "way less than we expected."

Who are we fighting in Iraq? (Part II)

At the UN today, (AP) Maliki "warned the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday that the continued flow of weapons, suicide bombers and terrorism funding into his country would result in "disastrous consequences" for the region and the world."

But if you read what he said through the filter of Iraqi usage, he is referring entirely to Sunni weapons, Sunni suicide bombers, and Sunni terrorism funding, not the Iranian Shia assistance.

The Maliki government, right now, is working for the release of an Iranian alleged to be involved in weapons smuggling from Iran. The Shia and Kurdish leaders are almost all involved to some degree with the Iranian transfers/influence.

The Iraqi government wants the Iranian arms flow into Kurdish and Shia militias, and the US military is fighting against the Iraqi government to try and stop it.

That's what we're fighting for.

Picture of the Day - 2

(You'd think that by now they'd have learned to fold these over.)

(President George W. Bush (R) passes a handwritten note back to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) during a UN Security Council meeting on Africa in New York September 25, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer)


We're coming to the close of another '08 fundraising quarter with Clinton and Obama looking to be around the $20 million mark, but there's some interesting questions on the Republican side.

First, this healthy sounding analysis of the Republican field,
"It looks like Rudy Giuliani's going to lead this quarter, Mitt Romney's going to have to write another check to himself, John McCain is not going to break out like he was hoping he would, and Fred Thompson is going to be challenged, because he doesn't have a finance structure in place yet," predicted Scott Reed, a GOP consultant, who ran Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign.

Second, the revelation that Fred Thompson is still largely fundraising in his homestate of Tennessee. (That money should come in with less effort.)
"If you look at what he's doing in fundraisers this week, he's doing Tennessee," Reed said. "That isn't exactly a knock'em, rock'em, sock'em roll out of fundraising. You'd think he'd be doing New York, Chicago, Miami, L.A., Dallas."

And, third, what to make of this?
There’s also a significant infusion of new blood on the GOP side: Among Republican givers, 89 percent of donors did not give to President Bush in his 2004 reelection race.

I might argue that many of the missing Bush donors are "winner chasing." If you look at Republicans across the board, their fundraising is down now that they can guarantee less for their donors.

Will the Bush donors step in when a nominee is chosen, or are they "smart money," only laying out when they see a potential return on investment?

Diminished opposition fundraising is one of the unexplored elements of the Clinton "inevitability" push.

Bombings strike towns in northern Iraq

Apparently part of the stepped up campaign.
A suicide truck bomber struck a Sunni tribal leader's house near the Syrian border on Wednesday, killing at least five people in the latest attack by suspected Sunni extremists on provincial officials and tribal figures....

Elsewhere in northern Iraq, a parked car bomb also exploded near a group of black market gasoline vendors, killing another five people and wounding seven, police said. Another bomb struck wounded victims as they were being taken to the hospital.

The journalistic courage of Katie Couric.

Look, I don't really care what Katie Couric thinks, but she is the anchor of one of the big three nightly newscasts, so when she says this, it's significant.
“Everyone in this room would agree that people in this country were misled in terms of the rationale of this war,” said Couric, adding that it is “pretty much accepted” that the war in Iraq was a mistake.....

She also says she was very uncomfortable with the Iraq invasion back then, although to my knowledge she never said a word about it.

Picture of the Day

"It's not easy bein' green..."

He gave a speech at the UN yesterday, too, and nobody even noticed. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Inverting the "hearts and minds" argument

What does it say about the state of affairs that the US is unable convince people in the Arab world not to blow themselves up?

You would think that would be the easiest sell in the world.

Picture of the Day - 2

(China's Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi (R) yawns as U.S. President George W. Bush addresses the 62nd United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 25, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing)

If Condi Rice had been caught yawning during China PM Hu's speech, it would be a diplomatic incident.

Outsmarted again

It must be Al Qaeda because the Sunnis are working with the US now, right?
Sunni extremists appear to have begun a systematic campaign to assassinate police chiefs, police officers and other Interior Ministry officials throughout Iraq, with at least 10 attacks in the last 48 hours.

Think about the brilliant political monkey trap the Sunnis have constructed for the US.

They made "peace" with the US just long enough for "the successes in Anbar" to become a rhetorical anchor around the administration's neck, and now they're virtually immunized against any serious US troop increases or offensives.

What, is the Bush administration now going to admit the Anbar policy has failed?

Mispronunciations, "swatting flies," and a loss of control.

This White House is losing control. By that, I don't mean that the world and its challenges are overwhelming them, that's been going on for some time, I mean that they're losing their internal discipline. Every few days we're hearing another little tidbit that makes the President look foolish.

Today, we get Dana Perino defending a leaked copy of the President's speech to the UN which had phonetic spelling in it. She says it's not because Bush can't remember how to say Mauritania, Mugabe, or Caracas, but that the phonetics were included for the translators.

(Right. Because UN level translators trained in English will do better with "moo-GAH-bee" than the regularly used around the world "Mugabe.")

(Second snark: If it was for the translators, then why was it taken down?)

Also today, we get this bizarre image of the President of the United States chasing flies around the oval office (during meetings?)

(Particularly funny since the terrorism strategy was described as going after Al Qaeda and not "swatting flies.")

The broader message of all this is that this is a White House out of control. Mistakes are being made and details are being told that shouldn't be coming out. The image of "steely resolve" is slipping.

Picture of the Day

Giuliani goes Karnak:

"A family, a comb over, and 3,000 Americans.....

Name three things that were destroyed so I could be a national candidate."

(Sorry if that's a little sharp, I'm just sick of watching Rudy Giuliani use/stand on thousands of dead Americans in his effort to become president.

The latest example was his claim that 9/11 changed his politically inconvenient views on gun rights.

Last night, The Daily Show called it 9/11 Tourettes.)

(Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pauses as he addresses the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, Mich., Friday, Sept. 21, 2007. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio))

(Giuliani throws a flower into the reflecting pool at the 2007 Sept. 11 commemoration.(AP Photo/Justin Sullivan)

The experts are starting to scream about Afghanistan

I know it's "the other war," but we need to pay attention to Afghanistan/Pakistan. Yesterday we learned that Pakistan was largely ending its military efforts along its tribal border.

Today we learn that the Taleban is extending its attacks and reach to the areas just around Kabul.

If the Taleban is operating around Kabul, that means they have significant support there, and that is new support.

As the commanders in Afghanistan are acutely aware, there are no troops ready to surge into Afghanistan, so they're having to conduct a "soft" counterinsurgency. Significant numbers of Taleban and foreign fighters continue to be killed in the south and along the border areas, but the "soft" part of the counterinsurgency, swaying the populous into the government camp, is slowly failing as Karzai's government stagnates.

(The real shame of this is that Afghanistan is a counterinsurgency that we could actually win if the resources weren't being sucked into Iraq.

Unlike the complex sectarian civil war in Iraq, Afghanistan is a relatively simple one sided insurgency where the population started on the US side of the midline. But slowly, that support is slipping away.)

Iraq statistics are the new body counts

The WaPo has an interesting frontpager looking at the how the "metrics" in Iraq (piles of dead bodies) are calculated. They don't come out and say that Petraeus was lying, but they do say this,
Apparent contradictions are relatively easy to find in the flood of bar charts and trend lines the military produces. Civilian casualty numbers in the Pentagon's latest quarterly report on Iraq last week, for example, differ significantly from those presented by the top commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, in his recent congressional testimony. Petraeus's chart was limited to numbers of dead, while the Pentagon combined the numbers of dead and wounded -- a figure that should be greater. Yet Petraeus's numbers were higher than the Pentagon's for the months preceding this year's increase of U.S. troops to Iraq, and lower since U.S. operations escalated this summer.

What an amazing coincidence that his variation from the Pentagon numbers just happens to make him look good. (Here's the flat line graph from the Pentagon report.)

Success is just around the corner.

Also in Iraq, (WaPo) A suicide bomber killed 21 in Baquba targeting a meeting between Sunnis and Shiites in a mosque.The police Chief was killed, the governor was wounded, and a number of other key politicians were involved.

(WaPo) A suicide bomber drove into the Police Headquarters in Basra, killing 3 wounding 20.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

"C'mon. Help me out. I'm at 8% in the polls."

Mitt Romney, who campaigned on Friday in Littleton, N.H., once promised he would not lead a fight against same-sex marriage. (Cheryl Senter - New York Times)

Are we any closer to catching Bin Laden? (and the joy of the next war.)

As the news media chatters on over where the Iranian President is and isn't allowed to go in New York, I find myself wondering about Bin Laden.

Are we any closer to catching him today than yesterday?

It's funny how excited the media gets about the next enemy and the next war. I guess it's because it's a new product, a new toy, and we've gotten tired of hearing about the wars we have. (and they're not going so well.)

But the next war..... it will be brilliant. It will be surgical and exact. We will be glorious and powerful, and will emerge as victors. It will be the perfect war.

These conflicts are sold like Christmas. It's coming.... It's coming.... If only you can wait, you'll get everything you want.

Meanwhile, Bin Laden is free and rebuilding, still intent on "spectacular" attacks against Americans.

Everyone's talking about Ahmadinejad in New York. Nobody is talking about this.
Political turmoil and a spate of brazen attacks by Taliban fighters are forcing Pakistan's president to scale back his government's pursuit of Al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence officials who fear that the terrorist network will be able to accelerate its efforts to rebuild and plot new attacks.

The development threatens a pillar of U.S. counter-terrorism strategy, which has depended on Pakistan to play a lead role in keeping Al Qaeda under pressure to reduce its ability to coordinate strikes.


Podhoretz briefs Bush

I don't understand the big foofarah over the revelation that Norman Podhoretz was brought into the White House to make the "pro" case for bombing Iran.

I don't agree with Podhoretz, and I don't agree with the policy he pushes, but it doesn't seem unreasonable that facing the decision this White House seems to want to face on this issue that they would bring Podhoretz in.

My question is, what the hell was Karl Rove doing there? Domestic policy adviser, political chief? Anything in there say he should be chiming in on national security issues?

Picture of the Day

So glad the conservatives are in charge of France.....

"Tell me again how you want to bomb Iran...."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice receives a kiss from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner following their joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(On some kisses she leans in.)

The Pakistanis are learning about democracy

Does this sound familiar?
With their country in turmoil, Pakistani voters are expected within months to go to the polls for the first parliamentary elections here in five years. But as time runs short, independent observers say that the nation is poorly prepared and that the elections will be highly vulnerable to fraud.

The most glaring weakness, they say, is a new voter list that is missing the names of tens of millions of Pakistanis, threatening to seed mass confusion over who is eligible to cast a ballot.

And, of course, if we're talking purged voter rolls which benefit one side, who else but the Bush administration would be involved.
Creation of the list was heavily funded by Washington. It was to be the signature U.S. contribution to the election process.

Congratulations. You've transferred Pakistani outrage over fixed elections from Musharraf to the US. (Was that the plan?)

Why are we in Iraq?

Here's the short version, bottom line.

(AFP) The US detained an Iranian last week who they claimed was "a kingpin" of smuggling "RPG-29s, explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs), 240 mm rockets and Misagh-1 surface-to-air missiles" from Iran into Iraq.

(AP) The Iraqis want him freed immediately. Al Maliki, "The government of Iraq is an elected one and sovereign. When it gives a visa, it is responsible for the visa," he said. "We consider the arrest ... of this individual who holds an Iraqi visa and a (valid) passport to be unacceptable."

Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, perhaps the most influential politician in Iraq, demanded the Iranians release on Saturday.

What enemy is the US fighting here? Either the US is openly lying about the Iranian arms flows or the US is fighting the Iraqi government. What are the prospects of "standing them up" if they are the enemy?

(AP) US starts late manning Iran-Iraq border.

A little sunlight reaches into the Cheney crypt - Israel, the US, Iran, and bombing

It's finally getting a little coverage, although, buried in a Newsweek story on the Syrian airstrike and one AFP article is hardly the light it deserves.
US Vice President Richard Cheney has considered provoking an exchange of military strikes between Iran and Israel in order to give the United States a pretext to attack Iran, Newsweek magazine reported in its Monday issue.

And, I didn't know that Wurmser had been sent to "spend more time with his family." (I'm guessing his crime was mentioning the Cheney plan in public, not promoting it.)
One official who pushed a particularly hawkish line on Iran was David Wurmser, who had served since 2003 as Cheney's Middle East adviser, the report said.

A spokeswoman at Cheney's office confirmed to Newsweek that Wurmser left his position last month to "spend more time with his family."

A few months before he quit, Wurmser told a small group of people that Cheney had been mulling the idea of pushing for limited Israeli missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz -- and perhaps other sites -- in order to provoke Tehran into lashing out, the magazine reported.

I still think this should be a huge front page story. The Vice Presdent "has considered" working with a foreign government to subvert a president's policy.

Also: The Newsweek story looking at a possible Israeli bombing raid on Iran is worth a read as it calculates the Israeli math.
And though Olmert may not believe Israeli warplanes can get to all the targets, he might be willing to gamble on even a limited success. "No one in their right mind thinks that there's a clinical way to totally destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities," says the well-placed Israeli source. "You strike at some and set the project back. You play for time and hope Ahmadinejad will eventually fall."

Alternatively, Israel might count on Tehran to retaliate against American targets as well, drawing in the superpower. To avoid that outcome, Gardiner believes, Washington must prevent Israel from attacking in the first place. "The United States does not want to turn the possibility of a general war in the Middle East over to the decision making in Israel," he says. Does not want to, certainly—but might not have a choice.

One more in the area: Reuters has a piece where an Iranian military official talks about the possible Iranian retalitations against the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Picture of the Day

Jeri Kehn Thompson keeps an eye on her husband Republican Presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson as she holds their 10-month-old son Samuel during a town hall meeting at the Sioux City, Iowa, Convention Center, September 7 2007. REUTERS/John Gress

(Fred Thompson is 65 years old with a 10 month old baby.)

The frontal assault on Giuliani.

Kinda flat tonight. The only notable is the WaPo going front page with an article shooting holes in Giuliani's claims of terrorism expertise.

Thus far, the Giuliani campaign has done a pretty good job avoiding the direct challenges to his terror credentials, hiding any controversy behind our collective misty memories of that day.

I'll be really curious to see how well the Giuliani campaign can preserve that 9-11 image when the national campaign spotlight is held up to his record.

(Perhaps the mistake I'm making is that I'm judging all this based on facts, not on "gut." Giuliani is effective not because of what he's really done, or the nonsense foreign policy he's now spouting, but instead because he evokes images of resolution.

When President Bush was being flitted about the country making nervous statements, Giuliani appeared strong, at least stronger than the president.

Perhaps to attack Giuliani, you don't wage a campaign based on facts, but instead, go after that image.)

Picking your forum.

Does anyone else find this funny? Dan Rather explaining his lawsuit.
"Somebody, sometime has got to take a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news," he said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Picture of the Day

In the middle of a huge crisis over Blackwater between the US State Dept and the Iraqi government, (not to mention, you know, that whole war thing) Condi Rice doesn't even talk to Iraqi PM Maliki at a UN meeting focused on Iraq?

(AP) "Earlier, the State Department's Iraq coordinator, David Satterfield, said the two did not have any one-on-one contact."

She's not involved in Iraq. She's not involved in Iran. She's not involved with N. Korea. She's not involved with the Turks over the Kurds. She's not involved in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or even Asia.

She's really become the White House greeter.

(Of course, she may have learned from Colin Powell that if you go out of town for a few days, you may come back to an inevitable war.)

(Condoleezza Rice U.S. Secretary of State attends High-level meeting on Iraq at U.N. Headquarters in New York Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007 (AP Photo/David Karp))

Corruption of faith

How is it that the "most faithful" believers of a religion of peace and turn the other cheek have been the top supporters of war?
Just over half of the white evangelicals who attend church at least weekly said the war was the right decision and the extra troops were helping, while about four in 10 said the war is a success — well more than Catholics and Protestants measured in the survey.

This is not intended as a snark post, I mean this as a real question. What has gone on in the Christian movement that it has become so distanced from what I understand to be the traditional doctrines of the New Testament?

Historically, evangelicals stayed out of politics fearing its corruptive influence. It wasn't until the rise of the large televised ministries (and now the subsequent organization into megachurches) that they were mobilized.

What has happened that these groups' primary message to outsiders has now become political rather than religious?

Just speaking a little heresy on a Sunday morning.

One of our "democratic" "allies"

January 20, 2005: "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," Bush said in his inaugural address after his swearing-in ceremony."

Today: "With President Pervez Musharraf facing an election in just two weeks, police on Saturday night arrested key opposition leaders who had vowed to try to block the general's plans for winning a new term."

(And, a question: Would the US have been better served backing free elections the very moderate and very democratic Bhutto? Would that have worked? Would Musharraf have still blocked elections and been more hostile to the US?)