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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Huckabee having it both ways

Running as a self described "christian" candidate, Huckabee doesn't really want to get caught voicing his "christian" views.

(AP) "Republican and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee declined Thursday to outline his views on women in the ministry...."

(AP) "Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher who has surged in Iowa with evangelical Christian support, bristled Tuesday when asked if creationism should be taught in public schools."

Later: (AP) Huckabee wanted to isolate AIDS patients. ("Besides a quarantine, Huckabee suggested that Hollywood celebrities fund AIDS research from their own pockets, rather than federal health agencies..... Huckabee did not return messages left with his campaign.")

Later Still: Finally, a Huckabee response.

Picture of the Day

He's getting every gun photo in every early state he can.

(Fred Thompson talks to supporters at Blue Ridge Shooting Sport Store Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007, in Greer, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain))

The destroyed tapes - a second claim of criminality

I don't know if this is the same source that the NYTimes used, but a second article (second source?) makes the same claim relating to the destruction of the "interrogation" tapes.
A well informed source tells CBS News the videotapes of U.S. interrogations of two high level al Qaeda operatives were destroyed to protect CIA officers from criminal prosecution, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

This means that not only is there someone out there who knows, but that someone is willing to tell the press.

(What was the genesis of the NYTimes story? Someone brought it to them? Slipped it over the transom?)

Also, I find it interesting that this damaging story has so little exposure for the leaker on the "national security" front. As the basis of the CIA defense is that these tapes no longer had intelligence value, there can't be the huge outcry that secrets were lost.

Whoever spawned this story is very, very good.

(Also, Why now? Were they waiting for Gonzales to leave?)

Later: The NYTimes continues the story citing White House, DoJ, and Congressional figures all warning against destroying the tapes. Meanwhile, the guy who did it, "Mr. Rodriguez could not be reached Friday for comment." Also,
Several former intelligence officials also said there was great concern that the tapes, which recorded hours of grueling interrogations, could have set off controversies about the legality of the interrogations and generate a backlash in the Middle East.

According to one former intelligence official, the C.I.A. then decided to keep the tapes at the C.I.A. stations in the countries where Abu Zubaydah and Mr. Nashiri were interrogated.

Robert Gates on Iran

Robert Gates, reportedly against attacking Iran, is in Bahrain spreading counterspin against the NIE. There's the usual stuff, training and arming militias, then there's this,
Gates charged that Tehran was developing "medium-range ballistic missiles that are not particularly cost-effective unless equipped with warheads carrying weapons of mass destruction.".....

Gates conceded the timing of the report (NIE) was not ideal. "The estimate fairly has come at a wrong time, it has annoyed a number of our good friends and confused a number of people," he told delegates.

Overall, it was a pretty broad and preachy speech to our allies in the region. (Also, the NYTimes version.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

This is from the fundraiser Oprah Winfrey threw at her home Sept. 8. Notice she did the press through her operation. (REUTERS/Harpo. Inc)


"Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers." ---- Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

(Related: Bloomberg has a poll of military families turning against the president, against the war, and against Republicans.)

Israel takes on the "bomb Iran" mantle

I wondered about this a few days ago,
Israel has warned Iran to either co-operate with the West over its uranium enrichment program or face military action.

The release of the Iran NIE has effectively taken the US out of the initiating role in an attack on Iran, leaving the Israelis with the choice of whether or not to start the Iran war.

Let's remember that this was Cheney's Plan B all along. (Links to two other past posts on Cheney's "end run" strategy.)

Alternate theory: This NIE would also shift the assessment of the Russians in the negotiations over sanctions. If they didn't believe that Cheney might be able to bomb Iran, maybe they'll believe the Israelis will.

Picture of the Day

Is he pulling on McCain's bad shoulder?

(Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain shake hands in front of former Senator Fred Thompson at the debate in St. Petersburg, November 28, 2007. (Scott Audette/Reuters))

The facts must be wrong.....

On Wednesday, I noted that the pro-war crazies had developed a conspiracy theory to explain the Iran NIE because they didn't like the facts. As part of that, John Bolton called for a Congressional investigation into the NIE.

Well, never ones to disappoint their neocon brethren, some Senate Republicans may be about to do just that.
Senate Republicans are planning to call for a congressional commission to investigate the conclusions of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran as well as the specific intelligence that went into it, according to congressional sources.

Ensign and Sessions are named in the article.


(WashTimes) "Numerous Iraqi military and law-enforcement officials brought to the U.S. as part of special intelligence and training programs have run away and are seeking asylum in this country or disappeared altogether, The Washington Times has learned."

Judith Nathan got security much earlier

The NYDailyNews has a little something,
Judith Nathan got taxpayer-funded chauffeur services from the NYPD earlier than previously disclosed - even before her affair with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani was revealed, witnesses and sources tell the Daily News.

"It went on for months before the affair was public...."

I can't wait to hear the "security" argument on this one. This sounds alot more like chauffeuring than security.

Apparently, she was only in danger during car rides.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The CIA destroyed interrogation tapes - Updates

We don't torture. We just destroy evidence that might show torture.
The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.

I would add that the Detainee Treatment Act, or whatever it was called when McCain caved to the White House in late 2005, contained retroactive immunity for everyone involved.

Probably wouldn't stand up in The Hague, though.

Later: ABCNews also has the full Hayden statement which is very politically written to amply spread the blame, saying the leaders of the Congressional intelligence committees knew about all the destruction of the tapes, and remindng us once again that the "procedures" were approved by both the DoJ and "other elements of the Executive Branch."

Later Still: The WaPo has the details which sounds like destruction of evidence.
All the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 on the order of Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the CIA's director of clandestine operations, officials said. The destruction came after the Justice Department had told a federal judge in the case of al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui that the CIA did not possess videotapes of a specific set of interrogations sought by his attorneys. A CIA spokesman said yesterday that the request would not have covered the destroyed tapes.

In the WaPo piece, "Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said in a statement last night that lawmakers did not learn about the destruction of the tapes for another year."

Also, I think it's very important to understand that this took place under Porter Goss. Michael Hayden is just left to explain it.

(And if I remember right the head of clandestine operations who made this decision was a Goss appointee after a well liked and respected career man resigned over Goss' leadership.)

Picture of the Day - 2

I love these pictures where the person next to Bush looks surprised, worried, or concerned about what's coming out of the President's mouth.

Later: Here's why. Bush gave out the wrong 800 number.

(Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson looks on as President Bush makes a statement about subprime mortgages, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Huckabee annoints himself as God's choice.

Take a minute to watch this video of Huckabee saying that God is putting him ahead in the polls.
"There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people. And that's the only way our campaign could be doing what it's doing."

And I'm not being facetious nor am I trying to be trite. There literally are thousands of people across this country who are praying that a little will become much.

And it has. And it defies all explanation. It has confounded all the pundits, and I'm enjoying every minute of their trying to figure it out, and until they look at it from a .... just experience beyond human, they'll never figure it out, and that's probably just as well, that's honestly why it's happening."

And it's Romney's religion that's the issue....

A candidate only the home-schooled could love....

If you hadn't noticed, I really don't like Mike Huckabee.

I mean, seriously, are we going to elect a president who openly denies evolution, and says the world is only 8,000 years old?

(Mike Huckabee smiles as he is set up with a wireless microphone by a tv network technicians as he arrives to speak with voters at an event in Newton, Iowa, December 4, 2007. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))

we should probably add Giuliani to the "belief set."
Giuliani's campaign said Tuesday that the findings in the National Intelligence Estimate report do not change his belief that Iran is a threat....

On the stump, Giuliani has been more bellicose. He has called Iran a bigger danger than Iraq. He has made it a "promise," not a "threat," that he would "set them back 8 or 10 years" if the country was on the brink of becoming a nuclear power.

"We will not take the military option off the table," Giuliani said at a campaign stop in Central Florida. "We will not beg to negotiate with them. We're going to make them beg to negotiate to us."

Seriously, is this what Republicanism has become?

Mitt Romney says, "you're all a bunch of bigots."

The real story around Romney's speech today is the tremendous miscalculation made in the foundation of his campaign.

Viewing Giuliani as the top primary threat, Romney chose to change all of his positions to run as the candidate of the "christian" right, figuring that he could then attack Giuliani from there.

But, not actually being one of them, he failed to appreciate the true depth of their narrowmindedness and bigotry. Because, after all, the Republican group photo is a rainbow of diversity.

The interesting thing is that this doesn't seem to be that big of an issue in New Hampshire.

PS. Is there even a major elected Jewish Republican?

Damn the lack of torpedoes, full steam ahead.

You gotta wonder how this is gonna go down.
The United States says it will not alter plans to build a missile defense system in Europe despite findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program.

An unproven system to protect against a nonexistent threat.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Does Cheney now get his wish? Does Israel now attack Iran?

With the Iran NIE release, the US is likely out of the attacking Iran business.

The Israelis, on the other hand, still present that an Iranian nuclear weapons program continues and represents "an existential threat."

By publicly stepping away, has the US effectively tossed the decision back to the Israelis?

Just a random thought.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Defense Secretary Robert Gates listens to translation during a joint-press conference with Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari))

Is Giuliani fading, and what does that mean for his Feb 5 strategy?

You can cherrypick polls at this point to show just about anything, but there does seem to be some national erosion in Giuliani support reflected in a number of polls. (Rasmussen's daily tracker actually shows Huckabee ahead today.)

There's alot that's going to play out in and from Iowa, NH, SC, Mich, Nevada, but if Giuliani is flagging nationally, that "wait until Florida/Feb. 5" strategy starts to look pretty dicey.

Of course, somebody has to win.

(I'm not completely sold on this Huckabee bubble. Right now, he's achieving what Thompson was supposed to do, but my sense is that as people get to know him, that momentum will fade somewhat. It's all a matter of timing.)

War-like as a form of identity

I haven't really figured out how to put it into words, but the "conspiracy theory" version of the NIE coming from some on the right blows me away. Their argument is that either the Iranians (or CIA) intentionally distributed false information to stop a drive for a US attack against Iran.

The mindboggling part about this is that they have absolutely no proof whatsoever to make this assertion. They just made it up.

Their belief in the policy is so core that there's nothing, no facts, no intelligence, no anything that could change their position, so the facts must be wrong. It must be a conspiracy.

(Fred Thompson's now jumping to a weak version of this position.)

Picture of the Day

Waiting to hear who the dish ran away with.

(President Bush, first lady Laura Bush, and seven-year-old Malik Lawson watch the Children's Holiday Reception and Performance in the East Room the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

Iraq and Afghanistan

In Aghanistan, suicide bombers bracketed Defense Secretary Gates' one day visit, attacking a NATO convoy on his way in, and an Afghan Army convoy on his way out, killing 13 and wounding 42, all civilians.

(AP) The Iraqi government admits that it can't handle the possibility of a refugee return. (Imagine returning to your house to find someone living there, and they refuse to leave because someone is living in their house....)

(AP) 15 month tours are expected to last until next fall. (at least!)

(AP) "the Iraqi Cabinet agreed Tuesday to ask the United Nations to extend the authorization for U.S.-led forces in Iraq through the end of next year, but it will be the last time, officials said." (Moving towards the binary US bases agreement after that.)

And, (AP) A "hostage video" was released of one of the five British contractors captured back in May.

Later: (AP) Gates hist Baghdad and 25 more are killed in a bombing.

Huckabee with his head in the sand

It really is pretty mindblowing that Mike Huckabee can claim no knowledge of the Iran NIE 24 hours after the story first broke. (ThinkProgress, Politico)

(Probably should relink the Huckabee quote from yesterday, "I may not be the expert as some people on foreign policy – but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

It's funny 'cause we're in a war.)

The difference on detainees

After listening to the rhetoric on both sides, I've come to the conclusion that within the middle of the debate over Guantanamo, torture, renditions, and detainee trials rests one core difference of perception.

Those who support these policies hold the assumption that every person subjected to these measures is, in fact, guilty and properly identified. They assume no mistakes, ever.

Whereas from my side, I just can't accept that assumption of infallible competence.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Political bits

Reading this CBS summary of the Wayne Dumond case, the rapist released by Huckabee only to later rape and kill, it sure sounds like his decision was informed by talk radio and Clinton hate.

(CBSblog) Tancredo's newest ad warns of illegals raping children.

(Politico) Fred Thompson jumps on this Huckabee line, "I may not be the expert as some people on foreign policy – but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

Later: (AP) Romney had to fire his landscaper after, once again, they were caught clearing Mitt's lawn using illegal aliens.

Picture of the Day - 2

Not so nice up close. (Mike Huckabee speaks at a campaign stop in Bedford, N.H. Saturday, Dec.1, 2007. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter))

Dirty Pool in Iowa/NH

There's some serious Karl Rove style politics going on in Iowa on the GOP side.

First, we have the masked identity pro-Huckabee pushpoll calls from some 527 group. Then we find out the same group intends to "completely independently" continue the effort (with untraceable, unlimited 527 money, of course) including recruiting precinct captains for the caucuses. (Also on CNN.)

Then, of course, there's the ultimate Huckabee play, emphasizing in all his stuff that he is the "Christian" candidate, and then claiming he's not inciting religious bigotry against Romney. (Imagine if he ran as "the white candidate," and then tried to claim it's not bigotry because he never called his opponent black.)

Also, today we have a report that a group called "Iowans for Some Semblance of Christian Decency" were slipping anti-Huckabee fliers under the doors of the Marriott where there's a "pastor's conference" going on. The flier "lays out its interpretation of how the former Baptist minister's views run contrary to the Bible."

On to the Dems, the Clinton campaign tries to raise a mantra of Obama "dirty tricks," but frankly, it doesn't seem so.

The Israelis are trying to kill the mideast peace initiative

We're only a week out from the "breakthrough" Annapolis meeting, and on top of everything else, Israel now announces plans to build 300 new homes in East Jerusalem.

Picture of the Day

I hear the Obama lawn jockey is coming out for Christmas.

(A Hillary Clinton nutcracker is seen in this undated handout. REUTERS)

Does the NIE release indicate a change in policy?

I have to wonder again about Wolfowitz's timely placement on the State Dept.'s WMD panel announced one day before the Iran NIE release.

Was his placement part of a "trust, but verify" policy deal between Condi Rice and Cheney? Why else would Rice accept a Cheneyite at a key post with full view of all the intelligence she sees?

After a year of stalling, the NIE release does seem to indicate a change in policy....
Political sources in Israel said Monday night that it appears that the Bush administration has lost the sense of urgency and determination to carry out a military strike against Iran in 2008. The same sources said that the United States is unlikely to strike Iran in 2008, and will make do with more severe sanctions against Tehran.

Just wondering.


(AFP) Arabs and Kurds reach a governing deal in Kirkuk. (This is just local council politics, not the larger Kirkuk issue.)

(Stripes) 5 National Guard units have been told they will deploy in summer 2009.

(HeraldSun) Sadr responds to the recent Bush Maliki agreement for a permanent US presence. ("I say this to the evil Bush - leave my country," Sadr said in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.)


From a NYTimes analysis piece on the Iran NIE.
After all, the first two wars on Mr. Bush’s watch remain unresolved at best.

Major fighting in Eastern Chad

I know next to nothing about the conflict, other than it's a tribal/Islamic bleed over from Sudan, but we're talking big numbers here in a multisided conflict.
United Nations sources say they are receiving reports that the dead and wounded already number in the thousands.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

(Bill Clinton listens to his wife, U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, speak at a campaign fund-raiser in Washington March 20, 2007. (REUTERS/Jim Young))

Stupidest headline ever

(AP) Violence reportedly hampers Iraq forces.

If we'd listened to Dick Cheney....

As you read this, remember two things.

1) The Iran NIE has been kept from release for a year (with some suggestion that the Cheney camp kept sending it back trying to make it tougher.)

2) During this time, the same people advocated bombing Iran.
U.S. intelligence has determined that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but believes it is continuing to develop technical capabilities that could be used to build a bomb, a government report said on Monday.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released by the Bush administration also said Iran would likely be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon "sometime during the 2010-2015 time-frame."

Romney is panicking

The fact that Mitt Romney is preparing a major speech to address his Mormonism smells of some panic in his camp. The reporting about three weeks ago was that Romney wanted to give a "Mormon speech," but his campaign staff was strongly objecting.

The fact that we're now going to hear a "Mormon speech" tells me that the internals within the campaign now see Huckabee as a real and major threat. Enough so, that the strategists have decided to roll the dice.

(If a whiff of panic bleeds into the media, Romney will be fighting uphill until caucus day.)

(Mitt Romney greets a supporter wearing a Santa Claus hat at the Kirkwood Community College Ballantyne Auditorium Iowa Hall during a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa November 30, 2007. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria))

(Later: Politico covers the same theme in two articles.)

Clinton attacks;Huckabee only has 5 days from Iowa to NH

Much like the post above, the fact that Clinton is beginning to attack Obama seems to say that "inevitability" may be wobbling.
Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama's character, she replied: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."

Also, The NYTimes has a piece on Huckabee's problems. No money, no organization, and a very short window to get it all done. 5 days from Iowa to NH, and only a month or so until tsunami Tuesday. Not much time to raise $20+ million and build a national network.

(PS. Let's remember that in the construct of cable news, they will prefer to cover the races as binary and close, even if they're neither.)

Picture of the Day

You can't accuse Obama of complicating the message.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The farce of the Annapolis peace talks unravels already.

I guess they got the "Bush leads mideast peace" headlines....
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel is not bound by a December 2008 target for a peace agreement set at last week's U.S.-hosted Mideast summit, telling his Cabinet that progress will depend on the Palestinians' ability to rein in militants.

Since the "breakthrough meeting," Stephen Hadley said there's no place yet for Syria in the peace process, and the US withdrew the U.N. resolution "endorsing this week's agreement by Israeli and Palestinian.... apparently after Israel objected."

If you're keeping score, the "peace process" didn't last a week.

Bringing Wolfowitz back

One of those things I never understood is how coaches keep getting jobs when all they do is lose at one organization after another?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has offered Wolfowitz, a prime architect of the Iraq War, a position as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board, a prestigious State Department panel, according to two department sources who declined to be identified discussing personnel matters.

Picture of the Day

(An Iraqi man unloads the shrouded body of a child in Najaf. Iraqi forces killed 13 militants and arrested 94 in operations over the past 24 hours while bombers killed two policemen and wounded several other people in separate attacks.(AFP/Qassem Zein))

The Kurds militarily claim the Kirkuk oil fields?

I would want a stronger story on this before I get too alarmed, but this could be the long dreaded beginning for the conflict over Kirkuk.
Iraqi Kurds have claimed oil rights in Kirkuk, which is in northern Iraq but outside the Kurdish semi-autonomous area.

Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, said this week the Peshmerga, the Kurdish militia, has been preventing the government from developing the Kirkuk oil field, The New Anatolian reported.....

A local official with the government-owned North Oil Company said an unspecified they had blocked development of the field, refusing to say whether the Peshmerga was involved.
If the Kurds were going to do this, you would think they would choose this moment of Sunni US cooperation to make this move to try and limit the Sunni response.

Again, a fairly weak story, but heads up.

(Later: This could also simply be more endemic Iraqi extortion.)


(AFP) "Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Friday it was "unacceptable" to press Tehran to stop enriching uranium, insisting it can do so under international treaty rules."

(Reuters) "World powers held a "positive" meeting on Saturday aimed at agreeing more U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme and a deal on punitive measures could be reached within weeks, a French diplomat said.

The meeting of senior officials in Paris took place the day after last-ditch talks between European Union mediator Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator, which the French diplomat described as "a disaster"."

(Haaretz) "Israel and the United States should begin an intense dialogue on ways to deal with Iran's nuclear plans and should examine ways to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a new study published by an influential Washington think tank."

(And, one thought from me: Ahmadinejad will come up for election in two years. As it's unlikely that the Iranians will have a bomb by that point, should the US policy be focused on that election?

Currently, the Iranian people's biggest complaint against Ahmadinejad is that he hasn't given the economic reforms/boost he promised. Would sanctions increase that dislike or give him an outside actor to blame?

(And I know he's a loud mouthpiece player against the much stronger ruling council, I just thought I'd ask the question.))

Israeli "expert" claims the Syrians were building a nuclear bomb

Take this one for what it's worth,
ISRAEL’S top-secret air raid on Syria in September destroyed a bomb factory assembling warheads fuelled by North Korean plutonium, a leading Israeli nuclear expert has told The Sunday Times.....

“I suspect that it was a plant for processing plutonium, namely, a factory for assembling the bomb,” he said. “I think the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] transferred to Syria weapons-grade plutonium in raw form, that is nuggets of easily transported metal in protective cans. I think the shaping and casting of the plutonium was supposed to be in Syria.”

A token incursion by the Turks

The Turks dipped a toe in the water....
In a terse, vague statement on its Web site, the military said that it had identified a group of 50 to 60 fighters just across the border in Iraq, and that it had carried out “an intensive operation” against them.

Reuters cited an unidentified Turkish military official as saying that about 100 Turkish special forces had entered northern Iraq, struck the fighters and returned. The official military statement, however, gave no indication that troops had crossed the border. Iraqi officials denied that any incursion had taken place.

This was always their best plan. An attempt at invasion or occupation would provoke a nasty response.

If these incursions continue, as they likely will, I wonder how long it'll be before the US pays a price for its "intelligence role?"

The US wargames Pakistan's nukes

Not really a surprise, but....
A small group of U.S. military experts and intelligence officials convened in Washington for a classified war game last year, exploring strategies for securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal if the country's political institutions and military safeguards began to fall apart.....

The conclusion of last year's game, said one participant, was that there are no palatable ways to forcibly ensure the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons -- and that even studying scenarios for intervention could worsen the risks by undermining U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.....

An expert on Pakistani terrorism who did not attend last year's war game but learned about some of its conclusions said that senior U.S. officials "weren't pleased with what the game told them; they were quite shocked."

The solution they arrived at appears to be to support Pakistan's military no matter what.

(I'd be curious how the Indians view the same problem.)