Hussein is Dead

Saddam Hussein has been executed for the slayings of 148 Shiites. Notice that he wasn't tried for the massive war crimes he committed against the Iranians, or the war crime of "using chemical weapons against his own people," the Kurds. Notice, also, that Hussein was executed on the Eve or early morning of a Muslim Holy Day which the Sunnis and Shiites celebrate at different times - this was the Eve of the Sunni Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice.

For those unfamiliar with Islamic Holidays, get with the program! Haven't you heard that Muslim Armies are going to sweep the globe and force us all to live under Sharia Law? I'm already living in fear and starting to mark my calendar with important dates! Anyway, the Eid is the celebration of the day that Abraham, father of the Muslim tradition, showed his willingness to kill his son at God's request. It is a profound celebration of sacrifice. Doesn't that seem like the absolutely perfect day to martyr a madman?

Ghoulish Video Addendum: Does Fox News have to be so creepy?


McCain on the Dole, and More on the Surge

It looks like Bush is anointing John McCain. This must be the payback for all the flip-flopping he did for Bush this year, most abjectly on the Detainee Treatment Act, an issue that a man with McCain's experience should have defended to the end.
Sen. John McCain has tapped into President Bush's vast network of campaign contributors in greater numbers and amounts so far than has a leading potential rival for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph Giuliani.
We all know how much importance is placed on early money, and that the GOP nominates frontrunners (source: George Will on This Week), so this is a significant development. McCain always had the best shot, and now he should be a shoe-in, with Bush's support.

Luckily for us (but bad for America), McCain cannot win the general election now that we have decided on a surge. Unless the Green Lantern theory of Foreign Policy and War is correct - where the wielder's sheer strength of will defines his reality around him - then there is no chance of victory with a surge of 30,000 troops. More violence will ensue, and we'll be in roughly the same place by the end of the primaries. I don't think McCain will be forgiven for that by the general population - some polls have this as a 90-10 issue.

Incidentally, we'll we see just how sovereign the Iraqi Government really is in January, because we'll have to confront the Shia militias with our new forces - an assault the Prime Minister might continue to oppose, since his governing coalition contains the Sadrists. There are so many interesting hurdles to every plan, and yet, so far, they have always seemed to melt away.

Take the Generals revolting again just recently. This time it was about the Surge plan, with many of the "generals on the ground" and Chiefs opposing the double-down. They were dealt with, flipping their positions or retiring behind closed doors, and now the Surge appears to be set in the stone of conventional wisdom. That's the way we want generals to act - register your disagreement and then do what the Commander in Chief tells you. We didn't have to offer them anything.

Or take the example of John McCain opposing the Administration on torture! A few behind-closed-doors meetings with Cheney and they had arrived at a compromise wherein Bush got exactly what he wanted. Imagine that. In exchange for what, I wonder? Anyone think it might have been access to his fundraising network?

Perhaps the hurdles with Iraqi Sovereignty will melt away similarly, but I'm consumed with curiosity about what we would have to offer.


"Able Danger," or Not?

Crazy Curt Weldon, of "I Personally Found the WMDs" fame, has been nailed on yet another Bush-cultist lie. The Senate Intel Committee has just released a report on Weldon's "Able Danger" story, wherein Weldon contended that the FBI had Atta's name and picture before 9/11, but that the "Gorelick Wall" had stopped them from connecting the dots.

Military analysts assigned to the effort did create charts with pictures of Al Qaeda operatives whose identities were known publicly at the time, the committee found. But the committee concluded that none of those charts depicted Atta, and that the claims of Weldon and others may have been caused by confusion.

...."One of these individuals depicted on the chart arguably looked like Mohammed Atta," the committee concluded. "In addition, the chart contained names of Al Qaeda associates that sound like Atta, as well as numerous variations of the common Arab name Mohammed."

Put this crazy Weldon lie with the attempt to justify the Iraq War - in the trashcan. I can't tell you how many times I've confronted the forlorn, logically orphaned arguments that descend from this one man's wanton lying. Luckily, he's one of the Republicans we knocked off this election cycle, along with Rick Santorum, his WMD-story buddy.


Attacks at New High

"Dire and Deteriorating" conditions, indeed.
Attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians jumped sharply in recent months to the highest level since Iraq regained its sovereignty in June 2004, the Pentagon told Congress on Monday in the latest indication of that country's spiraling violence.

In a report issued the same day Robert Gates took over as defense secretary, the Pentagon said that from mid-August to mid-November, the weekly average number of attacks increased 22 percent from the previous three months. The worst violence was in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar, long the focus of activity by Sunni insurgents.

It seems like we're setting new records all the time. We're overachievers.

Scarborough Wonders about Impeachment

Conservatives must be squirming about Bush's position on the Iraq War. They will not let the President drag them through another election with the Iraq War hanging over their head, blame and guilt dampening their message and assuring their defeat. If there is an impeachment, it wouldn't surprise me if the Republicans began the process.

Joe Scarborough (video) provides a stellar example of a conservative losing his nerve and beginning to speculate about impeachment. I recognize that this fantasy would take a massive crumbling of party loyalty, but Mr. 29% doesn't have a lot to offer in political terms these days. It would easily be the greatest real tragic fall in my lifetime.

Getting Drafty in Here?

I'm going to put on my windbreaker:

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson gave qualified support yesterday to renewing the draft - a suggestion that rattled the White House.

"I think that our society would benefit from that, yes, sir," Nicholson said of replacing the all-volunteer force with a tough draft purged of the deferments that allowed many to avoid service in Vietnam.

"I think if we bring back the draft, there should be no loopholes for anybody who happens to be drafted," he said. "If it's a random system, it ought to be an honestly random system."

The only way to have a chance of "winning" in Iraq is through massive infusions of American troops, and even then I call victory unlikely. If, however, the President really believes his own rhetoric - that the War in Iraq is the War on Terror, and that failure in Iraq would assure domestic attacks against Americans - then perhaps this is the first moves towards reinstituting National Service. Of course, despite Bush's position as "the Decider," I don't think he has the power to change our nation so drastically. The Republicans wouldn't let him. They'd impeach him before they see him drag their party further into a generational hole.

So Much for the Generals on the Ground, huh?

I leave the country for a week, and stuff goes all wonky. Abizaid quit? Casey quit? Wow.

Some of the implications of this development are clear, I think. These two men, who had for so long advocated the President's Stay the Course strategy wherein more troops are a hindrance, needed to be disposed of before a troop surge could be implemented. The question is whether they resigned over the conflict, meaning they legitimately believed the current levels are correct, or whether they were retired in order for Gates to bring in his own team - people without the baggage of years of support for the current levels.

In other words, it looks more and more certain that Bush really will increase the troop strength. McCain can't be happy about that.


Delay Blames Iraq on the Dems

As far as I know, Tom Delay is the first to float the "Democrats are To Blame for Losing Iraq" blame-shift. Start ringing the band-wagon bell!

While watching the video, my reaction was, "Oh yeah, that's a good one. Shadowy liberal forces are always more powerful than poor ol' Tom Delay and his conservative buddies, even when they completely control all branches of the federal government." Give me a break. "If only the liberals had clapped louder at our failures, we would have won."

Going Big

The President's favored strategy - the Pentagon's Go Big Strategy - where we add 30,000+ troops to Iraq, may include a provision for an exit strategy. I am confident it will, since they agree on the reality of the Go Long Plan, which acknowledges the fact that in the long term, continued deployment at this level drains the Armed Services prohibitively.

There's only one reason to surge troops into Baghdad, and it gets repeated again and again on the cable news shows: to provide enough security and stability so that Maliki can "go after the Shiite Militias." How would Maliki "go after" these militias, if the militias themselves represent the lion's share of his military power? Obviously, he cannot, so what can "going after the militias" mean? Well, with the militias and army out, that leaves the task to the American military, who will surge into "targeted neighborhoods." One of these neighborhoods is certainly Sadr City, where we would hope to rescue our captive soldier, amongst other things.

While rescuing our soldier would be worthy of celebration, the consequences could be significant. We have yet to encounter a Shiite insurgency in the country, with direct attacks on our forces coming mainly from the Sunni minority. By attacking the Shiites, we may provoke them into open hostility.

Sadr City is in the northeast part of Baghdad, and is home to over a million Shiites. The graphic below illustrates one of the problems:

The image above shows Sadr City in the upper right, and the Green Zone outlined in white across the river. You can't see the measuring tool, but it's only a little more than 3km away - mortar range. Given that they are they guys that could be allied with Iran, I wonder how many mortars they can put in the air at once, raining down on our "secure facilities" in the Green Zone.

Also, the supply lines our 140,000 men and women depend on run, poorly defended, through the midst of the Shiite south. With a Shiite backlash, we could have an unprecedented level of danger for our troops. The situation could make Operation Frequent Wind from Saigon look like a leisurely stroll.

This demonstrates the crucial thing to remember when devising a "plan" for Iraq: the choice we have is not between the status quo and withdrawal. Things could always get worse. It's not a situation where goofing around, trying different half-baked strategies is acceptable, since by doing so you are assuring the deaths of our troops. It's a volatile situation, and if we stand no chance of containing it or policing it, we should get out of the way, as horrible as that sounds. We all would have much rather have seen the Utopian fantasy-land outcome the neoconservatives sold as inevitable. But continuing to have our troops die for failure is the height of immorality.

Via Juan Cole

Freedom is on the March, with the Israeli's and Saudi's getting closer:
Meanwhile, a de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance appears to be building against Iran and the Shiites. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz is now saying that the 2002 Beirut peace plan put forward by then crown prince--now King--Abdullah of Saudi Arabia must be the basis for going forward with an Arab-Israeli peace process. Abdullah got the Arab League to offer Israel full recognition and political and economic relations if only they'd go back to the 1967 borders and recognize a Palestinian state.

At the time, then prime minister Ariel Sharon dismissed Abdullah's plan rather rudely. But now Israel has been bloodied by a Lebanon war that it lost on points to Hizbullah despite its clear military superiority. Bashar al-Asad of Syria pointed out that every generation of Arabs hates the Israelis more than its predecessors. Iran is emerging as a new hegemon in the eastern stretches of the Middle East.
I have heard Israeli ministers talking of this plan on the news in the last few weeks. Essentially, the Israeli's give back 90% of the land they occupied, and trade 1-for-1 for the remaining 10%. Once they remove the Palestinian's grievances, the Israeli's lives will get easier. They'll still have to be forever vigilant and independent through strength, but by ceasing the very real oppression of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, they'll sap some of the power out of their opposition.

Pentagon Calls for Doubling Down, McCain Steps in It

Since Bush always listens to his "commanders on the ground," and since failure or giving up are not options for the President, it looks like he'll take the Pentagon's recommendation to "double down" in Iraq:

As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.

The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.

So the reason for the troops is to create stability and engage Sadr, the vile cleric responsible for the deaths of many of our men, and probably even responsible for the kidnapping of the soldier still missing - the soldier Prime Minister Maliki ordered us to stop looking for. In fact, at one point in time there was an arrest warrant for murder issued for Muqtada. Despite the righteousness of the effort, going after Sadr will be a big undertaking, since the Mahdi Army is one of the biggest militias in the country. Fighting them into submission may be intensely difficult, given the warren of Sadr City. But since when have we been afraid of doing what is hard? Just look at Fallujah and Ramadi. We could level Sadr City too - problem solved, and with few American deaths, right? But barring airstrikes and rubblization in a heavily populated area, we might not be able to find Muqtada Al-Sadr to bring him to justice, and that would be rather embarrassing. (And we all know that total war is not how you win the War on Terror)

No, the real surprise about going after Sadr is that if we could, somehow, neutralize him, we would, in fact, be destroying the current Iraqi Government, since Prime Minister Maliki relies on the Sadrists for retaining his position. Destroying the Sadrists would be indistinguishable from a vote of no confidence in the government. Last I checked, Bush believed that "Maliki's the guy for the job," despite the leaked internal memos questioning the PM's competence. Do we really have the gall to topple the elected government, when we spent so many years affirming support for the government and the democratic process? You can say this much - that would certainly amount to a "New Approach."

Politically, there's another loser in this decision. John McCain. He has stated that keeping troops in harm's way without a plan for victory is immoral, which I admire him for. And yet he has been calling for the measly increase of 20,000 more troops to be deployed into Iraq. To think that going from 140,000 to 160,000 troops will make the decisive difference when every expert says the needed number is closer to 500,000 is wishful thinking of the worst sort, and makes the participants guilty of precisely the immorality McCain says he deplores.

The one thing that was smart about McCain's plan was the political calculations. Figuring that the crushing blow the Republicans were headed towards in the midterm elections, coupled with the Baker Report, would force the President's hand on a pullout from Iraq, McCain called for the opposite. That way, when the inevitable defeat of retreat finally happened, John McCain could stand alone as the candidate that was always for doing what it took to win in Iraq. They'd say that "he's no surrender monkey;" that "if he had been in charge, since he was calling for more troops all along, we would have done it right and had a stunning victory in Iraq. With Victory in Iraq, America's world image would shine like a newly gilded City on a Hill, basking in light so beautiful it borders on the blasphemous. " He would have been "the optimist, the Reagan Conservative, the inheritor of Bush's "steadfastness" but tempered by the fact he's got an inquisitive and engaged brain in his head." In the blame game on Iraq, which will assuredly play a large part in the upcoming Presidential Elections, McCain would have a stunning advantage over the Administration cheerleaders or the "blame American first" crowd.

Unfortunately for him, it looks like Bush is actually going to implement his plan. Now, rather than being able to say, "I had a plan to WIN in Iraq, but instead my opponent ensured America's DEFEAT," he'll be saddled with the continued failure, continued death, continued drain on our national treasury and psyche. The continued deaths are on his hands, since he is the advocate of the policy. Rather than riding high on a wave of military patriotism, he'll come skulking in with the weight of defeat on his shoulders. By supporting this policy, he will be immorally pouring American lives into an effort that cannot succeed.

Too Bad. I kinda liked McCain.



The Democrats are removing all earmarks from the remaining spending bills. Hello Democrats, good by pork!
Democrats taking power in January have settled on a plan to clean up $463 billion worth of GOP budget leftovers, but they're not happy about it - and neither is the White House.

The plan by the incoming chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees would kill thousands of hometown projects, called "earmarks," that lawmakers add to spending bills. Staying within President Bush's thrifty budgets for domestic agencies like the Agriculture and Education departments is part of their proposal.

"There will be no congressional earmarks," Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Monday in a statement announcing their plans, which were endorsed by incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.


The GOP Twiddled Thumbs

Rep. Kingston is the gift that just keeps on giving! (This post complete with video)

Gibson: Don't you think that maybe part of the reason the Republicans were fired is the public heard about this?

Kingston: I think its because we didn't perform. When we were up here we were naming bridges and post offices. We were not having quality time again…—We drifted, we got off our agenda. We came up here and some weeks we just twiddled our thumbs and that's what killed us…

He's just been a barrel of laughs, lately.


Recent Flowing Water on Mars!

Go NASA! Yet more amazing and encouraging science from Mars:

That is evidence of recently flowing water, ladies and gentlemen! Hello aquifers!

They don't even mean "recently flowing" in the geological timescale sense:

That outflow happened in the last five years! There's water waiting for us.

Bush Flips on North Korea

From today's Times:
The United States has offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea’s giving up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said Tuesday.
This is rank, Clintonian appeasement! I thought my President was steadfast in his steely resolve to never be wrong about anything? Go figure.

Of course, this does mean that we're back to the policy Clinton established and Bush dropped - paying off the North Koreans to abandon their program. Those of us in the real world always knew this particular problem would be solved with a bribe, since the neoconservatives' other always-ready option - blowing stuff up - isn't exactly operative on China's doorstep. Of course, we did gain something in exchange for our President's Axis-of-Evil Policy - a nuclear armed North Korea! Good trade.

via Josh Marshall.

Acknowledging Mistakes

The Independent puts the smack!

I love the two blank spots for Bush and Blair.

The Horrors of Work

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to [...]

"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

Cry me a river, Republicans. Five days of work a week vs two! Can you get any more ridiculous? Can you get any more out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans?

This reminds me of another post-election story about Republicans crying like little babies.
"There is a lot of battle fatigue among members, probably on both sides of the aisle," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), usually a reliable conservative firebrand. "Contrary to popular belief, members of Congress are human beings. They have a certain shelf life and a certain amount of energy to be drawn on. We're tired."
It's "hard work" doing your job two days a week.


ISG = Stay the Coruse

After looking at the contents of the Iraq Study Group, I've changed my estimation of its recommendation. It still does political damage to the Bush Administration's Stay the Course strategy, since it has significantly moved the debate with it's sober factual account of the conditions within Iraq and Baghdad, specifically. The conventional wisdom now has significant momentum towards declaring Iraq a loss - chaotic beyond redemption. The ISG describes the conditions as "Dire and Deteriorating," which can only mean things are getting worse. That puts the happy-talk about "Winning in Iraq" to bed, which is a significant victory for our side of the argument.

Furthermore, since the bipartisan group appeared to recommend two things the Administration refuses to consider - a pullout and negotiations with Syria and Iran - it looks like the Bush Administration is filing this report in the circular filing cabinet. For the record, Bush's responses to these two proposals of the are:
"Iran knows how to get to the table with us, and that is to do that which they said they would do, which is verifiably suspend their [uranium] enrichment programs."
"I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq," he told reporters. But "this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."
Furthermore, when Iraq is finally and totally lost, the fact that Bush ignored this bipartisan report can be used as ammunition against him in the inevitable argument over who is to blame.

But, despite the fact that the public perception of the report damages the Administration politically, when you read the actual report it actually supports the President's current plan - Stay the Course, or "We'll Stand Down as They Stand Up." The troop withdrawals contained within the report are tied to "conditions on the ground," which is exactly what Bush has been saying for years. Amazing, isn't it, that what is essentially a complete vindication can be played as such a resounding rebuke?

So what really happened here? I've got my theory: the panel members were sober people, with no ego-skin in the game, allowing them to attempt a dispassionate appraisal to arrive at the optimum policy. This allowed them to see the reality - that the War in Iraq has entered a new phase of civil war which we have no power to shape. Since we don't posses the troops to significantly surge numbers for a sustained period, we cannot implement a policy that has a hope of success, so we must withdraw. However, the participants of the panel were still political men and women, so tying the withdrawals to conditions on the ground was a precondition placed by one of the Republican members in the hopes of blunting the political impact of the report. Unfortunately for them, that is one too many steps of subtlety for the conventional wisdom narrative to follow. A political defeat is what has been perceived by the public regardless of the literal verbage and nuance of the report. This turned out to be an interesting mini lesson in the conventional wisdom narrative that is all our media can coherently present.


Baker Commission Puts Bush At DefCon 2

Remember how the White House handled Harriet Myers and Donald Rumsfeld? In both cases, the President psychologically hunkered down, retreating into the authority of his position and the moral certitude that he has been lauded for so many times. This retreat marked the emergence of the "President as Decider" approach to governing. President Bush had made the decision, and he'd not consider changing his mind. This "steadfastness" is the President's normal, stubborn state. When the tide of the argument began to swing decisively against him, however, with even conservatives bashing Harriet Miers and a parade of generals calling for Rumsfeld resignation, Bush hit Defcon 2 - a heightened state of stubborn-readiness. Ready to respond. Primed. This is what brought about the "Decider Declaration," and the, at times, shrill defenses of these two figures that continued directly up until they withdrew/resigned.

The Baker Commission constitutes that shift in the Iraq War argument's dynamic. The all-hailed commission - the one chaired by the very "Republican Fixer" that assured Bush's election in 2000 - came out for gradual withdrawal, with no timetables, and a sober factual accounting of the dire situation currently. It's an almost surprising rebuke of Bush's Stay the Course strategy, and will continue to be so long as Bush refuses to accept dramatic course correction.

If something can convince Bush that he has no chance to win this way, and that therefore the lives spent are spent in vain, he might man up. He might believe in the effort so fiercely that actions behind his rhetoric about this being the defining battle of our time. But the Congress aint passing no draft. I just don't see it. As the neocons say, "we might need to mobilize a sector of our economy to support this effort. " That's the only way to "win," and it isn't happening.

Instead, poor President Bush will continue our involvement in the Iraq Civil War, because the Iraq War is his entire legacy. Weep for the American men and women that will die because he cannot admit what a painful mistake he has made.

Whoa Nelly!

I don't often resort to Nellyisms, but the junk Maliki just threw up in our face called for it.
A scheduled dinner meeting between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was canceled Wednesday, hours after 36 Iraqi politicians loyal to militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew from their government posts and denounced Bush as "the world's biggest evil."

The White House denied that the delay was a snub by the Iraqi leader and insisted that "robust" talks would continue as planned on Thursday, despite the political turmoil in Baghdad and the leak of an administration memo detailing U.S. concerns about Maliki's ability to control sectarian violence.

The cancellation was clearly a surprise, however, and coupled with the withdrawal of the Sadrists who are a key part of Maliki's political base, it underscored how volatile Iraq has become as violence has reached record levels.

The cancellation "underscores how volatile Iraq has become" because he cancelled the meeting with us. America, the guys he owes his continued governance to, not to mention his continued life. To snub us so publicly, at the last minute, the threat posed by the boycotting Sadrmen must have been grave indeed - a threat large enough that he didn't think he could weather its stresses.

In other words, very bad news. Welcome to the parade.

Friedman Calls for ReInvasion and +150k Troops

Thomas Friedman, being honest:
Given this, we need to face our real choices in Iraq, which are: 10 months or 10 years. Either we just get out of Iraq in a phased withdrawal over 10 months, and try to stabilize it some other way, or we accept the fact that the only way it will not be a failed state is if we start over and rebuild it from the ground up, which would take 10 years. This would require reinvading Iraq, with at least 150,000 more troops, crushing the Sunni and Shiite militias, controlling borders, and building Iraq's institutions and political culture from scratch.


If we're not ready to do what is necessary to crush the dark forces in Iraq and properly rebuild it, then we need to leave -- because to just keep stumbling along as we have been makes no sense.

At least he's honest, both about what level of commitment victory would take, and about the immorality of continuing to pour lives into the current situation. This proposed strategy leads to the same question I've been asking since McCain started getting attention with his "I've always called for more troops" line of attack. Granted, more troops is the only way to win in Iraq, but it will take a lot more than the 20,000 McCain irresponsibly calls for. 20,000 wont be nearly enough to dramatically affect the dynamic. And, even if we do put a couple hundred thousand more troops into Iraq, we'd need to stay as a force for years. The reconstruction we should have done before will then be possible, and maybe that's enough to foster a stable society.

The ultimate question for Friedman is, Where do these 150,000 troops come from, given that we would need several hundred-thousand more troops in the army to sustain that deployment oversees? We can't maintain our current deployment indefinitely with current recruitment levels, so these 400,000 new personnel will need to be acquired, not recruited, right Tom? Is there the political will to do that? Absolutely not. Game over.

Here's a video of Friedman advocating his ReInvasion and ReOccupation.


Bush-Maliki Meeting Postponed.

Bush and al-Maliki are expected to discuss political and security strategies for Iraq during talks Thursday. The two had been expected to meet Wednesday evening, but the State Department said talks would begin Thursday.
Strange, huh? Could it be the pressure Sadr is exerting?

Sadr Boycotts Government

So, it turns out we're more important to Maliki than his coalition. I don't suppose that should come as a surprise:
Iraq's prime minister saw his support erode on two fronts Wednesday as a White House memo questioned his leadership and a powerful political bloc suspended participation in Iraq's government.

The classified memo by President Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley questions whether Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can end the bloody sectarian violence in Iraq, and especially whether he can rein in the Mehdi Army militia loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Hours after details of the Hadley memo first appeared in Wednesday's New York Times, Cabinet ministers and members of the Iraqi parliament loyal to al-Sadr underscored al-Maliki's shaky position, saying they would stop participating in his government.

The al-Sadr supporters had said earlier they would take such action if al-Maliki went ahead with a meeting with Bush on Thursday in Jordan.

There are about 30 lawmakers loyal to al-Sadr in the 275-member parliament, and six Cabinet ministers from his bloc.

An interesting development. There's been lots of talk of replacing Maliki... does this leaked memo play into a plan along those lines?


Fein on Forcing Oversight on the Unitary Executive

Via FireDogLake, we have a Bruce Fein editorial on a method for forcing the notoriously tight White House to give up some information to Congressional oversight. He proposes:
A Democrat-controlled 110th Congress must enact new legislation to challenge executive privilege if it hopes to exercise meaningful oversight of the White House. The legislation should establish House and Senate legislative-executive committees featuring legislative majorities to arbitrate disputes over congressional access to national security information.
Ummmm, Bruce? I love you, man, but how is that going to work? Perhaps I'm ignorant of some ability of the Congress to enact this type of legislation without the signature of the President. Barring that, though, the idea of Bush signing a law designed to allow the Congress to investigate him is what some might call naive. It should go without saying that we wouldn't have the votes to override. So what's the esteemed Deputy AG talking about?

Hastings Out. Duh.

CQ Via Talking Points MuckRaker:
House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi was to meet with Rep. Alcee L. Hastings late Tuesday to close the door on his bid to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a congressional aide said.

But Pelosi, D-Calif., has not yet decided who will get the job, according to the aide. . . .

Pelosi met with Harman two weeks ago to discuss the House Intelligence Committee chair job. There is little to suggest Pelosi will reverse her intention to replace Harman atop the panel.


Go Rush Holt!


Harman vs Not-Harman

As usual, Glenn does my homework for me. Thank god I'm patient! After thorough documentation, he says:
There is no seniority on the Intelligence Committee, so Harman is not being "demoted" by being "denied" this seat. Hastings is not the "alternative," since Pelosi can choose anyone she wants and, as far as I know, has never said that the "alternative" to Harman is Hastings. The media has just invented this dichotomy in order to foster the drama of the Serious/Substantive v. Frivolous/Bitchy choice they have decreed is what Pelosi must navigate.


There is nothing "credible" about Harman. Yes, she is smart and knowledgeable, but she has been wrong about everything that matters, particularly in the intelligence area. But she was wrong in exactly the same way that the Beltway geniuses and The New Republic and David Broder and Fred Hiatt were wrong. For that reason, they don't want her to be repudiated and rejected because that would constitute a repudiation and rejection of them. So they build up and glorify the "credible," responsible Harman because she represents them, and they hate Pelosi in advance for rejecting Harman for being wrong about everything because they feel rejected by that choice.

As a result, Pelosi and her opposition to Harman have to be belittled and removed from the substantive arena. Harman supported the most disastrous strategic decision in our nation's history and repeatedly defended the administration's worst excesses. That ought to be disqualifying on its face. But the Beltway media are guilty of the same crimes, so they want to pretend that Harman -- just like Steny Hoyer -- did nothing wrong and the only reason not to anoint her to her Rightful Place is because of petty, womanly personality disputes that have no place in the public arena.
It's great. Read it all.

Shiites Stone Maliki

Sadr City:
The motorcade of Iraq’s prime minister was pelted with stones on Sunday by fellow Shias in a Baghdad slum, when he paid respects to some of the 200 who died there last week in the deadliest attack since the US invasion.
If this is how fragile Maliki's power is, even amongst his core constituency, then how long will it be until we see a vote of no confidence in the government? Perhaps the upcoming meeting between Bush and Maliki will be the straw:
The wreaking of vengeance unfolded while a powerful parliamentary bloc loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr threatened to boycott the government if Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki attends a meeting with President Bush scheduled for Wednesday in Jordan. The legislators said the American presence was the root cause of the spiraling violence in Iraq.
Notice that it's an announced meeting, so it has to be outside the country of Iraq. Otherwise our guy might get blown-up.

If the Sadrists walk out, there goes 30-some votes for the Prime Minister. I don't know exactly how their parliment works, but couldn't that be used as a vote of no confidence itself?

"How Can this be Fair? How Can this be Right?"

Ben Stein, quoting Warren Buffet - two liberal lions just itching for the chance to give your hard-earned money to crack-addled welfare queens:
Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”
Good question, Warren.


On to Holt!

Contra Kevin, I think that since we're already throwing seniority thing out the window, we should skip over Reyes and move all the way to Rush Holt for Intelligence Committee Chairman. I hear he's got a good bio. How can you not dig on the nuclear phsyicist career? It's just what I want in my representatives: the ability to irradiate his enemies.

The Real John McCain: Hagel!

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Senator Hagel, the real John McCain:
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
Hagel is the only Republican straight shooter. Hagel is the only Republican patriot who will not besmirch the honor of his opponents or their love of country. Hagel is the only Republican who debates the issues rather than resorting to the "Cut and Run" talking points. Hagel is the only Republican maverick. I would weep with relief if the 2008 Presidential contest turned into Hagel v Democrat.


Harman for Intel Chair?

I've heard there's growing contention over who will become the chair of the House Intel Committee in the new House session. Alcee Hastings is said to be under consideration for the spot by Pelosi, passing over Jane Harman, who is the current ranking member. This would go against one of the 9/11 commission recommendations, a fact which is dwarfed by the public history of the putative replacement, Alcee Hastings. An impeached judge? To head the Intel Committee? Please. Pelosi can't think that is a good idea. This must be a play to get someone else in, who will seem like an angel in comparison. Either she's doing that, or it's Bernie Kerik time! Let's cross our fingers, shall we?

As for Harman, I will admit that I liked her at one time, despite her general conservativeness. For instance, she called for the release of the full Iraq War National Intelligence Estimate, which tickled me. But we mustn't forget that she made those absolutely devastating comments about the NSA Domestic Spying case (which is a domestic spying case, by the way - surveillance is done on US citizens, inside the US - exactly what FISA criminalized). She supported the program, and I believe she went so far as to vouch for its legality. That really helped galvanize our side of the argument, Jane. Thanks.

So I'm with Pelosi. Let's choose someone other than Harman for the Chair of the Intel Committee.

breaking army

We constantly reference opinions about the imminently "broken state" of the army. Well, here's a story from the Army Times to reference in backing that up:
“The country is not at war. The United States armed forces and the CIA are at war. So we are asking our military to sustain a level of effort that we have not resourced,” he told Army Times.

“That’s how to break the Army is to keep it deployed above the rate at which it can be sustained,” he said. “There’s no free lunch here. The Army and the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command are too small and badly resourced to carry out this national security strategy.”

Entered into the Record.

Kissinger declares Loss

Wow! They lost Kissinger. The very man who said that political and mental will is necessary to win the war has lost his political will! How disheartening for the Bush Administration.
"If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," [Kissinger] told the British Broadcasting Corp.
So much for "winning in Iraq." According to Kissinger, then, since there is no victory possible, our further involvement wastes American lives - the height of immorality.


Fair and Balanced, Indeed

A leaked Fox News memo, via the Huffington Post:
The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption. Jennifer Griffin send in info on Hamas' call for attacks on American interests. And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.

Interestingly, I've heard that exact line, about how surely the insurgents would weigh-in on their ally's victory in the Congress, from a number of right-wing "news" outlets. It's like they coordinate or something. Imagine that.


Feingold Wont Run

This is disappointing some people I know today.
Sen. Russ Feingold will not seek his party's presidential nomination in 2008, the Wisconsin Democrat told the Journal Sentinel on Saturday.

"I never got to that point where I'd rather be running around the country, running for president, than being a senator from Wisconsin," Feingold said in a phone interview from Madison.

Feingold, 53, conceded that he faced long odds of winning the nomination.

"It would have required the craziest combination of things in the history of American politics to make it work," he said.

But Feingold said waging an underdog campaign appealed to him. What didn't appeal to him, he said, was "the way in which this effort would dismantle both my professional life (in the Senate) and my personal life. I'm very happy right now."

Feingold had been publicly weighing a presidential bid since early 2005, forming a political action committee, traveling to key states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, and cultivating a more national constituency as an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and other Bush administration policies.

As the oversight begins, and facts are documented, Feingold's inspired opposition to the Warrantless Wiretapping Program, the Patriot Act and the Iraq War will be confirmed as justified. This could well change the forces behind him and propel him on. All the same, I respect his realism based on the current state of debate.


Conservatives React to Tuesday.

From the reliably Pro-War Jonah Goldberg at the Corner:
How Bush Should Handle Loss [Jonah Goldberg]
I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear's claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, "I'm not going anywhere."
Creepy. Why don't these people sign up for the war, and make an actual contribution to the effort?


What Bush-Bipartisanship Looks Like

Via the Washington Note:
The President's and new Speaker's comments before the press started at 1:04 pm today and concluded at 1:08 pm.

At 1:22 pm, the White House sent John Bolton's controversial nomination to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations back up to the Senate.

Luckily, Lincoln Chafee would have none of it -- suggesting that such a nomination is clearly not in the spirit of what happened electorally in this country this week. By 2:15 pm, Chafee put an end to the Bolton confirmation process by formalizing his previous "informal" opposition to Bolton in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Bolton's nomination was so radical that it actually made a Republican Senator cry. This is what taking pains to work across the aisle looks like? To me, it looks like we're going to have more of the same from the Bush White House. Expect him to find that veto pen he lost during the first six years.

Post Campaign

Well, we won. Good for us. Now it's time to govern in such a way that I don't have to vote against the Democrats in '08. I have faith on that score.

I got three hours of sleep on election night, and still went to fencing practice on Wednesday - with not even a nap on the plane home... don't get me wrong, there was 4 hours of trying to nap on the plane home. If sleeping on the plane was ever going to work, it would have been then, but I'm just not built that way.

I slept 10.5 hours last night, which is unheard of for me. Now, with so much sleep and the slight cold I picked up, my brain is all wishy-washy. I've got a dozen fires to put out with clients here, so that should be fun in my current state.

Enough procrastinating. Here's a little gem to tide you over. It looks like Bush isn't so chummy with his BFF:


Do More Than Vote!

Get out and Do More than Vote, people. It's all about GOTV, and sitting around reading blogs about it doesn't count. If we don't have subpeona power locked in after the next 30 hours, those of you who sat it out will get the ever loving stuffing smacked out of you by those of us who did.


Al Qaqaa WMD-Grade C4

I refer to the Al Qaqaa C4 story often, since it is one of the most glaring and contemptible failures of the early war. I'm glad I happened upon a link to refer back to.
Some 380 tons of explosives powerful enough to detonate nuclear warheads are missing from a former Iraqi military facility that was supposed to be under American control, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency says.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the interim Iraqi government reported to the agency several days ago in a letter that the explosives were missing from the Al Qaqaa complex south of Baghdad.

The explosives -- considered powerful enough to demolish buildings or detonate nuclear warheads -- were under IAEA control until the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. IAEA workers left the country before the fighting began.

Entered into the Record.

Redstate on Releasing Nuclear Secrets

I know that picking on the poor right-wing blogs is almost too easy, but this is a particularly illustrative example of the contortions they put themselves through:
Apparently lost to the New York Times in this gushing about how the dangerously incompetent Bush administration made WMD technology available to Iran (thus making America exponentially less safe – although nowhere in the article does it say that Iran has definitively accessed these documents) was the most obvious detail of their story: that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, had the capability for – and was actively seeking – not only chemical and biological weapons, but nuclear weapons, as well.

The staple of the Liberal platform for the past four-plus years has been almost uniform: Bush lied us into a war in Iraq. Saddam never had any weapons of mass destruction, nor was he seeking any; Iraq was not a threat to America’s security in any way, shape, or form.

This report blows that entire argument, and its corresponding mindset, completely out of the water.
Thrown in almost as an aside, they first hope against hope that Iran didn't access the documents. But if even I have a copy, I'm reasonably sure that the vast majority of intelligence agencies on the planet have a copy. If they don't, there are torrents out there currently active with copies, and those cannot be stopped with today's telco management technology.

The main point of their argument, however, is that "Saddam had a nuclear weapon's program!" This is the same argument used by Santorum and Weldon to say that 1980s-era chemical shells constituted the reason we went to war. I shouted at RedState, as I shouted at Santorum: "THAT WAS BEFORE 1991. WE INVADED IN 2003." I don't believe there has ever been an argument over whether or not Saddam had WMDs, since we have the receipts for many of them.

Of course, RedState isn't so stupid that they can't tell dates. They are just dishonest.


White House Released Nuclear Weapons Secrets

Years ago I would have said that it must be April Fool's day in the NYTimes' office. I'd have thought to myself, "surely, no American government would be so craven as to put political considerations above nuclear proliferation." Unfortunately for me and the rest of the country, it's been a long time since I've been really shocked by the Bush Administration's blinding, radioactive incompetence. This, though, is one of those things that you couldn't sell to a movie audience: the U.S. Government releasing advanced nuclear weapons making secrets in order to cover its ass for the last colossal screw-up:

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.

Early this morning, a spokesman for Gregory L. Schulte, the American ambassador, denied that anyone from the agency had approached Mr. Schulte about the Web site.

The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.

“For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible,” said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the federal Department of Energy, which runs the nation’s nuclear arms program. “There’s a lot of things about nuclear weapons that are secret and should remain so.”

You'll remember that the reason they released these documents was to allow the distributed power of the internet (ed. read right-blogistan) to sift through the information - hopefully finding some smoking gun along the way that proves that Saddam was making weapons of mass destruction. So, in order to prove that we stopped WMDs, we released WMDs. IT'S A MASTER STROKE!!

Incidentally, once you have weapons-grade radioactive material, these equations and diagrams are some of the few things standing between you and a sophisticated bomb - much more efficient than the nuclear weapon any 5th grader could make with a critical mass. I wonder... who in the neighborhood might want that sort of information? God knows how much time and money this shaves off Iran's development time.



Iran's War Games

Here's a fun picture from Iran:

Of course, given the randomish direction those missiles are pointing, it is perhaps not as impressive as it first seems. I do like how you can see the attitude jets firing on a number of them. Nifty.

I wonder who this War Game was aimed at? There's just no way to be sure.

Boehner Blames the Generals

This isn't even a botched joke, it's just a straight statement. From the Military Times:
In the wake of Sen. John Kerry’s belated apology for offending troops deployed in Iraq, House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is being asked by Democrats to apologize for seemingly blaming senior military officers for any problems with the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy. Boehner, however, does not appear to be budging.

“Good try,” he said when asked about demands for an apology.

In a Wednesday appearance on CNN, Boehner was asked for his view on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. policy in Iraq.

“There are a lot of people who want to blame what’s happening in Iraq on Donald Rumsfeld, but when you look at the transformation that our military has been through, it’s nothing short of remarkable,” Boehner said. “The fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge.”

Boehner acknowledged that “there have been mistakes along the way,” but did not blame Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld, Boehner said, has been pushing the military to transform, but the uniformed military leaders have resisted.

“You have to understand that the generals who have been in charge of the Pentagon have been very resistant to change,” Boehner said.
Speaking in the context of why Iraq is such a mess, Boehner says that "You have to understand that it is the Generals that are in charge," and he doesn't think he's blaming the generals?

This all comes down to the old law about playing against expectations. If a "troop hating liberal" slips up about the troops, he's going to get upbraided. If a "racist conservative" slips up about cultural demographics, he's going to get yelled at as well. Only Nixon could go to China, and only the Republican Majority Leader or the Republican National Security Advisor can blame the troops for strategic policy failures and get away without a firestorm.

Busy Working

I'm off working for a Senate campaign out west, so I'll be posting rarely. Deal with it.


Leaked Papers from the Pentagon

Oh Dear:

Internally, that's what they're hearing. Publicly, they say we're "winning." Liars.


Kerry's Boxing!

"If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy," he said. "No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan and a stand-still-and-lose strategy in Iraq."
Good answer, Senator. Of course, it would have been nicer if you had not butchered that joke in the first place, but his response has been appropriately forceful.


High Courts, Gays, and Elections

Why, oh why, would they come out with this ruling now? Couldn't they have put that off for a couple of weeks?

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald's explanation, I know the answer to that question is: "No."

Waterboarding? Not So Fast!

Cheney makes his views about waterboarding clear:
Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Of course, this represents the first acknowledgement that the U.S. uses techniques that everyone else in the world defines as torture. In fact, we prosecuted Nazis for waterboarding their prisoners, so our current practices are hard to defend. There are consequences for these actions.

Incidentally, the disclosure came as Cheney spoke with the only type of person he gives interviews to: sychophantish right wing radio talkshow hosts. What a tower of courage "Five-Deferments" Cheney is. I've always wondered at this strategy, personally. One of the most fun things about listening to conservative talk radio is when a caller, posessing even more radical views than the host himself usually espouses, encourages the host to heights of bigotry and facism not normally attained. It's a positive feedback thing, borne from the tribal desire to agree with those inside your group, and it can escalate things noticeably. That Cheney fell prey to the same thing and made an admission he hadn't intended to is not debateable.

But then they can't take the heat of their own opinions. Sad, really.
U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday the United States does not torture prisoners, commenting after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney embraced the suggestion that a dunk in water might be useful to get terrorist suspects to talk.

Human rights groups complained that Cheney’s words amounted to an endorsement of a torture technique known as “water boarding,” in which the victim believes he is about to drown. The White House insisted Cheney was not talking about water boarding but would not explain what he meant.

Less than two weeks before midterm congressional elections, the White House was put on the defensive as news of Cheney’s remark spread. Bush was asked about it at a White House photo opportunity with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow was pelted with questions at two briefings with reporters.

So, despite the fact that Cheney clearly was referring to waterboarding, they have to issue denials. They have to try to walk it back. To do otherwise would remove all the grey from the issue, and the international community would be able to call us torturers without us being able to contest the point. It would be devastating, so they're forced to make fools of themselves by denying Cheney's own words.


More on Benchmarks for Iraq

More analysis of the new Benchmark talk-talk from the White House.

The text of President Bush's news conference yesterday ran to nearly 10,000 words, but what may have been more significant were the things he did not say.

The president talked repeatedly about "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq, using that word 13 times. But he did not discuss the consequences of the Iraqi government missing those targets. Such a question, he said, was "hypothetical."

Puh-lease. This is complete bull. You can't call them benchmarks if there are no repercussions for failing to meet them. The whole charade is just that - designed to cushion the blow of Iraq for the midterms. Once again, we have political expediency over sound policy. Par for the course.

Ford hits back

In response to the recent attacks on Harold Ford, a Congressman running for Senate in Tennessee who apparently has the gall to be attracted to women:
Mr. Ford told his audience here, and elsewhere in recent days, that the attacks were simply a sign of desperation, a sign the Republicans have nothing else to say. He added, “You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is, ‘My opponent likes girls.’ ” The audience erupted in laughter.
In the post-Foley days of the GOP, this quip draws blood.

Sanctions on Iran

So, Russia appears to be rejecting our proposal for sanctions on Iran for continuing their enrichment activities. This was obvious enough that even I could predict it. In the Iranian's defense, they aren't doing anything that violates their international obligations. They're playing by the rules. We just don't like it, for good reason.
Russia on Thursday rejected a draft UN resolution put forward by European powers targeting Iran's nuclear programme, saying the proposed measures did not advance objectives agreed on earlier by major world powers.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the resolution put forward on Wednesday by Britain, France and Germany would not be effective in containing Iran's programme and contradicted the consensus reached by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.

"I think that in this respect the draft resolution that has been presented clearly does not further the objectives that the six powers agreed on earlier," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Those goals, Lavrov said, are preventing proliferation of sensitive technology without the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, while also keeping open all necessary channels of communication with Iran.

The foreign ministry's deputy head, Sergei Kislyak, said separately that Russia was "carefully studying" the draft resolution. However, a "long negotiating process is required" to find a mutually acceptable decision, he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Since they didn't take our incentive package just to make us feel better about ourselves, their enrichment activities must be continuing apace. From our perspective this will only get worse, but as long as Iran plays by the rules, we will be hard pressed to gather a coalition to enact harsh sanctions, or confront them militarily. We just don't have the legitimacy.

More Bad Blood

Happy Days in Iraq:
With less than two weeks to go before critical midterm elections in the United States, Maliki accused U.S. officials of election-year grandstanding, saying that deadlines were not logical and were "the result of elections taking place right now that do not involve us."

In a conference call with reporters, two senior Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on Maliki's statements on the Bush administration benchmarks.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the panel, said, "I think the page we are on differs and is rewritten day to day to try to get past the elections here."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a West Point graduate who just returned from Iraq, said Maliki's comment "deliberately repudiates what the president's saying." He called it "disheartening" but said it "might be a function of politics of Iraq as much as a function of politics of the United States. But it does not appear they're even at the level of how to talk about the problem."

Maliki's comments followed a deadly early-morning military raid in Sadr City, a teeming Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad with more than 2 million residents loyal to the charismatic anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The aim of the operation was to capture the leader of a Shiite death squad, according to a U.S. military statement. It was unclear whether the target was among the casualties.

Sadr heads a large Shiite political party that is a key member of Maliki's government. He also heads a powerful militia, the Mahdi Army, that has fought several prolonged battles against American troops. U.S. officials, Sunni Arabs and independent observers say that the Mahdi Army is a driving force behind death squads that have slaughtered thousands of Sunnis and that Maliki's government has done little to halt the attacks or disarm the group.

Although a U.S. military statement on the operation did not mention the Mahdi Army or Sadr by name, the implication that the target was a member of the militia was unmistakable.

Iraqi army special forces, supported by U.S. advisers, "conducted a raid authorized by the Government of Iraq . . . to capture a top illegal armed group commander directing widespread death-squad activity throughout eastern Baghdad," the statement said. It also said Iraqi forces came under fire during the raid and "requested support from Coalition aircraft, which used precision gunfire only to eliminate the enemy threat."

Later, the U.S. military expanded the operation and raided a local mosque, based on "credible intelligence indicating that criminals involved in the kidnapping of a U.S. Soldier" were hiding there, according to a military statement. The soldier, an Iraqi-American who was abducted from a relative's home on Monday while visiting family on an unauthorized leave, was not found.

The military statement said that a total of 10 people were killed during the operations and 13 people were detained, including 10 "suspected death squad members." Caldwell said that several people had been held "for possible connection with or knowledge of this kidnapping," but gave few other details.

At his news conference, Maliki distanced himself from the raid, saying his government would "ask for clarification about what has happened in Sadr City" and "review the issue with the multinational forces so that it will not be repeated."

Maliki and Bush are getting along great these days, huh? Let's hope he understands that without our continued support, he'll probably end up hanging from a tree somewhere. He needs to make politically difficult decisions to fight the surge of militias in his country. Unfortunately for us, those decisions might not just be "politically difficult," since he very much depends on the support of Sadr for his continued "governance." They may, in fact, be "politically impossible decisions."

¿Que Benchmark?!

What's this I hear about Bush proposing benchmarks for the Iraqi Government? Isn't that effectively a cut-and-run position, since it's more-or-less what the Democrats have been recommending for over a year? I mean, sure, they aren't identical proposals, since under Bush's plan there are no consequences if the benchmarks aren't met. But it still has to be a move in the right direction, right?

Well, it turns out that Maliki gives us the bird:

"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," Maliki said Wednesday at a nationally televised news conference. "The Americans have the right to review their policies, but we do not believe in a timetables."

With less than two weeks to go before critical midterm elections in the United States, Maliki accused U.S. officials of election-year grandstanding, saying that deadlines were not logical and were "the result of elections taking place right now that do not involve us."

So there, Americans. Let that be a lesson to you. When we handed over sovereignty, they took it seriously. Who'd have thunk it?

Snark aside, it really is a problem for us. If leaving=losing, then we are at the whim of these people going forward. If they don't have the political stones to do what is necessary to bring stability, then, under Bush, we are entirely at their whims and mercy. Talk about mission creep - we don't have any control over the mission objectives at all anymore.


Diebold Source Stolen and My Boiling Rage

From Slashdot, we have momentous news on the BlackBox Voting scourge:
Doc Ruby writes to tell us about an article in the Baltimore (MD) Sun, reporting that someone sent a package to a former legislator containing what appears to be Diebold source code. From the article: "Diebold Election Systems Inc. expressed alarm and state election officials contacted the FBI yesterday after a former legislator received an anonymous package containing what appears to be the computer code that ran Maryland's polls in 2004... The availability of the code — the written instructions that tell the machines what to do — is important because some computer scientists worry that the machines are vulnerable to malicious and virtually undetectable vote-switching software. An examination of the instructions would enable technology experts to identify flaws, but Diebold says the code is proprietary and does not allow public scrutiny of it."

Maryland's primary elections last month were ruined by procedural and tech problems. Maryland used Diebold machines, even though its Republican governor "lost faith" in them as early as February this year, with months to do something about it before Maryland relied on them in their elections.

The Diebold code was secret, and was used in 2002 even though illegally uncertified — even by private analysts under nondisclosure. Now that it's being "opened by force," the first concern from Diebold, the government, and the media is that it could be further exploited by crackers. What if the voting software were open from the beginning, so its security relied only on hard secrets (like passwords and keys), not mere obscurity, which can be destroyed by "leaks" like the one reported by the Sun? The system's reliability would be known, and probably more secure after thorough public review. How much damage does secret source code employed in public service have to cause before we require it to be opened before we buy it, before we base our government on it?
I'm not one to encourage industrial espionage, but this is the very mechanism of our Democracy we're talking about, so I don't feel conflicted. Voting is the core aspect of our Democratic Republic - in fact, it's what makes it a Democratic Republic. Why on earth do we have to trust a corporation with the life of our Republic? Why do we have to TRUST anyone?! Where are the patriots in this country! Where are the men and women in the long tradition of American radicalism that say "NO! I will not entrust my rights to my fellow man!" Human nature does not change!

The entire POINT of America is that we are a land of inalienable rights - not granted by government, but granted by our shared humanity and only guaranteed by government. Instead, we've become a land of snivelling cowards, begging for our inalienable human rights to be abridged in order to approach a phantom "safety" that, by definition, will never arrive. We have forsaken our heritage, and we are all besmirched by the shame of that cowardice.

If we have a revolution again in this country, we need only one manifesto: the discarded Constitution that I love so dearly.

(pause) I really don't get angry easily. Very few things in life have made me yell. But I love this country - the Great Republic - and I can feel the rage boiling inside me when I see how we are changing its fundamental character. If you attached an electromagnet to Jefferson's corpse, the rate at which he is spinning in his grave could power the eastern seaboard.

What Civil War?

For those who continue to insist that, because there are no pitched battles, what we're seeing in Iraq is not a civil war, but rather "sectarian violence," we have the following from Forbes:
Rival Shiite militiamen battled near the ancient city of Babylon on Saturday until American forces and helicopters rushed to separate the combatants.

Gunfights broke out in Hamza al-Gharbi, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, after a bomb exploded near the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party that sponsors the Badr Brigades militia.

The party's supporters accused members of the Madhi Army headed by the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr of being behind the blast, Police Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali said. He said Iraqi army and police called for reinforcements and backup from American forces, who imposed a curfew. There was no immediate confirmation of U.S. involvement from a military spokesmen.
Nope. No Civil war there. And we're definitely not "in the middle of a civil war," as the Democrats say, because we're using helicopters. Technically, we're above a civil war. That's totally different.


Sadr Captures Amarah

Via the NY Times:
Shiite Militia Seizes Control of Iraqi City
The Shiite militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized total control of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah on Friday in one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by one of the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said.
The Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, planting explosives that flattened the buildings, residents said.
Now that's how you fight The Man.

Options for Iraq

From the NY Times on the status of the War in Iraq:
Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War
The acknowledgment by the United States Army spokesman in Iraq that the latest plan to secure Baghdad has faltered leaves President Bush with some of the ugliest choices he has yet faced in the war.

He can once again order a rearrangement of American forces inside the country, as he did in August, when American commanders declared that newly trained Iraqi forces would “clear and hold” neighborhoods with backup support from redeployed American forces. That strategy collapsed within a month, frequently forcing the Americans to take the lead, making them prime targets.

There is no assurance, though, that another redeployment of those forces will reduce the casualty rate, which has been unusually high in recent weeks, senior military and administration officials say. The toll comes just before midterm elections, in which even many of his own party have given up arguing that progress is being made or that the killing will soon slow.

Or Mr. Bush can reassess the strategy itself, perhaps listening to those advisers — including some members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the advisory commission charged with coming up with new strategies for Iraq — who say that he needs to redefine the “victory” that he again on Thursday declared was his goal.

One official providing advice to the president noted on Thursday that while Mr. Bush still insists his goal is an Iraq that “can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself,” he has already dropped most references to creating a flourishing democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
It goes on in that depressing vein. The verdict, in a nutshell: "“The Iraq situation is not winnable in any real sense of the word ‘winnable,’ ” Richard N. Haass, the former chief of the policy planning operations in the State Department during Mr. Bush’s first term, told reporters on Thursday." In other words, the Victory we were promised is unattainable. Bush has lost America another war. What a national embarrasment.

GOP Splintering on Iraq

From the LA Times:
GOP's Solidarity on War Is Cracking
On the campaign trail, 'stay the course' is a nonstarter, even among Bush's staunchest allies.

Public anxiety over the Iraq war, already reflected in polls and demands from some Democrats to withdraw U.S. troops, is now prompting calls for change from some unlikely quarters: Republican congressional candidates.

Across the country, GOP candidates are breaking with the White House over how long troops should remain in Iraq and who should lead the war effort.

Even some of President Bush's staunchest allies in solidly Republican states are publicly questioning the administration's war policies, while others are scrambling to find new ways to talk about Iraq in the face of rising voter frustration over management of the war.
That's what we like to hear. It's about time that Congress Critters acknowledged that, since we aren't currently on a course to win, a new direction is required. Now, once they look around at the options available and see there aren't any, they'll be forced to come around to a redeployment strategy, since nobody in their right mind would advocate a draft. We can move our troops to Kurdistan to protect against aggressiveness from Turkey and Iran, and to Afghanistan to deny the Taliban its continued resurgence.

I still expect the bulk of the migration to occur after the elections, but I will admit that having so many Republicans distancing themselves before the midterms is a surprise. I suppose that even I, wrapped in my America-Hating Pessimism, thought the conditions in Iraq wouldn't get this bad this quickly. I should have remembered the perenial October Surprise that Ramadan represents.

Here's an example of a prominent Republican running scared from Iraq questions. This is Tom Kean, Jr., who is running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. It's quite the remarkable video clip, wherein he wont answer questions about Iraq, steadfastly refusing to do anything but repeat the same talking points about "looking forward."