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.