Escalation's Riposte

As we know from the State of the Union, we have a new policy:

The new "kill or capture" program was authorized by President Bush in a meeting of his most senior advisers last fall, along with other measures meant to curtail Iranian influence from Kabul to Beirut

Advocates of the new policy -- some of whom are in the NSC, the vice president's office, the Pentagon and the State Department -- said that only direct and aggressive efforts can shatter Iran's growing influence. A less confident Iran, with fewer cards, may be more willing to cut the kind of deal the Bush administration is hoping for on its nuclear program. "The Iranians respond to the international community only when they are under pressure, not when they are feeling strong," one official said.

Capture or Kill... it sounds like fur season, doesn't it? Certainly, it is an inflammatory policy meant to escalate the cold conflict between Iran and the United States, and make diplomatic engagement all the more difficult.

The problem with picking a fight with Iran is that they are not the weak, boxed state that Iraq was. They are larger, richer, more ethnically homogeneous, and have a military that is flush with the bristle of Russian ordinance. As I have said before, unlike Iraq, Iran can hit us back. Unlike Iraq, where the war was always going to remain "over there," if Iran is attacked even those of us not in the military will feel the consequences.

So, speaking of consequences, remember the assault and kidnapping perpetrated against our troops by Iraqis pretending to be Americans? The Iraqi insurgents went through three check points manned by Iraqi Army units, and were allowed to continue unmolested. They killed five of our men, who were originally said to have been killed "defending the base from attack." Only days later did we learn that some of the American bodies were recovered miles away from the base, having been kidnapped and executed after god knows what kind of treatment.

The details about that attack:

New details also emerged about clashes on Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, which left five Americans dead. Lt. Col. Scott R. Bleichwehl, an American military spokesman, said the gunmen who stormed the provincial governor’s office during a meeting between American and local officials were wearing what appeared to be American military uniforms in an effort to impersonate United States soldiers.

The sophisticated attack hinted at what could be a new threat for American troops as they start a fresh security plan centered on small bases in Baghdad’s bloodiest neighborhoods, where troops will live and work with Iraqi forces. One of the American military’s greatest concerns, military officials have said, is that troops will be vulnerable to attack from killers who appear to be colleagues.

It is not uncommon for gunmen to impersonate Iraqi security forces, but this appears to be the first time that attackers have portrayed themselves as Americans.

Colonel Bleichwehl declined to provide further details about the Karbala attackers, emphasizing that the attack was still being investigated. But Iraqi officials said the gunmen disguised their intent with uniforms, American flak jackets, guns and a convoy of at least seven GMC sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by American officials in Iraq.

Note that there is no actual evidence tying Iran to this attack, only the "sophistication" exhibited. Clearly the Iraqis, who have screwed up our beautiful war so thoroughly, aren't capable of such sophistication themselves.

Despite the lack of evidence, I do think that this is exactly the kind of thing we can expect a lot more of if we start dropping bombs inside Iran. Prepare yourself.

Pony Plans

President Bush:
"One of the things I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. And, in that I'm the decision-maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster."
He "had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster," and that process led Bush's team to the same old strategy of clear, hold and build - a strategy which we've been implimenting since 2005. They fancied up the strategy as much as they could, fleshing it out like a freshmen trying to push a seven page paper over the ten page requirement, but at its heart it's stay the course, or "adapting to win" if you will.

Despite the incompetance of our current leaders, they do talk to a lot of people who are not uniformly incompetant. The entire spectrum of ideas is available to them, so their return to Stay the Course is the pudding's proof. There are no alternatives. No viable options. Only the status quo is possible. For those commentators who think you have a plan to fix Iraq, do you think they haven't thought of your plan? Of course they have, and they are ignoring it for a reason. In fact, all you're doing by proferring your plan to find the prize in Iraq instead of advocating withdrawal is ensuring that President Bush's Plan will be the one we follow.


Another Somalia Air Strike

We hit another target in Somalia.
For at least the second time this month, the U.S. has sent one of its heavily armed AC-130 gunships to strike what are described as suspected terrorist targets in southern Somalia, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

An earlier strike on Jan. 7 is thought to have killed 10 to 20 people while missing three al-Qaeda operatives targeted by the Americans. Among them was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who is wanted for bombing American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania nine years ago and was initially reported as killed.
If we had a different president, I would cheer. But given that we have a President that brought us the Iraq War, my thinking tends another direction. Namely, what's the difference between attacking terrorist targets inside Somalia and attacking terrorist targets inside Iran? Under the War Powers Act, the President can do as he wants for 30 days without authorization, so he could unilaterally put us at war. One morning we might wake up at war.


SotU Reaction

This might deserve a "Holy Crap:"
A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. We will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.

At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, my proposal would mean a substantial tax savings — $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.
Excuse me, but isn't that straight-up taxing-the-rich-to-provide-for-the-poor-style government? I mean, it looks like it might be a good program, but what's Bush doing proposing it? Has he gone Arnold on us? No way.

UPDATE: Wait... have I misunderstood this?


Queue the uncontrollable laughter.
Ted Haggard Says Evangelicals Have the 'Best Sex Life'

The HBO documentary shows the Rev. Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, talking frankly about how evangelical Christians have sex more than any other religious group.

Haggard resigned from the church in 2006, after a scandal linked him to drugs and a male prostitute.

Haggard served as Pelosi's tour guide through the evangelical community. In the film, he proclaims that evangelicals have the best sex lives in the world.

"You know all the surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group," he says.


Update: Whoa! CrooksandLiars has the video, and it is creeping me right out!

Bin Laden's Economic War

This post is about something that's been bothering me for years - the selective quoting of the Big Bads by Republicans to support their pointless warmongering. I'm reminded today of this peeve by one of it's chief progenitors, a Cheney:
· Quitting helps the terrorists. Few politicians want to be known as spokesmen for retreat. Instead we hear such words as "redeployment," "drawdown" or "troop cap." Let's be clear: If we restrict the ability of our troops to fight and win this war, we help the terrorists. Don't take my word for it. Read the plans of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman Zawahiri to drive America from Iraq, establish a base for al-Qaeda and spread jihad across the Middle East. The terrorists are counting on us to lose our will and retreat under pressure. We're in danger of proving them right.
"Don't take my word for it. Read the plans" of the terrorists, indeed. The neoconservatives reliably quote the same lines from Bin Laden - that our retreat after Somalia showed "we didn't have the stomach for a prolonged fight," for instance - but they leave out half of Bin Laden's stated strategic goal. The economic war of attrition is how Osama believes he defeated the Soviet Union, vying with Reagan for credit.

Bin Laden's words:

"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said in the transcript.

He said the mujahedeen fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, "using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers."

"We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat," bin Laden said.

He also said al Qaeda has found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this administration."

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.


As part of the "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan," bin Laden cited a British estimate that it cost al Qaeda about $500,000 to carry out the attacks of September 11, 2001, an amount that he said paled in comparison with the costs incurred by the United States.

"Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs," he said. "As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.

So, for those of you conservatives who think that we have to "listen to Bin Laden's words" and to oppose his every intention, shouldn't you also now reject the War in Iraq as playing directly into Al Qaeda's strategic goals? His line about every one of Al Qaeda's dollars defeating a million American dollars carries weight. It is exactly the sort of calculus in which those of us who opposed this war engaged. You know, strategic thinking rather than "He killed my pappy."

Exaggerated Intelligence, Iranian Edition

Over and over again, we've heard blame cast on the Iranians for the explosive devices killing our servicemen in Iraq. Despite the fact that it was President Bush who lost 380 tons of nuclear-weapons grade C4 explosive in Iraq, we are subjected to a dishonest search for the source of these explosive attacks - a dishonest search with a politically convenient answer. Given how little HMX or RDX it takes to construct an Explosive Formed Projectile - the type of IED powerful enough to destroy a M1 Abrams, for god's sake - to cast about for a mysterious cause to this deadly effect goes beyond self-delusion into the realm of the phony. How can policy makers not remember that 380 tons of this stuff went missing when we left it unguarded for a few months after the invasion? Of course, they do remember, but it's just so embarrassing that it's better not to admit anything. Plus, as I said, forgetting this key piece of incompetence has the politically convenient consequence of allowing blame to be cast on the newest Tiny Hitler.

Reporting from the Washington Post lends support:
Since late August, British commandos in the deserts of far southeastern Iraq have been testing one of the most serious charges leveled by the United States against Iran: that Iran is secretly supplying weapons, parts, funding and training for attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq. . . . . There's just one thing.

"I suspect there's nothing out there," the commander, Lt. Col. David Labouchere, said last month, speaking at an overnight camp near the border. "And I intend to prove it."

Other senior British military leaders spoke as explicitly in interviews over the previous two months. Britain, whose forces have had responsibility for security in southeastern Iraq since the war began, has found nothing to support the Americans' contention that Iran is providing weapons and training in Iraq, several senior military officials said.

"I have not myself seen any evidence -- and I don't think any evidence exists -- of government-supported or instigated" armed support on Iran's part in Iraq, British Defense Secretary Des Browne said in an interview in Baghdad in late August.
So, as with the debate before Iraq there are the occasional voices of reason and fact speaking out against the tide of war-loving sentiment inside the Republican Party. Hopefully Her Majesty's Lt. Col. Labouchere will take his responsibility seriously. If he intends to "prove it," he must follow through if his warnings are ignored and speak out publicly and forcefully. At this point, though, after the universally recognized travesty that is the Iraq War, I doubt the voices of dissent will be as thoroughly marginalized. They should be sought out.

Nixon's Back!

Normally, when a President speaks, his approval increases. Famously, Bill Clinton got a 16-point boost from one of his State of the Union speeches. Contrast this with Bush, who is currently scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel:
Mr. Bush’s overall approval rating has fallen to just 28 percent, a new low, while more than twice as many (64 percent) disapprove of the way he's handling his job.

Two-thirds of Americans remain opposed to the president's plan for sending more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq — roughly the same number as after Mr. Bush announced the plan. And 72 percent believe he should seek congressional approval for the troop increase.
28% approval! In the words of Futurama, NIXON'S BAAAACK!

Obama's Madrassa

One of the reasons I listen to so much right-wing radio is to hear the absolute dregs of the political debate in our country. I think it's good to know what the 18 million Limbaugh listeners are thinking on any given day, so I observe. Every few weeks something really interesting happens, like Limbaugh making fun of Michael J. Fox or Hannity floating stories about Kerry's "intern problem" during the 2004 nomination contest.

Last week, in reaction to the Obama mania we've been subjected to for weeks, we started hearing the different whispers combine to create the perfect hit-piece. Obama's middle name, Hussein, and his Father's muslim heritage combined to give the public enough whiffs of Islamitude for the madrassa story to take hold. Apparently, according to the Right Wing Media, Osam- I mean Obama was educated in an Islamic Madrassa - exactly the sort of institution that teaches young muslims to hate America and engage in terrorism. On the air, over and over, it was speculated that "maybe he's still a Muslim." Maybe he's on a secret, 40 year Islamic mission to wrest control of our Presidency and use that power to spread radical Wahhabism over the globe! Hell, they had me worried. I went to bed at night praying that Jack Bauer would pay Hussein Obama a private little visit to "find out the truth." I hear Jack has ways of making people talk...

But then CNN took it upon themselves to do something called journalism, and actually went to the school in question. View the results in horror (video mirror).

Of course, it turns out that the "Madrassa" is nothing of the sort. I know you're all shocked at the lack of integrity shown by the Right Wing Media, since, you know, they're normally sooo "fair."


Habeas Not a Right Pt II

Our Attorney General, ladies and gentlemen:

GONZALES: There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it's never been the case, and I'm not a Supreme --

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can't take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn't say, "Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas." It doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by...

Gonzales is technically correct - the best kind of correct. Our Constitution does not explicitly grant the right of habeas corpus to its citizens. It does guarantee that the right to habeas corpus - which apparently no one actually has - shall not be suspended except during times of insurrection or invasion, but that doesn't mean that we the people actually retain the right. I've seen full arguments articulating this position, and they rely on congressional authorization of scopes of habeas corpus.

Gonzales' reading is exceedingly convenient, isn't it? The Bush Administration doesn't believe in the right to challenge your detention, so it's head lawyer contorts himself thusly. Perhaps he should be reminded of the 9th Amendment:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
That seems clear enough, eh? The really radical thing about America, you see, was that the government of the United States doesn't grant us rights, but rather guarantees them. Our rights are granted by our creator, or by virtue of our shared humanity if you prefer. Rather than our citizens having a set number of rights, it is our government whose powers are enumerated and thereby constrained. We the people retain all the rights not explicitly given to our government, which, at the time of its inception, made America a radical nation indeed.

Just to drive home how scandalous we should view Alberto Gonzales' statement, the following quote from James Madison is useful:
It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system...
Alberto Gonzales is the avatar of Madison's concern. Yoo's theory of the Unitary Executive is the founder's worst nightmare.

Finally, we have the following comment, via Kevin Drum:
There is indeed no bottom to this Administration's sophistry. So here's something to wonder about. Amendment IV to the US Constitution says "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause." It doesn't explicitly say only the courts can issue warrants. Nor does Article III say "only courts can issue warrants" in so many words. The word warrant does not appear in the main text of the constitution. I assume this is because we inherited a common-law practice from England that nobody thought needed to be written down. But I don't see why the Gonzales-Yoo school would not declare at some point that the executive branch can issue "warrants" too. Presto! Instant Fourth Amendment compliance! Of a kind.
I've grown into a hearty dislike of Alberto Gonzales. Who could have thought that we'd be nostalgic for Ashcroft?


Maliki Doses Bush with His Own Medicine

The 2006 midterms were less than three months ago, so everyone should clearly remember the campaign themes used by the GOP. In particular, I'd draw your recollection to the "criticizing the President helps the terrorists" rhetoric used to argue that the opposition party should really just shut up and let the President continue his failed policy interminably. Statement's critical of the President showed the unseriousness of the commentator and it was wondered aloud if they "are objectively on the side of the terrorists."

I remind you of this unAmerican rhetoric because of an unexpected synergy with our Iraq policy. It turns out that our training regimen for the Iraqis is working out unexpectedly well! We may be having trouble on the military and security fronts, but their political class is just shooting to the head of the Advanced Rovian Politics class:
Maliki disputed President Bush's remarks broadcast Tuesday that the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein "looked like it was kind of a revenge killing" and took exception to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Senate testimony last week that Maliki's administration was on "borrowed time."

The prime minister said statements such as Rice's "give morale boosts for the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort and making them believe they have defeated the American administration," Maliki said. "But I can tell you that they have not defeated the Iraqi government."...

"I know President Bush and I know him as a strong person that does not get affected by the media pressure, but it seems the pressure has gone to a great extent that led to the president giving this statement," Maliki said.

You gotta love Our Man in Baghdad giving the Bush Administration a dose of its own medicine. How embarrassing.


Acts of War are "Welcome News"

Deja Vu - The Corner welcomes war with Iran:
With that in mind, the raid on the Iranian consulate in Iraq's Kurdish region has to be welcome news. We would certainly regard that as an act of war if the tables were turned.
No kidding. We'd be dropping bombs already.

To these people War is just another option, not the most grave decision a democracy can make. To them the willingness to blow people up makes you "serious," and anything short marks you as a terrorist enabler. What a world.

Friedman's Iron Will

Remember when I complimented Thomas Friedman for his honesty in his "10 Months or 10 Years" column? In it he called for a massive re-invasion - a gigantic do-over for the entire war - or withdrawal:
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.
Clearheaded and nonpartisan, eh?

So now we've finally gotten our New Way Forward from our Commander in Chief, and conspicuously lacking is the call for a re-invasion as Friedman required for his continued support. Do you think that "6-Months" Friedman did the honorable thing and called for withdrawal in response? Of course not! That wouldn't be serious enough for such a serious-minded moustache.

Here is Friedman's bold pronouncement on the surge. See if you can tell the difference between what should have been expected and what was received:
Mr. President, you want a surge? I’ll surge. I’ll surge on the condition that you once and for all enlist the entire American people in this war effort, and stop putting it all on the shoulders of 130,000 military families, and now 20,000 more. I’ll surge on the condition that you make them fight all of us — and that means a real energy policy, with a real gasoline tax, that ends our addiction to oil, shrinks the flow of petro-dollars to bad actors and makes America the world’s leader in conservation...

At this 11th hour, with Iraq’s sectarian fires raging, the only way more U.S. troops might bring stability is if you add two missing elements: a deadline and a floor.

Finger-in-the-Wind Friedman. I hereby retract my compliment on his honesty.

He's doing the same thing he did when he helped enable the Iraq War - he's attaching his own personal conditions to earn his already stated support, while knowing full well that those conditions will never be honored. Thereby he adds his voice to the group of those calling for War, or in this case for escalation. He abdicates the position morality should demand of him, for if he sees the folly of these decisions before they are made - as he clearly does - not standing stridently against these policies makes him complicit in their implementation. By virtue of his position, he owes us more than these childish games of accountability. He needs a spine.


I Embrace the Veto

The Democrats are rapidly passing overwhelmingly popular legislation, and President Bush is rapidly digging his ditch deeper by vowing to veto:
President Bush promised on Thursday to veto Democratic-drafted legislation requiring the government to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare.


A survey of seniors for the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that about 81% of seniors want to let the government use its buying power to negotiate drug prices, including 67% who said they strongly favor such negotiations.
Negotiating lower drug prices is the single most popularly supported item of the 100-hour agenda, and Bush is set to veto! Remember, this is Medicare we're talking about - servicing the most reliable voting block known to man, the seasoned citizen. If you think the AARP wont take this veto up with its membership, you're dreaming.

Follow this with Stem Cell legislation:
The House commenced debate on the bill, the third piece of the Democrats' first 100 hours agenda, Thursday morning. Just hours before, however, the White House restated Bush's veto threat.
Stem Cell legislation is also hugely popular, while simultaneously putting the Democrats on the side of science once again.

This is all good for us and bad for the Republicans. It's also helping line up the '08 agenda nicely: "Vote for us and we'll sign all the stuff Bush vetoed!"

Sercret War with Iran

Via the Washington Note, our source for all the Capital gossip, we have a terrifying rumor:

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

The bare outlines of that order may have appeared in President Bush's Address to the Nation last night outlining his new course on Iraq...

After the events of the past few days, this rumor takes advantage of our trepidation perfectly, and thus flourishes.

Is it time for a Boland Amendment? Despite the painful rhetoric Bush and his cult would use to describe us Democrats for having "tied Bush's hands" in the War on Terror, it may be imperative. If preempting war with Iran costs the Democrats their power, I say it was worth the sacrifice, since I don't believe we can "win" a war with Iran.

No Waiting for Escalation

That was quick, wasn't it?
US forces have stormed a building in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six people said to be Iranians, prompting a diplomatic incident.

Iranian and Iraqi officials said the building was an Iranian consulate and the detainees its employees.

The US military said it was still investigating, but that the building did not have diplomatic status.


One Iranian news agency with a correspondent in Irbil says five US helicopters were used to land troops on the roof of the Iranian consulate.

It reports that a number of vehicles cordoned off the streets around the building, while US soldiers warned the occupants in three different languages that they should surrender or be killed.
And I hoped I was being alarmist when I suggested that America might try to incite a war with Iran, just as we did in the leadup to Iraq.

Israel's Out of the Closet

So much for the "policy of nuclear ambiguity", eh?
A decades-long silence about Israel's possession of nuclear weapons has been broken in an apparent slip of the tongue by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, during a visit to Europe.
That's one hell of a slip-up. Maybe you could attribute it to a slip of the tongue, as an aide characterized it, if you were feeling generous. However, when you have the Secretary of Defense making the same admission in the same week, the likely explanation bends towards coordination.

The subject of Israel's nuclear capability was also touched on last week by the next American defence secretary, Robert Gates, who suggested that Israel had atomic weapons.

He told a Senate confirmation committee that Iran might want an atomic bomb because it is "surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf".

We're really ratcheting up the pressure on Iran, aren't we?

Saddam's Execution and Bush's Reaction

Brian Williams, at the White House:
Upon exiting the West Wing, I phoned one particular detail into MSNBC: Toward the end I asked the President if he'd seen the Saddam Hussein execution video. He said he had, and when I asked where it "ranked" (among the mistakes of the war) he indicated it was just below Abu Ghraib in terms of damage -- meaning slightly less damaging. The President also noted the damage done at Haditha.
Damn straight.

Bush's Broad Escalation

Forgive me, but I believe that the billing for Bush's speech included a "new strategy for Iraq." I think I listened pretty closely, and yet I heard only about new tactics, no new strategies. The strategy we're implementing is the same one that we have been - clear, hold and build. Granted, we've never been able to effectively implement this strategy, since we've never had enough troops in the country to conduct real anti-insurgency, but a paltry 20,000 wont change that. Increasing the number of troops only allows more of the same types of engagements we've been doing all along. It's the Operations Forward Together all over again.

So, once again, Bush confuses tactics with strategy. What we received in his speech was not a new strategy - it was a revised tactic. Increasing the number of troops in Baghdad is something we've done before, and it wont work.

There was, however, one remarkable new item in the speech concerning Iran and Syria:

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.

Those paragraphs send a clear message. Allow me to walk you through it:
  1. Iran is providing support for attacks on Americans.
  2. We will seek out and destroy the networks providing that support.
  3. Those networks exist inside Iran.
  4. Therefore, we will conduct military operations inside Iran.
The only alternative to killing the networks where they live would be a massive influx of troops in order to exhaustively control Iraq's borders. However, if 20,000 troops are hard to come by, there are certainly not enough troops to secure the borders.

To back up this pugilistic conclusion, we have the following, also from the speech:
"We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing - and deploy Patriot Air Defense systems to reassure our friend and allies."
The implied question just screams at me. What possible threat could those defensive systems be deployed to combat? There's no chance of missile attack from Sadr's men, or even from Al Qaeda in Iraq. So what's up here? You can't use a Patriot to shoot down a Katyusha, which is the only type of rocket they would use in Iraq if they used rockets in Iraq, which they do not. After all, why use a rocket when a car bomb is so much easier to aim?

Patriot missiles are used to shoot down aircraft or intercept ballistic missiles. Who has ballistic missiles and an airforce? Iran.

Joe Lieberman has been thinking along the same lines as the President, incidentally:
While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran...
These are radical statements. Both President Bush and his supports are stating that Iran is a declared enemy in the current war. What do you do with people you're at war with? Oh, right, you kill them and everyone on their block. Now, it is possible that President Bush is simply playing a rhetoric game, whereby, through bellicose and threatening verbiage, we force the Iranians to comply with our wishes. Then again, many hoped he was doing the same thing in the lead up to the Iraq War, and we all know how that developed. Such naive hope cannot be sustained.

So, in conclusion, is it Gulf of Tonkin here we come? It's been established in the media narrative that Iran is operating inside Iraq, where we have 140k troops. Would it be difficult to have a skirmish leading to escalation? Of course not.

Let's hope life doesn't get too interesting, too quickly, eh?

Modern Submarines and Littoral Waters

The fact that we have submarines in the Persian Gulf will come as a surprise to no one. However, when one of those submarines runs into an oil tanker, people sit up and take notice.

The problem, of course, is that much of the Gulf consists of littoral waters - shallow, choppy, coast-bound water that fills the sonar spectrum with noise. The average depth in the Strait is only about 25 meters, and the hull of the Los Angeles class fast attack sub is 10 meters just by itself, not counting the conning tower above that. Given the fact that 35% of the world's oil production travels through the Strait of Hormuz, it's a busy place - and tight to begin with because of the depth.

Under the mission conditions, the skipper would have to be under serious duress to order a surfacing. After all, what good is a submarine whose location the enemy knows? Perhaps, given the general tightness, this was inevitable, but it still rankles.


"Hostile Enemies"

This is the kind of infuriating bullshit that patriotic Democrats have to put up with:
GRETCHEN CARLSON: You talk about the hostile enemy, obviously being Iraq, but hostile enemies right here on the home front. Yesterday Senator Ted Kennedy, proposing that any kind of a troop surge should mean there should be congressional approval of that.
We are regularly equated with the terrorist enemy, and what do we do to that enemy? Oh right, we kill their asses. Calling for the execution of your political opponents puts you firmly in the Ann Coulter/Pol Pot camp of unacceptable political rhetoric.


Saddam's Noose

Further verification that the execution of Saddam Hussein was a sectarian lynching:
A well-known Kuwaiti businessman is negotiating hard to own the noose which hung ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to death.

Reliable sources say the businessman's representatives have asked the Iraqi Ministry of Interior Affairs to sell the rope to them.

The businessman is apparently ready to pay any amount of money for the noose. According to sources, it is with Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr and the businessman's representatives are negotiating with him.
My face still goes slack when I'm thinking about this. I can't quite summon the requisite surprise, or shock at this horrible news. It shorts a circuit in my head and I have to re-approach. The thought of handing such a victory to our enemy (who still hold an American soldier) just boggles me.

Another Together Forward

Remember Operation Forward Together, where we surged troops into Baghdad in order for "one last shot" at victory in the Battle of Baghdad? No, I'm not talking about the current escalation Bush is proposing, but it does sound strikingly similar, doesn't it?

Anyway, did you know that there were multiple operations with names very like Forward Together? I was following this story fairly closely, and I wasn't aware of this until just recently. There was the original Operation Together Forward, which began on June 14. By July 24, the White House had admitted it was a failure. Then there was Operation Forward Together. Then there was Operation Together Forward II. Very well done, DoD, naming the various versions something slightly different in order to minimize the public impact of the failures. This must be the excellent influence of our psyops division. But who knows - maybe this is standard practice on missions the planners think are likely to go poorly.

Incidentally, General Caldwell gave us the assessment on how these security initiatives panned out. Even with three iterations of the plan - "adapting to win" the best way we know how - Caldwell had this to say by October 19:
General Caldwell: Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence.
And the ISG weighed in thusly:
The results of Operation Together Forward II are disheartening. Violence in Baghdad—already at high levels—jumped more than 43 percent between the summer and October 2006. U.S. forces continue to suffer high casualties.
So, this is sure to work spectacularly, huh? This nth corner, I am sure, is the final corner we have to turn in the ([[(N+1)/2]]+1)-dimensional space that is the Iraq War. (There are so many geometry jokes to be made with those corner references)


Whoa, whoa, whoa! The first thing we did was implement Pay-Go?
The House voted overwhelmingly today to ban anonymous pet spending projects, known as earmarks, and to reinstate “pay as you go” spending rules.
Good for us. In fact, it may be too good. Why not pass the expensive parts of the 100-hour agenda and then implement Pay-Go? Let's hope this doesn't force us to raise taxes too broadly.


McCain's Surge Speech

The latest from the McCain-Lieberman Doctrine from someone who attended the American Enterprise Institute event:
2. The surge will be sustained for at least 2 years. Timelines embolden the Enemy, and so we shouldn’t set one for withdrawl. We’ve got to stay as long as it takes to “finish the mission.”
I've read elsewhere that, although McCain used to be calling for an additional 20,000, he now says that it might require more. This, combined with this call for a sustained surge is how McCain will solve his political problem. Because Bush will implement "too small a force" for "too short a time," McCain will still be able to say that "if only we had done it my way, we would have won."

You know what this means. It's time for the Committees to do their work and have hearings on whether or not it is possible to surge 40 - 50,000 troops for 2 years as McCain wants. Based on the reporting of the last year, I think we know how that inquiry will turn out.

Interestingly, at the rate people are being driven out of their homes in Iraq, the ethnic cleansers may in fact achieve an ethnically segregated Iraq, which might lead to stability. Could we be running a de facto 80% solution already? Could this stability happen before 2009? And can America bear the burden of presiding over an ethnic cleansing? Was this war worth that price?

Democrats Take Power in Congress

So noted.


Not Just Moqtada's Avatar

It was already bad, but this is deplorable:
... said National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie... "There was an infiltration at the execution chamber."

Echoing those accusations, a senior Interior Ministry official said the hanging was supposed to be carried out by hangmen employed by the Interior Ministry but that "militias" had managed to infiltrate the executioners' team.

"The execution was carried out by militias and outsiders. They put aside the team from the Interior Ministry that was supposed to carry it out," the official said.

Allowing Moqtada's men do the lynching is just too much. I am beside myself. How could this have happened? Why didn't we use our considerable leverage to make sure they did this right?

Short Answer: even if we did "use our leverage" and make threats, Maliki knows Bush's military isn't going anywhere, so those threats carry no weight. They would laugh, assert their "sovereignty" and do it their way. The United States of America is treated as a paper tiger because they know that for Bush, leaving Iraq destroys his place in history - a price he will not pay.

With different leadership, we might have had a chance, but that "accountability moment" is past.

Saddam's Execution

Josh Marshall has made the developing Saddam Execution story one of his hobbyhorses, and he's riding it hard:
Saddam prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, who pleaded with the members of the execution team taunting Saddam at the execution, yesterday recanted his claim that Iraqi National Security Advisor al Rubaie was one of the two governmental officials videotaping the execution with his cell phone.

Today he's saying that there actually weren't any people in the execution chamber taunting Saddam and hailing Moktada al-Sadr. The taunts, he now says, came from outside the execution chamber.

Must be fun to be him right now.

And yesterday's reports that a guard had been arrested over the video tape? Maliki advisor Sami al-Askari tells Reuters, no, didn't happen.

Talking Points Memo is his outfit, and he rigorously follows the subjects he adopts. On the subject of Hussein's execution there were shenanigans on many levels.

It boggles the mind when you contemplate the levels on which this screw-up operates. Managing the event of Saddam's death was a simple, small problem. It was the exceedingly rare sort of problem that you can literally put in a box - the scope of the event limited to a single room. It should have been such a powerful symbol for the country. Instead it was ruined... an opportunity ruined. Not that it would have been enough anyway, but every little bit helps. It's just unreal.

Bush's Continuing War on the Constitution

Bush's personal mission to sully as much of our constitution as possible continues.
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.
Nevermind that the Constitution says the Congress gets to make the laws. Nevermind that similarly clear issues of separation of powers have been decided in the past. Nevermind that the action Bush asserts is his right was explicitly criminalized by the Congress. All you must remember is that George W. Bush is good, and he protects you from people that will kill you and your whole family. Now, once a Democrat occupies the White House I'm sure we'll hear about what an affront to our nation's political heritage these Bush-powers are, but by then it may be too late.

Here's a Kieth Olbermann bit about which parts of the Bill of Rights we're left with after this Administration. It's from many months ago. Watch it.

Public Support for Partisanship

Serving as a perfect followup to the Republican Whiner post below, we have these public support numbers for the

*Allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies to attempt to lower the price of prescription drugs for some senior citizens: 87/12/1

*Raising the minimum wage: 85/14/1

*Cutting interest rates on federal loans to college students: 84/15/1

*Creating an independent panel to oversee ethics in Congress: 79/19/2

*Making significant changes in U.S. policy in Iraq: 77/20/3

*Reducing the amount of influence lobbyists have in congressional decisions: 75/21/4

*Implementing all of the anti-terrorism recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission: 64/26/10

*Maintaining the current Social Security system to prevent the creation of private investment accounts: 63/32/6

*Funding embryonic stem cell research: 62/32/6

*Reducing some federal tax breaks for oil companies: 49/49/2

*Changing the rules to allow Congress to create new spending programs only if taxes are raised or spending on other programs is cut: 41/54/5

Given the support, you'll forgive us if we take a little time to do the people's business, and then the Republicans can go back to working for the top 1% and the hardcore Christians.

Incidentally, I can't understand how Pay-Go polls so poorly down there at the bottom. I guess it must be a hard issue to communicate.

(h/t Kos)

Republicans and Their Own Medicine

Give me a break! What a bunch of whiners!
As the new Democratic Congress prepared to be sworn in today and elect Nancy Pelosi of California the first female speaker of the House of Representatives, partisan gamesmanship seasoned with hypocrisy threatened to override pledges of a new era of bipartisan cooperation.

House Democrats said Wednesday they would break one of their major promises: granting Republicans the kind of full participation in the legislative process that they were denied while Republicans held power the past 12 years.


Republicans held a news conference to complain.

Yes, yes, we know that you've had to 12 years to treat us however you like with barely a mention of the abuse in the press, but now that the Democrats are in charge, all of a sudden it's a media issue. And excuse me if I wasn't aware that Pelosi promised the very first item on the agenda would be giving the Republicans treatment they didn't do anything to deserve. They complain about "breaking a promise," but if we had given them robust minority rights from the beginning, we'd end up breaking the rest of the promises we made because the Republicans would block the legislation!

It's a ridiculous comedy, but also more than a little sad. It's simply pathetic how quickly and completely the Republicans have flipped into "victimized minority" mode - when the Congress hasn't even started yet!


Pat Robertson, Crazy Person

Thank god we've got God to warn us about terrorist attacks, huh?
Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday that God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would cause a "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him about the impending tragedy during a recent prayer retreat.

God also said, he claims, that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Don't you wish the Lord could be a little more specific? There was none of this pussy-footing around with Noah - no, "Listen up Noah, you might want to prepare to get wet sometime in the next few years" warnings. It's like God has gotten a lazy in the intervening millennia.

Edwards on the McCain Doctrine

Edwards (video) begins the process of hanging the loss of the Iraq War and the deaths of hundreds or thousands more of our men and women on the neck of John McCain by calling Bush's Escalation the McCain Doctrine. Well done, John Edwards. I'll remember this one.

Olbermann on Sacrifice

Keith Olbermann (video) on Bush's New Way Forward in Iraq: Sacrifice. This is one of his most powerful to date.

Maliki Wants Out!

"Our man in Iraq," "the right man for the job" - "a man willing to make the hard decisions" - would really prefer to quit, thank you.
Nuri al-Maliki has said he wants to step down as prime minister of Iraq, as one of his advisers revealed that a man accused of recording Saddam Hussein's execution on his mobile phone has been arrested.

In a candid interview with an American newspaper, Mr Maliki said it was the most difficult decision he has made since he agreeing to become prime minister seven years ago.

"I only agreed because I thought it would serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again," he told the Wall Street Journal.

If offered a second term, he would not take it, and wishes to end his first term prematurely: "I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term," he said, adding: "I would like to serve my people from outside the circle of senior officials, maybe through the parliament, or through working directly with the people."

I wonder if Maliki thinks it's "hard work" being Prime Minister. I expect his desire to bug-out has something to do with the intractable sectarian tensions coupled with the constant reminder that, should America leave, the heads of government might not live very long.

Is it surprising that Prime Minister Maliki wants out? Of course not. He lives in Iraq, for god's sake! But it is an earthshaking surprise that he would come out and say so to the international press. Perhaps he's playing expectations, so that there wont be any surprises when the American forces confront Al-Sadr and Maliki's government crumbles.


Maybe Execuion Isn't the Word...

Maybe Hussein's execution should be called a lynching. Apparently, the Sadr Brigades were represented, as chants of "Moqtada! Moqtada!" filled the room for some of The Butcher's last seconds. He died as a Muslim should, with the Shahadah on his lips, while Moqtada's avatar mocked him. If someone in Maliki's government leaked this video, they did themselves no favors.

Is there nothing we cannot screw up? We lynch the former President of Iraq, on the Eid, with our prime rival usurping a prominent role. Wow. Just, wow. If you had predicted anything in the ballpark of that horrible, you'd be condemned as hysterical. Once again, the Bush Administration provides a real-life story you couldn't sell to a movie audience.

Today Sean Hannity was saying that there is nothing that the Administration can do that "The Liberals" will agree with and appreciate, and that's why the "caterwauling" about the execution is taking place - because of their insatiable Bush Hatred. My suggestion, Mr. Hannity, that would allow me to be proud of my government for once, is complicated. I'll itemize it so you can keep it straight:
1) Wait five days. (so both the Sunni and Shiite version of Eid al-Adha have fully passed - it's three days long)
Burdensome, I know.

Additional Reading: You really should read Riverbend's piece at Baghdad Burning. If you haven't heard of it, it's a blog run by an Iraqi woman, an ex-programmer, from within Baghdad. She went through the war, and was a favorite of the war-proponents in the lead up to the war. It's an interesting perspective.