Giuliani and the GOP

Here's a video of Rudy Giuliani being... friendly with Donald Trump.

Yup. Republican nomination here he comes! There's nothing stopping that train!

Walter Reed Post

The disgrace at Walter Reed is bound to be covered like mud on an ATV, so I wont belabour it, but registering my absolute disgust with the treatment of our war wounded was compulsory. Please notice that I didn't say "surprising," since it's been demonstrated again and again that our troop's best interests are not often in this Administration's thoughts.

For support of this position, we have the following from the Navy Times, via NitPicker:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
The problem here, of course, is that those ingrate troops had to open their big mouths! Get 'em up for snap inspections to keep 'em in line. The thought of a wounded soldier being treated like and trainee rankles even more.

Talk with Iran

It looks like we're talking to Iran without preconditions! Wow... apparently, with the North Korean reversal, it's a new day of diplomacy for America! Too bad we lost 6 years on pointless machismo before we regained our senses.

The announcement last night by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, in testimony to the Senate appropriations committee, reverses one of the central parts of the Bush administration's Middle East strategy.

The proposed meeting follows growing pressure on the US government to agree to talks with Tehran and Damascus, something recommended late last year by the Iraq Study Group.

So the Bush Administration is not entirely immune to pressure. Eventually, when the horrible weight of their mistakes finally impresses itself upon them, they change course. Good. On this issue, that's possible, but don't look for it on Iraq. The Iraq War is President Bush at this point. He will never fold.


The Axis's New Weapons Exports: EFPs and .50s?

Explosively formed projectiles are all the rage amongst extracurricular (in the sense that the Chief of Staff didn't know about the briefing or agree with it's contents) DoD briefings these days, implicating Iran in the manufacture and distribution of these deadly, and oh-so-sophisticated IEDs. Effectively, we are claiming that Iran is committing acts of war against us, since these weapons have been used to kill over 170 American personnel in Iraq. Needless to say, with the Bush Administration's track record, such an escalation needs to have it's basis examined rigorously.

The EFPs are reminiscent of a less sophisticated HEAT shell, used by modern militaries to kill tanks for decades. The EFP shapes a "finely manufactured" copper plate into a molten slug that can bore through armor, rather than just transferring energy via the shock wave. The great thing about EFPs is that they can kill from standoff distances of up to 100 meters. You can imagine the opportunities such an unexpectedly long range affords. In fact, the insurgents were recently able to shoot down one of my beloved C130s with just such a weapon. That surprised me.

Regardless of the hype about the difficulty of manufacture that the Army briefing touted, I am not impressed. We've had kits to field assemble EFPs for our ground forces for many years, and almost any machine shop could lathe a copper disk into an almost perfectly symmetrical ashtray. From the first news of the briefing, I was suspicious.

Furthermore, I thought I had heard about shaped charges in Iraq for many years, so I went and tracked it down. It turns out that EFP use started in 2005, two years after Iran's grand diplomatic entreaty that Dr. Rice has forgotten about.

Here's a nice picture of one of our guys with a pile of EFP slugs in their pre-slugged form:
Sorry, the picture was taken down. He had stacks and stacks of the formed copper plates. The picture was on a story from late 2005.
Do those look like artifacts of space-age engineering to you? We were to believe there was no one in Iraq that could have manufactured them? Please.

And check out this fully assembled EFP:

The top of that isn't even close to symmetrical. The lack of precision on this bomb would limit the range, but it could still kill any of our armored vehicles if it was close enough - say, under a bridge or buried in the road.

This is the type of border tech that makes the War on Terror so dangerous. It may be hard to optimize the design in the first place, but once that work is done it is easily copyable, unlike nuclear weapons, which, even if you have perfect knowledge of the field are still hard as hell to create. This type of threshold technology is what makes the prospect of asymmetric warfare so daunting. Defending from attacks gets harder all the time, while every individual's lethality is also increasing continuously.

Ha! Doing a little further research, I stumbled upon this: wanna know how to make one yourself? Yet more evidence that these fiendishly genius "Iranian" munitions aren't nearly as sophisticated as we're being spun.

Also, the first one we heard about was in the hands of Sunnis... if you don't yet know why that makes it impossible for Iran to have been the source, then you must be a Republican Congressman. :)

Finally, we have one last nail in the EFP coffin: An Ongoing Order for Stamped out Copper Disks in Iraq.
This find...is forcing U.S. officials to reassess their belief that such bombs were being built in Iran and smuggled fully assembled into Iraq...."We originally thought these came into Iraq already created, and now that intelligence has been totally relooked," said Capt. Clayton Combs, who led the raid. "It's like a playground kit you get in the mail: You can plot the instructions and start putting it together on-site, and that's what we have here."
So, I think we can conclude that these weapons did not come from Iran - or, at least, that the more likely explanation is domestic production, cobbled together from pieces manufactured all across the middle east.

Another ridiculous claim made by the DoD was that the .50 Caliber sniper rifles found in Iraq were evidence of Iranian involvement. But the .50 Cal sniper rifles also aren't proof. It's like saying the AK47s being used by the combatants proves Russian involvement. It's laughable.

You may also have heard of Iran's purported Space Missile, potentially capable of delivering their burgeoning nuclear armada. Should we be worried? The experts give it an emphatic no. It's nothing more than a tweaked SCUD, not capable of heavy payloads. Finally, the scary "space missile" has a whopping 185 mile range.

I would call these lies of the type that lead us into the Iraq War. Let's hope the press can get over being called a traitor for questioning these things this time around. It's not hard to do.


Gore Wins

I'm calling the Award for Gore. I'm really sticking my neck out here, I know.

I say he announces when he wins the Peace Prize.


British Withdrawal Followup

From the Independent, the British have experienced "military failure" in Iraq:

The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq.

In a comment entitled "The British Defeat in Iraq" the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005.

Mr Cordesman says that while the British won some tactical clashes in Basra and Maysan province in 2004, that "did not stop Islamists from taking more local political power and controlling security at the neighbourhood level when British troops were not present". As a result, southern Iraq has, in effect, long been under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the so-called "Sadrist" factions.

Mr Blair said for three years Britain had worked to create, train and equip Iraqi Security Forces capable of taking on the security of the country themselves. But Mr Cordesman concludes: "The Iraqi forces that Britain helped create in the area were little more than an extension of Shia Islamist control by other means."

This speaks to one of the most confusing aspects of support for the War in Iraq: even under the best scenario we were still handing significant resources, training, and control to people that were considered nominal enemies before Bush's push for democratization of the Arab world. In this case, the training of "security forces" only worsens the security situation by empowering exactly the people we are trying to fight. There is a reason America has propped up vile dictators - even Saddam himself:

As for the conclusion of this report, that the British had militarily failed in Iraq, that conclusion could easily be drawn by the mere fact of their withdrawal rather than redeployment to Baghdad.

Israel Over Iraq?

From the Telegraph:
Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon.

A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

I've written about an Israeli airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities before. Iraqi sovereignty isn't something you can take ala carte depending on circumstances - they are sovereign nation or not. Given that they are sovereign I don't think this could actually happen, since Israel would need the Iraqi's permission.

Of course, the Israelis could decide to execute airstrikes without the Iraqi's permission, but in that case they would still need ours. When you consider the backlash such a violation would create across the Iraqi population, and the consequences for American troops, I would hope that we wouldn't give that permission. Israel and America are inseparable in the Arab world, after all.


An American Royalty

Reader DD chimes in via comments concerning the Anna Nicole Smith story:
Its long been pointed out that in America, celebrities have culturally filled the role of royalty.
This reminded me of an idea some friends and I were tossing around one night, years ago. DD is correct in saying that celebrity fills an analogous role to royalty in our society. Some people have a deep need for a source of authority they can idolize and fixate upon. Idolizing authority, weak-sauced as it is, is completely predictable - an inescapable part of the human condition.

My concern, of course, is politics, and it is therefore these idolaters' electoral influence that I am interested in examining. Idolatry is poisonous to democracy, for voters need to make choices based on fact and principle rather than on a cult of personality. Unfortunately, without a national royalty these authoritarians idolize political leaders, which helps lead to the vicious invective in our politics. The Idols grow isomorphic to the nation itself, so criticizing that leader becomes tantamount to treason. Sound familiar?

So, why not have an elected Prince? Not only would we diminish the influence of irrational idolatry in our elections, but we'd kill two birds with one stone by removing much of the ceremonial component from the President's shoulders. It could be a good idea.

Glenn Greenwald touched upon this with his essays on the lack of political ideology in the Bush movement:

It used to be the case that in order to be considered a "liberal" or someone "of the Left," one had to actually ascribe to liberal views on the important policy issues of the day - social spending, abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, immigration, "judicial activism," hate speech laws, gay rights, utopian foreign policies, etc. etc. These days, to be a "liberal," such views are no longer necessary.

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required - a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" -- or, for that matter, a "conservative" -- is now no longer a function of one's actual political views, but is a function purely of one's personal loyalty to George Bush.


If it now places one "on the Left" to oppose unrestrained power and invasiveness asserted by the Federal Government along with lawlessness on the part of our highest government officials, so be it. The rage-based reverence for The President as Commander-in-Chief -- and the creepy, blind faith vested in his goodness -- is not a movement I recognize as being political, conservative or even American.

A movement which has as its shining lights a woman who advocates the death of her political opponents, another woman who is a proponent of concentration camps, a magazine which advocates the imprisonment of journalists who expose government actions of dubious legality, all topped off by a President who believes he has the power to secretly engage in activities which the American people, through their Congress, have made it a crime to engage in, is a movement motivated by lots of different things. Political ideology isn't one of them.
Greenwald calls this a cult-like mentality, but I'll continue referring to them as idolaters. If we had royalty, it would sink some of these idolaters out of the political process since they would have a more appropriate target for their fixation. The intense personal identification and nationalistic pride that is a pox on electoral democracy is a boon to monarchy.

Iraqi Blogger Update

Riverbend, an Iraqi blogger who runs Baghdad Burning, writes about the simmering rape case in Baghdad, and Maliki's troubling reaction. From the AP:
"Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Makiki moved quickly to try to defuse a scandal after a Sunni woman said she was raped by three officers of the Shiite-dominated police.

The government's response — siding with the officers and trying to discredit the allegations — threatened to bring even more backlash.

A statement by al-Makiki's office accused "certain parties" — presumably Sunni politicians — of fabricating the claims in an attempt to undermine security forces during the ongoing Baghdad security operation, which began last week.

The statement was issued only hours after al-Maliki ordered an investigation into the case Monday night.

The 20-year-old married woman said she was assaulted after police commandos took her into custody Sunday in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amil, accusing her of helping insurgents. She said she was taken to a police garrison and raped.

"It has been shown after medical examinations that the woman had not been subjected to any sexual attack whatsoever and that there are three outstanding arrest warrants against her issued by security agencies," the government statement said, without giving details.

"After the allegations have been proven to be false, the prime minister has ordered that the officers accused be rewarded," it said without elaborating."
Riverbend is an Iraqi woman, educated in the west, and still anonymous for her safety. She was one of the favorites of the pro-war side of the pre-war debate, since she showed exactly the sort of traits people wanted to believe all Iraqis possessed - calmness, yearning and hope for freedom, and the education and sophistication to make use of that freedom. The right wing blogs constantly invoked her as a quiet leader - a canary in the coal mine that presaged an unassailable victory. After the invasion, as the occupation began and the Bush Administration was quickly losing what had been a spectacularly well executed war, Riverbend began to turn against her conservative allies in the States. Within a year she wanted the Americans gone, and the right wing blogs never referenced her again.

Here's Riverbend's take on the rape:
I hate the media and I hate the Iraqi government for turning this atrocity into another Sunni-Shia debacle...

It was less than 14 hours between Sabrine's claims and Maliki's rewarding the people she accused. In 14 hours, Maliki not only established their innocence, but turned them into his own personal heroes. I wonder if Maliki would entrust the safety his own wife and daughter to these men.

This is meant to discourage other prisoners, especially women, from coming forward and making claims against Iraqi and American forces. Maliki is the stupidest man alive (well, after Bush of course…) if he believes his arrogance and callous handling of the situation will work to dismiss it from the minds of Iraqis. By doing what he is doing, he's making it more clear than ever that under his rule, under his government, vigilante justice is the only way to go. Why leave it to the security forces and police? Simply hire a militia or gang to get revenge. If he doesn't get some justice for her, her tribe will be forced to... And the Janabat (the Al Janabis) are a force to be reckoned with.

Maliki could at least pretend the rape of a young Iraqi woman is still an outrage in todays Iraq...
Could this be the turning point for the Sunnis as the Golden Dome was for the Shiites? Let's hope not. Regardless, it does illustrate that we continue to have the wrong man for the job in the position of Prime Minister - more concerned with sectarian favoritism than making the risky decisions and thereby taking the leadership required to build an Iraq where life isn't dominated by an endless cycle of ethnic violence.

Obama and Fox

After the lies told by Fox News about Barack Obama's "Radical Madrassa," the Obama campaign began a freeze out of the channel. He's been criticized by some for ceding the intellectual battlefield, but normally the earth of the battlefield itself isn't biased against one of the combatants. By putting the chill on Fox, Obama is not only doing the smart thing strategically, but us in the base are loving him for it. Bump those numbers!

Apparently, though, there's been much more to be outraged about than the lie of the Madrassa story:

O'Reilly: What a Tool.

Oprah had Bill O'Reilly on her show to talk about pedophiles and people who abduct children. Oprah, of all people, who should know better.

Here is video of Bill-O questioning whether or not Shawn Hornbeck just preferred to live with his captor, rather than living with his parentsm, having to abide by rules and go to school. Never mind the forced sodomy, no no! That's a small price to pay for being able to avoid the evil Department of Education! I hear they're more dangerous than Al Qaeda, after all (oh, Boortz, how you disappoint me)!

It was these statements that got O'Reilly uninvited from speaking at the National Convention for Missing Kids. You'd think it would be enough to keep him from being brought on Oprah's show as a self-righteous advocate for abducted children.

Finally, here's the video of Bill-O's performance on Oprah. What a bloviating idiot. My god. The end of that first clip is just sickening given the context with Hornbeck.

Chlorine Attacks in Iraq

Chemical Weapon attacks are now taking place in Baghdad, thanks to the fact that chlorine is everywhere in a reasonably modern society. Thank god Curt Weldon and Rick Santorum are out of Congress, or they'd be saying the chlorine in these tankers are the WMDs we invaded Iraq to find:
A truck bomb that combined explosives with chlorine gas blew up in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, and officials said it might represent a new and deadly tactic by insurgents against Iraqi civilians.

It was at least the third truck bomb in a month to employ chlorine, a greenish gas also used in World War I, which burns the skin and can be fatal after only a few concentrated breaths. The bomb killed at least two people and wounded 32 others, many of them sent to hospitals coughing and wheezing, police and medical officials said.

Insurgents have shifted tactics to focus on helicopters, and on Wednesday one group forced down an American Black Hawk helicopter, the eighth such incident since Jan. 20. Roadside bombs have been adapted to punch through heavily armored Humvees. Attacks on Americans also now include coordinated assaults from multiple locations, with a mix of weapons and in at least one case, counterfeit American uniforms and vehicles.
I predicted this type of attack here, so I get a chance to use this:



UK Withdrawing from Iraq

Tony Blair is getting his boys out:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will order nearly half the British troops in Iraq home by the end of 2007, British news outlets reported early Wednesday.

Blair will tell the House of Commons Wednesday that 1,500 soldiers will return to Britain within weeks, and 3,000 will follow suit by the end of the year, The Sun newspaper reported. Britain has a contingent of 7,000 in Iraq now, based mostly in the southern city of Basra.

The move comes a month after Blair said that an "arbitrary timetable" for withdrawal "would send the most disastrous signal to the people we are fighting in Iraq."

You'll no doubt be interested in this domestic response:

But in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney said the move was actually good news and a sign of progress in Iraq.

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," Cheney said.

Ahhh, good old Cheney. How predictably wrong. Is there anything, ever, that represents a setback to that man? Everything is good news, no matter how vexing.

Even if Cheney were correct that this is a good sign, it still doesn't explain why the British are leaving. If they were still committed to the mission, the troops would be redeployed to Baghdad to help with the troop surge. I doubt we'll hear that question answered.

The real problem here is that Iran is naturally strongest in the south. This withdrawal means a leadership vacuum which Iran will partly fill. Also, we will have more porous borders between our forces and Iran. Cheney no doubt is aware of these facts, considered it ponderously, and then made his statement anyway because it would be politically damaging to speak the truth, and from the Libby trial we know how far Cheney will go to avoid political damage.

2nd Carrier Group to the Gulf

We may wake up at War. There will be no gradual build up as there was with Iraq. One of the reasons we need to get out of Iraq is to preclude the possibility that Bush will take action against Iran. I'm on record thinking any type of strike would be a bad idea, but we're moving more resources into the Gulf anyway.
A SECOND US aircraft carrier arrived in Middle Eastern waters today as promised by US President George W Bush amid an escalating crisis with nearby Iran over its nuclear program.

The Stennis "entered the US 5th Fleet area of operations ... to conduct maritime security operations in regional waters, as well as to provide support for ground forces operating in Afghanistan and Iraq", said a US statement.

Mr Bush on January 10 unveiled his new strategy for Iraq which included deploying a second aircraft carrier group and a Patriot anti-missile defence system "to reassure our friends and allies".

Washington accuses arch-foe Tehran of stoking the insurgency in Iraq and of seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, charges denied by the Islamic republic.

Days after Mr Bush's announcement, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the Stennis's redeployment was a signal to Iran, which, he said, has a "very negative" attitude.

Iran has also been carrying out military exercises in the region, including test-firing missiles and building drones that military commanders boasted could hit the US navy.

The White House has repeatedly insisted it has no plans to strike Iran, and downplayed the significance of reinforcing the US military presence in the Gulf region.
Don't you love the incoherence of their position? We are not aiming this action at Iran, but they had better see the deployment "as a signal to Iran." Nothing to see here... move along.

More Number Lies from Bush

Do you remember that during one of the Operations Forward Together we had an apparent massive success, with violence levels decreasing remarkably? It turned out that the DoD was achieving this remarkable success by redefining the "violence" to exclude the attacks that caused the most casualties - the bombs and mortar attacks. Needless to say, I was a little angry at this deception.

Well, they've lied to us again, about something just as important:
Federal prosecutors counted immigration violations, marriage fraud and drug trafficking among anti-terror cases in the four years after 9/11 even though no evidence linked them to terror activity, a Justice Department audit said Tuesday.

Overall, nearly all of the terrorism-related statistics on investigations, referrals and cases examined by department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine were either diminished or inflated. Only two of 26 sets of department data reported between 2001 and 2005 were accurate, the audit found.

Responding, a Justice spokesman pointed to figures showing that prosecutors in the department's headquarters for the most part either accurately or underreported their data — underscoring what he called efforts to avoid pumping up federal terror statistics.

The numbers, used to monitor the department's progress in battling terrorists, are reported to Congress and the public and help, in part, shape the department's budget.

"For these and other reasons, it is essential that the department report accurate terrorism-related statistics," the audit concluded.

Fine's office took care to say the flawed data appear to be the result of "decentralized and haphazard" methods of collection or disagreement over how the numbers are reported, and do not appear to be intentional.

Still, the errors led Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to question whether the department had exaggerated the number of terror cases.

If the Department of Justice can't even get their own books in order, how are we supposed to have any confidence they are doing the job they should be?" said Schumer, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the department. "Whether this is just an accounting error or an attempt to pad terror prosecution statistics for some other reason, the Department of Justice of all places should be classifying cases for what they are, not what they want us to think them to be."

This type of thing is just despicable, and to say it is unintentional is the height of naivete. We need a government who is serious about our security, and doesn't constantly politicize our nation's security.


Haggart Makes Bank

The church will provide the Haggards with financial support over the next year, roughly equivalent to the $130,000 salary Haggard received as pastor, Associate Pastor Rob Brendle told The Colorado Springs Gazette.
It's the American Dream! Have gay sex, do some hardcore drugs, and get paid for the trouble!

Also, I hear he's 100% heterosexual now, so everything is golden:
Since being fired as pastor of New Life Church amid a gay-sex and drugs scandal, the Rev. Ted Haggard has discovered he’s “completely heterosexual,” an overseer of the church has been quoted as saying.

The Rev. Tim Ralph, senior pastor for New Covenant Fellowship in Larkspur, told The Denver Post on Monday that Haggard’s homosexual activity appears to be limited to Denver male escort Mike Jones, who said he and Haggard had a three-year sexual relationship.
You see, he was only single-partner gay, as opposed to full-on gay. This once again proves that these people have a very different definition of heterosexuality than I do.


Pakistan's Al Qaeda Safe Haven, Six Months Later

Via TPM's Must Read, we have an update from the Times on the battle in Afghanistan, with a special emphasis on the Al Qaeda safe-zone the Pakistani government set up on September 5th, 2006.
Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

Officials said the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. But groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps, the officials said, and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature....

“The chain of command has been re-established,” said one American government official, who said that the Qaeda “leadership command and control is robust.”...

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, told the House Armed Services Committee last week that Al Qaeda “is on the march.” He said, “Al Qaeda in fact is now functioning exactly as its founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, envisioned it,” because, he said, Qaeda leaders are planning major attacks and inspiring militants to carry out attacks around the globe.

Staunch ally in the War on Terrorism, indeed.

They Write Books

I've heard a few weird clips from books recently. Let me pass them on.

From a book review in Ha’aretz:

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon’s delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: “I will screw him in the ass!”

Very nice. I'd prefer a death sentence to sodomy, but whatever floats your boat.

Here's another snippet from a column by Avnery about Ariel Sharon:

Just before he died, Uri Dan, who had been Ariel Sharon’s loyal mouthpiece for almost 50 years, published a book in France. It includes a report of a conversation Sharon told him about, with President (George W.) Bush. Sharon asked for permission to kill Arafat and Bush gave it to him, with the proviso that it must be done undetectably. When Dan asked Sharon whether it had been carried out, Sharon answered: “It’s better not to talk about that.” Dan took this as confirmation…

Is there proof that Arafat was murdered by Israeli or other agents? No, there is none. This week I again ran into MK Zahalka, and both of us concluded that the suspicion is growing stronger, together with the conviction that Arafat’s absence is felt now more than ever.

Why didn't they use polonium? Who needs natural causes? A radioactive death makes such a bold statement.

And then there's this, from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:
As Fleischer recounted [an exchange with Helen Thomas about Saddam Hussein] for the president, Bush's mood changed, according to Levine. He grew grim and determined—steely. Out of nowhere, he unleashed a stream of expletives.

"Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people?" the president snapped.

"Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world?"

"Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"

Bold Leadership, Mr. President. The Mideast appreciates it. And I'm with you about not liking assholes who lie to the world. Poor Colin Powell.


What Will Work?

The implementation of the Baghdad troop surge is in swing, with the 2nd brigade arriving in town and the Iraqi troop strength finally climbing above the 50% mark. For a couple of days, as the Iraqis pondered the new situation, there was relative quiet. The easily-led media greeted us with a deluge of stories about how Bush's Surge was already working.

Well, unfortunately, they seem to have adjusted.
Militants struck back Sunday in their first major blow against a U.S.-led security clampdown in Baghdad with car bombings that killed at least 63 people, left scores injured and sent a grim message to officials boasting that extremist factions were on the run.

The attacks in mostly Shiite areas — twin explosions in an open-air market that claimed 62 lives and a third blast that killed one — were a sobering reminder of the challenges confronting any effort to rattle the well-armed and well-hidden insurgents.

Another bombing doesn't mean the plan is doomed, of course, but stopping the momentum on this civil war is not going to be so easy. I don't believe this minor tweak of a plan will work.

This is where the Republicans ask indignantly for my plan to fix their horrific, murderous mess, so I'll give it a try. What does have a chance of leading to a result that is not calamitous for America's interests?

First, I do believe that if we pull out there will be a massive amount of ethnic cleansing in the mixed cities of Iraq, notably the capital. The central government's writ wont run country wide at any point, and localized militias, or terrorist groups depending on your political persuasion, will operate pervasively in the country, providing the de facto security apparatus. In the western half of the country, the vast deserts of Anbar, Al Qaeda in Iraq will carry the banner of the same people who murdered 3,000 of my brothers and sisters in New York and Washington. Iran's influence will dominate the country, easily in the south and contentiously in Kurdistan. Turkey could mobilize with Iran against Kurdistan, and Saudi Arabia could make good on their threats to fund and arm the Sunni militia groups, thereby ensuring an ongoing civil war. The life in Baghdad will be punctuated by explosions for the foreseeable future. (Note that all Democratic withdrawal plans include measures to mitigate these negative effects)

How do we completely prevent this outcome? Only through the victory that we were originally assured of: Iraq must be a stable, transparent, secular democracy where the economy functions, rights of the minorities are assured, and oil revenues are split evenly. (I wont hold the Bush Administration to the requirement of Iraq being pro-Israel - the insanity of that was always readily apparent). There is only one way to achieve this: a massive troop infusion. This plan would effectively be a reinvasion of Iraq with the troop numbers the generals originally asked for before they were fired for doing their jobs. But, given that even Colin Powell is talking about a "broken army" at the current deployment levels, we don't have the troops to marshall a reinvasion three or four times the size.

So, what are the solutions to troop shortages? First, we might get international involvement. Maybe Mongolia - a massive country - could "plus up" from the hulking 160 troops it has there now to a few hundred thousand. This is, of course, absurd, as it's meant to showcase the paltry troop contributions other nation's have made to the Coalition of the Willing. Even Poland, who we are enjoined "not to forget" about, the third largest contributor, only has 900 men in Iraq. For this reason solving the shortfall via international commitments begins as unlikely, and is pushed further into fantasy-land by our current leadership. The Bush Administration has made America an international pariah on many issues, sullying the shining image of our nation and crippling the strategic power that flows from that moral authority. Given that our current President is implementing the strategy and his history of failure, would you want your countrymen under his influence? As a world leader, would you put your people's lives in his hands? There will be no international bail-out of our troop shortage.

If not an international solution, we must look inside our borders for more men. We can't meet our recruitment quotas now, even with more lenient requirements for service. We might be able to entice more recruits with a radical shift in compensation, but the tax increase required to pay for it would never be signed by President Bush, the Tax-Cutter-in-Chief. Even if something like a huge new incentive were created, I doubt very much that we would get the influx of troops we would need. Driving patrols through a civil war doesn't have a lot of fascination for my generation. There's no draw there. There's no hook. No zazz. We'd see increased enlistment, but it wouldn't bridge the huge gap we're dealing with.

That leaves a draft. That means there are really no ideas are left at all, since President Bush doesn't really believe this is the most important fight of our lives. If he sincerely believes that this is a war that our future security critically depends on - tantamount to the Civil War or World War II - then after this "last chance" surge fails we would move on to a draft. Right as the Presidential campaign was ramping up, we'd be getting our cards and waiting for the lottery. Don't hold your breath on that one.

Given that more troops aren't available, we cannot achieve the victory we were promised and we must restructure our goals. Security is the cornerstone on which all our other goals are based, for without it you cannot have a functional economy much less a stable democracy. The primary cause of security incidents has been the sectarian warfare, so it is that conflict we must cool. We do not have the troops to police every street corner, so despite the awfulness of forced relocation, separating the combatants is the only course available.

Partition of Iraq, a la Joe Biden's Plan, is the best choice I see from a list of horrible choices President Bush has left us with. Segregation is already happening via ethnic cleansing, and it's making it "better." The Dora neighborhood in Baghdad, for instance, used to be mixed but is now increasingly homogeneous Sunni. Now, instead of daily shootings, kidnappings and torture, the residents only have to deal with mortars arcing in from the increasingly Shiite neighborhoods next door. Amazingly, that's an improvement.

Even with Biden's Partition, we are still handing a significant chunk of Iraq to Iran - a result important enough to avoid that we gave Saddam tons of WMD and millions of dollars to assure it back in the 1980s. We still will have a Shiite theocracy running Iraq, with the "Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq" largely in charge (remember how the Islamic Revolution in Iran turned out for us?). We will still have to keep troops in Kurdistan to discourage Turkey and Iran and to launch strikes against "Al Qaeda in Iraq" when they present targets meaningful to America. We will be presiding, as occupying power, over the cutting up of a country and the forced relocation of millions.

It will be a strategic catastrophe for us, but that is what President Bush's war of choice has reaped for America.

North Korea Wins?

So we've achieved a deal with the North Koreans addressing their nuclear program, eh? I wonder where 6 years of our President's steely resolve have gotten us...

The deal is simple: We give North Korea massive energy supplies in the form of heavy fuel oil and they suspend all nuclear activities - even "peaceful" civilian energy initiatives. The Bush Administration is eager to emphasize the fact that all nuclear activities are suspended, not even allowing light water reactors, even though they pose no military threat whatsoever. This meaningless restriction is meant to be the defining difference between this agreement and the Clinton Administration's Agreed Framework, showing that the hard nosed hawkishness of our President Bush has paid dividends. If you ignore this hogwash, the deal is essentially Clinton's Agreed Framework - a gain of nothing after 6 years of inaction.

On the other side of the scale, of course, is the new existence of around a dozen nuclear weapons in the hands of the North Korean government, a "terrorist state." Weigh that against light water reactors and come to your own conclusion about whether this is a victory or defeat for George W. Bush's America.

Predictably, Tony Snow received the following question during the White House press briefing:
There seems to be some conservative push back, I guess, about the North Korea deal. Wall Street Journal editorial page called it the "faith-based nonproliferation." What's your sense about that?
The conservative push back was lead by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, of all people:
Bolton said the accord "contradicts the President's policy" of past years.

Further, he said the deal sends a "terrible signal to would-be proliferators," and "for a variety of reason I hope we are able to rethink this."

His criticism, and that from other conservatives is essentially a reaction against Clintonism. We've allowed the North Koreans to build a dozen plutonium-based weapons, and we're dealing with it by going back to the same bribe that Bill Clinton thought was the appropriate response. Needless to say, acknowledgements that Clinton was right incense conservatives. They spout the "critics-just-hate-George-W-Bush" rhetoric so fluently because of the animus in their heart towards Clinton.

Looking back at my jotted working title, I have a thought: Am I "blaming America first" here? Am I delighting in our abject failure? Of course not. What has happened with our North Korean policy has made me and my family less safe. I would never root for such an outcome, but it illustrates nicely the depths of incompetence dominating our times.


1/2 Hour Crap Hour

Oh my god in heaven! This may be one of the most embarrassing things I've ever seen. This is conservatives attempt at humor!

Oooooh! This one includes a President Limbaugh (not a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, no matter how many people tell the lie with you) and VP Coulter. Wow. Good god, this deserves a fisking... maybe I'll get around to that.

The Anna Nicole Smith Post

Heard on Fox News:
Anna Nicole Smith was "our royalty. She might have been our Lady Di."
It doesn't even need a comment to be hilarious.


Hostile Territory

From Baghdad:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq's security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city's population and the front line of al-Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed.

"Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory."

Our 1st Lieutenant Quinn has it right. The choice is not between Status Quo and Withdrawal. Things can get worse.


The Grand Strategy

I've been listening to Tony Snow's White House Press Briefings for the last month on my iPod, and it's been particularly interesting to hear how he deals with complicated grand strategy questions as the mouthpiece for the President of the United States. Of course, the questions aren't phrased in that language, but the long term strategic interests of the United States are at the heart of the question, so the listener can tell how Tony is thinking about them in order to formulate his responses. There's been a lot of movement in this regard over the last year to keep a player like me interested, and Tony's deft handling of it impresses and entertains me as well.

The key to American hegemony has always been our economic dominance. That economic dominance creates our technological edge and ensures that military superiority is always within our reach. The economic dominance that has been our engine must run on energy, so the energy economy is of the highest importance to assure. With the current givens, we have a short to medium term need for oil to power our economy, since alternatives will take time for transition. In order to stay on top, we need to ensure that the last barrels of cheap oil are used by Americans - hence our heavy military presence in the Middle East. However, petroleum is a painfully limited resource, and one which carries a heavy environmental cost in the form of greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately the climate crisis will largely be addressed by the necessity born of our transit through the last years of cheap oil. We will be pushed away from petroleum by limited supply concurrently with the final conclusion of the climate change debate. The global warming skeptics will only be silenced when there is relatively little money to be made from using the planet in this way, thereby drying up the bribes for dishonest science.

In the longer run we need oil alternatives, and the ravages of global warming will have us looking to non-carbon-based solutions rather than coal. Currently, there is only one solution in wide use - nuclear power. This brings us to AfriCom (that's how I hope it will be labelled), the newly proposed centralized command infrastructure for the continent of Africa, taking that continent out of the purview of CentCom. This change perked up my ears because it certainly appears that we currently believe we have very little national interest in Africa. The "dark continent" is one that we have largely ignored, doing our best to turn a blind eye - even to genocide. They are, however, rich in resources for which we will one day have considerable use. Niger is the third largest producer of uranium, behind only Canada and Australia, who will be easy to control because of their proximity and cultural ties, respectively. Just as we have historically gamed the Middle East to our advantage, it looks like we are poised to do the same to Africa. Hopefully we can avoid occupations in the process, eh?

Finally, look at our changing relationship with India. A number of months ago our diplomatic ties led to a nuclear deal with India that raised my eyebrows. We gave them some number of verifiably inspected civilian reactors, but the agreement also allowed them to transition some of their existing reactors to exclusive military use. In a nuclear-armed nation, I'm sure you can understand what the military will use them for. Sure, the nuclear agreement has negative consequences worth mentioning - namely the arms race it will engender with Pakistan, a poor, unstable Muslim country with a terrorism problem - and we get almost nothing from the deal, but from the Grand Strategic perspective, it may make sense. We establish a closer and friendlier relationship with India, "the largest democracy in the world" as Tony refers to it, to act as a bulwark against our two fairweather friends and future competitors in the region, Pakistan and more importantly China. We already have natural ties with India, since they are the "largest Democracy in the world," so we reinforce those sympathetic ties with a nuclear agreement that "gives away the farm" as only a friend would. They owe us.

There are no real conclusions to be drawn from these observations, other than that I am now convinced that someone up there is giving serious thought to the long term risk game. Let's hope an unintended consequence of their plans doesn't inconvenience me.


Boortz Disappoints

Neal Boortz makes a big deal about taking calls that disagree with him first, and that's one of the reasons that he's my favorite right-wing talker. Unfortunately for me, it appears that he's starting to remember the pseudonym I use when I call the show...

I've called the Neal Boortz Show four times. The first three times were great (from my perspective, not so much from his). The first call was about the President breaking the law for no reason with the NSA Warrantless Spying Program. The second was about Hamdan vs Rumsfeld and why it should reinforce conservative opposition to the NSA Spying Program. The third was about the Detainee Treatment debate, and how the resulting law removed the right of habeas corpus by the President's say alone. All three of these calls were constructive enough for him to keep me through a commercial break, giving me about 8-12 minutes of airtime to bring him around, which I succeeding in doing each time. The fourth call was during the Michael J. Fox/Limbaugh flareup, where I quoted Neal from two years before saying that the women who lost husbands on 9/11 "would rather have their million dollars than their dead husbands back." That got me called a liar and disconnected.

Unfortunately, it looks like "Joseph in Athens" is becoming a known-entity to the staff of the show. Belinda, the screener, has done the same thing to me five times now. We'll talk for 20 seconds or so about what I want to say, then she'll ask me my name, at which point I'm told that I need to call back when I get a stronger cell signal - regardless of whether I'm on a landline or my cellphone. I got through her screening today, though, only to be disconnected by Neal himself because "Joseph has a scratchy cell phone, so lets make room for someone we can understand." All I want is a Right to Response, so that some of the ridiculous ignorance (or lies, depending on how good he is at his job) that comes out of Neal's mouth can be refuted. It looks like I'm going to have change names before I'll be allowed to continue this public service.

Pelosi One and the Fairness Doctrine

For those of you who listen to talk radio, you've no doubt heard about the imperial hubris of Nancy Pelosi demanding the use of a luxurious 40 person military jet so that she can ferry her "staff and supporters" around the country in style at the taxpayers expense. What a hypocritical harpy! "Most open and ethical Congress," eh, Nancy?

Of course, as per usual, none of that is true.
For Immediate Release

February 8, 2007

As the Sergeant at Arms, I have the responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the House of Representatives, to include the Speaker of the House. The Speaker requires additional precautions due to her responsibilities as the leader of the House and her Constitutional position as second in the line of succession to the presidency.

In a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the Speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.

Hastert's plane only had to fly between D.C. and Illinois and does not have the fuel capacity to make it to San Francisco, hence the upgrade. The denial right from the horse's mouth - the guy who made the decision - should settle this little controversy, right? Of course, it wont, since people like Sean Hannity lie for a living. Sean still insists there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11, for heaven's sake. These people know they can lie to their millions of listeners - people who accept what they hear like religion, and they will pay no price.

I'm not a fan of government interference in private commerce, but the airwaves are explicitly defined as a public domain. Democracies are only as healthy as the engagement and education of their electorate, and the right wing noise machine openly works to construct a fantasy world for their subjects, whether by telling falsehoods about the real world, constructing new facts out of whole cloth, or simply leaving out the facts that disagree with their point of view. The Fairness Doctrine may go too far by requiring full equal time for ideological viewpoints, but certainly a Right to Response would be a good thing. The grieved party could file a request demanding time during the offender's show. I suppose there would have to be a panel who would decide which responses were warranted and which weren't, but even still, with the amount of absolute Bull that Hannity and his pals shoot per day, the responses could almost take over their shows! Wouldn't that be great?

They've already started screaming about the Democrats wanting to destroy talk radio, and it is true that given how they currently conduct themselves even a Right to Response might cripple their ability to do business. That leaves them with a simple choice: stop lying all the time, or find another line of work.


What Are We Fighting For?

Via Atrios, CNN is reporting:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man sentenced to death in Kuwait for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies now sits in Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, according to U.S. military intelligence.

Jamal Jafaar Mohammed's seat in parliament gives him immunity from prosecution. Washington says he supports Shiite insurgents and acts as an Iranian agent in Iraq.

U.S. military intelligence in Iraq has approached al-Maliki's government with the allegations against Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, whom it says assists Iranian special forces in Iraq as "a conduit for weapons and political influence."
Iraq is the Central Front of the War on Terror, huh? This is even better than having an Iranian Spy sit with our First Lady at the State of the Union.


Iraq NIE Released

As per usual, the bad news is released on a Friday. The new Iraq National Intelligence Estimate is today's must read.

I'm scurrying like hell to a tournament this weekend, so I don't have time to read it myself yet.