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Tuesday, 22 February 2005
"Simply ridiculous" silly Europeans!

BRUSSELS,, Belgium - President Bush said Tuesday that it is "simply ridiculous" to assume that the United States has plans to attack Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program after discussing the issue with European allies.

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said."

That has to be reassuring. Especially when you consider the U.S. has been sending spy teams into Iran for over a year and sending spy dromes overhead to test air defenses.

That's not threatening at all.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:34 PM EST
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Saturday, 19 February 2005
Torture and Negroponte, like peanutbutter and chocolate.

We all know the abuses at Abu Ghraib were isolated incidents perpetrated by a few lower level bad apples and certainly Alberto Gonzales' characterization of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" didn't have any baring on the behavior of those lower down the chain of command.

There is of course the alleged torture of detainees at Gitmo where women soldiers stripped in front of prisoners and pretended to smear menstrual blood on them, and the chaining on the floor for days on end ect. but this is all under investigation. I'm sure the military can investigate themselves, right? (They're "shocked,shocked" there's torture going on here.)

AP::

NEW YORK - Pictures of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with hooded and bound detainees during mock executions were destroyed after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq to avoid another public outrage, Army documents released Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union show.

The ACLU said the probe shows the rippling effect of the Abu Ghraib scandal and that efforts to humiliate the enemy might have been more widespread than thought.

"It's increasingly clear that members of the military were aware of the allegations of torture and that efforts were taken to erase evidence, to shut down investigations and to humiliate the detainees in an effort to silence them," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said.


The WaPo:

Members of an Army Special Forces unit allegedly punched, slapped, kicked and beat Afghan civilians in two villages southeast of the capital of Kabul last May, prompting official complaints from two senior Army psychological operations officers who were present and said they witnessed the incidents.

The allegation is detailed in internal Army criminal files, released yesterday, that also document other allegations of abuse in Afghanistan as recent as last year. Previous abuse allegations have mostly concerned U.S. military activities in Iraq in 2003; these documents detail parallel conduct in Afghanistan in 2004.

In one strikingly similar event, the Army last year found about half a dozen photographs that depict masked U.S. soldiers standing with their weapons pointed at the heads of handcuffed and hooded or blindfolded detainees at a base in southern Afghanistan and, in one case, pressing a detainee's head against the wall of a "cage" where he was brought for interrogation.

And after many investigations there is finally an answer to how the "ghost"detainees' corpse wound up in the shower at Abu Ghraib:

According to news reports:

Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib -- prisoners being held secretly by the agency.

His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. One of those guards was Pvt. Charles Graner, who last month received 10 years in a military prison for abusing detainees.

Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information, according to the documents, which consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets," according to a summary of his interview.

Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al-Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.

The military pathologist who ruled the case a homicide found several broken ribs and concluded al-Jamadi died from pressure to the chest and difficulty breathing.

According to the statements:

Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.

There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.

The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" -- faking it -- and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But the guards realized it was useless.

"After we found out he was dead, they were nervous," Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus said of the CIA interrogator and translator. "They didn't know what the hell to do."

Negroponte in Honduras.

Joseph E. Milligan wrote in the L.A. Times in 2001 of John Negroponte's tenure as U.S. ambassador during the contra wars in the 80's.

"According to a 1997 CIA inspector general's report, U.S. officials in Honduras were aware of serious violations of human rights by the Honduran military during the 1980s but did not adequately report this to Congress. A heavily redacted version of the report notes particularly that the U.S. Embassy suppressed sensitive data during Negroponte's time there...

In a section with repeated references to the capture and execution of Jose Maria Reyes Mata, the political leader of the group, the CIA inspector general's report cited a source whose name has been blacked out who "believes that the embassy country team in Honduras wanted reports on subjects such as this to be benign to avoid Congress looking over its shoulders."

Reporting murders, executions and corruption, says the source, would "reflect negatively on Honduras and not be beneficial in carrying out U.S. policy."

The embassy seemed particularly sensitive to reports about the operation in which the two U.S. citizens disappeared, the report said, quoting another source as recalling "a discussion . . . circa 1983 wherein the latter indicated that unspecified individuals at the embassy did not want information concerning human rights abuses . . . to be disseminated because it was viewed as an internal Honduran matter."

This is corroborated by an Aug. 19, 1985, handwritten memo declassified by the State Department: "Fr. Carney case . . . is dead. Front office does not want the case active. . . . We aren't telling that to the family."

The Baltimore Sun reported:

As U.S. ambassador to Honduras and its military-run government from 1981 to 1985, Negroponte was suspected of a key role in carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

The Reagan administration's support of the anti-Sandinista Contra rebels in Nicaragua and its sale of missiles to Iran in connection with the U.S. hostages held there turned into the Iran-Contra scandal that rocked President Reagan's second term.

Honduras, itself, was accused of human rights abuses while Negroponte held the ambassador's post. Negroponte's nomination for the U.N. post was confirmed by the Senate in September 2001 only after a half-year delay caused mostly by criticism of his record in Honduras.

For weeks before his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Negroponte was questioned by staff members on whether he had acquiesced to human rights abuses by a Honduran death squad funded and partly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Negroponte testified that he did not believe the abuses were part of a deliberate Honduran government policy. "To this day," he said, "I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras."

But Leo Valladares, a law professor who was Honduras' first human rights commissioner afterward, said, "He knew about the abuses and violations of human rights of those the United States considered subversives."

In a report in 1993, Valladares blamed a U.S.-trained battalion for the disappearance of 184 suspected leftists."

From another Baltimore Sun article quoted at UNWIRE:

"Ambassador Negroponte knew all about the human rights violations and he did nothing to stop them," said Leo Valladares, the human rights commissioner for Honduras who spent years investigating such abuses in the 1980s. "He was more interested in politics than in human rights violations" (Baltimore Sun, 7 Mar)."

See Valladares' congressional testimony to congress.

Negroponte is reported have wanted to leave Iraq and that's how he got the nomination. What a trooper.

WaPoWaPo:

Bush says of Negroponte "His service in Iraq during these past few historic months has given him something that will prove an incalculable advantage for an intelligence chief: an unvarnished and up-close look at a deadly enemy."

[It's amazing what you can learn after a few months firmly secured behind a steel wall encased in concrete blast barriers.]

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters yesterday that he thinks Negroponte has done "an absolutely first-class job in Iraq" and that the ambassador is "clearly an excellent choice" to be intelligence chief.

[And so have you Rummy. If anyone would know about a first-class job it's you.]

Negroponte's name did not arise in the early speculation that swirled around the new intelligence post, which had mentioned former CIA director Robert M. Gates, current CIA Director Porter J. Goss and retired Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks as candidates.

But in the past few weeks, after some candidates were hesitant about the job, the White House focused on Negroponte after it became clear that he wanted to leave his Baghdad post."

See more about Battalion 3-16,,which Negroponte never heard of while they were rampaging through Honduras.

Learn more about the School of The Americas where many death squad leaders got their education, courtesy of the American tax payers.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:59 PM EST
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Thursday, 17 February 2005
Torture and rendition all around!
"W" getting all his torture and death squad ducks in a row.

AP reports:

"WASHINGTON - President Bush on Thursday named John Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and currently the administration's top representative in Iraq to be America's first national intelligence director.

Announcing the move, Bush said that Negroponte understands global intelligence needs because he's had a long career in the foreign service. Bush said he wants Negroponte to be his clearinghouse for intelligence and make decisions on the intelligence budgets for 15 government agencies.

"John will make sure that those whose duty it is to defend America have the information we need to make the right decisions," the president said. [How he gets it is another matter.]

Negroponte's confirmation to the United Nations post was delayed a half-year mostly because of criticism of his record as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985.

In Honduras, he played a prominent role in assisting the Contras in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government.

Human rights groups alleged that Negroponte acquiesced in human rights abuses by Honduran death squads funded and partly trained by the CIA. Negroponte testified during the hearings for the U.N. post that he did not believe death squads were operating in Honduras."

Alleged?

Newsweek reported a while back about the good work he did in Central America and how he was bringing it to Iraq:

NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s.

Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. [Including catholic nuns.]

Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success--despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras."

24 and torture.

I found this NY Times editorial yesterday interesting. For those of you who have seen the FOX show 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland, you must have noticed the gratuitous torture that goes on.

(Already, Jack Bauer has kneecapped an Arab terrorist, the secretary of defenses' son has been tortured and also a employee of CTU was wrongly accused of treason and tortured.)

As a torture panel testified at the Alberto Gonzales confirmation hearings, torture doesn't work. The oft used "ticking time-bomb scenario" employed on 24 is a myth.

I guess the producers are trying to make people think this is the real world, but these tactics are futile and illegal. Besides, any terrorist, or for that matter U.S. soldier trained to resist, could hold out for alot longer than is depicted on 24. The "ticking time-bomb" scenario is a legal fiction to protect torturers from possible prosecution.

The Times writes in regard to rendition and torture:

The Bush administration still clings to the policy of "extraordinary rendition," the bureaucratic euphemism for sending prisoners to countries where the public and the press don't kick up a fuss about torture. The new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, defended it in his recent confirmation hearings in the Senate.

That's the stuff of 21st-century fiction, where Kiefer Sutherland saves mankind with a well-placed pistol butt. This is about a system that was hastily conceived, ineptly formulated, incompetently administered and now out of control.

It lowers the humanity of the people who practice it, and the citizens who condone it."

Ahmad Chalabi and the twenty thieves:
(President of the Middle East Policy Council Chas W. Freeman Jr. refered to the Iraqi Governing Council as "Ahmad Chalabi and the Twenty Thieves.")

Jim Hoagland of the WaPo is either very naive or in the employ of Chalabi.

He writes today:

"Chalabi's related -- and relentless -- campaigns to force full accounting for the use of Iraqi funds by the United Nations and by Bremer were among the reasons the former Iraqi exile was targeted for marginalization by the Bush White House...

But Chalabi's anger over squandered billions in Iraqi oil revenue, which was supposed to be under international supervision, is a political plus in post-election Iraq. It helps explain his enhanced standing among Shiite decision makers.

U.S. congressional inquiries, press accounts and Paul Volcker's interim oil-for-food report to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan have all relied heavily on documents provided by Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi also was instrumental in publicizing and partially blocking a suspicious $300 million arms deal brokered by the Iraqi defense minister in the Bremer-blessed interim administration.

Ironically, Chalabi's work on the financial chaos of Bremer's authority and on the sanctions-busting smuggling of oil to Syria, Turkey and Jordan -- Chalabi was convicted of fraud by a rigged military court in Jordan -- helps provide U.N. officials with a defense against the oil-for-food accusations: They claim that Washington was complicit in whatever happened before the invasion and has since done no better than they did."

Incredible! Chalabi is the great defender of honest government. That's a new one.

See more about the "rigged military court" in the Guardian.

And an intersting article in Al-Hayat by Jihad Al Khazen, one of Mr. Chalabis many detractors.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:45 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 30 June 2005 11:24 AM EDT
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Monday, 14 February 2005
Kidnappings and Kurds....

The administration sees an in and goes for it. former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was killed today in a car bombing in Beruit. He advocated Syria's withdrawl from the Levant.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday it would consult with U.N. Security Council members about taking punitive measures against those responsible for the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and to push for an end to Syrian occupation

...in a thinly veiled warning to Damascus, McClellan said: "The United States will consult with other governments in the region and on the Security Council today about measures that can be taken to punish those responsible for this terrorist attack, to end the use of violence and intimidation against the Lebanese people and to restore Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and democracy by freeing it from foreign occupation."

How about doing the same in Iraq? One shouldn't throw stomes in a glass house, they say. No doubt, Syria has no business in Lebanon, but who are we to judge? Seems to me this is more about pressuring Bashir Assad and doing what Israel wants rather than any concern for the Lebanese.

Besides, the Syrians have been very helpful to us. They take our suspected terror suspects and disappear them for us.

Like Mahar Arar for instance. This is a story that has been around for a while but the media is just getting into it now.

The Center For Constitutional Rights

NEW YORK, NY -- December 20, 2004 -- Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was secretly sent by U.S. officials to the country he fled many years ago, was honored as Time Magazine Canada's Newsmaker of the year.

On September 26, 2002, Arar was on his way home from a family vacation in Tunisia to his home in Canada when he was pulled aside at JFK airport in New York, detained for 13 days and later deported to Jordan, and then to Syria, where he was tortured repeatedly and held in an underground cell not much larger than a grave for 10 months. He was eventually released, and, working with the Center for Constitutional Rights, launched a media campaign and a lawsuit charging U.S. officials with wrongfully sending him to Syria for interrogation under torture.

Mr. Arar's case was the first publicly-known example of the practice of "rendition" whereby the U.S. sends foreign nationals to be interrogated to third-party countries that engage in torture. News reports have confirmed other instances of rendition but Arar is the only person known to have survived and told his story.

Said CCR President Michael Ratner, "It is a bitter irony that Time Magazine Canada named Maher Arar as its Newsmaker of the Year, while Time Magazine here in the U.S. named the man whose Administration was responsible for Arar's torture."

Extraordinary Rendition:

One would hope the Senate would ask DHS director nominee Michael Chertoff what he knows about the U.S. exporting terror suspects to other countries for torture, but they probably won't.

The Washington Post and the NY Times both have reported on the "torture plane" the CIA uses:


"The Gulfstream V turbojet has been seen at US military bases around the world, often loading up hooded and shackled suspects and delivering them to countries known to use torture, a process the CIA calls "rendition," the Washington daily said.

The Post investigated the ownership of the jet, which has been spotted in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan and which carries the tail number N379P, according to the newspaper

The Post article confirmed much of a November 14 article published in the Sunday Times, of London, which obtained flight plans for the plane, which, the Times said, always departs from Washington, DC and has visited the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where about 550 terror suspects are held."

al-Jazzera goes on...

"The "rendering" of suspects to countries that employ interrogation techniques banned in the US is worrying and could violate the UN Convention on Torture, World Organization for Human Rights USA executive director Morton Sklar said.

Swedish television programme Cold Facts reported that in December 2001, the jet took hooded prisoners to Egypt, according to The Washington Post, which confirmed the Swedish report independently.

The paper said the plane, with hooded crew members speaking with US accents, loaded two Egyptian nationals and took off at 4.30am for Cairo."

And if kidnapping a Canadian citizen wasn't bad enough, the NY Times reports today the U.S. did it to a German too.

"The case is extremely sensitive. A German citizen may have been kidnapped by American agents and illegally taken to Afghanistan. Now, German authorities are quietly investigating the case. But no one here wants it to interfere with US-German rapprochement.

Khaled el-Masri, 41...[t]he father of four claims he was kidnapped by United States agents one year ago in Macedonia, carted off to a prison in Afghanistan, and accused of being an al-Qaida terrorist.

The tress from his do [sic] may be able to confirm his story. Scientists at the Bavarian archive for geology in Munich are currently using a method called isotope analysis, which can search for trace elements such as sulphur, to roughly determine where in the world el-Masri has been in recent months.

Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University is world famous for the procedure -- in fact, isotope analysis has helped solve many difficult crimes in the past.

According to initial results, el-Masri's story is, in fact, true. Fearing far-reaching global diplomatic consequences, the German government, however, wants to see the case treated rather discretely.

Another key aspect in the big picture is, of course, President George Bush's visit to Mainz next week. Officials feel that nothing should be allowed to cast a shadow over that event, either.

After all, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government just recently sighed in relief when the German federal prosecutor's office dismissed war crimes charges against US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the torture scandal in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison....

...In Germany, the information on el-Masri [as a terror suspect] isn't even enough for authorities to launch an investigation. The situation in the United States is completely different, though: Following Sept. 11, US President George W. Bush has authorized American agents to act outside of all internationally accepted legal norms in the fight against terror."

So much for the rule of law. We can seize anyone anywhere. Imagine what would happen if an American citizen was whisked away from the U.S. by a foreign power. The Japanese are ready to cut off aid over the North Koreans kidnapping Japanese citizens, but we're different. We're spreading freedom.

Kirkuk redux:

As I noted previously, the Kurds in Kirkuk are a major problem that might lead to something much worse than civil war in Iarq.

The Turkish Daily News reports Ankara isn't happy with the Kirds receiving 25 % of the vote.

ANKARA, Feb 13 (AFP) - Turkey said Sunday that the results of the Iraqi elections failed to ensure the fair representation of all ethnic groups in the conflict-ridden country and called for measures to compensate for what it called flaws and irregularities in the electoral process.

Turkey is particularly irked by the strong gains of the two main Kurdish parties in the north of Iraq, which came in second in the elections after the main Shiite alliance with 25.7 percent of the vote and an estimated 71 seats in the 275-member parliament.

The Kurds also won an absolute majority in local polls in the oil-rich city Kirkuk, which many want to see as the capital of a future independent Kurdish state.

Ankara protested when large numbers of Kurds said to have been expelled from Kirkuk under Saddam Hussein were allowed to settle and vote in the city, despite protests by rival ethnic groups that many of them have no bonds with Kirkuk.

"It has become clear that certain elements in Iraq tried to manipulate votes in this historic process and have obtained unjustified gains from this," the Turkish statement said, without giving any names.

Turkey fears that independence-minded Kurdish moves in northern Iraq will embolden separatism across the border in southeastern Turkey, where a Kurdish rebellion has already claimed some 37,000 lives."

The Financial Times reported this weekend most of what there is of an Iraqi National Guard is made up of former Peshmerga, or Kurdish resistance fighters. They are pretty much the only ones with extensive fighting skills:

"Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister and senior official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) told the FT that after the violence flared in Mosul in November, Kuridsh forces "did move into securing at least the eastern part of the city" (Which is maily Kurdish) and the main roads.

"Now, there are all controlled by the ING but the units are all of Kurdish origin."

The Kurds are mostly Sunni and they don't trust SCIRI, the party that will get most of the seats on the constitutional committee.

"Bruska Shaways, secretary general of Iraqs defense ministry and a senior KDP member says "around 80% of the new officer s above colonel are former Iraqi army.

...Many (Kurds) are wary of rebuilding an army that oppressed Kurds for decades..."It is not in our interest to have a strong Iraqi army, whether it has Kurds in it or not", said a PUK official."

That doesn't bode well. The U.S. is going to have a huge problem on its hands if it doesn't figure out what to do with the Kurds and Kirkuk, forget about the influence of Iran, which likely goes in both directions anyway.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 8:45 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 28 March 2005 9:02 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Saturday, 12 February 2005
Condoleeza strikes again...

Two days ago the NY Times reported the FAA had recieved 52 warnings about suicide airline hijackings and did nothing.

According to the story by Eric Lichtblau:

"Among other things, the report says that leaders of the FAA received 52 reports from their security branch that mentioned bin Laden or al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001. Five of the reports specifically mentioned al Qaeda's training or ability to conduct hijackings, the report said. Two mentioned suicide operations."

Of course, Condi never heard of any of it right? Oh, yeah, she did remember hearing about after she was about to testify before the 9/11 commission.

Naturally, as she wrote in her Op_ed piece in the Washington Post "Before Sept. 11, we closely monitored threats to our nation. President Bush revived the practice of meeting with the director of the CIA every day -- meetings that I attended. And I personally met with George ["Slam Dunk."] Tenet regularly and frequently reviewed aspects of the counterterror effort."

Right. Except now there is another memo out there that the administration was sitting on all this time revealling that Richard Clark wrote a very scary memo about sleeper cells within the U.S. and spelled out a plan to fight Al-Quaeda.

:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 - A strategy document outlining proposals for eliminating the threat from Al Qaeda, given to Condoleezza Rice as she assumed the post of national security adviser in January 2001, warned that the terror network had cells in the United States and 40 other countries and sought unconventional weapons, according to a declassified version of the document.

Nearly nine months before the Sept. 11 attacks, the papers described the danger posed by the bin Laden network and sought to focus the attention of the new administration on what to do about it. But the texts are unlikely to resolve the debate over whether they should have led to more urgent action by the administration.

"No Al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration," Dr. Rice wrote in an op-ed article [Link above] for The Washington Post last March. She wrote that Mr. Clarke and his team "suggested several ideas, some of which had been around since 1998 but had not been adopted."

One wonders what has to be done to get Condi moving. "Bin Laden determined to attack U.S." apparently wasn't "actionable" enough either.

She says "The president wanted more than occasional, retaliatory cruise missile strikes. He told me he was "tired of swatting flies." As Bob Kerry ask at the commission hearing "what flies was he swatting? How could he be tired?"

What had they done before 9/11?

Read more of the memo and see if it was just "more than a laundry list of ideas simply to contain al Qaeda or "roll back" the threat.

We judged that the collection of ideas presented to us were insufficient for the strategy President Bush sought."

What ideas did Condi have? Apparently none.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:58 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 14 February 2005 7:28 PM EST
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Friday, 11 February 2005
The mess we're in....

Count-down to the end of the insurgency in Iraq.

"BAGHDAD (AFP) - US and Iraqi troops kept watch over the town of Salman Pak southeast of Baghdad after one of the biggest battles with insurgents that left dozens dead and scores wounded.

The battles on Thursday saw rebels firing rockets, mortars and machine guns in a full-scale assault on a police station in the town that lies in a region dubbed the triangle of death because of the number of insurgent attacks.

US helicopters were sent to the scene and opened fired to dislodge the rebels. The town was sealed off on Friday by Iraqi and US troops but police said it was calm.

Raids by government security forces appear to have triggered the battle."

This week over 168 people have been killed in attacks around Iraq. 50 dead just yesterday. Iraqi security forces have been the most effected. Good news though, the U.S. military points out there have only been about 60 attacks per day, which is about twice the level from a year ago, but hey, the election was a crashing success, right?

"Iraqi officials said Friday they need only a few days at most to complete counting the ballots. Officials had expected to announce a final tally by Thursday but later said the process had been delayed because of the need to recount votes from about 300 ballot boxes."

It looks like despite all the happy news before the election from the U.S. media, Allawi's party is a distant third, with the apparrent deal makers the Kurds. I guess, many Iraqis did see Allawi as a puppet of the U.S. after all.

The NY Times:

"If current election returns hold, the relatively secular Kurds may prove a necessary coalition partner, putting them in a position to limit any attempts by religious Shiites to install an Islamic government. Kurdish leaders said Tuesday that they were pushing for a Kurd to be president of Iraq.

They are also seeking guarantees that they can maintain an autonomous region in the north, which could in turn heighten tensions with neighboring countries that are suspicious of any moves toward Kurdish independence.

The electoral commission announced Monday that the main Kurdish coalition had 25 percent of the votes tallied so far, behind the leading Shiite slate of candidates but well ahead of other parties. About 4.6 million of an estimated 8 million votes have been counted.

The probable ethnic and sectarian breakdown of the votes still to be counted means the Kurds will likely get at least one-fifth of the assembly seats."

Kirkuk:

The Kurds are very likely to leverage this power to demand control of the city of Kirkuk. It produces about 40% of the country's oil and would be a great source of revenue for a independent Kurdish state, a great fear for the Turks.

The city is considered by Kurds to be their "Jerusalem" but is ethnically mixed. Saddam expelled many Kurds over the years and replaced them with Arabs, whether they wanted to go or not.

Turkmen are a large part of the population and are a flashpoint for Turkey if it feels they are threatened.

The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2003:

"...Turkey warns that any attempt by Iraqi Kurds to seize control of Kirkuk - as they did briefly during a 1991 uprising - will spark a Turkish military reaction."

Another problem is the PKK, or Kurdish Worker Party, which has been fighting the Turks for decades. They operate in the south eastern part of Turkey but they have bases on the Iraqi/Turk border. The U.S. knows they are there and even at one point agreed to operate against them in exchange for Turkey's assitance against Saddam. Luckily for everyone concerned, that didn't happen.

The World's Quil Lawrence reported yesterday that he went to a PKK base in northern Iraqi where there were fresh graves of PKK fighters. The implication was that they has died fighting in Mosul, where breakaway PKK leader Osman Ocalan is known to reside, under the noses of the U.S. military.

Celal Talabani, leader of the PUK, was quoted in the Turkish press in June of 2004 as saying Iraqi Kurds would not side with the PKK in their fight against Turkey.

However, the report said:

The Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah G?l warned the PUK leader not to change the demographic structure of the Northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. G?l said that the results could be catastrophic if the ethnic composition was intentionally changed.

Turkmens and Arabs criticized Kurdish groups for encouraging the migration of Kurds from the mountainous Northern Iraqi region with a view to changing the ethnic composition of the oil-rich Kirkuk and Mosul regions.

The Turkish Foreign Minister also urged the PUK leader not to tolerate PKK militants hiding in Northern Iraq. "If you are responsible for this region, then take the necessary action against the PKK militants."

Turkish intelligence sources believe that nearly 4,000-5,000 PKK/KADEK terrorists are hiding in the mountainous northern Iraq region."

The American propaganda news agency VOA reports Condi Rice said the U.S. is against PKK terrorism during her trip to Ankara last week:

"Some Turkish officials have accused the United States of being indifferent to Kurdish moves in northern Iraq they see as laying groundwork for a Kurdish state, which could fuel separatism among Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Turkish anxiety has only increased since Iraqi elections a week ago, in which Kurds turned out in large numbers, especially in the ethnically-mixed northern oil center of Kirkuk, seen as the potential capital of a Kurdish state.

At a closing news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Ms. Rice reiterated the U.S. commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, an implicit rejection of Kurdish statehood, and to an Iraq, in which all its religious and ethnic factions are welcome and respected.

She also said she told her Turkish hosts that Iraq's territory should never be a place from which terrorism can be committed against its neighbors.

"Indeed, from the American point of view, whatever terrorist organizations wish to perpetrate crimes against populations have to be treated the same," she said. "Whether it is the al-Qaida, the PKK, or the Palestinian rejectionists, terrorism is simply not an acceptable tool in the modern world, and I wanted to be certain that the minister and his colleagues knew of America's commitment to rid the region of terrorism, including terrorism that might take place from the territory of Iraq."

But obviously, the PKK is there out in the open and apparently also in Mosul. Either, the U.S. is tolerating the PKK in Iraq or they are unable to do anything about it.

Besides the worries of the Turks over an independent Kurdish state, Iran is also concerned. Espeacially, since the Mossad is reported to be training and arming Kurds.

Seymour Hersh Seymour Hersh reports the U.S. has screwed up Iraq so bad Israel decided to take things into their own hands:

"In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel's strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq's Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan."

See a good summary of the Kirkuk problem at the NYT.

To be continued...

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:48 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 12 February 2005 4:34 PM EST
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Thursday, 10 February 2005
You can fool all of the people some of the time....

The WaPo published the results of a poll it did on the American people's relative knowledge of Bush's Social Security "reform" agenda and found most aren't for it and they don't believe there is a real crisis.

Interestingly, most didn't want their taxes raised to pay for any shortfall but 81% did want those making over $90,000 (currently exempt) to pay.

There was a lot of ignorance about some things that I'm sure Bush will try to exploit. Fortunately, most of those polled showed good old American commonsense when they knew the facts.


For example:

"...Jerry Traylor, 58, a retired government worker who lives in Newell, Ala., said he supports Bush's proposal for personal accounts, asserting that "a person would have more interest in their own money and their future in retirement if they could invest in stocks...like nearly half of those surveyed, Traylor wrongly believed that the costs of creating personal accounts would be negligible.

Told that the Bush administration estimates the government initially would have to borrow more than $700 billion to set up such a system, he was incredulous.

"That seems very excessive," Traylor said. "I would be less inclined to favor it if it costs that much. That much money could serve a lot of good purposes."

That cost estimate proved to be the most effective of four arguments against Bush's proposal tested in the polls.

While 56 percent said they support a plan for individual investment accounts, more than half of those said they would be less likely to do so after hearing the estimate.

More than four in 10 supporters wavered when they heard that personal accounts would not, by themselves, reduce the financial problems facing Social Security."

People seemed a little confused over the idea of Bush's plan of linking benefits to the cost of living as opposed to the current structure of estimating benefits to wages.

"...about seven in 10 Americans believe that the cost of living has been rising faster than wages over the past 20 years, although the reverse is true.

This belief probably shapes policy preferences: The same percentage wants to peg initial Social Security benefits to the cost of living, as Bush reportedly wants, instead of the current formula, which pegs them to wage increases. That change would result in significantly lower guaranteed benefits for future generations, according to both supporters and opponents."

Medicare Drug Benefit Scam.


Of course, the real crisis we're facing is Medicare, which Bush naturally is ignoring, because it is a mess of his own making.


The WaPo:

The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.

As recently as September, Medicare chief Mark B. McClellan said the new drug package would cost $534 billion over 10 years. Last night, he acknowledged that the cumulative cost of the program between 2006 and 2015 will reach $1.2 trillion,

It also showed that Medicare, the national medical insurance program for seniors, may pose a far more serious budgetary problem in the com- ing decade than concerns about the solvency of Social Security.

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) taunted Treasury Secretary John W. Snow about the rhetorical discrepancies.
"If you're looking for a crisis, I would suggest you look at a crisis that was self-made in just last year, because the crisis exists in what's happened to Medicare by weighing it down," Emanuel said. "Those of us who told you it was going to cost twice as much were right."

Remember all the lying and arm twisting to get this bill pasted? Here's an oldie but goodie from buzzflash:

"Administrator Thomas Scully pressured the agency's chief actuary, Richard Foster, to withhold cost estimates of the Medicare Prescription Drug bill when it was being considered by Congress last year.
Foster had claimed that Scully ordered him to withhold estimates that showed the bill would cost between $500-$600 billion, well above the $395 billion estimate on which members of Congress were set to base their vote.

Specifically, Foster's estimates were anywhere from 25 to 50% higher than those provided to members of Congress, and showed that rather than helping seniors lower prescription costs, the bill would be a windfall for drug companies, HMOs and insurance companies.

Bush knew about Foster's higher projections. On March 20, 2004, The Washington Post reported that, Trent Duffy, a Bush spokesman, acknowledged that the actuary's cost estimates had been sent to White House officials, including Doug Badger, a special assistant to President Bush who negotiated with Congress on the Medicare bill.

The key to the success of Medicare scam was to hide Foster's estimates from members of Congress until after they voted to pass the bill, and the strategy worked.

If revealed, Foster's figures definitely would have threatened the passage of the bill because 13 Republicans had vowed to vote against it if the cost went over $400 billion."

Of course, the passage of the bill was a close thing until Tom DeLay started playing fast and loose with the rules. He held up the usual fifteen minute voting period for three hours to bribe and threaten to get enough votes.

See an excellent website on all these issues.

More dirt on DeLay.

One more thing, we all know Bush wants to hear everybody's ideas on what to do about Social Security but...

From Ventura County foe democracy::

"City Commissioner Linda Coates says she was shocked to learn she and her husband were among more than 40 area residents on a list of people barred from attending President Bush's speech here [Fargo N.D.] Thursday.

The list was supplied to workers at the two Fargo distribution sites, along with tickets and other forms citizens were asked to fill out, The Forum reported.

The list includes critics of Bush or the war in Iraq. It includes two high school students, a librarian, a deputy Democratic campaign manager and a number of university professors."

I also hear it included folks who had written letters to the editor against Bush. That's pretty scary.

Speaking of scary, how about North Korea?


TOKYO Feb. 10 -- North Korea on Thursday declared itself a de facto nuclear power, claiming in its strongest terms to date that it had "manufactured nuclear weapons" to defend itself from the United States and saying it would withdraw indefinitely from international disarmament talks.

"In response to the Bush administration's increasingly hostile policy toward North Korea, we . . . have manufactured nuclear weapons for self-defense," the government said in an official statement through its Korean Central News Agency."

Naturally, they aren't anywhere near the threat Iran is to us, right? Or was that Israel?

The U.S. is pushing the tale that North Korea is exporting nukes, but it seems perhaps Pakistan is the real culpret. Remember A.Q Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb? Why won't our freedom loving friend and partner in the war on terrorism, Pervaz Musharrif, let us talk to him?

The WaPo writes:

"The Bush administration's claim this week that North Korea appears to have been the supplier of converted uranium to Libya is based on evidence that could just as easily point to Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, as the source, according to analysts and officials familiar with the data.

Two senior staff members on the National Security Council have toured China, Japan and South Korea in recent days to brief top officials that U.S. scientific tests strongly suggest North Korea provided Libya with uranium hexafluoride gas, which can be processed into material for a nuclear weapon."

Strangely enough other country's aren't taking our word for it this time. Wonder why?

"China and South Korea, in particular, have been skeptical of administration assertions that North Korea has a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Michael J. Green, the NSC's senior director for Asian affairs, brought a handwritten message from President Bush for South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, according to reports in Seoul.

The questions raised yesterday about the administration's evidence are significant in light of the controversy over the administration's allegations -- later disproved -- that Iraq had illicit arms. Several experts said the administration has to be careful in making its case to allies, given resulting skepticism."

But, we digress, its all about Iran.

The U.S. is updating its attack plans for Iran. It only routine though. Really!

WaPo:

We are in that process, that normal process, of updating our war plans," said Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. forces across the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of North Africa.

"We try to keep them current, particularly if . . . our region is active," he said in response to reporters' questions at a Pentagon news conference.

The time for diplomacy is now?

Earlier yesterday, Rice told reporters in Brussels that the United States and its European allies have made their nonproliferation demands clear but have set "no deadline" for action by Tehran.

"The Iranians know what they need to do. They shouldn't be permitted, under cover of civilian nuclear power . . . to try to build a nuclear weapon," she said.

At the White House, President Bush emphasized that the United States and Europe will "speak with one voice" in pressuring Iran. "The Iranians just need to know that the free world is working together to send a very clear message: . . . Don't develop a nuclear weapon," he said yesterday at an Oval Office appearance with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Bush said he was "pleased" with the responses European leaders gave Rice in discussions on Iran.

This news just in, the fix is in:

The Senate votes to screw the American people and helps big business out of its "junk lawsuit" problem.

NY Times:

...The bill passed by the Senate this afternoon would give the federal courts the authority to hear class-action suits in which the money at issue is more than $5 million and at least one member of the "class" is from a state different from the defendant.

Business groups that support the bill contend it will help stamp out suits that enrich lawyers at the expense of businesses and ordinary people. The bill's supporters say many plaintiffs' lawyers in class actions "shop around" among various state courts to find a friendly venue.

Critics of the bill have said it will deprive civil rights groups, consumers and labor organizations of a valuable weapon, and that it will help big companies escape financial consequences for their wrongdoing.

President Bush said repeatedly during the 2004 campaign that too many "frivolous lawsuits" were shackling American business and driving good doctors out of their practices."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:01 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 11 February 2005 3:41 PM EST
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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Bush's budget.

I remember reading in the Economist two years ago that if Bush got a second term the poor would get the shaft because they're not the ones who would have voted for him.

Well, judging by Bush's 2006 budget this would appear to be the truth.

(Don't worry though, Dick Cheney told FOX "It's not something we've done with a meat ax, nor are we suddenly turning our back on the most needy people in our society." Parish the thought. It's not sudden at all, he's right, they've been doing it all along.)

The pentagon get the lion's share of funds while social programs go by the wayside.

Defense would get 419.3 billion, more than the size of Russia's entire economy, and this doesn't even count the billions being spent every month is Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also, democracynow.org puts it in a nutshell:

"President Bush sent Congress a federal budget yesterday that some say reads like a hit list against almost every social program paid for by US taxpayers. It calls for the elimination of some 150 government programs. One out of every three of the targeted programs concerns education.

Bush's plan would slash aid to cities by one-third, eliminate health insurance for thousands of low-income families, reduce veterans' medical benefits, cut funding for city cops and county sheriffs, wipe out child care subsidies for 300,000 families, trim funding for clean water and soil conservation and shutter dozens of programs for preschool children and at-risk youth. The budget also targets public housing, Medicaid and farmers."

The Boston Globe writes:

While the budget's supporting documents say Bush would put the nation on track to slice the deficit by 55 percent by 2009, that is only because of a series of ''scorekeeping gimmicks," said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocates fiscal responsibility.

''It's easier to achieve your goal if you leave stuff out," Bixby said. ''I do give the president credit for presenting some hard choices on entitlements. But this isn't a realistic budget because of what it leaves out and what it ignores."

See, even the right-wingers are upset.
The NY Times writes:

Mr. Bush's proposals for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would eliminate or cut back about 150 domestic programs dealing with agriculture, education, health care and the environment, while increasing Pentagon and homeland security expenditures. Mr. Bush also wants the tax cuts he has pushed through Congress in recent years to become permanent.

"Allowing taxes to go back up would only discourage growth and cost this country jobs and reduce paychecks," Mr. Bush told the gathering.

Right, as if anyone has much of a paycheck these days, anyway.
The WaPo says:

The nation's unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in January -- the lowest level since September 2001 -- from 5.4 percent in December, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

Job growth, however, has slowed in recent months. And the unemployment rate dropped primarily because many people stopped working or looking for jobs, the data showed.

That caused the share of the eligible adult population participating in the labor force to slip to 65.8 percent -- the lowest since May 1988 -- from 66 percent in December. The participation rate reached an all-time high of 67.3 percent in early 2000, at the height of the economic boom that preceded the recession.

A growing number of people over the past year also said they had given up looking because they were discouraged about the likelihood of finding work, the Labor Department said. Others said they stopped seeking employment for a variety of reasons, including family commitments or illness.

Some categories of workers had a harder time than others finding work. The unemployment rate for white workers fell to 4.4 percent in January, from 4.6 percent in December; but the rate for blacks remained more than twice as high, slipping to 10.6 percent from 10.8 percent; the Latino rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.6 percent.

Workers with less education continued to have higher unemployment rates than the better-educated.
These and other details depict a labor market that continues to improve, but more slowly than in any post-recession period since the department began keeping records in 1939, economists said.

That's pretty encouraging right? Let's keep giving money to the rich and the defense dept. it's working out great so far.

Then there's the great housing situation.

"President Bush's proposed 2005 budget would cut $1 billion from Section 8. Though housing agencies would have flexibility to tailor the program to local needs, there would be fewer vouchers available. At the same time, families with higher incomes would be eligible for a shrinking number of housing subsidies. There are no guarantees that the most needy families would get help. . . .

"This would be counterproductive. Landlords might reject poorer section 8 tenants in favor of those with more money. Many communities, including South Florida, lack enough affordable housing. HUD has been replacing old, densely packed public-housing projects with mixed-income town homes.

Case in point:

A Baltimore family moved out of public housing to a new home in Glen Burnie, but less than a month after moving in, they are being forced out.

Redge Mahaffey is Ewell's landlord. He said MBQ gave him multiple verbal and e-mail commitments saying she could move in. Then on Jan. 31, he got a call from MBQ saying the money wasn't available.

He said $11 million is being cut from the section 8 program in Baltimore because of the federal budget issues. He said all requests to fund additional vouchers for special mobility housing have been denied -- that's the program Ewell expected to help pay the rent.

In Charles County Maryland the problem of a lack of affordable housing is most accute.

The WaPo:

At a hotel called the "White House Hotel,"

...overnight guests occupy just 10 of the 45 rooms. The rest are filled by the working poor, long-term residents who pay $175 a week and stay for months, sometimes years. On weekday mornings, school buses rumble into the parking lot, which is pointed out from the highway by a dented arrow, to pick up nearly two dozen children.

Poverty is not as obvious in Washington's less populated suburbs as it is in the District. But operators of social service agencies said rents have increased so rapidly that people are driven to find shelter in all sorts of places: their cars, unheated trailers, even the woods.

In one extreme case, a Charles woman locked her two young daughters inside a commercial storage unit, which she had turned into a makeshift residence, while she went to work. She pleaded guilty to child endangerment Friday and will be sentenced in April.

"The hotels and motels become our shelters," said Sandy Washington, executive director of Lifestyles Inc., a nonprofit group that places about five people a week at motels in Charles. "If there's nowhere else for people to go, we have no other alternatives."

Then there's health care:

According to a report by Health Affairs:

"In 2001, 1.458 million American families filed for bankruptcy. To investigate medical contributors to bankruptcy, we surveyed 1,771 personal bankruptcy filers in five federal courts and subsequently completed in-depth interviews with 931 of them.

About half cited medical causes, which indicates that 1.9-2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy. Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs average $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness.

Medical debtors were 42 percent more likely than other debtors to experience lapses in coverage. Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick."

Hear an interview with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard University and co-director of the Harvard Medical School General Internal Medicine Fellowship program at democracynow.org.

To sum up.

This budget is a declaration of war on the American people, plain an simple. Its mainly a wish list in some respects because W isn't going to go far on a lot of these issue. Cutting farm subsidies isn't going to go anywhere and there are many pet projects congressmen have that they won't want to part with.

People will be hurt, though.

Constance Rice, Condoleeza's cousin, was on Now with David Broncaccio last week and she really hit the nail on the head. What this is all about.

BRANCACCIO: So the President earlier this week, State of the Union, said it is a healthy growing economy, more Americans going back to work. How do you translate a statement like that into the reality that you see when you spend time with working Americans?

CONNIE RICE: I think that the President is indicating that the statistics he sees give him a nice picture of an improving economy. But the reality on the ground, on Main Street, is something completely different. And if you look at what's happened over the last 30 years to the average American working family it's not a good story.

BRANCACCIO: Well, put a number to that courtesy of the LOS ANGELES TIMES. They looked at the early 1970's and a person's income might fluctuate in a given year 25 percent. These days twice as much.

CONNIE RICE: You know, the risk has really increased David. Well, let me give you an example of a family that struggles to put things together in L.A. She's a supermarket cashier and he works on the docks unloading ships. When the supermarket strike hit in Los Angeles, she obviously was out on the picket lines and the supermarkets locked them out which meant, she lost her pay. She had lost her health benefits, they lost their rental apartment because her income went down. And their car went out. He couldn't get to work. They ended up homeless. Now that's an example that is at the bottom. There are a lot of examples of people who are doing-- white collar jobs; they're working in pharmaceutical companies, health benefit companies, or just as accountants and so forth.

We traded-- this is what we traded: we traded security for volatility. And there was a reason that I think people tried to engineer this.

And what I mean by people our politicians and our policy makers decided, I think 35 years ago, that they wanted to smooth out the economy so that business would have a smoother environment. So their risks would be reduced. And there's some good things about that. Inflation stays down, stagnation ended. We've had a lot of prosperity. But the problem is and only a few people got it number one. And number two, for most families we traded a security floor, pensions, life insurance, health insurance, job security. All of that got slashed."

And on to Social Security.

I don't have time to get into that right now, but I'm working on it. Sufice to say Bush's private accounts don't do anything to help the suppossed "crisis" coming on. They just add to it, so the whole debate about these accounts is pointless, unless you're attempting to do away with Social Security, which is a 70 year dream of the GOP.

To see how devious these people are consider this article in the Post last week:

President Bush is trying to keep the word "private" from going public.

As the two parties brace for the coming debate over restructuring Social Security, polls and focus groups for both sides have shown that voters -- especially older ones, who vote in disproportionately heavy numbers -- distrust any change that has the word "private" attached to it.

The White House has a logical idea: Don't use the word. This is difficult because, after all, they would be "private" accounts, and Bush's plan would "partially privatize" Social Security.

So Bush and his supporters have started using "personal accounts" instead of "private accounts" to refer to his plan to let younger workers invest part of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds. Republican officials have begun calling journalists to complain about references to "private accounts,"

Reflecting the new premium being placed on language, Bush turned prickly a week ago Friday during an interview with The Washington Post aboard Air Force One when he was asked if he would talk to Senate Democrats about his "privatization plan."

"You mean the personal savings accounts?" the president scolded. "We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions."

[Update. WaPo poll on Social Security finds "Americans seem not to change their views when the president's plan is characterized as a "private" rather than a "personal" investment account -- a change from earlier studies, in which the use of "private accounts" or "privatization" drove down support."]

Is this guy crazy?

More on this later.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:49 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 10 February 2005 5:13 PM EST
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Monday, 7 February 2005
Rummy's at it again.

From CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer yesterday.

BLITZER: Let's talk about when the Iraqi military, the security forces, will be ready to completely take over responsibility of their day-to-day security. When do you believe that might happen?

RUMSFELD: The problem with answering that question with a date is that you can't know what the level of the insurgency is going to be. You don't know the extent to which Iran and Syria are going to misbehave or behave. You can't know the extent to which Zarqawi's money is going to flow in and he'll hire more criminals or suicide bombers.

So what you have to do is look at the conditions. And the answer is that you see the conditions on the ground, and they may be higher or lower, and the test is to see that the Iraqi security forces over time can manage that level of insurgency.

Rummy tap dancing for his life.

BLITZER: Joe Biden, the senator, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, writes in The Washington Post today, "We should focus on real standards, not raw numbers. The real standard is straightforward: Can an Iraqi soldier or policeman do what we ask American soldiers to do, provide law and order, protect the infrastructure, defend the borders and, above all, defeat the insurgency? There are nowhere near 136,000 Iraqis capable of accomplishing these goals."

Is he right?

RUMSFELD: The 136,000 is the number of Iraqi security forces. Some of them are trained to be policemen. And, now, a policeman is not a counterterrorism or a police commando. He's not a regular army officer. He's a policeman. And he's trained to do that.

BLITZER: How many are there? Of the 136,000, I assume 40,000 or 50,000 are police. But how many of the soldiers are really ready to go out there and fight, kill and protect their people?

RUMSFELD: We've got the numbers of each category.

Now, the thing that's correct in that statement you've read is that numbers are interesting, but they're not determinative.

Quality is also important. And that means, how good are the noncommissioned officers? How strong is the chain of command? How good is their intelligence? What is their mobility? Can they move around the country and be sustained?

BLITZER: So, you don't want to give us a number of how many you think are really good at that job already?

RUMSFELD: At the -- depends on what's "that job." They're good at what they're being trained for, after they've been at it a little while. Then it just takes them a while to get good. The thing that worried me about the statement you read is, there is no military in the world that's as good as the United States military. I mean, the idea that these folks are going to be able to pick up and start operating like our special operations people do or like our Green Berets do or like our soldiers do or our pilots or our Navy people, they're not. I mean, we have the best military on the face of the Earth.

These people are going to develop a capacity to be a good military for that part of the world.

I don't think he's talking about defending against Iran or its neighbors, he's talking about defend itself from the internal insurgency.

And over time, that could take many years for them to develop the military capability to defending against an external aggression.

What the hell does that mean? We're going to leave as soon as they can get their act together with respect to the insurgency but not to the point they can defend their borders? Maybe, after we bomb the crap out of Damascus and invade Iran there won't be anyone left to defend against.

RUMMY: But the presence of U.S. forces does not depend on that latter fact, of being able to defend against an external presence. It depends on the Iraqi security forces' ability to manage their internal security, so the people of that country can get on that path to democracy which was seen last Sunday in such a thrilling way.

Army in woeful condition?

[Plays vidoe clip.]

LIEUTENANT GENERAL STEVEN BLOOM: As it pertains to the National Guard, the Army National Guard in particular, we were woefully under equipped before the war started.

That situation hasn't gotten any better. As a matter of fact, it's getting -- it gets a little bit worse every day.

[End clip.]

BLITZER: Are you concerned about this, specifically about what General Blum says?

RUMSFELD: Any time our country's engaged in a conflict, you have to be concerned and attentive to the recruiting and retention, particularly when you've got a volunteer force, as we do.

Everyone who serves is a volunteer. Basically, recruiting -- you cited a few that are low. Basically, overall, recruiting and retention is roughly on track.

Some of the numbers are low, for an interesting reason: We're increasing the size of the Army and the Marines. When you do that, you reduce the pool that people pull from to have a National Guard recruiting. Many of the people that go into the Guard and reserve come out of the active force. And if you're holding them in -- not holding them in -- encouraging them to stay in, because you're increasing the size of the active force, obviously you have reduced the pool.

Uh huh...

That was an inter sting Freudian slip about "holding" troops in.

On the post occupation disaster and untidiness of freedom.

[Plays clip.]

BARBARA BODINE, FORMER CPA OFFICIAL: ... the decision was that we were not going to get involved in trying to stop the looting. And, in fact, the secretary of defense, you know, basically trivialized it and said it was just messy and part of democracy.

That was kind of the first signal that we were not going to really try to take control of the country.

[End clip.]

BLITZER: I wonder if you want to respond to her.

RUMSFELD: No, not really. I don't know what else she may have said. [Well, what about responding to what she did say?]

But the reality is that, when we went into that country, our soldiers had the task of, first of all, defeating the enemy. And in that early day, in the very early days when Baghdad was being taken, there was some looting. [Some looting?]

And the question -- it wasn't my decision -- it was a question for the commanders, the battlefield commanders. She implies that I made some sort of decision. [Oh, not you. You're only in charge of the whole operation.]

I commented that I thought the battlefield commanders made the right decisions, and the right decisions were to defeat the enemy, instead of providing security around a museum or something. [Yeah, its only some dusty old stuff from the beginning of civilization, after all.] I forget what else there was that somebody was concerned where there was looting. [What?]

Iraqi security forces proving Rummy correct?

From the BBC:

Iraqi security forces are losing men because of "severe intimidation" by rebels, a top US general has said.

Lt Gen David Petraeus, in charge of training Iraqi troops, said few of the 90 battalions were at full strength.

The US general said 136,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers were now trained and equipped.
Gen Petraeus said 88 Iraqi battalions were conducting operations. But he conceded that few of those units were at full strength.

But some independent analysts in Washington question the general's numbers, our correspondent reports.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies says it has found that only handful of Iraqi police and military battalions are able to fight independently.

US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress on Thursday that Iraqi units, on average, had absentee rates of about 40%. [Somebody better get Wolfowitz on the same page.]

Allawi's prediction of an end to the insurgency in a few months counting down:

REUTERS::

"At least 15 civilians were killed and 17 wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded outside the main police headquarters in the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

In the northern city of Mosul, 12 people were killed and four wounded when the other suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of police officers in a hospital compound.

A large crater was blown in the road and at least five cars were destroyed. Most, if not all, the victims were thought to be police officers waiting to collect their salaries."

Also, 9 U.S. casualties to date this month.

Rousing vote for torture secretary.
(Senate endorses torture.)

From the WaPoWaPo:

"The Senate voted 60 to 36 yesterday to confirm Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, but only a handful of Democrats backed him after days of often strident debate over his role in setting controversial interrogation policies for detainees.

With only six Democrats voting aye -- the smallest level of minority-party support in decades -- the Senate action provided further evidence that tensions between the two parties rival those during the Vietnam War and Watergate eras.

Landrieu (La.), Lieberman (Conn.), Nelson (Neb.), Nelson (Fla.), Pryor (Ark.) and Salazar (Colo.).

...a string of Democrats said Gonzales was unconvincing because he claimed not to recall details of his role in the drafting of an Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department memo that narrowly defined what constituted torture and was disowned by the administration after it became public last year.

The memo was requested by Gonzales and addressed to him, and numerous sources have said he chaired meetings that included discussions of simulated drownings and other harsh interrogation techniques.

Gonzales "was at the heart of the Bush administration's notorious decision to authorize our forces to commit flagrant acts of torture in the interrogation of detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Not since 1925, when the Senate twice rejected attorney general nominee Charles B. Warren, has a nominee received as few minority-party votes as Gonzales did, according to Senate historians.

Four years ago an evenly divided Senate voted 58 to 42 to confirm Ashcroft, with eight Democrats joining all 50 Republicans in backing the outspoken and often controversial former senator.

Most attorneys general have been confirmed easily, sometimes unanimously."

On to Iran.

Supposedly, Condi is on her "whirlwind" trip to Europe and the Middle East to mend fences. I don't think sh'e doing very well. When asked if the U.S. was going to use military means to deal with Iran she said:

"The question is simply not on the agenda at this point."

Well, that's encouraging. But she also said, "The US President is never going to take options off the table." And you know what that means.

I still don't understand what our policy is at this point toward Iran. For the past four years it has been nonexistent. Now that Colin Powell and his namby pamby diplomacy crap is gone, the neocons know what to do.

We're going to let the Europeans go round and round with the Iranians for a while and come summer declare negotiations haven't worked and then we're pull out the "shock and awe."

Rummy said on CNN Iran was "some years away" from a bomb. Be assured that particular quote will come back to haunt him when Bush's propaganda machine starts reeving up the mushroom cloud warnings.

See former Iraq Survey Group leader David Kay's opinion piece in the Post today "Let's Not Make the Same Mistakes in Iran."
Don't worry, we will. Bush and Co. don't think they've made any mistakes.

Thursday, 3 February 2005
The state of the union.

I haven't really seen any of the analysis of the speech. After watching Cokie Roberts saying she thought the thing everyone would remember most about Bush's speech was the mother of Marine Sgt. Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas and Safia Taleb al-Suhail a leader of the Iraqi Women's Political Council, hugging; I turned it off.

Some things I did want to comment on were: Bush says...

"...And tonight that is a privilege we share with newly elected leaders of Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Ukraine and a free and sovereign Iraq."

A free and sovereign Iraq? You mean our troops can go home now? It seems to me a sovereign country doesn't usually have 170,000 foreign troops occupying it and most can actually govern their territory. The current Iraqi interim government's writ doesn't extend much beyond the so called "green zone."

Never mind all the laws and rules L. Paul Bremer left behind that have nothing to do with a sovereign country.

>"I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline."

Yeah, right. Making tax cuts permanent, spending a billion dollars a month in Iraq and borrowing 2 trillion dollars for private Social Security accounts doesn't pass the "spending discipline" smell test.

This is my favorite line though. Here's an issue the American people can really sink thier teeth into:

"Justice is distorted and our economy is held back by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims."

If there was any clearer sign that the Bush family's business always comes before the American people's this is it.

Remember, Bush's grand daddy owned the comapny that is now costing Halliburton so much grief over asbestos. This is a not so veiled attempt to get us to bail out Cheney's mess.

From an article in the Cinncinnati Enquirer


"Analysts...are far more worried about Halliburton's potential liability for more than 300,000 pending claims by people who blame the company for their exposure to asbestos, a heat-resistant material with fibers that can cause lung disease if inhaled.

The burgeoning asbestos problem has caused critics to question the hallmark of Cheney's five years at the helm of Halliburton: the $7.7 billion acquisition of rival Dresser Industries Inc. in 1998.

The deal doubled Halliburton's size overnight and allowed it to claim it was the world's leading oilfield-services company. But most of Halliburton's current asbestos claims were inherited from Dresser.

Lesar said Halliburton investigated Dresser's asbestos liability before the acquisition. The company just didn't count on a surge in asbestos claims, which he blamed on the bankruptcy of other asbestos defendants, leaving Halliburton as a tempting target.

"It's easy to second-guess everything about the asbestos issue now," he said." [Yeah right. Cheney is a genius.]

Another day in the neighborhood.

Funny, I thought the insurgency was pretty much over after the big elections.

Not so, apparently.

From Reuters:

"BAGHDAD- Iraqi insurgents staged a major ambush on a road near Baghdad Thursday, killing two policemen, wounding 14 and leaving at least 16 missing on the worst day of violence since last Sunday's election.

The attack came a day after guerrillas in the north dragged Iraqi soldiers off a bus and shot 12 of them dead, and suggests the country's 22-month-long insurgency is far from over, despite its failure to stop last weekend's vote.

Police said insurgents attacked a police convoy Thursday between Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, and the capital. Police initially feared 36 were missing but reduced the number as some began returning to Diwaniya.

At least a dozen civilians were also killed in Thursday's bloodshed, the worst this week."

In the 'coming back to bite us dept.'

In recent weeks we've had stories of Marines, who had seen fighting in Fallujah coming back and taking it out on American civilians.

There was the former Marine in Texas who kidnapped a woman in a Walmart parkinglot and left her dead body 200 miles away and this story of a marine who was apparently upset about having to go back...in both cases the mothers of these men said they "came back different."

"(CNN) -- A 19-year-old Marine from Ceres, California, shot and killed a police officer and wounded another before dying in a weekend gunbattle.
Investigators said he may have been driven by a desire to avoid returning to Iraq.

Andres Raya was scheduled to report back to Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, on Sunday after a weekend leave.

Instead, police said, he went out with a semiautomatic rifle and drew officers into an ambush outside a liquor store in Ceres, a town of about 35,000 next door to his hometown of Modesto.

Raya's mother told the Modesto Bee that her son "came back different" from his last assignment, which included service in western Iraq's insurgent hotbed of Falluja.

"In speaking with family, they conveyed to us that their son did not desire to return to Iraq," said Lt. Bill Heyne, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department."

The military, aprticulary the marines, allways tyalk about the trigger they plant in recruits head. They have to be trained to kill without thinking in combat situations in order to prevent them and their comrades from getting killed themselves.

The problem is there isn't any sure fire way of turning the trigger off once they get back. It is estimated 1 and five are coming back with mental problems but only a quarter seek out assistance.

Comments like this from high ranking members of the military aren't helpful, especially considering the stories above.

"Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, made the comments at a conference Tuesday in San Diego.

"Actually it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," said Mattis.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion.

"You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Like for example these Special Forces soldiers from 2003? I can see a lot has changed.

"An Army Special Forces soldier charged with killing his wife after returning from Afghanistan nine months ago hanged himself in a jail cell Sunday, officials said.

Master Sgt. William Wright was one of four soldiers at Fort Bragg suspected of killing their spouses in a six-week stretch last summer. The deadly spree forced the Army to re-evaluate how it provided support for soldiers with strained marriages and those readjusting after combat service.

Sgt. 1st Class Rigoberto Nieves, 32, a Special Forces soldier, fatally shot his wife and himself June 11, two days after he had returned from Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Floyd, reportedly a member of the secret Delta Force, shot his wife and then killed himself July 19.

Still facing charges is former Army sergeant Cedric Griffin, who is accused of stabbing his wife, Marilyn, 50 times and setting her on fire July 9. He faces death if convicted."



Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:21 PM EST

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