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Tuesday, 18 July 2006
W. dithers while Lebanon burns.
Topic: Israel

The WaPo reports:

"News agencies quoted the military and police as saying that more than 210 people had been killed since [Israeli] attacks began Wednesday. The Health Ministry put the number at 182 dead and 525 wounded, almost all of them civilians, but said that count included only those identified by hospital officials."

No doubt, there are probably many more killed, but their bodies are probably still buried in the rubble of their homes. Israel's assualt on Lebanon, which they say might continue for weeks, is causing tens of thousands of people to flee, many on roads Israel keeps bombing. They drop leaflets warning residents to leave areas they contend are Hezbollah "strong-holds," and then they bomb the only exits.  

This is a complete disaster, it really is, and what I'm wondering is why the United States isn't rapidly moving in to sort out some kind of cease-fire to stop the totaly disproportunate number of Lebanese casualties? Judging by what Condi Rice said on This Week last Sunday, she and W. are in no hurry to prevent Israel from having time to level much of Lebanon's infrastrucutre.

She told George Stephenopolis that: 

"I'm certainly willing to play whatever role I'm needed to play. We have to go at the root cause. . . It's fine to have a cessation of violence. We want to have a cessation of violence. We're worried about the escalating casualties on all sides. But unless we go to the fundamentals here, we're going to continue to have these spikes of violence in the Middle East as we have had for the past 30 years."

Translation: we want a cessation of violence, but only on our terms. Until Hezbollah does exactly what Israel tells it to do; stops firing rockets, turns over the captive soldiers, and completly disarms, the United States is perfectly satisfied with sitting back and letting Israel bomb Lebanon into the stone-age. We'll leave the diplomacy up to the UN and the EU.  

And then W. can get back to munching his lunch, order a Diet-Coke and blame everything on Koffi Annan. According to W., the solution is all so simple. Instead of Annan wasting his time talking about an international force to separate the two sides and stop the killing as soon as possible, W. says: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over." [Inquirer]

It's as easy as that!  People are going to look back on this and ask 'what the hell were they thinking?' How could this government, which has the most influence over one of the sides in this conflict not do more to stop some much death and destruction? It is just unconscienable!

I guess, Brent Scowcroft was partly right about W. being  "mesmerized" by Ariel Sharon. But it's not Sharon in particular who ahs him "wrapped around his finger," but rather the nation of Israel and what it represents to his end-time fantasies. What other explaination is there?


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:28 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006 3:29 PM EDT
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Monday, 17 July 2006
W.'s dithering and possible blow-back in Iraq.
Topic: Israel

 

While the rest of the world condemns Israel's over-the-top response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers four days ago, the US stands alone is full support of Israel's aggression. W. says, "Israel has a right to defend herself" and he reminds everyone that "there are terrorists who will blow up innocent people in order to achieve tactical objectives." No one denies that Israel has the right to defend itself, or that Hezbollah blows up innocent people, but the difference in this situation is that Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military target and the objective was to force Israel into a trade; their two soldiers for the release of thousands of Palestinian and a small number of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli custody. This is the point that W. and the US press and media are missing here. There is no existential threat to Israel involved in this case. Hezbollah isn't anywhere close to being able to destroy the state of Israel with a few thousand Katyusha rockets.

Bombing Beirut's airport, bombing roads and bridges, destroying power plants and blockading the country's ports, trying to turn "back the clock twenty years," is a total overreaction to the original provocation. Israel has brutally attacked a sovereign country and it is imposing collective punishment on millions of Lebanese civilians to go after a militia that controls only a small portion of the southern Lebanon. The rest of the world is right to condemn Israel for its wildly disproportionate response to what amounts to a border skirmish.  Instead of contracting our diplomacy out to Jordan, Egypt and the EU (all of whom have no influence on the parties involved), W. ought to get on the phone with Ehud Olmert himself and read him the riot act. I think we might have just a little bit of leverage with Israel; after all, we give them $3 billion a year and supply all their weapons. The threat to cut any of that aide off would certainly focus they're attention on ceasing and desisting pretty quickly. Has W. seen to the price of a barrel of oil lately? Has he noticed financial markets all over the world plunging the past four days on the fears of a larger regional war breaking out? And are we prepared to deal with the blow-back in Iraq for our blind allegiance to Israel?  

Because it's not long in coming: The NYT reports today that our old friend in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr (who's political bloc in the "unity" government has 30 seats) says that Iraqis will not "sit back with hands folded" while Israel attacks Lebanon. The Times reports:  "In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel." Al-Sadr writes, "Eyes are shedding tears, and the heart feels pain and sadness for our people in Lebanon due to the bombing, terror and clear aggression that the Zionist enemy conducts and that is shielded by a number of countries, including the United States."  

The specter of Iran making our lives a living hell in Iraq is quickly raising its ugly head. The timing of Hezbollah's operation on the Israel's border just coincidentally coincides with the G-8 meeting in Russia and the US effort to convince the international community to take Iran to the UN Security Counsel. If Iran starts throwing their weight around in Iraq, we're in big trouble. Our 129,000 troops over there are already incapable of dealing with the Sunni insurgency, what happens if the Shiites turn on us?  And beyond that, what happens if Israel decides to turn on Syria next? Whereas, before it looked like we had Iran hemmed in from the east and west, they now have us at a disadvantage. Not only can they strike at us in Iraq but they can also get us in Afghanistan, while their buddies in Syria will be more than happy to open up their borders for the flow of arms and fighters into Iraq to really start flowing.  Now, we're the ones who are surrounded.  

This is a pretty precarious position to be in, W. & co. really needs to put their thinking caps on and stop screwing around. We need to fundamentally change our thinking on Iran and start dealing with the reality that they're the regional power. We should drop the idea of going to the Security Counsel, because Russia and China are never going to vote for sanctions or military action anyway; loose the preconditions to direct talks; and we should push for negotiations on all matters pertaining to the region, not just the nuclear program. It is an unfortunate truth that our blundering in Iraq has left us no choice but to deal with Tehran.  

We're still the only super power in the world, so we don’t have to worry about losing face and the benefits of talks with the Iranians outweigh the drawbacks. They could help resolve a whole host of problems plaguing the Middle East or they can make them a lot worse. The question is: does this administration have the intelligence and imagination to do this the right way or are they going to keep making the same mistakes? Don't answer that!    

Read more on this at NSD.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:06 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006 4:08 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 July 2006
Israel declares another war:
Topic: Israel

 

Israel is in the news again: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse and just as Israel was escalating its "incursion" into central Gaza, killing 23 Palestinians in the process... AFP: "TYRE, Lebanon - Israel bombarded Lebanon after two soldiers were snatched by Hezbollah guerrillas in bloody day of cross-border violence that left 11 people dead, opening up a dangerous new front in the Middle East conflict. Israeli forces pounded targets from the land, sea and air and sent troops into Lebanon after the Hezbollah raid on an army patrol on the volatile border which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert branded an "act of war." Eight Israeli soldiers were killed, along with a Hezbollah fighter and two Lebanese civilians in the deadliest day on the border since Israel ended its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon six years ago."

Here we go again: Once again Israel is making the same mistakes it always makes, shooting wildly, spreading its bombs all over the place, not caring where their bombs fall. After two weeks of making life for Palestinians in Gaza a living hell, they're no closer to getting their missing soldier back. Whereas before their incursion, Hamas was on the ropes, actually coming around to signing an agreement to implicitly recognize Israel under pressure from Abu Mazen, now because of this misguided, boneheaded, knee-jerk reaction, Hamas is back in the saddle. Once again, Abu Mazen, the only person Israel has any chance of having a rational conversation with has been marginalized.

The brilliant plan to go after the elected Hamas faction in Gaza, when the real perpetrators of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit were in Syria, has got them no where. Bombing civilian infrastructure has gained them international condemnation and still Shalit is no closer to coming home. Now, they're making the same error by going after the government of Lebanon. The Israelis know as well as anybody that the Lebanese government is much too weak to take on Hezbollah. The Israeli demand that Hezbollah be disarmed sounds good on paper, but in actually it would lead to another Lebanese civil war.

There are all kinds of people in Lebanon that don't like Hezbollah and its Shiite brand of Islam. The Sunnis and Christians in that country resent very much Hezbollah's politics, their militia and their power. And now I'm sure the vast majority of Lebanese are not too thrilled to be in the firing line of Israel's air force and artillery thanks to Hezbollah's unilateral attack on Israel. Israel could use that discontent with a minimum of military pressure to negotiate the release of their two soldiers, possibly with the help of the US and also the French, who have a lot of influence in Lebanon and Syria. If we weren't on such bad terms with Iran, we might be able to convince them to lean on Iran, but that's out the window, of course.

If Israel isn't careful, if they start bombing Lebanese infrastructure and buzzing Beirut, this could really spin out of control. It this were then to spread into Syria, there's no telling where things could wind up.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:38 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006 7:03 PM EDT
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Closer to the gates of hell...
Topic: Iraq

That last post I wrote on Saturday, before the Shiites went on a rampage pulling Sunnis out of cars in the al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad and making the streets flow with blood. On Monday, PM Nuri al-Maliki called for Iraqis to "unite as brothers" but his words seem to be falling on deaf ears and he hasn't said much since. The killing goes on and what's most worrying -- well there's a whole lot most worrying -- is that right after the Shiites started rounding up Sunnis on Sunday, supposedly in retaliation for a bombing at a Shiite mosque, the Sunnis came right back with bombing another Shiite mosque. Where as before these types of tit-for-tat attacks came over a period of days, now they're coming in real-time, sort of like a real war.

Typically, as all hell was breaking loose on Sunday, Muqtada al-Sadr called for calm; which means it was his Mahdi Army doing the killing. Whenever, he comes out and calls for calm you know it's him, just like after the Feb 22 mosque bombing in Samarra. While he was sounding all reasonable, his militiamen were roaming around Sunni neighborhoods in official police vehicles, shooting up Sunni mosques and gunning down anyone who moved.

In this most recent violence, the police just stood by and watched, as usual, and US forces were no where to be seen; they only moved in hours later to survey the smoldering ruins and the burning bodies. I don't think US commanders are quite ready to confront the Madhi Army, which is what they'd have to do if they want to get a handle of this situation. I'm assuming, of course, that at this point we really have the fire power to deal with Sadr's fighters. Since we tangled with them back in 2004, where we fought them to a standstill, they've bulked up quite a bit.

Their numbers are now estimated to be at about 140,000 fighters and they've got some heavy duty firepower of their own, thanks to us. While we've been busy declaring this the "year of the police" they've been busy infiltrating the interior ministries, helping themselves all the weapons and fancy new uniforms we've been providing, and on top of that, al-Sadr's party in the parliament controls the Heath and Transportation ministries. If you were wondering where all these fake police check points and phony arrests are coming from, look no further than the Madhi army. They have access to all the police cars they want.

TheWaPo reported today that a reporter in the al-Jihad neighborhood was with a man who called 130, the police emergency number to report the Shiites arriving to kill everyone:

"The Mahdi Army has attacked Amiriyah," he told the Interior Ministry dispatcher. 'The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you,' said the dispatcher at the ministry, which is controlled by a Shiite party and operates closely with militias. 'They are people doing their duty. And how could you know that they are the Mahdi Army? Is it written on their foreheads?' He hung up the phone." [Geez, and I thought being put on hold when I called 911 in DC was a problem!]

Meanwhile, Rummy has made another "surprise" visit to Iraq, just in time to watch his most famous blunder blow in his face. In the past three days deaths from sectarian fighting has reached over 100 in Iraq. Yesterday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up right in front of a three busy entrances of the Green Zone and then a third bomb went off a little later accounting for 15 deaths all tolled.

The Mujahadeen Shura Council claimed responsibility for the first two and the Islamic Army for the third, in retaliation they say for the rape and killing of an Iraqi family by US soldiers in Mahmudiya, according to the NYT. On Monday, the WaPo reported that the Mujahadeen Shura Council also claimed responsibility for the killing, torture and mutilation of three US troops as punishment for the same killings. Something tells me we haven't heard the last of the exploits of Pfc. Steven Green and his band of merry marauders.

I hear in the press that the Iraqis don't seem to be getting too worked up about the attack by Green and Co.. I suppose that might be a good thing, but when you consider the average Iraqi already suspects that our troops are doing this sort of thing all the time, it isn't exactly a good sign that they're not more upset. Although, the Iraqi civilians on the street might be too preoccupied with avoiding getting, kidnapped, blown up or shot to really be caring about yet another American atrocity these days, the Iraqi government is certainly taking note.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi National Security Advisor, told Newsweek that Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 would have to be renegotiated with the US forces. This is one of the poison pills L. Paul Bremer stuck the Iraqis with as he got out of Dodge that makes US troops immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts for crimes they commit in country. "There is no way we accept CPA Order 17 anymore," Rubaie said. "We cannot go on having these unfortunate incidents repeated, and we have to work on stopping them from happening again."

The Iraqis are of the mind that the US doesn't exactly go out of their way to punish soldiers and that CPA Order 17 makes some troops feel that they can get away with anything. One Iraqi official referred to past trials of soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal as "theater." So, all in all, I'd say, Rummy probably had a very interesting time talking with his Iraqi "partners."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:33 PM EDT
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Iraq at the gates of hell?
Topic: Iraq

For all of you wondering where I've been this past month or so, just go over to Non Sum Dignus to catch up. I'm going to try real hard to get back to doing the foreign policy stuff here and the domestic politics over to NSD again. My new job doesn't leave me a lot of time to do both blogs and on top of that I've started a new blog at democraticunderground.com that is taking even more attention away from this page.

In any case, there is a whole lot of stuff going on in the world these days, and W. & co. have a full plate of disasters to try and juggle. Here's where we see whether they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Iraq seems to have been knocked right off the front page as news of North Korea's missile launches have been dominating the news cycle since the 4th of July. Have no fear, though, if you haven't been paying attention things are still as bloody and aweful as ever over there. On the 5th the NYT reported that the central morgue in Baghdad has recieved 1,595 bodies over the past month, a 16% rise from May.

Remember, this comes a month after the US killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Whatever disruption his death may have caused al-Qaeda it appears they've pretty much worked it out. Even US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had to admit that "in terms of violence, it [Zarqawi's death] has not had any impact at this point. As you know, the level of violence is still quite high."

Not to say that all these deaths are attributable to al-Qaeda, most of them appear to be the result of Iraq's raging sectarian civil war (remember that?). Sabrina Tavernese writes in the Times that, "Baghdad, home to one-forth of Iraq's population, has slowly decended into a low-grade civil war in some neighborhoods, with Sunni and Shiite militias carrying out systematic sectarian killings that clear whole city blocks." In fact, last month as the Iraqi government was launching its "crack down"in Baghdad, two militias fought a running battle in the heart of the city on Haifa Street right under the noses of US and Iraqi forces. There's an all out battle for control of Baghdad and we're not invited. This is between the various Shiite factions and the Sunnis.

And in realilty; though the administration would like to have a Pentagon approved al-Qaeda boggyman to focus everyone's attention on for the propaganda department's flashy war on terror's most wanted sound-bites; al-Qaeda is no match in the massacre business for the tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen who kill Sunnis like no body's business. This administration has been insisting from the begining that we had to invade Iraq as a response to 9/11, but the fact is that the groups most responsible for the choas in Iraq are the Shiites, our allies.

While W. & co. are trying to convince us that if we don't fight them over there we'll have to fight them here, the Iraqi government is more concerned with settling old scores. Our partners in the war on terror think Saddam's daughters (he's clean out of sons) are a bigger threat to Iraq than al-Qaeda is. On their "most wanted list" the top spots are reserved for former Baathists (Sunnis), while al-Qaeda's new "leader," Hamza al-Muhajer (if he even really exists), only comes in at #30 out of 41. The Shiite government and their militias are the real problem, but we can't fit losing hundreds more US troops to deal with them into the war on terror narrative.

The great irony here is that we're fighting the wrong people. When we do leave Iraq, we're going to wind up making the same insurgents who are killing about one Marine a day in Anbar province our newest, best buddies. Except for the small group of Takfiris, who are mainly foreigners, the Iraqi Sunnis are basically secular in outlook, and most importantly, they hate the Iranians.

This "democratic" government we've created in Iraq takes its religious lead from Tehran and the vacuum left behind by our departure is going to be filled by Iran. In that case we'll need to hire the Sunni insurgents to make sure Iraq remains unstable and creates the same albatross around their necks as it has been around ours.

The truth is that Baghdad is totally griped by anarchy: The violence is even moving into sections of the city that up until now have been relativly safe like the Mansour district, where all the big shots live. (Ahmad Chilabi has had two of his cars blown up, so you know things are getting bad.) The insurgency is moving ever closer to the Green Zone and it appears they'll have it completly surrounded sooner rather than later.

And Iraqi citizens who work in the Green Zone report that they're finding it more and more dangerous to keep working there, a secret State Department memo says. Taken all together, one can't but come to the conclusion that what has been up until now a country teetering on the brink of total collapse, held together only by the sheer will and might of the US military, has reached its tipping point and is rapidly approachng the point of no return. Unless we're willing to send in about 100,000 more troops, which we are not, the whole thing is going to hell.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:20 PM EDT
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Monday, 10 July 2006
Afghanistan here but still forgotten:
Topic: War on Terror

So things are going swimmingly in Afghanistan, in case no one has been paying attention lately. With all the slaughtering going on in Iraq, Afghanistan seems peaceful by comparison, but very quietly the war there is ramping up to full blown disaster status. Yes, the Taliban are back with a vengeance and now they have their own Zarqawi, who might actually be more of a homicidal maniac. Newsweek reports his name is Mullah Dadullah Akhund, and to show you just how out of control this guy is, even Mullah Omar once relieved him of his command for the brutal tactics he employed against Shiite Hazaras in 1998. [Or Jalaluddin Haqqani could be the new boss, who knows?]

Akhund is back now and he's leading the forces fighting Nato in the south of the country. Apparently, Aklund had such a fearsome reputation that the Taliban sometimes announces that he's leading battles he's not involved in to scare the other side into retreating. His third in command, Mullah Ghul Agha, is terrified of him, too, and his wild mood swings: "For two hours he can be in good humor, then suddenly he changes into a dark mood that can last for hours," Agha says, "He will kill anyone for not following orders. I certainly would not want to face Dadullah on the battlefield."

Unfortunately, that's just what the British, Canadians and Dutch are doing in Helmand province: which, by the way, is a bumper crop of poppishaving. As far as I can gather, there are some 8,000 Nato troops moving into the south, replacing US troops, to take on what they estimate are 6000 Taliban fighters (Dadullah says its really 12,000). It would appear, even with air superiority, a 2000 troop advantage might not be enough to be able to bring stability back to that part of the country.

The Brits are reeling from the 6 troops they've lost this past month. Just a few months ago former UK defense secretary, John Reid, was boasting that British troops would get through their deployment without firing a shot. It turns out that perhaps the patented British soft-hat patrolling technique that they're so proud of might not be working so well.

Christina Lamb of the Sunday Times interviewed on the world last week described an ambush she was involved in where after meeting with local elders she and the British troops she acompanied were very nearly killed. She writes in the Times that, "The ambush of our lightly armed patrol not only was unexpected but also brought into question the entire strategy being pursued by the British in Helmand, the huge province they have taken on." Lamb is still taken aback by the fact that the British had gone to this village to provide assistance and they were guided into the ambush by the very same people they were trying to help.

If the thinking at the MOD doesn't change quickly, there are sure to be many more such surprises. An article in the NYT last month reports that:

"One international security official in Kandahar, who has several years of experience in Afghanistan, said members of the U.S. and Canadian Special Forces units had told him they 'were not winning against the Taliban. If the central government does not act and coalition forces do not increase, I think it will be impossible to say what will happen.'"

As Nato forces have been moving into the south over the past few months US air power has been taking a toll on the hearts and minds of Afghan villagers unfortunate enough to be in the crossfire. Hundreds of Afghans have been killed in US air raids during this ongoing assault on the Taliban over the spring and early summer. Hamid Karzai is sounding more and more like Nuri al-Maliki (or is it the other way around?) demanding that the coalition forces change their tactics.

"It is not acceptable for us that in all of this fighting, so many Afgans are dying," Karzai said on June 22. "In the last three weeks, 500 to 600 Afgans were killed. [Even] if they are Taliban, they are sons of this land." You'll remember that in January Karzai urged his American allies to adjust their anti-terrorism tactics; "We do not want bombing of our villages. We do not want searches of our homes. We don't want our civilians harassed anymore."

He doesn't appear to be getting his message across, although, Condi did pop in very briefly for a visit to tell him she feels his pain...and then she was gone, zooming straight up to avoid AAA. Of course, Karzai's constant refrain is the threat coming from outside Afghanistan (from you know where). Four days ago in Tokyo he said the international community's strategy in Afghanistan was "going in circles," and he made sure to highlight what he sees as the man cause of the terrorism in Afghanistan: "The sources of terrorism are where they are trained, where they are financed, where they are equipped, where they are mobilized and where they are motivated." [FT]I wonder what he could be talking about; Pakistan perhaps?

Pervez Musharrif assures his American masters he's doing everything he can along the border, but his efforts seem oddly to ebb and flow depending on the arrivals and departures of US officials. Not that Pakistan's ISS is helping the Taliban and al-Qaeda or anything, but just incidentally, back in 2001 when the Americans tossed out the Taliban, Mullah Dadullah abandoned his troops, packed his bags, paid off a Northern Alliance commander for safe passage and escaped to Pakistan, where he regrouped his forces, according to Newsweek. In fact, his two wives and three children live in Quetta, Pakistan, where apparently the Pakistani forces haven't gotten around to retaking from the Taliban.

It’s very difficult to figure out whether Afghanistan or Iraq is more out of control nowadays, but judging by the five bombs that went off in Kabul this past week, the poppy crop and the specter of Mullah Dadullah versus Nato, I'd say Afghanistan might soon knock North Korean off the front pages.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:34 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006 7:35 PM EDT
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Monday, 12 June 2006
Victory right around the corner in Iraq?
Topic: Iraq

In recognition of the tremendous victory of killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last Wednesday, the Iraq "government" the next day announced a "victory curfew" for Friday prayers. All vehicle traffic was banned from Baghdad and Baquba, where Zarqawi was killed, to prevent the expected backlash from "al-Qaeda in Iraq," which really shows you how confident that they really have a handle on things now. Although, it's great news that Zarqawi was killed and the military was able to get hold of lots of intel that could help them roll up other al-Qaeda cells around Iraq, the fact is that al-Qaeda only represents probably about 5% of all the insurgents fighting us; they're not that big of a deal...or are they?

Some commentators like Trudy Rubin of the Inquirer have bought into the administration's myth-making by giving Zarqawi way too much credit for what's going on over there. She claimed in a column this Sunday that he was "spectacularly successful in his efforts to make Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis kill each other," as if he created the centuries of hatred between the two sides. It really didn't take much effort did it? Even more absurd was the old fossil from the Reagan administration I heard on NPR last week breathlessly recount how Zarqawi had single-handedly taken over Fallujah in 2004--- a city of 300,000 --- by sheer force of his will. That ridiculous assertion is even more amazing when you consider he wasn't even in Fallujah. (He must have had magical powers, too.)

The reality is that we probably did a favor for his bunch of crazies by making him a martyr and we also very cleverly eliminated a problem for the homegrown Iraqi insurgency. They didn't like Zarqawi and his foreign fighters any more than we did. Now, instead of having to worry about him and his lunatics in their rear they can get back to focusing on us. But then again, we're not really their biggest problem anymore, the Shiite militias who are firmly entrenched within the Iraqi government's security infrastructure are. Over the past six months they've been responsible for at least 6000 Iraqi deaths.

Besides the appearance of dozens of bodies at the Baghdad morgue on a daily basis, last week saw some pretty spectacular and brazen death-squad activity. Last Sunday gunmen set up roadblocks outside of Baghdad and seized two minibuses full of school students and killed 20 of them. On Monday, AP reported gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped 50 people in a business district of Baghdad randomly grabbing "travelers, merchants, and venders selling tea and sandwiches." (Where they were taken or whether they're still alive is unknown.)

It's interesting how the media still doesn't just come right out and say these attacks are being led by government security forces, which they clearly are. It's an Iraqi government fiction to keep insisting that these roving death-squads might be insurgents dressed up as police. Since the Interior Ministry is riddled with Badr Brigade militiamen, and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army has a firm grip on the transportation ministry, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how these guys happened to have police uniforms and more than a dozen vehicles ready to transport their victims. The tell-tale pictures of Moqtada on most of the police vehicles on the streets of Baghdad should be a dead give away, but I guess not.

The "government:"

It's all well and fine that after six months the Iraqi government has finally got around to forming a full cabinet, but I don't see what difference it’s going to make. The new PM and his cabinet don't actually have any power to do anything. They don't provide electricity, water or security and al-Sadr's bunch runs the heath ministry, which he uses to provide patronage not medical care, so what do they really do? Adnan Pachachi, the only sane person in the parliament, says of al-Maliki, "He talks about using an iron fist against the people, but I don't think he has sufficient power. There are so many forces competing with each other. This is not a cohesive government." (He might have added that it isn't a government at all.)

A case in point is al-Maliki's much touted visit to Basra last week where he declared a state of emergency and again vowed to use his much vaunted "iron fist" to bring an end to fighting there. Despite this threat, though, violence is continuing there as Iranian backed militias consolidate their hold on the south.

The Inquirer reported on the 28th of May that the south is:

"now dominated by Shiite Muslim warlords and militiamen who are laying the groundwork for an Islamic fundamentalist government, say senior British and Iraqi official in the area. The militias appear to be supported by Iranian intelligence or military units that are shipping weapons to the militias in Iraq and providing training for them in Iran. A week with British troops in Maysan and Basra provinces and three additional days of reporting in Basra made it clear that Iraqis here are at the mercy of Shiite militia death squads and Iranian friendly clerics who have imposed an ever-stricter code of de facto Islamic law."

One of the major issues that will be coming up in the new Iraqi parliament --- provided the whole thing doesn't collapse in the next month --- is the controversy over autonomy for the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. Remember, this issue was deferred in the debate over an Iraqi constitution so that the Iraqis would have something to vote on. It's pretty obvious now that the south is already lost. The Shiites have already created their own facts on the ground; it would appear to be all over except for the shouting.
The only reason the Shiite parties even participated in the elections in December was to legitimize their position and cover their aspirations to take over the south with the patina of democracy.

While our Marines are fighting the Sunnis to a bloody standstill in Anbar, in a battle to see who will control the desert, the Shiites and the Iranians are solidifying their hold over the oil in the south which will put them in a very powerful position to call the shots down the road. Once the Shiites are able to ram autonomy for the regions through the parliament and the country is broken up into little pieces, the Iraqi "government of national unity" will be nothing but a rump consultative body. Almost 2,500 dead US troops and a trillion dollars is a pretty high price to pay for a new oil-rich Bosnia.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:01 PM EDT
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Thursday, 8 June 2006
Zarqawi is dead: next boggyman please...
Topic: War on Terror

Wow, they finally got him, Zarqawi is dead! Boy, I haven't been this excited since they got Uday and Qusay. We've really reached a turning point now.

I remember back on April 11 the WaPo reported that:

"The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq...The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

Hmmm...but they're not overstating his importnace now, right? Gosh, to listen to watch the media today you'd think they'd actually got the guy responsible for 9/11, the reason for the whole war on terror to begin with.

Rummy says this won't end terror but,

"let there be no doubt, the fact that he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism in that country, and I would say worldwide, because he had interests outside of Iraq. He was an integral part of the war on terror."

Yes, integral. Weren't they just making fun of Zarqawi a few weeks ago because he couldn't figure out how to fire his weapon? How did this nobody suddenly become such an "integral" part of terrorism world wide?

Before the war, while Zarqawi was hiding out in Kurdish controled Iraq back in 2003 hanging out with Ansar al-Islam, a groupd of about 400 fighters who hated Saddam, he ws pretty much a nobody, but...

According to Atimes Online:

"Zarqawi stopped being a non-entity on February 5, 2003, when he was spectacularly catapulted onto the global stage - six weeks before the start of the Iraq war - by US Secretary of State Colin Powell's weapons of mass destruction speech at the United Nations. Powell used Zarqawi to link Saddam Hussein's secular Ba'athist regime to the 'Islamic terror network,' and thus partly justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq."

And he has been used like this ever since.

How much of a difference is the death of a guy who is a figment of Rummy's imagination ---who can't even figure out how to fire a gun ---going to make in Iraq at this point.

Just this week the LA TimesLA Times reported:

"Excluding the capital's nearly daily bombings, new Iraqi government documents show that more Baghdad residents died in shootings, stabbings and other violence in May than in any other month since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003."

'Excluding daily bombings,' hense not having to do with Zarqawi and his suicide bombers. The vast majority of killing going on over there is between native Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites. And most of the Sunnis dying are dying at the hands of the Interior Ministry, the guys we're backing.

And then there's Muqtada al-Sadr who has a militia estimated to number 146,000 troops. How on earth is the death of a marignal leader like Zarqawi, of one of the smallest groups of insurgents in Iraq a major victory?

This is complete bull crap, and naturally, the media is eating it up and asking for more.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:43 PM EDT
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Saturday, 3 June 2006
Talk is cheap:
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Will wonders never cease? The US is now offering to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, and even more shocking than that, Condi Rice told NPR yesterday that she could even envision sitting down with Iran's foreign minister at some point in the future. This is pretty monumental shift in US policy considering that just a few weeks ago the administration was still hinting at military options being on the table and adamantly insisting that direct talks were "impossible," and that "bad behavior" wouldn't be rewarded. That sort of unequivocal, obstinate rhetoric ---mainly the expression of the Cheney/Rumsfled cabal's influence on the policy debate within the administration --- has given way to the more pragmatic State Department position of engagement, or so it appears.

This battle between the hawks and the pragmatists inside the administration has been going on since the W. took office, but it looks like now that the pendulum has swung in favor of reason. And not a moment too soon, it would seem. For the first five years of this administration Iran policy consisted of doing nothing, leaving the diplomacy to the EU3: France, Germany and Britain, while the neocons worked on their pet project of overthrowing Saddam and making the world safe for democracy. The result of this amateurish foreign policy has been to leave us severely weakened and bleeding in Iraq while Iran is now capable of calling the shots in a number of countries in the region; to our serious detriment if it so chooses.

To me, this issue of Iran's rise as a major powerbroker in the region is much more important to us than whether the Iranians get the bomb some time down the road in five or ten years. Whether this realization has finally gotten through to the brains trust in the White House is still in question. But as Trudy Rubin, the Inquirer's foreign policy expert pointed out in a column recently that this issue of Iran's role in the region is the "main issue," for the Iranians. Iran wants the US to recognize Iran's role as a regional leader, and drop the talk about "regime change." In fact, in return for our recognition they're interested in offering us security guarantees in the region! Javad Vaedi, a deputy to Ali Larijani, noted in an interview with Rubin that "the United States has many problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria," which the Iranians could help resolve for us. It would seem they have more to offer us than we have to offer them.

Of course, this messy situation could have been could possibly avoided if we had taken up former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami's offer to do a deal with them back in 2003. They wanted to resolve the issues of their nukes, terrorism, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but instead, W. decided to give them the finger as did his victory landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. As former Bush administration official Flynt Leverett pointed out in a recent Newsweek article, "If we had pursued this three years ago and been able to work out a deal, the Iranians wouldn't have 164 centrifuges today."

But we didn't, they do, and they're not at all interested in giving up what they have. The Iranians have created their own facts on the ground that we're going to have to work around them. The first little spot of bother is Condi's preconditions for talks with Iran. Before we even get to sitting down to chat, the Iranians are going to have to suspend their enrichment program, which Hans Blix tells the Inquirer he finds "a little puzzling." He says, "so they're really demanding from the beginning, before they start talks, that they want the discussion to end...I doubt very much that this is useful."

You know, he might have a point. If the goal is to get Iran to stop enrichment with the offer of talks and other incentives; demanding that they stop enrichment before hand is kind of counterintuitive, isn't it? Michael Ledeen, the former Iran/contra figure, also sees a contradiction here: "She says we'll only talk to if the Iranians give up first." [Inquirer] And that's pretty much it in a nut shell. Why would the Iranians agree to all of sudden do what they've been insisting from the beginning they wouldn't do? They've stated again and again that they have the right to enrich uranium just like any other country that has signed the NPT. And it's not only a legal issue but a matter of national pride. David Gardner in the FT writes that the "US's attempted diplomatic siege has united the nation around the nuclear issue, making the right to technology and deterrence a totem like the nationalization of oil a half century ago." To put a finer point on this, Javad Vaedi says that suspension of Iran's program would mean "humiliation."

So as far as I can see, despite Condi's contention to the contrary, the ball is still in our court, we haven't really offered them anything. If this is some sort of ploy intended to show the world that Iran is spurning our "robust diplomacy," in order to get a UN resolution to impose sanctions or military action, that will fail too: Russia and China just aren't going to go along with it.

I understand that Condi has done what Colin Powell could have never done, get W. to overrule Cheney, and she's clearly working her fingers to the bone trying to get a peaceful resolution to this "crisis," but I just don't see anything coming of this. As long as the folks that brought us Iraq and Katrina have the final say in any of this, the whole project is doomed to failure. Ultimately, Condi will wind up in the same trash heap that all W.'s other cabinet members have ended up on with her reputation in tatters.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:50 PM EDT
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Friday, 26 May 2006
Bush said to "expose the pretensions of tyrants." (Maybe next year)
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Kyrgyzstan is threatening to evict the US from its last airbase in Central Asia if it doesn't pony up a lot more money for rent. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the US it must pay $200 million, up from 2.7 million, for the use of the Manas base. He said there would be "no room for haggling" when the pentagon opens up talks in Bishkek with the Kyrgyz next week.

The FT reports:

"Manas has become a source of tension between Kyrgyzstan and the US since the revolution. Revelations that Mr. Akayev's [the former dictator] family siphoned off part of the US jet fuel payments at the base were an embarrassment to Washington. Accusations that warplanes dumped fuel over Kyrgyzstan were denied at the base." Pretty ugly, we either cough up the cash or they'll just toss us out and get cozier with their former Russian masters.

Our bastard in Tashkent is back in our good graces:

But, not to worry: the FT also reports that Rummy and Cheney "are said by officials and analysts to favor an attempt to reach out to President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan for purely strategic reasons. [Well, we're in bed with Moammar Kadafi, so why not?] You remember him; he's the one that sent his forces in to break up a rebellion in Andijan last year and wound up killing hundreds of men, women and children.

Back then even W. couldn't ignore the slaughter going on and put pressure on Karimov to come clean on what really happened, at which point we were tossed out of the country. The FT reports, though:

"The sense that Russia and China have been quick to capitalize on the US departure, and what Mr. Rumsfeld described in frequent visits as Uzbekistan's excellent cooperation in the 'war on terror,' make it too important to ignore."

Fidel could be our next big buddy:

Unfortunately for Fidel Castro, China hasn't found any natural resources it needs in Cuba yet or we'd be calling him a statesman too: Although, if there's enough oil of the Cuban coast to make it worth their while, that might change.

His buddy Hugo Chavez is in the news again, though. On the same day that we renewed diplomatic relations with killer Kadafi and took his regime off the list of terrorist states, the State Department announced the US was cutting off arms sales to Venezuela because they aren't being cooperative enough in the war on terror.

Am I the only one who sees the absurdity of this? While we're giving the man who killed 189 Americans a ringing endorsement for giving up his insignificant arsenal of WMD, we're implying that Venezuela is some sort of serious terrorist threat to the US. What's even more ridiculous is that we're holding on to a guy, Luis Posada Carriles, who is a terrorist, that Venezuela wants extradited for blowing up a Venezuelan passenger jet that killed 70 innocent civilians. Apparently, as long as you have oil and gas or have worked for the CIA you can get away with murder.

What kind of message is this sending to the world about our commitment to freedom and human rights? Husni Mubarak can jail his political opposition; Islam Karimov can slaughter his civilians; Mommar Kadafi can keep repressing his citizens; Pervez Musharraf can get away scott-free with a military coup; Somali warlords that killed our troops can now get a US taxpayer check for fighting Islamic warlords: the Sudanese government can conduct genocide and get away with it; the Chinese can keep locking up journalists, killing political opponents and generally repressing their civilians and we'll look the other way as long as they keep letting us barrow money: the Saudis can keep repressing Christians and women and teaching their kids to hate Christians and Jews, they get to keep beheading adulterous women in the public square every after Friday prayers:

But Fidel and Hugo are just beyond the pale!!!!!

No wonder no one listens to us anymore.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:02 PM EDT
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