Topic: General News.
Our can-do president made yet another trip to the Gulf Coast yesterday to highlight the progress being made in the recovery effort. Here we go again with the rose-tinted glasses approach to the problem. Towns throughout the Gulf region are still leveled, they haven’t been rebuilt, the levies aren’t repaired, there is an entire city that is still deserted and astoundingly; there are hundreds of children still missing!!! (And what happened to those $2000 debit cards?)
No one is expecting the administration to wave a magic wand and make it all better over night, but don’t give us this ‘we’re making progress’ crap, when its so obvious what all these trips down there are really all about.
If Karl Rove thinks the “mission accomplished” model is going to work in pumping up Bush’s poll numbers this time around, he’s got something else coming. Journalists in the US don’t need to be embedded in military units to report on what’s going on in Louisiana and Mississippi. It won’t take too long for people to match up the rhetoric coming from W. with the pictures of destruction.
But it’s not all about poll numbers, is it? More importantly it’s about giving a helping hand to Bechtel, Halliburton, Fluor and every other corporation with its hand out.
Oh yeah, and pushing the right wing agenda. Promoting school vouchers and giving government money to “faith-based” charities (Rick Santorum says, they’re the real first responders when the federal government is late with help.), is what it’s all about. Rove is an expert when it comes to manipulating a national crisis for political advantage; there isn’t any depth he won’t sink to. He’d sell us out to the Chinese if there were some benefit to the republicans in it. (I’m assuming he hasn’t already.)
Rita on the rocks:
So, there’s another hurricane coming down the pike. It’s all perfectly normal, though, we usually have 20 Cat. 5 hurricanes in a year, don’t worry be happy. Exxon/Mobil is pretty happy; they’re planning on buying the Sun with all the extra money their making from their crisis profiteering. We’ll all be getting bills for sun use in the near future. On cloudy days, naturally, they’ll need government disaster relief.
I say, that this time, if W. really wants to show everybody what a big man he is, he’ll ride out hurricane Rita wherever it hits and monitor the response time from the federal government, just to make sure he knows what’s going on.
[By the way, what the hell was Ray Nagin thinking when he encouraged people to go back to New Orleans? I understand he wants to get the city back in business, but even EPA is saying this time that it’s too dangerous, what with all the gasoline, oil and God knows what else floating around and caked on everything. This is a departure from the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when reports of asbestos in the air around the Ground Zero area were suppressed to get those brokers back to playing the market. To say nothing of the firefighters who were allowed to work without masks while digging for bodies under the collapsed buildings.]
Speaking of progress:
The US military reported the deaths of 12 more Americans yesterday, bringing the total death toll so far to 1,907. Stay the course, don’t let their deaths be in vain.
Also, on Tuesday, a British military attempt to rescue two special forces commandos from an Iraqi jail in Basra resulted in several British armoured vehicles being destroyed by fire. Iraqi “policemen” had detained the two commandos after being caught on the street dressed in Arab garb. Presumably they were engaged in some sort of undercover operation. While the British foreign service people were negotiating the release of these detainees with the “government” in Baghdad, the British military got wind of a transfer of these soldiers to a local militia, the Mahdi army, a report the Iraqi interior minister says was just a rumor. (Of course, he’s a part of the Badr organization, so he might be slightly biased.)
This is when the Brits cordoned off the area around the jail and launched an extraction operation by plowing a hole through a jailhouse wall with a tank. (During the cordoning off operation, the citizens of Basra started throwing rocks and Molotov Cocktails at the British troops who were caught on camera fleeing their burning tanks.) The Brits say they found their commandos at another house where they had been transferred, but the Iraqis say the house was part of the jail and they weren’t in the hands of the Mahdi army. It’s difficult to tell what really went on because most of the ring leaders of this whole mess in Basra are in the Iraqi government. In this case, I guess the British version is probably less of a lie.
This is a very embarrassing situation for the British military and the “coalition” which claims that they’re only there to help a “sovereign” Iraqi government. Violating the sovereignty of the government by attacking one of its police stations isn’t exactly acting like a good neighbor.
Maybe, we should ignore the media filter here and see what the prime minister’s office has to say on the subject: “In response to recent events in Basra, the Iraqi government wants to clarify that there is no crisis---as some in the media have claimed----between it and the British government.” So, this one incident doesn’t blow the whole facade off the lie that the British have really been in control of Basra over the past three or four months?
I was going to say, that this must be quite an eye opener for the British who thought everything was going relatively smoothly in the south, but I stand corrected. There is no crisis. And little children in Baghdad are begging their mommies to get them American military uniforms to dress up in because to them the US soldier is a super hero! (Yes, Susan Dakak actually said this on Radio Times.)
It’s difficult to say what the commandos were up to. Were they after Muktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army? Or was it an Iranian group led by Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, who is suspected of introducing the new and deadlier “shaped” explosive roadside bomb, which has been killing Brits, contractors and Americans in a much more efficient way lately.
There is little doubt now, as if there was before, that the Shiite militias of Muktada al Sadr, the Badr Brigade, and various other militias, all run by members of the present Iraqi government, are the real power in Basra. The Iranians also have a very large foothold in the south. Even before the war began, Iran had made sure as the chaos took hold in the early hours of the American invasion they were there to fill the void.
Michael Ware writes for TIME that, “as many as 12,000 armed men, along with Iranian intelligence officers, swarmed into Iraq.” A 2004 British military inquiry found that the Badr organization and other militias were already so deeply entrenched in the area that, "it quickly became clear that the coalition needed to work with them to ensure a secure environment in the province.” A student at Basra University, an institution which is a frequent target of Shiite religious police, says, “these guys with beards and Kalashnikovs showed up saying they'd come to protect the campus, the problem is, they never left.”
If the new Iraqi constitution winds up giving the Shiites autonomy in the south, you’ll see Sadr, Sistani, and Chalabi all vying for Iranian influence and fighting over oil revenues. The civil war in Iraq that the newspapers keep saying the US is trying to avoid is already in full swing and the Iranians and the Shiites in the south are really fanning the flames. The Sunnis aren’t necessarily the only ones fighting against the occupation, though.
Progress in Afghanistan:
Now that there have been successful parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, Rummy has declared, “Afghanistan is a democracy,” So, in that case, he won’t mind handing over the keys to president Hamid Kharzai, right? (Karzai is getting pretty uppity, these days, some one ought to remind him that we’re paying for his security detail.) He says the US needs to change its strategy in Afghanistan. “I don’t think there is a big need for military activity in Afghanistan anymore. The US should stop their air raids in the country; stop launching major offensives in the country and, “no coalition forces should go to Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government.”
He seems to feel the real problem comes from other countries. The focus should be on “on where terrorists are trained, on their bases, on the supply to them, on the money coming to them.” Hmmm…which country could he be talking about? It couldn’t be Pakistan, because Pervez Musharraf launched a big raid in the tribal areas just before he came to the US for the UN summit.
Surely, Karzai isn’t saying these raids were just for show to keep the Americans happy? He must be talking about Syria. We’re really losing patience with them!!!
Since we’re celebrating this momentous occasion in Afghanistan, I thought it would be good to look back at all the success there’s been since the invasion in 2001. It’s been a very successful four years, full of great success, so much so that our point man in Afghanistan, the very successful Zalmay Khalilzad, has moved to Iraq to repeat his great success there.
WaPo:” After US-led military forces routed the Islamic Taliban militia from Kabul, large sections of Afghan territory remain in the grip of local militias, while the southeast has become the target of violent attacks and political wooing by insurgent Taliban forces based along the Pakistani border…coalition troops launched Operation Mountain Resolve, a high altitude offensive, in Kunar and Nurestan provinces, adjacent hilly border regions, that are believed to shelter a network of fighters loyal to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the renegade militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.”
That was from the WaPo on Nov. 16, 2003. A day before, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters collided over Mosul killing 17 soldiers and injuring five others. This is also the day after the US and Iraq announced their “radical new plan for the country’s political transition that would end the US-led occupation by July 1 and could facilitate a significant withdrawal of US troops next year.”
As we know, the country’s sovereignty was turned over two days early! Of course, that was because they were afraid if they did it on the day they said they’d do it, there might have been a huge attack.
During this part of 2003 and into early 2004, you’ll remember, there was an upsurge in violence in the run up to the transfer of power. Then there was another surge of violence in the run up to the successful elections in January 2005, which included two very costly attacks on Fallujah, which is now a free city. Free of its citizens and buildings, but free of terrorism!
Then there followed a successful formation of a government, a successful drafting of a constitution and then the withdrawal of significant numbers of US troops.
Well, that last part didn’t happen, they’re still there fighting so that the deaths of the previous 1,907 won’t have been in vain, in the run up to the constitutional referendum in October. There might be an upsurge in violence, which is why there are a couple more brigades of US troops on the way. Leading up to a significant withdrawal, of course.