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Lets's talk about democracy
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Friday, 14 October 2005
Of fake conversations.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Things really are not going well for the White House these days. When they can't even pull off a staged photo-op anymore, you know they're in trouble. There was so much hubbub about the nature of the set up of Bush's video conference with a few handpicked and very upbeat soldiers, with Allison Barber telling everybody what to say and when, a lot of people got the idea that the whole thing was scripted. Even though Barber actually said at one point 'lets stick to the way we scripted it,' pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita had to apologize for "any perception that [the soldiers] were told what to say" at the event. It is not the case." [WaPo] Right, I believe that, don't you?

I think Scott McClellean went so far as to say the troops were just expressing their "candid views" on the progress of the war. Now, what would McClellan know about being candid, in the first place, and are we really supposed to believe that all this happy talk about the capabilities of the Iraqi soldiers is what these people actually think?

In any case, W. says, "We got a strategy, and it's a clear strategy. On the one hand, we will hunt down these killers and terrorists and bring them to justice, and train the Iraqi forces to join us in that effort." That's a strategy? Which are going to do first, by the way; hunt them down and kill them or bring them to justice? It sounds like the same old strategy to me, you know, the one that's not working?

I wrote yesterday about an Iraqi military unit that is more concerned about exacting revenge on Sunnis than winning the war. They are not the First Battalion but the First Brigade of the Iraq army's sixth division. My apologies. Here is a follow up article today in the Philly Inquirer.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:26 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005 1:28 PM EDT
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Thursday, 13 October 2005
Everything is OK! W, is great!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Tom Lasseter of the Philadelphia Inquirer has a very scary story about the Iraqi First Battalion, the unit the US military hopes will be a template for the future Iraqi Army. This is basically the only Battalion that is capable of operating on its own, although on big missions it still needs US help. The First is populated by Shiite soldiers and officers who are mainly bent on exacting revenge from the Sunnis for Saddam and the latest violence perpetrated by the insurgents. One major in the unit he interviewed, Swadi Ghilan, said, "There are two Iraqs; it's something we can no longer deny. The Army should execute the Sunnis in their neighborhoods so that all of them can see what happens, so that all of them learn their lesson." That's real promising. These guys can't wait for the referendum and the December elections because afterwords there will be a Shiite dominated government in charge and they can get to whipping out the Sunnis.

Another part of the problem with the First is that its top commander, Swail, takes his marching orders from a Shiite cleric associated with Ayatollah ali-Sistani. At a meeting with his officers he was asked why the unit was being deployed mainly in a Shiite neighborhood and not in a Sunnis one where the unit is taking casualties because they are undermanned. Swail told them Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr had told him the troops had to stay in the Shiite neighborhood to protect the faithful. "Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr has more influence than Ibrahim al-Jaafari." Lasseter quotes one officer saying, "But sir we need more troops." Swail answers, "The problem is convincing Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr." [See more on the First Battalion's storied history.]

Today in W.'s phony baloney video pep rally,he asked a soldier---who had already been told what she'd be asked and had practiced the answer--"In the last 10 months, what kind of progress have we seen?" Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo answered, "Over the past 10 months, the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces are improving ... They continue to develop and grow into a sustainable force." The question is; do we want them to be a sustainable force? Nice attempt to make the disaster over there look like A-OK, but no one is buying it anymore; except maybe W. himself. I've asked this before, but are these made up events made for our benefit or for his?

Something his advisor's will be reluctant to show him is the WSJ/NBC News poll out today:

"For the first time in the poll, Bush’s approval rating has sunk below 40 percent, while the percentage believing the country is heading in the right direction has dipped below 30 percent. In addition, a sizable plurality prefers a Democratic-controlled Congress, and just 29 percent think Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court."

Looks like all that house building and speechifying' isn't doing the trick. Finally, the blinders have been removed for the America people's eyes and they now see the emperor has no clothes.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:07 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005 2:09 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 October 2005
Bad and weird in the Middle East.
Topic: General News.

In an odd and worrying development, the Syrian interior minister Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan apparently killed himself today.[AP] Specualtion is that he felt the international UN investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri was going to name him as being behind the killing. Kenaan was the de facto ruler of Lebanon until the Syrians were forced to leave, so I guess there's something to that theory. Naturally, this is the Middle East, so there are also many rumors flying around, too. One is that he was killed because he knew too much and might name people higher up the line, which implys Bashar Assad has something to do with the Hariri killing. I haven't heard it yet, but you can be sure someone is out there right now blaming Israel. In any event, this suicide could be a very destabilizing to the whole region.

I'm not saying the Syrian regime is any great shakes, but at least its stable cxompared to what's next door, this should be viewed as a good thing for the short term, at least. The US is leveling tremendous diplomatic pressure on the Syrians and this investigation is going to come down like a ton of bricks on the regime. That fact coupled with the very unexpected suicide of Gen. Kenaan could blow the whole stability thing out the window. We've already got a very big problem with the Iranians meddling in the affairs of Iraq we don't need a basket case on the western front too. The Syrians are not supporting or arming the foreign fighters pouring into Iraq. They may be either, simply looking the other way, or they might be honestly attempting to stop them and just failing miserably, but they are in no way as dangerous to the entire project in Iraq or as involved as the Iranians and the Saudis are. What is left behind in the ashes of the Aliwite regime might be dangerous, though. A case in point is the Kurds in Syria.

I'm going out on a limb here, this is all wild speculation, but what would happen if the Kurds in Syria, after many years of being held down and discriminated against, decided to link up with Iraqi Kurdistan? What do you think the Turks would do about that? What would happen if Isreal decided to go ahead and take some more Lebensraum beyond the Golan when everything falls apart? What would Iran do in this situation? Hezbollah is right there, maybe they move into Syria and set up some facts on the ground of their own inside Syria? Or maybe, we move in to "restore order" and we are welcomed with open arms and roses. It could happen, right?

News just in: The Iraqi parliment has supposedly come to an agreement to amend the constitution in the early part of next year---this before it has been even voted on in the referendum on Saturday---to further hammer out the contentious issues preventing the Sunnis from hopping on board. Jeez...these guys can't even agree on what day it is, what difference is more rangling next year going to accomplish?

A bridge Tal Afar? Redux

The AP is reporting yet another suicide bombing in Tal Afar today that killed 30. Yesterday another suicide bomber killed a similar amount also in Tal Afar. Last week the first female suicide bomber killed dozens in Tal Afar. I thought that after the great success of the joint American-Iraqi military sweeps of the area in and around Tal Afar had secured that part of the country. I seem to remember reading US military spokesmen saying this time Iraqi forces would hold territory taken in the various Euphrates offensives. It must be the run up to the elections that causing all this violence, doubtless it will all come to an end after the Iraqis vote on their new constitution on Saturday, that is, if the polititians ever agree on what the document will actually say.

Reports are that the Iraqi parliament, if they can get a quorum, will vote today on a new set of last minute changes negotiated yesterday by the three parties; Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. The hope, as always, is that enough Sunnis can be coxed into coming out to vote in order to make the whole process look legitimate. Good luck with that. How are the Iraqis going to know what the hell they're voting for if they keep moving the goal posts around? Oh, right, they'll be told how to vote by their tribal leaders.

It's not to say that everybody wouldn't like to have a stable government in Iraq and that the brutality and killing would end and we could get the hell out of there, but we stuck a big stick into a hive of angry wasps and now we're stuck. W. says he has a plan, but he hasn't told anybody what it is. Rummy said he had a plan and it was called victory, but he also said he knew exactly where the WMD was, too, so he's not much of a help.

Progress in Afghanistan:

In any case, the theory that after a successful election the insurgents will see the errors of their ways and go away is being put to the test in Afghanistan and is looking a little shaky. From what I can tell the new Wolesi Jirga will have a lot of women, which is a good thing, and a lot of former warlords, which is a bad thing: chief among the worst of them is Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum who will be a large part of the opposition that is estimated to control a bloc of 100 members in the 249 seat body. Things are still up in the air about what this new parliament will actually do and how it will operate, so the jury is still out, but there is no question that the Taliban didn't get the memo.

On the 8th of October a US soldier was killed after stepping on a landmine in Helmond province, in the south, bringing the number of total US troops killed in Afghanistan to 200. On the 10th, a suicide bomber killed 3 people in Kandahar and a US soldier was killed in a fire fight in the east of the country. Yesterday, a police convoy in Helmand was attacked by a large number of Taliban and 19 police officers were killed. The beat goes on and the poppies have never been more plentiful.

The Guard and Reserve take it on the jaw:

On Sunday I was at a sports bar in Bucks County PA, watching my beloved Dolphins lose to the hated Bills, when a National Guardsman came into the place asking for donations for a fellow Guardsman who was, in his words, being sent to Iraqi "involuntarily." The donations were for the man's family who were in deep financial straits because of his deployment. What have we come to when our National Guard have to go around to bars asking for hand outs? The Guard and the Reserve in Pennsylvania are taking it particularly hard having lost over 100 since the war began. In the past three months alone they've lost 10, including Gennaro Pellegrini Jr. a local Fishtown policeman who is dearly missed.

All the Guard and Reserve accounted for 56% of US deaths in August and September according to the AP. "Forty-five percent of all Guard and Reserve deaths since the start of the war----220 of the nearly 500 total---occurred in the first nine months of 2005." Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, says the heavy reliance on the Guard and Reserve has been necessary to allow regular Army units like the Third Armored Division and the 101st Airborne Division to retool for another deployment. He says the Guard and Reserves, "bought us the time we needed." I'm sure the families of those who won't be coming back will appreciate the fact that they sacrificed their loved ones and bread winners to help the Army get its act together after two years into this thing. The good news is that the number of Guard brigades in Iraq is scheduled to go from 7 to 2 next year. Now, if we can only get the regulars out of there, too.

John Negroponte released the 6000 word letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al Zarqawi yesterday that I had expounded on a few days ago. See it at the Inquirer.

Random notes:

This has nothing to do with anything in particular but I just have to add this in: Our good friend Rick Santorum has a bill he's trying to push, HB813, with little success so far, luckily, which would force the National Weather Service to stop providing its forecasts to the public for free. Apparently, senator Santorum feels the Weather Service is unfairly keeping for-profit weather services like AccuWeather from making a bundle of cash. Hey, if you want to know whether it's going to snow next week, you have to pay for it. If you want to know what that hurricane bearing down on you is up to, better pony up the cash to Rick's well connected friends. What a completely irresponsible, moronic idea! Unless you happen to be stock holder at Accuweather, this is a total betrayal of the American taxpayer. Why not just cut all funding to the NOAA? Let the markets run the weather.

In another related Rick Santorum matter: He almost ran over one of my friends in DC a couple of years ago. The victim of Santorum's bad driving was Elizabeth Croydon who happened to be in the process of staring in a movie called Washington Interns Gone Bad at the time. Of the film Santorum said, "I gotta tell you, it really shakes my faith in human nature. Seeing this film will not be on my list of top 10 things to do." What a great endorsement! Thanks Rick! P.S., I was the "Finacial Times Guy" in the movie.

A more few notes:

There are few things I didn't get to write about that happened a few days back when I couldn't get to a computer, one of which is the news that Julie Myers' nomination to be the new immigration enforcement chief was almost in the bag after being endorsed by a party line vote of 7-2 in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. [NYT]Myers is the daughter of outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, and she just happens to be newly married to Michael Chetoff's chief of staff John Wood, but that doesn't mean there's any nepotism or cronyism involved here. The fact that she's never dealt with immigration issues or run such a large organization didn't seem to faze Republicans on the Committee. Tom Coburn---fighter of rampant teenage lesbianism---said, "We need people thinking out of the box, and she's going to do that. She doesn't know what can't be done." Of course, with her limited experience she doesn't know what can be done either.

This is yet another example of the Republicans just rubber stamping any politically connected hack the White House cares to send down the pike. This isn't to say that the Democrats are up in arms about the Myers nomination: Joe Lieberman and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii were both said to be impressed by her intelligence and dedication to public service. Well, that's all you need I guess in this administration, I mean she can learn on the job, immigration enforcement isn't such an important issue these days, just because 440 or so Mexicans have been found dead in the desert and two border states have declared states of emergency doesn't mean she doesn't have plenty of time to ease into the job and get up to speed.

The Lord's Resistance Army:

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, who has been hiding out in Sudan for 20 years. [NYT] The Ugandan government asked the Sudanese to seize Kony but it doesn't seem like this is very likely to happen any time soon. Kony has been very useful to the butchers in Khartoum who have looked the other way while Kony conducted a brutal war against Uganda and abducted up to 20,000 Ugandan children and turned them into fighters, porters and sex slaves. The Sudanese say they don't support the LRD but they say they have nothing to do with the Janjaweed in Darfur, too. It would be nice if the US pressured them to arrest Kony, although that might be construed as tacit enforcement of the ICC and that's something W. and Co. are very much against.

Helping the ICC try a vicious killer like Kony might encourage the court to go after American soldiers, right? It's not the fear that Rummy and W. might find themselves on a court docket for the Iraq invasion if the US signed on to the ICC treaty, oh no, no: they're worry is strictly about protecting US soldiers from an out of control international court that possibly hates America.

In Iraq:

As we get closer the constitutional referendum in Iraq this Saturday, W. says he expects more violence; these insurgents are clearly desperate and will doing anything to prevent large numbers of Iraqis from coming out to vote. In the run up to the elections the US has added another three brigades into the mix bringing the number of US troops in Iraq to some 152,000. The country is going into virtual lock down just like it did before the January elections. I would expect the violence to ebb because the insurgents won't be able to operate under the strict measures being imposed, like the banning of traffic in Baghdad etc. Once the election is declared a raving success and the Shiites and Kurds are given a mandate for their rule via the constitution, I'm sure the insurgency will die on the vine.

Iraqi interior minister and possible lunatic Bayan Jabr told the Arab paper Sharq al-Aswat that the number of foreign fighters---the Arab ones not the Americans---had gone down from 3,000 three months ago to just 900. Apparently the major offensives over the past few months in the western part of the country had decimated their numbers---read the body count---and also because al-Qaeda has decided to send their forces to other countries to build networks there. Where he got this information he didn't say.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:30 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005 1:58 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 11 October 2005
George W. Bush is the greatest president ever!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Man, just when you thought things couldn't get worse for the Bush administration: Mohamed ElBaradei and the IAEA get awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. Here the US worked so feverishly to have him removed for being "wrong" about Saddam's nuclear weapons program and for not being a team player on the whole imminent threat of Iran's nukes and some namby pamby peaceniks give him one of the world's most prestigious awards! Jeez, what else can go wrong? (Don't worry; at least he won't be looking into Israel's covert WMD program any time soon.)

What else could go wrong, you say? What about Timothy Flanagan withdrawing his name from consideration from the number 2 spot at the DOJ? Yep, looks like the former deputy White House council is stuck using his administration connections to lobby for TYCO International for a little while longer. Eric Lichtblau writes for the NYT that Flanagan's nomination, "appears to have been scuttled by a convergence of disparate issues that have proven increasingly difficult for the Bush administration: charges of cronyism in political appointees, the wide-ranging investigation into Mr. Abrahoff's political lobbying work and lingering concern about the administration's allowance of the questionable treatment of suspected terrorists." You mean the water-boarding-is-good-for-leaving-no-marks comment wasn't helpful?

Who says the administration is filling the government with incompetent hacks who do the bidding of their corporate masters? Where's the evidence for that?

While the administration was digesting this set-back, David Safavian was in court answering charges of obstruction of justice in another Jack Abramoff case. Safavian's lawyer, whose picture is in the dictionary next to the word Chutzpah, said the golfing trip Safavian took to Scotland with Abramoff, was a personal trip, not professional. "A man wanted to go golfing with his friends. It was all about golf." Yeah, sure, I believe that, Safavian and Abramoff were buds. Just because a high powered lobbyist with connections to the highest levels of government wanted to take this relatively low level official out for a round of golf--in Scotland!---no one should get the idea there was anything fishy about it.

In Harriet Miers news:

Ryan J. Donmeyer writes for Bloomberg News that Miers' law firm, helped accounting firm Ernst & Young to "sell what came to be regarded as a sham tax shelter in 1999 by providing letters to shield customers from IRS penalties, a senate investigation found." Miers was comanager of the firm, Locke, Liddlle & Sapp, from 1999 to 2001. The article quotes White House spokesman Allan Abney as saying, "the transactions involved appropriate tax strategies," and noted that the firm said Miers was not involved with the shelter. One wonders what she did at the firm if she didn't know what was going on. Because these tax shelters were so "appropriate" Ernst & Young paid $15 million in fines to settle with the IRS over its tax shelter promotions in 2003. You'd think that kind of potential liability might have gotten the comanager of the firm's attention! But hey, she was probably too busy writing love notes to W..

Jay Root for the Knight Ridder News Service writes that the Texas State Library has released 2000 documents, including letters between Bush and Miers over the years. "In a 1996 letter thanking Bush and his wife Laura, for serving as chairs of a Dallas luncheon honoring Ms. Miers, she spoke of a little girl who had raved about getting Bush's autograph. 'I truly believe if the governor told her she should be an astronaut, she would do her best to become one. I was struck by the tremendous impact you have on the children whose lives you touch.' Barf! "You are the best governor ever----deserving of great respect!" In 1997 she got to take a plane trip with W. and she wrote to him that she thought it was "cool."

This sounds like the kind of person who is really going to be able to grapple with the major issues of the day in an independent and fair way, right? David Frum says she's merely a loyal assistant. "She's not an initiator. She was never a force for anything...She reflects the president's philosophy."

I think the picture is becoming pretty clear that this woman will go into the position ready to do the bidding of her beloved leader. Now I see what W. meant by saying she was the best candidate he could find. She was the least well known---he would have appointed Rove if he could have---and she's is rabidly loyal to him personally. (And then there's her tenure at the Texas Lottery commission which I'll get into at another time.) I don't see how any senator, Republican or Democrat, could possibly vote for this woman to be on the highest court in the land. What a travesty it would be if they confirm her. If the object of this nomination is to convince the rest of the world, and our creditors, that we're nothing but a banana republic; mission accomplished.

Note: W. is in New Orleans, again. He assures us this shameless exploitation of the Katrina disaster is not merely a photo-op: while he said this he was strutting around with a tool belt on.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:59 PM EDT
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Friday, 7 October 2005
That old dog needs a new trick.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

W. got into his time machine yesterday and took us back to his glory days of 9/11. David Sanger writes in the NYT that a senior White House official said Bush's "major" speech on terrorism was designed to remind Americans about the threat of Al-Qaeda after "a lot of distractions" over the past few months. Distractions? I think what this speech was all about was distracting us from those pesky indictments, charges of cronyism, corruption and FEMA's bungling of the Katrina aftermath. 'Look over here, there's a guy with a turban on!'

W. repeated the same old boilerplate about the "global struggle" and the danger of the terrorists taking over Iraq. Also included in the presentation was a hastily put together hand-out listing potential attacks thwarted by the government---you see, we really are doing something----along with the highly dubious contention that Jose Padilla was stopped from setting off a dirty bomb. Gosh, I feel safer all ready, don't you? If Katrina showed us nothing else, it showed us that W. is on the job.

W. said the US couldn't leave Iraq because we couldn't afford that country becoming a training ground for terrorists. What planet is this guy living on? Iraq has become the Harvard of terrorist universities: where else do they get such an excellent opportunity to learn how to defeat our tactics and kill a lot of our guys? Of course, they wouldn't be able to do this if certain countries weren't giving them aid and support, like Syria and Iran who are, "authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience...that share the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments." Which moderate Muslim governments is he talking about: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait?

Syria might be an authoritarian government, but so is Jordan. King Adbullah II is just as much of a dictator as Bashar Assad, both of whom are Jeffersonian democrats compared to the Saudis. It gets kind of complicated out there in the real world, its not all black and white, but don't tell that to W., he's playing war president. And seriously, do Syria and Iran really want to hurt the US, are they just as much of a threat as OBL? (Where is OBL these days W.?) I think, they are probably feeling real nervous about having a huge foreign army camped out right next door and are reacting pretty much like any country would if they had a massive super power on a crusade saying they're in the cross hairs.

W. says "Islamo-Fascism" like "the ideology of communism contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure." So, why are we spending so much of our blood and treasure on something that's eventually going to collapse under its own weight? The whole communism analogy is nonsense anyway; communism wasn't monolithic and neither is Al-Qaeda. [The Vietnamese hated the Chinese, they would have never allowed the Chinese to run the show, but despite the obvious staring McNamara and Johnson right in the face they went into Vietnam to stop the spread of Chinese communism.]

A letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that surfaced this week pretty much blows away the notion that these guys are one the same page and working together. Al-Zuwahiri tells al-Zarqawi to focus on killing Americas and knock off the killing of civilians and beheadings of hostages. Zawahiri says his grand plan is to expel the Americans from Iraq and then set up a militant Islamic caliphate before moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, ending in the destruction of Israel. (Naturally, no Islamo-maniacle plan would be complete without the destruction of Israel.)

Strangely, this sort of sounds like the Project for the New American Century's (PNAC) grand scheme for the Middle East, except for the part about destroying Israel. In any case, these people are just insane; their plans have no chance of ever succeeding. They're obviously very, very dangerous, but we're helping them out by presenting them with the perfect training ground and a source for recruitment and fund raising. We need to stop playing right into their hands and see them for what they are.

There is no indication in this letter that al-Zarqawi actually takes orders from al-Zawahiri, or what the relationship between al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is, but al-Zawahiri asked Zarqawi for some money for al-Qaeda operations, which struck me as kind of funny: "Here's what you should be doing, I'm in charge here and, by the way, can you send some cash?'

Boy, if this scheme of distracting us with the threat of terrorism doesn't work, I don't know what W. is going to do, it's pretty much the only arrow he's got left in the quill. It's looking more and more likely an indictment is coming down for Karl Rove, so W.'s brain is going to be a little busy trying to stay out of jail. What's plan B?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:34 PM EDT
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Thursday, 6 October 2005
Is it just me or is this administration losing it?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

These are not happy times in Morning-in-America-land. It seems like just yesterday W. was taking a 5 week vacation---getting lots of bike riding and bush whacking in---and Ann Coulter and her crew of misfits and bloglodytes were happily attacking Cindy Sheehan for having all sorts of dark associations with "hard left" groups whose agenda was the overthrow of the US government etc. and now in the blink of an eye all the neocons and nincompoops are accusing W. of cronyism and incompetence! This Miers nomination is going to go down as one of the biggest presidential blunders in history, right next to FDR's court packing plan. I mean, right after all the bad press associated with the Michael Brown and the Katrina fiasco and in the midst of the DeLay/Frist/Abramoff scandals W. picks a close personal friend and adviser, who has no experience as a judge and has no discernible record one way or the other on all the great legal questions of the day, to be the one to solidify the right wing vote on the Court? How politically tone deaf can you get? (This is just the scenario many thought would happen if he picked Alberto Gonzalez; the right and left attacking the administration from both sides.)

Maybe Cheney's leg splints and Karl Rove's gall stones, or whatever his problem is, along with his impending indictment, are effecting the brain truster's judgment? Here's an extremely right wing, ultra religious president with two Supreme Court vacancies, the fanatic's wet dream, and he blows it. It's going to be said that Bush betrayed his most rabid right wing supporters, the ones who gave him his "political capital" to begin with, just like daddy did to the Pat Buchanans of his day. These people wanted Clarance Thomas on steroids and this is what they get: SNL's church lady?

The Democrats are going to cross their fingers and hope she's another Sandra Day O'Connor, which isn't exactly a good thing, but is better than the Attila the Hun they were expecting. They would be mistaken to be so sanguine, they ought to fight this thing into the '06 elections. Filibuster it, do whatever, just hold up the vote in the senate. Make the fight as bloody as possible, ask for those legal briefs on torture! It's not a given that Miers will be confirmed, the Democrats ought to seize this opportunity to start acting like the opposition. There's a weak president, getting weaker by the day, the "Hammer" is trying to stay out of the slammer and the senate Republicans are split. (This would also be a good time for the moderate Republicans to try and take back their party from the bomb throwers.)

Remember, there is still the Republican agenda that must be stopped: the Patriot Act, making tax cuts permanent, Social Security, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast etc. an entire swath of destruction they could be blocked or mitigated if the Republicans were on their heels. I say kick them while they're down, they would do the same. (You don't sit on a 3 point lead in the 4th quarter by running out the clock, you keep throwing down field.)

What's beautiful about this situation, too, is the various right wing "grass roots" religious groups are in a quandary over this whole thing. On the one hand, if they support Bush and Miers turns out to be another David Souter- type they'll look like idiots in the eyes of their flock, and if they don't support Bush on this they'll be leaving themselves out in the political wilderness, because they're all on the same sinking ship. They should have taken Paul Weyrich's advise and gotten out of politics a long time ago.

[Well, at least, Pat Robertson has endorsed the Miers nomination. Bush has him on his side, which must be quite reassuring. But, wasn't Miers in the ABA? Aren't they some sort of communist group or something?]

More scandal:

Yesterday, pentagon analyst Larry Franklin pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in giving government secrets to two AIPAC officials. He will be testifying against the two, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, as the star witness for the government in exchange for a reduced sentence. He said he also met with Naor Gilon, a political officer at the Israeli embassy, 8 or 9 times, this being the unnamed foreign government official listed in the indictment. He said his motivation was to help push a harder line against Iran by leaking this information to the press. Not that Israel would ever spy on us or anything, but I guess they did. The Israel official, of course, was recalled to Israel just in a nick of time.

And more scandal:

David Safavian, the Bush administration's ex-chief procurement official, was indicted yesterday on charges of making false statements and obstructing Senate and executive branch investigations into Jack Abramoff. The investigations Safavian allegedly obstructed involved him helping Abramoff acquire property by the General Services Administration while he worked there. Was he influenced by the August 2002 trip Abramoff tokk him on to St Andrews Scotland with Ralph Reed (I'm sure he preyed the whole time.) and rep. Bob Ney? Safavian's lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, says he will plead not guilty, of course. She says it's all a frame up: "If this case did not involve Mr. Abramoff, the government would have never indicted Mr. Safavian on these charges." So, if Safavian had just been giving away public property to some schmuck, rather than Abramoff, that would have been ok, the government generally looks the other way in those cases, right? [AP]

Speaking of Jack Abramoff:

And Tom DeLay, too: The AP has found that Tom DeLay raised a whole bunch of cash for the 2000 GOP convention. In fact, he raised way more than he actually needed and then diverted it to Roy Blunt and his son, Matt, to his private charity, to a consulting firm where his wife just happened to work, but mainly to himself and to Roy Blunt. (Do I feel another Republican House leadership change coming on?) The AP article says long time Blunt aide Gregg Hartley felt that "the fact that DeLay's charity, Christine DeLay's consulting form and Blunt's son were beneficiaries was a coincidence." Of course, they planned on raising extra money and helping themselves to it, but it's all a coincidence, stuff happens.

There was a lot of money moving around: Blunt sending it to DeLay, DeLay sending it to Blunt, Blunt and DeLay sending it to DeLay's co-indictee Jim Ellis, from this place to that charity, to PACs no one has ever heard of etc., much like the Texas 2002 campaign laundering case.

And don't forget about Jack Abramoff: if there's a shady deal and money to be made, he's in the picture, His business clients in the Marianas islands gave DeLay money to fix certain legislation they didn't like, which no doubt made it's way back to Abramoff. [Remember the Guam investigation?] The AP says a former Federal Elections Commissioner they consulted for thier story said "investigators should examine whether the pattern of disguising the original source of money might have been a bid to hide simultaneous financial and legislative dealings with Abramoff and his clients." You think? This story just goes deeper and deeper, what's next? But, it's all a coincidence, you're all a bunch of partisan fanatics!

McCain and Graham in 2008!

To their great credit, John McCain and Lindsay Graham have successfully got their anti-torture amendment onto a defense appropriations bill. The Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners in US military hands. The idea of the amendment is to make sure everybody is on the same page when it comes to interrogations. McCain said, "we demanded intelligence without ever clearly telling our troops what was permitted and what was forbidden." Of course, that's just the way Rummy wants it; if there are no rules, you can't be blamed for anything. [No rules, just right.]

W. said before and he's saying again, he will veto the 440 billion dollar defense spending bill if the provision is included. The great "conservative" president who never saw a spending bill he didn't like, who has never vetoed a bill---ever---is going to veto this one if it says we can't beat helpless prisoners to a pulp anymore. So, what's wrong if people are kept up for a while, made to stand for over 8 hours---Rummy stands for 8 hours---what the big deal? This bill will tie the president's hands and, as I heard some jack ass on the BBC this morning say, if there's another 9/11 style attack investigators will ask why we passed this bill. We have to have the ability to throw our moral authority out the window, to break every law, to do whatever we feel like, because we can, to fight this war on terror. Don't you understand, these people hate our way of life, even though is starting to look a lot like theirs.

In any case, it just shows how much a lame duck W. is starting to become; that two Republican senators pushed this amendment, against his direct threat of a veto, and 90 senators voted for it. Now, the House is another matter: in conference committee this is going to be a tough sell. It might have a chance, now that DeLay is out of the picture. Who knows, between now and then, when the two houses get together to hash this out, maybe Blunt will be gone too. I question the ability of Dennis Hastert to keep his troops in line. Hopefully the Democrats won't fold, like they usu sally do. It will be a long hard slog, as someone once said, but I'd love to see the look on W.'s face if it comes to his desk!

Aaaaa chooooo:

At his press conference on Tuesday W. said in answer to a question about the threat of an avian flu pandemic that he's "thought through all the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. I'm not predicting an outbreak. I'm just suggesting to you that we'd better be thinking about it." First of all, I'm kind of surprised that he had such a ready answer for the question, but the notion of him having "thought through all the scenarios" seems a little hard to believe. I think he said he read a book on the issue, or he had someone read it to him, at least, but looking back on the Katrina debacle I'm not holding my breath---or maybe I should---that he's got a clue about how to deal with such an eventuality.

Science isn't his administration's strong suit, I expect any science advise he got would have to come from a faith based approach. 'Let us all pray.' When he opined---he likes that word, Oh Pine----"If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not quarantine that part of the country, and how do you enforce a quarantine?" Naturally, a military solution is the first thing that came to my mind: "One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move." We've gone from "having a discussion" about getting rid of the Posse Comitatus law of 1878, just a few weeks ago, to using the 82nd Air Borne to quarantine an entire section of the country! Germs are kind of like terrorists, they strike unexpectedly and they hate our form of government, they hate our freedom.

I think most public health experts would opt for something a little less Patonesque and a little more targeted and more likely to actually work. W. says while he was at the UN he used his visit to "talk to as many leaders as I could find" to report outbreaks as quickly as possible. What, were they all running from him, how hard was it to find leaders to talk to? Perhaps they had some inkling he might deal with an outbreak with shock and awe and didn't want to get in his sights.

Like I said before, I think most people nowadays are just crossing their fingers, toes, legs, eyes, whatever they got, and hoping this idiot doesn't get us all killed.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:03 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005 12:20 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 5 October 2005
W. is putting us on, right?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

A reporter asked W. if he really thought Harriet Miers was the most qualified person for the Supreme Court job, out of all the lawyers and judges in the US. "Yes, otherwise I would have not put her on." I think he's putting us on: this nomination is so clearly yet another political pay off for services rendered it's embarrassing. What must other countries be thinking of our government? We just experienced a very painful lesson in New Orleans of the consequences of putting people in positions of power that they are in no way qualified for and W. goes along and does something like this. No doubt, Ms. Miers is a very good lawyer and is good at what she does but is she really the best this country has to offer for the highest court in the land?

Utah senator Orrin Snatch, for one, things so. "A lot of my fellow conservatives are concerned, but they don't know her as I do. She's going to basically do what the president thinks she should..." I don't know if that's exactly a ringing endorsement of the nominee; I mean, I thought judges weighed the evidence and made fair and balanced judgments free of any preconceived prejudices. I think it is pretty well established already that she is anti-abortion, is a born again Christian and owes her high position and now her potential appointment to the Supreme Court to George W. Bush. When he and Orrin Hatch say 'trust us' I get real worried.

As if the Republicans in congress don't have enough to worry about with DeLay and Frist, now they have to grin and bear it and vote for this very weak candidate that their fearless leader is foisting on them. Miers is such a mixed bag it's hard to tell how her upcoming nomination hearings will go. Either the Republicans are going to jump ship over her past support for civil rights for gays and other moderate transgressions or the Democrats are going to actually grow a pair for once and fight the appointment over something like the anti-abortion thing or maybe even her, as yet unknown, views on the torture memos and the rights of detainees at Gitmo. This is a real Achilles heal for Bush & Co. if the Dem's can get a hold of any of her legal papers.

Again, I say, the mind boggles at the state of our country and the pathetic condition of our governing institutions. This kind of corruption and patronage was fine back in the Grant administration when we were basically a small and unimportant country in the grand scheme of world affairs, but now we're the center of the universe and these idiots running our country are running it into the ground and taking the whole world along for the ride.

In Iraq news today:

The Shiites and their Kurdish co-conspirators have relented on their sneaky plan to prevent the Sunnis from vetoing the referendum, due to pressure from the UN and the US. This is not to say it will make that much of a difference; I'm sure the various Shiite militias and Iraqi "security forces" will be out in force in the Sunni areas on Oct. 15 the make sure the polls are "secure" from voting. The idea that the Sunnis will be able to veto the Constitution by getting enough votes to block it in at least three of their four provinces is a little far fetched anyway.

In related story, I hear today that the Iranian foreign minister has postponed a trip to meet with his counterpart in Saudi Arabia. The reason given is technical difficulties, but one has to wonder. I hear the Iraqi Interior Minister, Bayan Baqer Sulagh, called the Saudi foreign minister a "Bedouin on a camel," the other day, which sort of highlights the growing tensions between the Sunni Saudis and the Shiite Iranians and their Iraqi clients. The Saudis have been making noises for weeks about their discomfort with Iranian influence in the south of Iraq, but it is unknown what the US is going to do about it. [News flash: Brits blame Iran for all their casualties this year. BBC]

We might have the largest army in the Middle East right now, but we're nothing more than just another militia in the already raging civil war in Iraq. At some point, we're going to have to decide who we're allied with: the Saudis who fund the foreign Sunni al-Qaeda elements, but also give us tons of oil: or the Iranians who are helping our allies in the Iraqi government, like Ayatollah Ali-Sistani and Ahmad Chalabi. Our only other option is to go with the Kurds, but then we'll alienate the Turks who we are trying to get cozy with again. Its a very sticky wicket, but I'm sure our foreign policy is in the capable hands with Condi Rice.

Able Danger. Again.

In the NYT on Oct. 1, Douglas Jehl reported that, " a second Republican member of congress had said that Steven Hadley, who was then the deputy national security director, was given a chart shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks that showed information collected about Al-Qaeda before the attacks by a secret military intelligence program called Able Danger." Representative Dan Burton (Once on the cover of Sanity Fair), said that on the 25th of Sept. 2001 he attended a meeting with Hadley along with Rep. Curt Weldon at which Weldon showed Hadley the chart.

After initially refusing to comment on this account, Hadley's spokesperson has now said that Hadley did see the chart but didn't recall seeing it with Weldon and that no record of the chart has been found: "Mr. Hadley did in fact meet with Congressman Weldon on Sept. 25 2001. He recalls that in that same time period receiving a briefing on link analysis as a counter terrorism tool. But he does not recall whether he was shown that chart in the meeting with Mr. Weldon or in another meeting. Either way Mr. Hadley does not recall seeing a chart bearing the name or photo of Mohammed Atta."

The 9/11 commission doesn't recall seeing it and neither not does the pentagon, but Weldon keeps whacking away at this story, mainly because he wants the government to pump a bunch of money into data mining something that's controversial because it involves fishing around in people's personal information in order to maybe get lucky and find a terrorist. John Poindexter tried it and got fired.

One of Weldon's chief sources for this Atta-on-a-chart story, who supposedly worked in Able Danger, is Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer. The AP reported, also on the 1st, that Shaffer had his top security clearance revoked a day before he was to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the 21st of Sept. for breaking numerous military rules."The reported infractions by Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, 42, include obtaining a service medal under false pretenses, improperly flashing military identification while drunk, and stealing pens, according to paperwork from the pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency that his attorney showed the Associated Press."

Shaffer's lawyer says the pentagon is trying to discredit him because of his speaking out about Able Danger. He claims that these charges were a long time ago and were merely "youthful indiscretions." Oh, I'm so sure, but stealing pens? This story is so farcical, when is Weldon going to get a real job and stop wasting our time?

[post post post: reports are today that Iraqi president Talabani doesn't think PM Jaafari should resign: "I don't think Mr Jaafari should resign, I think he should correct his method of work," Talabani said at a news conference in the Czech capital. "We asked him to respect the law and to respect the equilibrium between the Kurdistan alliance and Shiite alliance, that's all." AFP]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:20 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005 12:27 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 4 October 2005
Miers a weiner?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

The president had a press conference in the Rose Garden today, which is unusual, and talked about his new nominee for the Supreme Court Harriet Miers, the White House Council and longtime Bush crony. What struck me was his insistence that twenty years from now she would have the same philosophy that she has now. Obviously, he was trying to keep the fanatic wing of the party sweet and assuage their fears that he was appointing another David Sutter, but what does it say for the nominee that she is so fixed in her views that over twenty years she won't budge an inch on her preconceived notions of whatever it is she believes in?

If I were a Democratic senator I would be very afraid of this woman. First of all, if W. thinks she's all that and a bag of chips, you have to wonder how far out there in la la land she really is. There's no doubt the judiciary committee is going to get even less of a paper trail on her than they did on John Roberts and if she's a good lawyer she'll be able to double talk her way out of answering any meaningful questions on what it is she actually will do once she's confirmed, so voting to confirm is going to be a real shot in the dark.

Having Roberts on the Court is one thing, he's just replacing another right winger, but this is the crucial swing vote, if she turns out to be one of these rabid what-would -Jesus-do types, with a propensity of deferring to corporations on questions of the environment and labor issues, she could really turn the clock back quite a ways.

Perhaps, even back to the beginning: she said yesterday, "It is the responsibility of every generation to be true to the founder's vision of the proper role of the courts in our society." She said she had a "tremendous responsibility" to "ensure that the courts meet their obligation to strictly apply the law and the Constitution." Does that include the Negroes being 3 fifths of a person thing too? The constitution has been amended a few times, I'm just wondering how strict she's going to be in her interpretation of what the founders wanted. (I'm assuming she knows Moses wasn't one of the founders.)

Dick Polman in the Philly Inquirer thinks judging by the reaction of the right wingers that her nomination is a potential wedge the Democrats can exploit to separate W. from his extremist right wing base. He points out that while right wing nut jobs like David Frum are saying things like, "[Bush] has based his personnel decisions upon a network of personal connections in which competence plays no very large part" (Worked out OK for him.), Democratic senate leader Harry Reid is saying, "I like Harriet Miers."

You can't help thinking part of the strategy involved in this pick is the fact that W.'s political capital, which he's so fond of spending, might be pretty much in the same state as his ballooning federal deficits, and he's trying to avoid a bloodbath in the senate over a real fire-breathing-bible-thumper that would appeal more to his "conservative" base.

Just like our military, I think Bush & Co. are stretched a little thin these days with all the scandals and sinking polls numbers and they want to use what little political pull they might have for other fights like making tax cuts for the very rich perminate. The rich are a constituency he has to keep on his side, too; it's not all about the wacko fringe who read the Weakly Standard's editor Bill Kristal who says the Mier's pick is, "a combination of crony ism and capitulation."

Of course, Kristal is correct, it most assuredly is, but Billy boy and his bunch can go bay at the moon because all his neocon brothers are out in the cold after the Iraq fiasco. Rove and the brain trust probably calculate Kristal and his ilk will get over it, as long as W. keeps doing what Sharon tells him to do. And that goes for the rest of them too: the Limbaughs, the Dobsons and the Robertsons, they're all going to have to eat shit on this one because they've got no one else to turn to.

In Iraq news:

It looks like the Shiite and the Kurds are really learning the Rovian style of democracy; they've very quietly put a provision into effect that will disenfranchise the Sunnis no matter how they vote on October 15. They've made it almost impossible for the Sunnis to reject the constitution in the referendum by saying that, according to the AP, "two-thirds of registered voters must vote "no" — not two-thirds of those who actually vote. The interpretation raises the bar to a level almost impossible to meet. In a province of 1 million registered voters, for example, 660,000 would have to vote "no" — even if that many didn't even come to the polls." The US is reportedly desperately trying to get them to go back to the original formula, but Zalamy Khalilzad might have better luck making a call to Tehran, because the're the ones running the show over there.

Operation Iron Fist is over and Operation River Gate is on. The new offensive is taking place about about 93 miles down river of where OIF was and is the largest to date with 2,500 US troops along with those crack Iraqi units, according to the AP. Although, I'm sure this new offensive will up the body count and cause the insurgents to redeploy, I'm still not clear on what this does to stop car bombings in Baghdad. Particularly in the Green Zone, where another car bomb blew up today.

Speaking of the Green Zone NPR's Ann Garrels was able to sneak this report out of the heavily guarded enclave. Very interesting, what goes on in the Green Zone stays in the Green Zone.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:56 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005 2:49 PM EDT
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Monday, 3 October 2005
Delay the Iron Fist.
Topic: General News.

Tom DeLay says he can do his “job with or without the title” and that he’s still running the show. Poor guy, he’s a little deluded, he thinks all he’s lost is his title, but he’s also lost his fancy office and his staff and it’s not exactly like his party is falling over themselves to defend him. (I’m sure the Democrats are hoping the GOP lets DeLay continue to run things.) DeLay says he and House “leader” Dennis Hastert are of one mind on their grand Republican agenda of lowering gas prices, cutting taxes and enforcing immigration laws. He says Hastert and him are “simpatico,” but I think a more appropriate metaphor for their relationship would be of a puppeteer and a puppet.

Without DeLay pulling the strings Hastert is pretty much left powerless to do anything. We’ll see what Roy Blunt can do but he doesn’t have the relationship with Hastert that DeLay does and he doesn’t have the money and K-Street connections. Speaking of the K-Street project, what are Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed up to these days? Probably laying low hoping that whole Jack Abramoff thing doesn’t come back to snap them in the ass.

Operation Iron Fist update:

The US military says they’ve killed 28 insurgents in around the towns of Karabilah and Sadah on the Euphrates River valley area in their latest offensive Operation Iron Fist (See below.)[AP]. When did they bring back the body count, by the way, and why do they always seem to kill insurgents in even numbers? It’s a little odd to me that they’ve decided to revive the practice, discredited in the Vietnam War, of making up phony evidence of progress by counting bodies. They’ve repeated every other mistake made in Vietnam, so I guess this is par for the course.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed they had taken two Marines prisoner and would kill them in 48 hours unless the Iraqi government released all female detainees. (I assume they’re referring to Dr Germ and Mrs. Anthrax?) The Multinational Force West says, “There are no indications that the al-Qaeda claims are true,” and said they were checking to make sure “all Marines are accounted for.” Well, that’s reassuring.

In political news: Iraqi president Jalal Talibani is calling for PM Ibrahim Jafaari to resign. Talibani accuses Jafaari of monopolizing power and dragging his feet on the de-Arabization of Kirkuk. I’m sure this is all political posturing but the issue of Kirkuk is a big keg of TNT sitting right in the middle of room that’s got its fuse lit. No matter what else happens, Kurdish independence and Kirkuk are going to have to be dealt with one way or the other.

There is no question that the Turks are serious about not allowing the Kurds to control Kirkuk but the Iranians have their own population of troublesome Kurds and they are no doubt up to their necks in the issue of Kirkuk as well. They obviously have a major beachhead in the Iraqi government in the form of Jafaari’s Shiite bloc and their infiltration of Basra gives them a powerful hand to play. Talibani’s concerns about Jafaari’s power play inside the government are most likely linked to Iran’s meddling.

I don’t see how we’re going to circle this Kirkuk/Kurdish independence square without several other countries in the region getting involved in the fighting inside Iraq, including Israel who is reported to have sent Mossad agents to train Kurdish rebels inside Iran.

This is what happens when you let your foreign policy be run by a bunch of ideologues with a nice theory but no practical knowledge of the how to implement it. Raw military power has its limits, especially when there is no provision made for the political and diplomatic requirements of a monumental undertaking such as transforming a backward Arab country with a toxic ethnic and religious history into a modern western democracy.

Where are Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristal when you need them? Any new theories in where we go from here guys?

Saturday notes:

The US announced the beginning of Operation Iron Fist today, a military offensive aimed at supposedly preventing al-Qaeda from entering Iraq from across the Syrian border. It’s good to finally see some truth in advertising in this new operation’s nomenclature; it really invokes memories of Fallujah II. (So much or winning hearts and minds.) I wonder why so much attention is being focused on the Syrian border if, as the pentagon says, only about 2 percent of the insurgency is of foreign origin? I thought the main threat was former Ba’athist Sunnis, Rummy’s Saddam regime “deadenders “

Do we really have to bomb Tal Afar and Qaim into the Stone Age to get at these terrorists, or al-Qaeda, or whatever they’re calling them this week? [If we get into the way-back machine and go back to Saigon in 1962 or so, we’ll see the US information agency in Vietnam coming up with the bright idea of calling the Vietminh the Vietcong, in order to make the them more commie sounding. Branding them as the “Cong” helped reinforce the image of a Godless yellow peril.]

From what I can glean from the media reports coming from pentagon briefings in the Green Zone, there seems to be quite a lot of insurgent activity and the resulting mass casualties going on in around Baghdad and not so much out in the western deserts.

Operation Sword, Operation Steel Resolve, Operation Futile Flailing and all the other heavy handed “Operations” being launched every other week on the border don’t seem to be accomplishing much beyond moving desert Iraqis, already living in squalid conditions, into Red Crescent refugee tent cities and providing plenty of rubble for the insurgents to find cover in. [Remember the Russians in Stalingrad, don’t the Generals read history books?]

The Iraqis and Syrians have been smuggling in that area for a millennia or more, I don’t see how we’re going to put a stop to it with these ad hoc offensives.

Even though Robert Kagan is basically a more scholarly Ton Clancy type, he makes a good point when he says our assets over there could be used more intelligently and effectively if we stopped employing WW II set piece tactics and started fighting the insurgency on their level. We do have the ability and know how to fight these guys with the Special Forces.

Ultimately, however, even this sort of warfare is only going to accomplish so much, but we can’t just keep going on sending our troops out there to die like sitting ducks on needless supply convoys.

Lets do more with less. Most of our people in Iraq are not even fighting; they’re just hunkered down in heavily defended “fire bases.” Lets get some assets in there who are trained and equipped, make them light and mobile and drop the static base strategy.

But it worked so well for William Westmoreland in Ka Sanh and General Leclerc at Diem Bien Phu. (n'est-il pas?) God! We’ve recreated the Colonial Highway system! I’m not with Kagan on staying the course, though, we have to get out; find an opportune moment, declare victory and adios!

And just one more thought: When are we going to stop playing paddy cake with the Saudis? I read today in the WSJ that the US State Department has postponed for six months imposing sanctions including trade restrictions on Saudi Arabia for their brutal crushing of religious freedoms. The only difference between the Saudis and the Taliban is that the Saudis drive Mercedes not donkeys. Oh, and by the way, all those al-Qaeda types coming across the border, that we’re spending so much time and ammunition trying to stop, are mainly Saudis.

Sending all their young fanatics to Iraq is good for preserving the royal family’s gilded hides, but is generally bad for the average Iraqi and keeping all his body parts intact. If I were the president, I’d tell the Saudis to knock it off or we’ll stop buying their oil, an embargo in reverse. It takes two to tango and even the Chinese can’t buy that much oil, King Abdullah will have to either deal with his homegrown religious nuts or think about shutting down a few dozen of his palaces for a while.

Between the Canadians and our strategic oil reserve and maybe thinking about making nice with Hugo Chavez---he’s really just a screwball, he’s not trying to kill us---we can sweat them out. Every dollar we put in the tank goes right into Jihad Inc. As Tom Friedman pointed out last week on Tim Russert’s show, we’re funding both sides of the war on terror. It has to stop.

Fuck the poor, they don’t vote for us anyway!

I know W. is all about ending inequity and poverty and maybe even showing us some of his scars these days, but unfortunately congress is not in such a Johnsonian state of mind. On Friday, just as everybody was packing up for the weekend, the senate passed by a voice vote, a bill to continue spending levels from this year until November 18th, because they couldn’t pass government pending bills before the end of the fiscal year. The newspapers all dutifully reported this in their “briefing” sections, the focus of the story being this is the 9th year in a row the congress hasn’t been able to pass their spending bills before October first. After 9 years, this isn’t really news.

What is news, is that the House the day before passed a “continuing resolution” which included Republican cuts to community grant programs across the board in some cases 50 to 75%. [NPR]

Tom Harkin (D.Iowa) told his colleges that voting for the bill would cut money for those most desperately in need of it. Some 1.8 million without high school educations, 3.7 million poor children, millions of disabled Americans rely on these programs and Harkin called for an amendment to be added the senate bill to restore the funding. The Republicans would have none of it. Mississippi senator…..said that in order to vote on an amendment attached to the bill the House would have to be called back to vote for it, which was too much trouble.

Harkin counted that it wasn’t too much trouble for the House to come back on Easter Sunday to vote for the Terry Schiavo bill, but in the end, Harkin’s efforts were to no avail. The Republicans rammed the bill through on a very dubious voice vote, which is their usual tactic when they know they might lose an honest tally. And then W. signed it. Now, the senate can go home and if anybody bothers to point out that the rhetoric coming out the White House about caring for the poor is somewhat undermined by this legislative lynching of the country’s most vulnerable, they’ll blame it on the House.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:00 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005 1:33 PM EDT
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Friday, 30 September 2005
Principles and governance.
Topic: General News.

Big news today: Judith Miller is out of jail. She is going to testify to the grand jury investigating the leaking of a CIA agent’s name about what Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, told her about Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger.

She says that by going to jail rather than reveling a source she was upholding a time honored journalistic principle. What she didn’t explain is why she spent 85 days in an Alexandria lock up (Wasn’t she in a DC jail before?) when she could have testified, because Libby signed a waiver for her to do so.

Libby’s lawyer said, “ We were very surprised to learn this had anything to do with us and wish we had known this earlier, that it was her position that she wanted to talk to Libby directly.” (Do these guys read the newspaper?) He said Miller’s lawyer approached him last month to ask if Miller could ask Libby if the waiver was genuine and not coerced. By and by, she was able to get the ok from Scooter and here we are.

This all is kind of fishy to me, there’s something defiantly rotten in Denmark. Knowing Miller’s connection to the neo-cons (John Bolton visited her in prison.) and their agenda it’s not a big surprise that her lawyer says he expects her testimony to be consistent with what other journalists have said and that it will “be helpful to him,” meaning Libby.

Yes, that’s what this was all about; journalistic principle and helping Libby and Rove avoid an indictment. She’s done her job; I can see a plumb ambassadorial appointment to Liechtenstein in her future, can’t you just?

In other Bush administration scandal news:

Lawrence Franklin, the pentagon analyst indicted on charges of giving classified documents to two AIPAC officials, will plead guilty in a plea agreement next Wednesday. All along he had professed his innocence, but now it seems he’s decided to play ball with the government and will, no doubt, testify against the two AIPAC officials Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman.

These two are charged with conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US defense information for their own political agendas and for an unnamed foreign government. I’ll give you one guess on which one. There are still some lingering questions about how Franklin got the information and what role if any deputy undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith had in this whole affair. [Inquirer] See my previous posts on this subject for more on that and this article in Tom Paine by Robert Drefuss for more on Doug Feith.

Casey at bat:

The AP reports that the pentagon’s top brass testifying to the Senate Armed Services committee yesterday wasn’t exactly a rousing success. Senators appeared to be skeptical about the pentagon’s claims of progress in training Iraqi forces after General George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, said that the readiness of Iraqi battalions able to fight insurgents on their own without US military help had gone from 3 to 1. (How much do we want to bet that one is mainly Peshmerga?)

Susan Collins, a republican, said, “It doesn’t feel like progress when we hear today that there is only one Iraqi battalion fully capable.” A rational person might come to that conclusion but from the pentagon’s point of view the good news is that 75 percent of the US trained Iraqi army was at least capable of engaging in combat, albeit with US troops providing support in most cases. Yes, that’s great news; we’re at least maintaining the status quo.

Casey “declined to give a break down of Iraqi combat readiness, which he said was classified as a secret.” I’ve asked this before, but why is this information a secret? I’m sure the insurgents knows exactly what the relative readiness and strengths are of all Iraqi forces including, home addresses of the commanders and how many bullets each soldier has. The only ones in the dark about this are congress and the American people.

So, what does this mean for General Casey’s prediction that major troop withdrawals could start to happen in early 2006? He wasn’t quite as sure this time around; he said it would depend on the political situation after the referendum. General John Abazaid assured the Senators that there were encouraging signs in the insurgency shifting to the west of Iraq, “which is a good sign, a good indicator that Iraqi and US forces are having an effect elsewhere.” Where? In Baquba where a hundred Iraqis died yesterday, or in Ramadi where a roadside bomb killed 5 Marines? I quess, Ramadi is kind of in the west, so its good to see the insurgents are staying put.

The problems with governance:

I heard Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kuba on the BBC this morning and he was pretty sanguine about the level of US troops currently in Iraq. He said attacks by insurgents were down, presumably because of all the progress being made, but the lethality of the attacks was up. So, that’s good, right? Robert Kagan was on Radio Times this morning pushing his new book, “Imperial Grunts” and he made the point that in a country of 23 million, a hundred blown up here or a hundred dead there, was an intafisimisble number in the great scheme of things.

His contention is the problem in Iraq is one of governance. He’s probably right about the governance issue, but I don’t see that problem being solved any time soon. AP reports that Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador, as of yesterday was still “struggling to negotiate changes to the charter in hopes of winning Sunni support. ” Wasn’t this charter supposedly agreed to almost two weeks ago, which was two weeks late to begin with?

Remember, the TIA said that if a constitution couldn’t be submitted to the national assembly by the deadline given a new government had to be elected. They just threw that whole thing out and they’re still fiddling around with the thing. Getting the Sunnis on board is only window dressing, I don’t think the US cares if the mainly powerless and ineffectual former Ba’athists are unhappy with the final result or not, I think the real worry the State Department has is what the Saudi reaction to a Shiite dominated government in Iraq is.

The mind boggles.

Extra points:

I wrote a few days ago that NASA had announced they were going to spend $100 billion on a manned mission to Mars. I was wrong. It’s really a manned mission to the moon, which is even more pointless if you think about it in light of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rebuilding of a major US city. (The moon is just as good of a place to build W.’s presidential library, though.) In any case, the Chinese have their own ideas for a mission to the moon, they’re not exactly going to write us a check to beat them to it.

What if we had owed trillions to the Russians in the 60’s? I think they would have put a man on the moon, and maybe returned him safely to earth, before we did. Meanwhile, we’re asking the Russians for help with supplying the ISS because we’re SOL in the space shuttle department. How embarrassing! A US millionaire will be going up to the ISS on a Soyuz-TMA spacecraft tomorrow, by the way. Man, you know when it’s safer to travel to space on a Soyuz.

Condi in Haiti:

Back on the 27th,
Condi made a trip to Haiti to make sure upcoming elections there would be “open, inclusive and fair,” and there would be no funny business going on about allowing former democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide back in. “The Haitian people are moving on,” she said. Well, that’s nice of her to say, but what about the sizable number of Haitians who still support him and are still pissed off about us ousting him in a coup?

She’s got the big title now, but she’s still the same old incompetent nincompoop she always was. Tell us the one about you not knowing that terrorists would use planes to attack the US again, Condi.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:38 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005 2:10 PM EDT
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