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Lets's talk about democracy
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Wednesday, 21 December 2005
Go Dolphins!
Topic: General News.
First of all today, I'd like to thank the San Diego Chargers for their part in helping this year's Miami Dolphins to get to a .500 record at 7-7 and more especially for ensuring that the 1972 Dolphins perfect record of 17-0 remains unequaled. Last Sunday they beat the seemingly unstoppable Indianapolis Colts in their own home stadium by a score of 26 to 17. The Chargers embarrassed the Colts in front of their home crowd and the looks on the Colts fan's faces was just priceless! The Dolts has been regularly and effortlessly running over the opposition for the past 13 weeks but they came crashing back to earth on Sunday.

You would have thought Manning & Co. had just lost the Super Bowl by the way their faNS were pouting as the realization of the impending loss sunk in. This just goes to show how unused to experiencing meaningful games these fans really are. Dolphin’s fans, on the other hand, having had to only endure three losing seasons in over 35 years and five Super Bowl appearances are more able to put these types of losses into perspective. I would say to all you sour winner Colts fans out there: just grow up; you're 13-1, get over it!

The senate endangers America!!!!

As I write, the Senate is wrangling over some very important legislation. The reauthorization of the Patriot Act, due to expire on the 31st, is being help up because of Republican and White House arrogance. This time around, a simple appearance by Darth Cheney with his obligatory warning of impending doom isn't moving even some GOP senators to pass this bill without some serious consideration for civil liberties. The fact that we've now found out that the NSA is spying on citizens without a warrant from a court and the FBI is spying on anti-war groups and organizations like Green Peace and PETA isn't making for a charitable feeling on Capital Hill this Christmas season. Not that they care about Green Peace or PETA, it's just that they've finally woken up to the reality that the executive branch has slipped away with the bat, the ball, and home plate right under their noses and they're not happy about it.

The GOP rebels (John Sununu, Larry Craig, Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Hagel.) and the Democrats led by Russ Feingold are willing to extend the bill for three months while they make sure what's been plopped down in front of them at the last minute is gone over. John Sununu says, "There are specific aspects of the law we didn't have time to consider in depth between September 11th and the passage of the Patriot Act. We've taken a look at these areas in a more deliberative way."

That seems pretty reasonable, considering no one actually read the whole thing before they voted it for it four years ago, but that's not good enough for Caesar; "The senators who are filibustering the Patriot Act must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must reauthorize the Patriot Act." 'Yours is not to questions why but to do or die!' This edict from on high, however, isn't getting the reception it normally gets; legislators scurrying to obey the most exalted leader and vote the right way. Hopefully, they will stick to their guns and give W. another stinging defeat in the name of democracy and freedom.

Ted Stevens is an SOB:

The $453 billion defense spending bill (Includes McCain’s anti-torture provision.), which provides funding for our fighting men and women in Iraq, is has been stalled because of one jackass Alaskan Senator. Ted Stevens tacked on to the defense bill a provision for drilling in ANWR, the Artic Nation Wildlife Refuge, because he says, "Our national defense cannot operate without the basic potential of our own production of oil." [WaPo] To me, that would signal our desperate need to develop other forms of energy, because it's not like a few supposed billion barrels of oil from Alaska is going to make that much a difference, but what do I know? Obviously, the financial needs of the state of Alaska trump the rest of the country.

Stevens says also, that if the Senate doesn't pass this bill other non-defense related programs in it would suffer, too. Just to make sure he got this bill passed for his masters at Exxon/Mobil he added in a provision, to make it more palatable for those who were against it, that says, "royalty revenue from drilling would go to fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast." [WaPo] Stevens warns that, "The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of people are not going to receive they assistance they should receive."

That's rich, he and his jackal colleagues slash education, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and heating oil assistance in another "cost saving" budget bill* (Passed only by Cheney's tie breaking vote.) and then say 'if you don't pass this the poor will suffer.' Or, we could just not give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich, which will nullify all the $40 billion in "savings" taken away from the poor anyway, and we won't need to ruin a pristine wildlife refuge for a miniscule amount of oil.

[*Note: There is a possibility, as I write, that Congress might have to vote on the budget bill again, probably in late January or early February, because Democrats have successfully changed some of the language in the bill. This might cause problems for a bill that passed by only six votes in the House and one vote cast by Cheney in the Senate, when, as expected, the Republicans plan on pushing through a bill to give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich. Both bills back to back look real bad together which is why they tried to ram the 'stealing form the poor' bill in the dead of night almost two months before the vote on 'relief for the rich' bill comes up.]

What shameless kowtowing to the oil industry! The WaPo writes that the American Petroleum Institute's president, Red Cavaney, actually had to gall to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. (Isn't that a bit of overkill on their parts, I mean really, how unseemly?) He said the 5 to 16 billion barrels of oil in ANWR could ease the current oil crunch, but even he had to admit, "ANWR will not provide the United States with all its domestic needs." By the way, didn't they say back in the 70's that the pipeline in Alaska would help out of our oil problems, too? Maybe, if they didn't send all that oil to Japan we could get by on that without having to drill in a national park! Besides, who is to say they won't decide they could make more money sending that very valuable ANWR oil to China instead?

[Note: the senate just voted against ending the filibuster against the ANWR portion of the defense bill. Now it's up to Frist to decide whether to keep fighting over it or just pass the bill as it is. If he decides to let it be, the House will have to come back to vote on the new language.]

Bill Frist, friend of PHARMA, does the bidding of his masters:

Another special interest provision inserted into the bill was put there by Bill Frist to help out his buddies in the drug industry. Described by him as a "Targeted liability protection" for vaccines, the law would allow pharmaceutical companies to get off scott-free from law suits if their product kills or maims people. In cases only of "willful misconduct," which doesn't include negligence or recklessness, would they be liable, which means basically not at all.

The NYT says, "The provision would provide immunity from lawsuits to any company that made 'countermeasures' --- broadly defined as drugs, vaccines or medical devices---to protect Americans against pandemics, epidemics or biological attacks. It would give the secretary of health and human services authority to determine what constituted a pandemic of an epidemic." (You think vioxx might be need to prevent an epidemic of heart disease?)

Apparently, the Republicans gave an assurance, in writing, to Democrats who opposed this PHARMA get-of-jail-free card, that they won't put it in the bill, but went ahead and did it any way. GOP promises even in writing are kind of like those assurances we get from Egypt and Jordan that they won't torture prisoners we render to them; not worth the paper their written on!

The Foundation for Tax Payer and Consumer Rights, by the way, says that Frist and 41 other senators own as much as $16 million in pharmaceutical stock, which obviously presents not even a whiff of an ethical dilemma. My God, these pirates in business suits are robbing us blind and meanwhile everybody is merrily going along doing their civic duty to keep the economy humming by shopping. Unbelievable!

To say unchecked power basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject - W. Dec. 19 2005

The WaPo reports today that a FISA court judge, James Robinson, has resigned in protest over the president's stealth spying policy. It seems that there is a concern by him and the other FISA judges that the evidence which the administration provided to the court in cases where they actually bothered to get a warrant might have been illegally obtained. Lead judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she had been told of the program but was bared from telling her colleagues on the court.

Something tells me that the more facts of this story come out the uglier its going to get. I mean, they might not have only been lying to congress but to the courts as well! It's really amazing that a judge on the already secret court wasn't allowed to tell the other judges what was going on.

That's just shocking! Senator John Rockefeller was one of the fourteen whole members of Congress that were informed of the spying program by Cheney, Tenet and NSA Director Michael Hayden,” a dozen times," but he was forced to write a letter to Cheney about his concerns about the program in his own hand because he was afraid to give it to someone else to type.

He wrote to Cheney that he would keep a copy of the letter in his safe in case Cheney tried to challenge his version of what was talked about in the future. He wrote," Without more information and the ability to draw any independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received." There's no word if Cheney ever got back to him on his concerns.

As he expected W. & CO are trying to say Congress was in the whole thing. Peter Baker's question about how permanent the president's "expansion of the unchecked power of the executive..." would be, W. said, "There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time. I'm telling you we briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times." (Twelve times=all the time.) In actuality, the only other congress members at the meeting with Rockefeller for the briefing was, Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Porter Goss (Now the CIA chief), and Rep. Jane Harman. The WaPo writes that, "Rockefeller was frustrated by the 'characterization that congress was on board on this,' said one official who is close to him...'Four congressmen, at least one of whom was raising serious concerns, does not constitute being on board.'" [WaPo]

Extralegal equals constitutional according to Bill Kristol:

In an Op-Ed in the WaPo today, William Kristol and Gary Schmitt write that it's "foolish and irresponsible" to "engage in demagogic rhetoric about 'imperial' and 'monarchic' pretensions, with no evidence that the president has abused his discretion."

No, indeed, locking Americans up without recourse to even the most basic civil protections of Habeas Corpus enshrined in the Magna Charta,running secret prisons around the world without any oversight by the International Red Cross, kidnapping people off the streets of Europe, spying on Americans without warrants, all this evidence of the president's prerogatives are a "gray area" in constitutional law and the founders, "intended the executive to have---believed the needed to have---some powers in the national security area that were extralegal but constitutional."

The question is how something is extralegal while at the same time is constitutional. "Extralegal" does mean "outside the law," doesn't it? They might want to run this little theory by a few lawyers or read a little Ben Franklin before they use that defense again.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:12 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005 2:05 PM EST
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Monday, 19 December 2005
The speechifying continues:
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Last night W. gave a 17 minute speech on prime time TV in which he called on those who no longer believe that the war is, "Worth another dime or another day" to now trust him that things are going now according to plan in Iraq and that he has "fixed what has not worked." He cited as evidence of this approach the parliamentary elections on the 15th which will now supposedly usher in a new era of "Constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East." Naturally, everybody hopes that things will go right in the upcoming negotiations to form a new government and the various tribal, regional and religious factions can find common ground and hammer out an equitable agreement to live together in a united Iraq, but I'm not holding my breath. If this very iffy assumption is based on our efforts so far to help the "Iraqi government establish the institutions of a unified and lasting democracy," including the last "landmark election" in January and the embarrassing constitutional drafting process that followed, I'd have to say he's reverted back to his old rosy scenarios and wishful thinking.

W. said of those who have disagreed with his policies that, "There is a difference between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see anything right." That's kind of funny because up until a few weeks ago he was the one who couldn't see anything wrong with what was going on in Iraq. Almost over night, it would seem, he's finally taken to heart the urgings of his critics to change course and now everything is back on track. One wonders how many Americans soldier's lives we might have saved if he'd listened to his detractors much earlier on, instead of smearing them in the media and discounting their views as helpful to the terrorists.

The president wants all Americans to understand that a withdrawal now would "undermine the morale of our troops--by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed." He doesn't say that most of them were under the erroneous impression, propagated by him and his righteous lieutenants, that Saddam had something to do with 9/11---which he didn't---and was threatening to attack us with WMD, which he didn't possess, no matter how W. & Co. had convinced themselves he had them. That sort of cynical manipulation of our military people's patriotism can undermine morale too, not to mention endless rotations back to Iraq which could go on for another decade while we wait for the Shiites, the Kurds and the Sunnis to kill enough of each other off to come to an understanding.

Is this the "cause" for which perhaps a thousand or more troops will have to die for? Or is it more important to make sure "Tyrants in the Middle East" don't "laugh at our failed resolve?" No doubt, he only means the Mullahs in Iran and Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, but the tyrants in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait aren't making any sign of loosening their "repressive grip" and our good friend Islam Karimov is having a pretty good laugh at our lack of resolve in doing anything about his wholesale killing and boiling of his opponents.

Spying for freedom:

And while we're busy losing our precious blood and treasure for the freedom of Shiites and Iraqis to kill each other 6000 miles away in that "Vital region of the world," with its vital resources, here at home the president is taking advantage of his "prerogatives" to spy on American's phone calls and e-mail without bothering to let anybody know about it.

The NYT reports, that the N.S.A "Eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said." Yesterday, Condi Rice kept assuring Tim Russert in her tortured rendition of the law that the spying was legal and the constitution gave the president the power to spy on Americans without any checks, although she said she wasn't a lawyer so she couldn't name to the exact statute that gave him that power. W. today in his press conference couldn't exactly say which law allowed him to do it either, but trust him, he can, and besides, members of congress were informed 12 times.

All necessary means:

So there you go, all perfectly legal. It appears, though, that some in the N.S.A were concerned about the legality of such an operation. A senior Bush administration official told the Times that, "Before the 2004 election...some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president." So, you can see why it was so important to make sure all those Debolt machines were fixed just right in several keys states before the election; there was a lot at stake.

The question of why W. and his minions couldn't just go to the Fisa courts, since they' re are pretty much of a rubber stamp anyway, kept coming up at the press conference today and W. said it was because the courts were too slow, this despite the fact that they can go to the court within 72 hours after the wiretap.

One wonders what they were up that was so egregious that they were too afraid to even bring it to a Fisa court; this is the real question. W. may think Article 2 of the constitution gives him the power of the Commander and Chief to ignore the law but one other president tried this end-around the law once before and the result was Jimmy Carter signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 which Carter said, "Requires, for the first time, a prior judicial warrant for all electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purposes in the United States."

Seems pretty clear to me, but apparently Cheney's Rasputin David Addington and DOJ trickster John Yoo thought otherwise and OK'd it, just like Yoo OK'd the tortured legal opinions on looking into people's business, medical and library records for the Patriot Act. They must have been the one's who gave W. the twisted idea that they could get away with this because they were only monitoring calls from New York to Kabul, for instance, and not from LA to Boston. In that case, of course, they would tell the courts what they were up to. But W. says even talking about this issue helps the terrorists, so I don't get the impression the full impact of this kingly usurping of powers he doesn't possess has really gotten through his think skull.

Hopefully, Congress will finally take back the power from the executive it so irresponsibly gave away after 9/11, if it’s not too late already. AG Alberto Gonzales says Congress's resolution to give the president the power to use all ....triggered the president's right to

In the matters of the secret CIA prisons and the torture that goes on in them, the Patriot Act and now the revelations of overreach in domestic spying, the Congress is finally reasserting its authority. The Patriot Act is being filibustered, the Senate is going to pass a law requiring the administration to give them regular updates on the locations of our secret prisons, "if there are any," the identity of the prisoners in them and their conditions and the McCain bill banning cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners is on its way to becoming law.

Meanwhile, the reports of mistreatment and torture keep coming out:

The NYT reports today that, "Eight men at the American detention camp in Guant?namo Bay have separately given their lawyers "consistent accounts" of being tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan at various periods from 2002 to 2004, Human Rights Watch, a group based in New York, said Sunday."

Reuters reports, "The men were taken to a prison near Kabul where they were shackled to walls, kept in darkness for weeks, deprived of food and water for days at a time, bombarded with loud rap and heavy metal music, and punched and slapped during questioning by U.S. interrogators.

"The prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency," the New York-based group said in a report released on Sunday."

Looks like the McCain is coming not a minute too soon. But, naturally, we don;t torture.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:21 PM EST
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Wednesday, 14 December 2005
Enough with the speechifying!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Today in another big speech on Iraq the president appeared to be taking responsibility for the bad pre-war intelligence that led us into this mess, but he said, "My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power.” But are we is the question.

How was he a threat if he had no WMD, though, I don't understand? This whole question of whether the president or congress or Hillary would have gone to war if they had known there were no WMD is a pointless exercise.

Even if W. did feel it was the right thing to do to liberate the Iraqi people and create a "model for other nations in the turbulent Middle East," before the invasion, he would have never been able to get the support from congress or the public to go through with an invasion without the "threat" of WMD. So what's the point of asking the question? But let's not focus on the past, let's look to the future, right?

Watershed down:

And as far this upcoming election being a "watershed" I would refer you back to last January. It took three months for the politicians over there to form a government after that "watershed" election and once they did, the country descended into a whirlwind of car bombings and slaughter that was extreme even by Iraqi standards.

Then there was all the violence in the "run-up" to the constitutional referendum which wound up producing a flawed document which will have to be amended by this incoming government and there's no telling whether the typical zero sum game the various religious and ethnic factions have been playing all along will be any different this time around.

As far as I know the Kurds are still up to their old tricks in Kirkuk: Reuters reports that, "Recent reports of Arabs being targeted for arrest and removal by Kurdish security police has reinforced distrust. Kurdish parties are also accused of relocating thousands of supporters to Kirkuk to boost their electoral clout."

The Kurds are sitting pretty in this new Iraq---which they don't want to be a part of---and this issue of Kirkuk is going to come to the fore sooner or later and I don't think we've got a plan for that. A large part of the Iraqi "security forces" that are so effective against the insurgents are "former" Peshmerga NYT reports that our big plan for victory on the western border is to play one tribe against another even though we're not sure whether the tribes we favor are actually giving us reliable intelligence on insurgents or are just settling old scores. This dubious policy in the Euphrates river valley seems to be a microcosm of what we're trying to do in the political arena.

I haven't heard any of these concerns addressed in any of the president's speeches, which is why I'm not buying the idea that they have grasped the complexity of the situation and are ready to really do the right things that need to be done to get us out of there. Maybe, some more soccer pitches in Husabaya will do the trick?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:03 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 17 December 2005 8:04 PM EST
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Monday, 12 December 2005
Non Sum Dignus is still not worthy but its there.

Today I decided since what I was writing was more opinion than news I would post over at Non Sum Dignus. Go there for today's post.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:29 PM EST
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Wednesday, 7 December 2005
Rummy's at it again!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Rummy really out-did himself in a Speech to an audience at the John's Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies yesterday. Responding to the media furor over the revelation of pentagon having paid a PR firm to plant good news stories in the Iraqi media he said, "We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact."

Well, he apparently didn't read the stories in the NYT or the LA Times which had plenty of context and scrutiny. But maybe, he's referring to the coverage of his assertions about the "immediate threat" of Saddam's WMD back in 2002 or the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch which at the time got a lot of coverage but not much scrutiny or correction.

When stories came out hinting that all this might be a bunch of bull, they got considerably less coverage by the "liberal media." As long as Judith Miller and Bob Woodward are touting the party line Rummy is fine with the press, but when other less embedded reporters point to "crazy" stuff like torture, renditions, White Phosphorus or media campaigns bought and paid for by the pentagon, then suddenly the charge is we're not hearing the good news about Iraq. (The media hates the military.)

As regards his comments on the pentagon's shenanigans in pushing bogus news in Iraq, Rummy stood up like the brave leader he is and blamed the Lincoln Group: "Some people in the military signed a contract with a private contractor, and the private contractor is alleged to have written accurate stories, but paid someone in the Iraq media to carry the storey. Now, the question is, what did the contractor---was he implementing the policy properly?"

"Some people in the military?" He makes it sound like he's as much in the dark as the rest of us are. Isn't he in charge of the pentagon? The contractor was "alleged to have written accurate stories?" (That's what this is all about: writing accurate stories---silly press!) Actually, what they were doing, among other things, was taking entire paragraphs from other sources, printing them without attribution and changing certain passages to make them more flattering to the US and then paying Iraqi journalists to print them.

It seems Rummy sure has a lot of problems with contractors, what with the whole Halliburton overcharging the American taxpayer for millions and now this. He being such a big advocate of outsourcing the military’s logistics, support and intelligence functions might want to look a little closer into what these contractors are really up to. It's funny how neither Rummy or any top commanders in Iraq knew this was going on, yet Eric Schmitt found a quote back on Nov. 18th from Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a military spokesman saying the pentagon's contract with the Lincoln Group was an attempt to "try to get stories out to publications that normally don't have access to those kind of stories." Why don't they have access to those kinds of stories and what kinds of stories are "those kinds of stories?" Does he mean the kind of stories that can only come from a PR firm on K Street?

Because I would think the Iraqis could get access to news stories just like everyone else does, through the newswires, without the Psychological Operations Dept.'s help, but the bigger concern is expressed by Michael Rubin who worked for the CPA in 2003 and 2004 who says the military is fighting with it hands tied in the information war and that terrorists and insurgents "replete with oil boom cash---do the same. We need an even playing field..." See, somehow, these terrorists are selling oil on the open market from their caves and ratlines and they're winning the war of hearts and minds because the military isn't allowed to control all the media.

Perhaps, we could just stop doing stupid things like torturing and killing detainees and leveling entire cities and stuff like that, for starters. Al-Qaeda didn't create Abu Ghraib, we did. They don't go kidnapping people off the streets of Europe and fly them to Syria to be tortured. We would have a much easier time of convincing the world that we really are the shining light of democracy and freedom if we didn't keep doing the opposite of what we profess to be fighting for.

On the Condi front: Stonewalling 101

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/mariner/20051207.html doing her part to scare everybody into submission. All this rendering and torturing we're doing (Though it’s not really torture unless a bodily organ is damaged or death occurs) is saving the lives of Europeans. The Romanians are pretty much convinced we didn't use their bases for detention and torture but former PM Adrian Nastase says, "There were some bases we put at the Americans' disposal. We can't know what happened there."

But regardless, the Romanians are being well rewarded for their "cooperation" with the U.S. and in an odd bit of timing Condi was able to secure the rights to use several bases in Romania which will be very lucrative for the impoverished country. One of the bases, Kogalniceau Air Base, had already been used in the days after 9/11 and this is the one Human Rights Watch says the CIA has made numerous trips to in their black planes. Asked about this, Condi was totally straightforward; "I am not going to talk about whether such activities take place. To do so would clearly be to get into a realm of discussion about supossed or purported intelligence activities and I simply won't do that."

Then, how about the one about mushroom clouds again: she was pretty forthcoming about all the intelligence on Saddam back in 2002. In any case, it will be interesting to see how she continues to duck every question on the grounds of protecting national security.

Program note:

Today, I got sucked in to responding to some really outrageous opinion pieces in the Inquirer, which I normally don't do, but it's taken me so long to write them that I don't really have much time for my usual snarky comments about the news of the day. Therefore, please avail yourselves of my smartass critiques of Kathleen Parker and someone called Nassim Yaziji at Non Sum Dignus.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:22 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005 4:55 PM EST
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Monday, 5 December 2005
Condi comes out fighting!
Topic: War on Terror

[AP]Condi is off for a fence mending trip to old Europe today in an effort to blunt criticism that the US has been using European airports to fly rendered terror suspects around the world and in some cases has secretly detained these suspects in Eastern European countries. TheNYT reports she, "chastised Europe leaders today, saying that before they complain about secret jails for terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations of these suspects have produced information that helped 'save European lives.'"

That's rich, she's blaming them for the whole thing! So, we kidnap some European citizens and fly them to undisclosed locations around the world, we're trying to save your lives!!!

Steven Hadley---Mr. 16-words---said yesterday on FOX that on her trip she will be addressing European concerns "in a comprehensive way" and her main message will be, "Look, we are all threatened by terror. We need to cooperate in its solution." Which means; its our way or the highway: this is a game for big boys and you have to play along with us and cut out all this whining about human rights and don't even think about letting all those official investigations into these allegations go anywhere because we'll say you were in on it too.

For its part the US is "cooperating" in the war on terror with its European allies by complying with US law (The way we interpret it.) and Hadley says, "We respect the sovereignty of the countries with which we deal." (Yeah right, ask the Italians and Spaniards about that.)

The most important point to keep in mind over all this torture nonsense is that, "We do not move people around the world so they can be tortured." Just because the US has actually admitted they made a mistake by kidnapping an innocent German citizen on vacation in Macedonia and rendered him to Afghanistan where he was tortured while being interrogated, this shouldn't be any cause for skepticism on the part of our allies, [WaPo] because when people go over the line; "The pattern is very clear. We investigate them aggressively, where appropriate charges are brought and people are punished...and procedures are changed to try and reduce the likelihood of mistakes in the future." So, even though there are dozens of known cases of suspects being killed while under the benevolent care of the CIA at these "black sites" around the world, the fact that no one has been brought up on charges, or is ever likely to be; just the very fact that we say this happens should be enough. You can take our word for it. [HRW]

Iraqi prisoner probe put on hold?

Just as we should take the word of Iraqi PM al-Jaafari that the investigation into the discovery of the detention and torture of hundreds of Sunni prisoners in the basement of an Interior Ministry facility on Nov 15 would be completed in two weeks. What, the deadline has passed and the investigation hasn't been completed? That's strange, I would think since the ones behind this are most likely in the government, they wouldn’t have to look too far to find the perpetrators, but what do I know? [AP]

Report the good news!

So, what about all the good news coming out of Iraq, why don’t the liberal media ever focus on that? Rummy says Americans should be optimistic about the way things are going in Iraq and not rely on media reports to the contrary. "To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks." [AP]

He should know, he's got his own media operation going on and it's a lot more balanced! A recent story written by an Iraq heaped scorn on those in the "western press and frequently those self styled 'objective' observers of Iraq [who] are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation." Yeah, right on! Freedom is on the march to victory in Iraq, they don't need some media elite flunky in the US telling them what's up.

Well, it appears they do, because this was a portion of a story board written by a PR firm, the Lincoln Group, hired by the pentagon to plant pro-US propaganda in the Iraqi press to push the US line that everything is A-OK in Iraq. A report cited by the NYT from the pentagon task force on strategic communication of the Defense Science Board revealed that the government had a "fundamental problem of credibility" (Imagine that!) and called for a reinvention and expansion of its information programs. The Times said the US paid the Lincoln Group[ $5 million for the purpose of, "accurately informing the Iraqi people of American goals and gaining their support." The article by Jeff Gerth and Scott Shane goes on to say, though, that it wasn't all about simply setting the record straight: "But while meant to provide reliable information, the effort was also intended to use deceptive techniques, like payments to sympathetic 'temporary spokespersons' who would not necessarily be identified as working for the coalition...in addition the document called for the development of 'alternate or diverting messages' which divert media and public attention' to 'deal instantly with the bad news of the day.'" (What bad news?)

That's sort of what Scott McClellan does every day, so I don't see what the big deal is.

Bloggers beware!

One of the problems with "priming the pump" of the Iraqi media was brought up in a Knight/Ridder article: "'There is no 'local' media anymore,' said a senior military official in Baghdad who has knowledge of American psychological operations in Iraq. 'All media is potentially international. The Web makes it all public.'" This leads me to wonder if a lot of the stuff I see on blogs that claim to post messages from "real Iraqis" who are trumpeting the wonders of the American occupation aren't simply products of the Lincoln Group or US Psy-Ops officers. All you bloggers out there should be careful about who you let post about the "real" conditions Iraqis are living in.

Two good news stories:

An AP story on Dec. 4 from Samarra reports that,” After keeping their distance for months, Iraqis in this Sunni Arab city suddenly began cooperating with US troops, leading them to insurgents and hidden weapons caches. The reason: anger over the killing by insurgents of a local tribal chief."

The report by Antonio Castaneda says the reason for the killing of Sheikh Hikmat Mumtaz al-Bazi was either because of his connection to the US, which isn't spelled out, or "a contract dispute over a US funded project." In any case, "'That's when they decided to take a stand,' said Capt. Ryan Wylie, commander of Bravo Company, Third Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment. '"They defiantly had an idea of the terrorists and where they hang out." Even though Castaneda writes that, "almost everyone agrees that the biggest reduction in violence here is public backlash against the insurgents after the Oct. 11th killing, "he doesn't quote any locals, so it's kind of difficult to know what the people who live in Samarra really thinking or what's really going on. The piece doesn't mention whether the reporter is embedded with Bravo Company, but one assumes he is because I doubt it's safe enough in Samarra for him to just go out and talk to people on his own without a heavily armed escort.

According to this report, attacks are down to one or two a day, from seven a day before, so the US has pulled out two thirds of its troops and replaced them with Iraqi paramilitary commandos, who are most likely Peshmerga or Shiites. [Its funny this story comes out right after W. gets done with his big speech on his strategy for victory which is based on replacing US troops with Iraqis and Rummy's touting of all the tips their getting all of a sudden from Iraqis around the country. Weird, isn't it?]

In another good news story, Nancy Youseff of the Inquirer Foreign Staff writes that Iraqi troops on the Syrian border got a visit by the US and Iraqi brass to praise their progress in securing the area. "Gen. George Casey Jr., the American commander in Iraq, joined Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi (A certifiable Looney.) and about 35 Iraqi officers who are in charge of guarding the Iraqi-Syrian border for a ceremony timed to coincided with Presidents Bush's speech yesterday..."

It seems in the aftermath of Operation Steel Curtain, the border is pretty much secured and the surrounding towns are all under control and are rapidly being manned by Iraqi security forces who are set to take over any time now. Soon, we won't be hearing any more about multiple casualties in a single attack from this part of the country, just like what happened after Fallujah II. The ten Marines who were killed this week on patrol around Fallujah was just an anomaly, I'm sure.

Democracy on the march around the world!

While we'll be hearing a lot about the "veneer" of democracy in Venezuela we probably won't be hearing too much about Kazakhstan’s presidential elections which returned Condi's old friend from her Chevron days, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to office with 85% of the vote. [NYT]

[AP]Meanwhile in Venezuela the elections there which saw big gains for the ruling party will be seen by the main stream media as less legitimate because the opposition decided to boycott the vote claiming they'd be robbed anyway. Or, it could be because they wanted to discredit the process to make Hugo Chavez look like more of a dictator? "Maria Corina Machado, who leads the U.S.-backed vote watchdog group Sumate, called the vote 'illegitimate.'

"We are going to have a single party parliament that doesn't represent ample sectors of society," she said in a statement.'" Well, of course, she's say that, since Sumate is getting its funding from the US. Why don't we see any US funded democracy groups operating in Kazakhstan? Oh, right, Nazarbayev is something less than a dictator of the Cental Asian mold. He's a good guy with a lot of oil as opposed to Chavez who is anti-democratic, even though his elections are actually compeditive when the opposition doesn't decide not to participate.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:19 PM EST
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Wednesday, 30 November 2005
Mapping out a strategy?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Today W. launched the administration's new PR blitz to convince everybody that things really are going great in Iraq and that, "artificial timetables by politians in Washington" for a pullout is a bad idea. He spoke at the Naval Academy in Annapolis MD where he was assured of a raucous welcome by a captive audience of Navy and Marine cadets. [AP] (Besides speaking at GOP fund raisers and military bases he doesn't get out into the public much these days.) He thanked them for showing up---as if they had any choice---and made a joke about getting them out of class for an hour. [That's pretty funny, because there's no doubt he played plenty of hooky in his day, though, I doubt these future leaders of the Navy will have the same opportunity to get by on a gentleman's C just for showing up with their elite pedigree.]

This "major policy speech" on Iraq was pretty much of a dud. It was basically a rehashing of the same old tired dribble with an emphasis on the mythical Iraqi security forces taking up the fight against "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists." I didn't hear any willingness to admit mistakes (Which are different from "experiences.") or hear anything about what we're going to do about getting out of there any time soon. Arming and training Iraqis to 'stand up so we can stand down' isn't anything new. This sounds like the same "strategy" he had back in June in a speech at Fort Bragg (But without the creepy silence.).

Back then he said, "Thousands more (of Iraqis) have stepped forward, and are now in training to serve their nation. And that is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting and then our troops can come home." Sound familiar? (Remember, "this will take time and patience.")

After that speech, even "conservative" commentators were disappointed by his failure to offer anything new to rally public support, but this time I'm sure they'll be falling all over themselves to say what a great speech it was and how he's finally spelled out a strategy for victory.

The right wing elite punditry will be relieved that he's actually come out and said something---anything---about the war. They've been screaming for months that Bush had to start defending the war in the face of the onslaught of Democratic and Republican criticism in congress and public opinion polls showing only minimal support for the continuation of the war. They've argued that the silence from the White House has allowed the opposition to control the "conversation" and the president had to reshape the debate. It may be too late, though; the tipping point may have come when John Murtha made his call for troops to be withdrawn within six months, basically articulating what most people are feeling about the constant reports of suicide bombings and mounting casualties that enough is enough!

Murtha let the cat out of the bag on the bogus nature of this conflict of choice and I doubt this speech, or any others that are planned for the coming weeks, are going to gain much traction with the majority of the public now convinced the whole thing is a big mess based on a big lie. The right hopes the toothpaste can be put back into the tube; however, speeches can only do so much when no one is listening.

Regardless of which way the public goes on this, the only conversation W. is having is with his hardcore base, not to the rest of the country. All the talk about freedom and terrorism will reverberate on all the news programs tonight and the right wing echo chamber will go into full carpet bomb mode. The intention is to shift the debate away from withdrawal and toward his assertions about the numbers of Iraqi battalions ready to "take the lead" in the fight, etc. and the hope is the public will zone out on the various arguments going back and forth and will just accept that there are legions of Iraqi soldiers ready to stand up so we can stand down.

What won't be discussed is the idea of immediate withdrawal, because that's just crazy talk and deeply irresponsible! (Just ask Darth Cheney, you can trust him.) Even columnists on the "left" like Trudy Rubin and Leonard Pitts are doing their part by going along with the accepted "responsible" opinion---the only one that's allowed to be aired---that, even though, yes, the war is a mess and it was foisted on us by "exaggerations"---not lies---we have to stay as long as it takes to get Iraq stable. The consensus of the elite punditry on the left and the right is that Bush has been forced to face facts by the polls and Murtha and he has no choice but to adjust his policies toward a more sensible approach to the war. A precipitous pullout would lead to a disaster in Iraq and we have to just trust that W. will do the right thing. But, he's not going to, it's just more of the same, nothing has changed.

So, while we discuss Iraqi troop levels and the merits of staying the course, the reasonable and responsible thing to do is go along with the president as he calls for another $3.9 billion to help train and buy materiel for the Iraqi security forces, this on top of the $10 billion already requested for the war next year. Above and beyond this costly price tag there are all the troops and equipment we're losing that can't be replaced for years, if ever. At some point or another we'll need the military for actually defending the country, but all the best and most experienced of our troops are getting killed and maimed over there and for what? "A democratic Iraq which will inspire reformers from Damascus to Tehran?" (But not from Cairo to Baku.)

What's really irresponsible is to ask our most patriotic and dedicated men and women to keep going back to Iraq, again and again, because we don't have a big enough military. It's not fair to expect these people to have to put their lives on hold for years, to maybe lose their marriages, their jobs, their limbs or their lives for an abstraction. People will fight indefinably to protect home and hearth, but not for a struggle against an ideology.

We have to get out of Iraq now, not in four or five years. We don't have the personnel or the money to sustain this level of involvement indefinably. The old adage that things that can't continue won't is apt in this situation. We'll get out of this mess either on our own terms, or we'll be forced into leaving by our own inability to fight anymore and that's an eventuality that we really can't afford.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:43 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005 2:54 PM EST
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Monday, 28 November 2005
DU is no Willy Pete.
Topic: U.S. Military issues.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at it again, this time suggesting that members of the Bush administration should be tried for war-crimes. He said this week, "You who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordinance in Iraq should be tried as war criminals in courts."

This guy is a total whack job and as I've said before he's not doing the Iranian government any favors in its fight with the IAEA over what it sees as its right to have nuclear power. With every moronic utterance he's speeding up his inevitable untimely departure. Case in point: for a third time the parliament has rejected his nominee for oil minister and the NYT writes that a member of parliament said his,"inability to form a cabinet was laying the groundwork for his impeachment."

He's finding the most serious opposition to his policies is coming from conservatives who are now saying the matter of the appointment of an oil minister will have to be resolved by the Guardian Council or the Expediency Council. It difficult to see Ahmadinejad hanging around much longer if he keeps this up.

What most interested me about this AP story by Nasser Karimi was how Depleted Uranium (DU) was described as "far less radioactive than natural uranium" and how after DU artillery shells are fired, "the shells melt, vaporize and turn to dust." The idea that DU is somehow this harmless substance that disappears after use is just a total misstatement of the facts. The dust left over has this nasty habit finding its way into drinking water and into people's lungs.

For example, the very liberal New York Daily News did a story a while back on four soldiers from a New York Army National Guard company serving in Iraq, who the paper found were, "contaminated with radiation likely caused by dust from depleted uranium shells fired by U.S. troops, a Daily News investigation has found.

They are among several members of the same company, the 442nd Military Police, who say they have been battling persistent physical ailments that began last summer in the Iraqi town of Samawah."

If we're not concerned about Iraqi children we should at least care that our guys over there are being made ill by this and the pentagon acts like nothing is wrong. Hopefully, we'll find out what's what before these poor bastards have to spend the rest of their lives trying to get the military to come clean on DU like Vietnam vets poisoned by Agent Orange.

The debate about DU has been a long one and the pentagon has gone out of its way to make it sound like its no biggie but there is a lot out there to cause concern. Dan Fahey's, "Science or Science Fiction? Facts, Myths and Propaganda in the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons", March 12, 2003 is a good place to start to get some idea of what we're dealing with.

He writes that, "According to a recent article in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, children playing with soil may be identified as the critical population group [for DU exposure], with inhalation and/or ingestion of contaminated soil as the critical pathway.35

Once inside the body, DU may cause harm due to its chemical toxicity and/or alpha radiation. Laboratory studies on rats indicate short-term effects of internal exposure to DU may include kidney damage, while long-term effects may include cancer, central nervous system problems, immune system disorders and reproductive effects.36 Given that a ten to 30 year lag may exist after a persons exposure to DU dust and the development of cancer,37 it is possible that effects may manifest over time.

Few humans exposed to DU have been studied, therefore little is known about the effects DU has had or may have in the future on exposed populations.

Also, "Article Collection: Depleted Uranium (2002-2004)" is an excellent resource.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:15 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005 5:18 PM EST
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005
Program note:
Mood:  d'oh
For some reason the computer I've been using won't post to this blog, so I transfered this week's tirade to Non Sum Dignus. Please go there for your daily dose of bull.

I will resume posting here as soon as I find out what the heck is going on.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:53 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005 2:57 PM EST
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Wednesday, 16 November 2005
Willy Pete and timelines and benchmarks.
Topic: Iraq

AFP reports the US military is defending its use of Willy Pete (White Phosphorus) during "shake and bake" missions in Fallujah last November. "'It's part of our conventional weapons inventory. We use it like we use any other conventional weapon,' said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. Whitman said he had no knowledge of any civilian victims of attacks with white phosphorus.

'We don't target any civilians with any of our weapons, and to suggest US forces were targeting civilians with these weapons would be wrong,' he said."

Yeah, right, seizing the main hospital wasn't targeting civilans either. In any case, how could they tell who this stuff was falling on when they were using it? Its been pretty well established in this war that telling civilans apart from insurgents is a little difficult.

But enough of that bleeding heart stuff, on to the battle of Hue!

"A report on the battle of Fallujah published in April in the army journal Field Artillery said white phosphorous "proved to be an effective and versatile munition" in Fallujah.

'We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE (high explosives),' said the report."

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable, another Pentagon spokesman, "It has been used in armies the world over for most the past century, I believe." Yeah, the Nazis probably used it too, so what's the big deal?

Slow poke to China:

W. is off to the Far East, where he will no doubt hope to escape the crumbling masonry of his administration crashing down on his head. China might not be far enough away, though, to get away from the consequences of his serial bungling. He did get off a parting shot at his Democratic detractors, however, on a fueling stop in Alaska---in front of a captive audience of soldiers---where he accused Democrats of giving mixed signals to our troops and the insurgents. That's rich, pull out the old 'my critics are giving the enemy aid and comfort,' bugaboo instead of actually answering the criticism that he fabricated and distorted pre-war intelligence, which is finding a lot of traction with a majority of Americans these days. He repeated the assertion that Democrats who voted for the war are now "rewriting history" and he's frankly shocked---shocked!---that they would play politics with the war in Iraq. (Lord knows Karl Rove has never used the war on terrorism as a political baseball bat to beat the Democrats with!)

The right wing pundits have apparently been given their talking points, because I've heard this claim that the Democrats who spoke "truth" then are "speaking politics now." Scott McClellan got the ball rolling last Sunday saying both Republicans and Democrats, including those in the Clinton administration,” came to the conclusion, that Saddam Hussein was a threat and a threat that needed to be addressed." It's funny that an administration that was so hell bent on wiping any evidence of the Clinton administration off the map---going so far as to immediately yank the DC "taxation without representation" license plate off the presidential limo---are now constantly invoking his name in their desperate attempts to save their asses. Before he was "Slick Willy, "a liar who couldn't be trusted with your teenage daughter, now all of a sudden, he's up there with W. in the great pantheon of terror fighters.

The claim that Clinton saw Saddam as a threat that needed to be dealt with was furthered by Rummy who joined the fight by quoting Sandy Berger's warning of Saddam's intention to use WMD if he was given a chance, out of context, and citing the fact that Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, but failed to mention that Bubba was basically forced into it by Republican pressure during the Lewinsky scandal and never had any intention of following through. The Clinton administration policy was containment always, never a violent overthrow of Saddam's regime. And I do seem to remember that when the inspectors "were forced out" and the US bombed Baghdad, the right wingers all accused Clinton of the tail wagging the dog, trying to distract the public's attention away from his very serious blow job problems. (Can't have it both ways guys.)

Anyway, if congress in 2002 hadn't had to rely on that shoddy production Bush & Co. called a National Security Estimate, which consisted of faulty conclusions and information partly provided by drunks and liars masquerading as Iraqi "defectors," perhaps they would have asked more questions instead of willingly swallowing their tripe and then asking for seconds. It didn't help that most polities in congress are by nature spineless weasels and were played like a Stradivarius by the Chalabi/Miller echo chamber orchestrated from the bowels of Cheney's bat cave to perfect effect. I do recall seeing some brave Democrats standing on the steps of congress with hundreds of bags of mail written by their constituents pleading with them not to allow this illegal war, but the media hardly noticed.

Congressional rebels!

Lucky W. is out of town, because the Senate voted 79-19 to require the administration to give three month updates on what they're doing to get us out of Iraq and that 2006 should be, "a period of significant transition to Iraqi sovereignty." The Republicans just rewrote the Democratic bill and took out the part about a timetable, which Dan Bartlett spun into a positive. (These guys really have no shame!) Lindsay Graham said, "We want to get into the ball game, we're off the sidelines." Well, better late than never (About 2,070 dead too late), I guess, but it would have been nice if instead of waiting for public support to go south they had exercised the traditional "role of the Congress in war time," before the war had started. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel called for Bush to start drawing down troops levels next year. And as for Rummy and the right wing smear campaign, "Each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and elsewhere and should not be demonized or condemned for disagreeing with," the administration. Yeah, right on!

Along with this provision added into the Defense appropriation bill Lindsay Graham's Habeas Corpus stripping rule was toned down, now allowing detainees to challenge their "enemy combatant" status and appeal any ruling in the so-called military tribunals. McCain's ban against cruel and inhuman treatment is also included, all of which has to be hashed out in conference, which will be interesting considering that Bush has said he will veto the entire Defense spending bill if these items are included. How afraid of voter backlash over the war Congress is should drive the debate, I would think. The dream scenario is; all these provisions are kept in and W.'s veto is overturned. (Will never happen.)


The Israeli Captain R., who shot a 13 year old Palestinian girl 15 times in the face, has been cleared of all charges by a military court in the Oct. 5, 2004 incident near Rafah. The BBC reports,"The army says it accepts the commander's claim that he fired into the ground near the girl after coming under fire in a dangerous area. It has not explained why the officer shot into the ground rather than at the source of the fire."

Well, if nothing else he should be cashiered for being a terrible shot. How do you manage to empty your magazine into a girl's face and claim you didn't mean to do it?

In Bush administration scandal news:

Former CPB chairman Kenneth Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 according to CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz. AP says, "There was evidence the report said to suggest that "political tests" or qualifications were used as a major factor in the hiring of the new CPB president Patricia S. Harrison, in violation of federal rules...The report also faulted Tomlinson for hiring a consultant to review program content on PBS shows such as Now With Bill Moyers. Konz said Tomlinson did not obtain proper authorization from the board for the consultant's $20,000 contract. The consultant kept track of whether guests on the shows were "anti- or pro-Bush" and "anti- or pro-Tom DeLay," the report said." (Why does every sctechy political maneuver always have DeLay's name attached to it?)

Unfortunatly, breaking this law doesn't bring any criminal penalties. If he had been still working for the CPB he could have been sanctioned, but in this instance he gets off scott free.

In Iraq:

While the Senate is calling for the US to hurry up and train Iraqi military and police forces, news is out that US troops of the Third Infantry Division found by accident 173 Iraq detainees who had been malnourished and tortured in an Iraqi detention facility in the Jadriyah section of the capital. [AP] Surprisingly, all the prisoners appeared to be Sunnis and their captures, members of the Badr Brigade. This follows the news that the Wolf Brigade, another Shiite militia, has been busy rounding up hundreds of "suspects," also Sunnis, in the northeast province of Diyala.

In any case, the Interior Ministry's undersecretary of security, Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, told Reuters: "They were being abused. This is totally unacceptable treatment. I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralyzed, and some had skin peeling off various parts of their bodies. I've never seen a situation like this during the past two years in Baghdad. This is the worst." No doubt this won’t be the last. If the US soldiers hadn't been following up on a missing 15 year old, they never would have found them and they would have most likely followed their predecessors into ditches around town with their hands bound and bullets in the back of their heads.

Have no fear, PM Ibrahim Jaafari vows to lanch a thourough investigation. A deputy PM has been put in charge of looking into this incident and a wider inquiry into prisons condition will be led by "ministers and other figure," Jafaari. Wow, don't you feel better now? I hope none of those ministers are associated with Sciri, because besides being a large part of the government also happen to be the political wing of the Badr brigade.

The real question is how much pressure the US is going to put on the Iraqis to clean up their act. I'm going to guess, not too much. We've spent all this time arming these thugs and pushing them to take charge, we're not about to start arresting their commanders who are up to their ears in torture and extra judicial killings.

[See this blog for info on what are now militias but will be later called 'freedom fighters.}

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:01 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005 3:17 PM EST
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