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Lets's talk about democracy
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Saturday, 11 March 2006
News flash: Slobodan Milosevic is dead!
Mood:  happy
Topic: General News.

And I say good riddance to bad trash. According to news reports he died in his prison cell of natural causes. His trial had been delayed many times because of his ill health, so his death is not that big of surprise, but it is unfortunate that all those who suffered from his cynical and brutal wars won't get the satisfaction of seeing him pay for what he did. Although, having gone from great Serbian hero to pathetic old man dying in a prison cell is a somewhat fitting end. Being a war criminal of the first order no one should morn his death, but of course, many will. Even some very uninformed right wing Americans will feel he was mistreated or argue that the international community had no right to have him arrested and tried.

When you consider how many Bosnian civilians were killed, how many cities and towns were destroyed, how many hundreds of thousands of Kosovars were chased from their homes and sent fleeing into Albania and elsewhere, its difficult to fathom how anyone could defend this piece of trash. And what about the Serbs of Krajina, who were sacrificed so Slobo could keep his hold on power? Radovan Karadzic himself wrote in an open letter to him in 1995, as the Croats with the help of the U.N. were ethnically cleansing the Serbs that, "You have turned your back on the Serbs. You have relented under foreign pressure which could be compared only to treason." Afterwards, even has he was launching his war in Kosovo four years later, in the name of protecting the Serbs of Kosovo, hundreds of refuges from Krajina were still living in tents in a football stadium in Pristina. That's how much he cared about his beloved Serbs. But they still love him; the fact that Karadzic and Ratco Mladic are still at large proves that. What Milosovic did in their name will hang over their heads for as long as they continue to protect the killers and the crooks that are responsible for the dilapidated state of their country and the worst example of European genocide since WW II.

Going through all the various crimes and brutalities of the Milosevic regime would take too long, but I would like to just recount an incident from the start of the Bosnian war that pretty much characterizes the MO of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) under the command of Milosevic, although he claimed he had no hand in any of it. I quote from Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, by Laura Silber and Allen Little, recounting the fall of the Bosnian town of Zvornik between April 8 and 10 1992.

On April 8, Serbian paramilitaries and JNA units massing outside Zvornik:

"Began shelling from the other side of the river (The Drina) --- from inside Serbia proper. Thousands began to flee --- two thousand alone heading across the bridge to Mail Zvornik. The next day, Arkan, commander of the feared paramilitary unit, known as the Tigers, issued an ultimatum, to the Muslims of Zvornik, who made up sixty percent of the town's population -- to surrender. When they failed to respond to the surrender call, Arkan moved in. Zvornik fell on April 10. Jose Maria Mendiluce, the UNHCR's most senior official in former Yugoslavia, was visiting Milosevic in Belgrade.

'He told me, as he did throughout the conflict, that he didn't have any control over the Bosnian Serbs, but he would try his moral authority.' Mendiluce left Belgrade with a promise that Milosevic would do everything in his power to support the UNHCR's mission in Bosnia. To return to Sarajevo, Mediluce had to pass through Zvornik. He chose the wrong day.

'When I arrived at the bridge [over the Drina which separates Serbia from Bosnia] I could hear explosions of artillery and mortar fire. There was great agitation on the Serbian side. Almost a kilometer from the bridge there were militiamen and JNA soldiers, all along the river.'

The Serbs and JNA forces who held that part of town were furious to find an outsider bearing witness to their storming of the town.

'I was detained for two hours. I realized I was at serious risk. I could see trucks full of dead bodies. I could see militiamen taking more corpses of children, women and old people from their homes and putting them on trucks. I saw at least four or five trucks full of corpses. When I arrived the cleansing had been done. There were no people, no one on the streets. It was all finished. There were looting, cleaning up the city after the massacre.' "

When Mediluce was allowed to leave he found five thousand refugees of the slaughter huddling in a narrow valley.

"'When I arrived in the car I was surrounded by 1000 people. They were all begging me, 'Save us, Save us!' with such despair that I stayed there for an hour trying to calm them down. There were lots of dead people, wounded children on the floor looking terrified --- absolutely terrified --- and we could hear the sound of mortar fire approaching.'"

There is no doubt that, contrary to Milosevic's contention that he had no hand in this, Belgrade was fully behind the slaughter. One of his own henchmen admitted it, extreme nationalist paramilitary leader Voljislav Seselj said "The Zvornik operation was planned in Belgrade. The Bosnian Serb forces took part in it. But the special units and the best combat units came from this side [Serbia]. These were police units --- the so-called Red Berets --- special units of the Serbian Interior Ministry of Belgrade. The army engaged itself to a small degree --- it gave artillery support where it was needed. The operation had been prepared for along time. It wasn't carried out in any kind of nervous fashion. Everything was well organized and implemented.'"

Especially the work of Arkan, Zeljko Raznjatovic, the leader of the Tigers, a band of marauders more interested in raping, killing and thieving than fighting for a "Greater Serbia." The litany of crimes committed by Arkan is long and bloody. Fortunately, he was gunned down in Belgrade in a hale of gunfire in what was suspected of being a gangland execution. To many he is still a great Serbian hero, but the fact is he was just a thug and a psychopath.

The death of Milosevic comes as the U.N. and Europeans leaders are getting down to brass tacks with the Serbian government over the final status of Kosovo, which has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999. The Serb negotiators have said they will never allow an independent Kosovo, but Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary Minister, said yesterday that Kosovo's independence was "almost inevitable." Negotiation begins again next week in Vienna, but I wouldn't hold my breath for any quick solution to this impasse.

UNMIK and Europeans say, "Arrivederci Roma:"

One more Kosovo related story here, which I've been meaning to write about but haven't got around to. In Mitrovica, a town in northern Kosovo which is ethnically split right down the middle by the Ibar river between Serbs and Kosovars, there's a Roma refugee that lies right on a mine that is poisoning children with lead. This situation has been allowed to go on since the end of the Kosovo war by the UNMIK and it's simply criminal. Even though, the UNMIK has finally gotten around to moving the Roma into better housing, the problem is that they're not moving then away from the danger. The mercury problem still exists. Where's the outrage?

Maybe, this explains the lack of outrage: The Europeans talk a good game about human rights and being enlightened when it comes to racism, but the treatment of Muslims in French, in particular, puts paid to that myth. And as bad as it is for the Muslims of Europe, they're lucky they're not the Roma. The European Court of Human Rights has just ruled that its A-OK for the Czechs to keep shunting Roma children into remedial schools for the mentally handicapped. The Court, said there was a problem but that it wasn't because of bigotry. Just because 90% of the children in these schools for slow kids are Roma, that doesn't mean they're being discriminated against, right? No, of course not, they're all retarded, that must be it. They're damn good at picking pockets though. So much for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:23 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006 2:26 PM EST
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Friday, 10 March 2006
Recalcitrant Persians: 1 U.N.: 0
Topic: Bush Administraiton

The IAEA report on Iran has made its way to the Security Council, but beyond some mild chastisement there's no sign of any "meaningful consequences" being imposed on the recalcitrant Persians, despite Dick Cheney's fevered thundering at the Aipac meeting this week. A draft of the Council's report, which the NYT writes will come out some time next week, says they continue to hope a negotiated solution can be found "that guarantees Iran's nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes." And now the Iranian portfolio goes back to the IAEA which will be asked to report back "within a very short time frame," but doesn't say what that might be.

John Bolton was being characteristically diplomatic yesterday, saying all options are on the table, including the military option. Bolton said the U.S. would "proceed in a deliberate and orderly fashion," but, "how long and to what extent we pursue this in the Council, I think, principally rests in the hands of Iran." So, in other words, we'll give this talking crap a little more time and then we'll lower the boom. (You know, you can't just move a carrier task force or two into position over night.)

Sometimes I wonder who all this saber rattling is really intended to scare; the Iranians or the Russians. In the past few days there have been some rumblings in the Op-Ed pages and in policy circles that maybe Russia isn't such a good friend after all. Those in the administration who are advocating for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian crisis might be running out of time. The idea that we should let the Russians use their leverage with Iran to get them to come around is rapidly losing its cache. Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov didn't help the Russian position by saying that all the talk about punitive measures reminded him of the run up to the Iraq invasion. "That looks so deja vu. I don't believe that we should be engaging in something that might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We are convinced there is no military solution to this crisis."

That sort of talk isn't going to go down well in the Oval Office. We've already seen how W. reacts to any point of view that is contrary to his preconceived notions. Whenever Congress gets uppity he threatens vetoes and when it comes to other countries getting the idea they're sovereign nations with their own interests he brings out the big stick. I've heard a lot of speculation that the neocons are on the outs in the administration these days, but judging by the speeches at the Aipac shindig, I don't buy it.

Condi Rice is doing a masterful job of appearing to be the reasonable one in all of this, but she's still the same old "mushroom cloud" lady, pushing the noecon agenda. In front of the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday, while testifying about Iraq, she had the unmitigated gall to say, "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran." (OK, so we screwed the pooch on Iraq, we'll get it right the next time.) Naturally, things are pretty much under control in Iraq, so Iran would have to be the biggest threat we face. The fact that we're still losing 10 or 12 soldiers a week and there are several refrigerator trucks parked behind the Baghdad morgue full of corpses that were piling up on the floors last week because there wasn't enough space to store them, should lead any reasonable person to the conclusion that Iran is a continuing and growing threat.

Rummy's plan for civil war in Iraq:

For his part, Rummy was back in fine fettle assuring Senator Robert Byrd that any money Congress gave to him wouldn't be spent to put our troops "right in the middle of a civil war," as Byrd put it. "The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the --- from a security standpoint --- have the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to." Boy, that's reassuring. There is no civil war right now, "by most experts’ calculations," but if one were to break out, we'd leave it to the security forces; the same security forces who are presently rounding up large numbers of Sunnis and killing them. That's some plan.

Speaking of those security forces: The WaPo got some heat from the pentagon and the Iraqi government a while back when they reported that 1,300 Iraqis had been killed in the week following the Samarra mosque bombing, mainly involving sectarian killings. The Iraqi PM, Ibrahim Jafari, came out and said the actual number was 379 and then the General George Casey backed them up saying the WaPo report was exaggerated and inaccurate. It turns out now that an official in the Health Ministry, who wants to remain unnamed for fear of his life---no doubt afraid of the threat presented by Iran --- says a Sciri official came to the main morgue and ordered "government hospitals and morgues catalogue deaths caused by bombings or clashes with insurgents, but not by execution-style shootings." [WaPo](Gosh, I wonder why?) The U.N. human rights department in Baghdad cooberates this account saying that, "the current acting director is under pressure by the Interior Ministry in order not to reveal such information and to minimize the number of casualties."

So, what does Sciri have to say about this? Sciri spokesman Haitham al-Husseini says, "How can a Sciri official put pressure on authorities or people? I don't expect you can believe such a thing." Of course not, its not like the authorities at the morgue would in any way feel pressured by being knee deep in Sciri's handy work. Husseini adds, "This is part of the campaign that the enemies of Iraq are still trying to lead to confuse the situation." Right, al-Qaeda is suddenly concerned about their public image and is trying to blame all these execution style deaths on the Shiites. That makes sense. Or maybe, the Interior Ministry is trying to hide the fact that they're conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing that they have no intention of stopping until all the Sunnis are either dead or pushed into the deserts of Anbar. Judging by the evidence at hand, and all the bodies, I'd have to go with the latter explanation.

The question is what are we going to do about it? All the hand wringing over what the new government is going to look like or who the PM will eventually wind up being seems somewhat academic at this point. (The elections in December seem like they were a million years ago.) Do we enable the killing by continuing to pretend that we're providing security in order for democracy and rebuilding to flourish or do we extract our troops before they're sucked into the middle of this maelstrom? Only the most deluded supporters of Bush could fail to see there's a full blown war going on. There's a whole new dynamic here and whoever comes out on top, now that this war is engaged, is who will wind up being in charge of Iraq. The only thing we can hope for is that we can somehow maintain some influence in Iraq through the Kurds, who seem to have stayed out of this mess so far. But then again, if they try to take advantage of this war between the Shiites and Sunnis to take over Kirkuk, then all bets are off.

This is a fine mess the Cheney/Rummy cabal has got us into, we'd better attack Iran!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:25 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006 2:34 PM EST
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Thursday, 9 March 2006
Wal-Mart and some very credible bloggers.
Topic: General News.

I'm sure everyone in the blogosphere has had a go at the NYT article about Wal-Mart using right wing bloggers to push their propaganda, but I'd like to add my two cents to this issue.

First of all, how lame is that? Taking a little "nugget" or a "heads up" from a Wal-Mart PR flak and pasting it onto your blog verbatim and not bothering to tell your readers where it came from; that's pretty weak. These right wingers are all about integrity, though, aren't they? So, this Brian Pickrell of Iowa Voice says, "I probably cut and paste a little bit (a little bit?) and I probably should not have;" I mean, what's the big deal? He does his own "research on a topic" and after weighing all the arguments equally, he says, "I draw my own conclusions and form my opinions;" right, except for that little part about referring to the Wal-Mark flak where you get your BS from only as a "reader."

If I were to get information from a "reader" that 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs at a Wal-Mart, instead of falling all over myself to praise Wal-Mart, I might first ask myself why so many people would be in such dire straits that they had no choice but to work for $6.00 an hour at a hell hole like Wal-Mart. Could it be that Wal-Mart's business model ---the keystone of which is low, low wages---is forcing every other retailer to join the race to the bottom just to stay in business? Oh yeah, and the reason people are being forced to work retail is because good high paying manufacturing jobs are going overseas because that's the way Wal-Mart wants it.

I love the fact that Pickrell, along with other equally shameless purveyors of Wal-Mart bull, got all hot and bothered about the Times article before it even came out, but this didn't prevent him from trolling for advertisements in anticipation of more hits. That's integrity for you! Mona Williams, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman says, "As more and more Americans go to the internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources" like Iowa Voice, for instance, "Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation." Of course, when most people have conversations they generally know who they're talking to, unlike in this situation.

Not that they're trying to keep this a secret or anything, but the Wal-Mart flak who's sending all these "tips" out to his like-minded fellow travelers, Marshall Manson, did tell his minions to "resist the urge" to just cut and paste his good news because, he'd "be sick if someone ripped you because they noticed a couple of bloggers with nearly identical posts." How about that? Such concern for his good friends, I may cry.

Once you've gone to read such credible and trusted bloogers like Iowa Voice, Crazy Politico's Rantings, Marquette Warrior and punditguy.com, please feel free to do your own research before forming your opinions by going to Wake up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch and see just how happy former Wal-Mart employees are about the way they were treated. And find out about all the good things they're doing for low wage workers in China, how friendly to the environment they are and how you're most likely to get robbed or killed in a Wal-Mart parking lot than pretty much anywhere else.

And there's more:

It appears Mr. Pickrell is recieving many requests from the media for interviews, but his answer is: "Not just no, but HELL no. I'm not going to grant a single interview to anymore of you left-wing hacks, just so you can print whatever the heck you want in my name. Not gonna happen."

There you go Brian, you stick to your guns. Screw the liberal media, you don't need them and you have your credibility to uphold!

But, wait, there's another update:

Pickrell writes: "After thinking it over a bit, I've decided to do one interview that should put all this to rest. I'll let you know the who, what, when, and where when it's the right time."

Well gosh, make sure to let your advertiers know!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:46 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006 2:32 PM EST
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Wednesday, 8 March 2006
And another thing:
Topic: Iraq

The news just gets better and better in Iraq. Today some three dozen bodies were found around Baghdad all handcuffed and blind folded. (I wonder where the killers got the handcuffs?)[Reuters] This time, though, in a departure from the usual mode of murder, these victims were, in one case strangled, and in another hung. No one knows yet which religious affiliation the dead are, but my bet is that they're Sunnis. Yesterday, other bodies were found in the more traditional way, shot to death. In an interesting twist, two of the four had had their eyes gouged out. (Gotta' love the classics.) This sounds like the MO of the interior ministry or one of the various brigades out there. They're all pretty much working together, so there's not much of a distinction to be made here.

But not to worry, Dick Cheney says "we'll keep at the work until the job is finished." He assured his Aipac listeners that, "Progress in Iraq has not come easy, but it has been steady." (Yes, steadily getting worse and worse.) Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on the other hand told the LA Times that the invasion had opened a "Pandora’s box" and if things do go to hell, "Islamic extremists in Iraq would make the Taliban in Afghanistan look like child's play." I'm sure he'll be getting a stern rebuke from W. on that one. Maybe something similar to the note LBJ sent over to famous naysayer George Ball: "No more of this." For his part, Rummy said all this bad news was the fault of the media "exaggerating" things. (Where's that guy with the pot in his hand?)

While Rome burns, the Iraqi politicians are fiddling. Yesterday, PM Jaafari said he would not be "blackmailed" into stepping down as the president Jalal Talibani, a Kurd, and the Sunnis are demanding. [AP]A meeting last night between the Shiite alliance and the Kurdish faction failed to produce results in the standoff that's paralyzing the formation of a government over Jaafari. The AP reports that Kurdish legislator Mahmoud Othman said, "There is no progress. We are sticking to our stance and they explained their stance." Yes, that's the way things go in Iraq. Everybody is playing their non sum game to the death, literally.

While they continue to dither, the Iraqi people are in the process of either moving or being forced to move into their own religious enclaves and building up barricades. If the politicians actually do get around to forming a government it will probably wind up looking like Lebanon, with various government agencies in the hands of the various religious factions and everything balanced on the tip of a pin ready to topple, at the smallest provocation, into full blown civil war. If they can't get it together, then the militias will just draw up their own green lines and get to killing each other. In either scenario, we'll be the odd man out. We can hang around and get blown up, like in Lebanon, or we can get out. More than likely, we'll see two or three thousand more dead U.S. troops before W. goes off to build his presidential library.

Just a thought: How many times have you read this line in a media story about Iraqi politics: "The turmoil is threatening to crush American hopes of beginning a troop pull out this summer..." or something close to that? It's like they just cut and paste it into every story. We're not leaving. We may pull out some troops, just in time for the midterms, but we're not leaving. See how easily the press just incorporates the administration’s BS into a straight news story? Just like when we were going into Fallujah in Nov. 2004 and the press kept reporting that the insurgents were "fleeing" before the U.S. onslaught. A truly objective appraisal would have been to say they were "redeploying," which is exactly what they did, all the way to Mosul. (Not the Mott the Hoople song.)

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:07 PM EST
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Should we stay or should we go?
Topic: General News.

Dick Polman, the Philadelphia Inquirer's political analyst, has a new blog.

In a recent entry he interviewed Gary Hart who wonders "Are we or are we not building permanent military bases [In Iraq]? I keep trying to get anybody [in the press] to ask about this....I'll tell you what I mean by permanent: pouring concrete and wielding steel. Yes or no?" Polman writes that this is an issue that has "gotten little public attention so far." Well, if either of them had come to this blog they wouldn't have to ask. Yes, we are building permanent bases; you can go to any number of press outlets to find this out, like I did. (Or just go to globalsecurity.org, which has a map of all the bases.) Our plans for the post draw down period seems to be based on the British occupation model. Pull back into bases with a limited number of troops, keep the Iraqis under-armed, but trained just well enough to aim their weapons and not shoot each other and we'll provide air cover in case they get into real trouble. [See this blog]

We've got no intentions whatsoever of leaving those oil wells in the hands of the Iranians. Hell, we'll put the Sunnis back in power if that's what it takes. Why does there always seem to be this major disconnect in the mainstream media about what is actually going on over there? I saw a promo for an ABC nightly news "Exclusive" last night (I never waste my time with the network's nightly news) and Elizabeth Vargos was warning darkly that Iran might be supplying new, more sophisticated and deadly IEDs to the insurgents. That story is about six months old at this point. (I remember writing about this story like, back in August or something.)

Maybe if they spent less time at ABC on hairdos and puppy rescue stories and more time on reading the news wires, they would have picked up on this before. It’s amazing that as little information the average American gets from the media about anything, but they still know that things are not going well in Iraq. If they really knew what was going on over there, though, W. & Co. would be spending less time on helping their foreign friends buy up the country and more time working on their legal defense.

The baby is going out with the bath water in Russia:

C.J. Chivers in the NYT reports that Vlad "the Impaler" Putin has signed a law "allowing security forces to shoot down hijacked aircraft or destroy hijacked ships if they risk endangering important facilities or populated areas." (The German high court just struck down a similar law in Germany.) Why is this story even news? Based on the "rescue" of theater goers in Moscow in 2001 and the Beslan siege in 2004, I don't see why they even bothered to codify what is already SOP for these bubblers. It's pretty clear that the Russians either don't care about saving the lives of hostages, or are just too congenitally incompetent to ever mount a successful rescue operation.

If you're a terrorist in Russia and you want to inflict mass casualties, all you have to do is send a dozen or so people into a building full of civilians with some explosives and the Russian security forces will do the rest. And most likely, you're people will wind up escaping! Win, win.

Speaking of Russia: The WaPo reports that the Council on Foreign Relations says Russian democracy is in retreat. A bi-partisan task force concludes, according to the Post article, that "the Bush administration should stop pretending that Russia is a genuine strategic partner and adopt a policy of ‘selective cooperation' and 'selective opposition' to the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin." John Edwards, who was on the panel, says of W. and Co., "What they've done is focused on the positive things Russia is doing and been soft on the problems. We need the world to see what's happening inside, and at a minimum Putin needs to feel pressure from that."

But W. saw into Putins's soul, what happened? Well, Condi is the big Russia specialist, right? I'm sure she's got a much better idea of how to handle Russian than those panty-waisted, egg heads at some talking academy. And besides, democracy is on the march in other places. You know, you win some and you lose some.

Russia and the Iranians:

Of course, right now, we're selectively cooperating with Russia, because that's basically our only option. Putin could start sending political dissidents to Siberia and starving Ukrainians to death and we wouldn't care, because we need them to help us out with our little problem with Iran and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. (Except when it comes to Israel, they're different.) In particular we need the Russians because they've got a lot of money in Iran and they could be a useful wedge between the pragmatists and the religious nuts in the Iranian government, the latter appearing to want a confrontation.

Cheney our Ahmadinejad?

Pretty the much the mirror image of what's going on in our foreign policy circles within the government. On the one hand, you've got Condi meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, trying to talk things out over dinner; and on the other, you've got Dick Cheney shooting the whole diplomacy thing to pieces. Yesterday at the Aipac meeting in Washington he pulled out his big gauge shot gun and let loose with the war talk: "The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences," Cheney said to the delight of the Israeli activists in attendance. What might that mean, they wondered...could they dare to hope...yes!... The U.S., he said, was "keeping all options on the table..." and before he could even get the words out, they were drowned out by thunderous applause. This is just what they wanted to hear. All week long there's been a steady stream of spokesmen for the Cheney/Rummy cabal paying homage to Aipac and Israel and, more importantly, saying the right things about Iran.

Fareed Zakaria on Cheney's speech:

Fareed Zakaria was interviewed on The World yesterday and was very adamant that Cheney's belligerent speech was very "unhelpful." He made a lot of good points that hopefully someone in the administration is conveying to W. on this issue. In the first place, Zarkaria pointed out that Cheney's upping the ante on the threat meter could backfire badly if the Iranians called his bluff.

What are we going to do if the Iranians ultimately ignore everyone and go ahead with their bomb making plans? Attack them? Not likely, based on our very tenuous hold on Iraq right now. And if we did actually make good on Cheney's threat and, for instance, attack their nuclear infrastructure, Zarkaria points out that Iran has a $30 billion budget surplus. How long would it take them to rebuild it and get back to doing what they're doing now? Two years maybe? And the worst part about Cheney's speech is that it will reverberate around the capitals of the world as yet another example of U.S. unilateralism. The talk this week won't be about Iran's intransigence, but about our threat to attack them.

Condi might be on to something (gag!)

It's better to do what Condi is doing and work on building international pressure with Russia and China applying financial distress. This appears to be the only way to get Iran to come around, but, alas, the Secretary of State isn't in control, our very own homegrown version of Ahmadinjad is: Dick Cheney. Or so it would appear. I can't help but see the whole 'who's going to deal with the shooting thing' happening all over again. Cheney has got his own thing going on and the rest of the administration has theirs. No one seems to be courageous enough to rein in the wild man in the executive office building. The Cheney/Rummy cabal has the pentagon with their $450 billion budget versus Condi's State Department with its $40 billion budget, who would you expect to come out on top?

And when you consider W. has a propensity to go for harebrained schemes that offer simplistic solutions, I don't see this turning out well. Common sense doesn't have a role in this equation, on either side.

Just a little note on W.s big adventure in South Asia.

Besides making a deal with the Indians to forgive their lying to us in the past and violating their agreements not to take plutonium from a civilian reactor and make bombs with it, what did he accomplish?

He did a heck of a job making Pervez Musharraf look even more like an American puppet in the eyes of his own people than he did before (And delivered a stern lecture to boot), that was something I guess. He left four people dead in demonstrations throughout India that drew hundreds of thousands out into the streets. (The media, naturally, pulled out the standard "10,000" number and stuck with it the whole time he was over there.)[real numbers]

In the wake of this major foreign policy success story, Musharraf and Karzai are at each others throats, hurling accusations about who is really harboring OBL and Mullah Omar, and Musharraf's fake attempt to show W. he was serious about routing out terrorists on his own territory has turned into a major battle in Miran Shah a town in North Wazirstan. Pakistani forces just can't seem to extract themselves from these "mopping up operations."

The AP reports Pakistani authorities say "at least 100 al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters may have been killed." Or maybe they just killed a bunch of villagers with their helicopter gun ships and artillery barrages. This is reminiscent of the Pakistani crack down on opium growers in the BBC mini-series Traffik that come to an end as soon as the foreigners leave, but in this case it seems things haven't gone according to plan.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:52 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006 1:03 PM EST
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Tuesday, 7 March 2006
I'll be Bahhhk!
Mood:  don't ask

In case my one reader out there is wondering what has happened to me and my seemingly endless flow of BS, I want to assure you I'll be back by hook or crook tomorrow, guaranteed. I'm just having a little problem with the Free Library of Philadelphia and their stone age computers.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:55 PM EST
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Friday, 3 March 2006
Our new dirty war in Iraq.
Topic: Iraq

Progress is progressing in Iraq and the "competent, capable Iraqi government [are] using their capable Iraqi security force to calm the storm that was inflamed by a horrendous, horrific terrorist attack yesterday," this according to U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch last Thursday. Lynch, doing his best Naji Sabr impression, went on to say, "We're not seeing civil war igniting in Iraq...We're not seeing death in the streets." The day he said this, safely behind the blast walls of the Green Zone, 129 Iraqis were killed.

The spin coming from the government and the corporate media then was that religious leaders were calming the situation and urging their followers to show restraint. Of course, now it turns out that while Muktada al-Sadr was preaching peace he was sending his Medhi army out to seize or burn down Sunni mosques and generally create bloody mayhem. The Badr brigade did their part along with the Iraqi Interior Ministry forces, which are pretty much indistinguishable nowadays, the evidence of this appearing in the form of dozens of bodies with their hands tied behind their backs and bullets in the back of their heads popping up everywhere. In fact, the religious leaders are doing such a great job keeping the peace that the government has very hastily imposed another car less curfew in Baghdad to prevent even more violence after today's Friday payers.

Even before the mosque bombing last week, insurgent attacks and Shiite counter-attacks around the country were topping over 500 every week. Things are decidedly worse now. The nature of the fighting is switching from the mundane car bombings and fire fights with U.S. forces of the past into organized, large scale ethnic cleansings. Last Saturday a group of gunmen stormed a Shiite house in northeast Baghdad and killed 11 men of the family. On the same day, 14 members of an Interior Ministry Shiite commando unit was killed in southwest Baghdad. Tom Lasseter of the Inquirer writes that, "An Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of his life, said that American troops had to collect the bodies: 'We couldn't enter the area today, it's too dangerous."

In another incident last night, a few dozen heavily armed militants set fire to a power plant in Narawhan, just outside of Baghdad, and then moved on to destroy a brick factory where they also killed several Shiite workers. Within the last hour I've heard reports that Iraqi security forces were asking for U.S. military help to go into the area because they felt the situation was too dangerous for them to go in alone.

Despite all the happy talk about Iraqi army brigades almost being capable of operating without U.S. help, the fact is we're stuck with not only dodging IEDs and fighting insurgents, but now our troops are having to protect Iraqi police and soldiers from sectarian attacks. We're being sucked into an Iraqi dirty war here. We stood very little chance of ever winning an indigenous insurgency in the first place and now we're asking our military to try and separate two religious factions bent on wiping each other out. Staying the course is no longer an option; it's just a matter of how many more troops we have to lose before this dawns on Rummy & Co. Or until someone has the courage to stand up and tell W., who has no patience for people who tell him the truth.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:38 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006 12:39 PM EST
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Thursday, 2 March 2006
W.s big adventure in India.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Potus hits the ground running in New Delhi and signs on the dotted line in record time. Now the only problem is getting India's parliament and the U.S. Congress on board. For the Indians, as I understand it, many in the majority and the opposition parties hew to the Nehru policy of nonalignment and knuckling under to international or American interference in their nuclear sphere is a nonstarter. In the U.S., there's much opposition to this new plan based on the idea of not letting every Tom, Dick and Harry have nukes. But don't worry, W. says, this deal will reduce the price of gas. "It's in our economic interests that India have a civilian nuclear power industry to help take the pressure off of the global demand for energy. ... To the extent that we can reduce demand for fossil fuels, it will help the American consumer." (It always comes back to oil, doesn't it.)

That's great, but the next time W. drones on about Iranian and North Korean nukes and what a danger to the civilized world they are, he's going to get India thrown right back in his face. W. says, "times change" and those against this plan have to get over it and move on. Hey, I would be the first one to agree that change is a good thing, but in the realm of international politics and law, I don't think you can just unilaterally bend the rules on the NPT like this and not have it backfire when it comes to trying to convince the rest of the world to go along with you on keeping Iran from having their own civilian nuclear program.

The Pakistan angle:

And what are the Pakistanis going to think about this? W. has just signed off on a deal that says we'll sell their arch rival modern reactor technology, and on top of that, they can hold on to the reactors they've already got, which are busily making plutonium for bombs aimed at Islamabad. And they don't have to comply with any IAEA inspections or anything; such a deal! Whereas we're still punishing Pakistan for their nuclear program, India is getting rewarded for theirs. Pervez Musharraf staged a raid on an al-Qaeda base in Waziristan yesterday, just in time for the big presidential visit; he must be wondering what a tin pot dictator has to do to get little respect.

The China angle:

But don't get the idea that India has all their nukes pointed at Pakistan; China is in the cross-hairs, too. With the help of Israel and all the high tech weaponry we've given them, which they naturally turned around and resold to the rest of the world, India is well on its way to having its Triad of land, sea and air delivery systems. In order to arm this Triad, you've got to figure they've got more than just a few H-bombs to play with. If I were Chinese, I'd be defiantly looking at this new friendship between India and the U.S. with some trepidation and would continue to help Pakistan build even more bombs. Remember, they've got their own issues with India over Kashmir. Gosh, I wonder why the Chinese are so hell bent on building up their military? Are they feeling a bit surrounded these days?

With all the pitfalls of opening the nuclear floodgates in South Asia one wonders what the hell this administration is thinking about. All you have to do is flash a little money in front of this bunch and they'll sell their grandmother. Yes, India is a big and growing market, but couldn't we sell them something other than nuclear power plants? Don't we have anything other than that to sell them? Judging by our trade deficit with them, I guess we really don't. What about those Domino's pizzas W. was talking about?

DP World is just the tip of the iceberg?

Even as W. has got a hard sell in front of him on this India deal, he's got another big problem in Congress, and that's the DP World take over of our ports. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for the administration, now it turns out that the Anti-Defamation League has a problem with it based on the DP World's parent company, Ports, Customs & Free Trade Zone Corp., enforcement of the Arab League's boycott on Israel.

But don't worry, as W. said the other day while he was feting Silvio Berlusconi (aka Jesus), "If there was any doubt in my mind...that our ports would be less secure and the American people endangered, this deal wouldn't go forward." Just because the 9/11 Commission report found the UAE to be "A persistent counterterrorism problem," I wouldn't take their word over W.'s. If he says there's no doubt in his mind, you can take that to the bank, his judgment up this point has been pretty solid, right?

The WaPo reports the administration is now reviewing whether, "Another Dubai-owned company set to take over plants in Georgia and Connecticut that make precision components used in engines for military aircraft and tanks...[the] secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is investigating the security implications of Dubai International Capital's $1.2 billion acquisition of London-based Doncasters Group Ltd.."

Well, if we're going to turn over our ports to rich Arabs with connections to OBL why not turn over our aerospace industry, too? But to counter the Arabs we'll sell our defense sofware buisness to the Israelis. That ought to play in Peoria, especially in an election year.

An Israeli company, "Check Point's proposed $225 million purchase of Laurel-based Sourcefire raised red flags with government cybersecurity officials...Check Point was built by Gil Shwed, whom Forbes magazine has described as an Israeli billionaire who served in the electronic intelligence arm of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Sourcefire makes network defense and intrusion detection software for an array of customers, including the Defense Department. The company has deep roots in the National Security Agency. Its founder and chief technology officer, Martin Roesch, has served as an NSA contractor. Its vice president of engineering, Tom Ashoff, developed software for the secretive spy agency."

Great now the Isrealis can spy on us too!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:39 AM EST
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Tuesday, 28 February 2006
W.'s trippin' on India.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Today, W. is off on his big trip to India and Pakistan. He's bringing a suitcase full of deals that will benefit the U.S. nuclear industry---as if they needed anymore government handouts---but whether he'll be able to get Congress to go along the whole thing is another matter. See, the only little spot of bother with the plan to help India build more nuclear power plants is that W. would be giving them a pass on their bombs in return for buying reactors made in the USA. There is perception of double standards. While we're busy threatening the Iranians on their bomb-making plans, we're signing off on India's. Whereas Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has been playing by the rules, the Indians are a nuclear pariah. Rep. Edward Markey (D.Mass.) spells out what many in Congress feel about this boneheaded policy, "American cannot credibly preach nuclear temperance from a barstool." I thought the whole idea of non-proliferation was...well, non-proliferation. Singling out countries for different treatment based on what kind of money a special interest can make is not a good way to go about reducing our chances of being vaporized. (1)

Of course, I understand our new interest in getting cozy with India, they've got a booming economy and their a potential ally against the Chinese, but enabling their appetite for more nukes doesn't seem like the best strategy in that part of the world. If anything, we should be trying to disarm South Asia. Right now, the Indian government is making kissy faces at Pakistan, but that could change in an instant. As W. said himself, "The world changes. It's never static." Thinking ahead isn't exactly W. & Co.'s strong suit, though, so I shouldn't expect miracles.

And what about the Pakistan leg of the trip, anyway? They've got illicit nukes too, how is W. going to circle that square? (My bet that little inconsistency in our schizophrenic foreign policy won't come up.) Besides showing up for a few minutes to have pictures taken and giving our bastard in Islamabad a 'that-a-boy' for sort of helping out in the 'war on terror,' what advantage do we gain by this visit? You'd think any administration that claimed it was bent on spreading democracy around the world and preventing nuclear proliferation would snob a dictator like Musharraf. At the very least, you would think he would tell Musharraf to stop looking the other way while al-Qaeda and the Taliban conduct their war in Afghanistan right under his nose, but he probably won't. (2) Gosh, that doesn't leave a lot to for W. and Musharraf to discuss over their state dinner, does it? There's always the earthquake relief thing, I guess.

(1) Mohamed ElBaradei warned that 30 countries could have nukes within the next 10 to 20 years if we don't get serious about disarmament and non-proliferation. A world full of nukes, "is the beginning of the end for us," he said back in December. But, of course, he wouldn’t roll over and play dead when Cheney was trying to get everyone to believe Saddam had restarted his nuclear program, so what does he know?

(2) Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan two weeks ago and it was reported that he gave Musharraf evidence that Mullah Omar, among others, was in Pakistan and gave locations of terrorist training camps operating along the border. The AP reported that Pakistani Interior Minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, said he would capture these Afghani fugitives "if they are here." [Inquirer]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:10 PM EST
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Monday, 27 February 2006
Operation Enduring Waste of Time.
Topic: War on Terror

While things in Iraq spin out of control, more so than usual, in Afghanistan a prison revolt at Kabul's main prison has turned into a stand off between government troops and about 2,000 inmates. The AP reports that, "The area now under the inmates' control includes a wing that houses 70 women prisoners and about 70 children who live with them."

My first question would be, why the hell are there children in one of Afghanistan's most notorious prisons, known for torture and summary executions in the Soviet occupation days? Well, we kept children prisoners at Gitmo, so I guess it's not that much of a biggie, right?

AP: "A man claiming to be a spokesman for the Block One inmates called The Associated Press and demanded retrials for all the prisoners, saying many were innocent while others were serving unfairly harsh sentences. The man, who identified himself only as Maqsodi, said the riot would continue until the government met prisoners' demands. 'Two-thirds of the prisoners here are innocent. The courts were unfair,' he said."

Meanwhile, the U.S. has its own gulag at Bagram airbase where prisoners are served cherries and cream every morning. The NYT reports:

"The U.S. military on Sunday defended its detention of about 500 inmates at its main base in Afghanistan, saying they are treated humanely and provided the 'best possible living conditions.' The New York Times on Sunday reported that inmates are held by the dozen in wire cages at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul -- some for as long as two or three years without access to lawyers or the chance to hear the allegations against them. The report, citing unnamed military officials and former detainees, said that inmate numbers had grown sharply, partly because 'enemy combatants' caught during the hunt for al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Afghanistan were no longer being transferred to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Gosh, I wonder why? Could it be there's too much of a spotlight on that particular gulag right now? No one pays any attention to Bagram, so it's an ideal locale.

The military assures everyone that these are all bad people who mean us harm, all the way over in Afghanistan, but a 2004 Human Rights Watch report about Bargram says:

"U.S. forces sometimes take into custody all men of military age found within the vicinity of an operation. Other times, it seems persons are targeted for arrest because U.S. officials have determined they are a security risk or are useful for intelligence purposes—for instance, clerics or local tribal leaders who might be politically involved with the Taliban, or civilians spotted near the site of a recent attack. Human Rights Watch has interviewed many Afghans who were arrested for simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Hmmm...where have I heard that before? But, naturally, they're all lying because that's the way they're trained at Jihad University. Of course, it it were true that most of the people we've been holding on to for years on end weren't really that valuable as sources of Intel or anything else, one might wonder why were wasting our time and resources on them.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:38 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006 2:12 PM EST
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