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Lets's talk about democracy
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Friday, 17 March 2006
Is there an Iraq left to win?
Topic: Iraq

Yesterday, the military announced they had launched operation "Swarmer," the biggest air assault since the beginning of the Iraq war in the area around Samarra. There was confusion all day in the media about what exactly "air assault" meant, because at first everybody thought this was "shock and awe" all over again. Later on the pentagon explained they were talking about helicopters landing troops, not fixed wing aircraft dropping smart bombs.

Part of the confusion might have been from the day before when the U.S. used what military spokesman Maj. Tim Keefe said were "air and ground assets" to demolish a farm house in Balad, which he said was supposedly occupied by insurgents. In the process, they managed to kill 11 civilians, who were apparently members of an entire family --- "from a 75-year old grandmother to a six-month old baby" ---from what Jeffery Gettlman in the NYT reported. The results of the air and ground attack were, "devastating, according to images broadcast on Arab TV: dead cows, scorched cars, a smashed house and 11 bodies wrapped up in blankets."

In the effort to win hearts and minds, and keep everybody's mind off the lack of any political progress in Baghdad, the U.S. is really going after the insurgents, or al-Qaeda, or whoever is in Samarra, now that the horse is already out of the barn. Today, I heard resistance has been light, which probably has to do with the fact that the insurgents knew well ahead of time what was coming and redeployed the hell out of there.

The Iraqi army makes up half the forces involved in this "offensive," which is great, but from what I hear they're not the problem---the Interior Ministry forces and the police are. No one ever said the U.S. military couldn't train an army, I'm sure the Iraqis are way more capable than they were a year ago. The question now is, after they've got control of Samarra, will the Iraqis stay to make sure al-Qaeda doesn't come back? I seem to remember that U.S. launched another big offensive almost to the minute that W. and John Kerry started their first debate back in October which was supposed to flush the insurgents out of Samarra for good. Whatever happened with that?

Last night Jay Leno joked that this offensive would last as long as it took to get Bush's poll numbers up to around 40% and I think there might be some truth to that. I noticed a distinct lack of Rummy in the press and a whole lot of Scott McClellan. When the White House press secretary is giving the blow by blows on a military operation, you have to wonder. The thing is, I don't think at this late date that big military operations deflect the public's attention away from the chaos and political gridlock that's going on everywhere else in Iraq. We're still getting a heavy dose of "civil war has been averted," but if you listen to what the major players are saying you don't really get that feeling.

On Wednesday, the day before the parliament met for about a half hour to show the cameras that they could actually all sit down together in the same room --- and get nothing done --- Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the powerful Shiite group Sciri, said the only way to provide security for Iraq was to split up the country into autonomous regions. "This way, each region can be guarded by its own people and the criminals won't have a chance." Good idea, sounds like a perfect recipe for civil war, too. Al-Hakim's boss, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is supposedly the voice of reason, said last week that if the government couldn't ensure safety, the militias would.

When you judge the situation by the lack of progress being made in the moribund parliament and the comments of one of the largest power brokers saying they want to run their own show down in the south, what makes anyone think there's a snow balls chance in hell of a "national unity government" ever happening? Sending 1,5000 troops into Samarra to chase out a few hundred ragtag insurgents who will just relocate to another part of the desert doesn't solve the larger issue of whether there even really is an Iraq to defend anymore.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:31 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006 12:33 PM EST
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Thursday, 16 March 2006
More preemption coming.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

The Bush administration is releasing its updated national security strategy plan which advocates preemptive strikes against countries W. & Co. think might be a danger to us at some point in the future. (This is the same kind of loose thinking that led us into Iraq.) This time around, it's Iran in the cross-hairs for "anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's strike." But, of course, this applies to countries with WMD and would only be used as a "last resort." Just like in Iraq, only then it was a first resort. It does say, though, that diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear enrichment program "must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided," so that's hopeful right? Didn't we try diplomacy on Iraq? No?

The NYT reports that the new document makes "no such direct threat of confrontation with North Korea," which, after all, actually has nukes. Asked about this double standard --- because some think a crazy regime like North Korea with nukes might be more of a danger than a not as crazy that just wants nukes --- National Security Director Steven Hadley said, "the sentence applies to both Iran and North Korea." Right, you can take that to the bank. So watch out Kim Jung-Il, you're still on the list. (But not really)

Of course, we know Iran is a major threat to this country and could pass the "point of no return" within minutes, but North Korea, who actually has WMD and has threatened to use them against us, makes Iran's human rights record look like Denmark's. A new musical, the Yoduk Story, in South Korea about the north's Gulags is stirring up all kinds of controversy, mainly because the government there is trying to make friendly with Kim Jung-Il and doesn't want to offend him. Jung Sung San, the musical's producer, who was sent to a camp for listening to a South Korean radio broadcast, had to actually use one of his kidneys as collateral to get the money to put the show on and still risks losing it if he doesn't make money by the end of the month. This is the lengths this man is willing to go to get the word out about the horrors that go on beyond the DMZ. I'm just wondering where the Bush administration, the great defender of democracy, is on the issue of the perhaps millions of North Koreans who have died under this regime? When you consider how really dangerous North Korea is along their egregious human rights violations compared to Iran, which has elections however flawed, one wonders what is really going on here. (Oh, right, they're a threat to Israel!)

Global warming, not a threat!

This new document says a lot about the major perils of regimes like Iran and Syria (The fact that they're neighbors of Israel is just a coincidence), but nothing at all about global warming. It does say that "new flows of trade, investment, information and technology" are changing national security when it comes to disease and natural disasters, but nothing about global warming. I seem to remember an article in the Observer about a Pentagon report on global warming came out a while back saying that, "Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters," and that, "Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world," but since it didn't mention Israel, I guess, its not that much a threat.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:26 PM EST
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Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Vote for Kadima: we've got really big ones!
Topic: Israel

In a nasty bit of electioneering yesterday, acting Israeli PM Ehud Olmert sent the IDF into the PA to storm a prison in Jericho in order to arrest some Palestinian terrorism suspects who were already locked up. The story is that the Brits and Americans who were guarding the prisoners, in a special arrangement brokered a few years back, left because of security concerns and the Israelis fearing the PA would let them escape came crashing in to get them. During the 10-hour siege, the streets of Palestine predictably exploded and protests in the West Bank and Gaza turned violent, resulting attacks on the British Council buildings in Gaza and Ramallah and the kidnapping of 17 foreigners, according to the AP.

My question is, what the hell were the Israelis doing deep inside the PA to begin with? And how did they know to go in the second the international monitors left? It's all very fishy. In my opinion, the British and the U.S really blew it. The two countries claimed they had been complaining about the security situation at the prison for quite a while, but this is the first anyone has heard of it. If it was such a problem, why didn't they come out publicly and say something before they just up and left. This is now going to turn into yet another political crisis. You can't exactly claim you're an honest broker when you reinforce the perception that you're wrapped around Israel's little finger by allowing something like this to happen. The use of American Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers in the attack, doesn't help either.

There had to have been a better way to handle this. Now, the bomb-throwers and fire breathers are all fired up and there's likely going to be some kind of retaliation, which will then lead to a heavy handed response from the Israel and then the Palestinians will hit back and so on and so on and so on....But, hey, Kadima's sagging poll numbers went up, so know we know Olmert is capable of using overwhelming force against unarmed targets, just like Sharon always did. And he's way mas macho than Bibi.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:28 PM EST
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What are the Iranians thinking about?
Topic: General News.

You know, when I was just a little nipper, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held Americans hostage for 444 days. At the time, I remember being outraged at pictures of them using an American flag to take out the trash. My dad was shocked at how pissed off I was, because even at 14, I was one of those picko liberals, who I guess, he assumed wouldn't mind people abusing the flag. At the time, I didn't understand why the Iranians hated us so much and just assumed they were all crazy.

What I found out later was that we had overthrown the democratically elected government of Muhammad Musaddiq and set up the Shah to make sure they didn't do anything crazy like nationalize the oil wells. From 1953 on, the Shah ruled with an iron fist and eventually his misrule led to the Islamic revolution. After digesting that little tidbit of information, it's a little easier for me to understand why the Iranians distrust us so much. Now as we discuss the crisis of Iran's nuclear ambitions, which is a direct result of our bone headed policies in that region for the past 60 years, it might be instructive to think about what is it that makes the Iranians think they need the bomb.

I found this appraisal of the thinking behind Iran's foreign policy in a book called Diplomacy in the Middle East, which was edited by Carl Brown. This excerpt is from an essay called "Iran's Foreign Policy under the Islamic Republic, 1979-2000," by Shaul Bakash.

"Iran's foreign policy is shaped by overriding security concerns. Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980, the eight eight-year war with the country, and the sense that Iran received virtually no support from the international community in the face of naked aggression has left deep scars on the national psyche. Moreover, Iran with good reason feels it lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Instability is endemic along its border with Afghanistan...(And) given its hostility to Iran, American's huge military presence in the Persian Gulf and uncertainty about its intentions is another source of concern."

Of course, they probably have a somewhat better idea of what American's intentions are in the region since the invasion of Iraq. This is probably why they're so intent on having a nuclear deterrent. I'm not saying its right that they should have a bomb, actually I don't think anyone should, but all you have to do is look at which axis of evil country got invaded and which one didn't. North Korea, with the bomb, is untouched, and Iraq, without the bomb, is a mess. It's easy to understand why Iran thinks its next on the list if they don't get a bomb pretty quick.

Iran's current policy of playing the Russians and the Chinese off the Europeans and the U.S. is nothing new, either. They've been doing it for centuries. Bakash writes, "Muhammad Musaddiq coined the term 'negative equilibrium' to describe the manner in which Iran would avoid falling under the influence of either Britain or Russia...The Islamic Republic's great-power diplomacy in the 1990's was therefore a return to a well-established tradition." Actually, friendly relations Iran enjoys with Russia and China started with the Shah in the 60' and 70's, who eventhough he was an ally of the U.S. during the cold war still wanted to keep his options open.

I'm not going to attempt to go into a whole lecture on Iran here, I just wanted to point out that there are reasons for the way Iran is behaving, other than the ones you hear in the media; that they're all crazy and they just hate us. Not all Iranians hate us, but they do hate our government. They see themselves as a great country with a long history of greatness and they're not likely to just let us or anyone else boss them around. According to Shaul Bakash, "The Shah had cultivated a sense of the greatness of Iran by virtue of its size, population, history and imperial past. The Islamic Republic cultivated a sense of the greatness of Iran on the same basis, but rather than the imperial past it stressed the centrality of the revolution itself and of Iran's Islamic credentials."

It's bad enough they've got an inferiority complex, but adding religion into the mix makes everything that much more dangerous. Bomb + God = kaboom.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:22 PM EST
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Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Iraq on the bloody march to freedom.
Topic: Israel

I hear today that the White House thinks they can regain some ground in public opinion if they focus on issues they feel the president is having some success on, like Iraq and Medicare. Man, they are in a bubble over there on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., aren't they? Yesterday, W. gave his big speech on the Iraqis standing up and us standing down, blah, blah, blah, and today he's in New York State to trumpet his massively successful Medicare drug plan. Can't you already feel the public turning around?

In Iraq, Muktada al-Sadr called for calm and unity and blamed all the violence on al-Qaeda and the U.S. Meanwhile, in the past twenty-four hours, 60 more bodies have turned up with their legs and hands tied and it looks like the Shiites might be running out of ammunition because most of the dead appeared to have been strangled. In Sadr city, the scene of 6 deadly car bombings on Sunday, vigilantism was the watch word of the day. The NYT reports that, "Shiite vigilantes seized four men suspected of the deadly attacks, interrogated them, beat them, executed them, and left their bodies hanging from lampposts in a Shiite slum yesterday." So far so good.

In a further sign that Iraqis are remaining calm and working towards a political solution that will allow the U.S. to stand down as Iraqis stand up, the Times' Jeffery Gettlman writes that, "The streets are ruled by aggressive teenagers with shiny soccer jerseys and machine guns. They poke their heads into cars and detain whom they want. There seems to be no minimum age to join the action. A playful boy named Mustafa, who said he was 11 but looked about 8, was part of a four-foot-tall militia of Sadr city boys struggling to drag chunks of concrete into the street to black cars." Of course, this isn't to say its only Sadr city that's experiencing some democratic untidiness, there are raging gun battles and mortar rounds falling all over Baghdad and the body count is going up by the hour. This is not to say there's complete chaos in the streets or anything, some of the killing is very organized.

Iran is a threat to who?

But, right now, the president's main worry is Iran. You know, they're the most serious threat we face. Some might even say Iran is an imminent threat, in fact. On Radio Times today, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Foundation warned that the NIE from last August saying that Iran might have a nuke in three to five years was "controversial" and that some are looking much closer in to a time frame of one to one and half years.

What he didn't mention was that by "some" he meant the Israeli lobby. They've been over here pushing the storyline that we have to prevent the "point of no return" which could be any minute now. If the Iranians can get past the hurtles of all the complicated issues involved in actually making a bomb and then put it on a missile and get it to hit the right place, then they might be a real threat some time down the road.

So obviously we have to act now! Berman admits that we don't really know where they are in the process, but since we don't know what we don't know, we should just figure they already do have a nuclear capability. Just like Rummy said before the Iraq invasion, the absence of evidence is no evidence of absence. And anyway, Berman warns, the military option for the Israelis is not a matter of "if" but of "when." We don't want to be put into the position of having to clean up Israel’s diplomatic mess after a preemptive strike; we'd better do it first. The fact that Israeli is blackmailing us into a war that we can't afford is not their problem apparently.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:18 PM EST
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Monday, 13 March 2006
More happy talk on Iraq in the works
Topic: Iraq

Its three months and counting since the much ballyhooed elections in December and the bickering Bickersons have yet to be able to form a government of "national unity." While the pundits are still speculating about whether frick or frack will be the new Prime Minister, the situation keeps going from bad to worse and I say the entire discussion about forming a government is pretty much academic at this point, because it looks like to me that we're already beyond the point of no return. But, that's not important now, according to W. and Condi Iran is the biggest gathering and growing threat confronting us. You know if we could just get the Iranians and the Syrians to stop interfering in Iraq everything would work out great. And I hear there are bases on the Cambodian border that we might need to take out.

W. launches a new series of speeches today on Iraq to try and convince us that this time he really understands what's going on over there. Apparently, all the speechifying he did a few months ago didn't do the trick. I remember David Brooks going on back then about how he was happy that the administration was finally going to stop insulting the intelligence of the American people and come clean on what was really going on over there. Based on the latest polls, as far as I can tell, the effort to convince the American people that they weren't being treated like idiots has fallen flat.

As a preview of what we can expect, W. said this Saturday that there's no civil war. "There are some people trying to, obviously, ferment sectarian violence --- some have called it civil war --- but it didn't work." Right, The Sunnis blew up a Shiite mosque and then the Shiites went on a mosque burning and killing rampage that resulting in an overflow of corpses at the Baghdad morgue. Yesterday, in apparent revenge for the role Muktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army played in the killing over the past few weeks, 6 car bombs went off in Sadr City killing some 50 people and wounding two hundred others. Such an attack on Sdar's home turf is unlikely to go unanswered.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces are doing a great job, according to W. "The Iraqi security forces performed ---in most cases --- really well to provide security," after the Mosque bombing on Feb. 22. Surely, he doesn't mean the police who stood around and watched as Sadr's folks burned and killed. He must mean the Interior Ministry forces, right? Oh, but wait, they're accused of being responsible for the dozens and dozens of bodies popping up all over the place.

Not that there are Interior Ministry death squads roaming around Baghdad or anything, but Bayan Jabr, the Interior Minister, says there might be a few bad apples. [Knight Ridder]He claims he has arrested 22 people suspected of being involved in death squads but 18 were released and the remainder was sent to the Justice Ministry. Jabr says, "Now we have sent them to the court because hasn't been proved that all four were involved." Out of the 22 he suspects of some involvement in death squads there are maybe four who might actually have something to do with it. Hmm...these guys must be real good at what they do to have maxed out the morgue all by themselves. It's good to see Jabr is really taking the bull by the horns on this death squad issue and isn't just rounding up the usual suspects to please his American benefactors.

Meanwhile, more progress in Afghanistan:

In the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since last month, four soldiers were killed by an IED in Kunar province yesterday and a car bomb in Kabul almost killed Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the leader of the Meshrano Jirga. According to the AP, Hamid Karzai said that he had received information two months ago of a plot to "attack important personalities in Afghanistan." As usual, he was being diplomatic, but Mujaddedi wasn't so careful saying, "We have information that the ISI of Pakistan has launched a plan to kill me."

The ISI? Say it ain't so! They couldn't still be working with the Taliban could they? There's something defiantly going on between the Pakistanis and al-Qaeda and the Taliban because they seem to be thriving in North Waziristan and their terrorist railway into Afghanistan is running like clockwork. And it's no secret at this point that the insurgents in Iraq are teaming up with the terrorists in Afghanistan. As I wrote before, the Atimes reported back in July, "That members of the Iraqi resistance, comprising mostly Ba'athists who have melted into various Islamic groups in Iraq, and Taliban and al-Qaeda members of the Afghan resistance met several months ago in Baghdad, where they reconfirmed strategies for their common goals."

The Pakistani military for their part are fighting what the media calls the "remnants" of the Taliban in Miran Shah and doing a damn good job of recruiting new members for them. This week General Shaulat Sultan claimed that his troops killed "about 30 miscreants, who included foreigners" but the locals said innocent woman and children were killed. The Pakistani security forces have been using a lot of artillery and helicopter gun ships, which are, of course, very discriminating in their targets. The claim that there were foreigners involved was disputed by Syed Nek Zaman, a cleric and member of the parliament, who demanded in a session of the National Assembly that the government "Come up with evidence if you killed foreigners." Blaming foreigners for all their problems sure takes the heat of Pervez Musharraf when it comes to his relationship with W.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:47 PM EST
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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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