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Wednesday, 4 October 2006

What, with all the talk about congressman Mark Foley and his IM trysts with young male pages, it's difficult to hear the gunfire from Baghdad these days. While we wait to see whether the House GOP leaders send fat old Dennis Basstert off the glue factory to save their own sorry asses there's a war going on. (Actually two wars. . . or is it three?) As bad as this scandal might be for the GOP in the upcoming elections, however, I'm sure there's a sigh of relief at the White House. Karl Rove is probably thinking right now: 'Maybe if the media keeps obsessing about Foley and the Amish until November, no one will notice the body count in Operation Together Forward.'  Because we all know Iraq is the third rail for W. & Co and any news is good news as long as it's not about Iraq.   

If, by chance, you've been focused on the Foley escapade to the exclusion of all else, here's a round-up of the news in Iraq over the past three days: As usual, dozens of bodies are continuing to pop up all over Baghdad, many from recent large scale military-style abductions; the court trying Saddam Hussein is afraid to release the verdict of his previous trial for fear of stoking even more sectarian violence; car bombings, suicide bombings, mortar attacks, IED attacks and gun battles rage apace around the city; and since Saturday, hundreds of Iraqi civilians have died along with 17 US troops; 8 on Monday alone. This is the highest total of troops killed in a single day since late August. (You see, we are making progress!) The NYT reports that "four soldiers died in a roadside bomb attack; the four others were killed by small-arms fire in separate incidents."    

I'm sure all these stats and deaths are being closely followed by what I'm now calling Rummy's "Fruit Bowl Rubric. This referees to a paragraph in Bob Woodward's new book "State of Denial" in which Rummy tells the shocked reporter that this latest upswing of 900 or so attacks a month is due to "categorizing more things as attacks." Rummy tells Woodward that now, "a random round can be an attack all the way up to killing 50 people somewhere. So you've got a whole fruit bowl of different things - a banana and an apple and an orange." There's no word yet on what Rummy is calling the deaths of the four soldiers who died in the IED attack; was it a banana or were the four killed in the small-arms fire incidents an orange? Who knows, but you can be assured Rummy is on the ball.

After all, he's in charge right?  No? Woodward writes that he told Rummy of the Robert McNamara quote that, "Any military commander who is honest with you will say he's made mistakes that have cost lives," and then he waited for Rummy's response."  

Rummy: "Um hmmm.... 

Woodward: "Is that correct?" 

Rummy: "I don't know. I suppose that a military commander . . . 

Woodward: "Which you are . . ." 

Rummy: "No I'm not." 

Woodward: "Yes, sir" 

Rummy: "No, no well . . ."  

Woodward: "Yes, yes. It's the commander in chief, secretary of defense, combatant commander. . . " 

Rummy: "I can see a military commander in a uniform who is engaged in a conflict having to make decisions that result in people living or dying and that would be a truth. And certainly if you go up the chain to the civilian side to the president and to me, you could by indirection, two or three steps removed, make the case." [Newsweek

At which point Woodward fell off his chair and called loudly for the man with the butterfly net. Actually that didn't happen, but talk about denial! This Rummy character won't even admit he's responsible for running the pentagon at this point. Farid Zacharia was right, he is a potted plant!  

In all seriousness, this is the man most responsible for the horrific mess we find ourselves today in Iraq and Afghanistan and he's playing semantic games with Bob Woodward. This man's hands are drenched in rivers of American and Iraqi blood and he's denying that he even knows who's in charge. If the president was anyone else besides George W. Bush this man would be out of a job and looking for a lawyer. The inmates have truly taken over the asylum. Unfortunately, all the other inmates are too busy watching "Entertainment Tonight" to notice.    

Condi's big adventure:

Condi Rice is off on another trip to the Middle East, this time to show her concern for the Palestinian people.  The last time she made the trip, she was just back from a hot piano playing gig in Kuala Lumpur where she was desperately trying to keep the war between Hezbollah and Israel going. Something tells me Abu Mazen having Condi over for a cup of tea and sympathy isn't exactly going to endear him to his people. Hamas is bad enough, but at least they're not dining with the devil.   

Since she and W. decided to punish the Palestinian people with crushing sanctions for choosing Hamas in free and fair elections last January, the situation in the territories has gone from desperate to Darfur. Now, she's back to visit the scene of the crime. "The Palestinian people deserve calm," she says as Hamas and Fatah fight in the streets over the last few scraps of food. Why do I get the feeling not too many Palestinians are really going to appreciate her visit?   

What exactly does she think she's going to accomplish anyway? What is this all about? Since when does anyone outside of the White House think W. & Co. really care about what's going on in Palestine? If they were really interested in finding a lasting peace settlement they would have done something about it five years ago. Instead, they decided that anything Clinton did they would do the opposite. If Bubba worked his fingers to the bone to try and negotiate an enduring peace deal, they would issue platitudes, call Sharon a 'man of peace' and do little else. (By the way, whatever happened to the idea that the road to Middle peace led through Baghdad?)  

In the absence of any American involvement over the past five years we've gone from dealing with Arafat to dealing with Hamas. Arafat wasn't prince charming but he was a Palestinian, he was a realist, he was his own man and what he said went. By contrast, now you have a bunch of religious whackos running the show. They're fanatically devoted to destroying Israel, they're amazingly boneheaded and no one knows who exactly is calling the shots. Is it Syria, is it Iran, who knows? How do you deal with these people?   

Now, here comes Condi come-lately saying Israel should open up a few border crossings and Hamas in turn should surrender before negotiations can even begin. I'm not a Hamas fan -- in fact, I think they've been an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians -- but in the real world no one should expect them to just lay down their arms and recognize Israel, which is the Condi's starting point for any change in the situation. It's not going to happen. Again we see the same old Bush administration state of denial. 'We just best scenario everything, threaten everybody and things will work out.'  

Not going to happen.


This approach has worked out well in other places, too. Taking the "diplomatic route" with Iran, offering talks on suspending their uranium enrichment program, but only after they suspend it, has really produced positive results. Calling North Korea the 'axis of evil' and threatening them has sure kept them from throwing out the IAEA inspectors and building bombs which they didn't have before.  

And now North Korea says it's going to test a bomb and Condi says such a move would be considered "provocative." I'm wondering what precisely she plans to do about it if they go through with a test. Is she going to threaten to play piano for them or make them watch one of her workout tapes? I don't see many other options, because our military is on the brink of extinction, we don't talk to the current government in South Korea and the Chinese aren't particularly helpful when it comes to North Korea. Or anything else for that matter, beyond lending us money. 

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:35 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006 7:38 PM EDT
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Saturday, 30 September 2006
War not going so well?
Topic: Iraq

So, things are once again going swimmingly in Iraq. This week there have been over 150 bodies found scattered all over Baghdad showing signs of torture; suicide bombings are at an all time high; Muqtada al-Sadr is losing his grip on the Madhi Army, because he's too moderate; we've lost 20 US troops since last Sunday; and the new judge overseeing the "trial" of Saddam has lost his brother-in-law, who was shot on a Baghdad street yesterday.  

The big trench the Iraqis are building around Baghdad is almost complete and the government has issued another one of its famous curfews banning not only vehicular travel, but also pedestrian traffic. That's a new one. In a puzzling development, the commander of US forces in Anbar province told the press that the insurgency will be defeated but not by the US military. Army Col. Sean B. McFarland said,” An insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat in a finite period of time. It takes a lot of persistence --- perseverance is the actual term we like to use. If we get the level of violence down to a point where the Iraqi security forces are more than capable of dealing with it, the insurgency's days will eventually come to an end. And they will come to an end at the hands of the Iraqis, who, by definition, will always be perceived as more legitimate than an external force like our own." [Inquirer] 

Wow, you know, with unlimited time and resources we could beat the insurgency, too. Of course, if we just wait long enough, these insurgents we're fighting now will simply die of old age; we just have to wait them out. Rummy says, "ultimately they will fail. It's going to take time, and its going tot take a lot of hard work by people who believe in freedom." Unfortunately, the people he's relying on to keep up the fight are the same few hundred thousand that he keeps sending back there to fight again and again.  

But, there's good news on the horizon. AP reports that the UN issued a report this week saying that "al-Qaeda's activity will diminish as violence escalates and distinctions blur among sectarian attacks, criminal acts and the fight against Iraqi and non-Iraqi forces."  Boy, that's good to know. [AP] 

As bad as things are though, Bob Woodward tells 60-Minutes this week that it's worse than we know. Surprisingly, it turns out that the Bush Administration is covering up just how bad things are in Iraq and he says we should expect it to get much worse next year. "It's getting to the point now where there are eight-, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That's four an hour attacking our forces. The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse, and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon saying, 'Oh, no, things are going to get better.'" [AP]  

How could that be? I don't believe it! This administration wouldn't lie, would they? Sounds like the enemy's propaganda to me.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:32 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 September 2006 1:33 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 27 September 2006
Musharrif and Karzai: what a mess

Boy, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall as W. sits down to dinner with Pervez Musharrif and Hamid Karzai? [No food fights boys!] What on earth are they going to talk about? Musharraf's new book? Perhaps not. Musharrif has already caused a stir by saying that former US undersecretary of State, Richard Armitage, told him the US would bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age unless he got onboard with the WOT.  That was bad enough, but now the press has taken W.'s advice and 'bought the book’ -- though they probably got comped for it -- and more is coming out about what went on in those early days of the WOT.  Musharrif says the US paid Pakistan millions of dollars in bounties to round up suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda types. (One presumes that whether they were actually guilty of anything wasn't all that important.)

Just this one little tidbit of information ought to give W. some indigestion over dinner. Here's he's on the verge of getting cart blanc to do whatever he pleases at Gitmo from Congress and now this comes out! It won't be too much of a stretch for W.'s detractors to draw a direct line between those bounties and the hundreds of "enemy combants" being held at Gitmo who were all supposedly 'captured on the battlefield' and who have never been charged with anything. [Laura, where's the BC power?]    Musharrif also writes that the US, Pakistan and the Saudis created an "Islamic Monster" by aiding the Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Seriously, does this guy have a death wish? I can already see Rummy and Cheney fitting Musharrif for a Fred Flintstone suit right now. I don't know what Musharrif is up to, but you've got to figure he's not the vice-president's favorite dictator nowadays.  

As I've written before, though, I'm guessing he doesn't care that much about what W. or Karzai has to say about these revelations or his turning a blind eye to the Taliban setting up shop in his country. He's gambling the US has too much on its plate to doing anything about it. And if we were to go for regime change in Pakistan, right now, we'd be looking at the Pakistani version of Mullah Omar replacing him. Better to forget about Musharrif and his Taliban for now and focus on the real threat.  

We'll deal with him later, because, if -- I mean, when -- we launch "Operation Second Coming" against Ahamdinejad & Co. we're going to need Musharrif onboard and in charge in Pakistan. We're tilting to India presently, but if they give us any guff over messing up their business plans in Iran, we can just tilt right back towards Pakistan in the blink of an eye. [Keep that in mind Macaca] Although it’s completely insane, you can imagine the Brains Trust in the vice president's War Bunker calculating that if everything goes according to plan -- which naturally it will -- we can then roll up the Taliban in a matter of weeks, solving that problem once and for all. After we set up a democratic regime in Tehran,  India will calm down once they see who'll they'll be doing business from now on and we have Musharrif sitting on their eastern border just in case. 


It's all so perfect. Sure there may have been some hiccups along the way in Iraq, but once we get Iran squared away, everything will fall into place. If it doesn't, well you know what W. says about history; we're all going to be dead anyway, so who cares?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:41 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007 2:44 PM EDT
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Friday, 22 September 2006

You know, it was shocking enough when I read yesterday that Pervez Musharraf said that Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan into the stone age if they didn't thelp us out with the Taliban. [AFP] But Musharrif tells W. today that his recent deal with the talibs and al-Qaeda is "intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there wont be al-Aqaida (in Pakistan)."  W. standing right next to him then says: "I believe him."

Boy, I've got some land in Florida I'd like to sell you W.  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:35 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006 1:25 PM EDT
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On civil war and Alberto Gonzales' green light for torture.
Topic: Iraq

AP reports today: "The Iraqi conflict is changing from a fight against U.S.-led coalition forces to an internal power struggle, the top U.S. general in Iraq said yesterday." General George Casey says, "We’re starting to see this conflict here transition from an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the very definition of a civil war?

Meanwhile, the building of the 60-mile trench around Baghdad continues apace, the AP story reporting that, "Viewed from the air, the network of irrigation canals and ditches almost completely ringing the capital is clear." Casey says, "The notion is push the bad guys out, and then gradually go back and reclear areas so that people feel safe in their own neighborhoods."  But, aren't the bad guys already in the city? I mean, they're not coming in from outside.  The main culprits in all the killing going on are the Shiites, specifically the Mahdi army, which controls most of the east of the city. It is all well and fine to chase the Sunni insurgents from one Sunni neighborhood to the other and block infiltration from Anbar, but the biggest concern is still the Shiites.  

The UN reported this week that 5,106 Iraqis were killed in July and August. And that was only in Baghdad! [AP] Killing is up in other regions of the country as well. The UN report says, though, it's difficult know exactly what's going on in some parts because the security situation is so bad. For example, Anbar province reports 0 deaths during July. Now, you know the Marines may be doing a great job at holding their own against al-Qaeda and the insurgents in Anbar, but no enough to keep the body count to zero!  

What is most shocking about how many these people are dying at the hands of Shiite death squads in Baghdad is the pure viciousness of the tactics they're using. The NYT reported this week that it's not only the death squads and criminal gangs that are responsible for the killing and torture but the security forces are also involved. (Well duh'!)

"Torture remains widespread, not only by death squads but also in official detention centers, according to UN officials. The report said some detainees showed signs of beating 'using electrical cables, wounds in different part of their bodies, including in the head and genitals, broken bones of the legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns. Bodies found in Baghdad, the report added, often show signs of torture that include 'acid-induced burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs) missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails."  

A UN official, in fact said yesterday that the torture going on now is worse than during Saddam's regime. By the way, wasn't US AG Albero Gonzales just in Baghdad to help the government figure out what are and aren't permissible techniques for torture? We already know that back here in the US the White House can't figure out what all those vague prohibitions in Common Articel 3 of the Geneva Conventions really mean. Gonzales says in Iraq it's "difficult to decide what is appropriate," and it's equally "a difficult decision as to where to draw the line." But rest assured, he says, this "government has not engaged in torture," despite all the evidence to the contrary. [BBC]

You don't think Gonzales was there to give the Iraqi government the green light to torture, do you? Who, after all, would know better about what torture is? The torture memo Gonzales signed off on in 2003 outlined that waterboarding and live burials were A-OK with the then White House Counsel. It sure reads  like a how-to manuel for the Iraqi security forces. I don't know. . . 

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:18 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006 12:20 PM EDT
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Thursday, 21 September 2006
We've got no problems in Afghanistan, seriously!
Topic: War on Terror

Now, I've heard that ISAF along with their Afghan partners in the Afghan National Army were able to completely rout the Taliban in Kandahar province and kill 500 of them, while at the same time only killing 17 civilians, but there's an article in the Inquirer today that makes me somewhat skeptical about all this happy news.

The Inquirer quotes Army Capt. Robert Stanton, who works with ANA units who says of them, "The ANA has no concept that it's their country and their job to defend it. Some units are good. But most are crap."

"There's not a whole lot we can do about it," says Sgt. Clay Groves, after finding out that Aghan troops were caught by his men smoking hashish at an observation post. "Just stand behind them when they shoot. Or stand where they're aiming - it's probably the safest spot," he said. At least they weren't shooting heroin. (They only grow it and sell it, they don't use it.)

So, this is the great force we're training in Afghanistan to stand up so we can stand down? These guys took a break from selling all thier equipment and gasoline to somehow kill 500 Taliban? Yeah, right.  

Meanwhile, Hamid Karzai is blaming Pakistan for all his troubles again. At the UN yessterday he said, "terrorism does not emanate from within Afghanistan," but it's Aghanistan's "worst enemy." "We must destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region. We must ensure that political currents and entities in the region are not allowed to use extremism as an instrument of policy."

Hmmm... I wonder who he could be talking about? I wonder too if this has anything to do with Musharraf making a deal with al-Qaeda in North Waziristan? 

In an interview in the NYT yesterday, John Abizaid said he didn't view the Taliban as a threat to Karzai's government, but he said he'd hoped at this point we'd be doing more building and less fighting. They're always very hopeful at the Pentagon.

On the subject of Musharraf's deal he said: "I’m very, very skeptical about this notion that people who have been harbored in the tribal areas are no longer going to be harbored. I’ll believe that when I see it." On the other hand, though, Gen. James L. Jones Jr., testified in Congress today "that the border with Pakistan ''should be a lot quieter'' if Taliban-linked militants observe a truce with Pakistan in which they agreed to stop crossing into Afghanistan to launch ambushes.'" [AP] Sucker!

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that -- even though there is no serious problem in the south -- US troop levels would remain the same until at least February. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry told reporters today that "Our expectation is that our troop levels in Afghanistan will remain about steady through the point." The numbers they're talking about are 20,000, but the AP reported back in May that levels went from 20,000 to 23,000. 

But, what's a few thousand troops here or there between friends. We sure could use them in Baghdad, though. AP reports:

"Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East, told reporters Tuesday that the military probably would maintain - and possibly even increase - force levels of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring. The current total is 145,000, up about 20,000 since June."

Sound familiar? He'd better hope they can draw troops out of Baghdad by then, because the Taliban will be coming out of their mountain hideouts for another go at ISAF about then.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:26 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006 1:25 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 20 September 2006
Afghanistan update: Operation Deconstruction
Topic: War on Terror

AFP reports: Operation Medusa is wrapping up.

"The two-week military offensive in southern Afghanistan has been successful in driving the Taliban from the region and sending the message that NATO and Afghan forces are prepared to wipe out the hardline movement's fighters, officials said yesterday. . ."

Canadian Brigadier-General David Fraser, commander of NATO forces in the southern region, says, "What we saw here was a success against the Taliban. But that's only one area in a very, very large battle space."

Lt. General David Richards was less circumspect about the victory in Kandahar. "This has been a significant success and clearly shows the capability that Afghan, NATO and coalition forces have when they operate together.

Despite this "significant success," though, a suicide bomber on a bike managed to kill himself, four Canadian troops and a group of children just outside of Kandahar. [AFP] Remember, this is the region Gen. Fraser just said was free of Taliban fighters.

Meanwhile, Mulla Dadullah Akhund, the crazy Taliban general, told ABC News in a rare interview that, the ISAF figure of 500 dead Taliban in Operation Medusa is bogus. He claims he lost 14 fighters and he's got "no shortage of fighters. In fact, we have so many of them that it is difficult to accommodate and arm and equip them. Some of them have been waiting for a year or more for their turn to be sent to the battlefield,o shortage of men ready to go, he says.  [For more on Akhund see this blog July 10]

And it might be good to keep in mind that in order to kill all these Taliban ISAF had to destroy an estimated 18,000 homes. Christina Lamb of the Times Online quotes a British soldier who jokes that "we call it deconstruction not reconstruction." In addition, AFP reports that "fields and homes are littered with shrapnel. Buildings and wells have been destroyed. Roads have been ploughed through grape fields."

Assadullah Khalid, the Governor of Kandahar province says, "we are working in clearing the area of bombs and land mines in order to facilitate the complete and safe return of the displaced families. This, we hope, will be achieved before the holy month of Ramadan sets in."

Yeah, good luck with that. Way to encourage Aghans not to go over to the Talibs side.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:18 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006 3:19 PM EDT
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Saturday, 16 September 2006
Speaking of NATO:
Topic: War on Terror

Speaking of NATO.  It looks like after a long week of begging in Belgium, NATO General James L. Jones hasn't had any success in getting the 2,500 reinforcements for Afghanistan he wanted. [AP] Condi Rice even tried to help him out, warning darkly that Afghanistan could become a "failed state" if NATO countries don't pony up the troops. She said during a visit to Canada that Afghanistan "could come back to haunt us," if something isn't done. [As if it hasn't already, thanks to Rummy]  

Things in Afghanistan are not going according to plan and the Taliban are giving the newly arrived NATO forces a run for their money in the south. It's not that the wheels are coming off or anything --perish the thought -- but General Jones needs just a few more troops to really send the Talibs on their way. What he's particularly concerned about is allowing them to sneak back into their winter camps, in a few months, without having completely wiped them out. Unfortunately, the 800 troops Poland has offered won't arrive until February, so he's pretty much screwed on that score. Right now, though, if I were him I'd be more worried about not losing Kandahar, never mind crushing the insurgents. First things first. 

Where are all these Taliban coming from anyway? I see reports in the media about almost 2000 Taliban killed in the past year, but they keep coming back. That's kind of amazing, if you think about it, because the US says there are only about 6000 Taliban fighters. If they've just lost almost a third of their forces so far this year, you'd think they'd be getting weaker not stronger. Of course, there's really no way to tell how many have been killed and something tells me a lot of that number might be civilians.  

When you see every day NATO spokesmen claiming that 50 or 60 Taliban were killed in a single engagement, you've got to take that with a grain of salt. Are they sure they were all Taliban? There are already several Afghan government investigations into the US killing of civilians in air strikes in the past few months, including 10 Afghan police last month. In fact, not only civilians and Talibs are being killed by US air strikes, but also coalition troops. Last month 1 Canadian soldier  was killed by an A-10 Warthog. And that's not the first time a "freal accident" like that has happened.  

What makes me especially skeptical about what I read in the newspapers about thousands of Taliban killed is that these reports are coming for the military, with no independent verification. There are no reporters in these areas where the fighting is taking place. Again and again, I read that casualty reports are based on observations of troops on the scene through "weapons sites and other observation devices."  

That sounds pretty sketchy to me, because if you've just wiped out 50 or 60 or 500 Taliban in one engagement, why aren't you able to go down and count exactly how many you killed? Wouldn't SOP be to go investigate the battlefield for Intel: like getting IDs, weapons, radios, etc.? If all these reports are based on observations through weapons sites at a distance, how can they be sure all those killed were insurgents?  What's complicating the entire body count thing is that the Talibs wear the same clothes as the civilians do and this time around they're not staying clear of civilian areas. In the past they were careful not to fight amongst the civilian population, but ever since they started comparing notes with the insurgents in Iraq, they've got a brand new bag.

Up until this year, suicide bombings had been unheard of in Afghanistan, not to mention IEDs, now they're happening almost everyday.  It is entirely possible that Afghanistan is already lost. After almost four years of neglect by Rummy & Co. in their rush to bomb the crap out of Iraq, everything has fallen apart. Opium is the number one source of money in the country, schools are being torn down as fast as we can put them up, the warlords are back, Afghan soldiers and police are busting into people's houses and robbing them, corruption is at all time highs and Hamid Karzai is wildly unpopular.  

I don't see how 2,500 more NATO troops are going to deal with any of these issues. And until something is done about the Pakistani ISI giving aid and comfort to the Talibs in Quetta, they're just going to run back across the border every time things get hot. Maybe, if W. & Co. weren't so transfixed on Iran and Iraq, they'd gave some thought to how they're going to get Musharrif to stop supporting the Taliban while at the same time keeping the Pakistani bomb out of the hands of al-Qaeda. . . Just a thought.  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:41 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006 3:42 PM EDT
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The Battle of Baghdad: a slight reprise:
Topic: Iraq

Not to say that things in Iraq are going from bad to horrible or anything but: the AP reports today that the Iraqi Interior Ministry is going to start building trenches around Baghdad -- Yes, trenches, you read it right. Apparently, this is the third part of "Operation Together Forward," a security crackdown that began June 15 and which was been widely successful (unless you take into account the 1,800 or so people being killed every month since it began).  

Part one apparently involved setting up check points, part 2 was the sealing off of mainly Sunni neighborhoods and going house to house, and part three is to cordon off Baghdad from the rest of the country and begin going into Shiite districts. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, there will be "28 inlets into Baghdad while all other inlets will be blocked. Supports will be added to the trenches to hinder movements of people and vehicles. The trenches will be under our watch."  

Boy I don't know about you, but I feel better already. This sort of thing has worked out so well in Ramadi, Fallujah and Tal Afar, why not just dig 60 miles of trenches around the capital city to show everyone how confident you are about your ability to get the country under control. And while they're at it, why not make everyone carry biometric identity cards, like the citizens of Fallujah have to? There are only about 6 million people in Baghdad, that shouldn't cause much trouble.  

This whole thing has got to be a joke, right? What are the chances that building trenches around the entire city of Baghdad is going to have any effect on the violence going on there? I would say about the same as setting up road blocks and going house to house. Zilch! So this is the "defining moment, the defining battle of the war," according to General George Casey? (I thought that was Fallujah in November of 2004). The plan is to hide behind trenches?  

'whack-a-mole' is not working: 

Not that the military is over stretched or anything, but the US military is pulling troops from other parts of the country and rushing them into the "Battle of Baghdad." (Didn't we already win that thing back in April of 2003?) Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli says stopping the sectarian violence is a higher priority then going after the insurgents. He said, "the main effort is in Baghdad, and we must ensure that we weight the main effort." That's fine, but al-Anbar is in pretty piss-poor shape right now, too. In fact, it's so out of control that a Marine intelligence officer has said in a secret report that although we haven't been beaten militarily, "we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost." [WaPo]  So I guess pulling troops out won't make a difference anyway, right?  

Yanking troops out of Anbar to keep Baghdad from imploding would appear to me to be a pretty desperate gambit. Just how bad are things in Iraq? According to a NEWSWEEK article, "privately, senior U.S. officials say the Iraqi government has only a few months to stop the killing or collapse." Now, I can see why instead of the promised troop reductions that were being talked about in the summer, units scheduled to go home are being held up and sent to Baghdad.   

The sad tale of the 172nd Stryker Brigade: 

Like, for instance, the 172nd Stryker Brigade from Fairbanks, Alaska. The 172nd has been in Iraq for over a year and they were scheduled to go home last month. Instead, they were told to pack up and move to Baghdad. Apparently, they've been the victims of their own success; a NEWSWEEK article about Blackhawk Company 4-23 infantry battalion, says that after a year in Iraq, they've lost only 20 injured of their 4000 troops and no one has been killed in action. Their Stryker armored vehicles are "almost indestructible" which has made them an ideal item to have in Baghdad's mean streets.  

Unfortunately, although their vehicles might be indestructible, the people inside them are not; particularly when they're not in them, a concern being expressed by families of the 4-23. The soldiers say they're spending most of their time outside their Strykers, doing what the Iraqi security forces should be doing. In a meeting with family members back in August, Rummy got an earful about this. One woman complained to Rummy that, "My husband hasn’t set foot in a Stryker since he arrived in Baghdad." Rummy answered that "Over 90 percent of the house clearings are being handled by the Iraqis."

At this point, according to the NEWSWEEK article, women in the audience started shouting "no!" and "that's not true." Rummy shot back, "Don't say 'No,' that's what I've been told. It's the task of the Iraqis to go through the buildings." [This is also the same guy who said he knew exactly where the WMD were.]  Members of the 4-23 say they, not the Iraqis, do 95 percent of the house clearing. "'I'd like to punch [Rummy] in the gut, says one seasoned NCO on his second Iraq tour. He treats us like we're not human. He acts like he's not destroying families.'"  

Where do I sign up?   

Looks like that guy needs a few more deployments to Iraq to straighten out that attitude; but morale is high, just look at all the National Guard soldiers falling all over each other to go back. The Philly Inquirer reported this week that "in Pennsylvania, 500 of the 15,000 members of Army National Guard and 10 of the 4000 Air National Guard have chosen to go back. In New Jersey, 2 to 5 percent of the Army National Guard and about 20 percent of the Air National Guard's 2,300 have volunteered to return."  

That's alright, there's always Stop Loss, the Individual Ready Reserve, and sleazy recruiters ready to threaten potential recruits with jail if they don't sign on the dotted line. Rummy once said "you go to war with the Army you have, not the one you would like," but right now he's lucky to have the remnants of what he originally went in with. Maybe, we can ask NATO for some troops?  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:25 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006 3:27 PM EDT
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Saturday, 9 September 2006
Musharrif's dangerous gambit and W.'s mess.
Topic: War on Terror


As we all sit down to watch "the Path to 9/11" on ABC this Sunday and ruminate about the last five years of W.'s misrule, we might want to think about how things are going today in the first war that W. started. If we'll harken back to those dark days, we'll remember that Afghanistan was the country that gave OBL and al-Qaeda a free pass to train and plan the 9/11 attacks. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was the place where we had the best chance of really rolling up al-Qaeda and getting after OBL. If the administration had actually put any real effort into finishing off the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan, perhaps we wouldn't be in the situation we find ourselves in today.   Back in 2001, the US still had enormous international support and sympathy for our invasion of Afghanistan because we had been attacked and we were defending ourselves. If we had left a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and rid the world of a then not so popular al-Qaeda, we'd still be in the position of being the leading light of freedom and stability throughout the world. And, perhaps more crucially, our military would still command the fear and respect of our enemies.

Thanks to Rummy's bungling in the initial phases of the Iraq war, the Sunnis there and now the Taliban in Afghanistan have been given time and space to figure out how to counter our tactics and prove to the world that we're vulnerable.   The Taliban have compared notes with the insurgents in Iraq and now IEDs and suicide bombings are commonplace events, where they were unheard of before this year. In Kabul yesterday a suicide bomber crashed his Toyota into a US Army humvee, 50-yards from the US embassy building, killing 14 civilians and 2 US soldiers. [AP] This was the first major attack of its kind in relatively stable Kabul since the war began five years ago. It probably isn't the last.  

At the same time this news was hitting the wires, NATO member countries were meeting in Brussels to decide on how many reinforcements to send to the south of the country, where the Taliban is running rampant. Since W. & Co. made the decisions to find more suitable targets to bomb in Iraq, a few months after invading Afghanistan, and allowed the Taliban to escape over the border into Pakistan they've regrouped and are now back, stronger than ever. This apparently is news to NATO officials who say they have been surprised by the level of combat they've faced in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.  In the past 38 days they've lost 35 troops. Brig. Ed Butler, the commander of British forces in the south says, "The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis." As for our troops fighting in the east of the country, the NYT reported on Tuesday that, "statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq."   

If NATO's original the plan was to go into these provinces in the south and finally get around to expanding the writ of Hamid Karzai's government outside the city limits of Kabul and gets reconstruction going again, I would say they've got a long way to go. Former NPR correspondent Sarah Chays, who now lives in Kandahar, was on the NEWSHOUR last night and she said the people in the area don't exactly have a great love for the Taliban, but there is a certain nostalgia for the law and order they brought to the country, which is now in total chaos. She says the insecurity in the south has finally caused most Afghanis, who were unusually patient in giving Karai's government a chance to provide security and stability, to turn toward the Taliban again out of utter desperation.  

No matter how many troops NATO or we send in there, it is becoming very clear that the insurgency isn't going to end any time soon unless the problem of Pakistan and its support for the Taliban is addressed. Perves Musharrif was in Kabul this week to reassure Karzai that he's doing all he can to go after the Taliban in his country, but I doubt anyone believes him. Just before he landed in Kabul he made a deal with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in North Waziristan that he'd leave them alone if they didn't attack his military forces. In the agreement also was included a stipulation that Musharrif wouldn't go after OBL or any number of other wanted terrorists.  

How the administration is going to reconcile Musharrif's peace deal with our sworn enemies while at the same time acting like he's our good buddy in South Asia is the real question. Musharrif and Karzai are going to be W.'s guests in Washington very soon, so it'll be interesting to see how W. & Co. spin this one. Musharrif will doubtless claim, as he did in Kabul this week, that neither he nor the ISI is "behind anything that is happening in Afghanistan," because "the coalition would become an enemy of Pakistan and start attacking Pakistan," but I think he's making the calculation that the US doesn't have the resources to go after him now.  He's probably right about that because, besides Iraq, we've now got Iran on our plate. Hell, we can't even really cut off his government financially because if his regime were to be destabilized, we'd be looking at a potential take over by some very nasty people who wouldn't hesitate to nuke India with Pakistan's arsenal of "Islamic bombs."  

Musharrif is in a tough position, between the rock of the US and the hard place of his radical Islamic domestic enemies. He's probably thinking he'd rather risk the wrath of the US than tangle with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Especially in light of these supposed democratic election he's going to be holding next year. He'll need the support of the only moderately radical elements of the electorate to get re-elected. Since he's done away with the likes of Narwaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and their moderate democratic parties, all he's got left is the whacko parties.  Yes, this is quite a mess W. has gotten us into. In another five years we could have the Taliban in full control of their own statelet in the south of Afghanistan; a radical Islamic government in Pakistan with their hands on a bunch of nukes -- which they would give to al-Qaeda to bomb us; a full scale regional war in the Middle East pitting Turkey against the Kurds in the north of Iraq, the Iranians and the Syrians against us and Israel in Iraq and Lebanon; and just for good measure, the Russians and the Chinese swooping in to get their hands on all the oil when there's no one left standing.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:42 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006 7:29 PM EDT
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