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Lets's talk about democracy
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Friday, 24 March 2006
More progress in Afghanistan:

Democratic institutions are flourishing in Kabul and a newly elected parliament of warlords is getting down to the business of reinstating Shariah law. Everything there is going so well --- except for the resurgent Taliban and the opium growing ---and now there comes this case of Abdul Rahman, who is under the threat of being put to death by an Afghan court for converting to Christianity. President Bush is very upset about this latest embarrassment and has sic'd Condi on Hamid Karzai. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Condi called Karzai and discussed this issue with him "in the strongest possible terms." McCormack says that Condi, "urged president Karzai to seek a favorable resolution to this case at the earliest possible moment."

The problem, according to Barnett R. Rubin, and expert on Afghanistan, is that the West, with their money and military presence, is putting a lot of public pressure on Karzai to quash this, which makes matters worse. The religious types are questioning his credentials as the leader of an Islamic country and in the current atmosphere of religious hurt feelings over the Mohammed cartoons he can't be seen to be backing down to infidels. [Hear Rubin on the World for more on this]

W.s right-wing Christian fanatic constituents here at home are also equally exorcized about this story and are demanding Bush do something about it. The only supporters W. has left at this point are his radical end timers, so when they say jump he says how high. This is the problem you run into when your foreign policy is based on the teachings of the Bible. A book written by a bunch of stinky sun-stroked lunatics 2000 years ago is probably not the best guide to conducting your foreign affairs in the age of instantaneous communications and nuclear weapons.

But, this isn't about religion, parish the thought, it's about democracy. We're all about democracy. Scott McClellan says that this prosecution "clearly violates the universal freedoms that democracies around the world hold dear." W. said on Wednesday that he expects Afghanistan to "honor the universal principle of freedom." What he didn't explain was why Afghanistan is being held up to this standard but Pakistan isn't.

In any case, this puts the Afghan government is a bit of a pickle and everyone concerned wants this story to go away. Supposedly, there is a chance that Rahman will be declared mentally unfit to stand trial and he'll be deported. That doesn't really do much for him or his child custody case, the reason he got into this mess in the first place, but at least he'll get out of Afghanistan with his head still intact.

With all this going on some are starting to wonder what difference getting rid of the Taliban really made. For a long time we were perfectly fine with them being in power so what happened? Oh right, the pipeline deal. Hamid Karzai, being a former adviser to Unocal, understands the value of a pipeline to his country. I guess, as long as the oil flows, we can put up with a little warlordism and Sahriah law.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:01 PM EST
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Iraqi My Lai continued:

Time Magazine reports that the military has reluctantly launched an investigation into the allegations that Marines summarily executed 15 Iraqis civilians in Haditha last November. This comes at the same time that the military is investigating the deaths of 11 civilians last week in the village of Ishaqi, where Iraqi police say Marines killed a whole family execution style. [Night Ridder] The military initially said the civilians were "collateral damage" from a fire fight between them and a suspected al-Qaeda member, but the Iraqi police rejected that claim. Farouq Hussein, a local police official, told Reuters that all the victims were shot in the back of the head. "It was a clear and perfect crime without any doubt," he said.

If this is true, what was going on in these two units? The Marines Corp. isn't exactly an organization that is known for its trigger happy killers. The Marines are the creme de la creme of military, their discipline and professionalism is legendary. If these Marine units just went off on their own and decided to kill civilians in revenge for the death of one of their own and then tried to make it look like it was the Iraqis who did it, with the bullet in the back of the head thing --the Interior Ministry's trademark ---we've got a much bigger problem in the military and the strain its under than just endless rotations and equipment fatigue.

For a while now I've been noticing the large number of NCOs we're losing in Iraq every week and I've been wondering how long we can sustain the loss of so many experienced members of the military and not start to suffer from it. The NCOs are the backbone of the military; they train the recruits and the officers. The hallmark of the volunteer army and its high level of competence is the NCO. All that experience and skill that's lost every time another Staff Sergeant or Lance Corporal is killed starts to add up after a while. Just look at the pathetic state of the Russian army, which uses "grandfathers," or soldiers with two years in the army, to enforce discipline on the new recruits by beating and hazing them. We can't get to the point where the ones training new recruits are just slightly less trained than they are.

Discipline and unit cohesion is what makes an army an army. When young soldiers are going off on their own without orders and killing civilians, especially in an insurgency war like Iraq, where such atrocities can be used by the insurgents to gain support from the local population, it's a sign something is going terribly wrong. Of course, it doesn't help that the Commander-in-Chief, who managed to avoid military service when his country needed him, regularly rewards incompetence and condones the punishment of the lowers ranks while those in command get off scott-free. As long as Rummy, the man most responsible for this mess in Iraq, gets to keep his job and continues to run the military, I don't see things getting any better over there.

I feel really sorry for those poor bastards in Iraq that somehow have to manage to fight day in and day out in the middle of the impossible situation they've been put into by the likes of Rummy and his compliant generals. The most solemn duty a general has is to ensure the safety of those he commands. This batch of lackeys, Tommy Franks chief among them, who remained silent while Rummy violated every hard learned lesson of the Vietnam war, should be prosecuted, not rewarded. Every rule guiding the uses of a post-Vietnam volunteer army was broken by Rummy and Co.:

If you're going to go to war, make sure you have the support of the public, make sure you have overwhelming force to achieve your goals and make sure you have an exit strategy. None of these rules was applied in this situation. The public has bailed, we never had enough troops and W. is hoping a future president can figure a way out, once he's safely out of office building his presidential library.

Our brave war president defends all the good work Rummy has done by saying to his critics, "Listen, every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy." The problem with that is the war plan Rummy came up with didn't envision an insurgency. W. even denied that this particular "enemy" even existed until about a year after our people had started fighting them. Rummy dismissed the insurgency as a small group of Saddam regime "dead-enders" and just ten months ago Dick-shot Cheney said they were in their last throes.

The leadership of this war is seriously flawed, to the point of being dangerous, but this isn't to say the military is completely remiss in its duties to the men and women fighting the war. ATC had a piece the other day on a mock Iraqi town they've built in the Mohave Desert at Fort Irwin to work out strategies to fight the insurgency. It's quite a major undertaking and one of the only generals who actually got his stuff together, Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus, is overseeing the whole thing. This is good and we should all be happy that the people charged with defending this country are using their training and expertise to try and get things right in Iraq, despite the lack of leadership at the top.

Deborah Amos, who did the report, interviewed a general involved in this project, who had been in Iraq during the early stages of the insurgency and he gave an example of the level of denial that was going on in the military back then. He said he was talking to a Colonel about the insurgency when the Colonel stopped him in mid-sentence to tell him there was no such thing. There was only a limited violent uprising, or some such blather. The general told Amos that those using terms to describe what was going on right in front as something other than what it was, was a form of self-delusion.

When I heard that, I was thinking how apropos that was to what is going on in the halls of the pentagon and in the White House even at this late date. As much as I am heartened by the fact the some in the military are trying to get down to brass tacks and come up with a way to fight the insurgency and save American lives, all of that effort is pretty much futile as long as we've got a president who thinks we're on the verge of a glorious victory.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:53 PM EST
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Things couldn't be better in Iraq, really.
Topic: Iraq

Despite what you see in the news everyday, things are going swimmingly in Iraq. All that daily violence over there is the media's fault. Like W. said the other day, the insurgents are "capable of blowing up innocent life so it ends up on your TV show." That doesn't explain, though, the dozens of bodies that keep popping up everyday with their hands tied behind their backs with bullets in the back of their heads. Something tells me these deaths aren't the work of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Yesterday's death total, reported by the pliable media lackeys from AP, was 58 killed by "execution-style slayings, bombings and gun battles." For the third day running insurgents attacked a police facility, this time in the Karradah district which killed 10 civilians and 15 policemen. This follows major insurgent attacks on a police station in Salman Pak on Wednesday and the big one in Muqdadiya on Tuesday that killed 18 policemen and freed 33 prisoners. Now before you get the idea that all this violence is widespread and the whole country is going up in flames, the U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Rick Lynch, would like to put all of us straight. "There is not widespread violence across Iraq. There is not." The good news he wants you to know is that, "Seventy-five percent of the attacks still take place in Baghdad, Anbar or Salaheddin." Of course, two-thirds of the country is either Kurdish ruled in the north or under the de-facto rule of the Badr brigade and the Mahdi army in the south. The rest of the country that isn't desert wasteland is where all the trouble is.

Remember, Salaheddin, where Sammara is, and Anbar, where Fallujah and Tal Afar are, are the big time military success stories of the war. So it’s just a matter of time before it’s all over, over there. Just the other day General Peter Pace said things were "going very well" in Iraq, so who are you going to believe, the media or the military?

Maj. Lynch is not all Pollyanna about what's going on over there, though, there's still some hard work to be done and he admits that there has been a "spike in ethnic-sectarian incidents." Seventy-five percent more civilian deaths occurred between the week of March 11 through the 17th and in Baghdad alone there has been 58 attacks killing 134 Iraqis, but still the enemy is unable to mount significant attacks in Baghdad because of all the extra security that those crack Iraqi security unit that will be taking over from us any minute now. Well, except for the four car bombings yesterday, naturally.

But overall, we should all be optimistic like W. is that a future president will have to dig us out of this mess he's gotten us into.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:31 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006 2:07 PM EST
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Monday, 20 March 2006
An Iraqi My Lai?
Topic: Iraq

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, an Iraqi police report accuses the U.S. military of executing 11 Iraqi civilians in a village 60-miles north of Baghdad last week, including a 75-year old woman and a six-month old baby. "The villagers were killed after U.S. troops herded them into a single room of the house...The report did not specify how the villagers were killed, but a local police commander said autopsies indicated they had all bullet wounds in the back of their heads."

The reports says, "The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women, and two men. Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles, and killed their aninals." According to U.S. military spoksman Maj. Tim Keefe, there had been a fire-fight after U.S. troops were tipped off that there was an al-Qaeda member in the house and had used "ground and air assets" to neutralize the target, which included a missile fired by an attack helicopter, but he hadn't heard about the report alleging executions. He said he had seen the pictures of the dead and concluded from them that they hadn't been killed by our troops. Of course, an investigation has been launched and I'm sure the military will do its usual thourough job of making sure the truth comes out, just like at Abu-Ghraib and Gitmo.

While they're at it they might want to look into the killing by U.S. troops of a teacher, his wife and 13-year old son and four other people in the Sunni town of Duluiyah yesterday.

The WaPo reports:

"A top police official, as well as a resident who claimed he saw the fighting, said U.S. troops also shot and killed a family of three during house-to-house searches after the firefight.

'I saw corpses on the ground that I believe were of armed men who had clashed with the American forces' and with the Iraqi army, said Ahmad Hashem, the resident. 'Then the American soldiers appeared and started searching homes. They raided a house which was close to my home and killed a man named Ahmad Khalaf Hussein, his wife and his 10-year-old son.'"

And then there's also the new investigation that took three months to get started into the killing of 15 civilians last November in Haditha.

Knight Ridder reports:

"The investigation will center on whether a squad of 12 to 15 Marines with the 2nd Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 2 from Camp Lejeune, N.C., responded appropriately to the insurgent attack 'and whether proper procedures were followed,'(an) official said.

The U.S. military official described the November incident as a coordinated attack that included improvised explosives and small-arms fire from several locations. The official said that it was common for insurgents to fight from civilian homes and structures and place noncombatants in the line of fire. But Iraqis frequently have accused U.S. forces of opening fire indiscriminately after they are attacked."

That would pretty much explain all of these incidents. My God, what the hell are we doing over there?

[See Non Sum Dignus for "Rummy's march of folly."]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:35 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006 2:43 PM EST
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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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