Helena Cobban, an experienced Middle East journalist, is concerned that an attack on Iran might come before December 6, the day the Iraq Study Group report will become an official document.
Her reasoning is based on a few ominous signs:
- the recent sudden resign of "realist" Rice counsellor Phil Zelikow, who might have learned of some coming action that he does not want to be part of;
- the general time with Congress out of session and changing leadership and no major policy pressure (which may change after the ISG paper) and no more elections for Bush in the way;
- the unprecedented travel activities of Bush / Cheney / Rice and others in the Middle East;
- the sudden peace offer by Olmert to the Palestinians which an Arab journalists (explained by Badger) sees as a historic repeat:
In a nutshell, Atwan says the 1991 war was accompanied by a promise to the Palestinians of an international conference to solve their problems (the Madrid Conference), which however produced nothing for them; and the 2003 attack was preceded by the famous Bush promise of a sovereign contiguous state for the Palestinians by 2005. In other words, these promises are attempts to rally Arab support ahead of major wars.
Add to these signs the current fluff of pro-Sunni/anti-Shia outbreaks in Lebanon, Egypt and by Saudi Arabia.
I am not sure that the publication of the ISG report with a measured demand for negotiations with Iran and Syria is something that is perceived by Cheney as limiting the chances to bring on an attack on Iran. It may not have such a weight, but I have to defer to Helena's experience in analyzing politics on that.
What do these markets know that we do not know?
Displaying grace or beauty in form or action; elegant; easy; agreeable in appearance; as, a graceful walk, deportment, speaker, air, act, speech.
"I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq," he said. "This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."
Bush agrees to speedy turnover in Iraq
So how does an ungraceful exit look?
The Gorilla Steps In And Offers A Deal
A mouthpiece for the Saudi leadership, Nawaf Obaid, has placed an unofficial announcement of official Saudi intervention in Iraq in the Washington Post - and the Saudi 800 pound gorilla offers a deal: Stepping Into Iraq.
To get attention Obaid starts off with a serious blast against Bush 43:
In February 2003, a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, warned President Bush that he would be "solving one problem and creating five more" if he removed Saddam Hussein by force. Had Bush heeded his advice, Iraq would not now be on the brink of full-blown civil war and disintegration.
One hopes he won't make the same mistake again by ignoring the counsel of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who said in a speech last month that "since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited."
Now the Saudis fear the U.S. will leave Iraq and in effect deliver it to Iranian influence. They will not sit still over this and warn against any withdrawal at all. The warning is not primarily directed at Bush (see the intro paragraph above). But it is definitly intended to impress especially Democrats who are supporting the voters demand of a phased withdrawal.
Just a few months ago it was unthinkable that President Bush would prematurely withdraw a significant number of American troops from Iraq. But it seems possible today, and therefore the Saudi leadership is preparing to substantially revise its Iraq policy. Options now include providing Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance -- funding, arms and logistical support -- that Iran has been giving to Shiite armed groups for years.
The ongoing civil war in Iraq would escalate into Saudi/Iranian proxy war.
Next there is this paragraph which I first thought to be a bit weird:
Another possibility includes the establishment of new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias. Finally, Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.
Can one threaten the U.S. with lower oil prices?
Definitely not - so this paragraph is the carrot for keeping the U.S. troops in harms way. Saudi financed Sunni brigades could take over Anbar, relief the U.S. there and defend Sunni Iraqis. Meanwhile the U.S. troops shall buffer and fight against Iran influenced Shia Iraqi. The U.S. would be payed for this with lower prices at the pump (that is - if the Saudis really can pump that much.)
That is the offer, and now again the threat:
There is reason to believe that the Bush administration, despite domestic pressure, will heed Saudi Arabia's advice. [...] But if a phased troop withdrawal does begin, the violence will escalate dramatically.
In this case, remaining on the sidelines would be unacceptable to Saudi Arabia. To turn a blind eye to the massacre of Iraqi Sunnis would be to abandon the principles upon which the kingdom was founded. It would undermine Saudi Arabia's credibility in the Sunni world and would be a capitulation to Iran's militarist actions in the region.
To be sure, Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks -- it could spark a regional war. So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse.
The Saudis do have a lot of expensive modern military equipment, but their manpower lacks and their performance in the field is dubious. A serious engagement with Iran would have uncertain results for them. Their own eastern Shia minority would probably try to have a violent say in this too, endangering the oil production.
The threat for a regional war might thereby be a bit of bluster. But the spice must flow and even an uncertain threat of a bigger regional war that would endanger that flow should be enough to get Wall Street thinking.
One could interpret the Saudi argument as a demand to attack Iran, and the neocons will definitly use this in that way, but I doubt that the Saudis really want a Sunni/Neocon Entente.
The Saudi demand is only to stop Shia expension right where it is. This requires, in their view, permanent stationed U.S. troops in Iraq as a tripwire and guarantee that any Iranian expension attempt will have to face a serious U.S. response.
The deal they offer is juicy enough to be swallowed by Baker/Hamilton and any "centrist" Democrat.
- Empower Iraqi Shia and split them from Iranian Shia, especially over the wilayat al-faqih -- the rule of the jurisprudent, which is supported by Ayatollahs in Iran but not accepted by Sistani in Najaf, Iraq.
- This will lead to a new, U.S. friendly center of Shia realm in Iraq, and help to roll back Iran as the Shia state and its influence in the Middle East
- Split off the Saudi Shia minority (and the Saudi oil which conviniently lies is in the same area) and thereby roll back Saudi influence.
The end state of the Neocons desired outcome is expressed in Ralph Peters map (click on the "next" button under the image and then the image) with Saudi Arabia split into three smaller states.
That is definitly not a favored solution for the absolute kingdom in Saudi Arabia. So while the Saudis feared phase one, but supported to a certain degree phase two by taking an anti-Iranian side in the war on Lebanon, they will most probably fight any decisive move further into the direction of phase three, i.e. an attack on Iran.
For the Saudis, the current situation is bad, but unable to reverse it, they are now willing to pay quite a price to freeze it as it is and to stop the development before it gets even worth.
The carrot is on the table. Cheep oil and loyal Sunni brigades if the U.S. stays in Iraq. The stick is there too: If the U.S. retreats it is all out war across the Persian Gulf which would certainly bring the oil-flow and the world economy to a halt.
So what choice will the U.S. establishment and public take?
Divide and Conquer - Variant II
Divide and conquer is the method tried so far by the U.S. administration to get a permanent grip on Iraq. To this means the Coalition Provisional Authority did distribute seats to the Iraqi Interim Government differentiated by religious and ethnic lines. It enforced a tripartition into Kurd, Sunni and Shia groups.
This strategy did allow for exessive U.S. influence until the Shia did win the election Sistani had demanded. The government under Maliki turned out to be depending on al-Sadr's vote and therefore a bit too independent from U.S. influence and at the same time too powerless to control the country. But to replace it through a strongman coup would have ripped apart the Bush propaganda tale of democracy, so a democratic way had to be found.
Now, a new variant of divide and conquer is in the making. According to the NYT's Helen Cooper the kernel of the current diplomatic rush is this:
- Achieve a split within the Shia part of the Iraqi society, specifically between al-Sadr and the SCIRI/Dawa parts of the government.
- Through regional friends press the Sunni (Baathist) parties to ally with the SCIRI/Dawa block and to give Maliki a more tame parliamentary majority.
"Specifically, the United States wants Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to work to drive a wedge between the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army has been behind many of the Shiite reprisal attacks in Iraq, a senior administration official said. That would require getting the predominantly Sunni Arab nations to work to get moderate Sunni Iraqis to support Mr. Maliki, a Shiite. That would theoretically give Mr. Maliki the political strength necessary to take on Mr. Sadr’s Shiite militias."
This new strategy approach seems to be confirmed by Al-Zaman (via Juan Cole).
For the following reasons I find it very unlikely that this desired realignment is achievable.
- The practical leverage Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have over the Iraqi Sunnis is overrated.
- As condition to use that little leverage these countries demanded a new initiative in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. This condition has been met in recent days, when the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, pressed by his hero, made a sudden 180 degree turn from hawk to dove versus the Palestinians. But it is obvious that this is not a genuine Israeli move but one that will be reversed as soon as pressure from Washington decreases again or some forces in Israel or the U.S. want to spoil any real steps to peace.
- The Sunnis as well as al-Sadr's movement have been the ones upholding the national stance against partitioning Iraq. The SCIRI/Dawa fractions voted for partitioning the country. Can there ever be a compromise in such opposite positions?
- SCIRI/Dawa are much more under Iranian influence than al-Sadr is. Any U.S. success in Iraq is not in Teherans interest. The Iranians can easily be a spoiler in this scheme and Bush has no intention to talk with them or the Syrians.
- The Sunni political forces are Baathist - SCIRI/Dawa hate Baathists.
- The Baathist think they are winning - why should they change their strategy?
Rice advisor Zelikow has resigned yesterday and it may well be that envisioning the inevitable failure of this new devide and conquer variant that made him take this step.
News and views ...
Civil War of Denial
The White House is objecting this morning to descriptions of the Iraq conflict as a civil war. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "The violence is primarily centered around Baghdad and Baghdad security and the increased training of Iraqi Security Forces is at the top of the agenda when [Bush and Maliki] meet later this week."
NBC First Read, Nov. 27, 2006
In the three months since thousands of U.S. forces poured into Baghdad to quash escalating violence, far more American troops have died in the volatile western Anbar province than in the capital city.
More U.S. Troops Dying in Anbar Province, AP, Nov. 25, 2006
Another Anglo-Afghan War
A Pakistani General agrees:
Lieutenant General Aurakzai said NATO was ignoring the political and military realities on the ground.
"The reason Taliban numbers have swelled is because moderates are joining the militants," he said.
"It is no longer an insurgency but a war of Pashtun resistance, exactly on the model of the first Anglo-Afghan War (in 1839-42).
"Then too, initially there were celebrations.
"The British built their cantonment and brought their wives and sweethearts from Delhi, and didn't realise that in the meantime the Afghans were getting organised to rise up. This is exactly what the Afghans are doing today, and what they did against the Soviets."
This is how the first Anglo-Afghan war ended:
In 1841 the Afghans rose against the British in Kabul, killing both British agents and surrounding the British garrison. In early 1842 the garrison surrendered, and was offered safe conduct to return to India. However, the British army of around 14–16,000 (of whom over 10,000 were civilan camp followers; the military force consisted mostly of Indian units and one British battalion, (the 44th) was harassed down the Kabul River gorge and massacred at the Gandamak pass before reaching the besieged garrison at Jalalabad. The force had been reduced to fewer than forty men by a retreat from Kabul that had become, toward the end, a running battle through two feet of snow. The ground was frozen and the men had no shelter and little food for weeks. Only a dozen of the men had working muskets, the officers their pistols and a few unbroken swords. The only Briton to survive was Dr. William Brydon.
Either NATO, currently meeting at the top level in Riga, will find a way out of Afghanistan by negotiating with the Pashtuns, or it will be kicked out and will break over it.
With Mr. "Stay-the-Course" leading the pack, my bet is on the second alternative.
Needed: A Big Stick is what the Washington Post editors prescribe today.
The subtitle already differentiates the authors from the normal crowd of human beings, those in contact with reality:
Iran and Syria are waging war in the Middle East. Will the West fight back?
It is hard to imagine what news sources these people have.
The last time I checked, and I did check recently, the U.S. is fighting a war against Iraq, Israel just fought a war against Lebanon and Israel is also fighting a permanent war against the Palestinians. Syria and Iran are not waging war.
But it gets better than that:
The assassination [of Gemayel] was a shockingly audacious attack on Lebanon's democratic forces and their U.S. and European allies.
Pierre Gemayel was probably a decent man, I don't know much about him, but a man who, being a Christian, claimed Shia Lebanese "may be the quantity, but we are the quality." sounds like a racist to me not like a democrat.
The democratic forces in Lebanon these WaPo editors seem to love are those who support the uphold of an undemocratic system. Parliament seats in Lebanon as well as government positions are distributed by quotas for various religious groups. These quotas are based on a demographic count done back in 1932 and have little to do with todays real numbers. Lebanon does not have a one wo/men one vote system in a true sense. Gemayel and the democratic forces are the ones who cling to this system and do fight against the true democratic one Hizbullah demands.
On Iran the editors write:
Iran meanwhile presses ahead with its barely disguised nuclear weapons program: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently promised to increase the number of centrifuges enriching uranium from the current 328 to 60,000.
As Seymour Hersh recently wrote, the program is so barely disguised, that the CIA does think that it does not exist and that the IAEA has found no hint of such a program either. To operate 60,000 centrifuges is of course consistent with Iran's public plans for civil nuclear energy use.
Coming from their very unreal assembly of facts the writers then demand, not to talk with the Iranian or Syrian government unless the U.S. has some "sticks" to carry into those negotiations - sticks being UN resolutions or sanctions by an "ad hoc coalition" to put pressure on Iran and Syria. The chances for the administration to get such "sticks" are, given the facts, essentially zero and the editorial does not say where they could be found.
That the editorial starting from unreal facts ends with unrealistic demands is not astonishing. But astonishing to me is how people, who, I assume, know the reality, feel the need to write such unreal stuff at all.
If they would argue for giving money to big pharma while having lots of pharma shares, I would understand the need to deceive and to be unreal. But in the case of talks with Iran and Syria, what is there to gain for them by writing such diatribe.
Do the authors really believe that "staying the course" and not to talk about mutal interests with Iran and Syria will further US interests?
Bridge of Dreams
Bridge of Dreams
News & views ...
Visit or Not
Some 24 hours ago a private and a state run TV station in Baghdad reported Vice President Dick Cheney to be in Baghdad, but there was no further confirmation.
The American Embassy said it could not confirm the visit, but that Cheney could be in the country to visit troops for the Thanksgiving holiday.
A military spokeswoman said that she could not confirm that Cheney was in the city.
Then there was this meeting which might have started before, during or after the car bombs exploded in Sadr city:
[T]op government officials held an emergency meeting at the home of Shia leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim that also was attended by Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi and US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, an aide to al-Hakim said. The officials were believed to be discussing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.
When did the meeting start? Why was this meeting in a private home? Why did Khalizad attend, but not Prime Minister al-Maliki?
Maliki was around somewhere as another report says:
Baghdad's airport has been closed, and Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki went on TV to appeal for restraint amid the violence.
"We denounce sectarian practices that aim to destroy the unity of the nation," Mr Maliki said.
Why was the airport closed? Sadr city is in the east of Baghdad, while the airport is west of the city.
But then, why bother - we can be sure Cheney was not in Baghdad to meet with al-Hakim, Talabani, al-Hashimi and Khlaizad (but not Maliki). Bloomberg writes:
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney isn't in Iraq, his spokeswoman said, following a report that he was in Baghdad to meet American soldiers on Thanksgiving Day.
"He's not in Iraq,'' Megan McGinn said in a telephone interview. Asked whether Cheney had intended to travel to the country, the spokeswoman said: "No, not to my knowledge.''
and AP later adds
David Almacy, a White House spokesman in Washington, said Cheney was not in Iraq and that his only currently planned travel to the region is the previously announced trip he will make to Saudi Arabia on Friday to meeting the next day with King Abdullah to discuss developments in the Middle East, including Iraq.
Again the timing is not clear as most of these reports do miss timestamps. Mr. Almacy's statement could also be correct if he made it after Cheney left Iraq - if he was there at all. Note that neither the spokesman nor the spokeswomen say where Cheney actually is or where he might have been at the time of the earlier reports.
But all this is tinfoil stuff anyway. Sorry for wasting your time with this which certainly was just some Frenchman's misinterpretation:
Earlier today, Agence France-Presse quoted a U.S. military spokesman as saying that Cheney was in the Iraqi capital to visit American personnel. The newswire later withdrew the report, saying that it was based on a misinterpretation of the spokesman's comments.
I guess the AFP's writer just did not understand English. In Paris, they do not even understand when you order "french fries" ...
Are these coordinated attacks? I certainly do not know, but some people in Baghdad will think so and they will act based on their reasoning on this coincidence.
In the deadliest attack on a sectarian enclave since the beginning of the Iraq war, suspected Sunni-Arab militants used five car bombs and two mortar rounds on the capital's Shiite Sadr City slum to kill at least 160 people and wound 257 on Thursday, police said.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. and Iraqi forces searching for a kidnapped American soldier also had swept through an area of Sadr City, killing four Iraqis, wounding eight and detaining five, police said.
The raid was the fourth in six days that coalition forces have raided Sadr City, which is home to the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to al-Sadr.
Attack on Baghdad Shiite slum kills 160
Even to suggest some coordination in this is of course heretic. But then one reads such popular comment and starts to wonder:
In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic. The United States had the power to change things for the better, and those who would do the changing -- the fighting -- were, after all, volunteers.
The Lingo Of Vietnam
Within that argument, what might there be that is not allowed to happen?
... to the barflies.
Grilled Republican chickenhawk á la Congress stuffed with earmarks, hmmm ...
We Manipulate, You Decide ...
Internal Middle East politics and the accompanying media manipulation, especially in Lebanon, is quite difficult to comprehend.
So was he married or not?
Robert Fisk writes in The Independent:
Gemayel, son of ex-president Amin Gemayel and nephew of the murdered president-elect, Bashir Gemayel - murder tends to run in the family in Lebanon - was no charismatic figure, just a hard-working unmarried Christian Maronite minister whose unrewarding task had been to call émigré Lebanese home to rebuild their country after Israel's bloody bombardment.
The Angry Arab replys:
Robert Fisk has a new cause: to support unconditionally the Sanyurah government. Do you notice that he uses the same language of the Bush administration when he talks about Lebanon? And Fisk says this about Gemayyel: "a hard-working unmarried Christian Maronite minister". In fact, his father kept pushing him to be less lazy, and he was married with two kids.
The BBC has a picture taken at Bashirs funeral with a text that says:
Distraught family members - father and former President Amin Gemayel, and his wife Patricia Daif - joined the procession.
This Arab CV site states:
His Excellency Deputy Pierre Amin Gemayel - Married to Patricia Daif Christian Maronite
The (current) Google cached version of an Al Jazeerah text explains:
Pierre Amin Gemayel was born on 1972 in Bekfaya.
He had his education from La Sagesse University. He was married to Patricia Daif.
But the current not-cached version of that Al Jazeerah link does not include those lines.
The Globe and Mail report based on AP has attached an AFP photo with the subline:
This file photo shows Pierre Gemayel, son of former Lebanese President and leading Christian opposition figure Amine Gemayel, waving to well-wishers with his bride Patricia Daif in 1999.
If the always truthiness reporting media can not agree on the simple fact of married or not, how can they agree on who assassinated the guy?
We manipulate, you decide ...
Mr. DeJoia has a very distinctive comprehension of Democracy. His definition seems to be similar to the one used by the White House.
When mining companies started calling tribal offices last year, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. issued an edict to employees: Don't answer any questions. Report all contacts to the Navajo attorney general.
After the measure took effect in April 2005, mining concerns kept calling the Navajo capital, Window Rock, Ariz., hoping to secure support for their projects. So Shirley signed Executive Order 02-2005, which instructs tribal employees to avoid any "communications with uranium company representatives."
The directive infuriated mining executives. "You tell me, what kind of a democracy is that?" asked John DeJoia, a Strathmore vice president. "They've got tremendous resources out there. They're a very poor nation. That could change."
Mining firms again eyeing Navajo land
(BTW: This LAT series about Uranium mining and the Navajos is quite good.)
The strategy that fails in Iraq is not winning in Afghanistan either and like in Iraq, there is only one idea on the table how to put lipstick to the pig of defeat.
More troops and sophisticated equipment are needed to bolster Afghanistan's security forces, but it is not clear whether more U.S. troops will be deployed there, U.S. and Afghan defense officials said Tuesday.
U.S. military leaders have been pushing NATO members to meet their commitments and provide more troops in Afghanistan.
There are some 30,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan including 10,000 U.S. troops plus 12,000 U.S. troops not under NATO command.
Pressure for more troops is felt in Germany. The Germans have 2,900 troops in North Afghanistan and are providing security (for themselves) and lots of police training for Afghan policemen in the Northern Provinces. So far they have avoided any battles. (There are also some 100 German special forces fighting in the South, but nobody talks about these.)
Chancellor Merkel so far withstood the pressure:
The German mandate as agreed by parliament stipulates that its troops be stationed in the north and help out in the south only on an ad-hoc emergency basis.
"The German army will continue to assume its responsibilities under its current mandate, but I can envision no additional military responsibilities that go beyond the current mandate and I'd like to make that clear right here," Merkel said in a speech to parliament.
The German public is against using any troops in peacemaking operations and a locally prominent lawsuit is threatening to stop Merkel's strategy of slowly turning the German army into empire mercenaries.
The Pashtun in Afghanistan and Pakistan tribes hold close to their Pashtunwali tribal code and will never allow others to have more than a formal hold over them. If you kill some of them, they will take revenche.
That is why U.S. and NATO tactics like these will only have negative results.
In Afghanistan Nov. 20, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets and Royal Air Force GR-7 Harriers provided close-air support for International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, troops in contact with Taliban extremists near Kandahar. The F/A-18s expended a guided bomb unit-12 and cannon rounds on enemy positions.
"Taliban extremists" are tribal Pashtun people with a certain religious based agenda. The Western establishment, media, politicians and military, seem not to understand that differenciation. The primary Pashtun loyalty has never been the religion (there are Shia, Sunni and a few Jewish Pashtun) but their tribal code. You can not bomb that away.
That code did beat Alexander the Great, the British imperial army, the Sowjets and it will beat George the Minor too.
Civil War in Lebanon?
This assassination could very well be the starting point of a new civil war in Lebanon.
BEIRUT - Lebanese anti-Syrian cabinet minister and Christian leader Pierre Gemayel was shot dead in a Christian suburb of Beirut on Tuesday.
Security sources said gunmen opened fire as his convoy drove through the Christian Sin el-Fil neighborhood. Gemayel was rushed to hospital, where he later died of his wounds.
Gemayel, the minister of industry and son of former President Amin Gemayel, was a member of the Phalange party and supporter of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, which is locked in a power struggle with pro-Syrian factions led by Hezbollah.
Of course Syria will be blamed as Haaretz already implicates by using the pro-/anti-Syria attributes.
Syria have done this? Sure I could have. But why would it do so. Its diplomatic position was getting better by each day. Hizbullah had planed big peaceful demonstrations for tomorrow to demand a demographicaly fair share of the power.
So let me ask: Cui bono? Who could benefit from this?
The Thief's Case
An easy one: What is wrong with this NYT headline and the lede?
An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.
So what is wrong here? Of course all of the West Bank "posts" sit on Arab Land. All that land is owned by the Palestinian people.
As an occupation power Israel has no legal right to annex or appropriate any land there. It did not own any land there before 1967 and does not now. Down in the article the point is made, though in a very twisted way:
Much of the world also considers Israeli settlements on occupied land to be illegal under international law. International law requires an occupying power to protect private property, and Israel has always asserted that it does not take land without legal justification.
"Much of the world" is indeed everybody but Israel. I do not know of any country that has acknowledged any legality of the land grab. The UN certainly has not done so.
International law requires the occupation power to respect ALL property, not only private one. There is no legal justification for the occupation power to build settlements - none, zero - whatever some Israeli kangaroo court might say. It simply does not have jurisdiction about that question.
The NYT is very much shilling for the Israeli government here. Oh, there is bit wrong about the settlements, but only about 39%. The majority is fine and legal and will not be given up anyway.
That is not reporting, but arguing the thief's case: "I did take the car away, but only the wheels were private property. The rest should not be judged."
Update (thanks bea): The Peace Now report is here (pdf).
Big, Long, Home
Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in U.S. troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said.
Three Colonels, all eager to be promoted to Generals, were ordered to write up a paper on a military strategy regarding the war on Iraq. Their Commander in Chief had made it clear that his preferred political strategy is "stay the course".
So why is it even newsworthy to report the results (a military strategy that fits the given political one) of that paper?
Lipstick to a pig.
News & views ...
(To me these Open Threads are not newsdumps but newsstorages - unsorted for sure and as messy as my real-life toolbox. But there is always just the thing one needs in there.)
Pay the Price?
While other neocons are pulling back a bit from there thesis' and their support for the war on Iran, one is just starting up.
Joshua Muravchik, a former socialist but now working at the American Enterprise Institute, has mind boggling OpEds in two major publications today.
From the first piece:
Neoconservative ideas have been vindicated again and again on a string of major issues, including the Cold War, Bosnia and NATO expansion. It is the war in Iraq that has made "neocon" a dirty word, either because Bush's team woefully mismanaged the war or because the war (which neocons supported) was misconceived.
No doubt, the results of the midterm elections will produce some course corrections (as Rumsfeld has discovered). But neocon ideas are unlikely to be jettisoned -- either by Bush or his successor -- until a viable replacement is found. So far, there is none.
Sorry, just bad management, all my ideas have been always been right and there are no alternative ideas anyway. We just had to kill those hundred thousands of people.
I did fool you once? Sorry for that but I have to fool you again. There are no alternatives.
That is why:
WE MUST bomb Iran.
It has been four years since that country's secret nuclear program was brought to light, and the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere.
The reality is that we cannot live safely with a nuclear-armed Iran. One reason is terrorism, of which Iran has long been the world's premier state sponsor, through groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Now, according to a report last week in London's Daily Telegraph, Iran is trying to take over Al Qaeda by positioning its own man, Saif Adel, to become the successor to the ailing Osama bin Laden. How could we possibly trust Iran not to slip nuclear material to terrorists?
Tehran can build influence on a mix of ethnicity and ideology, underwritten by the region's largest economy. Nuclear weapons would bring regional hegemony within its reach by intimidating neighbors and rivals and stirring the admiration of many other Muslims.
The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force. Not by invading Iran as we did Iraq, but by an air campaign against Tehran's nuclear facilities.
What should be the timing of such an attack? If we did it next year, that would give time for U.N. diplomacy to further reveal its bankruptcy yet would come before Iran will have a bomb in hand (and also before our own presidential campaign). In time, if Tehran persisted, we might have to do it again.
Finally, wouldn't such a U.S. air attack on Iran inflame global anti-Americanism? Wouldn't Iran retaliate in Iraq or by terrorism? Yes, probably. That is the price we would pay. But the alternative is worse.
Is that not a beauty? The second paragraph even uses the terrorist bogeyman citing the ridicules unsourced Con Coughlin piece from last weeks Telegraph - the neocon echo-chamber in full operation.
But the most remarkable issue I find with this war-mongering is this.
Even if one would accept the completely unproven thesis that Iran does want a nuclear weapon, Muravchik gives no, absolutely zero reason why the U.S. should intervene.
Iran, he phantazises, would be "threat to Israel", it would become a "hegemon" in the Middle East, it would endanger Europe and the Far East. But he does not lose one word, except the yawn inducing terror bogeyman, about any danger to the U.S. itself. Still he asks the people of the U.S. to pay the price.
But why should the U.S. pay that price?
After the unintended consequences of the war on Iraq are visible, that question may even make the deepest redneck think twice about a new "adventure".
It is the question the Neocons can not answer and it is time to ask it again and again.
Frank Rich is damning the paper we is writing for:
ELECTIONS may come and go, but Washington remains incorrigible. Not even voters delivering a clear message can topple the town’s conventional wisdom once it has been set in the stone of punditry.
Right now the capital is entranced by a fictional story line about the Democrats. As this narrative goes, the party’s sweep of Congress was more or less an accident. .. And now the party is deeply divided as its old liberals and new conservatives converge on Capitol Hill to slug it out.
It’s Not the Democrats Who Are Divided (liberated version), (emphasis added)
NYT OpEd, Nov. 19, 2006
Rich is right here of course - the "split" that is seen within the Democrats is pure fictional. There are discussions in any party. Racist lover Trend Lott was voted to House minority leader with just one vote lead. It is obvious that the Republicans are the ones who are more divided.
But facts do not keep Rich's colleagues away from writing just the fake stories he is damning - on the same day, in the same publication, on the front page.
After railing for months against Congressional corruption under Republican rule, Democrats on Capitol Hill are divided on how far their proposed ethics overhaul should go.
Some Democrats say their election is a mandate for more sweeping changes, and many newly elected candidates — citing scandals involving several Republican lawmakers last year — made Congressional ethics a major issue during the campaign.
Bigot punditry all over - of course there is discussion. But the same discussion is happening within the GOP. But the "liberal" NYT will not touch on that party.
Rich should think about changing the publication ... they may fire him soon anyway.
Agreeing With Condi
For the record: I do agree with the U.S. Secreatry of State on this:
"The Iraqis, if they do make good decisions, like Vietnam has made good decisions, if they will take tough decisions," and the world supports them, "they can and will have a better chance," Rice said.
Rice: Iraqis Must Face Up to Differences
A bit of history for why I agree:
[A]s commander of the assault on Dien Bien Phu, Giap faced a difficult decision. Should he follow a strategy of "swift attack, swift victory," in which his troops would make a lightning charge into the heart of the enemy defenses? Or go for a "steady attack, steady advance" strategy, in which his troops would patiently and methodically grind down the French defenders? Both options carried serious risks. After much agonized deliberation, Giap chose the "steady attack, steady advance" plan and fought on to victory. This decision remains one of the most significant of the entire conflict, for had Giap chosen the lightning strike option, the French might well have defeated his attack.
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu: A Vietnamese Perspective
So if the Iraqis choose a "steady attack, steady advance" strategy, Ms. Rice predicts they will have a "better chance."
I guess the Iraqis have already noticed that a while ago.
Mark P. Denbeaux, a counsel to two of the Guantanamo detainees and Seton Hall University law professor has released a second short report (pdf) about the military justice system used in Guantanamo Bay.
The first report (pdf) found that detainees are held based on accusations of being a "Fighter for ..." (8%), a "Member of ..." (30%) or "Associated with ..." (60%) various "terrorist organizations". (It also found that only 5% of these detainees were captured by U.S. forces. 86% of the detainees were caught by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to the U.S. at a time when the U.S. offered large bounties.)
The second report looks into the definition of "terrorist organisation" as used by the military to determine the "fighter / member / associate" status.
The Department of Defense has a list of 72 "terrorist organisation". Being "associated with" any of these groups is sufficient to be denied release by a status review tribunal, i.e. to be kept in Guantanamo.
But interestingly, 52 entries on the DoD "terrorist organizations" list are not on the lists used by the Patriot Act Terrorist Exclusion List or any State Department list of "terrorist organisations". Anybody "associated with" or even a "member of" or "fighter for" one of these 52 groups could thereby legally enter the United States unless there is another reason to deny entry.
Looking reverse the Patriot Act Terrorist Exclusion List and other State Department lists taken together (inconsistent with each other as well) have 119 destinct entries. But the DoD is using a shorter list with only 72 entries. Are the military tribunals soft on terrorism?
This inconsistency leads to one of two equally alarming conclusions: either the State Department is allowing persons who are members of terrorist groups into the country or the Defense Department bases the continuing detention of the alleged enemy combatants on a false premise.
Additional conclusions are that all these lists are to a large extend bullshit and that the U.S. has some serious administration dysfunction syndromes.
News & views ...
BB Declares Victory Over
A government that keeps some of its constituents hungry does not look good. Solution? Change the wording:
About a third of food-insecure households (4.4 million, or 3.9 percent of all U.S. households)
were food insecure to the extent that one or more household members were hungry, at least some time during the year, because they could not afford enough foodhad very low food security.
The prevalence of
food insecurity with hunger was up from 3.5 percent in 2003very low food security remained unchanged from 2004 to 2005.
The other two-thirds of food-insecure households obtained enough food to avoid
hungersubstantial disruptions in eating patterns and food intake, using a variety of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs, or getting emergency food from community food pantries or emergency kitchens.
were hungry at times during the year, as well as adults, experienced very low food security in 274,000270,000 households (0.7 percent of households with children) because the household lacked sufficient money or other resources for food.This rate has remained between 0.5 and 0.7 percent (statistically unchanged) since 1999.
The prevalence of food insecurity with hunger among children
Email from JB
Subj: Commission Draft
we have decided a seven point outline for the new "save-George" product. Please have a draft text ready along the outline by Friday noon - Dick and Henry will revise over the weekend.
- Iraq situation bad: Iraqis very bad, Iran/Syria bad too, Saudis good
- Important to adjust course: boss has always adjusted, will keep doing so, change of course needed - 360 degree turn imminent
- Give military whatever (it's ordered to) ask for
- Last big push: retreat bad idea (cite Abizait) - move forward - sure victory
- Prevent civil war: Christian duty - (avoid white mens "burden")
- New four point strategy:
• more troops to Baghdad: 20,000 for starters (check with McCain, don't cite Abizait on this)
• regional cooperation: big inclusive Iraqi neighbors conference - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan will attend, (Olmert too if still available, otherwise Bibi)
• no neocon democracy ideas: national reconciliation, unity government needed, Maliki too partisan, Allawi proven leader
• Congress to cough up more money: build Allawi militia
- Big victory party next June (Friedman to provide actual date and invitations)
WB: Comrade Webb
If Jim Webb and I are now on the roughly same side on the big issues of the day -- the war, globalization, corporate power, economic fairness, social justice -- it tells you something has fundamentally changed in American politics. It may not be a realignment (a political system this polluted and decrepit may not be capable of such a thing) but when Senators from Virginia start talking like Walter Reuther, it sure the hell isn't business as usual.
WB: Guardian Angel
Starting with a description of the widening gap between rich and poor Webb writes:
Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth.
Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.
He then slams the corporate elite for their hybris and ignorance regarding the inequilities and continues:
[T]he true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.
America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."
The last historic run of globalization, culminating in the roaring twenties of the last century, ended with revolutions, wars and devastation. It also was the beginning of the end of the British empire.
Webb seems to fear a repeat at least of the revolutionary part:
If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.
Kudos to Webb for writing such a piece. Though I will wait for his coming legislative initiatives and his voteing record before putting him on a cloud.
What recipies does Webb have to fix the problems? He does not name any and seems to have no intend to slow down globalization or to use some protectionist tools to temporary dampen its effects.
Ides of March
Con Coughlin of The Daily Telegraph writes today: Iran 'is training the next al-Qa'eda leaders'
Iran is seeking to take control of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terror network by encouraging it to promote officials known to be friendly to Teheran, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies, the Iranians are training senior al-Qa'eda operatives in Teheran to take over the organisation when bin Laden is no longer leader.
Well, the truthiness of this current piece is like that of Coughlin's 2003 piece titled: Terrorist behind September 11 strike was trained by Saddam
Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist.
The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.
Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.
Obviously Coughlin has some really good sources. Back in 2000 the British Journalism Review remarked on him:
... readers of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with a dramatic story about the son of Col Gadafy of Libya and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper’s then chief foreign correspondent, and it was falsely attributed to a “British banking official”. In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.
.. Coughlin was later briefed by an MI6 man – his regular contact. Some weeks afterward, he was introduced to a second MI6 man, who spent several hours with him and handed over extensive details of the story about Gadafy’s son. Although Coughlin asked for evidence, and was shown purported bank statements, the pleadings make clear that he was dependent on MI6 for the discreditable details about the alleged counterfeiting scam. He was required to keep the source strictly confidential.
Coughlin is the male UK version of Judith Miller. One can savely assume that any word he writes has been dictated by the US/UK disinformation campaign to justify an attack on Iran.
That campaign is obviously well alive, though not yet at its culmination point.
Beware the ides of March.
"The terrs have won"
The last time I visited the U.S. was in fall 2000. A friend in Santa Barbara had invited me to his wedding. Before I have visited the U.S. some 25 times and have been to about 20 states on business and private trips.
But since the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, I instituted a private little boycott and vacated elsewhere. Some American friends thought it was a stupid thing for me to do and laughed at me. Eventually they came to Europe to see me.
I recently was invited again, I declined to come and yesterday I sent this link.
In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States.
That law is being used to argue the Guantanamo Bay cases, but Al-Marri represents the first detainee inside the United States to come under the new law. Aliens normally have the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they are arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes. "It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri. "It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention."
While I would like to visit the U.S. again, if some nerd within the U.S. government feels like constructing some writings in this little blog as "supporting terrorists", that visit could turn out be longer than expected and quite restricted location wise. It could even turn out to up to my death and there would be absolutely no way to challenge such an outcome.
Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? Not anymore. Just sad, very sad. But why should I take that risk when there are a million other places to go?
The friend answered today: "Ok, the terrs have won."
"We in the Middle East have followed the American policy in Iraq for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East. We pray and hope that this policy will be fully successful so that this stability which was created for all the moderate countries in the Middle East will continue."
President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Olmert of Israel to the White House, November 13, 2006
News & views ...
WB: Come to Daddy
Two Years From Now
What will the situation in Iraq be two years from now?
Except for some marginal changes, some more troops there and some less there, the situation will just be the same than it is now.
The Iraq Study Group is just a big sham to produce a new plan that will just be the old plan in new cloth. The Democrats are for staying in Iraq just as much as the Republicans and the decider has decided and will not change that.
Unless there is some cathalytic event - another 9/11 in the US, an attack on Iran, or an attack by the Iraqi resistance with mass US casualties, there is nobody important who will really press for change.
WB: The Loser
Another Weekend OT
News & views ...
I feel like I stepped into a political time warp and came out in 1989.
WB: The Toe Sucker Gets It
By the time congressional subpoenas start being served on the top guys themselves, it will be much harder to spin the ensuing court battles over executive privilege as matters of principle.
WB: NewsBusters ...
In any case, the truth -- an unknown quantity to the shrill liberal harpies at the Washington Post -- is that most true conservatives actually hated the Republican Congress, and are overjoyed the GOP lost because it will allow them to focus all their energy on attacking the Democrats and their phony promises of bipartisanship.
WB: Proctological Exam +
This would have two useful purposes: It would force the Republicans to defend a bunch of corporate crooks and sleazy lobbyists, instead of the dignity and majesty of the imperial presidency, and it would also put some muscle behind the Dems' efforts to break up what's left of DeLay's K Street Project and replace it with their own political extortion racket.
WB: The Wave
[I]t seems worth remembering that the size of the Democratic wave was hugely influenced at the margin (which is where it counts) by that tenth of the electorate who couldn't make up their minds until literally the last minute -- despite everything that's been done, said, reported and revealed over the two years since they were last asked to take the fate of the world's only superpower into their hands.
WB: The Kind of Republican I Can Like
So I'm inclined to give Linc a pass. His self esteem clearly has been damaged enough.
WB: The Emperor at Bay
WB: Still the White People's Party
And now I'm sure the Dems will immediately repay their most loyal supporters by firmly embracing policies of social justice and economic opportunity for those at the bottom of the sdfqiiwe82ds2.ks2/,
With the nomination of Robert Gates as new Secretary of Defense, the Democrats and their fresh won majority are immediately put to a test.
So will the Democrats fold on this nomination like they were trained to do the last six years?
Or have they grown some spine and will demand a SecDef that understands military issues, has some knowledge about the Middle East instead of old Soviet affairs and is not a crook?
News & views ...
WB: Political Cross Dressing Watch
And this time, they might have affected the votes of white people. Equal protection! Equal protection!
WB: Pulp Fiction ++
II. Dr. Death
I. Pulp Fiction