U.S. Judged By Actions, Not Words
Price Floyd worked at the State Department until a few weeks ago. He recently wrote a remarkable OpEd about his experience selling Bush's policies:
As the director of media affairs at State, this is the conundrum that I faced every day. I tried [...] to reach people in the U.S. and abroad and to convince them that we should not be judged by our actions, only our words.
Groucho's 'Who are you going to believe, ...' may be effective once or twice. But after years of U.S. propaganda contradicting everything the U.S. does, it has lost the trust of other nations.
Bush's bogus recent announcements on aids spending (a bondongle for U.S. pharma and "abstinence only" Christians) and global emissions goals (avoiding any real action) will reinforce the international lack of trust.
How might that change?
On the national level a new energizing President Gore may quickly be judged better than a lame lying President Bush. National trust in the Presidency can be regained within a few month.
People in other nations will take much longer to differentiate between 'The President of the United States' and 'The President of the United States.' The will not trust the new President's words. It may indeed take decades to regain the lost trust and the thereto attached influence.
For U.S. folks the by now unavoidable long time-lag between electing someone 'good' and a real positive international feedback will seem unreasonable. This again may prompt isolationist reactions.
The U.S. has some valuable, positive moral and cultural goods to sell to the world. But even with a fair-minded salesman/women internationally his/her pitch will not be listened to for a long time.
It will take a continous stream of real altruistic doings, not words, to convince the world that change has happened.
There are three alternatives: Walk the talk, go hide in isolation or end up as the most despised nation.
Which way will the U.S. take?
Open threat: "If you don't comment, the terrorists will win ..."
Bush Changes His Mind (Or Not)
There was some truth in this statement:
April 13, 2004
As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation -- and neither does America.
President Addresses the Nation
But that knowledge seems to be lost now:
May 30, 2007
President George W. Bush would like to see a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea to provide stability but not in a frontline combat role, the White House said on Wednesday.
Bush envisions U.S. presence in Iraq like S.Korea,
Has Bish changed his mind? Of course not. Fifty years of U.S. troops in South Korea, supporting a military dictatorship for most of that time, is not indefinite occupation and that is all he talked about.
And there is even hope some Iraqis will agree to such a not-idefinite occupation. Those living in London and Washington may even like the idea.
NATO Defeat in Afghanistan
Every evening throughout World War II radio stations in Germany read out the "Forces Bulletin." A daily success report with a series of victories here, accomplishments there and lots of heroic deeds.
The victorious wording never really changed but the locations did. People marked those places on their maps. After Stalingrad they found that each announced victory on the eastern front happened further west than yesterday's victory.
The described heroic deeds became defensive. Some Sergeant got decorated for stopping a big infantry attack single handed, a commander was lauded for rescuing his crew out of a burning tank.
Despite the positive language, the negative content could easily be detected.
Reading the Air Force May 28 airpower summary for Afghanistan, the similarity is striking:
[I]n Garmsir, French M-2000 Mirages dropped guided bomb unit-12s on enemy targets and escorted a coalition convoy. Other Mirages provided a show of force with multiple flares in the area. The drops and shows of force were reported as successful.
An attack on a convoy?
Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles provided shows of force, releasing flares to help ground forces withdraw from an area in Gardez. The F-15Es stayed with the ground forces until they had reached a forward operating base. They experienced no attacks while the aircraft were escorting them.
Troops had to withdraw(!) to their base?
An Air Force B-1B Lancer executed shows of force, releasing flares to support a medical evacuation in Asadabad. There were no attacks reported after the show of force. The Lancer also conducted a show of presence for a convoy on a coalition route in the area.
A medical evacuation - why? No attacks after(!) the show of force? What happened before?
Another B-1 showed force with flares to break up a developing riot in Farah. The show of force was called successful. They also performed shows of presence over a highway in the area.
Why was a riot developing?
An Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II provided a show of force, launching flares over Orgun-E to deter enemy activity surrounding a convoy in the area. There were no reports of attacks after the show of force. The pilots stayed with the convoy until they reached their final location.
Another convoy attacked? No attacks after(!) the show of force?
An F-15E provided a show of force over Kandahar to prevent any enemy activity while a convoy was stopped for vehicle repair.
Why did the vehicle break down?
In Iraq, a U.S. Marine F-18 Hornet fired multiple cannon rounds at a vehicle with mortar capabilities near Karamah. The strafing was reported successful.
The resistance now has vehicle mounted, i.e. heavy mortars?
The glorious successful shows of force above do not paint a picture of progress towards some kind of victory.
Neither does this:
According to Red Cross, bombing by U.S. forces in western Afghanistan last month destroyed or badly damaged some 170 houses and left almost 2,000 people in four villages homeless.
The Afghan tribes will kick out the current occupier just like they did again and again throughout their history.
But maybe something good might come from this.
Under U.S. pressure NATO is ever expanding its agenda and is morphing into a U.S. controlled global force of Western imperialism.
There is no public support for such a role - at least not in Europe. People can read between the lines of such success reports. Without public support, NATO will lose in any bigger conflict like it is losing in Afghanistan.
NATO must be reduced back to its original North Atlantic defensive role or it must be dissolved. The coming defeat in Afghanistan will be a great occasion to do so.
Klammheimliche Freude, clandestine joy, is an expression from the 1970s in Germany.
Whenever the Red Army Fraction or another violent left movements had a successful operation, their sympathizers were accused of such joy. To a certain extend such blame was true. Only few agreed with the RAF actions, but a lot felt joy that someone was doing something against the repressive rightwing political/capital dung pile of that time.
A month ago I titled a piece In Favor of Killing American Troops. I tried to explain how I do NOT wish for anybody to die violently, but that reports of ever higher U.S. casualties will be the only way to get the U.S. out of Iraq.
With 10 more GI's dead yesterday, I'll get to see the headline I wished for "U.S. May deathtoll in Iraq exceeds record." Guilty of klammheimliche Freude, again.
Guilty also of feeling much sadness and sorrow.
At least 40 Iraqis died today in two big bombings. Of the 150 plus wounded, many will die too (but will not be counted) because of the very sorry state of Iraqi hospitals and for lack of medicine and doctors.
Not that we will see anything of this. News about carnage in Iraq is heavily censored now:
Police who arrived at the scene confiscated the cameras of journalists who came to cover the attack, according to AP photographers and television cameramen at the scene.
The U.S. does the equivalent with a catch22 like legalistic approach:
Since last year, the military’s embedding rules require that journalists obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited.
As we are not allowed to see the real mess anymore, we are left to note the more entertaining aspects. An Iraqi special police platoon, in full uniform, kidnaps four British mercenary guards and their client from within a finance ministry office.
There is certainly some never to be told interesting backstory to this. But then, it is just a diversion.
Another sad thing - Cindy Sheehan has given up her attempts to end the war. In her farewell diary she explains:
I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland.
Well said. Take a look at this bill many Democrats voted for. Tens of billions for the weapon industry, lots of other pork, no timelines for Bush, but pressure on the Iraqi parliament and administration. Pressure to pass THE Iraqi oil law. THE big price the war is about. This is the moral abyss some Democrats even called a success:
H.R.2206 - U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 (Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate)
Title I, Chapter 3, Sec. 1314
(b) Conditioning of Future United States Strategy in Iraq on the Iraqi Government's Record of Performance on Its Benchmarks-
(1) IN GENERAL-
(A) The United States strategy in Iraq , hereafter, shall be conditioned on the Iraqi government meeting benchmarks, ... :
(i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review.
(ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification.
(iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources of the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.
(c) Limitations on Availability of Funds-
(1) LIMITATION- No funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the `Economic Support Fund' and available for Iraq may be obligated or expended unless and until the President of the United States certifies in the report outlined in subsection (b)(2)(A) and makes a further certification in the report outlined in subsection (b)(2)(D) that Iraq is making progress on each of the benchmarks set forth in subsection (b)(1)(A).
Other Bilateral Economic Assistance
ECONOMIC SUPPORT FUND
For an additional amount for `Economic Support Fund', $2,502,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2008 ...
It is either bribery or extortion. It is criminal.
The military doubts that any progress is achievable. Iraq likely to miss goals set by U.S. - at least until September, so now they are busy to redefine success.
It is all about avoiding some - any end-date where Bush and the very bipartisan U.S. foreign policy establishment will finally have to declare defeat.
But that day will come. Maybe with the next President, probably later.
Until then what is left is open sorrow, and once a while, clandestine joy.
The Bush Economic Boycott
James is a friend of MoA barfly Beq. He asked this to be posted. I am not sure I agree with it, but it certainly deserves discussion.
Voting in 2007 or The Bush Economic Boycott:
Starts June 1, 2007, ends when ALL troops are removed from Iraq.
- Cut out-of-pocket expenses by whatever you can (a goal of 25% is recommended).
- No purchases of homes, cars, luxury items: unneeded appliances, computers, electronics, jewelry, etc.
- Shop at non-Bush friendly vendors only. www.opensecrets.org may help.
- Cut all non-essential driving. A goal of 50% is recommended.
- A 100% boycott of gift purchasing on the December holidays (children are optional, just cut back) Make gifts, bake goods, etc.
Our goal is to force the Bush administration to finally take notice of our strength in numbers. Yeah. They got the guns but…
They totally ignored the 2006 elections. So vote again in 2007. Every dollar not spent to fuel the economy will eventually help save American and Iraqi lives. I can’t think of a better sacrifice that we can make to stop the bloodshed.
Note: For those of you who live elsewhere, boycott wherever you can if you don't already.
Insurgents At Home
Insurgents hijack 2 buses in Baghdad
Raids target Shiite insurgents in Baghdad's Sadr City
Fear, fortitude in Kandahar city as insurgents turn to cities for refuge
As we think about this important front in the war against extremists and terrorists, it's important for our fellow citizens to recognize this truth: If we were to leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy would follow us home."
President Bush Discusses Progress in Afghanistan, Global War on Terror
Bush was wrong. It already happened. The enemy is already there. Right in the heart of Texas.
Tensions in the Texas House boiled over in a parliamentary showdown between Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick and some GOP and Democratic insurgents.
Craddick survived a five-hour rebellion on the House floor that included a bold attempt to boot him from office, the physical restraint of insurgent lawmakers trying to overtake the speaker's podium, and the House parliamentarian nearly pushed to tears before resigning.
CBS Station KEYE correspondent Keith Elkins reports that anti-Craddick forces (known as "the insurgents") have whispered that there would be a move for a member vote to have the Speaker removed. That move came this week — or would have if the Speaker had allowed them to be heard.
CBSNews: Chaos In Texas House Over Speaker Fight
Cheney Administration Expresses Self-knowledge
"Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away. These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Their cruelty is not rebuked by human suffering, only fed by it. They have given themselves to an ideology that rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society.
The terrorists know what they want and they will stop at nothing to get it. By force and intimidation, they seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to their ideology. Their ultimate goal is to establish a totalitarian empire ... They view the world as a battlefield and they yearn to hit again. And now they have chosen to make Iraq the central front in their war against civilization."
News & views ...
Associated Press: Voice of the Empire!
Should Associated Press be renamed to Voice of the Empire?
This is what happened today in Iraq:
In the early morning the U.S. military bombed a row of cars waiting in front of a gas station in Baghdad. Several civilians got killed and more wounded, some house were damaged as was the Habibiya maternity hospital.
But what AP is reporting is tons of propaganda and only a tiny little bit of the truth.
A day after radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaced to end nearly four months in hiding and demand U.S. troops leave Iraq, American forces raided his Sadr City stronghold and killed five suspected militia fighters in air strikes Saturday.
Hmmm - typical revenge act - Sadr wants the U.S. to leave, the U.S. goes after Sadr folks.
But why suspected fighters? Didn't they fight? Next graph:
U.S. and Iraqi forces called in the air strikes after a raid in which they captured a "suspected terrorist cell leader," the U.S. military said in statement.
Why call in air strikes after a raid?
The statement claimed the captured man was "the suspected leader in a secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training."
EFP's are deadly roadside bombs that hurl a fist-size slug of molten copper that penetrates armor, a weapon that has been highly effective against American forces over the past year.
Oh boy, these old lies again and again. But repeating lies is an effective propaganda technic as the Associated Press always carries them and never explain that these lies are indeed lies. It is not that AP does not know these are lies. They just don't says so.
The EFPs are mass manufactured in Iraq. On at least three independently reported occasions U.S. troops raided shops in Iraq where lots of EFPs were manufactured (see here, here and here.) AP knows of these reports. It also knows that there was never a report of someone caught actually smuggling such mines over the border. The Brits have said there is no proof for such smuggling.
But AP will not tell you. They tell you what the "U.S. statement claimed" and they will explain to you what EFPs are, not that such WWI weapons are manufactured in metal shops in Iraq.
On with the babble:
The militia fighters were killed in air strikes on nine cars that were seen positioning themselves to attack American forces after the raid, the military said.
Hmm ... nine cars positioning themselves. I'd like to know in what type of attack formation those cars positioned in - right flank , vee or maybe wedge?
An Iraqi police official said the attack occurred at 2 a.m. and that U.S. jets and helicopters hit the Habibiyah district in Sadr City, killing three civilians and wounding eight.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to release the information, said 10 cars lined up to buy gasoline were destroyed. The police report did not mention the capture of an alleged terrorist or the killing of any militia fighters.
So the "attack formation" was in-line. Like in "waiting in line at a petrol station ..."
Why had I to walk through seven paragraphs of U.S. propaganda to get to the most likely real information?
The AFP report refutes the U.S. story in its second paragraph:
However, an Iraqi defence ministry official said an air strike launched in support of the ground raid hit cars lined up to purchase gas at a nearby petrol station, and that those killed were innocent civilians.
The Reuters report takes longer to get there. But most of the stuff in between is from Basra and more of British interest. It doesn't mention the EFP bullshit at all. It also has several eye-witness and reporter accounts refuting the official U.S. version by facts:
Sadr City residents and police said the cars had been queuing at a petrol station. A Reuters reporter counted at least 11 burnt-out vehicles about 1 km from the station. Lengthy petrol queues are common in Iraq.
"A plane came and started bombing the cars queuing for petrol and the hospital," said a guard at Habibiya maternity hospital, which was also hit in the attack.
Police said two people were killed and five wounded.
There can hardly be any doubt that the U.S. military did screw up again. They bombed civilians waiting in line to fill up there cars for no particular reason. That should be the news because such is what naturally feeds the resistance.
AP does report that. Yes they do. But only in a very reduced he-said/she-said way and only after spewing lots of very dubious propaganda.
But then, thanks to AP we finally know why the U.S. is in Iraq:
Al-Sadr's reappearance in the fourth month of the U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown on Baghdad and environs was expected to complicate the mission to crack down on violence and broker political compromise in the country.
One has to love this one. The U.S. has the "mission to crack down on violence." Just like your friendly policemen patrolling around the block.
Is bombing cars in wait for gasoline and damaging maternity hospitals "cracking down on violence?"
And the U.S. military is doing this to "broker political compromise." Doesn't that sound nice? The U.S., the very honest broker of compromise in Iraq?
"Compromise" by pressing to allow oil production sharing agreements with U.S. companies, i.e. thinly disguised theft, of Iraqi oil?
What is the compromise when the Iraqis by a huge majority, a majority in parliament and one of the major political leaders say the U.S. should leave?
Oh yeah, bomb the people - and call AP and let them justify the shit.
To top that even more junk further down in the piece:
Al-Sadr went underground — reportedly in Iran — at the start of the U.S.-led security crackdown on Baghdad 14 weeks ago. He also had ordered his militia off the streets to prevent conflict with U.S. forces.
Reportedly? Who has ever reported such?
Only the U.S. military claimed that Sadr was in Iran. Such to smear Sadr in the mind of Iraqi nationalists. Sadr speakers have consistantly refuted these claims, saying he is in Iraq. Iran said Sadr wasn't there. There never was any independent report that Sadr was in Iran.
But whatever the U.S. military might claim, no matter how implausible, it is reportedly so?
Your Associated Press: Voice of the Empire!
Nahr al-Bared and a New U.S. Air Base
About the ongoing shelling of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Franklin Lamb has a very recommendable report at Counterpunch: Inside Nahr al-Bared and Bedawi Refugee Camps.
As he explains the U.S. is heavily involved via the 'Welch Club.' It is now even delivering three plane-loads of ammunition to the Lebanese Army so the slaughter can continue.
(This bears the question how much ammunition has already been expanded on a small piece of land with a very high density population. The official death count of some 25 seems unbelievable low.)
Please read the Lamb piece. It explains a lot.
Still there is one big issue Lamb misses.
Two years ago Wayne Madsen reported that the U.S. would like to use a Lebanese air base in north Lebanon for its own purpose. I take Madsen stuff with quite a load of salt. But here the State Department felt obliged to deny the report. That indeed does lift its credibility.
There is a logical connection between that report/denial and the shelling of Nahr al-Bared.
The U.S. has one important regional air hub in the western Middle East/East Mediterranean area. It is Incirlik air base in Turkey (zoom in and count the planes and shelters - it's a huge base.)
But the Turkish-Kurdish conflict is heating up. The US written Iraqi constitution calls for a local public referendum on Kirkuk joining the Kurdish administrated part of northern Iraq. The oil revenue from Kirkuk would give the Iraqi Kurds the economical base to declare independence. That again would be a certain casus belli for Turkey as the Kurdish people within Turkey would try to seperate and join the new state of Kurdistan.
When Turkey invades north Iraq to prevent such outcome, the conflict can be expected to escalate to a point where Turkey finally turns decisively against the U.S. for its support of the Kurds. Further U.S. access to Incirlik would certainly be denied.
Incirlik is important, but in jeopardy. Where is the alternative?
If not building totally from scratch (where?), the only possible alternative position for an Incirlik like Western ME/Eastern Med hub is in north Lebanon at the Rene Mouawad Air Base some 15 miles north of Tripoli. That base is currently deserted as the Lebanese Air Force does not have planes anymore but ony a few helicopters.
But that base does have a quite decent paved runway of 3000 meters (9843 feet) length and enough space around to extend the place. Strategically it would be a perfect location for a new U.S. air base.
Near the Syrian border it allows for attacks against Syria without any warning time. Flying a bit south and then through Israeli and Jordan air space it is convinient for easy regional short hops into Iraq.
As a strategic planner looking for a new regional lily pad, I would certainly put some serious thought into this option.
But then I would find a flaw.
A big airbase should be connected by decent roads to a harbor. Most of the stuff that is needed to build and to run it should come from the States by ships and trucks - not by air.
In the 1990s the Rene Mouawad Air Base was partly in civilian use with the international aviation code OLKA as a local airport for Tripoli. That city is some 15 miles south of the air base.
Tripoli is also the nearest harbor to the air base and the only larger one in north Lebanon. It even has potential to be expanded.
Now check the Wikipedia map of the Nahr al-Bareb refugee camp and take a look at the Google satellite picture of that camp. The camp is situated at the Lebanese meditarian coast some 10 miles north of Tripoli. The coastal road connecting Tripoli and the Rene Mouawad Air Base runs right through the middle of the camp.
If you move the sat picture of the camp further up north along the mediterian coast you can see the landing strip of the Rene Mouawad Air Base.
Could a U.S. airbase be supplied when its logistical life line runs right through a Palestinian refugee camp of some 45,000 mostly young and very poor people?
Probably not without very high costs of lives and money.
Which makes attempts to move the refugee camp (i.e. cleanse it) a quite plausible endevour.
"We'd rather lose lives than elections*," is the new slogan of the Democratic party.
It is their justification given for caving in to Bush and for removing any timelines or conditions from the war funds.
Dem insider Tomasky writes:
As indefensible and tragic as the war is, this is the best Democrats can do right now. De-funding would have handed the Republicans a great argument going into next year's election - which is, of course, one in which Democrats have their best shot at winning the White House in a long time. Iraq is Bush's war, and Democrats need to make certain that it stays that way.
"Make certain it stays that way," by paying for it. That twisting of logic and lack of morality is breath taking.
But you may excuse that lack of morality, lack of standing for what the people think is right, because there is such a big threat out there.
It is dangerous in DC's streets and being hassled a bit by ones own voters at home is simply less dangerous than being attacked by those very dangerous Republicans:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.
The Democrats are right I guess. Will there be hords of betrayed voters storming their home with pitchforks during those recess days?
There should be such action and much more. But that threat seems unlikely and is obviously not an issue.
The danger is that Bush might take the bully pulpit and explain that the Democrats have little spine to fight and pay for his war on terra the way he wants. To avoid such deadly accusation, the Democrats show they have no spine at all.
Meanwhile each day more and more people are dying in "Bush's war." Dying because the Democratic party, working against the will of the U.S. people, fears a toothless political enemy.
Where will your Congress rep and your Senators be through their recess?
Find out, meet them. They don't fear you. They should. So don't forget to bring your pitchfork.
* By membership rule one party members are required to restrain from sharing harmful consequences.
Confusing Iraq Strategies
There are several accounts this week on future U.S. planing in Iraq. These reports seem to contradict each other and they of course contradict the facts on the ground.
None of the strategies discussed involves a decrease of troop numbers and as the Democrats (predictively) have folded and conceded defeat to themselves, Bush certainly has no need to plan any decrease at all. With Congress giving more money than he asked for, troop strength will increase.
The "surge" did look fake to me when it was announced. Some 25,000 additional troops for some month was the official line. Now smart people at Hearst newspapers have analyzed the actual Pentagon activation orders and the numbers look much higher:
When additional support troops are included in this second troop "surge," the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record high number — by the end of the year.
The second surge of troops to Iraq is being executed by deploying more combat brigades to the country, plus extending tours of duty for troops already there.
Taken together, the steps could put elements of as many as 28 combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas, according to an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.
The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year, if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.
For real boots on ground numbers one has to add the 100,000 contractor currently in Iraq. More soldiers there will need more services so these contractor numbers will surge too.
But what are these soldiers for?
The on-the record account of several people involved in current strategy planing in today's Washington Post does not mention any increased troop numbers.
The strategy planing is explained as three pillars. First bringing U.S. troops into the streets to "protecting Iraq's population", second building the government through a period of 18-21 month instead of a "rapid transition" and third to kick out officials and commanders with sectarian agendas (good luck with that.) The plan calls for keeping Maliki in his position.
The above plan was briefed by the military in Baghdad. Yesterday David Ignatius, also at the Washington Post, had a report titeled After the Surge. It was based on "senior administration officials". That report does not fit today's account. Ignatius wrote:
The new policy would focus on training and advising Iraqi troops rather than the broader goal of achieving a political reconciliation in Iraq, which senior officials recognize may be unachievable within the time available.
The post-surge policy would, in many ways, track the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report, which senior administration officials say the president now supports.
Did the Baker-Hamilton report recommend to increase troop size by 60%? Certainly not.
Yet another contradicting account based on "a former senior administration official" is given in the Guardian today:
The Bush administration is developing plans to "internationalise" the Iraq crisis, including an expanded role for the United Nations, as a way of reducing overall US responsibility for Iraq's future and limiting domestic political fallout from the war as the 2008 election season approaches.
The former official, who is familiar with administration thinking, predicted Mr Bush would instead ask Congress to agree a six-month extension of the surge after Gen Petraeus presented his "progress report" in early September.
Mr Bush will sweeten the pill by pursuing a series of steps intended to "hand off" many current US responsibilities to the international community, the former official said. The president would try simultaneously to placate congressional and public opinion by indicating willingness to talk about a future troop "drawdown".
If all else failed, the US might seek an arrangement with Mr Sadr, if only to secure an orderly transition, the official claimed. "Cutting a deal with the Mahdi army is [vice-president] Dick Cheney's deep fallback option."
Now what is this? Are these plans to be combined? Are the reports wrong? Are they leaked to confuse?
Meanwhile there is some strain on the lines of communication, i.e. some necessary convoys seem not to come through, salad bars get closed even on the big bases and the troops have to eat MREs. More troops in the country equals more convoys equals more targets. I therefore expect such logistic problems to increase.
But what are all these troops to do in Iraq anyway?
In the mids of the U.S. Attorney firing scandal is Monica Goodling.
Will she really spill the beans? I don't think so. She probably drank too much red-cup cool-aid to ever get sober.
Goodling was an ardent practitioner of her faith, according to former colleagues [..] Her conservative ideals, they said, were such that she once refused to go to a Justice Department baby shower because the mother was unwed. They also said that she once balked at funding an anti-gun public service video because she thought it promoted rap music and glorified a violent lifestyle.
Now what about that handbag. I certainly don't known much about fashion, but isn't this seriously out of style for an informal alumni barbecue?
Some news & views ...
The Violent U.S. Character
It's quite short of historic perspective as it keeps up a tale of "good Americans" before GWB, but the piece hits a nail which, to my utter shame, even I usually avoid to hit directly:
[T]here's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off -- and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.
Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves.
Why Bush hasn't been impeached
Saudi Arabia's secret plan to kick the US out of Iraq
Saudi Arabia is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Shia Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.
"Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Saudi Arabia] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah (General Intelligence Directorate) which is connected right to the top [of the Saudi government]."
The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Saudi-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Shia insurgents to Riyadh's Sunni militia allies, that Saudi Arabia hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. "We expect that al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus's report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush's controversial, six-month security "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements]," the official said.
"Certainly it [the violence] is going to pick up from their side. There is significant latent capability in Iraq, especially Saudi-sponsored capability. They can turn it up whenever they want. You can see that from the pre-positioning that's been going on and the huge stockpiles of Saudi weapons that we've turned up in the last couple of months. The relationships between Saudi Arabia and groups like al-Qaida are very fluid," the official said.
"It often comes down to individuals, and people constantly move around. For instance, the Sunni Arab so-called resistance groups use Salafi jihadist ideology for their own purposes. But the whole Saudi Arabia- al-Qaida linkup is very sinister."
Saudi Arabia has maintained close links to Iraq's Sunni political parties and militias but has previously eschewed collaboration with al-Qaida and Shia insurgents.
US officials now say they have firm evidence that Riyadh has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Saudi Arabia has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban's campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.
Riyadh's strategy to discredit the US surge and foment a decisive congressional revolt against Mr Bush is national in scope and not confined to the Sunni west, its traditional sphere of influence, the senior official in Baghdad said. It included stepped-up coordination with Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Turkish-backed Sunni Arab groups and al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, he added. Saudi Arabia was also expanding contacts across the board with paramilitary forces and political groups, including Kurdish parties such as the PUK, a US ally.
"Their strategy takes into account all these various parties. Saudi Arabia is playing all these different factions to maximise its future control and maximise US and British difficulties. Their co-conspirator is Turkey which is allowing the takfirists [fundamentalist Salafi jihadis] to come across the border," the official said.
Any US decision to retaliate against Saudi Arabia on its own territory could be taken only at the highest political level in Washington, the official said. But he indicated that American patience was wearing thin.
Warning that the US was "absolutely determined" to hit back hard wherever it was challenged by Saudi proxies or agents inside Iraq, he cited the case of five alleged members of the Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah detained in Fallujah in January. Despite strenuous protests from Riyadh, which claims the men are diplomats, they have still not been released.
"Riyadh is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They're betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don't trust," a senior administration official in Washington said. "They don't know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they're hedging their bets."
The administration official also claimed that notwithstanding recent US and British overtures, Turkey was still collaborating closely with Saudi Arabia's strategy in Iraq.
"80% to 90%" of the foreign jihadis entering Iraq were doing so from Turkish territory, he said.
Despite recent diplomatic contacts, and an agreement to hold bilateral talks at ambassadorial level in Baghdad next week, US officials say there has been no let-up in hostile Saudi activities, including continuing support for violence, weapons smuggling and training.
"Saudi Arabia is perpetuating the cycle of sectarian violence through support for extra-judicial killing and murder cells. They bring Iraqi militia members and insurgent groups into Saudi Arabia for training and then help infiltrate them back into the country. We have plenty of evidence from a variety of sources. There's no argument about that. That's just a fact," the senior official in Baghdad said.
In trying to force an American retreat, Saudi Arabia's hardline leadership also hoped to bring about a humiliating political and diplomatic defeat for the US that would reduce Washington's regional influence while increasing Riyadh's own.
But if Saudi Arabia succeeded in "prematurely" driving US and British forces out of Iraq, the likely result would be a "colossal humanitarian disaster" and possible regional war drawing in Iran, and Syria, he said.
Despite such concerns, or because of them, the US welcomed the chance to talk to Saudi Arabia, the senior administration official said. "Our agenda starts with force protection in Iraq," he said. But there were many other Iraq-related issues to be discussed. Recent pressure had shown that Saudi Arabia's behaviour could be modified, the official claimed: "Last winter they were literally getting away with murder."
But tougher action by security forces in Iraq against Saudi agents and networks, the dispatch of an additional aircraft carrier group to the Gulf had given Riyadh pause, he said.
Washington analysts and commentators predict that Gen Petraeus's report to the White House and Congress in early September will be a pivotal moment in the history of the four-and-a-half-year war - and a decision to begin a troop drawdown or continue with the surge policy will hinge on the outcome. Most Democrats and many Republicans in Congress believe Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and that there is little that a continuing military presence can achieve. "Political will has already failed. It's over," a former Bush administration official said.
A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported this month that the surge had reduced violence, especially sectarian killings, in the Baghdad area and Sunni-dominated Anbar province. But the adviser admitted that much of the trouble had merely moved elsewhere, "resulting in spikes of activity in Diyala [to the north] and some areas to the south of the capital". "Overall violence is at about the same level [as when the surge began in February]."
Saudi officials flatly deny US and British allegations of involvement in internal violence in Iraq or in attacks on coalition forces. Interviewed in Riyadh recently, Prince Saud Al-Faisa, foreign minister with primary responsibility for Saudi Arabia's policy in Iraq, said: "We believe it would be to the benefit of both the occupiers and the Iraqi people that they [the coalition forces] withdraw immediately."
Who Sponsors Fights in Lebanon?
Annals of Short Memory:
Published on March 5, 2007 Seymour Hersh wrote:
American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south.
Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, [..] Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. “I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government’s interests—presumably to take on Hezbollah,” Crooke said.
Now some unnamed Lebanon media see Syria behind violence
The Lebanese media are in no doubt that Syria is to blame for clashes between security forces and Fatah al-Islam militants
Obviously this is a Siniora minority government and U.S. financed operation that gave birth to another "Al Qaeda" organization.
Just in case you ask who sponsors such deadly "intelligence" efforts this screenshot taken some minutes ago might tell you something:
A Question On Haleh Esfandiari
She is an Iranian living in the U.S. and working for the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East program. Esfandiari was recently detained while visiting Iran.
But Cole and others are demanding her release because they assume she is innocent.
That may well be, but how do they know?
Insulting Gestures in Iraqi Culture
There is an important cultural issue to learn from this Iraq piece in today's Washington Post. The article is about some reluctance in the U.S. military to launch a Fallujah like attack on Sadr City.
But the really good stuff is in the very last paragraph:
Col. Hamoud, a police liaison who has lived in Sadr City for 19 years and spoke on condition his full name not be used, said residents welcome aid from the United States brought peacefully, but warned that if U.S. troops use force, they will meet opposition.
"If they put their boots on people's heads," he said, referring to a highly insulting gesture in Iraqi culture, "there will be fighting."
Wow - who would have known? It's highly insulting to Iraqis when you put boots on their heads?
The average reader would certainly have expected otherwise. Thank you Washington Post for letting us know. How alien these Iraqis are - funny little weirdos - ain't they?
How about other issues? Like when you pee into someones tea is that an insult in Iraqi culture?
Maybe one can ask the writer of the piece, Ann Tyson. She seems to know a lot about the special features of Iraqi culture.
But don't step on her head. She's in Iraq, and there such is a highly insulting gesture.
On Variations of Islamic Law
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
Immanuel Kant, Metaphysics of Morals
He explains the role of Islamic law and how the various sects within Islam split and develop(ed). Such splits can and do occur for political reasons. But all splits inevitably get justified by varying methods of interpretating Islamic law.
Now what's that? Here is the basic starting point:
[The Islamic faith] envisions human existence as a "seamless garment," in which all the aspects of life are united and viewed through the prism of submission to the will of God. Business, family life, inheritance, personal status, politics and war are all seen as governed by the same attitudes and laws.
In Islam the submission to the will of god requires of course to follow his devine law, Sharia. But just like any ancient and modern basic law original Sharia is insufficient formulated and open to interpretation.
In early Islam a science of law interpretation developed and as there is no hierarchy or clergy within Islam, the learned and acknowledged scholars of law became central figures of society.
In Muslim belief, the basic ethic, moral and social rules were given by the Abrahamic monotheistic God to Muhammad who wrote them down in a scripture known as quran.
But the rules in the quran don't cover many practical aspects of life. To find regulations and law for such, early scholars studied and documented how Muhammad and his primary followers had lived their lives. These stories of the "practice of the prophet," the hadith, are the second written source of Islamic law.
For cases not covered by the "case law" of quran and hadith, law scholars applied classic (Greek) logical thought within the realm of the law laid down in the basic sources. They thereby created new (case-)law for issues not covered by the old one. These innovations allowed to adopt the religious law to changing times. This process is known as ijtihad.
Some saw such ever expanding innovations as deviation from the original scripture. About one thousand years ago scholaric consensus emerged to close the gate of ijtihad.
Instead of original creation of new law through the study of scripture and applied logic, people now have to rely on the less capable tool of analogies, qiyas. For a current case in question a somehow resembling one has to be found in the basic scripture. Then an analog remedy can be applied.
As there are no hierarchies or clergy in Islam, consensus, ijma', is required to apply the law layed down in quran, hadith and as interpreted through ijtihad or qiyas. A group of people expresses ijma' simply by following a specific scholar's or school-of-law's interpretation.
There are quran and hadith as basic scripture and itihad and qiyas as methods to interprete these. Ijam' is needed to agree on any interpretation.
The ever occurring splits (and joins) between various groups and subgroups of Islam can be explained in their relation to law.
The difference between Sunni and Shia, aside from the folkloric tales and rituals, is in the way of interpretation of the basic law.
For Sunni the door to ijtihad, the creation of new law based on innovative logic derivation from scripture was closed long ago.
In Arabic, says Lang, the words for "innovation" and "heresy" are the same. This makes it difficult and even dangerous to develop new technical, scientific or philosophical concepts. The downturn in the great medieval Arabic science may well be related to its contemporary rejection of ijtihad.
In Shia belief and law interpretation, ijtihad, the process of innovation, is still alive and is authoritative practiced by the peer-acknowledged top legal/philosophical Shia scholars, the Ajatollahs.
Lang says there are discussions within today's general Sunni scholarship to reopen ijtihad because the restricted system of only analog interpretation of old scripture is more and more seen as a significant limit to any effort to adjust to a fast developing world.
(Possible ethical conflicts of embryonic gene manipulation, for whatever means, were most likely not anticipated in the original torah, gospels or quran.)
There are also Islamic groups who reject any interpretation of scripture. They rely only on the written law, quran and hadith and there literal meaning. Conservative Saudi Wahabbi, some Salafists and Taliban are to various degrees such believers.
A group of Muslim following some wingnut scholar may declare by pure internal consensus his/its interpretation of Islamic law the only "real" one. Followers of other interpretations of Islamic law can then be seen as heretics who's suppression, punishment or even death is justified as they are no longer Muslim brethren.
Such radicals can be found in all major religions. Literal interpretation of the bible is certainly a hallmark of some radical U.S. Christian evangelicals. The orthodox Jewish settlers in the West Bank are following their strict literal interpretations of the torah. Next to the Abrahamic believes, the Dharmic religions of Asia also have their unavoidable share of literalism lunatics.
The centrality of some faith and law as a "seamless garment" of life is neither odd nor bad. But it is important that faith and law can develop and adapt.
To me Kant's categorical imperative cited above is a must at the core of all such believe systems. The emphasis to me is on universal law. Simple group acclamation to override basic human ethics is unacceptable - be it by G.W.B. or O.b.L. followers.
PS: While writing the above I ran across this snipped from a Pepe Escobar piece on Iran:
[Ayatollah Khamenei] is considered to have an outstanding knowledge of literature, poetry, music, Iranian history and philosophy - including Western philosophy. He routinely discusses Immanuel Kant and Max Weber, the Paris Commune and the history of Marxism, and compares the great Persian poet Hafez with French romantic poets.
Sometimes I doubt that the Ratzinger's of the West have similiar broad interests.
If you don't comment ...
Only The Republican Way of Life?
Paul Krugman writes:
But aside from John McCain, who to his credit echoed Gen. Petraeus (and was met with stony silence), the candidates spoke enthusiastically in favor of torture and against the rule of law. Rudy Giuliani endorsed waterboarding. Mitt Romney declared that he wants accused terrorists at Guantánamo, “where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil … My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo.” His remarks were greeted with wild applause.
What we need to realize is that the infamous “Bush bubble,” the administration’s no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there’s a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job — and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias.
And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.
Don’t Blame Bush, Paul Krugman, NYT, May 18, 2007 (liberated version)
Well said, but I'd argue that this phenomenon stretches beyond the Republican party and one has to extend some of the above to quite a chunk of Democratic politicians and their voters. How many Dems did vote for the Patriot Act I and II and the Military Commission Act killing habeas corpus?
Further, change the subject from torture to the justification of a general Empire foreign policy and "city upon a hill" attitude and you'll have a quite solid majority of U.S. people who share no-reality believes.
Gaza: Live And Die With Dignity
Israel targeted Hamas with three airstrikes Thursday, destroying a compound and a car carrying senior commanders of the Islamic group and killing three people in a new layer of violence added to Palestinian infighting that has paralyzed the Gaza Strip.
Israeli airstrikes target Hamas
The U.S. financed attacks by Abbas' Fatah on the elected majority party are not successful. Now Israel, doing exactly what Hamas planed to reunite the people, uses air attacks on them. The success of these attacks will be the same than it was in Lebanon last years.
Even Bibi Netanyahu seems to dislike such bombing:
"Begin understood that the government's top priority was the lives of its civilians.
"This government doesn't realize that it must stop this methodical bombing of citizens' homes," [Netanyahu] added.
But for Netanyahu there are of course civilians and civilians, there are homes and homes. There are people who need to drink water and need electricity and there are Palestinian Untermenschen.
The above Netanyahu quote is from an article headlined Netanyahu: Cut off the water and power supply to the Gaza Strip.
He thinks that will work? What will happen when he cuts off water and power? Will the Palestinians give up (whatever that means in Netanyahu's mind)? Of course not.
But as Netanyahu takes one lecture out of Jürgen Stroop's sorry life, one might suspect that he is willing to take others too.
On April 20 the Germans attacked a factory area of the ghetto but were forced to retreat yet again when the Jews set off a mine. The Germans cut off the ghetto’s electricity, water and gas but still the Jews did not surrender, using as their motto “LIVE AND DIE WITH DIGNITY”. The next day the Germans returned and set the ghetto on fire. As the buildings burned, Jews leapt from their windows and emerged from cellars. “We took pains,” said the German commander General Jurgen Stroop, “to ensure that those Jews, as well as others, were wiped out immediately.”
The Warsaw Ghetto Revolt and others
His departure would include an acknowledgment from the bank that he doesn't bear sole responsibility for the controversy surrounding a generous pay package for his girlfriend, the official said
They will pay him some hundred thousands out of the poverty relief box. I'd hoped he'd stay on. Totally exposing the World Bank as the fraud it is. Now Josh Bolton may talk over. That would not change much. Certainly not the language:
According to Mr Coll's notes: "At the end of the conversation Mr Wolfowitz became increasingly agitated and said that he was 'tired of people ... attacking him' and 'you should get your friends to stop it'. Mr Wolfowitz said, 'If they fuck me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too'," naming several senior bank staff he felt were vulnerable.
Well, Wolfie, it wasn't enough you had to really fuck them. Now fuck off please ...
Why Was FBI Director Mueller Involved?
Everybody seems to assume that the underlying issue here is the eavesdropping by the NSA without FISA-court authority. But Comey only says "this involved a classified program" and he talks about "a particular classified program."
This could be the NSA wiretapping, but it could also be something entirely different.
There is absolutly no mentioning by Comey of the NSA or the Pentagon which runs the NSA, but there is a lot of unexplained involvement of the FBI Director.
Like Comey FBI Director Mueller rushes to the hospital where Ashcroft is lying in intensive care. They want to make sure that Bush's chief of staff Card and counsel Alberto Gonzales do not make Ashcroft sign off on the program. The Justice Department had determined that the program had no legal basis.
Why would Mueller be involved here?
Bush reauthorizes the program without DOJ consense and Ashcroft, Comey and their chiefs of staff threaten to resign. According to Comey FBI Director Mueller also threatens to resign over this.
Why would Mueller do so if this was a pure NSA program?
On March 12, two days after the hospital incidence, Bush is under threat of the resignations and he caves in. As Comey tells it:
We had the briefing. And as I was leaving, the president asked to speak to me, took me in his study and we had a one-on-one meeting for about 15 minutes -- again, which I will not go into the substance of. It was a very full exchange. And at the end of that meeting, at my urging, he met with Director Mueller, who was waiting for me downstairs.
He met with Director Mueller again privately, just the two of them. And then after those two sessions, we had his direction to do the right thing, to do what we...
[I]t was Director Mueller who carried to me the president's direction to do what the Department of Justice thinks is right to get this where the department believes it ought to be. And we acted on that direction.
Why would only a talk with Mueller convince Bush to change course?
Mueller is deeply involved in the process of authorization of the program. He is threatening to resign over it and only he convinces a reluctant Bush to order changes to the program.
Now combine that with the uncertainty over the program:
SPECTER: [...] And it was necessary to make changes in the terrorist surveillance program to get the requisite certification by the acting attorney general -- that is you?
COMEY: And I may be being overly cautious, but I'm not comfortable confirming what program it was that this related to.
"What program" - are there several programs? What might the program Comey is relating to be and why is Mueller so deeply involved here? Some reasons I can think of are:
- This was about the NSA program and Mueller was just lending a helping hand to his friend Comey including a willingness to resign.
- The program in question is the NSA eavesdropping, but that extended much further than is publicly known and included parts of the FBI.
- The program in question is not the NSA eavesdropping, but a separate program run by the FBI.
- The FBI was investigating an ongoing federal crime that was related to some program. The crime discontinued when the program was changed and the FBI dropped the investigation.
Which one is it?
Are there other possible reasons for Mueller's intimate involvement?
Any further ideas?
UPDATE: Peter Swire at Think Progress has an additional and good argument why the program in question in most probably NOT the NSA warrentless wiretapping. Gonzales earlier testified about that NSA program:
GONZALES: Senator, here is a response that I feel that I can give with respect to recent speculation or stories about disagreements. There has not been any serious disagreement, including — and I think this is accurate — there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations, which I cannot get into. I will also say –
SCHUMER: But there was some — I am sorry to cut you off, but there was some dissent within the administration, and Jim Comey did express at some point — that is all I asked you — some reservations.
GONZALES: The point I want to make is that, to my knowledge, none of the reservations dealt with the program that we are talking about today.
Either Gonzales lied in his testimony or the disagreement was NOT about the NSA eavesdroping program.
What programs might the FBI, which has no investigative task outside of the U.S., possibly run?
Note that nowhere in Comey's story are NSA officials mentioned. But FBI Director Robert Mueller was a central player in the drama -- he even met personally with President Bush -- and also was one who threatened resignation. This indicates that, whatever was going on before the program was modified, those activities were being conducted by the FBI, not just the NSA. That could mean purely domestic unwarranted wiretaps, unwarranted black-bag jobs, or similar misconduct.
Farewell to Falwell
In remembrance of Jerry Falwell let's listen to him*:
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions"
"Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them"
"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being"
"My problem is not with the intentions of the Bush presidency. My problem is where it might go under his successors."
"Any sex outside of the marriage bond between a man and a woman is violating God's law."
"The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country."
"I think hell's a real place where real people spend a real eternity. "
There he goes ...
There was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today. James Comey, Deputy Attorney General to Attorney General Ashcroft was questioned.
The important part was about an incident Newsweek reported on in January 2006:
On one day in the spring of 2004, White House chief of staff Andy Card and the then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a bedside visit to John Ashcroft, attorney general at the time, who was stricken with a rare and painful pancreatic disease, to try—without success—to get him to reverse his deputy, Acting Attorney General James Comey, who was balking at the warrantless eavesdropping. [...] (The White House denies this; Comey declined to comment.)
That bedside visit had much more drama than the Newsweek account communicates. Bush was directly involved too. Here is the part of the live-blogging of the hearing emptywheel did at firedoglake (emphasizes are hers):
JC: James Comey
CS: Senator Charles Schumer
AGAG: Attorney General A. Gonzales, at that time counsel to the President
JC We communicated that to WH that we could not recertify program. I was driving home, got a call from David Ayers, gotten a call from Mrs. Ascroft, from the hospital, Mr Card and Mr Gonzales were on the way to the hospital. I have some recollection that the call was from the President, I'm not sure. I called my COS to get as many of my people to the hospital immediately.
JC I was concerned that they might ask Ashcroft to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that. It wasn't clear he could orient to time and place. It was you, Mrs. Ashcroft, and the AG. I tried to help him get oriented. Meuller instructed the FBI agents not to remove me under any circumstances. The three of us DOJ people were in the room, Jack Goldsmith and Patrick Phildmon (sp). We waited. It was only a matter of minutes, in walked Gonzales and Card. They stood by the bed and then AGAG began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval. AG Ashcroft stunned me and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, drawing from the hour long view we had a week ago. Then he said, "that doesn't matter bc I'm not the AG."
CS But he expressed his reluctance to sign it.
JC Yes. The two men did not acknowledge me, they walked from the room. We had a brief exchange with AG. Then we went outside in the hallway.
The White House effort shown in the above account does not suggest that the program was only about "listening to terrorist phonecalls." The White House contined the program without the legally required reauthorization and only after Ashcroft, Comer and others threatend to resign changes were made.
The modified program still continues. What is it really about and what changes were made?
Your guess what it is about as good as mine ...
UPDATE: Full hearing transcripts here (pdf):
COMEY: I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don't know that for sure. It came from the White House. And it came through and the call was taken in the hospital. So I hung up the phone, immediately called my chief of staff, told him to get as many of my people as possible to the hospital immediately. I hung up, called Director Mueller and -- with whom I'd been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week -- and told him what was happening. He said, "I'll meet you at the hospital right now." Told my security detail that I needed to get to George Washington Hospital immediately. They turned on the emergency equipment and drove very quickly to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran up -- literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.
SCHUMER: What was your concern? You were in obviously a huge hurry.
COMEY: I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that.
SCHUMER: Right, OK.
COMEY: I was worried about him, frankly. And so I raced to the hospital room, entered. And Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed, Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened. And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn't clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.
Your news & views ...
An Apology to the Media
I was wrong, terribly wrong. Please accept my apology.
In my posting about your reports on the recent capturing of U.S. soldiers in Iraqi I alleged:
There must be some institutionalized media amnesia with regard to reports on U.S. behavior in foreign countries.
That statement was wrong. I defamed the media and I am very sorry for this.
At the time of my writing none of your reports I had seen made the obvious connection of the recent capture to an earlier event in the same Iraqi town. Last year U.S. soldiers raped a 14 year old girl in Mahmoudiya and they killed her and her family.
The current event was an obvious revenge act but that was not mentioned in your reports.
I concluded that the media, not reporting the relation, had a Mahmoudiya Amnesia.
That was false and I do apologize for that.
Today agencies distribute news that some "al-Qaida" gang confesses they took these prisoners because of that rape. The connection, which explains the motives of the resistance, is now widely and prominently reported on.
Down the tenth paragraph of its story on the news release the New York Times writes:
The statement went on to cite the American mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the rape last year of a teenaged girl by American troops near the site where the abduction occurred.
Its statements had a similar tone to the statements issued in the last few days, and they, too, referred to the rape in Mahmudiya last year.
I really have to apologize here.
It is not true that the media did not make the connection. There was no media amnesia.
They media did know about the connection. Maybe those statements "issued in the last few days," were needed to remember, but they did know about them and about the motives of the catchers "in the last few days."
They just did not mention them in their public reports.
There certainly was no amnesia. I apologize for asserting such.
There was just willfully suppression of the motives for the act they did report on. There was no amnesia.
You just thought people shouldn't know about the motives that drive the resistance in Iraq.
Such knowledge could lead to judgement. 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 ...
Please accept my apology.
The Rising Exports Trade Gap Dent
His editors asked Jeremy W. Peters to write an article about the positive effects of the dollar decline.
So Peters sits down and explains that the lower dollar already increases exports. It thereby diminishes the trade deficit, creates more jobs and lets the economy grow.
Expert quotes that support the thesis are selected and dutifully some facts are included.
The result is a ridiculous New York Times frontpage puff piece headlined Rising Exports Putting Dent in Trade Gap.
Let's take it apart:
[A]s companies in the United States are gaining ground overseas, they are also sending more American-made products abroad. A weaker dollar is adding to their good fortunes, helping to make American goods and services more competitive in foreign markets.
As a result, it now looks as if the huge trade deficit, which swelled to a record $765.3 billion last year, could gradually decrease.
The headline says that exports really do "dent" the trade deficit. Now that is qualified down to "could." And in the fact world:
The trade gap widened in March, mostly because of higher prices for imported oil, but the vast disparity between what Americans import and export is expected to narrow, which would allow trade to contribute to economic growth in the United States for the first time in more than a decade.
Ooops - yes, increasing exports could dent the trade gap, if only exports would rise and imports would not rise at a greater pace. Both is not the case. The Bureau of Economic analysis in its first quarter GDP report says:
The deceleration in real GDP growth in the first quarter primarily reflected a downturn in exports, an upturn in imports, ...
But there are expectations that something could happen - really. Peters goes on:
The shift to a more export-driven economy, if it continues, could add more jobs at home and help the United States bounce back from its slowest economic expansion in four years.
As we have seen there is no such shift yet. There is also the little issue that a U.S. company while increasing its foreign revenue, often a nominal export, might not necessarily create more jobs - at least not in the U.S. In a side note Peters even tells us so:
For Citigroup, which is planning to eliminate 17,000 jobs and relocate 9,500 more, India has been the biggest driver of growth for its international operations.
Exports make only a fairly constant 10-12% of U.S. GDP. Even if exports would grow by 10%, the resulting GDP increase would be much too small to have any decisive effect on the job market.
But the author has asked his experts and they all agree. Only the facts are slightly off.
But there is no disagreement that whatever the cause, the flow of orders from overseas to American producers is finally starting to decrease the trade deficit. As a result, net exports could add to growth in the United States this year rather than subtract from it. That has not happened since 1995.
Trade contributed to growth in the second and fourth quarters last year. In the government’s preliminary estimate for the first quarter of this year, trade was a slight drag on the economy.
Most economists, however, expect trade to improve for the rest of 2007. And when the level of trade is averaged out over the last four quarters, it faintly added to overall economic activity.
While the headline, the quoted people and the general tone of the article do suggest more exports, a lower trade deficit, the creation of jobs and economic growth, not one of the hard numbers really supports the story. What is left are expectations that these numbers might somehow change.
In theory a lower dollar should increase exports. But a lower dollar also increases import prices. The effects, at least in the short term, may very well be a bigger trade deficit, higher inflation and an overall negative outcome for the U.S. economy.
The U.S. constantly consumes more than it produces. A few more Caterpillar shovels sold to the world will not change the effect of bad gas mileage of millions of SUVs.
But why recognize the inevitable necessity of lower consumption, when one can read about and believe in such wonderful expectations.
None of the current news accounts on yesterday's incident of some U.S. soldiers killed and others abducted south of Baghdad mentions the likely reason why this has happened.
The above incident, now helpfully assigned to some 'al-Qaida', happened near to Mahmoudiya.
If the media had a bit of longer term memory, that city's name would bring up some associations: War Crimes: Mahmoudiya Rape-Massacre Trials :
According to the federal affidavit, PFC Steven D. Green and four other soldiers with Bravo Company, First Battalion, 502nd Infantry, in the Army's 101st Division, planned the attack after spotting Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14 year-old Iraqi schoolgirl, at a traffic checkpoint they were manning near Mahmoudiya. On the day of the attack, Green and the other soldiers drank alcohol and dressed in black before going to the girl's house. They broke in, and Green took the girl's father, mother, and her 5 year old sister in a room and killed them all. Green, then the others, gang-raped the 14 year-old girl, then Green shot her "two or three times in the head". They set the girl's body on fire, then went about covering up the crime.
But no press account connects the current capture of GI's around the same town to that crime. Instead the "al-qaeda" story is getting lots of hype. But the incidents are most likely connected.
The capturing (and killing) of GI's in that area has happened before: Statement claims link between Mahmoudiya incident, 2 killings July 10, 2006
Militant Islamic Web sites have posted video that purportedly shows the bodies of two U.S. soldiers kidnapped and killed last month in Yusufiya, Iraq.
The video was accompanied by a statement that linked the killings with the alleged rape of a young Iraqi woman in March.
"This video is issued and presented as a revenge for our sister who was dishonored by one of the soldiers of the same brigade that these two soldiers belonged to," reads the statement posted along with the video.
There must be some institutionalized media amnesia with regard to reports on U.S. behavior in foreign countries.
It is always some "al-qaeda" doing something "bad" without any detectable reason. In reality the starting point of such action is usually the behavior of the U.S. and its camouflaged 'missionaries'.
David S. Broder's Election Expert
David S. Broder, the "dean" of Washington journalists writes about new election legislation pushed by Democrats that demands a paper trail for every vote: A Paper Trail Toward Chaos?
As a non-expert, I turned to the man who knows more about the conduct of elections than anyone else in the country, the director of the Houston-based Election Center, Doug Lewis.
"I have no problem with the objective of creating paper receipts," Lewis said, "But they have rejected every idea we've offered them to show what might work. I've been at this 40-some years, and I have not seen a piece of legislation worse than this. It is overly prescriptive, overly detailed, a cumbersome monstrosity to deal with."
- 1973-1974: Executive secretary of the Kansas Republican party, according to articles in The Great Bend Tribune. This appears to contradict the biographical details given above.
- 1976: Executive director of the Texas Republican Party. Again, this appears to completely contradict the biography given by the National Symposium on Presidential Selection.
- 1976: Texas Chairman for President Gerald Ford's unsuccessful reelection campaign.
- 1977: Finance director of the Texas Republican Party.
- 1986 - June 1993: Lewis ran a Texas used-computers business called Micro Trade Mart, Inc. (according to e-voting activist Bev Harris)
- 1994: Lewis was appointed to his position at the Election Center
Bev Harris wrote in her 2004 book Black Box Voting that, in a telephone conversation with her, Lewis defended his qualifications to run the Election Center as follows: "My background is that I owned a computer hardware and software business. I've never claimed to be an expert. That's the reason we have laboratories, nationally recognized laboratories."
If the "dean" is a dumb partisan hack, what is the rest of the press gang ...
A 'Cleansed' Iraq - Cheney's Gift to Tehran?
Within the U.S. foreign policy establishment there are two opposing strategic approaches towards the Persian Gulf area. Competing moves by and open collisions between the two groups representing the strategies often make it difficult to decipher what is really going on.
Additionally tactical action within each of the strategies sometimes seems to contradict that strategy's general direction. It further obscures the big picture.
As a result of these factors there is utter confusion within the think tanks and the administration resulting in a policy paralyze. A Gordian knot that requires a bold move.
The Executive Editor of Roll Call, Mort Kondracke, argues for winning dirty in Iraq:
The 80 percent alternative involves accepting rule by Shiites and Kurds, allowing them to violently suppress Sunni resistance and making sure that Shiites friendly to the United States emerge victorious.
Winning will be dirty because it will allow the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military and some Shiite militias to decimate the Sunni insurgency. There likely will be ethnic cleansing, atrocities against civilians and massive refugee flows.
This amoral option is not new. It was reported earlier as being discussed within the Cheney administration. But the timing of the Kondracke piece is interesting.
Kondracke is sourcing the idea he presents on "one member of Congress."
The central reasoning of the argumentation is in a tactical sense not plausible. But within a bigger context it is, while still conscienceless, a "liberating" bold move. It is also characteristic for a certain school of foreign policy.
Kondracke says the U.S. should side with the Shia and win the civil war in Iraq by extinguishing the Sunni opposition by any means including ethnic cleansing and, unsaid, genocide. The resulting Shia state will be U.S. friendly, manipulable and allow for basing rights and oil access.
Kondracke sees Maliki's Dawa party and al-Hakim's SCIRI as "Shiites friendly to the United States." He says they have lost the support of Iran and al-Sadr has emerged as the new Iranian puppet faction. The U.S. should therefore support Maliki and al-Hakim against the Sunnies and against al-Sadr.
But where are the facts supporting the assertion that Iran has changed sides within the Shia factions? Where is the proof that Iran has moved its support away from Dawa and SCIRI? Where is the proof that these are Shiites friendly to the U.S.?
I presume that in reality the opposite is happening. Badger seems to detect that the nationalistic-toned al-Sadr will (re-)unite with the Baathist and Sunni tribal resistance. Him doing so while having major Iranian support is very unlikely.
Kondracke and/or his source are either dumb, or they have something bigger in mind.
The only way to have U.S. friendly Shia in Iraq, as they premise, is by having U.S. friendly Shia in Tehran too. A U.S. supported fight against the Sunnis would certainly create serious backslashes in the relations with Saudi Arabia. A plan to enter this fight therefor must have a bigger component to prevent or circumvent such backslashes.
There have been hints towards such a plan.
That general strategic plan is to completely change the balance of power in the region. It is to a align the U.S. (and Israel) with the Shia crescent as a balance against Sunni powers (and the Arab peace initiative for Palestine.)
This sets up Iran against Saudi Arabia with the U.S. allied, if possible, with both simultaneously holding the power to tip the scale to either side anytime it feels the need to do so. "Divide et impera" - divide and rule - writ large. If this is not possible, the plan leans to an alliance with Tehran.
Prof. Cutler attributes such a plan to "Right-Zionists":
The folks who brought us this war–and intentionally brought Shiites to power in Iraq–have done what they wanted to do in Iraq. They have opened Pandora’s Box and are now prepared to watch as Iraqi Shiite power change the balance of power in the region.
Right Zionists are now and have always been sweet on the Shiites and hostile toward Sunni Arab regional domination.
Right Arabists are now and have always been sweet on Sunni Arab regional hegemony and totally hostile to Shiite power.
Within that framework the Right Zionists include the neo-cons and are personified in the administration by Cheney. The Right Arabists opposing them are Baker, Zinni, Scowcroft and other 'realists', represented in the cabinet by, well, by whom? Maybe Rice leans a bit to their side, but more likely she is undecided.
The Right Zionists plan sees a need to prop up the Shia in general to diminish the role of the Sunni states. This in a general political, cultural and military power sense and in the case of Saudi Arabia also its role as swing oil-producer.
With Iraq's and Iran's oil-producing capacity submitted to U.S. counsel and advise, the Wahhabi Saudi Arabia would lose its role as leading OPEC power, its economic power and its ideological projection capacity (i.e. financing of wahhabi madrasses.)
The plan re-institutes a U.S., Israel and Iran coalition like it openly existed during the Shah's regime. (The same coalition acted hidden during the Iran-Contra affair when Israel, on the behalf of the U.S., sold weapons to Iran. Note that very significant Iran-Contra players, Ledeen, Abrams etc., today are deeply involved in, if not the sources of, the Right Zionists plan.)
To fulfill this plan regime change in Iran is certainly preferable to these actors. But if an alliance with Iran can be achieved without regime change, such may not be an ultimate imperative.
Would a U.S. "gift" of a Shia Iraq cleansed of Sunnis be acceptable for Tehran? Could such a present be the start (or condition?) for a broader strategic cooperation agreement?
This time a U.S.-Israel-Iran coalition would be supplemented and strengthened by including a Shia Iraq.A really powerful entity geographically and economically squeezing the Arab nations in the Middle East.
The forming of this coalition does not necessarily require ethnic cleansing. If the Sunnis in Iraq knuckle down voluntarily, it would be fine with these partners. If not ...
Opposed to this scheme are the Right Arabists.
They fear that a broad Shia coalition is uncontrollable. An empowered Shia crescent could jump across the Gulf and spread its influence to Shia Bahrain (now under Sunni minority rule) and the Shia (oil-)regions of Saudi Arabia. Instead of a balance of power a Shia monopoly of power could arise.
A U.S. alliance with the Shia could also push the Saudis to align themselves with Russia, still the Right Arabists ultimate enemy, or even China.
They want to stick to the intimate longterm and very profitable Sunni Saudi Arab-U.S. coalition and they want to keep Iran contained. They will fight tooth and nail to prevent the Right Zionists scheme. To this end they see an urgent need to keep the Sunnis in Iraq as a significant part of the national government.
Within the above strategical framework the timing of Kondricke's despicable, amoral call for ethnic cleansing does make tactical sense.
Cheney is currently in Saudi Arabia. His task is to push the Saudis to press on the Sunni resistance in Iraq. They have to capitulate to the occupation and except their minority role. To this end carrots and sticks are presented. This would be the carrot for the Saudis: In Gulf, Cheney Pointedly Warns Iran
Aboard an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf 150 miles off Iran's coast, Vice President Cheney warned Tehran yesterday that the United States and its allies will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, close off vital sea lanes for oil supplies, or control the Middle East.
Again - within the above strategic framework this is a tactical, ultimately not serious, threat towards Iran. Its purpose is to vociferous assure the Saudis of a U.S. commitment to them, the carrot, while silently amplifying the putative insecurity they would have without their U.S. alliance.
The timely publishing of the Kondracke "80 percent" piece is the ultimate stick to show the Saudis the alternative at the other end of the possible relation spectrum.
Laura Rozen suspects this to be true:
Cheney may want to reinforce just such a ["80 percent"] message on his current trip to Saudi Arabia and the region, that if the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians can't lean on their Sunni brethren in Iraq to make the Iraq gov't of national reconciliation a go, the alternative could be worse for them. Is Kondracke part of the effort to deliver that message, as it were?
Isn't Cheney as Vice-President also technically "one member of Congress?" Could he be Kondracke's source?
On the strategic level the conflict between Right Zionists and Right Arabists leads to two incompatible directions in the current U.S foreign policy. As this fight continues a powerful unifying U.S. foreign policy does not exist or can not unfold. In Cutler's words:
The US is in trouble in Iraq for a thousand reasons, but one of those reasons is that the US foreign policy establishment has been and continues to be working toward entirely different, mutually exclusive goals in Iraq.
It is not only Iraq, but the whole Middle East. There is a paralyze and utter confusion resulting from the two contradictory strategical positions.
The WaPo report on Cheney's current trip points to the additional confusion on the tactical level. It notes that at the same time as Cheney is verbally blasting Iran, Rice is preparing for negotiations with Tehran. Robin Wright writes:
As Cheney spoke in the Gulf -- after stops in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates -- the State Department was working to set up a meeting in the next two weeks between senior U.S. and Iranian officials in Baghdad, U.S. officials said Friday.
The divergent approaches toward Iran reflect the tensions within the administration, particularly between the State Department and the vice president's office about whether to engage with Iran and, if so, how far to go.
Some in the administration refer to the divergence as a good-cop, bad-cop strategy, while others say that it reflects a deep policy divide, with Cheney trying to stall or undermine diplomatic outreach efforts.
Analysts say U.S. strategy is instead simply contradictory. "On the one hand, U.S. policy involves a series of coercive steps -- U.N. resolutions, financial sanctions, arresting Iran's operatives in Iraq, trying to mobilize the Gulf states against Iran, giving the kind of speeches with symbolism done today -- that is quite comprehensive," said Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations. "On the other side, it's an offer to negotiate that is not well laid out. But the conciliatory effort is totally negated by the coercive steps, which is why it's not working."
By invading Iraq the Right Zionists achieved a change in the balance of power around the Persian Gulf. But without any influence in Teheran, they will have lost control over the powers they unleashed.
Now time is running out for the Right Zionists. If the U.S. is forced by its public opinion to give up on Iraq, they will lose the last leverage they have to achieve their overall goal of coercing Iran into an alliance. Regime change in Tehran may not be achievable within the remaining time-frame and/or the given resources. A grand deal though might be possible.
This grand deal is also the ultimate fear of the Right Arabists and their Saudi friends.
The split between the factions is very deep, and the confusion so persistent, that only some outer event or a bold move by one of the involved parties may cut the knot.
What move to what outcome is currently unpredictable.
A "gift" of a cleansed Iraq to Tehran is a possible bold move.
The Louise Blackwell Quartet
Commentator remembereringgiap endows some precious
fruitcake music to his comrades here at the Moon of Alabama.
These songs are from a CD that will be released later this year in France and Australia.
- Ships (mp3 - 2.8 mb)
- Burden of proof (mp3 - 3.6 mb)
- Making me believe in make believe (mp3 - 3.3 mb)
The group is The Louise Blackwell Quartet. The CD's title is Sea is turning.
All lyrics by remembereringgiap
Petraeus' Moral High Ground
The oh so well regarded General Petraeus writes a letter:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq admonished his troops regarding the results of an Army survey that found that many U.S military personnel there are willing to tolerate some torture of suspects and unwilling to report abuse by comrades.
"This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we -- not our enemies -- occupy the moral high ground," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus wrote in an open letter dated May 10 and posted on a military Web site.
Thomas Ricks writing the above says the Army report was released last week. The casual reader will conclude that the General wrote a "remarkable, powerful letter" and conquered this particular high ground pretty fast.
But that isn't so. The Mental Health Advisory Team finished the final version of its survey report on November 17, 2006. Are we to believe it reached Petraeus only last week?
Not really. So it took nearly six month and some public outcry for the commanding officer in Iraq to stump up to the moral mole hill he now pretends to occupy. Predictably he does so to the opposite effect.
"Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge," he wrote.
The General lowers the moral base line by denigrating the enemy as "barbaric." Is the resulting standpoint really moral high ground?
Snippets of news & views ...
Check the older open thread too ...
Bliar is Out - Have a Drink
Bliar is finally on his way out. But why does he plan to stay in office until June 27?
I am afraid he has damaged his party so much, that the next election in Great Britain (ex Scotland?) will go to the Tories.
Will there now be any policy changes under his successor Brown? I can not think of any decisive trun he might take. He seems to have been in general agreement with Bliar on most issues.
Anyway - one on the house for everybody.
Today Fredo Gonzales will have another American Idol like performance in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
A main point in this audition will be yesterdays revelation that the number of fired prosecutors has grown to nine:
The former U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., Todd P. Graves, said yesterday that he was asked to step down from his job by a senior Justice Department official in January 2006, months before eight other federal prosecutors would be fired by the Bush administration.
Graves acknowledged that he had twice during the past few years clashed with Justice's civil rights division over cases, including a federal lawsuit involving Missouri's voter rolls that Graves said a Washington Justice official signed off on after he refused to do so. That official, Bradley J. Schlozman, was appointed as interim U.S. attorney to succeed Graves, remaining for a year until the Senate this spring confirmed John Wood for the job.
The man was fired for being too independent and replaced with a Rove operative. Gonzales problem is his earlier chant of only eight fired U.S. attorneys:
In Gonzales's prepared statement for today's House hearing, the attorney general refers three times to the resignations of eight prosecutors. In his remarks last month in the Senate, he also referred to "every U.S. attorney who was asked to resign," and then proceeded to name the eight who had previously been identified as having been fired.
The show will be broadcasted on CSPAN. Gonzales is expected to sing the same song he performed in his last appearance, "Recollection." That time he barely avoided to be voted out for singing:
When I'm ridin' round the world, and I'm doin' this and I'm signin' that
And I'm tryin' to make some friend, who tells me
Baby, better come back maybe next week
'Cause you see I'm on a losing streak
I can't get no. Oh, no, no, no. Hey, hey, hey
That's what I say. I can't get no, I can't get no
I can't get no recollection, no recollection
No recollection, no recollection
No Kurdistan Please
Some eight years ago I did a six week long tour by random public transport through the Kurdish parts of Turkey. One evening in a Diyarbakir restaurant, a small non-tourist place in a mostly Kurdish city, I got into a discussion with some local guys about a potential state of Kurdistan.
They didn't know English or German and I didn't know Turkish or Kurdish. So we talked for some hours by gestures and scribbling on paper napkins. It was quite intense.
They argued for a Kurdish state, I argued against it. While I understand the Kurdish drive as a big ethnic group to become a state of their own, I do believe it would do more harm to them than it would do good.
Kurds are living in the south east of Turkey, in northern Syria, in north-west Iran and in north Iraq (the folks I talked to prefered a state including even more like within the pink border line in this map.)
If Kurds would form a state, all other states in the region would lose some ground and everything they have invested there - mostly on credits. Turkey has spend billions in building dams and water distribution systems in its south-east.
I scribbled a map and marked it with weighted arrows describing the feelings from/to outer countries to an assumed Kurdish state. In the end all arrows were pointing in. Kurdistan would be a piece of earth where none of the people living around it would have friendly feelings for it. It would be a permenantly attacked state without any trade route from its ground to the outer world.
The driving dream of a Kurdish state seed in northern Iraq including Kirkuk is to develop by oil exports to the world markets. But which harbour would Kurdish pipelines go to? Kurdistan is landlocked. Would Turkey, Syria, Iran or Iraq support Kurdish pipelines while under threat of secession?
My alternative suggestion was a kind of early European Union alike to be formed in the northern Middle East (it took two napkin pages to explain that, but I'm sure they got it.) This without a formal Kurdish state, but with a significant Kurdish national role in the supranational environment such a union would formalize.
It doesn't look like they took my amateur advise: Turkish-Kurdish Dispute Tests U.S. Strategic Alliances
The long dispute between Turkey and Iraq over renegade Kurdish fighters camped on the Iraqi side of their shared border reached new heights last month. When the head of Iraq's Kurdish regional government threatened to provoke an uprising among Turkish Kurds, Turkey responded with warnings of direct military action and an angry complaint to Washington.
If the Kurds think they will get more support from the U.S. than some general senseless verbal growling against Turkey they are screwed again. The U.S. has neither any real interest in an independent Kurdistan, nor the means to guarantee it. Turkey and Iran can put down any Kurdish ambition by military means and they will not hesitate to do so if needed. Any such action would be very bloody.
I am in support of a ethnic Kurdish commonality - it's a great historic culture and all Kurds I ever met are very good and kind people. I'm a regular at their Newroz parties here. But being a prosperous people doesn't require a Kurdish state and the generations of violence that would follow its creation.
The "Surge" Is Complete
Some thoughts on the "surge" discussions like in September Could Be Key Deadline in War.
The article asserts:
Democrats say that [late July] is a reasonable time frame for the first assessment of Bush's troop increase, since the last of the additional troops being sent to Iraq will arrive this month.
But Petraeus has said repeatedly that it will be at least another month or two after the troops are in place before it will be possible to assess the impact of those reinforcements and, just as important, of the new U.S. approach that is moving combat troops off big, isolated bases and into dozens of smaller combat outposts across Baghdad.
The late July date is the correct one and unlike what the WaPo piece wants you to believe Petraeus has said just that. The "surge" is already complete. There is one brigade (3,200 soldiers) that has not yet arrived in Iraq but that is an aviation brigade. These are some 150 transport and attack helicopters and the personal to fly and maintain them. The brigade will certainly not man any combat outposts. It was not even included in the original "surge" count.
A bit funny is the cited article's description of "big, isolated bases" versus "smaller combat outposts." In another report on the same page we learn:
.. defending their small outposts is increasingly requiring heavy bulwarks reminiscent of the fortresslike bases that the U.S. troops left behind.
To guard against bombs, mortar fire and other threats, U.S. commanders are adding fortifications to the outposts, setting them farther back from traffic and arming them with antitank weapons capable of stopping suicide bombers driving armored vehicles.
How many people get evicted from their houses for each of these "small" bases with a 200 yard security perimeter? How many new enemies does the U.S. create by this tactic?
The "surge" is complete. If Petraeus needs one or two month to evaluate it results, late July is certainly the right timeframe to confess the obvious outcome - more resistance, more death, more destruction, no political progress.
Aside from that I agree with Atrios:
Bush is going to cling to his pet war until the end.
And Congress will let him get away with it. The new fad with the Democrats seems to be to set benchmarks not for Bush, but for the Iraqi government, the most important being a law to share oil revenues (80% U.S., 20% whoever?)
What right does the U.S. Congress have to tell the Iraqi parliament to do something about oil revenues?
Wolfowitz Lied - Media Covers Up
The Wolfowitz affair at the World Bank may come to an end soon. As the New York Times reports, members of the board have put an informal ultimatum to U.S.
Until now, the U.S. had the prerogative to name the World Bank President. Now either Wolfowitz goes, or the U.S. will lose that privilege. Additionally some countries would withhold funds to World Bank programs and distribute them through other institutions.
But in its report the NYT skips around the real issue. Wolfowitz is indeed guilty. Not only did he put his girlfriend into a very lucrative position, he also lied to cover up the circumstances and his personal role in it.
When Wolfowitz came to the World Bank the rules required him to put some distance between himself and his girlfriend who worked there. He asked the bank's ethic committee what to do and they suggested to promote her to a different position not under his direct regime and a possible pay rise as compensation. The ethic committee also recommended that Wolfowitz should advise the director of human resource issues to handle the case.
But Wolfowitz wrote a direct order to that director to give his girl an outrageous pay rise of 50% and a guarantee for automatic "outperforming" evaluations no matter what she would do.
Instead of letting the human resource director decide as recommended, Wolfowitz ordered him to sign off his personal decisions.
When the deal became public, Wolfowitz started a cover up. Through intermediaries at the Bank he led the public to believe that the ethics committee had signed off on the pay rise and the other perks for his girl.
As the Financial Times reports:
Paul Wolfowitz’s closest aide was involved in crafting an apparently misleading public statement on the Shaha Riza secondment for dissemination by World Bank spokespeople on an anonymous basis, the Financial Times has found.
Ms Cleveland and Mr Kellems joined the bank with Mr Wolfowitz from the Bush administration and have been at the heart of his presidency, though in recent months they clashed over strategy.
Ms Cleveland met Marwan Muasher, the newly arrived director for external relations, on April 4 to discuss how to respond to leaks about the terms and conditions awarded to Ms Riza.
They agreed on a statement that was to be briefed on an anonymous or “background” basis by senior bank officials. This included the apparently misleading claim that “after consultation with the then general counsel, the ethics committee of the board approved an external assignment agreement which was reached with the staff member”.
As we will see, this claim came from Wolfowitz himself. In response to that claim the ethics committee and the general counsel immediately declared that they had not approved the agreement.
Still Wolfowitz maintained so until weeks later it became clear that he had lied. Only on May 2 he send a letter explaining himself:
Mr Wolfowitz said he assumed the ethics committee was aware of the terms and conditions because it decided a later anonymous complaint about Ms Riza’s pay “did not contain new information warranting further review”.
That was quite an assumption and it took Wolfowitz only four weeks to find out that this assumption was wrong? Somehow I doubt that anybody will believe his tale.
So despite all his resistance Wolfowitz may very well be gone by the end of the week. If only to keep his position in U.S. hands. (Might John Bolton be interested?)
This is not the best solution.
The U.S. abuses the World Bank, financed with other countries money, to further its interests and only its interests. I'd prefer to let Wolfowitz stay at the bank and to cut off the money. There are better ways to help the poor than pushing their countries to accept neo-liberal "Washington Consensus" programs.
As I wrote above, the New York Times does not mention the Wolfowitz cover-up attempt and his confessed assumption but continues to at least partly blame the banks institution. The Los Angeles Times also seems not to know anything about this. The Washington Post in a front page story today explains that a "key aid" to Mr. Wolfowitz made a wrong statement about the ethic committee's involvement, but does not implicate Wolfowitz' confessed personal role in making the false claim.
But the Wolfowitz letter (pdf) makes it clear that such statements were based on his assumptions and not just some excuses from a friendly key aid. Wolfowitz accused the ethics committee and the general counsel of the bank to have signed off his decision when they clearly had not done so.
But the Washington consensus of the U.S. media will not let you know that little tidbit. Instead all three U.S. reports linked above are bashing the World Bank for perceived unjust behavior against Wolfowitz because of his role in the Iraq war.
The unjust behavior here was clearly from Wolfowitz' side, not from the bank, but WaPo, LAT and NYT do see no need to let the U.S. public know about this.
Global Warming Question
It was the warmest and most dry April here since weather data is recorded. The pattern continued since with a very bright and unnaturally warm Sunday today.
I do not doubt that the planet is warming with likely catastrophic consequences for humanity and that the reason is mostly human behaviour.
What bothers me is the current emphazising of carbon dioxide (CO2) as the "bad gas" while little is said about methane (CH4).
Since the industrial revolution methane release is said to have increased much more than CO2 releases. It is also said that methane is 20 times more effective to further warming than CO2.
If those estimates are correct, why do we see more arguments about reducing CO2 than we see on reducing methane?
Follow the money? Trading some "certificates" seems a scam to me.
News & views ...
There is nothing astonishing here. Look at the occupation troops' behavior in the West Bank and you will find the same viciousness.
- Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.
- About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.
- About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.
- Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.
- Thirty-nine percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents.
The occupiers, through their behaviour and disdain for the occupied (which is a deep hidden disdain for themselfs) each day create more opposers to their occupation. This especially in a tribal/clan society where an insult to a member of a family is a revenge demanding insult to the whole family, clan and tribe.
There is no way to pacify occupied people but by eliminating more opposers from the battlefield than new ones are created. The methods to do so are ethnic cleansing and/or genozide.
Looking at the above questionnaire results, the troops have the basic will to do such a pacification.
But given the CYA mentality of the U.S. officer corps, the likes of their 1940s German collegues, they will ask for a written order. Bush is too week a person to openly give such.
There were several Himmleresce characters in Thursday's Republican candidate discussion who might have that drive - believing in their "God's will" in what is (i.e creationism) and becomes (i.e. rapture). Another 9/11-alike incident and the time might be right for one of them.
In The Garden
In The Garden
for annie by beq
(bigger 260 kb)
[She pulls off the petals and murmurs.]
Faust. What are you murmuring?
Margaret [half aloud]. He loves me - loves me not!
Faust. Sweet, heavenly vision!
Margaret [goes on]. Loves me - not - loves me - not-
[Plucking off the last petal with lovely joy.]
He loves me!
Faust. Yes, my child! and let this blossom's word
Be oracle of gods to you! He loves you!
You understand that word and what it means? He loves you!
[He seizes both her hands.]
Margaret. I'm all a-tremble!
Faust. Oh, shudder not! But let this look,
Let this hand-pressure say to you
What is unspeakable:
To give one's self up wholly and to feel
A rapture that must be eternal!
Eternal! - for its end would be despair.
No! no end! no end!
J.W. v.Goethe, Faust, Martha's Garden
Pelosi Not So Counterproductive
So the position of this administration is that the best way to meet with a leader like Assad or people from Syria is in the larger context of trying to get the global community to help change his behavior. But sending delegations hasn't worked. It's just simply been counterproductive.
President Bush Makes Remarks ..., White House, April 3, 2007
The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president.
Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.
Pratfall in Damascus, WaPo Editorial, April 5, 2007
Ms. Rice’s decision to meet with the Syrian foreign minister and seek out the Iranian seemed to confirm a significant, if unstated, change in approach for the Bush White House to handling relations in the Middle East, ...
Ms. Rice’s talk with Mr. Moallem, though short, was substantive. She asked that Syria, with its porous border with Iraq, do more to restrict the flow of foreign fighters. Bush administration officials noted afterward that it might already be happening; in the past month, they said, there had been a drop in the number of foreign fighters traveling over the Syrian border into Iraq.
U.S. and Syria Discuss Iraq in Rare Meeting, NYT, May 4, 2007
JD Scandal Summary
The Justice Department scandal is difficult to follow as it includes various overlapping power grab and cover up schemes.
a.) "Voter fraud" allegations: Part of the Karl Rove plan for an everlasting GOP majority was and is to suppress votes from minorities who usually vote for the Democratic party. This by alleging non-existant "voter fraud" and measures to suppress such "fraud." McClatchy news services today has a good run down how this was carried out in Missouri. To further the scheme Bob Schlozman was installed as interim U.S. Attorney in Kansas and he delivered. (He is no back at the Justice Department.)
b.) Suppression of investigations into the Republican money machine running through K-Street lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. The San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol C. Lam was fired for this purpose.
c.) Filling the ranks of non-political Justice Department career jobs with "pure" Republicans. This was the task of Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson under direct advise from Karl Rove. Attorney General Gonzales tried to exculpatate himself from this by completely delegating his responsibility for party-neutral hiring and firing to Sampson and Goodling. When he was told that this would be unconstitutional and that he had to formaly agree to those decisions, he changed the rules so he would be only verbaly informed and would only verbaly agree to the decisions. Leaving no paper trail allows him to claim "not recollection" of any specifics.
d.) Primary coverups: The use of the Justice Department to coverup severe wrongdoing by the administration that occured in other fields of the government and that would usually lead to some criminal investigation. But a Justice Department run by Alberto Gonzales will hardly investigate his role as White House Counsel in justifying illegal torturing of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. It will certainly not look into manipulated intelligence on Iraq. The most important issue to be hidden by him is probably the illegal eavesdropping and circumventing of the FISA court including committed perjury.
e.) Secondary coverups: Actions taken to hide the Justice Department's wrongdoings in the cases covered by a.) to d.). Election manipulation, hiding of party corruption, partisan hirings and suppression of investigations are all illegal in one or another way and this needs to be hidden from the public. When an internal Justice Department unit now starts to investigate Monica Goodling for partisan hiring, it makes it impossible for Congress to offer her an immunity deal and to crack the scheme she was part of. Thereby everything stays within the family.
It will be difficult for Congress to break into this maze and to force some cleanup and well deserved jailtime for those involved. The Justice Department is central in doing or prohibiting that and at the same time the center of the scandal.
But the Democrats are still happy with running some surface
scratching hearings. So don't expect any real action before late 2008
when it will be to late to go for the top culprits.
Burning the Good Guys
While no higher officer has been charged in the abuses at the Abu Graibh prison, the U.S. Army is seriously going after a commander who was strict with the rules regarding detainees and handled them humanily.
From the LA Times:
A senior U.S. Army officer accused of aiding the enemy when he oversaw detainees at an American-run prison in Baghdad stashed huge amounts of "extremely sensitive" topsecret material in his living quarters that could have devastated the United States' mission in Iraq if it had been leaked, an investigator testified Tuesday.
Another investigator in the case against Lt. Col. William H. Steele said that during an interview, the officer admitted that he empathized with the prisoners he oversaw, who included ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and members of his former regime, and that he had lent them his cellular phone to make private calls.
From what I can glean the accusations include:
- letting detainees use his cellphone
- having "secret" documents stored where they should not be
- "improper" contact to a detainees daughter
- "provided former president Saddam Hussein with Cuban cigars at taxpayer expense"
Earlier reports also named:
- improper relation with a translator
- pornographic pictures on his government laptop
Only deep down the pages we learn that the serious charges in the opening paragraphs are quite dubious.
- When no other telephone was available, the Colonel allowed a juvenile detainee to phone his family with his official cellphone.
- The "huge amount" of "secret" stuff was on his official laptop within his quarters. If every stored email is a "secret", that may well have accounted to the alleged 18,000 "secret" items.
- He provided a detainees daughter with materials for her architecture study that she could not get in Baghdad.
- To provide cigars to Saddam was a policy he inherited from his predecessor.
The two sex-charges from earlier reports have somehow vanished from the recent ones.
Earlier Scott Horton at Harpers reported from his contacts in Baghdad:
Steele was described as a “person of unquestioned integrity,” he was credited with maintaining “strict discipline and order” at Camp Cropper and showed “zero tolerance of prisoner abuse.” Another said he was “a person with a conscience.” One described how he intervened directly to protect a prisoner who had been mistreated by interrogators. He insisted that those serving under him treat the detainees “like human beings.” He “was a constant target of those who like to use rough stuff.”
It seems obvious that this man is getting burned. First he did get top evaluations for his work at Camp Cropper and now even twelve year old accusations he had faced in his civilian life are trotted out against him.
Someone at the Pentagon wants to put up an example here. Whoever is barely friendly with prisoners, may be "aiding the enemy". An accusation that can end with a death penalty sentence.
The message is: "More Abu Graibhs, less humanity."
Rumsfeldian policies seem not to have ended with Sec Def Gates rule.
Xie Sees Worldwide Crash Coming
There are some not so good economy headlines today.
Home sales plunge in March reports CNN:
The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index fell 4.9 percent in March, following a 1.1 percent increase in February. The index was down 10.5 percent from the March 2006 reading.
The above is the mortgage bubble bursting and the Boston Globe says there is a Private equity debt bubble that will also pop some time ahead. Additionally there is a huge bubble in the Chinese stock market and Andy Xie warns of China crash.
Until recently Xie was the Asia/China expert with Stephen S. Roach's team at Morgan Stanley. I've always found his writing very solid, though a bit on the pessimistic side of things. But I have never heard him being this bearish:
Xie [...] also warned that the global boom in equities would be over by 2008 and that this would coincide with a worldwide recession.
The recession would start from the United States and spiral down into Asia where exporters would be hit, Xie, 46, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I think it's going to be bust very soon," Xie said, adding that a combination of excess liquidity, rising inflation and rich valuations would result in a global crash soon.
"People will be surprised. When the end comes, it's going to be pretty bad," Xie added.