Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 30, 2007

Happy Birthday - Moon of Alabama

MoA was born on June 30, 2004.

Posted by b on June 30, 2007 at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

De-liberations

de-liberation

by anna missed
8x10 color photo - loyalty day 2007
(bigger version)

Posted by b on June 30, 2007 at 01:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

June 29, 2007

Bits from the Presidential Advance Manual

ACLU has a mostly redacted copy of the Presidential Advance Manual (pdf) which tells staff and volonteers how to prepare for Bush's speech events. Excerpts from the not redacted bits (emphases as in the original):

Distribution

[...]
Typically, tickets will be divided into two different categories. [...] The categories are:

VIP
These tickets should be used to highlight a group involved in the theme of event and in a limited number to members of the State Party, Local Officials, the Host of the Event or other groups extremely supportive of the Administration. These seats are usually located behind the podium or in the area between the stage and the main camera platform.

GENERAL
Tickests distributed as general seatings. These tickets represent the bulk of seating at large events.
[...]

Preparing for Demonstrators
The formation of "rally squads" is a common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message.
[...]
The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protesters (USA! USA! USA!) As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/ sororities.

Handling Demonstrators
Once a group of demonstrators has been identified [...], if [the media can see and hear the group], the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect.
...

Quite some stage management. May I see the lighting instructions? What filter color is to be used to make Bush's hangover look rosy on TV?

Posted by b on June 29, 2007 at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Pot Smoker Falsely Blames U.N. - Again

The New York Times carries a small story about another rift between the U.S. and the United Nations.

The U.S. claims that hard currency money for United Nations agricultural programs in North Korea was spend in a way that bolstered the North Korean regime.

The U.S. delivered "samples of papers" from 2001-2002 to the U.N. that claim that payments were made by the U.N. to some companies that ended up with the North Korean regime. Curiously, those papers included computer vendor codes only in use at the U.N. since 2004.

The papers also allege that the U.N. Development Program gave some $15 million to North Korea between 2001 and 2005, part of which was spend to buy houses in Washington and London. But the total U.N.D.P. budget for North Korea in those years was only $10 million.

There are several other points, all more or less lunatic, that the U.N. rejects as false.

One person pushing this on the U.S. side is Senator Norm Coleman who also pushed the oil-for-food scandal. (Remember George Galloway giving him a lecture (video)) According to Senator Levin, the oil-for-food profits were was mostly made by U.S. companies with full official U.S. knowledge. Coleman's allegations were simply wrong.

As we recently learned, Coleman is seriously off his meds. He is missing a good joint. Recently he wrote a letter to his constituenty in which he damned pot smokers. A former friend took the chance to remind him of the pounds of pot Coleman enjoyed himself during his time on campus. Ordid those damage him beyond repair?

Another pusher on the U.S. side is the ambassador to the U.N. for management issues, Mark D. Wallace. He raise to that post under John Bolton in 2006. His wife is White House communications director Nicolle Wallace. Before his job at the U.N. Wallace was campaign director for Bush/Cheney 2004. Before that:

Wallace served as Legal Counsel in 2000 for the Bush-Cheney Florida Presidential Recount Legal Team and served as the "Campaign's lead counsel in Palm Beach County and appeared before the County Canvassing Board, various trial and appellate courts and participated in the briefing before the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court." Wallace was also Co-Chairman of the Florida State Advisory Board, Lawyers for Bush-Cheney '00, Inc.

That experience certainly qualifies to come up with falsified stuff.

Wallace, like Coleman, is part of the hard right which wants to sabotage any deal with North Korea. If the United Nations is damaged as a collateral, that's even better to them.

Is there any way to get rid of these nuts?

Posted by b on June 29, 2007 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Lockerbie Blame Shifts As Needed

In 1988 a Pan Am jumbo exploded on its way from London to New York and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland.

In the official version, the Libyan dictator Gaddafi was seen as the culprit. The deed was said to be a response to the U.S. bombing of Libyan cities in 1986. A lot of pressure, including United Nations sanctions, were put on Libya. In 2000 it finally agreed to allow a Libyan agent to be tried in the case in a Scotish court. Libya also paid some reparations. It is now again a friend of the "west" with newly signed oil and gas contracts between "western" companies and Gaddafi.

But the case against the Libyan agent Megrahi was based on doubtable evidence and one shady witness and is now going to appeal:

A key part of the prosecution's case was that the bomb had been wrapped in clothing in a briefcase traced back to a clothes shop in Malta. The shop's then-owner, Tony Gauci, identified Mr Megrahi and a colleague as the buyers.

However, in a detailed press release today the review commission revealed elements of its review that cast doubt on some of the Malta evidence, including that: Mr Gauci crucially identified Mr Megrahi and a colleague in an identity parade but the defence at the trial did not know the shopkeeper had earlier seen an image of Mr Megrahi in a magazine article linking him to the bombing.
...
Mr Megrahi had been in Malta, but new evidence indicated that the clothes linked to the bomb were bought before December 6 1988 when there was no evidence he was there.
...
Mr Gauci changed his story several times in the course of inquiries, first identifying another man who had entered his shop, then contradicting his evidence about individual items he had sold.

As the evidence against Libya is shrinking away, a new culprit has to be found:

Five months before Lockerbie, the US navy mistakenly shot down an Iranian Airbus passenger jet in the Gulf, killing 290 people. Some experts believe the Lockerbie bomb was put on the Pan Am jet by Syrian and Iranian-backed Palestinian terror groups at Frankfurt.

The bombing was widely seen as an attack on the US - 189 of the passengers who perished were American nationals.

"Iran had the most potent motive of anybody for destroying an American airliner," said Jim Swire, a British doctor whose daughter Flora was killed on Flight 103.

Isn't this a bit weird? When Libya was an "enemy", everything was done to claim it was guilty of Lockerbie. Now that Libya is no longer an "enemy", blame can (and will) be put elsewhere.

Today there are other "enemies" who, without any evidence but a possible motive, will now be blamed for the incident. How about some Palestinians said to be backed by Syria and Iran? 

Doesn't this sound a bit like a convinient "enemy of the day" charade?

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray today adds this rumor:

On one occasion [...], I was told something remarkable by a colleague in Aviation section.

At this time we suddenly switched from blaming Iran and Syria for the Lockerbie bombing to blaming Libya. This was part of a diplomatic drive to isolate Iraq from its neighbours in the run-up to the invasion. Aviation section were seeing all the intelligence on Lockerbie, for obvious reasons. A colleague there told me, in a deeply worried way, that he/she had the most extraordinary intelligence report which showed conclusively that it was really Syria, not Libya, that bombed the Pan Am jet, and that the switch was pure expediency.
...
I never saw the report myself, and I do not know what it said, or why it was so conclusive.

But what motive would Syria have had?

I certainly have no idea who did blow up Pan Am Flight 103. But after Libya has been officially blamed and intensly pressured over it for some 15 years, why should I now believe in any accusations that point to some other organizations and countries?

Especially when these conveniently are those that top the current U.S. "axis of evil" list-of-the-day?

Posted by b on June 29, 2007 at 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 28, 2007

Dems Must Fight or Will Lose

With regard to Congress subpoenas and today's White House claims of Executive Privilege (pdf) MoA commentator Uncle $cam predicts:

The Senate will now rise for the daily invocation, pledge of allegiance and buggering.

If it does go to the SCOTUS I'm curious if a Roberts court would consent to hear the case on an expedited basis or if it would drag out till at least the end of next year.

My guess: right now the entire Bush system is trying to hold it's breath until the end of his term on everything. Don't pull the troops out, let the next president do it and take the blame for losing the war, --that is if they don't decide to stay by bombing Iran--, fight all subpoenas to their buddies on the Supreme Court, with as many delaying tactics as possible in between. It's all a delaying tactic.

And the dems will let them, because they do not want to diminish their chances for that executive power, even though they might and probably will lose.

I agree with that and want to emphasize the possibility of the dems losing the next elections. Maybe not in terms of Congress seats, but the Presidency is certainly not secured for them.

The 2008 election season will be about Iraq, Iraq and Iraq. The Democrats will have to argue for leaving Iraq asap or they will lose their base. But that leaves their flank open for "soft on ..." attacks.

To preempt such Democrats must show agressiveness towards their enemies and to do so now. The obvious enemy, despised by a huge majority of the people, is the Bush/Cheney regime. The Dems have to attack that enemy fast and furious.

That and only that can invalidate the otherwise guaranteed and justified election slogans of "Dems soft on ..." kind. Don't disregard such slogans. Security, even undefined, is a very basic concern for most people. Mixed with a few terror alerts, "soft on..." claims are very, very effective.

Posted by b on June 28, 2007 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

June 27, 2007

Developments in the Israeli-Palestinian Embroglio

by Bea

Re: The possibility of Gaza being passed to Egyptian control and the West Bank to Jordanian control, the (predictable) response from the Arab world appears to be no way:

Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries understand that Gaza cannot remain outside of consensual Palestinian control. This is the case not only because agreements between Israel and the PA define Gaza as an inseparable part of Palestine, but because no Arab country wants to relieve Israel of dealing with Gaza as long as the occupation continues, and no Arab country believes Abbas can rule Gaza under present conditions. Responsibility for the needs of 1.5 million people imprisoned in Gaza might end up on their doorstep either through the need to make donations or domestic public pressure to save Gaza.

Egypt and Jordan want to return the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian problem to the Palestinians and go back to acting as advisers, mediators or exerters of pressure. Thus, they need Hamas and Fatah to reconcile.

They feel the most direct way to do this is to aggrandize Abbas by emphasizing the gestures Israel is making, which will highlight the gap between those governed by Hamas and those governed by Fatah. The assumption is that such gestures will create public pressure on the leadership in Gaza that will in the end agree to move toward reconciliation.

Only problem with this analysis is that as I've said before, I doubt that the "masses" in the W.B. will really gain much benefit from whatever the US and Israel allow Abbas to receive. This is already in play, with the tax monies that Israel owes to the PA. Israel has decided that they are not ready to give them all over to the Palestinians at once. Rather:

According to sources at the Prime Minister's Office, a timetable for the transfer has not yet been decided, nor has a method for the transfer been devised. They said that "throwing the money all at once would be a wrong move on Israel's part," and that Israel wants to transfer the funds in an orderly and controlled manner.

The sources said they believe the first installment will be transferred within several days, in light of the new Palestinian government's declaration it would honor the demands imposed on it by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators. The demands include recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror and abiding by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements....

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said during the cabinet debate that the funds should be transferred to the PA in stages, in order to determine whether it has any practical effect in terms of strengthening Abbas.

"If Abu Mazen [Abbas] doesn't act, Israel should limit the next monetary installments," said Yishai, adding that Israel must ensure that the money does not end up in Hamas hands.

It's important to note that according to the above-cited article from Haaretz, already at the get go Israel says the tax monies total far less than the Palestinian accounts indicate.

Palestinian sources estimate that Israel currently holds $700 million in frozen revenues. Israeli sources estimate the sum at $562 million, after the deduction of Palestinian debts owed to Israel.

So they are slashing the total to begin with, then giving out only a part of that, and attaching strict conditions to the release of the next part... all with plenty of opportunities along the way to say "oh so sorry, you failed to meet our requirements so unfortunately we will have to resume witholding your tax money. The money, that is, that we automatically witheld from working Palestinians' wages that is rightfully yours... to get it you must behave and comply with whatever hoops we tell you to jump through." How much more clearly can the total asymmetry of power be???

Israel has also refused to lift any of the hundreds of road blocks in the West Bank. This will surely "bolster Abbas." Particularly that he has announced that he has "received assurances from the US and Israel" ahead of the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh that "serious" gestures will be forthcoming from Israel.

What gestures does the Arab world expect Israel to offer?

Earlier Sunday, Egypt urged Israel to halt West Bank raids as well as construction of the separation fence, as a further measure to boost Abbas.

In advance of the Monday talks, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit phoned Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and called on Israel to take a series of steps aimed at strengthening Abbas.

Aboul Gheit asked Israel to "act towards the Palestinian Authority in a way that achieves calm and creates the atmosphere for resuming the peace process," according to a ministry statement.

"This requires halting settlement operations, ending construction of the separation wall, stopping raids on cities and removing the checkpoints," he said....

But Aboul Gheit told Livni that Israel must let food into Gaza, along with water and electricity.

What gestures is Israel offering?

a. Release of PA funds collected by Israel in the form of customs duties and VAT. The funds will be released in a number of installments in "agreement with the PA emergency government" [Editorial translation: in accordance with Israel's solely-determined, not mutually discussed, terms] and while ensuring that none of the money is given to militant groups.

b. Continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip - water, electricity, food, medicines, medical services and the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing (which connects Israel, Egypt and Gaza) to the passage of people and cargo.

c. Reissuing VIP cards to Palestinians, and expanding the permits to Palestinian businessmen wishing to cross into Israel.

d. Allowing the transfer of armored cars to the Fatah forces in the West Bank.

e. Renewed security cooperation in the West Bank.

f. Resumption of the work of the combined security committee - Israel, Egypt, PA, U.S. - particularly in efforts to curtail arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip from Sinai.

And we mustn't overlook the fact that Olmert has refused to comply with Condi's request, during his recent trip to Washington, that Israel negotiate a final agreement with the Palestinians immediately, and then put it "on the shelf" until such time as the circumstances are ripe for its deployment.

Rice supports talks on a "shelf agreement" that would outline the permanent settlement but not be implemented immediately because of Abbas' weak standing.

    In Rice's view, merely reaching such an agreement in principle would provide the Palestinians with a "political horizon" and hope, thereby encouraging them to fight terror and to establish governing institutions in preparation for an independent state.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shares Rice's approach, but Olmert is strongly opposed to the idea. He believes that any settlement reached should be implemented, and fears a situation in which Israel approves the agreement, but Abbas fails to sell it to the Palestinian public. In that event, Israel might be pressured to make further concessions to make Abbas' task easier.

Olmert agreed several months ago to launch talks with Abbas over "a political horizon," on condition that these deal not with the three core issues - Jerusalem, permanent borders and the refugees - but only with the nature of the future Palestinian state, its systems of government and law and security arrangements for the territories. Political sources in Jerusalem say that as Abbas becomes stronger and more able to sell the agreement to his people, Israel will agree to expand the discussion agenda to include the core issues.

Hmmm. How can Abbas or anyone possibly consider the nature of the future Palestinian state without knowing what its borders, capital, or population is likely to be???

The disagreement between Rice and Olmert was evident at the White House lunch meeting given by President George W. Bush for Olmert and senior U.S. and Israeli aides. As published previously in Haaretz, Rice talked about the importance of giving the Palestinians hope, "so that a Palestinian boy doesn't want to commit suicide when he grows up." Olmert countered that Israel has paid a price for its mistakes in negotiating with the Palestinians, and spoke about the horrific suicide bombings he saw in Jerusalem after the failed summit at Camp David and the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000.

Finally, don't miss this excoriating comment by Akiva Eldar about Bush:

Heavy clouds will float over today's summit in sunny Sharm el-Sheikh....

And who isn't coming to this sad party? The United States, the superpower with the lion's share of responsibility for the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Who stayed home? President George W. Bush, the one whose semi-hallucinatory dream of democratization has become a genuine reality of anarchy; whose adopted vision of two states - Israel and Palestine - has become during his tenure a distant dream. It is difficult to think of an American president who has caused more damage to Israeli interests than the president who is considered one of the friendliest to Israel of all time. No leader has done more than Bush - by commission as well as omission - to destroy the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.

It was Bush who imposed the wretched elections on the Palestinians, despite Hamas' refusal to fulfill the terms of the Oslo II Accords concerning the participation of political parties in the democratic process. Bush gave his blessing to sacrificing the road map on the altar of unilateral disengagement, an act of charity toward the Palestinian "refusal front" and a death blow to the already damaged peace camp.... When Hamas was dragged into the unity government and the cease-fire agreement, with great effort, the Bush administration spared no effort to defeat the new alliance. And now, after cooking up the stew, Bush is leaving his "friends" to eat it alone, while exhorting the use of obsolete tricks to raise the dead, such as removing checkpoints in the West Bank and releasing Palestinian prisoners. The two-state vision will have to wait for the next president. What's the rush?...

Officials in Olmert's government are sighing in great relief over the lowering of the American profile. To understand the depth of these leanings, one must go to Damascus. Vice President Farouk Shara interpreted Bush's statements using the following harsh, but accurate, words: "The American president does not want peace between Israel and Syria." Israeli intelligence officials are already warning that the opposite of peace is imminent war between Israel and Syria. This means that Bush is refusing to help prevent another round of blood-letting.

Let's not hold our breath for what will come out of the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh. Anyone want to place bets on how before Abbas' government begs Hamas to reconstitute the national unity government or simply implodes in some other fashion?

I am sorry to say it, but if Shakespeare were alive today, even he could not possibly have conjured up a greater tragedy than the one presently unfolding in the once "Holy" Land.

Posted by b on June 27, 2007 at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

OT 07-45

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 27, 2007 at 08:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

Where Are The Other 'Family Jewels'?

Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, under diligent supervision by Congress, ordered the CIA to conduct various illegal operations.

The activities included mass domestic wiretapping, failed assassination plots (Fidel Castro et al), successful assassination (Patrice Lumumba et al), mind-control experiments, illegal drug handling, cooperations with Mafia gangs, infiltration of citizen movements, abduction, spying on and manipulating journalists, partisan political support. All these crimes happend within the U.S. as well as abroad.

The now published but still heavily censored selective collection of CIA brummagem family jewels only includes documents up to 1973. Most of the plots described were already known. Where are the other, the real 'family jewels'?

And do you believe that the praxis of illegal activities by the CIA and other government agencies has been discontinued after 1973?

If you do, please contact me immediately at ExclusiveOffer@BridgeSales.com.

Posted by b on June 27, 2007 at 05:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

June 26, 2007

A Short Lecture on Executive-Legislative Duality

At yesterday's press briefing the press corps and White House spokesperson Dana Perino were collectively speculating about Cheney's position in the executive and/or legislative branch.

MS. PERINO: The executive functions are given to him by the President. For example, the Vice President's paycheck comes from the Senate. So these are -- that's an interesting constitutional question.

Ms. Perino, dear press corps, please let me help with some scientific background:

A fundamental postulate of Cheneyism, which manifests itself in the Federalist Society Uncertainty Principle, is that no vice presidential phenomenon can be (to arbitrary accuracy) described as a "classic executive position" or as a legislative position but rather the micro-political situation is best described in terms of executive-legislative duality.

MS. PERINO: I think it's a little bit more complicated than that.

Yes, sure Ms. Perino - let's dig a bit deeper:

The Federalist society uncertainty principle is a consequence of this picture. The amplitude of the executive position associated with a legislative position corresponds to its position, and the process length (more precisely, its Fourier transform) is inversely proportional to momentum. In order to localize the executive position so as to have a sharp peak (i.e., a small position uncertainty), it is necessary to incorporate executive positions with very short process lengths, corresponding to high momenta in all directions, and therefore a large momentum uncertainty. Indeed, the Federalist Society Uncertainty Principle is equivalent to a theorem in functional analysis that the standard deviation of the squared absolute value of a function, times the standard deviation of the squared absolute value of its Fourier transform, is at least 1/(16π2) (Folland and Sitaram, Theorem 1.1).

MS. PERINO: Maybe it's me, but I think that everyone is making this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be.

That is indeed a possiblity - see your previous quote. But here is an example you probably can relate to:

A helpful analogy can be drawn between the executive position associated with a quantum-political legislative position and a more familiar executive position, the time-varying spokesperson position associated with, say, a sound bite. It is meaningless to ask about its releventness at a single moment in time, because the measure of releventness is the measure of a repetition recurring over a period of time. Indeed, in order for a spokesperson position to have a relatively well-defined relevantness, it must persist for a long period of time, and conversely, a spokesperson position that occurs at a relatively well-defined moment in time (i.e., of short duration) will necessary encompass a broad (ir)relevantness band. This is, indeed, a close mathematical analogue of the Federalist society uncertainty principle.

MS. PERINO: Okay, you have me thoroughly confused, as well.

Oh, sorry. But that's the point of the uncertainty principle. Isn't it?

Posted by b on June 26, 2007 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Hidden NYT Correction on Iran Lies

Two days ago the NYT had a page A1 report on Iran Cracks Down on Dissent. It ran with a photo of a man being manhandled by the Iranian police.   

Michelle Malkin and the usual bunch of warmongering folks jumped to the story with additional pictures.

But the story was wrong and the NYT did "correct" the story, though you will only find the correction when you somehow go back to the original article linked above.

The headline over the article said that Iran was cracking down on dissent and “parading examples” in the streets, and one paragraph in the article also said that young men detained for wearing tight T-shirts or western-style haircuts had been “paraded bleeding through Tehran’s streets by uniformed police officers.” The Times caption on an official Iranian news agency photograph that ran with the article said that it showed a police officer punishing a young man in public for wearing un-Islamic clothing by forcing him to suck on a plastic container normally used for intimate hygiene, a punishment the article also asserted was for that offense.

But the man in the photograph, according to widespread Iranian news reports, was one of more than 100 people arrested recently on charges of being part of a gang that had committed rapes, robberies, forgeries and other crimes. The caption published on the Web site of the news agency, Fars, had said only that the man was being punished as part of a roundup of “thugs” in a Tehran neighborhood.

So how did this happen?

In this case, The Times relied on an interview with a researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates within Iran who said the photograph was evidence of a more visible police role in public crackdowns on what the authorities consider immoral behavior. The reporter then wrongly interpreted what the researcher said as applying to a crackdown on dress, and incorporated the erroneous interpretation into the body of the article, without giving any indication of the source for it.

Oh, the reporter, unwilling to check original Iranian reporting, got punked by some NGO's PR guy that doesn't even work in Iran anymore - best guess: some part of the MEK cult organization. The reporter was to lazy to verify that account and hid his dubious sources. His editors didn't mind.

Again the NYT and various other media get willingly manipulated and manipulate into preparing the information warfare battleground for an unprovoked attack on a sovereign country.

Defense Tech headlines Iranian Techniques Tested in Iraq on a piece that has no fact regarding "Iranian techniques" or "tested in Iraq". The British Sun has some (black?) helicopters from Iran invade Iraq to attack Our Boys - no fact included either.

This campaign for war on Iran has now gained significant speed with multiple stories per day, each recycled and echoed in other "news" accounts until they are taken as "truth."

It will be hard to keep up with all these false claims. To refute them again and again will become the equivalent of fighting windmills.

Somehow I am amazed that this can happen again.

Posted by b on June 26, 2007 at 03:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 25, 2007

Hunting For Cheney's Head?

When Josh Marshall portrait Cheney in early 2003 he found him to be proven wrong on most the issues he touched. Marshall traced this back to a particular mentality:

Cheney is conservative, of course, but beneath his conservatism is something more important: a mindset rooted in his peculiar corporate-Washington-insider class. It is a world of men--very few women--who have been at the apex of both business and government, and who feel that they are unique in their mastery of both. Consequently, they have an extreme assurance in their own judgment about what is best for the country and how to achieve it. They see themselves as men of action.
...
[A]nyone who doesn't agree gets ignored or, if need be, crushed. Muscle it through and when the results are in, people will realize we were right is the underlying attitude.

The current Washington Post series on Cheney (Part I, Part II, more to follow), has lots of interesting and sometimes breath taking anecdotes of Cheney's and his consigliere Addington's actions. They fit the analysis Marshall wrote four years ago.

Cheney sees himself not as the usual vice-president but as the president behind the president:

"He had the understanding with President Bush that he would be -- I'm just going to use the word 'surrogate chief of staff,' " said Quayle, whose membership on the Defense Policy Board gave him regular occasion to see Cheney privately over the following four years.
...
Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to "every table and every meeting," making his voice heard in "whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in," [White House Chief of Staff] Bolten said.

Cheney and Addington are running circles around the law and around other players in the White House, especially Rice, Powell and Ashcroft. They are ruled down by the Supreme Court and get proven to be wrong again and again on policy issues. Still they push on.

Some parts of the WaPo reports seem to have been edited down to isolate Bush from the damage. Indeed the whole series could be subtitled "Blame Cheney not Bush."

People on and off the record, like torture advocate John Yoo, use their accounts to deflect some blame from themselves and onto the Cheney/Addington team.

The vice president's lawyer advocated what was considered the memo's most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line of torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."

That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public. According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of specific interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA -- including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government classified as a war crime in 1947. The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive.

Yoo said for the first time in an interview that he verbally warned lawyers for the president, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that it would be dangerous as a matter of policy to permit military interrogators to use the harshest techniques, because the armed services, vastly larger than the CIA, could overuse the tools or exceed the limits.

Still in total the series is a narrative of episodes that, taken together, are a good basis for a trial at the Hague.

One wonders to what planed effect such a broad assault, supported by many insider quotes, gets launched right now. Who is hunting for Cheney's head here?

Posted by b on June 25, 2007 at 07:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Lessons in Geography

Video, Anderson Cooper, June 20, 2007

Aside from the lack of geographic knowledge, CNN does not even recognize its own numbers.

On a chart in that video it says about Afghanistan:

  • Largest refugee population in world (2.1 million)
  • 25% of primary school age children to not attend
  • over 50% live below poverty line

In the moderation segment Cooper says:

"2.000.000 Afghans live outside the country. It is the world largest refugee population."

This was in a broadcast on the World Refugee Day when Cooper discussed Afghanistan and Darfur with Angelina Jolie.

But according to a CNN.com report posted June 21, 2007:

  • More than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled since war began
  • 2 million Iraqis have been displaced inside Iraq

Others report:

  • Primary school attendence in Iraq is lower than in Afghanistan with only 30% attending at all
  • In Iraq 9 million now live in poverty with no count available of Iraqi refugees in poverty outside of the country

Which makes one wonder if CNN is able to set the focus on the right places at all.

  • Why are 2.000.000 Afghans said to be the "world largest refugee population" and not 4.200.000 Iraqis?
  • Why was the relative smaller Darfur crisis discussed instead of the bigger Iraqi one?

Posted by b on June 25, 2007 at 04:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

June 23, 2007

Coming Soon - Total War On Gaza

How will the Cheney and Olmert administrations now solve the problem of the still legaly existing and popular elected Hamas government in Palestine?

The Palestinian Pundit has a relevant translation:

This news item appeared today in the reputable Al-Akhbar paper in Lebanon.

It says that the decision for decisive action against Hamas in Gaza has apparently been taken at many levels involving local and outside powers. The military component of the plan will be what Olmert will outline to Abbas, Abdullah and Mubarak next Monday in Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt.

Western and American sources in Cairo have revealed the existence of a draft joint U.S.-Israeli plan which will be proposed in that meeting. The plan includes political and military measures to force Hamas out of Gaza. Olmert will be pressing his Arab counterparts to let him carry out a "limited" military strike in Gaza to destroy Hamas' "infrastructure" and to end its control in Gaza. Simultaneous with that military operation, Israel will be targeting Hamas' leadership and both its political and military cadres.

An Egyptian official said that Egypt and Jordan are unlikely to agree to the plan. Western sources said that Cairo is concerned that such Israeli intervention would increase tension along Egypt's borders.

Israel's Radio stated that Olmert has proposed that a Saudi official attend the forthcoming summit to convey the impression that the Arab world stands behind Abbas. It is worth noting that the Saudi king will be in Cairo on Monday.

Sounds quite believable to me, though I would doubt that the Saudi king will join the game.

The Egyptian dictator will agree, because Congress is threatening to cut some of the US funds he is collecting. The Jordan king may agree if he gets a brand new Playstation 3.

But the Saudi king would to have repudiate the deal he made a few month ago in Mecca with Abbas and  the Hamas leader Haniye over the unity government. I find it hard to believe that he will do so while Hamas calls to re-form the unity government simply get shunned.

The planed action itself, is of course simple bloody murder. While the occupation in Iraq to some extend followed the model of the occupation of Palestine, now the learning relationship has turned. The increasing brutal assaults on Iraqis, including all-out air war, may now be copied for the destruction of Gaza and the few Palestinian outlets left in the West Bank. One wonders if Abbas could survive that.

Posted by b on June 23, 2007 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

The 'Qaeda' Mania

There is a new order out from the Cheney administration that any U.S. enemy in Iraq is now to be called 'Al-Qaeda'. As Glenn Greenwald points out, Bush himself and various reports have said on the record that only some 5% of the resistance in Iraq is of 'Al-Qaeda' ideology or has franchized that brand.

Still, since about two weeks nearly every U.S. report from Iraq, especially on the Baquba operation, talks about 'Al-Qaeda'. Today's NYT piece on Iraq uses the word 'Qaeda' 23 times.

Why is this so?

One reason of course is that Michael R. Gordon, a partisan former co-writer of Judith Miller's WMD scare fiction, is currently embedded with the military in Baquba and contributed to the piece.

That's only one bad apple, but as Glenn shows, other like CNN and the Washington Post also have caught on to the recent 'Qaeda' mania. There is a barrel of bad apples.

The best answer I have found is in a Democracy Now interview with ex-Marine Josh Rushing, who was spokesman for the Marines in CENTCOM during the start of the Iraq war. Rushing was portrait in the movie Control Room.

He says:

[The reporters] would ask me before I would go on air live, “Are there any messages you want to get across today?” Well, yeah. My boss comes straight from the White House, and they have the messages of the day, and so they would give it to us. So I’d say, “Sure. WMD, regime change, ties with terrorism.” And they go, “OK. Well, I’ll ask you these questions, so we can get those answers out.” And they set it all up.
[...]
[Fox and NBC] were probably the worst about it, because those two were the most competitive about wanting access. I think they saw this as kind of part of the game. So we would go on live. They would ask me, you know, the staged questions. They would pat me on the back and thank me for my service.

The whole setup that gives us all the 'Qaeda' stuff is about getting access. It is what drives some reporters to repeat every lie the administration feeds them. For their obedient service, they will be allowed an exclusive once a while. Some sensational lie that can run on the front page and lift their personal market value.

Reporters who do not stick to this system, like those in the McClatchy (former Knight-Ridder) Washington bureau, will be cut off. They get bared from government airplanes and, without access to senior officials, their reporting has to rely on second level sources.

The irony is that this consistently makes their news-product the better one. Being shunned from access to the propaganda center, they do report the real reality.

But the personal motive of the reporter still doesn't explain why the NYT, CNN, Fox and NBC prefer such reporters "with access". Do they believe that the once-in-a-while crumb of a sensational exclusive lie really help their longterm bottom line?

If so, they are seriously mistaken.

Posted by b on June 23, 2007 at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

News & Views ...

Fisk is bit outraged that Blair is supposed to be Middle East envoy:

In the hunt for quislings to do our bidding - ie accept even less of Mandate Palestine than Arafat would stomach - I suppose Blair has his uses. His unique blend of ruthlessness and dishonesty will no doubt go down quite well with our local Arab dictators.

Crusader General Odierno tells the NYT that "Al-Qaida" heads he was supposed to catch in Baquba slipped away. Interestingly, "some officers" blame Petraeus for revealing the attack before it started. Odierno is pushing the end of the "surge" to spring 2008 (earliest) or 2058.

WaPo is on a different angle criticizing the lack of troops on the ground. What do they want? A "super surge?" A draft?

One reserve Lt. Colonel breaks the military omerta and explains why the process to "review" the status of "enemy combatants" is a sham.

After years of guessing the obvious, the U.N. finally detects that the trouble in Sudan/Darfur is a result of climate change.

In Afghanistan NATO/US forces bombed another 36 civilians to death. What better to divert attention from that than accusing the resistance of using children in suicide missions?

Over is under -  or vice versa: The quality of Washington Post's editorial writers exposed:

An editorial on Friday mistakenly described China's currency as overvalued, rather than undervalued, compared to the U.S. dollar.

The Jerusalem Post on how neocons and AIPAC stooges won a 411-2 Congress resolution against Ahmadinejad:

The initiative to see the Iranian president indicted under the Genocide Convention began in New York on December 14, when former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler and Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz joined outgoing US ambassador to the UN John Bolton and an Israeli legal team at an event sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at the New York Bar Association's offices.

More chutzpah via Haaretz

"The international community cannot be silent in situations where the violation of human rights is systemic, grave, and widespread, and where states dismiss issues of human rights and refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue," Israel's deputy UN ambassador Daniel Carmon said Friday.

No, not Israel - he was talking about Iran ...

The sixth top guy in the Justice Department resigns.

Bush: Me thinks me and Dicky don't have to follow my executive orders even if they say so.

Somali government forces break apart.

On Thursday the Lebanese had declared they won the fight over the ruins of Nahr al-Bared. Now their artillery shoots just for fun?

Nice site of the day: Woodgears.ca.

Posted by b on June 23, 2007 at 04:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

June 22, 2007

Islam - Comintern: Capitalism's Ideological Enemies

Pat Lang points to a Krauthammer op-ed in which the neocon ideologist burps:

Gaza is now run not by a conventional political party but by a movement that is revolutionary, Islamist and terrorist. Worse, Hamas is a client of Iran. Gaza now constitutes the farthest reach of the archipelago of Iranian proxies: Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mahdi Army (among others) in Iraq and the Alawite regime of Syria.

This Islamist mini-replica of the Comintern is at war not just with Israel but with the moderate Arab states, who finally woke up to this threat last summer when they denounced Hezbollah for provoking the Lebanon war with Israel.

Lang sees the use of "Comintern" here as a pure propaganda tool. As communism is gone, (Iran supported) Islam is build up as the new goonyman.

But there could be more than just pure propaganda and the defense industry's need of some enemy here.

The neocons and their economic ideological brethrens, the neolibs, may fear Islam as a danger to their radical capitalism.

The "moderate Arab states," the collection of U.S. friendly dictatorships, all act capitalistic in their outward relation. But they are not necessarily open as markets to western companies or business models. U.S. mortgage companies hardly fit this rejection of usurious interest in the Koran.

"...
O you believers, fear God, and renounce the excess of usurious interest, if you really believe. If you do not follow this ruling, you may expect the hostility of God and of his Messenger. If you repent, you will retain your capital, neither harming anyone else nor suffering harm yourselves. To a debtor in difficulty, grant a delay until his situation improves. And if you renounce your rights that will be better still." (Q.2, 275-280).5

Basic Islamic jurisprudential understanding of economics, i.e. the ideology of Islamic economics, has quite some aspects that are incompatible with capitalism.

It seeks an economic system based on uplifting the deprived masses, a major role for the state in matters such as circulation and equitable distribution of wealth and insuring participants in the marketplace are rewarded by being exposed to risk and/or liability.

How could any decent disciple of the Chicago school NOT strive to fight against this? Especially the "liability" point would certainly not rhyme with yesterday's Supreme Court decision.

Therefore, could there be some perceived fear that a caliphate, a group of nations with a common Islamic economic understanding, is a severe threat to the global rule of the robber-baron guild?

Could there be some reason based in economic ideology that drives the swing of the Krauthammer against some new "Comintern"?

Please let me know your thoughts.

---
An interesting side-point. A major modern work of Islamic economy was written by Muqtada al-Sadr's father. In Iqtisaduna ("Our Economics") Sadr senior:

rejects capitalism's notion that private property is justified in its own right, arguing instead that both private and public property originate from God, and that the rights and obligations of both private individuals and rulers are therefore dictated by Islam.

Could this explain some of the vitriol that is constantly spew against the keeper of this flame, Sadr junior?

Posted by b on June 22, 2007 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

June 21, 2007

Progress in the War on Iran

The Israeli dis-information site Debka rumors about a third and fourth carrier to move on Iran.

Nearly unnoticed Congress yesterday declared all but open war on Iran. The House passed Resolution 21:

110th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. CON. RES. 21

Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.
...

And if the U.N. doesn't act the U.S. will have to take on the burdon alone ...

Only two representatives voted against the resolution. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.
Paul said:

This resolution is an exercise in propaganda that serves one purpose: to move us closer to initiating a war against Iran. Citing various controversial statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this legislation demands that the United Nations Security Council charge Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Having already initiated a disastrous war against Iraq citing UN resolutions as justification, this resolution is like déja-vu. Have we forgotten 2003 already? Do we really want to go to war again for UN resolutions? That is where this resolution, and the many others we have passed over the last several years on Iran, is leading us. I hope my colleagues understand that a vote for this bill is a vote to move us closer to war with Iran.

Clearly, language threatening to wipe a nation or a group of people off the map is to be condemned by all civilized people. And I do condemn any such language. But why does threatening Iran with a pre-emptive nuclear strike, as many here have done, not also deserve the same kind of condemnation? Does anyone believe that dropping nuclear weapons on Iran will not wipe a people off the map? When it is said that nothing, including a nuclear strike, is off the table on Iran, are those who say it not also threatening genocide? And we wonder why the rest of the world accuses us of behaving hypocritically, of telling the rest of the world “do as we say, not as we do.” ...

Meanwhile General Petraeus is telling the London Times, without a shred of evidence, that al-Sadr militia with the help of Iran are holding the abducted five Brits.

But it was reported that most likely special police forces did take these hostages. The special police force is infiltrated by the Badr brigades, not friends of al-Sadr. There is no evidence that Iran is involved. But what Petraeus is aiming at is British support for an attack on Iran.

Meanwhile Cheney is holding back the five abducted Iranian diplomats:

The fate of the five men has reached the highest levels of the White House, with Bush's top foreign policy advisers meeting to discuss the issue in the spring. They agreed to hold the men as they do other foreign fighters captured in Iraq, with their status reviewed every six months.

They were originally due for review six months after their detention -- or by mid-July. Instead, the Multinational Force headquarters reviewed their status in April, meaning they are not eligible for another review until October, U.S. officials said. Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker were unaware that a review had occurred until last week, the officials noted.

So Rice and Gates were not informed?

It is Gates job to keep Cheney under control and to avoid a war on Iran. That's why he was put where he is. Let's hope he isn't losing more bureaucratic infights like the above.

The consequences could be disastrous.

Posted by b on June 21, 2007 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Iraq Roundup

The Washington Post sees the Iraqi government falling apart:

Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a senior Shiite politician often mentioned as a potential prime minister, tendered his resignation last week in a move that reflects deepening frustration inside the Iraqi government with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Other senior Iraqi officials have considered resigning in recent weeks over the failures of their government to make progress after more than a year in power, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.
...
Maliki's government has failed so far to push through major laws demanded by the U.S. government as a means of promoting national reconciliation.

As the current puppets don't agree to U.S. demands, one wonders if this report is the awaited coup announcement.

But hold out on that. The Guardian reports that the problem is now solved:

Iraq's Kurdish leaders said last night they had struck an important deal with the central government in Baghdad over a law to divide up Iraq's oil revenues, which is seen by the Bush administration as one of the benchmarks in attempts to foster national reconciliation.

Ashti Hawrami, the minister for natural resources in the Kurdistan regional government, told the Guardian the text had been finalised late last night after 48 hours of "tough bargaining" with Baghdad. The deal represented "a genuine revenue sharing agreement" that was transparent and would benefit all the people of Iraq and help pull the country together, he said.

It is not immediately clear, what law Hawrami is talking about.

The draft oil law (pdf) does not say much about revenue sharing at all:

Article 11: Petroleum Revenues

A- According to the Constitution of Iraq (Articles 106, 111, 112 and 121(3)) regarding the ownership of Oil and Gas resources, the distribution of its revenues, and the monitoring of federal revenue allocation, the Council of Ministers must submit a draft federal revenue law to the Council of Representatives regulating these matters in adherence to the sections of this Article.

The oil law more or less only declares who will get the biggest chunk (87.5%) of the booty: the foreign oil companies running the business. But the part relevant in the logic of the U.S.  reconciliation propaganda, is the revenue sharing of the 12.5% the Iraqis are allowed to keep. This is in separate legislation, not within the oil law, and this may be what Hawrami is talking about.

Not that it has currently much relevance.

Live in Baghdad is getting worse each day. The insurgency attacks on the supply lines have now led to severe fuel and chlorine shortages in Baghdad. Without fuel, no generators, no electricity, no waterpumps, no water. Already some cases of cholera have appeared and this is only the start of the Iraqi summer heat.

Even the Green Zone is effected:

The water shortage has even reached inside the Green Zone, where most government offices and foreign organizations are located. Tayseer al-Mashhadani, a member of the national assembly, said the water supply there has been shut off for several hours a day.

So nice that it is often raining in the Green Zone. But unfortunatly those drops ain't water:

A series of mortars or rockets slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone on Thursday, and an official said at least one round struck a parking lot used by the Iraqi prime minister and his security detail.
...
A June 5 U.N. report said insurgents had bombarded the Green Zone with rockets and mortar fire more than 80 times since March, reportedly killing at least 26 people.

No wonder that the Iraqi parliamentarians are mostly outside the country. As al-Sadr followers also again boycott it, the parliament is not able to reach a quorum and to make any law - be it about oil or revenue sharing.

Then there is also this ominous paragraph in the Guardian story:

Iraq's finance minister, Bayan Jabr, and the oil minister, Hussein Sharistani, were accompanying the president, Jalal Talabani, on a state a visit to China and could not be contacted for comment.

Two points:

  • How can Hawrami reach a revenue/oil deal without the finance and the oil minister and without the Iraqi president in town? Who did he deal with at all?
  • What kind of back-deal are these guys making with the Chinese? What does Washington know/say about this?

Another interesting WaPo tidbit that will immensely complicate the matters for the U.S.:

The turmoil within Shiite political circles is exacerbated by the deteriorating health of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Council. He has sought treatment in Houston, and now Tehran, for lung cancer, and several U.S. and Iraqi officials said his condition is grave.

In true democratic fashion, al-Hakim's son is said to take over his role. But that may not go over easily with others in his party, guaranteeing further political turmoil.

Meanwhile Petraeus is back at whacking the mole:

A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, said the military was investigating the mistaken bombing of a house in the Khatoon neighborhood of Baqubah on Wednesday. The incident occurred when soldiers decided to destroy a heavily booby-trapped residence with an aircraft bomb, but the bomb hit the wrong house, Garver said.

Idiots. Intensive bombing is not counterinsurgency, but insurgency creation.

But U.S. casualties have dropped from 4 per day in May to 3 per day in June. Did someone order Petraeus to change style from ground to air-war to avoid casualties?

As Anthony Cordesman notes in his latest analysis:

More honesty, objective self-criticism, serious effort to develop credible strategies and operational plans might well have prevented all of Iraq’s current civil conflicts and problems from reaching anything like their current scale. In fact, if the US loses in Iraq – as seems all too possible – its primary enemy will not have been Al Qa’ida, but the US government.

This is right in a way, but it is incomplete too as it misses any mentioning of genuine national resistance to the colonial attempt on Iraq. There was likely never a chance to win to begin with.

Posted by b on June 21, 2007 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 20, 2007

MSM Undermines Morale on the Home Front.

Once a while I read Bill Rogio's blog The Fourth Rail. Rogio is on the right side of the political spectrum, like in deep bush land. But his mostly military posts are sometimes bordering on being  interesting and his commentators are outright funny.

On a recent thread of his about the division size attack on Baqubah, I stumbled over this comment by one Tony:

For the last few years the MSM has been undermining morale on the home front for The Long War by telling us that major combat operations in Iraq have ended.
[...]
And the MSM needs to stop telling us that major combat operations are over in Iraq and start preparing us for the Long War. We will all need to make huge sacrifices, not just the brave young men and women in uniform.

Citing Tony one Rubin follows up:

Tony,  "For the last few years the MSM has been undermining morale on the home front for The Long War by telling us that major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Yes, thank you. A sadly pathetic but most important dynamic to remind everyone about..

The MSM, the current crop of rapporteurs express their contempt for the current mission in A-stan and Iraq every day.

One Luke Willen adds:

The BBC are just as biased. If there is yet another car bombing in Baghdfdad or Kabul then it was committed by the "Insurgents."

Call it what it is - TERRORISM

First I thought Tony was a prankster of some kind, but his co-commentators seem to know him,  take the comment as serious and follow up in kind. So let's look again what Tony says:

For the last few years the MSM has been undermining morale on the home front for The Long War by telling us that major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

Has the MSM really told us so?

Yes, I slightly remember it did. I even remember being quite angry when they started offering that claim. 

But how did they get the idea? What devilish liberal scumbag payed the MSM to propagate the outright ridiculous claim that major combat operations in Iraq have ended?

Googling the phrase the first hit is dated May 1, 2003 and from the well known media manipulation site www.whitehouse.gov. It says there:

President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended
Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln
At Sea Off the Coast of San Diego, California

Obviously Tony blames the MSM for uncritically paroting the commander guy in chief. I certainly can join him there.

I'll also join his call to make huge sacrifices maybe by doubling his income tax and by taxing U.S. gas prices to $8/gallon. That's what I am used to pay here anyway, so why shouldn't he.

Unfortunatly I can not ask him about his view on tax increases. Even my mild response to his comment, only pointing out the above white house link, was censored.

But then, it's a right wing blog and I am not sure I want to see my comment there anyway.

There is some danger the MSM could grab off the link I'd serve and undermine morale on the home front by repeating its content over and over.

Happened before, you know.

Posted by b on June 20, 2007 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Jimmy Carter - Telling The Truth

My friends in the U.S., you should be very proud to have this man:

Former President Jimmy Carter accused the U.S., Israel and the European Union on Tuesday of seeking to divide the Palestinian people by reopening aid to President Mahmoud Abbas' new government in the West Bank while denying the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was addressing a human rights conference in Ireland, also said the Bush administration's refusal to accept Hamas' 2006 election victory was "criminal."
...
Far from encouraging Hamas' move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the U.S. and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.

"That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech.

"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah," he said.

Carter said the U.S. and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would "conquer Hamas in Gaza" — but Hamas routed Fatah in the fighting last week because of its "superior skills and discipline."

As Billmon once said: the best modern president the U.S. has had. Looking at the current candidate field, the next one will again be far worse.

Posted by b on June 20, 2007 at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Urbicide in Baqubah

There is a new detailed analysis out on the "War and Operation in Iraq" written by the Global Policy Forum and some thirty non-governmental-organizations. It is impeccable sourced on mainstream news accounts and official reports.

The currently ongoing "pacification" of Baqubah, a city with 300,000 inhabitants, by some 10,000 U.S. troops is using the same methods as documented in the NGO report with regard to Fallujah and a dozen other Iraqi cities. From the executive summary (pdf):

US Coalition forces have attacked and destroyed a number of important Iraqi cities, on grounds that they were “insurgent strongholds.” The attacks have resulted in the massive displacement of people, large civilian casualties, and colossal destruction of the urban physical infrastructure. In addition to Falluja, there have been assaults on a dozen other cities including al-Qaim, Tal Afar, Samarra, Haditha, and Ramadi. The attacks include intensive air and ground bombardment and cutting-off electricity, water, food and medicines. The attacks have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and in displacement camps.

This tactic is "urbicide." The destruction of the urban fabric of a city as a cultural and social entity. The deeper intend of urbicide is to split the population into fractions. The original definition, first used in relation to Bosnia:

Urbicide is the destruction of urban fabric insofar as it comprises the conditions of possibility of urbanity. Urbanity is characterised by an agonistic heterogeneity in which identity is constituted in relation to difference. Urbicide, in destroying the conditions of possibility of urbanity denies such heterogeneity. This denial is accomplished by transforming agonism into antagonism and thus giving the impression of having dissipated the relationship of identity to difference.

In 2001/2002 urbicide has been heavily used in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Armored Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer as strategic weapons destroyed major city centers and infrastructure in Jenin, Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah. This approach has transfered to the U.S. military in Iraq.

The local resistance against the occupation is labled "Al-Qaida" or "terrorists" to justify its suppression and the elimination of the city as "terrorist infrastructure."

Today's New York Times gives a glimpse into how this is happening now in Baqubah:

In the first hours of the American military assault, after midnight early Monday, helicopters flew two teams of American troops and a platoon of Iraqi scouts so they could block the southern escape routes from the city. Stryker armored vehicles moved along the western outskirts of Baquba and then down a main north-south route that cuts through the center of the city.

By the time dawn broke on Tuesday, the insurgent sanctuary in western Baquba had been cordoned off. Then, the American forces established footholds on the periphery of the section and slowly pressed in.
...
The problem of collaring the Qaeda fighters is challenging in several respects. Unlike Falluja, where most of the population fled in advance of the battle, thousands of civilians remain in the western section of the city.
...
[T]he Americans intend to take fingerprints and other biometric data from every resident who seems to be a potential fighter after they and Iraqi forces have gained control of the western side of the city.
...
This American counterinsurgency operation has some of the firepower associated with conventional war. American forces have already fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets into western Baquba. Apache helicopters have attacked enemy fighters.

Warplanes have also dropped satellite-guided bombs on suspected roadside bombs and a weapons cache, which produced spectacular secondary explosions after it was struck. M1 tanks have maneuvered through the narrow city lanes. The Americans have responded to insurgent attacks with mortar fire.

(note: the NYT says in Fallujah "most of the population fled." Fact is 50.000 stayed while the rest camped in the desert under unbearable circumstances.)

Instead of Caterpillars, the U.S. is using bombs, rockets and tanks.

Part 6 of the NGOs explains the major steps taken in Fallujah and elsewhere which are now applied on Baqubah. Excerpts (with sources and footnotes omitted):

Sealed-off Cities and Heavy Curfews
...
Coalition troops seize control of all movement into and out of the cities, including goods and supplies, water, food, medicines and emergency assistance of all kinds. This “sealing off” strategy seeks to isolate insurgents and show ordinary civilians the heavy cost of not cooperating.
...
Coalition forces subject residents to intensive screening at check points, where they are required to present special identification cards. At the checkpoints, troops arrest and detain some Iraqis (often arbitrarily), while routinely denying access to others on grounds that their documents are not in order. “We are like birds in a cage,” said a resident of Abu Hishma to the New York Times, complaining of the humiliation endured.

Forced Evacuation and Those Who Remain
...
Among those who flee, the most fortunate are able to seek refuge with out-of-town relatives, but many flee into the countryside where they face extremely difficult conditions, including shortages of food and water.
...
While many leave the cities at the time of warnings, significant numbers remain – an estimated 50,000 in Falluja and more than 100,000 in Ramadi. Coalition forces assume that they are insurgents or sympathizers. But those staying behind have included large numbers of non-combatant civilians – unable or unwilling to abandon their homes, including children, the sick, the elderly, and those fearful of a worse fate that might await them beyond the familiar protection of their city.

Cutting Off Water, Food and Electricity
...
Along with water, the Coalition has cut off electricity (which may power pumps and local wells). They also have cut off food and medical supplies, creating a “state of siege” and imposing a humanitarian crisis on the entire remaining urban population.
...
In some cases, the Coalition has used the siege openly as a bargaining tool. In Ramadi, US and Iraqi forces reportedly told residents that they would not get water, electricity, telephones and other services back unless they would hand over “the terrorists.” According to Lieutenant Colonel Hassan al-Medan, the Iraqi spokesperson for the operation in Najaf, “if we allow the entrance of food and medicines to the city we are just feeding the insurgents” – this in spite of thousands of civilians still within the area.

Confinement of Journalists and Blockage of Media Coverage

All media workers not “embedded” with US forces have been banned for the duration of the battle and usually a long time afterwards. Sometimes, even embedded media have been refused access. This gives the Coalition almost complete control over international public perceptions of what is happening on the battlefield.

Massive Bombardment

Coalition forces have inflicted prolonged and intense air and ground bombardment on these cities, destroying thousands of homes, shops, mosques, clinics and schools, and – inevitably – killing and injuring many civilians. The strategy of indiscriminate and massive bombardment, in advance of ground offensives, has reduced the number of Coalition casualties, at a heavy cost in life and injury to the remaining Iraqi city residents.

Urban Assault, Snipers and Violent Searches

After extensive bombardment, Coalition armed forces storm into the cities with columns of tanks and other armored vehicles. Heavy tank fire blasts into many structures, widening the urban desolation.

Troops seize remaining buildings and carry out house searches in those structures still standing. The soldiers often use violent methods to enter houses, such as setting off explosives or knocking down part of the front wall with a military vehicle.

The US military has increasingly relied on snipers to back-up infantry patrols. Commanders portray snipers as a precision method to avoid civilian casualties, but in fact sniper teams often fire at anyone moving in the streets, in gardens or even inside of buildings. Everyone is treated in the besieged cities as an enemy.

Attacks on Medical Facilities and Prevention of Humanitarian Assistance

Coalition troops have targeted medical facilities during urban offensives, and repeatedly destroyed and confiscated ambulances, making emergency care nearly impossible.
...
Further UN reports have spoken of Coalition snipers stationed on the roof of the Ramadi General Hospital, troops quartered in the hospital garden, and fearful residents avoiding the hospital altogether. In Tal Afar, the UN reported that the city hospital had been “occupied” by Coalition forces for six months.

Civilian Casualties

US-led military operations in populated areas have caused scores of civilian deaths and injuries. People have been killed by ordnance explosions, collapsed buildings, fires, sniper shots and many other violent causes. While Coalition forces claim that most of those killed in attacks are men of military-age, reliable reports suggest that many, if not most, of the victims in these operations have been non-combatants.

Massive Destruction
..
Heavy bombardment has caused great destruction in the cities under attack, including historical and religious sites, as well as water, electricity and sewage systems. US-led forces have bombed and even bulldozed numerous buildings, either as part of offensives or as retaliation against civilians who do not give information about insurgents.
...
With power, water and sewage systems dysfunctional and most buildings in ruins, many of these cities will remain only marginally habitable for a long time to come, in spite of announced (but largely un-implemented) reconstruction programs.

“Joint” Military Operations and Criticism by Iraqi Authorities

Increasingly, US commanders have portrayed military operations against Iraqi cities as joint operations between US and Iraqi forces.
...
In fact, Iraqi government authorities have often been critical of the operations and condemned the conduct of US forces.

Conclusion

International law sets clear standards for the conduct of military operations. The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks which do not clearly distinguish between military targets and civilians, or have a disproportionate impact on civilians. Coalition military operations have clearly violated these laws, with massive displacement of populations, indiscriminate killings of civilians, and large-scale destruction of habitation and urban infrastructure, including historic buildings and religious sites. Coalition forces have violated further provisions of the Conventions by deliberately targeting hospitals, stopping emergency medical care and blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid. In further violation of the prohibition of “siege tactics,” they have deprived civilians of food, water, electricity, medical supplies and vital services. Such practices have inflicted collective punishment on Iraqis. Taken together they represent a grave violation of international humanitarian law.

As usual the U.S. media is not covering the obvious law-breaking characteristics of the tactics used by U.S. forces.

It does not even cover the fact that the U.S. military is acting against the advice in its own books.

General Petraeus has been lauded as creator of the new military counterinsurgency tactic documented in field manual 3-24. But the military under his command does not follow his manual.

Matthew Yglesias points this out in relation to the heavy bombing in Afghanistan in a recent comment in the Guardian:

But while military leaders clearly know this on some level - it's right there in the manual - they obviously aren't acting on their knowledge. Indeed, even in Iraq itself where David Petraeus, the author of the counterinsurgency manual quoted above, is in command, we're deploying more air strikes, not fewer.

About counterinsurgency in urban areas the field manual says:

(7-36) Leaders must consider not only the firstorder, desired effects of a munition or action but also possible second- and third-order effects—including undesired ones. For example, bombs delivered by fixed-wing close air support may effectively destroy the source of small arms fire from a building in an urban area; however, direct-fire weapons may be more appropriate due to the risk of collateral damage to nearby buildings and noncombatants.

(7-37) The principles of discrimination in the use of force and proportionality in actions are important to counterinsurgents for practical reasons as well as for their ethical or moral implications. Fires that cause unnecessary harm or death to noncombatants may create more resistance and increase the insurgency’s appeal—especially if the populace perceives a lack of discrimination in their use. The use of discriminating, proportionate force as a mindset goes beyond the adherence to the rules of engagement. Proportionality and discrimination applied in COIN require leaders to ensure that their units employ the right tools correctly with mature discernment, good judgment and moral resolve.

How does this reconcile with the massive use of indirect fire with satellite-guided rockets, bombs and mortars in a densely populated city like Baqubah?

With the destructive attacks on Iraqi cities, practiced urbicide, the U.S. military is breaking international law, U.S. national law and even the rules it has set for itself.

It is now just another brutal, lawless party in the lethal mix of groups in Iraq. A "terrorist" entity if you will.

Posted by b on June 20, 2007 at 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

OT 07-43

Go listen to Digby and come back here to give and take news & views.

Posted by b on June 20, 2007 at 04:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

June 19, 2007

Sodomized in Iraq - Who Cares?

This evening I found some time to reread Seymour Hersh latest piece. A report on his interviews with General Taguba who investigated parts of the torture going on at Abu Ghraib.

The article recieved a small echo in the blogsphere but the general media seems to be uninterested.

At TPM Spencer Ackerman asks about Separate Interrogation Rules For Special Forces?. Of course there are special rules allowing special forces to torture out of sight of congress and any law. That's old news.

Emptywheel detects Rummy's Plausible Deniability as he never acknowledged to have seen the Taguba report or any picture in it. Steve Clemons is demanding a new Congress hearing of Rumsfeld.

But the Hersh's piece on Taguba has more than the obvious culpability of Rumsfeld.

Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
...

Taguba explains, though not up to jury standards yet, how the complete chain of command, from the privates doing what they have been told to do, up to the president, did know what was happening.

There were not a few bad apples at the bottom plus one bad apple at the top. There was a whole basket of bad apples inbetween that did know and covered up what happened. I'd suggest to ask these people within the chain of command. The lower generals, the colonels, majors, captains and master sergeants. What did they order? What did they know? What does the CID, the military's criminal investigation division, has at its hand? What does it hide? Some hints from Hersh:

I learned from Taguba that the first wave of materials included descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees. Several of these images, including one of an Iraqi woman detainee baring her breasts, have since surfaced; others have not. (Taguba’s report noted that photographs and videos were being held by the C.I.D. because of ongoing criminal investigations and their “extremely sensitive nature.”) Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.” The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it.

The torture and crimes that happened have not been made public. They have not been independently investigated. The criminals who did this have not been prosecuted. Are some of them in your town? Your neighborhood? Would you like to know?

And the victims? Do they have help to cope? Did they see some satisfaction? Did they receive any care?

Posted by b on June 19, 2007 at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Employment Opportunity: Police Chief

The job is interesting, well-paid and comes with lots of responsibility. Downsides are the location and the high probability of a sudden lay-off.

A new police chief would replace Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hamadi al-Moussawi on Monday, a Basra police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Iraq: Basra Police Chief Replaced, June 18, 2007

More than 1,000 British troops backed up by tanks carried out a dawn raid on Friday to seize an Iraqi police chief accused of leading a death squad that slaughtered 17 police trainers.
British troops seize Iraqi police chief in Basra, Dec. 22, 2006

The governor of the southern Iraqi province of Basra has suspended the city's police chief, accusing him of links to groups involved in terrorism.
Basra security chiefs accused of terrorism, May 14, 2006

DEFENCE Secretary John Reid is planning to scrap the 25,000-strong police force in southern Iraq and replace it with a new military-style unit capable of maintaining law and order.
Scrap Basra police and start again orders MoD, Sep 25, 2005

When evaluating the health of a company, the turnover rate in management positions is indicative. Basra is sick, very sick.

It is gangland. There is a lot of money made through oil smuggling, regional interests competing with national interests, Fadhilla against al-Sadr party fights and various feuding tribes. Inbetween a few Brits who have no idea what's going on around them.

A lot of blood will be lost before some normality may return there.

Posted by b on June 19, 2007 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Talk, talk, talk ...

Israel wants to talk peace

Posted by b on June 19, 2007 at 07:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

June 18, 2007

The Imminent Golf Course Crisis

History professor Andrew J. Bacevich questions why every major politician wants to add some 100,000 troops and increase defense spending. "What is the use?" he asks.

At the Agonist Ian Welsh has a related question. How does the most expensive military in the world manages to lose two small wars against rag-tag insurgencies?

There are two answers to this.

The first by McDonalds' Boeing's CEO talking about the danger of diets imminent threats:

US defence spending needs to be kept at record levels to cope with the threat of global terrorism and the emergence of China as a military rival, the head of Boeing's defence business has warned.

More sales like this one would certainly help his personal retirement plan.

The second answer comes via an Agonist commentator:

The US military has 1,426,713 active service personal [and 165 golf courses] giving a golf course ratio of: 8647 soldiers to protect each golf course
...

The city of Philadelphia has a much better protection rate with a ratio of 243,880 citizens per golf course.

As the commentator further explains, there are only 34 active duty field bands, some 20 reserve field bands and 52 National Guard bands. Not nearly enough to have one band play at each military golf course to deter the enemy.

In an emergency Air Force and Navy bands could probably help out a bit, thanks to Boeing, but still only some 85% of the battle space could be covered with sufficient musical deterrence. Even Philadelphia is much better off with bands than that.

The current resources are certainly not enough to deter China from playing a serious tee shot.

Therefore in my judgement, Clinton, Obama, Edwards as well as every Republican candidate are certainly right to see a need of an immediate rise in U.S. military capacities.

Posted by b on June 18, 2007 at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

The "West" Thinks Palestinians Are Dumb

The internal Palestinian struggle between the Hamas, the elected government party, and the U.S. supported gangs of Mohammed Dahlan was won by Hamas. Hamas now controls the Gaza strip with 1.5 million inhabitants. Dahlan's mercenary fighters were simply not motivated to risk anything for the few dollars they were offered. Their leaders fled.

The corrupt Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas, which lost the 2006 election, used the opportunity to throw out the legal Hamas led unity government and installed a "technocrat" government under the new Prime Minister and western darling Salam Fayyad.  Fayyad is a U.S. educated former World Bank and IMF functionary. In the 2006 election he led the Third Way party and won 2.4% of the votes. That is certainly a mark of his popularity level with the Palestinian people.

Now the "West", i.e. the U.S., Israel and the EU are promissing to prop up the Pétain like Abbas and his administration in the West Bank. At the same time Israel blocks all shipment from and to the Gaza strip except some water, food and energy.

The western press frames the West Bank as Fatah territory and the Gaza strip as Hamas territory. This obfuscates the fact that Hamas had won the election in all metropolitan centers in Gaza and in the West Bank. There certainly is majority support for Hamas in the West Bank too. Most of Hamas voters were secular. Hamas will therefore abstain from implementing any non-secular measures. Unlike written in the portraits in the major western press, Hamas is a political movement, not a religious one.

Giving "aid" to the West Bank and Abbas while further isolating Gaza is now supposed to "teach" the Palestinians that subjecting to the western will can result in something "positive", while objecting to it is punished by life in an isolated Ghetto. The "West" seems to think that after having received and resisted such lessons for 60 years, the Palestinians will have to "understand" it this time.

The U.S. and the EU are urging Israel to give additional support to Abbas by removing some of the 240 road blocks in the West Bank and by releasing withheld tax money owned by the Palestinians. Having watched Israeli politics for a while, I doubt that any of this will happen in more than symbolic doses.

Instead the pressure on Gaza will intensify even more with water and energy deliveries to be stopped every once a while at will and for trumped up doubtable reasons. Pressure on the Palestinians in the West Bank may get lifted a tiny, tiny bit, only to be reapplied as soon as another pretext can be found.

If this was not understood before, it is now more than evident that Abbas is just a puppet controlled by the "West" and working against the interest of his people. He will fail to gain anything relevant to them. The Palestinians are certainly not dumb. They can see everyday that Abbas does not deliver for them. Even if he now will get some money, his Fatah government will only return to its usual incompetence and corruption and little will reach the people.

The "West" seems top believe the Palestinians are dumb. They are not. Within a month or a year the Abbas government will fall.

If by then Hamas still exists, it will replace him. If Hamas, through Israeli "targeted killings", is headless by then, new upcoming salafist Islamic movements will take over and the West Bank and Gaza will turn into an anarchic hell. This would give a pretext for Israel to further colonize and ethically clense the West Bank and reoccupy Gaza.

This is in the Israeli interest. Israel will continue to suppress the Palestinians. It will take more land. It will not negotiate for any peace treaty or lift of the occupation. It will talk nice about looking for a "serious partner for peace" while bribing or killing any likely partner that may come up.

Israel has no reason to change this policy. It has worked remarkably well for 40 years and is very profitable. As long as there is no outer pressure on Israel to change its "national interest", a serious economic boycott or the like, there will be no change in that policy.

If the continued pressure will radicalize the Palestinian people, what measures to change the Israeli interest, directly or indirectly, might they take?

Posted by b on June 18, 2007 at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

June 16, 2007

Gertz: Bomb Tehran, Bejing, Washington!

So who is behind the resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan?

"Iran" would the neocons say, because that's the next item on their target list. But these little chimps are thinking too small.

Anyone can bomb Tehran, real men bomb Bejing!

Bill Gertz is a real man. He writes in the MoonieTimes:

New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran.
...

Some arms were sent by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.

The Washington Times reported June 5 that Chinese-made HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles were being used by the Taliban.

According to the officials, the Iranians, in buying the arms, asked Chinese state-run suppliers to expedite the transfers and to remove serial numbers to prevent tracing their origin. China, for its part, offered to transport the weapons in order to prevent the weapons from being interdicted.

Iran is bad, China is worse, but the biggest terrorist supporters are those in Washington. They are covering up the plot.

The Bush administration has been trying to hide or downplay the intelligence reports to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism. U.S. officials have openly criticized Iran for the arms transfers but so far there has been no mention that China is a main supplier.

Ok, what now. If real men bomb Bejing, who will bomb D.C.? Maybe we need real, REAL men.

John Tkacik, a former State Department official now with the Heritage Foundation, said the Chinese arms influx "continues 10 years of willful blindness in both Republican and Democrat administrations to China's contribution to severe instability in the Middle East and South Asia."

Mr. Tkacik said the administration should be candid with the American people about China's arms shipments, including Beijing's provision of man-portable air-defense missiles [through Iran and Syria to warring factions in Lebanon and Gaza.

Ahh - manpads (man-portable air-defense missiles) from China via Teheran and Damascus to Lebanon and Gaza. And Washington knows about this, but hides it for money -  sure.

One wonders why the UN's Roed Larsen is still complaining about nearly daily Israeli air-space violations over Lebanon or why the Palestinians still get terrorized with sonic booms.

Manpads in Gaza and Lebanon - if only ... 

But if Washington allows China to land airplanes full of weapons in Afghanistan anything is possible. Anything.

Posted by b on June 16, 2007 at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Open Weekend Thread

Please comment ...  news & views

Posted by b on June 16, 2007 at 12:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

June 15, 2007

Talks With Hamas

M.J. Rosenberg, a Jewish liberal writer, has a decent piece at TPM Café. He is one of few in the U.S. who rightly tracks the creation of Hamas back to rightwing Israeli powers:

It was in 1978 when the government of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin indirectly assisted the start-up of a "humanitarian" organization known as the Islamic Association, or Mujama. The roots of this Islamist group were in the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, and it soon was flush with funding and political support. The right-wing strategists devised the theory of creating Hamas as an alternative to Fatah because they believed that Muslim Brotherhood types would devote themselves to charity and religious study and passively accept the occupation. They certainly would never put Israel on the spot by offering to negotiate.
...

The pro-Hamas tilt accelerated in 1988 when Yasir Arafat himself announced that he favored the two-state solution and that previous PLO demands that Israel be replaced by Palestine were, in his words “caduq” (inoperative).

But when Hamas gained power nobody would talk to them just like nobody seriously talked with Abbas. The Israeli right is simply hellbent to avoid any real talk about a Palestinian state.

The name of their game was, is, and always will be making sure that Israel has “no partner” with whom to negotiate.

One can certainly argue that the right has achieved that aim.

But now the scenario has changed a bit. Hamas controls Gaza and as it is quite disciplined, it will be much harder to undermine than Fatah and it is much stronger.

The U.S. rushes to do what some have urged it to do all along. According to Haaretz:

[T]he United States said Thursday that the Bush administration will now work to prevent the violence from spilling over to the West Bank. To achieve that, Israel may be urged to make concessions in the West Bank, since the United States aims to accelerate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to allow Abbas to chalk up some political achievements.

In addition to asking Israel to free the tax funds, Washington is also expected to urge Israel to reconsider loosening its military grip on the West Bank.
...
The American administration is also interested in improving living conditions in the West Bank to demonstrate to the Palestinians that they are better off under Fatah than Hamas.

This would probably have had some effect three years ago, but it is too late now. In the view of the Palestinian people Fatah has disqualified itself. In addition to be corrupt and hapless administrators, Fatah has lost face when it accepted U.S. help for the internal political fight against Hamas. Even the very right Jerusalem Post acknowledges such:

BY OPENLY embracing Abbas and Fatah, Washington has caused them grave damage. The weapons and funds that were supposed to boost Fatah ahead of a confrontation with Hamas have only increased Hamas's popularity on the streets of the Gaza Strip. The public support for Fatah made Abbas and Muhammed Dahlan look, in the eyes of many Palestinians, like Antoine Lahad, the former commander of the pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army. And when a Palestinian sees that the Americans are trying to bring down his democratically-elected government, his sympathies go straight to the government and not to those allegedly involved in the conspiracy.

Now engaging Fatah is fruitless. Besides that, Israel and the U.S. Congress will continue to undermine any real progress for Abbas to claim. This sham will thereby further discredit him.

One big danger now is that some rightwingers will try again what has failed before - to create a new more radical religious force to undermine Hamas. But as the recent history in Lebanon shows, a radical Salafist force, in Lebanon created with U.S. help to fight Hizbullah, may immediately start working on its own agenda.

Another big danger is that the Palestinian Authority, the government in the West Bank and Gaza,  may fail. Abbas today fired the Hamas let cabinet, an illegal move, and announced a new one putting the "independent" pro-"western" World Bank and IMF functionary Salam Fayyad up as Prime Minister. This may for now get him some applause from Washington, but it will certainly not help to keep national unity.

As Ghaith al-Omari, a former adviser to the Palestinian President warns on PBS:

However, what could happen, though, is that pressure might become so much that the whole Palestinian Authority might collapse. This is my biggest concern, because if that happens, we'll no longer see this kind of identifiable violence between Hamas and Fatah. We will see the complete disintegration, where street gangs, where clans, where all of these small groups will start fighting, the kind of situation that will allow for al-Qaida to infiltrate, that will create a much more difficult situation than we have right now.

Mark Perry of Conflicts Forum agrees:

Hamas is really a moderate organization. We don't look at an Islamist group as a moderate organization, but if Gaza and the West Bank descend into chaos, we're not going to get Fatah replacing Hamas. We're going to get al-Qaida.

The rational alternative is to talk to Hamas. Perry again:

It's time to start talking with Islamist moderate groups, no matter how distasteful we think about it. We have to start recognizing legitimate Islamist groups that win elections. Hamas won an election.

And al-Omari, himself a Fatah man:

[Hamas] represent a constituency. It would be ridiculous to push them aside. They have to be engaged, again, within certain principles. They have to be pushed. They have to be pressured. However, they have to be engaged. If we push them away, we will get violence.

This is what happened. They were not allowed to govern, they resorted to violence. The only way that we can have stability is if we talk to them.

So these experts agree that the best thing to do is to talk to Hamas and to let them govern.

But as this is the best to do now, it is almost guaranteed that nobody will do it. The rightwingers will again make sure no steps will be taken that may lead to a real partner for negotiations. They are screaming that evil Iran or Syria is giving weapons to Hamas (look at a map and tell me just how that could ever happen) and sensationalize its very moderate Islamic character as "radical".

There currently seems to be no real concern that what happened in Gaza can repeat in the West Bank. Sure Fatah has more fighters there than Hamas, but that was also the case in Gaza. A disorganized and corrupt force will simply dissolve when confronted.

I do expect a Hamas takeover in the West Bank to take place within the next few month. If that happens as fast and relatively bloodless as in Gaza, a breakdown of the government can be avoided. Then, for lack of any alternative, someone will have to talk to them.

Posted by b on June 15, 2007 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

June 14, 2007

Strange Libby Argument

Libby has to go to jail for some 30 month soon. Unless he manages an unlikely immediate stay or appeal, he will have to frogmarch.

FDL live blogged the Libby sentencing. There is one issue in the liveblogging not mentioned in emptywheel's immediate analysis.

Libby's lawyer Robbins tried to set the presidency outside of any law review. Judge Walton would not have that.

(Note: I corrected some obvious typos in the following)

Walton: Wouldn’t that undermine the purpose of this statute, that everyone is accountable under the laws of the US? If you work in the WH you still have to follow the law. If the investigative agency is linked by the hip with an investigation, then the public can have no confidence that the investigation is fair and just. If we have to operate this way our system of government loses significant credibility with the average Joe on the street, who already thinks the system is unfair.

Robbins: This I believe is a red herring. I don’t think anyone believes Morrison was not sufficiently independent.

Walton: I recognize Weinberger had a significant job, but this case deals directly with the WH. Regarding following DOJ policy I think that’s crucial.

Robbins: This includes reporting significant events. But the ultimate vehicle of accountability is that the president has to stand before the voters every four years. This is the way the Constitution provides for accountability.

The liveblog is somehow unclear or interrupted at that point, but the following stuff by Walton or Robbins does not go deeper into the issue, so Walton obviously dismissed the bait.

According to Robbins' argument, the White House is not primarily accountable under law, but only every four years through elections. The "ultimate vehicle of accountability" is not the law, but elections. Inbetween, the White House may presumely do whatever unlawful things it likes to do.

This is quite an outrageous argument to make. But it is consistent with Cheney's lackey Addington's view of executive privilege being above any law.

But if the laws do not apply for the president and the White House, what happens if the White House blocks elections after four years as demanded by law? What rules would apply?

Posted by b on June 14, 2007 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

de Soto's Report

The Guardian has unearthed an important document. It writes:

The highest ranking UN official in Israel has warned that American pressure has "pummelled into submission" the UN's role as an impartial Middle East negotiator in a damning confidential report.

The 53-page "End of Mission Report" by Alvaro de Soto, the UN's Middle East envoy, obtained by the Guardian, presents a devastating account of failed diplomacy and condemns the sweeping boycott of the Palestinian government. It is dated May 5 this year, just before Mr de Soto stepped down.

The details in the confidential report (pdf) are quite eye opening. As it is a long read, I have excerpted what I found the most remarkable passages. (The pdf contains just scans so I had to retype the excerpts. Any errors are thereby mine. The paragraphs are numbered within the original.)

On Gaza disengagement:

[21] .. Since, as I recall, the test of occupation in international law is effective control of the population, few international lawyers contest the assessment that Gaza remains occupied, with its connection to the outside world by land, sea and air remaining in the hands of Israel. The only thing that has really changed is that there are no settlers and no more Israeli boots on the ground - at least not based there.

After Hamas won free and fair elections:

[49] .. I was subjected to a heavy barrage by Welch and Abrams, including ominous innuendo to the effect that if the Secretary-General didn't encourage a review of projects of UN agencies and programs it could have repercussions when UN budget deliberations took place on Capitol Hill.
...
[51] The devastating consequences of the Quartet position have been well documented ...
...
Thus the steps taken by the international community with the presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that will live in peace with its neighbour Israel have had precisely the opposite effect.

[52] ... While the international community demands from the Palestinian government that it should accept "previous aggrements and obligations", Israel deprives the PA of the capacity to deliver basic services to the Plestinian population in violation of one such "previous agreement", as well as its IHL obligations regarding the welfare of the population whose land it occupies. ...

[53] ... In fact, the PA government is being expected to deliver without having make-or-break attributes of sovereignty such as control of its borders, the monopoly over the use of force, or access to natural resources, let alone regular tax receipts.

[54] In general, the other consequence of Quartet policy has been to take all pressure off Israel. With all focus on the failings of Hamas, the Israeli settlment enterprise and barrier construction has continued unabated. (In the same time period, the idea has also gained ground in Western public opinion and even some Arab governments that the problem in the region is Iran and the "Shia crescent" - a framing device which tends to mute attention to the Palestinian issue.)
...
[56] ... [A] week before [the] Mecca [agreement], the US envoy declared twive in an envoys meeting in Washington how much "I like this violence", referring to the near-civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regulary killed and injured, because "it means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas".

He goes on about the Quartet, in effect led by the U.S., and proves it un-evenhandness. de Soto damns the Palestinian violence against Israel and Israeli civilians. He adds:

[75] [I]t is also true that Israeli policies, whether this is intended or not, seem frequently perversely designed to encourage the continued action by Palestinian militants. ... I Wonder if Israeli authorities realize that, season after season, they are reaping what they sow, and are systematically pushing along the violence/repression cycle to the point where it is self-propelling.

[76] ... There is no doubt, .., that Palestinian terror strengthens the hardliners and weakens the peace camp in Israel. Nevertheless, if Israel was less heavy-handed about the way it conducts its military business and, more to the point, if it was seen to be moving earnestly to end the occupation, I believe it would aid rather than handicap its legitimate fight against terrorism.

There is much more about the quartet and a longer chapter about Syria where he explains how he was not allowed to talk to Syria even though this was part of his mandate. Joshua Landis has the relevant excerpts.

de Soto goes on to explain how the UN is now seen, for very understandable reasons, as partisan and under the influence of the U.S. He warns that this quite justified impression does impede the job given to the UN in its charter and does risk the very lives of UN personal, while at the same time rendering it useless:

[116] [I]f the Secretary-General's representative for the region - me, in title, until now -  is not allowed to talk to everyone, there is no comparative advantage whatever to placing him in the region. .. [A] sober examination should lead to the conclusion that there isn't a role for the Secretary-General that would justify the appointment of such an [Middle East] Envoy [at UNHQ]. We are not in the lead, and the role we play is subsidiary at best, dangerous at worst.

If things further fall apart in Palestine and the "siege" by Israel and the quartet continues, de Soto forsees the failure of any two state solution and a drive to a one-state solution.

He predicts that Fatah at one point will likely fall apart and Hamas will continue to have a dominant role. He describes the Israeli body politic as week and doubts that Israel will show any realism dealing with its problems.

The international minders are also very problematic:

[132] Unfortunately, the international community, through a policy hastily laid down, has gone along with Israeli rejectionism, making it very difficult to climb down even if Israel decides to do so.

Remembering an advice James Baker gave him, "Be strong. ..", he says about the U.S.:

[134] ... What he was warning against, clearly, was the tendency that exists among U.S. policy makers and even amongst the sturdiest of politicians to cower before any hint of Israeli displeasure, and to pander shamelessly before Israeli-linked audiences.

He sees the same tendency now developing within the UN:

[134] There is a seeming reflex, in any given situation where the UN is to take a position, to ask first how Israel and Washington will react rather than what is the right position to take. I confess that I am not entirely exempt from that reflex, and I regret it.

To the end he adds:

There is a broad swathe of Israeli opinion fully aware that time is not on Israel's side. We are not a friend of Israel if we allow Israel to fall into the self-delusion that the Palestinians are the only ones to blame, or that it can continue blithely to ignore its obligations under existing agreements without paying an international diplomatic price in the short-term, and a bitter price regarding its security and identity in the long-term.

I agree with most of de Soto's analysis.

Thinking further the biggest danger now is to disable or ignore Hamas. Abbas' Fatah is incapable of anything but infighting. Hamas has proven to be able to administrate at the local level and did stick to a Hudna, keeping peace, for most of the last two years despite daily Israeli outrages in the West Bank and Gaza. These are serious and resourceful people.

To ignore or decapitate Hamas will push the Palestinians to become more radicalised and to the creation of more violent organisations as the only means left. The Palestinian Authority would desolve and the West Bank and Gaza would become failed territories. This would leave Israel with the sole moral and legal responsibility for all people in Palestine.

At that point Israel would be left with only two ways to go. Creation of one state that includes Jews and Palestinians or a massive expulsion, i.e. forceful ethnic cleansing, of all Palestinians from all land west of the Jordan.

Both solutions would be the end of the Zionist dream.

Posted by b on June 14, 2007 at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

June 13, 2007

Open Thread

Certainly this blog should also cover other issues than my current fixation on Iranq.

Please send me your piece/links and/or add them here.

Posted by b on June 13, 2007 at 05:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

Irrefutable Evidence

If some Iranians are now really providing weapons to the Taliban, five years after the U.S. joined the Iranian government in fighting them, who did provide the Taliban with weapons between late 2001 and early 2007?

Thousands of RPGs, millions of AK47 rounds and tons of explosives have been used against the U.S. military in Afghanistan in the last years. Nobody claims that Iran provided these. So what country did? Why isn't it threatened?

Oh - nevermind - the U.S. media will not ask these questions.

At least not while there is some "irrefutable evidence" that the blame for the U.S. defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan can be used to "wack", i.e. kill, Iranians and to grab their oil:

The United States has "irrefutable evidence" that Tehran is transferring arms to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, a top U.S. diplomat told CNN Wednesday, noting that NATO forces have intercepted some of the arms shipments.

"There's irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this and it's a pattern of activity," U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told CNN.
CNN, June 13, 2007

Haven't we heard this before?

[A]ccording to an administration official familiar with briefings the CIA has given President Bush, the Agency has "irrefutable evidence" that the Iraqi regime paid Zawahiri $300,000 in 1998, around the time his Islamic Jihad was merging with al Qaeda.

"It's a lock," says this source.
Weekly Standard, 09/01/2003

---

I believe that Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations.  I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell To The United Nations Security Council, February 5, 2003

---

Speaking to a group of Wyoming Republicans in September [2002], Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States now had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.
NYT

Some "irrefutable evidence" ...

Though this time even a few official folks seem to have a different view.

Two days ago the top NATO General on the ground in Afghanistan, who certainly knows a bit about the issue, was not convinced:

McNeill, a 60-year-old, four-star general from North Carolina who has fought in most American conflicts since Vietnam, said he had no hard evidence the Iranian government has helped the Taliban. He said munitions, particularly mortar rounds found on Afghan battlefields, "clearly were made in Iran,'' but said that does not prove the Iranian government is formally involved.

"If I had the information, I would have no reservation about saying it,'' he said.

Just yesterday McCormack, the spokesman of the Department of State, said:

Now the one final linkage that I'm not sure anybody has made, and I don't think I could at this point, is what exactly is the active involvement of the Iranian Government in those arms moving into Afghanistan.

So what does Burns know that McNeill and McCormack don't know? Cheney's direct line number?

Aside form all of this kabuki - selling weapons to a war party is hardly a causus belli.

When the U.S. openly provided weapons to the Taliban to fight Russians in Afghanistan, did Russia threaten to bomb the United States?

Did the U.S. threaten China for helping the Viet Cong?

Does Hamas threaten the U.S. because it finances and trains Fatah's thugs?

No. So why should Iranian weapons sold somewhere matter at all?

Posted by b on June 13, 2007 at 03:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 12, 2007

Iraq and the WWII Yugoslavia Campaign

Larry Johnson confirms my short analysis of the systematic bridge attacks by the resistance in Iraq.

The ongoing attacks on bridges in and around Baghdad creates significant risks and logistical obstacles for U.S. forces in Iraq.  In my opinion these attacks are part of deliberate strategy to create ambush chokepoints, degrade the capability of U.S. Quick Reaction Forces, and enhance the ability of insurgent forces to cut the U.S. lines of communication.
...
It is incumbent on U.S. commanders to boost security around the bridges.  But that is a manpower issue.

The resistance blew up overpasses, closing four lane highways below, and blew up bridges over major rivers. To protect one overpass/river bridge a checkpoint on both sides of it on the overpassing road and on both sides of it on the lower road is needed. Four checkpoints require four squads of soldiers - a platoon - at any time. To keep that coverage up 24/7 three platoons, a company, is needed.

The distance between Basra (and Kuwait) and Baghdad is some 400 miles through marshlands with lots and lots of such bridges. If we assume one critical bridge or overpass every 10 miles, 40 companies are needed to secure these. There are three to four companies per batallion, three to four batallions per brigade and three to four brigades per division.

The bridges from the port in Basra (or Kuwait) to Baghdad alone need at least a complete division to keep that road open. That division needs gas and food too, putting additional traffic on the critical path. That division also needs a replacement after some eighteen month of duty in Iraq. And this is only one of several long major roads the U.S. needs ...

The most likely comparison to the current U.S. situation in Iraq is not Viet Nam, but the WWII German attempt to control Yugoslavia (about the same size/population/diversity as Iraq.)

If you want to know how the U.S. campaign in Iraq will succeed, the German campaign in  Yugoslavia during WWII is the definite lecture.

At its start the Yugoslavian resistance was split so deeply that various sides committed ethnic cleansing against each other.

But at a point, Tito's guerillas won the internal fight and managed to fight off the Germans with a united force and only little outside allied help.

The Germans committed 17 divisions plus 20 divisions of quislings, bribed Yugoslavian proxy forces, to the fight and still lost that war. The U.S. Army has a total of 12 divisions, the National Guard some additional 8 divisions. The Iraqi 'quislings'?

It is now likely that the military will say that the "surge" didn't achieve its goal of creating more calm, "political maneuvering room,"  in Iraq.

The military will now insists that the troops added for the "surge" are needed to keep the non-surge troops alive.

The creaping increase of troopnumbers is not anymore for achieving any "goals", but only to keep the current occupation/bases somehow functioning at all.

It's leave now, stay for a short while longer and receive a humbling defeat, or stay longer and get slaughtered.

Like the German campaign in Yugoslavia the current bipartisan U.S. politic discussion will result in the last alternative.

Posted by b on June 12, 2007 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Iraq - Conspiracy and Mistrust

Michael Gordon, co-writer of Judith Miller's famous nuclear Iraq scare pieces, writes about a meeting between CentCom commander Admiral Fallon, U.-S: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and the Iraqi president al-Maliki.

This reporter, who is accompanying Admiral Fallon on his trip to Iraq, was allowed into the meeting. It was only at the end of the meeting that American officials agreed that it could be on the record.

Three questions:

  • Isn't this just a bit odd that a New York Times stenographer takes part in such a very high level meeting?
  • Where is the primacy of diplomacy when the Admiral leads such talks and the Ambassador is only 'in presence'?
  • Did Maliki agree to put his remarks on the record?

The most important issue on the U.S. agenda was, of course, - oil:

Adm. William J. Fallon, told Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that the Iraqi government should aim to complete a law on the division of oil proceeds by next month.

Not that there is any chance that al-Maliki will get the oil-law, written by BearingPoint under an USAID contract, through parliament. But the U.S. keeps insisting:

In the meeting, Admiral Fallon focused on Iraq’s oil law, assuming it was closest to completion. “Is it reasonable to expect it to be completed in July?” he asked. “We have to show some progress in July for the upcoming report [to Congress].”

As it sounds, Maliki didn't commit to anything. Indeed he doubts that any progress would actually help him:

At one point, Mr. Maliki wondered aloud whether Congress would really give the Iraqis credit for tackling tough issues if they completed the oil law. Admiral Fallon reassured him that most Americans wanted the Iraqi government to succeed.

He certainly knows that the oil-law is not the only one point on the U.S. agenda. The others, probably even more important, are a status-of-force agreement and the legality of the permanent bases the U.S. wants to keep. (Gordon does not mentions these.)

What would be to gain for Maliki if he would agree on any of these points? Isn't it much more likely that he will gain more by not pushing these issues?

Other points discussed included Iranian influence in Iraq. When the Admiral asked Maliki to work against 'weapons from Iran', he responded by challenging the U.S. to put more efforts into curbing the Sunni jihadi pipeline from Syria to Iraq.

In conclusion Maliki doesn't come off as a U.S. puppet, and that is exactly where Admiral Fallon and Crocker have a problem.

Maliki did close with an interesting remark:

“There are two mentalities in this region,” he said. “Conspiracy and mistrust.”

Ohh really? What happened that such odd mentalities evolved?

Posted by b on June 12, 2007 at 06:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

June 11, 2007

Stay or Leave - Options in Iraq are Binary

Contributer anna missed relates an Alternet piece about the media stories on the "Korea model" - the idea of U.S. troops staying in Iraq for another 50 years. As the authors point out, none of these stories included any Iraqi voice or comment.

When I read Thomas E. Ricks' A01 WaPo story yesterday, a similar thought occurred to me. Writing from Baghdad(!) Ricks reports how the U.S. military "envisions" a long stay in Iraq, albeit with a reduced force of some 50,000 troops.

This goal, drawn from recent interviews with more than 20 U.S. military officers and other officials here, including senior commanders, strategists and analysts, remains in the early planning stages.

It is based on officials' assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle of next year, with roughly two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 moving out by late 2008 or early 2009.

Ricks talks to 20 U.S. military officers, but does not include even one Iraqi's opinion.

At times his wording seems deliberate deceitful:

Despite the significant differences in the way the war has been discussed in Washington and in Baghdad, this plan is emerging as a point of convergence between the two capitals.

If there is convergence between two capitals, does that not include the assumption of two governments? But Ricks has not one quote other than from the U.S. side.

As the Alternet reporters document, all political parties in Iraq are vehemently opposed to a permanent occupation.

Without a very unlikely Iraqi acceptance, any longterm occupation will see continued armed opposition from multiple sides. Besides that, talk about troop reductions occur every few month at least since mid 2003 without any real reduction ever taking place.

But those are not the only reason to disregard troop reduction rumours.

The Ricks piece depicts roughly 50,000 soldiers left behind with some civilian contractors and including logistic elements. But 50,000 troops in Iraq can't live off the land. They require some 5,000 tons of supply each day. On top of that come the logistic needs of the Iraqi Army.

That amount requires more than 250 trucks full of valuable stuff per day. These have to run hundreds of miles from Kuwait to Baghdad each day. How will that be possible without very men extensive protection? How will interruptions like yesterday's bridge bombing be avoided? Is the Air Force supposed to deliver hundred of tons of gasoline for Stryker vehicles by plane?

I don't think that's possible. Indeed as Col. Pat Lang remarked the other day:

I would continue to argue that the maintenance of these bases will require a force just about as large as the present force when all requirements; combat, logistical, communications, transportation, etc. are taken into consideration.

Judging from that the only options now are either a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops or no significant withdrawal at all.

Those are the only two options - total stay or total withdrawal.

But before the Generals, ever compromising politicians and journalists will get "serious" about these binary choices, much more bad stuff needs to happen.

Until then, "seriousness" continues to be the incestuous brain-child of the Washington D.C. mafia. As the Alternet writers explain:

But [the reporters] didn't make those calls [to Iraqis], and that's an important part of how consent for throwing thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars into an occupation of a distant land is manufactured here at home: It starts with the assumption that the story of the U.S. "intervention" in Iraq can be told by talking to military analysts and "senior administration officials" in D.C., but without ever hearing from the people living on the fringes of the American Empire. It is not always intentional; it's a facet of our media culture: You talk to "serious" analysts in Washington if you want to be seen as serious yourself.

They ask:

Where would the political fight over this four-year occupation be if it were widely understood that the vast majority of Iraqis -- of all ethnicities and religious faiths and across the ideological spectrum -- are united in at least one thing: their desire not to live under open-ended U.S. occupation.

Posted by b on June 11, 2007 at 09:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

OT 07-40

News & views ... your comments are welcome.

Posted by b on June 11, 2007 at 02:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

Everybody Is Arming Sunnis (Sources Say)

Saudis reportedly funding Iraqi Sunni insurgents, USA Today, Dec 8, 2006

Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.

US says Iran arming Sunni groups, BBC, April 7, 2007

Sunni militants are being armed with Iranian-made munitions, US military spokesman Maj Gen William Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad.
...
Gen Caldwell said the Iranians were not only supplying weapons to unspecified groups fighting the coalition and Iraqi government forces but training them too.

U.S. Arming Sunnis in Iraq to Battle Old Qaeda Allies, IHT, June 11, 2007

American commanders say they have successfully tested the strategy in Anbar Province west of Baghdad and have held talks with Sunni groups in at least four areas of central and north-central Iraq where the insurgency has been strong. In some cases, the American commanders say, the Sunni groups are suspected of involvement in past attacks on American troops or of having links to such groups. Some of these groups, they say, have been provided, usually through Iraqi military units allied with the Americans, with arms, ammunition, cash, fuel and supplies.

After the Sunnis, now armed by the U.S., have ousted those few "Qaeda" fighters, the weapons will be used to eliminate the occupier next. The same happened in Algeria, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Again proof that the U.S. military is inclined to retry every trick that failed against past insurgencies.

Posted by b on June 11, 2007 at 01:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

June 10, 2007

What Other Program?

Back in mid May I had some suspicion around the Comey testimony. While Deputy Attorney General JamesComey rushed to the hospital where Gonzales and Card were trying to convince Ashcroft to sign off a special program he also alarmed FBI director Mueller. Later on Mueller like Comey and some 30 other folks threatened to resign over the White House's handling of the program.

As the original eavesdropping program was about foreign calls to the U.S., not domestic ones, I asked Why Was FBI Director Mueller Involved?

I suggested that a different, so far unknown program was involved. Now via Think Progress there is some confirmation.

Last week Steven Bradbury, the principal deputy assistant attorney general and the head of the Office of Legal Counsel testified before a Congress sub-committee:

REP. WATT: I’m not asking you to make anything public. I’m asking you, does that mean that the former attorney general had some reservations about — legal reservations about some aspects of the program, Mr. Bradbury?

MR. BRADBURY: Well, all I’ll say is what the attorney general has said, which is that disagreements arose, disagreements were addressed and resolved; however, those disagreements did not — were not about the particular activities that the president has publicly described, that we have termed the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

The disagreement happened in March 2004, the start of the election season. It was about some illegal domestic program and the White House was heavily involved.

My best guess is that this program was digging up dirt about political oppenents.

There is no proof for this yet, but usually some D.C. insider will spill the beans on stuff like this one or the other day.

Stay tuned ...

Posted by b on June 10, 2007 at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Kagan's Selective Data

Annals of selective data:

Neocon "surge" architect Fred Kagan writes an OpEd in the LA Times about Al-Anbar province in western Iraq: Al Qaeda's new enemy -- Iraqis

Violence in the provincial capital has dropped precipitately, from 108 deaths a week in mid-February to seven in the second week of May.

We are now in the second week of June.  Doesn't Kagan have more current numbers than the second week of May? Or is he using selective data to support his argument?

Lets google a bit:

WaPo, May 25

At least 34 people were killed and 66 wounded when a car packed with explosives plowed into a funeral procession for Allawi al-Issawi, assassinated a day earlier, who was a member of the Albu Issa tribe. He had been active in promoting the Anbar Salvation Council, as the tribal alliance is known, friends said.

IraqSlogger, May 29

Just days after the announcement of a tribal coalition to combat militant groups in Salah al-Din province, several relatives of the council’s newly chosen leader were killed by gunmen in what appears to have been a targeted attack.

Four relatives of the head of the Salah el-Din Salvation Council, Sheikh Hamad al-Hasan, were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked their house in al-Hajjaj village, in southern Bayji, Voices of Iraq (VOI) reported Tuesday.

LA Times, June 1

Efforts to improve security in Al Anbar province, long the primary stronghold of the Sunni Arab insurgency, suffered a setback Thursday when suicide bombers detonated explosives at a police recruitment center in Fallouja and a police station in Ramadi. At least 20 people were killed and 31 injured, police and witnesses said.
...
The suicide attacks in Al Anbar were the latest in a steady series against the followers of tribal sheiks who have spurned Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents and are cooperating with the government. Last week, a Fallouja tribal leader was slain and his funeral procession the next day was bombed, killing 30 mourners.

NYT, June 6, 2007

In recent months, the [Diyala] province is thought to have become the main operating base for the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and its Sunni Islamic allies. Until recently, they were principally based in Anbar, the Sunni-dominated province directly west of the capital.

ABC News, June 8

At least 19 people have been killed in bomb attacks on Iraqi security forces, nine of them in the suicide truck bombing of a police station near the Syrian border in the north-west of the country.

"The bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the building after police opened fire on him," Brigadier General Mohammed al-Waga told AFP.

He said five police officers were among the dead in the attack in Rabiaa, which also left 22 people wounded, 15 of them police.

At least two civilians were killed in another apparently botched attack on police in the capital of the restive western province of Al-Anbar, police said.

Posted by b on June 10, 2007 at 06:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 08, 2007

Being "anti-American"

Al-Sadr sat down for an hour long interview with the state-operated Iraqi television, McClatchy reports.

He spoke against sectarian strife and against fundamentalist Sunni forces. While he agrees to good relations with Iraq's neighbors, he is against any intervention from Iran or the Arab states.

The Maliki government is unwilling or uncapable to do its job, he says. The culprit of the sorry state of Iraq and its people is, in his view, the U.S. occupation. 

Al-Sadr didn't argue to attack U.S. forces. He didn't call "Death to America". He didn't threaten to attack the U.S. homeland. He is, or at least he consistently seems to be,  a nationalist who doesn't like to see his country turning into a dump.

But is he "anti-American"?

McClatchy seems to think so:

The tone of his statements weren't surprising. Al-Sadr has been consistently anti-American since his Mahdi Army militia first rebelled against the U.S. presence in 2004.

Is it now "anti-American" to argue against the occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops? Is it "anti-American" to work in one's national interest? Is it "anti-American" to call for an end of the occupation?

If that is the case, about half of all U.S. nationals are "anti-American".

So what is McClatchy suggesting here?

Posted by b on June 8, 2007 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

June 07, 2007

Putin's Missile Defense Joke

When Bush announced plans to open missile defense sites in Poland and Chenya, he gave Russia the creeps.

The U.S. said those silo-bunkered rockets would be against an Iranian threat. Later it was added that they would protect Europe.

But for some curious reasons Russians fear that these harmless defense missiles could endanger them.

Now Putin came up with an interesting idea.

Why not put these rockets into Azerbaijan? That country is a northern neighbor of Iran. From there, radar surveillance of Iranian missile launches and defense measures against any long range Iranian missiles would be easy to do.

Putin has already cleared the idea with the president of Azerbaijan and there is even a radar site already available on a Russian base. His troops would help to put everything else in place and would make sure that any U.S. personal would be kept well.

"What is not to love with that idea George?"

Of course Putin knows that the original U.S. claims are false.

Iran does not have long range rockets and does not have the capacity, knowledge and intent to build such. They buy their short/medium ranged rockets, or major parts for those, in North Korea.

The U.S. installation plans were a suprise for the Europeans. If the plans were to protect Europe, why didn't the Europeans know about such? Why wasn't NATO involved?

The site in Poland is even quite odd as a defensive site against Russian intercontinental rockets. Those would fly from Russian grounds north over the pole to hit the U.S. - Poland lies west of Russia.

Missiles in silos may be for missile defense or for offensive use as ground-to-ground missiles. The difference is in the warhead and the software. With rockets in silos in Poland, some maintenance could easily change the declared purpose of these.

The only purpose where such a U.S. missile site makes sense is in an offensive capacity against Russia. Nuclear tipped offensive rockets in Poland would leave Russia with a warning time of only very few minutes. The Russians, having been invaded several times with devastating consequences, take any threat against Rodina, the Russian motherland, very seriously.

The INF treaty of 1988 eliminated intermediate-range missiles in Europe. NATO scrapped their Pershing II's and the USSR did away with their SS-20. Russia now fears that Bush or his successors will ignore that international contract just like Bush shredded the Anti-Ballistic-Missile treaty.

The site in NATO Poland is, from the Russian point of view, a deadly threat. But some missiles in Azerbaijan, more or less under Russian military control, should be no problem.

Bush has publicly stated the purpose of the missiles is defense against a threat from Iran. He has offered the Russians cooperation on missile defense. Why would he now reject the Russian offer?

The public, maybe not in the U.S., but in Poland, Chechia and other European countries is against the project. If Bush does not find some plausible reason to say 'Njet' to Putin's offer - and I can't think of one - the project may well be as dead as it should be.

The folks in the Kremlin are certainly having a good laugh now.

Posted by b on June 7, 2007 at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

F.C.C. - Fuck's Up Again

A short update to the recent judgement against the Federal Communication Commission.

The FCC wanted to fine broadcasters for the casual use of words like "fuck" and "shit" within their programs. The court cited Bush's and Cheney's public use of such words and declared the FCC ruling illegal.

Now FCC Chairman Kevin Martin released a public statement (pdf) on the decision:

Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” by Cher and Nicole Richie was not indecent. 

I completely disagree with the Court’s ruling and am disappointed for American families.  I find it hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that “shit” and “fuck” are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience.
...

In total the FCC statement includes the word "fuck" six times and "shit" four times. It is publicly available on the FCC website during the hours when children are most likely to surf the Internets. It continues:

If we can’t restrict the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” during prime time, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want.

Imagine that, people being able to say anything they want, whenever they want. We can't have that.

Unless such people are heading the administration or the FCC.

Posted by b on June 7, 2007 at 02:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

June 06, 2007

War On Iraq Goes Regional

Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press.

link

Even though the report says that the Turkish move is "limited", the Iraqi Kurds will support their PKK brothers who for decades fight in eastern Turkey and hide in north Iraq.

I do expect this to escalate over the next weeks.

Posted by b on June 6, 2007 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Hypocrite Mahmoud Abbas

Who ever claimed that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is working in the interest of his people will have to reconsider.

In blantent hypocrisy Abbas today expressed his deep fear that the Palestinians are on the verge of civil war:

"Regarding our internal situation, what concerns us all is the chaos, and more specifically, being on the verge of civil war," Abbas said in a televised speech ..
...
He added that he has spent hundreds of negotiating hours trying to halt the bloodshed because the internal fighting is as bad as, or even worse than, the occupation.

Hamas did win the last election against Abbas' Fatah. Since then Abbas is doing everything he can to undermine a Hamas administration.

With Israeli and U.S. support he is now the one who is activly instigating a civil war with Hamas and its supporters. As Christian Science Monitor reported:

Last week, when that fighting veered towards open warfare between the Palestinian factions, Israel allowed about 500 Fatah loyalists to cross back over the Rafah crossing into Gaza from Egypt, where they were receiving US training, an unusual move for Israel, which seeks to strictly limit the movement of fighting-age men through the Gaza border with Egypt.

There is one very dangerous man behind Abbas running this scheme. He is alleged of having ties with U.S. and Israeli intelligence services:

The internal Palestinian fighting has helped bolster the position of Fatah members like Mohammed Dahlan, who heads the Palestinian National Security Council. Mr. Dahlan, who has spent five years in prison for alleged terrorism against Israel, has considerable armed support in Gaza and his supporters have sought to destabilize Palestinian governments when he's been sidelined in the past.

It requires quite some chutzpa for Abbas to warn of civil war, when he and his friend Dahlan are working to lauch one.

Hamas once was founded with tacit Israeli support and groomed to be a counterweight to the Arafat's Fatah.

[V]arious sources, among them United Press International, Le Canard enchaîné, Bill Baar, Gérard Chaliand and L'Humanité have highlighted that Hamas' early growth — before its official founding and the creation of the military branch — had been supported by the Mossad as a "counterbalance to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)".

Now Israel and the U.S., with support of Egypt and Jordan who fear Hamas as an example for their internal opposition, are fighting the ghosts they once called. But I doubt that Hamas can in any way be extinguished again and that the Palestinians will ever united behind Fatah again.

But here comes an alternative. Or is this another ghost called for some special purpose?

A mysterious fundamentalist organization is blowing up Internet cafes and music stores within the Gaza strip:

In the town of Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border last week, a huge bomb wrecked a pool hall in a building owned by Ramzi Abu Hilao, blowing out the front wall and littering the interior with metal scraps. He said there was no warning before the blast.

"I received a written message after the bombing from a group called 'The Swords of Truth' that began with a verse from the Koran and said they wanted to correct the bad behavior in Palestinian society," he said.

Who is this group? Who finances it? Who is grooming it for what purpose?

We don't know. But we know that the Sunni fundamentalist group currently hiding in a Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon was financed by Saudi sources and had the support of the Hariri government. This for the purpose to fight the Shia Hizbullah.

That group's creation led to a blowback. Whoever created and supports 'The Swords of Truth' as  counterweight to Hamas should fear the same.

But all this fighting and brutal powerplay for personal gain is done of the back of the Palestinian people. After fourty years under occupation they certainly deserve a better fate and better leaders than Abbas and Dahlam.

Hamas could provide such. But hampered as it is by western boycotts, it cannot deliver a better life. Now the people might turn to a more radical alternative.

Posted by b on June 6, 2007 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

June 05, 2007

OT 07-39

News & views ...

Please comment.

Posted by b on June 5, 2007 at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (113)

The Coming Pakistan TV Shutdown Outrage

During the last month month U.S. media was filled with damning reports and comments on Hugo Chávez's move not to renew the license of RCTV. The Venzuelan TV station had supported the illegal, CIA backed coup against the elected President in 2002.

Congress member Tom Lantos (D-Calif) opined in the Miami Herald:

I urge regional leaders such as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and others to galvanize a single voice to echo the sentiments already issued by Chile's Senate, which expressed its ''strong rejection'' of the plan to squash RCTV. Keeping quiet on this matter is a vote against independent thought in Venezuela and throughout the region. It is a vote against the history of the Americas.

The time for silence is over.

We will watch with amazement now as the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will look at his clock and recognize that the time of silence is over. He will now fight for independent thought in Pakistan. He will use Congress' power of the purse to immediately block billions of dollars of U.S. aid used to prop up the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf.

After all, over the weekend Pervez Musharraf shut down not one but all critical TV stations in Pakistan:

President Pervez Musharraf has cracked down on Pakistan's television networks in a move against growing calls for a return to democracy. Several stations were taken off the air at the weekend and yesterday Gen Musharraf introduced emergency legislation providing for stiff fines and the closure of channels deemed to have broken the law.

Brace yourself for a huge storm of outrage throughout the liberal U.S. media and editorial calls for Musharraf's ouster.

Or maybe not.

Posted by b on June 5, 2007 at 06:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

F.C.C. - Fuckers And Suckers

If the asshole suckers of the Cheney administration can spew stinking shit, the teevee can do so too:

Reversing decades of a more lenient policy, the [Federal Communications Commission] had found that the mere utterance of certain words implied that sexual or excretory acts were carried out and therefore violated the indecency rules.

But the judges said vulgar words are just as often used out of frustration or excitement, and not to convey any broader obscene meaning. “In recent times even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

Adopting an argument made by lawyers for NBC, the judges then cited examples in which Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had used the same language that would be penalized under the policy. Mr. Bush was caught on videotape last July using a common vulgarity that the commission finds objectionable in a conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Three years ago, Mr. Cheney was widely reported to have muttered an angry obscene version of “get lost” to Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the United States Senate.

The wankers at the F.C.C. will appeal the fuckin' decision.

Posted by b on June 5, 2007 at 02:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

 
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