Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Places In Between

I can't recommend Rory Stewart's The Places In Between enough.

The author, a Scotsman, after Eaton and Oxford, spent a few years as an officer in the British army and then became a diplomat serving in Montenegro during the Balkan's conflict and later in South East Asia.

At the age of 28, Stewart took some time off from 2000-2002 and walked across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey of 6000 miles. The Places in Between is his account of his walk across Afghanistan in the winter of 2001 - 2002.

This book succeeds on so many levels. First, if you ever hope to understand the world in which we now live, you must try to understand Middle Eastern Islamic cultures and the only way to do that, is read books like this.

Stewart's journey across Afghanistan traces the footsteps of the 15th-century emperor Babur. It is an amazing travel log through villages of different ethnic groups controlled by different war lords, some of whom supported the Taliban and some of whom hated them; at times through mountains in chest deep snow or falling through frozen rivers. Stewart describes the people he meets at these places in between in honest, unsentimental terms, mixing in the history of the region, it's past rulers, languages and customs.

But even if you have no interest in the culture or history, the story can stand alone as an amazing adventure of a life and death struggles against the elements, illness, fatigue and unpleasant people with AK-47s, some of whom wanted to kill the unarmed author.

And if none of this interests you, The Places In Between is also the heart-warming story of a boy and his dog, who he meet along the way.

This book is a great adventure and you will learn something no matter how badly you resist.

And finally, remember to always support your local independently owned book store

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The company you keep

Think Progress tells us that President Bush met yesterday with Walid Jumblatt, a member of the Lebanese Parliament. Jumblatt is a major supporter of regime change in Syria.

Jumblatt is outspoken on many topics and Think Progress provides these juicy quotes,

– “We are all happy when U.S. soldiers are killed [in Iraq] week in and week out. The killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory.” [Link]

– “The oil axis is present in most of the U.S. administration, beginning with its president, vice-president and top advisers, including (Condoleezza) Rice, who is oil-colored, while the axis of Jews is present with Paul Wolfowitz, the leading hawk who is inciting (America) to occupy and destroy Iraq.” [Link]

– “In November 2003, the United States revoked Jumblatt’s diplomatic visa for wishing out loud that Wolfowitz had been killed in a Baghdad rocket attack.” [Link]

State sponsors of terrorism

The blog world is all abuzz with Sy Hersh's latest in The New Yorker. Kevin Drum has as good of coverage as you will find on the topic.

While there is a great deal in the report, most stunning is that the WH, through the VPs office has began to financially support, without any Congressional knowledge or approval, al Qaeda linked groups simply because they oppose Shia groups in the Middle East .

That's right. Hersh alleges that the The United States of America is financially supporting terrorist who are linked to those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, because they oppose people who did not attack us.
This time, [a] U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that "they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was 'We've created this movement, and we can control it.' It's not that we don't want the Salafis to throw bombs; it's who they throw them at -- Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran."

....During a conversation with me, [a] former Saudi diplomat...objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. "Salafis are sick and hateful, and I'm very much against the idea of flirting with them," he said. "They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly."

....In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. "We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here," he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a "theatre of conflict."
Kevin then observes,
Is this true? Who knows, since the sources mostly seem to be Hersh's usual anonymous cast of ex-spies, ex-consultants, and ex-diplomats. But the story is plausible. Having never really believed in the threat of non-state terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the first place, the Bush administration may now have come full circle from 9/11, tacitly teaming up with Sunni jihadists in the hope that they'll help us take out the state-based terrorist threat of Iran -- after which, presumably, the jihadis will all go home to watch TV and raise their families. Just like they did after the Afghanistan war.
Clearly, much more needs to be done with this story. The report could be complete BS, but if it's true why wouldn't this be treason?

Sure, using the "T" word makes me shrill, but how would such activity be described by The Fox News Channel if it were President Kerry?

Digg it!

Romney's strategy memo leaked

My Hair's Too Perfect! Leaked Campaign Doc Shows Romney's Strategies And Fears | TPMCafe

Major Pace push-back

The AP Reports that CJCOS Pace has sent a classified report to Congress via Sec Def Gates wherein he reports that the risks are "significant" that the US military would not be able to adequately respond to a third military Crisis. This report was prepared prior to the president's order of additional troops to Iraq.

This report is important because General Pace's assessment of "significant risk" triggers a statutory obligation on the part of the Sec Def's office to provide a mitigation plan to Congress on steps being taken to ramp-up military preparedness.

The political ramifications of the report are obvious at a time when the president desires to attack Iran while increasing troops in Iraq.

More importantly, this report was leaked by "senior pentagon officials" and represents yet another very public push-back by the military on any WH plans for Iran.

How can the POTUS launch an offensive attack on a sovereign nation when the CJCOS has reported that the military is at "significant" risk of not being able to respond to a military crisis to such a military crisis?

And remember, Iran is not Iraq. They have more advanced rockets and weapons and the ability to fight back. Iran also has at least one advanced weapons supplier in Russia.

Okay, maybe not from Iran....

The NYTs reports today that a raid in a Sunni area north of Baghdad by the First Cav where EFP were apparently manufactured, seems to cast doubts on previous assertions that EFPs were all coming from Iran.
But while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the E.F.P.’s, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue.

Among the confusing elements were cardboard boxes of the gray plastic PVC tubes used to make the canisters. The boxes appeared to contain shipments of tubes directly from factories in the Middle East, none of them in Iran. One box said in English that the tubes inside had been made in the United Arab Emirates and another said, in Arabic, “plastic made in Haditha,” a restive Sunni town on the Euphrates River in Iraq.

....That raised the possibility that the parts were purchased on the open market and that the [copper] liners were then manufactured to the right size to cap the fittings.
UPDATE: Paul Kiel at Muckraker has a good post on this topic.

Paul quotes the Wall Street Journal (sub required) thusly, "[Troops] uncovered a makeshift factory used to construct advanced roadside bombs that the U.S. had thought were made only in Iran."

And on the topic of the origin of the copper caps, the First Cav captain who conducted the raid, "
Capt. [Clayton] Combs said the copper caps were smooth and perfectly symmetrical, suggesting they had been made with a high degree of technical precision. He said he didn't know where the caps came from or whether they had been made in Iran. "That's the hard thing about this war," he said."


Monday, February 26, 2007

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

I recall reading an article along these lines last year but could not find that article a few weeks ago when I searched this blog and the Internets.

From the Times of London,
...“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
Given that Gates is reported to be unalterably opposed to military action on Iran, would he also resign ala Cyrus Vance?

I go back and forth in my own mind about such resignations. As a practical matter, it's very hard to walk away from a military career at such levels if there is still hope of promotions to the JCOS, etc.

As an historical matter, such resignations are unprecedented and it's hard to imagine how Bush could ever recover. I would expect serious talk of impeachment or even resignation (President Cheney?). So when one considers the consequences of such resignations, it's hard to imagine they would actually occur.

I posted earlier about Gen Pace's public statements. We know from press reports that the JCOS have privately resisted an attack on Iran. Gen Pace's public statements tell me that he is uncertain that his concerns are actually being heard.

Here is an excerpt from The Times piece on Gen Pace's public comments,
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.

“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”

Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf.
It would appear both Bush and Cheney are disappointed that they're attempts to gain support, any support, for an attack on Iran have failed. I share Mann's fear that their only hope now is to provoke a confrontation.

An impossible task

This can't be overemphasized. Bush's plan for Iraq is flawed from it's very premise.

From the morning's WaPo,
American military commanders in Iraq describe the security plan they began implementing in mid-February as a rising tide: a gradual influx of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops whose extended presence in the city's violent neighborhoods will drown the militants' ability to stage bombings and sectarian killings.

But U.S. troops, Iraqi soldiers and officials, and Baghdad residents say the plan is hampered because security forces cannot identify, let alone apprehend, the elusive perpetrators of the violence. Shiite militiamen in the capital say they are keeping a low profile to wait out the security plan. U.S. commanders have noted increased insurgent violence in the Sunni-dominated belt around Baghdad and are concerned that fighters are shifting their focus outside the city.

Military patrols frequently push into neighborhoods where they have been shot at or struck with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, only to find no one to arrest.

"I don't know who I'm fighting most of the time," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Lopez, 39, a soldier based in the northern outskirts of the capital. "I don't know who is setting what IED."

'It's a stain like original sin...'

Josh is on fire,
"The reason our mission in Iraq has proven to be so disastrous and corrupt is very simple -- the advocates and architects of that war are completely corrupt, inept, and deceitful." The words are Glenn Greenwald's. And though many others have said the same thing in slightly different words, it bears repeating again and again. The corruption and ineptitude aren't unfortunate add-ons to the effort. They're at the heart of it. It's a stain like original sin. And the same goes for the democratizing element of the mission. Even among critics of the war, it's often accepted as granted that a key aim of this effort was democratization -- only that it was botched, like so much else, or that the aim of democracy, in a crunch, plays second fiddle to other priorities. Not true. The key architects of the policy don't believe in democracy or the rule of law. The whole invasion was based on contrary principles. And the aim can't be achieved because those anti-democratic principles are written into the DNA of the occupation, even as secondary figures have and continue to labor to build democracy in the country.

Playing into Al Qaeda's hands

Josh makes an important point this morning about the strategic error of our Iraqi policy. As James Fallows wrote last year in the Atlantic, according to Al Qaeda documents seized after 9-11, bin Laden's plan was to get the US bogged down in a quagmire to drain not only our finances, but also our resolve.

The Fallows article is behind the subscriber wall, but Tom Hilton has an excellent post about the Fallows article, and the premise of the article, that is really not to be missed. The crux of the post is that Al Qaeda operates by provoking responses from those it attacks that do more damage than Al Qaeda could ever hope to accomplish.

Here is the crux of Hilton's argument,
I don't think anyone who's paying attention can honestly argue that Bush's reaction to 9/11 hasn't harmed the nation. In the article, Fallows describes some of the ways in which the response to al Qaeda has helped them and damaged us (more excerpts are below the fold; the whole article is well worth reading): the strain on the military, the recruitment value of Iraq for the jihadists, the staggering economic cost (of the war, and of excessive security measures), the near-total loss of American 'soft power', the closing of what has historically been one of the most open societies in the world.

There is other damage that he barely touches on, most noteworthy of which is the erosion of constitutional rule. At what point is America no longer America? At what point, as we jettison principle after principle, does the United States as such cease to exist?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Here's a big surprise,...

From this morning's Los Angeles Times,
VIENNA — Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

"Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us [from the U.S.]has proved to be wrong," a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency's intelligence stream as "very cold now" because "so little panned out."
UPDATE: Kevin gets it exactly right.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Edwards bloggers

By now you've heard the story of bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan of Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister and their ill-fated attempts to work for John Edwards.

I've been thinking about a post on this topic when I saw that Katha Pollitt has crystallized my thoughts perfectly at TPM Cafe,
...much as I admire A and M, I was amazed that the Edwards campaign hired them in the first place. The man is running for president, not king of the blogosphere, and he's running now, not in some putative future when words like "christofascist" and "fuck" have lost their punch. He wants -- he needs -- the votes of people who have never looked at a blog in their lives, who are deeply religious, culturally staid, and easily offended in about a thousand ways. Would those unemployed mill workers Edwards likes to talk about see Amanda's "vulgarity" as populist and fun? or as smartypants elitism? How many Catholic undecideds think that joke about the Virgin Mary was funny and/or a sly critique of sexism in the church versus how many see it as rude and insulting, or would think so, after they'd heard it a thousand times thanks to William Donohue? It's all very well to dismiss as outmoded people who respond poorly to obscenities and dirty jokes about religion. Fact is, there are a lot of them. A candidate would be out of his mind to alienate them over a staffing matter.

#8 down

General: Enemy fire might have downed U.S. copter -

The Brits are out

The Brits are out and the Lithuanians are right behind them.

As others have pointed out, if the British withdraw is because they are no longer needed in the south, then why aren't they redeploying to Baghdad?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A national scandal

This is a goddamn disgrace.

If you have not already seen it, you have to read the WaPo expose on the treatment of our wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Once you've read it, call your Senators and Congressman, tell them you are shocked and ashamed, and ask them what they intend to do about it!

Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility

Here's the lede,
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Deciding on the Enemy Worth Talking To

David Sanger has a good article in today's NYTs asking why we negotiate deals with NK but not Iran?

After pointing out that Bush took a hard line 4 years ago with non-nuclear North Korea, only capitulate upon the detonation of a nuclear weapon the Bush administration choses the same failed course of action with Iran.’s the curious part: Mr. Bush’s aides worked out this “first step” in one-on-one talks in Berlin of the kind the White House refused to hold a few years back, while North Korea was still busily producing nuclear fuel to make its next generation of weapons. Those are exactly the steps Mr. Bush refuses to take with Tehran.

On Wednesday, even while celebrating the North Korean deal, Mr. Bush repeated his bottom line on opening talks with Tehran: They must stop enriching uranium first.

So what explains the difference? Why talk to one brutal regime that imprisons its dissidents in gulags, while refusing all kinds of advice — from Republicans, the Iraq Study Group, and others — to start talking to Iran?

Liberal moment or conservative slump?

That's the question Mark Leibovich asks in the lead story in this mornings NYTs Week in Review.

Mark talks to a lot of people and cites some interesting polling data but wisely leaves the conclusions to the reader.

And while it's true that,
...issues once largely walled off to the liberal hinterlands have suddenly gained mainstream acceptance and urgency. “There does seem to be momentum around a set of issues that have traditionally been the property of the left,” says David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian.

Presidential candidates, for instance, can now safely utter “universal health care” without being tarred as supporters of “socialized medicine.” Polls show increasing support for raising the minimum wage, stem-cell research, gay and lesbian civil unions, alternative-energy initiatives and increased financial aid to offset the escalating cost of college.

Republicans can no longer blockade the cause of global warming to the wild-haired left. Once derided as “Ozone Man” by the former President Bush, Al Gore is now up for a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar (while California’s non-Oscar-nominated Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been hailed as an environmental action hero for introducing stringent emissions standards).
This doesn't mean the country has suddenly gone to Berkeley. The fact is, these issues have never been far from the surface of mainstream thought.

Since at least the 60s, Americans have been socially liberal and slowly becoming increasingly tolerant. The failure of the GOP has been their lack of understanding this fundamental premise. The GOP has always overplayed their hand, and are now as out of step as the Dems were in the early 80s.

The GOP lost all three presidential elections since the fall of the Berlin Wall until post 9-11. American don't vote the GOP on issues; only fear.

And the fear is subsiding, at least for now.

While Americans are not hateful social conservatives, neither are they wide-eyed lefties looking for government to spend on them lavishly.

Let's use universal health care as a example.

Despite popular belief, Universal health care was not wildly unpopular in the early 90s. It was just marketed badly and the timing was off. The Clintons tried too much, too soon. 13 years ago, the GOP was able to tell people that many would have less coverage and pay more for it. The Clintons didn't have a good reply......perhaps because there was some truth in the criticisms. It was common at that time for people to have health care at work for which they paid nothing, at least on themselves, and sometime for dependent care as well. In the last 13 years health care cost have skyrocketed and coverage for many working Americans evaporated. The stories of behemoths like GM being shaken by health care costs are all over the news. So it should be no surprise that people are more ready than ever to reconsider. It's not like they hated it before, they just didn't feel like they needed it so much.

And here is where the GOP misses the point. They are convinced Americans hated the idea.

Of course, there are lessons for the Dems in the debacle of the Clinton health care plan, and much of what I read from the left on universal health care worries me that these lessons have been lost. In the 80s, 20 years after the war on poverty, we had a long national conversation of the role of government in social programs. Americans don't think the government does a good job running massive programs. Medicare is a good example. While it gets the job done, and we could never do away with it, it is wildly expensive and inefficient.

When talking about universal health care, the Dems need to realize the natural distaste for massive government programs and design programs that have an element of competitiveness to them. The Clintons, by the way, tried to do this. Americans do not want to deal with Federal employees when they need health care. They want efficiency.

Americans also prefer baby steps. The Clintons tried to do too much, too fast. If any Dem is serious about universal health care, they been to build a coalition with corporate America (traditional GOP supporters) to get the job done.

The Dems need to do a lot to build lasting majorities, but not as much as the GOP. The first lesson for Dems is not to believe their own press and overplay their hand. It is the moderate middle who elect governments; not the left or the right.

An enemy capable of thinking, planning and learning,...oh my!

Click on image to enlarge. Copyright 2007, The New York Times Company

Judy Miller's partner in crime, Michael Gordon has a front-pager 'above the fold' in this morning's NYTs.

Gordon reports on the planning revealed by the seven (I had only counted six) helicopters shot down in Iraq since January 20.

Apparently, 'the enemy' is "thinking" and capable of planning and learning. They are believed to almost possess human cognitive abilities -- which is evidently something of a surprise to some of our military planners -- especially those unaware of the training we gave 'the enemy' during happier times when it was Soviet helicopters being shot down.

Although not highlighted, the article does clarify that all but one of this helicopters was shot down by Sunnis. The article does not explain that this would mean without the support of Iran.

The article also disappoints in that it fails to mention Saudi support for the Sunnis shooting down our helicopters -- but then this disappointment seems to be a total MSM affliction.

Digg it!

Gotta love this lede,

The this morning's NYTs.


WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 — The Senate on Saturday narrowly rejected an effort to force debate on a resolution opposing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq, but Republican defections emboldened Democrats to promise new attempts to influence the administration’s war policy.

The 56-to-34 vote in a rare Saturday session was the second time Republicans were able to deny opponents of the troop increase a debate on a resolution challenging Mr. Bush, and it came just a day after the House formally opposed his plan to increase the military presence in Iraq.

That's right. Republicans blocked the debate.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What the hell's so funny about this?

At yesterdays press briefing by Bush, the WaPo's Peter Baker asked the president the following:
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, we've now learned through sworn testimony that at least three members of your administration, other than Scooter Libby, leaked Valerie Plame's identity to the media. None of these three is known to be under investigation. Without commenting on the Libby trial, then, can you tell us whether you authorized any of these three to do that, or were they authorized without your permission?
The POTUS refused to answer the question in a joking way and the WH press corps had a good laugh.

Greg Sragent wants to know what's so funny about 3 administration officials destroying the career of a CIA agent?

And he has a good point. But the damage goes way beyond just one CIA agent.

When Valerie Plame was outed everyone she ever dealt with covertly learned they were dealing with a CIA agent,.....or that their trusted co-working was dealing with a CIA agent.

Not only was Plame's life placed in danger of a possible revenge killing, but all her sources lives were in danger as well as anyone currently working for her cover company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, or working her old contacts.

And then there is the cost of outing. How many thousands of hours of work and millions of dollars spent went down the tubes using Brewster, and all the sources now exposed?

Oh, and at the time she was outed, Plame was "part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran"

What in the hell are they all laughing about?

Digg it!

Reid Calls Conservatives’ Bluff

Several GOP senators oppose escalation in Iraq and speak eloquently about that opposition. You can see Senator Hagel in action here.

The only problem is that all but two of them voted to filibuster the anti-surge resolution they claim to support, including Warner (R - VA) who authored the damn thing.

So, after voting for the filibuster, Senators Hagel (R-NE) and Snowe (R-ME) sent a letter to Sen Reid advising they would prevent the coming recess to force a vote on the resolution......they both voted to filibuster. Sen Reid decided to has take them at their word and delayed the recess to have the vote on Saturday to end debate. It should be fun.

Whinny children

As you may have heard, Speaker Polosi has created her own blog, The Gavel.

So a group of conservative Senators that make up the Republican Study Committee (RSC) accused the speaker of violating copyright laws by using "pirated content" from C-Span and demanded she shut down her blog immediately.

Turns out the jackasses got it wrong and embarrassingly withdrew their complaint.

The Congressional Rs are like a bunch of whinny children. We need to do a better job of publicizing these childish embarrassments so they suffer from their asinine behavior.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New Look

As you can see, the look of this blog has changed.

It's a long story. Blogger, which hosts this blog for FREE, has undergone changes and to move this blog to the new Blogger, I needed to make some changes. One of those was a new template. In making the switch, I lost all the buttons I had, etc.

I'm not crazy about the new template and will work on it as time permits. I think I've restored the functional add-ons like comments, counter, etc. Over time I get to other stuff.

Gates pulls back further from Iranian allegations

I'm actually starting to feel better about the situation with Iran. It seems that very view people shares the Bush / Cheney view that attacking Iran would be a good idea.

First, CJCOS Pace sent a clear message that he's not on board the bamboozelment. And now it seems that everyone is backing away from the allegations in the now infamous Baghdad briefing from last Saturday, including Bush.

Today in a press briefing, Sec Def Gates said that IEDs "in general" account for about 70% of US causalities in Iraq and come from many sources. The EFPs [alleged to come from Iran] although very lethal, "account for a relatively small percentage" of the attacks. This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the Baghdad briefing last weekend wherein in was suggested that these EFPs are the primary cause of causalities.

Here is the clip:

And before you send me any nasty emails, let me say again, that the issue is not whether we take action to eliminate the IED problem. The question is what action is most reasonable and prudent. Attack Iran and radicalize 70,000 million Muslims cementing their support around a dangerous government with whom they are currently unhappy, or something less extreme that may actually be productive.

And while we are at it, let's do something about the Saudi's.

via TPM

digg it!

The Pander Bear

Vanity Fair has a nice feature by Todd Purdum on McCain that highlights the problems a "maverick" has in winning the GOP nomination.

Here is a take from Iowa State last fall where Chris Matthews is questioning McCain in front of a live student audience,
...."Should gay marriage be allowed?," Matthews asks.

"I think that gay marriage should be allowed, if there's a ceremony kind of thing, if you want to call it that," McCain answers, searching in vain for the less loaded phrases he knows are out there somewhere, such as "commitment ceremony" or "civil union." "I don't have any problem with that, but I do believe in preserving the sanctity of the union between man and woman." It may not be clear just what McCain is trying to say, but it's easy to see how his words could be skewed in a direction that the Republican right might not like at all.

Fast-forward to the next commercial break, during which McCain and Matthews reposition themselves from the stage to the auditorium floor to take questions from the students. McCain's longtime political strategist, John Weaver, a lanky, laconic Texan, moves in to whisper some advice. The next question is about the pending federal farm bill, and McCain repeats his long-standing opposition to certain agricultural subsidies.

But then, out of nowhere, he adds, "Could I just mention one other thing? On the issue of the gay marriage, I believe if people want to have private ceremonies, that's fine. I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal." There: he said it, the right words for his right flank. It might seem that this audience, the sons and daughters of a socially conservative and culturally traditional bellwether state, would accept, if not approve of, what McCain has just declared. But they are the Wi-Fi wave of the future, and they can smell a pander bear as surely as they can a hog lot. They erupt in a chorus of deafening boos. "Obviously some disagreement with that last comment," McCain says tightly. "Thank you. It's nice to see you."

The GOP won two elections since 9-11 on fear, and not on their policy. When forced to run on policy, post cold war, they have lost every election. There is no mystery to this.

Conservative policy do not appeal to a broad base. The GOP still doesn't get it. And their lack of getting it coupled with policies that are not in step with the swing voters is a huge opportunity for the Dems. Let's just hope they don't blow it.

McCain has lots of time to work his message to appeal to a broader audience, but from what I've seen, he hasn't made any progress since last fall.

digg it!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Cheney won't testify for Scooter

I assume a deal was struck for a pardon, at the right time.

From the AP,
Vice President Dick Cheney will not testify at the perjury and obstruction trial of his former aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, nor will Libby take the stand in his own defense, Libby's lawyer said Tuesday.

With friends like these....

To be clear, I don't doubt that weapons from Iran are making their way into Iraq. I also don't doubt that weapons from Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. are also going into Iraq. The Sunnis are getting the weapons somewhere, and it ain't Iran.

The question of the day, is to what extent do we respond without doubling the disaster foisted upon us by an incompetent and dangerous President?

Since January 20, 6 US helicopters have been shot down over Sunni territory!

So where are the Sunni's getting these sophisticated rockets? The answer may not be clear, but who's paying for them is nearly crystal clear.

Why, it's our Saudi friends, of course. The same friends who funded the Sept 11 attacks.
CAIRO (AP) — 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.

Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.

But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.

Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zaqat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.

In writing on this very topic, Josh Marshall summarized,
This suggests a series of questions, the most obvious of which is whether we're in the process of being gamed much as we were in 2002 when we allied with Saudi Arabia (which had a lot to do with 9/11) against Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11) to defend ourselves against another 9/11. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how we were also allied with Pakistan (a highly unstable, quasi-Islamist regime with nuclear weapons and a big nuclear weapons program proliferator) to make sure secular Iraq didn't get nuclear weapons it didn't have to give to terrorists it wasn't allied with. But I digress ...

digg it!

The numbers just don't add up

Juan Cole at Informed Comment had a nice post Sunday pointing out that the number of deaths attributed to Iranian devices simply does not add up.
[The claim of 25% of US Military deaths and injuries in Iraq in October-December of 2006] is one hundred percent wrong. Because 25 percent of US troops were not killed fighting Shiites in those three months. Day after day, the casualty reports specify al-Anbar Province or Diyala or Salahuddin or Babil, or Baghdad districts such as al-Dura, Ghaziliyah, Amiriyah, etc.--and the enemy fighting is clearly Sunni Arab guerrillas. And, Iran is not giving high tech weapons to Baathists and Salafi Shiite-killers. It is true that some casualties were in "East Baghdad" and that Baghdad is beginning to rival al-Anbar as a cemetery for US troops
Juan has much more and goes through the details to support his assertions.

It's the Sunnis, stupid!

The point that most of the attacks on US service personnel are coming from the Sunni's can't be made enough.

Understanding the Sunni involvement is essential to understand the red herring on weapons from Iran.

Kenneth Katzman , a Middle East researcher with Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress, said that Shi'ite militias were believed to be responsible for less than 10 percent of the total American deaths. He said most of the weapons Iran had been supplying the Shi'ite militias were believed to be for use against Sunnis. Shi'ite militias may be attacking US forces in retaliation for arrests of militia leaders, he said, but their attacks pale in comparison to the deaths inflicted by Sunni insurgents who are not believed to get assistance from Iran, he said.

"The Shi'ite militias are not the key threat to US forces in Iraq, so the overall question is why is the US military making a huge issue of this?"

Pace: No evidence Iran is arming Iraqis

Wow. Gen Pace has balls.

I've always thought that if Bush / Cheney really got serious about Iran, that there would be push back in the Military. In fact, I could swear I posted an article here on that very topic last year, but can't find it today to save my life.

From the AP,
JAKARTA, Indonesia - A top U.S. general said Tuesday there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces hunting down militant networks that produced roadside bombs had arrested Iranians and that some of the material used in the devices were made in Iran.

“That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this,” Pace told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. “What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers.”

I've just added Gen Pace to my Christmas card list.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Yglesias on attacking Iran

Big Media Matt thinks Josh is being way to generous when he writes that a war with Iran would not improve our situation in Iraq.

In fact, such an attack will make our situation "much, much, worse."
Shiite groups could be spending more time killing American troops. What's more, Iran could be giving such groups much better weapons than they have today. As I've pointed out before, just look at Hezbollah, whose weaponry is vastly more sophisticated than anything we've seen in Iraq. If we start bombing Iran, Iran has at its disposal cheap, effective means of retaliating against US forces in Iraq.

Bombing Iran in response to alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq won't help anything in Iraq in part, I think, because it isn't designed to. Rather, the Bush administration thinks it can't sell a second counterproliferation war against a Gulf country beginning with "Ira" because it's just too absurd. Hence, it would be nice to gin up a casus belli with Iran that's only tangentially related to the nuclear program. Not that bombing will help us with that problem either, but it's at least widely believed that it will. I don't think even the Bush administration is dumb enough to think that attacking Iran will help stabilize things in Iraq; the Iran-Iraq nexus is just a red herring designed to make it politically difficult to oppose what they're doing.

Gotta love this headline.....

Bush tries to convince world no plans for Iran war

CJCS Pace: New's to me!

Pace was neither aware of the Baghdad briefing (PDF here) or that the Iranian Gov't was complicit in the use of Iranian bombs.

From NewsHog,
The top American military officer, General Peter Pace, declined Monday to endorse the conclusions of U.S. military officers in Baghdad, who told reporters on Sunday that the Iranian government is providing high-powered roadside bombs to insurgents in Iraq. General Pace made his comments during a visit to Australia, and VOA's Al Pessin reports from Canberra.

General Pace said he was not aware of the Baghdad briefing, and that he could not, from his own knowledge, repeat the assertion made there that the elite Quds brigade of Iran's Republican Guard force is providing bomb-making kits to Iraqi Shiite insurgents.

"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se (specifically), knows about this," he said. "It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." [Emphasis Newshog's]

Would it matter?

Josh Marshall has written one of the posts bouncing around in my head the last couple weeks.

Let's assume the allegations against Iran are true. What would the US accomplish by going to war with Iran?

Josh cuts to the heart of the matter,

Assume the best possible outcome to the sort of action that the Vice President and his clique appear to be angling for. We attack Iran -- either in crossborder raids or aerial bombing campaigns. The Iranians are duly chastened and stop all assistance, financial and military, to paramilitaries in Iraq. And this accomplishes? For our situation in Iraq, not much. We go from the IEDs of early 2007 back to the old style IEDs of 2006. In other words, for the outside chance of a temporary and marginal degradation of the quality of the IEDs used in Iraq we run all the risks of digging ourselves deeper into the current quagmire , getting still more American soldiers killed and further stoking anti-American animus in the region with the likely outcome of solidifying the regime in Tehran for decades to come. And after all that fun is done with we're back to the same situation in Iraq that we can't figure out a way to resolve today.

Hawk or dove,...solving the situation in Iraq is the singular issue of American foreign policy today. And who can honestly say that tangling with Iran helps us achieve that end in any meaningful way? Iran is a distraction. More specifically, this new Iran bogey is an effort to distract us or find a scapegoat for the administration's failure in Iraq. And let's not forget that the underlying charge is likely another fraud.


Newsweek: Blowup? America’s Hidden War With Iran

Don't miss Newsweek's major cover-story on Iran.

I'll have more on this article later, but speaking of provoking Iran,
Jalal Sharafi...the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy .... [As he emerged from a shop] four armored cars roared up and disgorged at least 20 gunmen wearing bulletproof vests and Iraqi National Guard uniforms. They flashed official IDs, and manhandled Sharafi into one car. Iraqi police gave chase, guns blazing. They shot up one of the other vehicles, capturing four assailants who by late last week had yet to be publicly identified. Sharafi and the others disappeared.

....Abdul Karim Inizi, a former Iraqi Security minister close to the Iranians, pointed the finger at an Iraqi black-ops unit based out at the Baghdad airport, who answer to American Special Forces officers. "It's plausible," says a senior Coalition adviser who is also not authorized to speak on the record. The unit does exist—and does specialize in snatch operations.

The Iranians have reason to feel paranoid.... In a predawn raid on Dec. 21, U.S. troops barged into the compound of the most powerful political party in the country, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and grabbed two men they claimed were officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Three weeks later U.S. troops stormed an Iranian diplomatic office in Irbil, arresting five more Iranians. The Americans have hinted that as part of an escalating tit-for-tat, Iranians may have had a hand in a spectacular raid in Karbala on Jan. 20, in which four American soldiers were kidnapped and later found shot, execution style, in the head. U.S. forces promised to defend themselves.

Some view the spiraling attacks as a strand in a worrisome pattern. At least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. "They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for," says Hillary Mann, the administration's former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs.
At the risk of stating the obvious, note that Mann is Bush's former NSA Iran expert, not a talking head from the Dems or a liberal think tank.

It's important to understanding what's going on with Iran to note how many of those quoted in recent articles were at least at one time, a friend of this Admin.

Deja vu all over again

The similarities are striking between the run up to Iraq and now Iran.

I didn't think these clowns could shock me, but their shameless factual distortions aimed at war with Iran has shocked me. And while the media is much more skeptical, not nearly skeptical enough.

First, and foremost, WTF does Bush hope to achieve with a hot war with Iran?

Iraq has turned out exactly as I predicted, but at least I knew what Bush hopped to achieve: a friendly democracy in the heart of the ME and on the Persian Gulf from which the US could operate.

But what on earth could Bush even hope to achieve with in a shooting war with Iran? There is NO international or UN support for such an attack, and that includes NATO. The US will stand completely alone.

And unlike Iraq, Iran can shoot back. They have reasonably sophisticated surface to air and surface to ship missiles. Any attack inside Iran is an act of war by the US on a sovereign nation and they will retaliate. Expect several US planes to be shot down and some Navy ships to be sunk. This will get very ugly very fast.

Now, more than ever, Congress needs to hold firm in opposing Bush and Cheney on Iran. I'm not holding my breath. The alleged links to Iran of IEDs isn't going to carry the day, so I'm expecting a faked or contrived provocation by Iran ala the Gulf of Tonkin.

I am going to attempt to do a better job of collecting information on this blog to document this BS.

John McCain: Hypocrite Extraordinaire

The infamous John Solomon has this in today's WaPo,
Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million, saying it was trying to "evade and violate" new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.

As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars as co-chairman of the Arizona Republican's national finance committee.
The story does a nice rundown of what Solomon describes as 'jarring' contrasts between McCain the reformer and McCain the candidate.

Friday, February 09, 2007

An Iraq Interrogator's Nightmare

From 1995 to 2000 Eric Fair served in the army as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004.

Eric wrote an OP-ED that appeared in today's WaPo, that anyone who supports torture should read.

Here is a taste,
The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Now this is what I'm talking about!

Friday, February 02, 2007

'Clueless' Cully Stimson resigns

Clueless Cully Stimson, as the Boston Herald dubbed him, is the idiot Under Sec Def who said the nation's CEOs should boycott all law firms who defend Gitmo detainees.

In it's editorial, the Herald observed,
Many of the nation’s largest law firms are defending detainees pro bono, including Wilmer Hale, Covington & Burling, and Pillsbury Winthrop. It’s what good, public-spirited law firms - and lawyers - do and have done since the very founding of this nation. It was, after all, John Adams who defended the British soldiers accused of killing Americans in the Boston Massacre. What is it about that long and proud tradition that Stimson doesn’t get?
Even more offensive in my view, was the not so thinly veiled suggestion by Stimson that these same law firms might be taking terrorist money under the table to do their work.

Well, the dumb ass got his due.

From the AP,

....[DoD] spokesman Bryan Whitman said Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, told him on Friday that he had made his own decision to resign and was not asked to leave by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Stimson said he was leaving because of the controversy over a radio interview in which he said he found it shocking that lawyers at many of the nation's top law firms represent detainees held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba.

Sinclair Lewis famously observed, "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

For those of us who follow the news, we see examples of this every day. This resignation is a win for the good guys.

US Trained Mahdi Army

As the Bushies continue to terrorize the US with fear of Iran, we learn that we did most the training of our enemy.

I think at this point, it is important that we start keeping a running tally of issues blamed on Iran that are later challenged.

You have to read this.

From the former KnightRidder,
After U.S. units pounded al-Sadr's men in August 2004, the cleric apparently decided that instead of facing American tanks, he'd use the Americans' plans to build Iraqi security forces to rebuild his own militia.

So while Iraq's other main Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade, concentrated in 2005 on packing Iraqi intelligence bureaus with high-level officers who could coordinate sectarian assassinations, al-Sadr went after the rank and file.

His recruits began flooding into the Iraqi army and police, receiving training, uniforms and equipment either directly from the U.S. military or from the American-backed Iraqi Defense Ministry.

The infiltration by al-Sadr's men, coupled with his strength in Iraq's parliament after U.S.-backed elections, gave him leeway to operate death squads throughout the capital, according to more than a week of interviews with American soldiers patrolling Baghdad. Some U.S.-trained units carried out sectarian killings themselves, while others, manning checkpoints, allowed militiamen to pass.
(Via Paul Kiel at Muckraker)