Archive for January 5th, 2007|Daily archive page

Just plain tired

Riverbend of BagdadBurning has a couple of new posts up and, as always, they are worth reading. One is more of a summary of the year the second deals with Saddam’s execution and CNN’s misreporting. But Especially chilling is her description of the past year,

2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It’s like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The ‘mistakes’ were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I’m certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.

Al Qaeda? That’s laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of ‘sniper’ and ‘jihadi’, pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

I really do understand the sentiment. But I would still beg to disagree.

No, I don’t believe that George W. Bush and his cohorts actually planned this. Madness and mayhem are hard to plan. It was a stubborn insistence that things weren’t out of control coupled with a complete lack of realistic information, a plan or perhaps even a grasp on reality.

Not that Bush couldn’t have gotten the information but that he chose not seek it. He makes it a point to make sure people around him are on his side. By doing that he makes sure that any information reaching him is filtered, subtly or otherwise. Stupid? Yes. Criminally negligent? Yes. Planned? I doubt it.

But in looking for possible reasons for the invasion Riverbend hits two very important points. Something that is key to remember. First, although by all accounts I have read, Al Qaeda wasn’t anywhere near Iraq before the war, the conflict has spawned a completely new generation of terrorists. Those that hate America and those that choose to use the war against America to foment other aims. The second important point is that she sees an entire generation of children growing up learning, viscerally, that America is the enemy. This has nothing to do with global politics. It’s just people trying to live their lives day in and day out and kids seeing who the bad guy is. The bad guy is the one who makes mother cry.

Riverbend sounds tired, I’m sure the whole country is tired. More tired than any American with the exception of the troops she would so like to see leave and especially more tired than any American talk show pundit, right or left. The Iraqi people just want the violence and the killing to stop. They’d like to get off George Bush’s carousel but they can’t stop it. They certainly didn’t start it.

Perhaps most depressing is the contrast between how she wrote a couple of years ago and the tone of the posts now. The difference just makes me sad. My heart goes out to her. Spend sometime on her page and think about the mistakes the administration is making. Rumsfeld has been sent into retirement – the people whose land he destroyed are just plain tired and many will never live that long.

Private Army Smackdown Over There

This is a MUST READ must read.

It is DefenseTech exclusive on how a little bitty change that was snuck into a Pentagon budget last year could have major consequences on how the private armies civilian contractors are handled. The piece written by P.W. Singer, a Senior Fellow and Director at The Brookings Institution, describes the change,

Amidst all the add-ins, pork spending, and excitement of the budget process, it has now come out that a tiny clause was slipped into the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2007 budget legislation. The one sentence section (number 552 of a total 3510 sections) states that “Paragraph (10) of section 802(a) of title 10, United States Code (article 2(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), is amended by striking `war’ and inserting `declared war or a contingency operation’.” The measure passed without much notice or any debate. And then, as they might sing on School House Rock, that bill became a law (P.L.109-364).

This minor change means that places like Iraq, Afghanistan or all the other little undeclared imperial skirmishes in the last 65 years would have been covered. With this ingenious rewording, private contractors can now be tried just like soldiers. This hopefully means no more Elvis videos and no more out-of-control interrogators.

Singer goes on to describe the ups and downs – well the downs – of the private contract policies until now. No oversight, No control, no real regulations…

The situation perhaps hit its low-point this fall, when the Under Secretary of the Army testified to Congress that the Army had never authorized Halliburton or any of its subcontractors (essentially the entire industry) to carry weapons or guard convoys. He even denied the US had firms handling these jobs. Never mind the thousands of newspaper, magazine, and TV news stories about the industry. Never mind Google’s 1,350,000 web mentions. Never mind the official report from U.S. Central Command that there were over 100,000 contractors in Iraq carrying out these and other military roles. In a sense, the Bush Administration was using a cop-out that all but the worst Hollywood script writers avoid. Just like the end of the TV series Dallas, Congress was somehow supposed to accept that the private military industry in Iraq and all that had happened with it was somehow ‘just a dream.’

But Congress didn’t bite, it now seems. With the addition of just five words in the law, contractors now can fall under the purview of the military justice system. This means that if contractors violate the rules of engagement in a warzone or commit crimes during a contingency operation like Iraq, they can now be court-martialed (as in, Corporate Warriors, meet A Few Good Men). On face value, this appears to be a step forward for realistic accountability. Military contractor conduct can now be checked by the military investigation and court system, which unlike civilian courts, is actually ready and able both to understand the peculiarities of life and work in a warzone and kick into action when things go wrong.

The amazing thing is that the change in the legal code is so succinct and easy to miss (one sentence in a 439-page bill, sandwiched between a discussion on timely notice of deployments and a section ordering that the next of kin of medal of honor winners get flags) that it has so far gone completely unnoticed in the few weeks since it became the law of the land. Not only has the media not yet reported on it. Neither have military officers or even the lobbyists paid by the military industry to stay on top of these things.

This. Is. Cool. I wonder who we can thank for this? And the best part? George already signed the sucker into law. No signing statement to say, “well everything but this part.” Ha! Gotcha!

The rather long article goes on to talk about what effect this might have, what the legal positioning will be and where things might go from here. But for the moment this is law.

Of course the bill is too big not to also have it’s down side (Hat Tip: Toward Freedom). Language like

“the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (“refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order, “in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” [my emphisis]

This reads a little like a federal marshal law. But you have the good with the bad right? Noah, over at DefenseTech has already posted initial reactions to the good news.

But with the new Congress, dear Harriet’s departure and that pesky mail thing, you’ll probably only hear about this here.

Well over there.

It’s In The Mail

Oh my, isn’t this charming.

President Bush doesn’t want to crack down just on the sex and psychic calls, listening in for heavy breathing terrorist threats (or Busch Garden visits). No, Mr Bush wants to know what you have delivered and that’s why he wants to look in your mailbox, the physical one.

According to the New York Daily News, as sort of an early Christmas gift to the NSA, he issued a signing statement on December 20th allowing him to break the constitutionally protected right to postal privacy .

President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge’s warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a “signing statement” that declared his right to open people’s mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Dan Froomkin, Washington Post, gives a well deserved hat tip to James Gordon Meek the author of the Daily News piece. Froomkin notes that, although the signing statement was on public record, it had been widely ignored by the mainstream media. (Christmas party hangovers perhaps?) The silence on this issue may change. Froomkin also gives the more important part of the story, links to information about the bill, the signing statement and quotes the important soundbite from the signing statement itself.

“The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.” [my emphasis]

It is the “exigent circumstances” phrase that’s getting people all riled up. “Protect human life,” “Foreign intelligence collection” – sound pretty fishy to me too.

The Daily News article goes on to include the talking points from the NGO terrorist huggers civil liberties watchdog organisation the Center for National Security Studies.

“The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.


Martin said that Bush is “using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail” as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.

I wonder who else might give us a good quote on this? Perhaps the ACLU? From the story in USA Today,

The American Civil Liberties Union said such “deliberate ambiguity” was troublesome.

It “raises a red flag because of President Bush’s history of asserting broad powers to spy on Americans,” ACLU Director Anthony Romero said.

Others accused Bush of making an end-run around the Constitution and Congress. [That must have been Condi Rice, she loves football analogies. No, um – wait. Maybe not.]

So, next time, think twice about ordering that Britney Speers up-skirt picture clock or the Jihadist orgasma-bomb vibrator, guaranteed to be delivered in plain brown paper packaging. Even if your neighors don’t find out, those people at the NSA will know what you have done.

Of course, if you ordered it online or using the telephone, they probably already knew. But look on the bright side, at least now, they can tell you its in the mail.

Practically Government

Thanks to one of my commeters (Freckles), I found the following extremely practical page.

This is a collection of all the feeds from the various government agencies all in one handy, dandy little window. Sort of one stop governmental sillyness oversite. The layout could use a little work but its a great way to keep up with what those politicians are planning today and will deny tomorrow.

Note: one of todays sadder headlines points out that No Child Law Has Made Impressive Gains. I, personally, think that Child Law gains, impressive or not, should be highlighted, supported. To point out that none of them were impressive – just breaks my heart. *sniff, sob* Department of Education – shame, shame, shame.